1795
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Ancient and Modern Patriot, contrasted.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (12 March 1795).

Rev. Richard Polwhele


Six Spenserians, signed "P." In contrast to the virtue displayed M. Curtius and the three Decii, legendary Romans who sacrificed themselves to the nation, the modern Patriot — a Frence sympathiser — "smoothers up his feelings, frowning dark— | Feelings, a dastard wretch, he dreads to own; | And tells of brooding ills, in sullen tone!" The St. James's Chronicle, though it published comparatively little political verse, was stoutly anti-Jacobin.

William Hazlitt: "The ST. JAMES'S CHRONICLE is, we have understood, the oldest existing paper in London. We are not quite sure whether it was in this or in another three-times-a-week paper (the Englishman) that we first met with some extracts from Mr. Burke's Letter to a Noble Lord in the year 1796, and on the instant became converts to his familiar, inimitable, powerful prose-style. The richness of Burke showed, indeed, more magnificent, contrasted with the meagreness of the ordinary style of the paper into which his invective was thrown. Let any one, indeed, who may be disposed to disparage modern intellect and modern letters, look over a file of old newspapers (only thirty or forty years back), or into those that, by prescription, keep up the old-fashioned style in accommodation to the habitual dulness of their readers, and compare the poverty, the meanness, the want of style and matter in their original paragraphs, with the amplitude, the strength, the point and terseness which characterize the leading journals of the day, and he will perhaps qualify the harshness of his censure. We have not a Burke, indeed — we have not even a Junius; but we have a host of writers, working for their bread on the spur of the occasion, and whose names even are not known, formed upon the model of the best writers who have gone before them, and reflecting many of their graces" "The Periodical Papers" Edinburgh Review 38 (May 1823) 360.



Say, while the menaces of ruffian France
Mingled with execrations, o'er the surge
Come wasted, as invading hosts advance;
Shall Patriots, with an air of triumph, urge
The cause of Miscreants, pointing to the verge
Of Fate, where Albion they condemn to sink?
What Prowess could have bade old Greece emerge
From death, or Rome escape perdition's brink,
If Patriots for her foes had fram'd the brother-link?

Ardent, in elder times, the Patriot wrench'd
From fell Sedition's fangs, the mangled laws,
And Cities, with the blood of Traitors drench'd,
And shook his helmet-plumage to applause!
Thus Sparta's heroes, bold in Freedom's cause,
Exulted to the flashing of the spear:
Thus Curtius plung'd into the gulphy jaws
Of death: Nor less to Roman valour dear,
The Decii's noble fires delight the ingenuous ear.

Still was the midnight camp. To dye the dust
Ere morn, with torrents of the Latian blood,
Great Decius lay — When, sudden, more august
Than human, a majestick spectre stood,
And thus, in hollow accents — "Tho' a flood
Of vulgar gore the hostile fields distain,
Still gath'ring horrors o'er thy country brood!
Unless a gasping leader bite the plain,
Vain were the lifted sword, the warriour frenzy vain."

The Hero heard; and calm, himself foredoom'd
The victim: And, tho' haunted Silence hush'd
The world, no terrors o'er his spirit gloom'd:
But, as the lighten'd shades yet linger'd, flusht
With fires that lighten'd thro' his soul, he rush'd
Into the field of flight. His godlike force
Mark'd with dismay, and thick battalions crusht
Beneath the bath'd hoofs of his foaming horse,
Amid pale shrinking foes, he fell a mighty corse!

By the same fires impell'd, in battling strife,
The Son, too, courted the renown of death:
Nor less the Grandson, prodigal of Life,
Dar'd, at the trumpet's blast, his blade unsheathe,
And snatch, from grateful Rome, the ensanguin'd wreath
Of glory. Thro' the ranks amazement ran:
Tho' thousands, urg'd by Fate, resign'd their breath,
Yet, as each Patriot flam'd amidst the van,
His Country tower'd with pride, and hail'd him more than Man.

Say, then, what traits the British Patriot mark?
How are the virtues of his bosom known?
He smoothers up his feelings, frowning dark—
Feelings, a dastard wretch, he dreads to own;
And tells of brooding ills, in sullen tone:
But if his Country some dire loss alarm,
He vaunts the insulting smile, when others groan;
And, were his valu'd self secure from harm,
Would grasp the trait'rous steel, and boast the Assassin's arm!

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