1781
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Monke's Complaynte to Alma Mater of dyverse newe Matters wroughte in Oxenforde Citie.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (1 September 1781).

Dr. Henry Harington


A Chatterton burlesque in four stanzas (ababcc) signed "Robertus de Glaston." "Glaston" is to Bath's Harington what "Rowley" was to Bristol's Chatterton (who was receiving massive attention in the periodicals in 1781-82). Dr. Henry Harington (who took his M.A. from Queen's College in 1752) complains of recent architectural and other innovations being introduced at Oxford: "Staie, Holie Mother, staie such Vanitie, | Nor be more trymm, than erste beseemyde thee." Harington, equally noted for his wit and professional skills, was descended from Sir John Harington, and as possessor of the Arundel Harington MSS, had access to better manuscripts than Chatterton!

Headnote: "Sir, You here receive a little Morceau, lately put into my Hands by a Gentleman of Salisbury, who informed me it was written by a Medical Gentleman at Bath, on the Alterations in Oxford, about two years since. I don't know the Authour, and found it was imputed to him only from his known veneration of Antiquity. As the Authour, whoever he be, can sustain no Injury by its Publication, I have sent it to the Publick, through your excellent Paper, which I hope may find a Corner for this elegant Piece of Simplicity and happy Imitation of old English Versification, and which I believe has never been in Print. Bristol Hotwells, May 20, 1781."

Notes to stanzas 1-3: "The City Gates are all taken down. Fryar Bacon's Study, an ancient Tower so called, is taken down. Queen's College old Gateway, where Henry the Fifth had his Rooms, the painted Glass Window of which Room, with his Portrait, was lately in a Citizen's House, unclaimed by the College. The usual Hour of Dinner was Twelve o'Clock, now changed to Three. The chaunting of the Service in the Choir is abolished lately."

The confusion surrounding the origins of this poem befits a Chatterton parody. The Rowley controversy was just heating up at the time of publication, spurred by Jacob Bryant's Observations upon the Poems of Thomas Rowley (1781). In 1798 these stanzas were reprinted in the Bath Herald from a different manuscript, from whence they made their way into the European Magazine in 1799. It is entirely possible that the poem is by Dr. Harington's son Henry, who took his M.A. from Oxford in 1777, and who had edited the Arundel MSS as Nugae Antiquae in 1769 (at the age of fourteen!)



Whie, holie Mother, whie dothe ruthlesse Honde
Thus smyte thie Gates of hoarie Majestie?
Workynge rude Spoyle, wheere Scyence kepte her Stonde,
Contente to flowte all gawdie Fantasie.
Staie, Holie Mother, staie such Vanitie,
Albe soe trym, this noughte beseemythe thee.

No goodlie Syghte of Bedesman's connyng Celle,
Wheare Urchyn Wysdome crawlyde forthe thie Lappe;
No sturdie Porche, wheare Valor's Chylde dyd dwelle,
Swyllyng his Lore from oute thie plenteous Pappe.
Staie, Holie Mother, staie such Vanitie,
Albe soe trym, this noughte beseemythe thee.

Att wontede Noone, thie Trenchermenne unseene,
Att Eve, unhearde thie Chaunte of godlie Tonge.
More godlie farre, soche holie Chaunte I weene,
Than mottrynge Clerke, wyth Masse ne sayde ne songe.
Staie, Holie Mother, staie such Vanitie,
Albe soe trym, this noughte beseemythe thee.

Nyghtes starrie Hoste, mydst steadie Pathe dothe byde,
Ne soffrythe Chaunge thylke Lampe whych rulythe Daie;
Ah lett not Showe of Mortals wytlesse Pryde!
Bedymm thie heavenlie Cowrse, swete Saunte! we praie.
Staie, Holie Mother, staie such Vanitie,
Nor be more trymm, than erste beseemyde thee.

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