In a new twist on the laureate-satire, Richard Polwhele sends Henry James Pye on a visitation of the English bards at the turn of the new century. The allegory contains brief verse characters of several dozen writers, many very obscure indeed. Though negligible as poetry, "The Visitation" does in fact give a very clear account of the position of literary affairs, which, as Polwhele was in a very good position to recognize, had shifted out of London and into the provinces.
The poem attempts, not always successfully, to link the different genres of poetry to different locations around England, which entails introducing a few personages into social circles where they would not ordinarily be found. In the final canto Pye is commanded by Urania to visit the Lake District, where he is vanquished by Robert Southey — who would, of course, be his successor in the Laurel. The poem was apparently first published in 1832.
Richard Polwhele: "These levities were originally designed (if we may so express ourselves) to hang critical notes upon. Tho' the notes are cancelled as out of date, yet the levities may not be altogether unacceptable — trifling as in many respects they unquestionably are" appendix to volume 2, 52n.
In the first canto the Muses appear to the laureate in a vision, and Urania instructs Pye, as a kind of poetical bishop, to take a survey of the living poets. The second canto relates a dispute held at the Globe Inn of Exeter over whether to Hugh Downman or to Richard Polwhele should be accorded the honor of inventing the blank-verse sonnet. The scene shifts to Winchester College in the third canto, where Hayley and Rogers are driven off for attempting a bawdy memorial to Joseph Warton, which is then supplied by Warton's student William Lisle Bowles. Canto IV is set in Bath, where the satirists Anstey, Cowper, Crabbe, Wolcot, and Gifford ridicule the Della Cruscans. The fifth canto is set at Oxford, where the poets (including Maurice and Richardson) are preparing a tribute to Thomas Warton when they are interrupted by the Cambridge bards (Mathias, Brydges, Dyer, and Potter), who bear away the laurel for lyric poetry. In Canto VI, set at Drury Lane, Hannah More and Hannah Cowley vainly attempt to follow in the dramatic footsteps of Sheridan and Cumberland. The penultimate canto is a salon held by Anna Seward in which a host of miscellaneous writers are toasted with appropriate beverages. The concluding canto is set in the Lake District, where Henry James Pye and Sir James Bland Burges fail as epic poets as the poem concludes with a salute to Coleridge and Southey; remarkably, Polwhele anticipates in them a new age of poetry that will supersede those of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Anne.
Edmund Spenser is not mentioned, alas, though there may be an allusion to his "rhyme nor reason" epigram.
Richard Polwhele in Traditions and Recollections: "Such is a slight analysis of a sportive poem written more than twenty-five years ago. A new race of Poets have since sprung up more popular (and deservedly so) than any former generation in this country, or in the civilized world. Southey was then emerging from the literary horizon; he now shines out in dazzling splendour! And for Scott and Campbell — but it were presumption in the sonneteer of Cornwall to attempt a delineation of epic magnificence. It were like the effort to span immensity" (1826) 757.
The Muses, who always survey'd with a smile,
Of proud satisfaction the wits of our isle;
And who ever delighted to fire into rage
Their Britons, from Chaucer to Cumberland's age,
Had of late caught in whispers the startling opinion,
That on this happy spot had declined their dominion;
And determined, one day, half in jest and half-serious,
To come down and see, whether aught deleterious
Had render'd the births of the brain so abortive:
Thus the visits of gods in old Naso, are sportive.
'Twas now, when the Poet, relax'd and quite moody,
Had just for his arbour forsaken his study,
To the Laureate these ladies directed their flight,
And hover'd above in the regions of light.
Deep silence — (it was the beginning of June)
Had hush'd into quiet the hot burning noon.
Not a wing — not a footstep was stiring abroad;
And the Laureate respir'd from the toil of his ode.
'Twas all in this stillness inclining to doze,
He had sought in the coolness of shadow, repose.
Fresh over his head waved a sycamore tree;
And humm'd to his laurels the wild yellow bee.
But carol'd no longer each shrill summer bird;
Save the buzz of the bee not a murmur was heard:—
When lo! as his eyelids were closing in slumber—
In the clear azure heaven a pavilion of amber
(Far other was Jove's black pavilion of storms),
Seem'd to steal a soft light from nine beautiful forms!
And towards the sage Poet now slowly descending,
And their looks of complacence deliciously blending,
Distinct the fair Sisters beam'd over his bower,
And lavishly scatter'd of roses a shower.
Thro' tremulous blushes Euterpe shone forth,
As if eager to give some sweet pastoral birth:
And the ether was charm'd with so dulcet a tone,
E'en Pan with his reed would have deem'd it his own.
But scarce had the soft echo died, when all lightness,
Like the gossamer floating her vesture of brightness,
Terpsichore struck a brisk air from her lyre,
Then bade her strain languish to love, and desire:
And Erato look'd thro' each eyelash's shade;
Tho' mute was her tongue, what an eloquent maid!
And, diffusing her smiles in a luminous track,
Thalia encounter'd the Poet of sack—
Now mirthful, and splenetic now, as she cast,
(Transform'd to a spirit of darkness) a blast;
And Clio the grandeur of long-sounding measure
Drew out from the depth of her lyrical treasure:
And sad as the muse of chaste Reynolds appears,
The pensive Melpomene smil'd thro' her tears:
Polyhymnia join'd to Calliope's voice
Her silent expression applauding the choice;
And Urania (her robe, one blue wave of the sky)
Whilst kindled as if into lightning her eye,
Bent forward, and with a majestic regard
(Now more and more aweful) address'd the old Bard:
"Hail thou, whose fair bayleaves, in lieu of thy barton,
Tho' greener than Cibber's, yet fade before Warton!
