1793
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Right Hon. Edmund Burke.

Poems by George Butt. In Two Volumes.

Rev. George Butt


Four irregular Spenserians (ababcC) in which George Butt encourages Edmund Burke, whose Reflections on the Revolution in France was, in the days preceding the Terror, a frequent target of ridicule: Burke's virtue "The more obstructed struggles more to shine, | Nor yields to Hell-born Hate its destiny divine." This poem seems to have attracted a squib in the Morning Chronicle: "Let BURKE like a BUTT from its splendour retire, | A splendour too strong for his eyes; | Let pedants and fools his effusions admire, | Enwrapt in his cobwebs, for flies" (17 October 1793).

Lucy Aikin: "it is well known that, even from the beginning, long before its progress was stained with blood and horrors, this great event [the French Revolution] was viewed with extreme jealousy by a majority of the higher classes in England, and especially by the established clergy; and that in most of our commercial towns, which have always been the strongholds of the protestant dissenters, and in corporate towns especially, the aristocratic and democratic parties, as they were then called, nearly coincided with the distinction of churchmen and dissenters" Memoir of John Aikin (1823) 1:130.

A copy of Butt's Poems with a dedication "from the author" appears in the sale catalogue of Burke's library; see A. N. L. Munby, Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 8:188.



Heroic worth, O Burke, implies a mind
Fearless and firm, laborious, kind, and just,
But in a deedless prison is confin'd,
Nor is accomplish'd to fulfil its trust,
Where (Understanding's higher pow'rs deny'd)
It sleeps a stagnant lake depriv'd of wind and tide.

When these perfections are combin'd, we see
The godlike friend of nations, Time,
Enrich'd with genial lustre, rise like thee,
Till up to Glory's noon his radiance climb,
Far o'er the earth salute the raptur'd sight,
And yield its goodliest fruits the largess of his light.

Tho' Dulness blink, and shun the glorious blaze
Which Envy's hazy veil would hide from view,
Its Heav'n-born force but wider shoots its rays,
Exults its healing journey to pursue,
The more obstructed struggles more to shine,
Nor yields to Hell-born Hate its destiny divine.

'Tis thine to know, 'tis often thine to feel
How Virtue lifts thee, Burke, above despite,
Guards the great guardian of the public weal,
Nor grants the rage of foes thy fame to blight,
When o'er life's wild thy Virtue's march they blame,
Still clouded from their view, tho' lit by Heav'n's own flame.

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