1787
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epilogue.

Poems on Various Subjects. By John Thelwall. In Two Volumes.

John Thelwall


John Thelwall concludes his two volumes of juvenile poems with a palinode in nine irregular Spenserians (ababbcC): "My threaten'd dangers my weak bark display; | Here critic rocks my trembling eyes survey, | 'Gainst which I dread to split by doom severe: | There sands oblivious threat to swallow me for e'er." The stanza and sentiments probably owe something to James Beattie's The Minstrel. Thelwall would find time amid a busy career to publish several more volumes of verse, though none quite so extraordinary as his juvenilia.

Monthly Review: "The Author's humble apology for the defects of these poems, arising from his want of classical learning, from his engagements in an occupation which is irreconcilable to literature, and from his youth, must not prevent us from faithfully declaring it as our opinion, that in his imitations of the ancient English ballad, he mistakes a plain prosaic diction, for that touching simplicity, which ought to distinguish this species of writing; and that, in the long tale in which he exposes the defects of seduction, we meet with little to approve, except the moral.... We are really sorry that we cannot, without violation of conscience, praise the poetry of a writer who manifests so many laudable and amiable sentiments: 'To virtue and her friends a friend.' But goodness of heart, and elegance of taste, and poetic genius (for which a mere fondness for poetry is often mistaken), are distinct endowments, and more often separately than unitedly bestowed" 77 (1787) 494-95.



"Ye gentle soothers of my lonely heart!
Ye tuneful offspring of my teeming brain!
Go — to the world, the critic world depart;
In lowly vale obscure no more remain.
Go — for my brow the laurel wreath obtain—
The laurel wreath by smiling Virtue 'twin'd,
Where lurks no sting conceal'd, which by no thorn is lin'd.

"Haply these lays, in solitude conceiv'd,
To chace blank Sadness from my lonely heart,—
These lays which oft my drooping soul reliev'd,
And bade Despondence flee, and Woe depart,
Might, if corrected with attentive art,
From loath'd Obscurity preserve my name,
And round my temples spread the lambent rays of Fame!"

By dreams like these did flattering Fancy warm;
(Ah soothing dreams, too soon, perhaps, believ'd)
Rash I adventur'd. — But what fears alarm
Of threat'ning dangers now too late perceiv'd!
With anxious throb how oft my heart has heav'd,
Lest by vain hopes, delusions fond! betray'd,
I on a sea too rough my canvas have display'd!

Lo! now the mists which youthful ardour shed,
And proud, delusive dreams all glide away;
Around the solar beams of Reason spread,
My threaten'd dangers my weak bark display;
Here critic rocks my trembling eyes survey,
'Gainst which I dread to split by doom severe:
There sands oblivious threat to swallow me for e'er.

Why did I listen to Ambition's voice?
Why did I e'er believe the partial friend?
Why was it not my calm, my humble choice,
Thro' lowly vale obscure my course to bend,
Where sweet Content and smiling Peace attend,
Far from the flattering trump of haughty Fame,
Far from discordant clang of Disappointment's blame?

Yet oh ye sacred daughters, ever young,
Of Memory sage, and of Creative Pow'r,
To whom the lyre my boyish fingers strung,
If at the entrance of your hallow'd bow'r
I vent'rous thus approach in youthful hour,
And sue to gain admittance 'mong your train.
Be this, ye maids, my plea, nor be that plea in vain:

"To Virtue's notes alone the tuneful wire
Was taught to tremble by my artless hand;
I never strove to fan unhallow'd fire,
Or spread of wanton Vice the lewd command.
A ready champion did I ever stand
For hapless beauty by feign'd Love betray'd;
The stings of Guilt I sung, and Virtue's charms display'd.

"Of pure Benevolence the hallow'd shrine
Oft with the incense of the Muse I heap;
Or warm'd by Gratitude, that pow'r divine,
The harp of praise my raptur'd fingers sweep.
Perish the Bard whose idle harp can sleep,
When heav'n-born Gratitude demands the lays
To Friendship's gen'rous name to swell the note of praise!"

Then give, ye Muses, to your vot'ry's pray'r,
Still in the number of your train to live.
The honest verse let critic rigour spare,
The artless rhime, the theme unlearn'd forgive.
Let on my brow your verdant chaplet thrive,
And grant, ere yet my youthful prime decays,
To 'twine one flow'ring sprig of Myrtle with my Bays.

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