Go, vindicate Britain that sinks into gloom,
To the wreath of each brother restoring its bloom.
'Tis said (and too many will credit the tale),
That the smiles of the Muses no longer avail
To support in your isle the poetical fame
Which the nations once witness'd with shouts of acclaim
Go then, and survey — 'tis the Muse's behest—
Go, look to the Bards, from the shores of the west,
E'en where the Bolerium its dark billow swells,
To the region sublime of my lakes and my fells!
To meet thee, without or a fee or a bribe,
I will quickly stir up the poetical tribe.
Thy approach shall they hail on the banks of the Exe,
To thy presence sage Wykeham shall pay his repects:
The founts of old Bladud with more than gas-spirit
Effervescing, shall murmur applause to thy merit;
And sliver-shod Isis thy visit receive,
And roll with new "triumph" her emulous wave;
High homage to thee e'en Augusta shall pay,
And Lichfield her myrtles strew over thy way;
Till Windermere greet thee, ambitious to shroud
My own proper sons in her faery-wove cloud."
She said! And, the last pretty words as the spoke,
Herself and her sisters all vanish'd like smoke.
The Bard started up; and strait rubbing his eyes
With a shrug and a yawn, look'd abroad with surprize.
"Tis a dream" — he exclaim'd — "tis a vision! Yet clear
The forms struck my sight, and the voices my ear!
The hint of the Nine will I certainly take,
And the tour of the Isle most religiously make;
And try, if the Bards in their woodlands or cities
Will salute an old greybeard with bows and with ditties.
And first for the West. — I shall run no great risque
If I travel post-haste to the banks of the Isc."
SONNETS, SONGS, DIDACTIC POEMS, PASTORALS, TRANSLATIONS.
THE BANKS OF THE ISCA; (OR EXE.)
To the banks of the Isca was quickly whirl'd PYE;
When the towers of St. Peter were all in his eye:
And now, as the noon was announced by St. Peter,
In the Close were assembled the children of metre;
And also their brethren, whose flights never rose
To the hill of Parnassus, plain dealers in prose;
To discuss, at the president's instance, a topic
Which to all (not obscur'd by a cloud misanthropic,
Or by prejudice led away captive in fetters)
Must appear of the greatest importance to letters.
The resident slowly got up from his chair;
And roll'd his eyes round with a horrible glare;
And, hemming awhile, thus began with a brogue
Half English, half Scotch, to call rascal and rogue:
"I am sorry, my friends, such a rogue, such a rascal
As might have provok'd the meek spirit of Pascal,
Was e'er by this hand introduced to the Globe;
Where poesy clothes her own sons with a robe
Of amaranth bright and immortal asbestos—
I am sorry, my friends! that his arts should arrest us
In the midst of our triumphs! when lo, we unfurl'd
Our sails to proud science embracing the world.
But (to drop metaphorical strains, if I can)
You remember, that, erst, a most pestilent man,
An original child of Minerva, fie on it!
Took upon him to dictate the rules for a sonnet;
Insisting, that every true sonnet was built on
The model of Italy furnisht by Milton.
And, you know, tho' I frequently call'd him to order—
Tho' all of you, ready to kiss e'en the border
Of my garment, united, so cordial, with me
In asserting a stanza more easy and free;
He still, in contempt of despotic dominion,
Continued to urge his decided opinion.
In short, you remember, we bade him withdraw,
An example to those who scorn president-law—
When I enter'd this note, as the sense of the meeting:
Whereas a weak petulant fellow's conceit in
The structure of sonnets in one sort of rhyme
So awkward and crampt, was determin'd a crime;
Lest into his error unwitting we fall,
Let sonnets be written with no rhyme at all.
And, gentlemen! see, you have sign'd the record;
Consenting, without the drawback of a word,
(Except Flip and Trottlehem, both absentees—
The first very busy in touching his fees,
And Drywit, with locks o'er his visage so lank)
That sonnets, hereafter, be written in blank.
Now, Sirs, I conceive, you must all understand,
That I was expected to first try my hand
At a species of verse, by the gods so uncommon,
That, before, it was surely attempted by no man.
'Twas a compliment due to my age, to my rank,
To my character, first to write sonnets in blank.
But, behold! I'm assail'd by a mean interloper
(Tho' he rise far above "a mere elegy-moper")
Who, before I could squeeze out three lines, is come forth
With the very first sonnet in blank upon earth.
But this is not all. He has seiz'd on an image
Which none but myself could discern in this dim age;
Which (quite unprepar'd for a trick so indecent,)
I fondly suppos'd from my pen would come recent.
You often, indeed, must have heard me make mention,
That I meant to come out with a double invention;
Viz. my sonnet in blank, and a glorious display
Of the sun and moon shining at once, at noonday!
He, too, must have heard me, a dirty poltroon!
Or how could he else have arrested my moon?
Thus clearly, my brethren! I think I have stated
A business that cannot too highly be rated.
Yet I would not the least animosity foment,
Whilst your thoughts I entreat on a thing of such moment.
The person, 'tis true, whom I thus must accuse,
I long have esteem'd, and long foster'd his muse!
For years have our bosoms in unison beat!
And now, buried deep in his Cornish retreat,
An exile in solitude many a mile hence,
He doats on my letters — he grieves at my silence.
And, I grant, in the critical case now before us,
He writes with an earnestness not indecorous;
Professing in all the plain language of truth,
And not in the strain of false spirit uncouth,
From my sun and my moon that he stole not a feature,
But drew the like images purely from nature;
And, as to the blank, where I thought he was bitten,
That such sort of verse he had, long ago, written.
So little, in short, does he seem of a braggart,
That by his simplicity. zounds! I am stagger'd.
But avaunt foolish pity! to speciousness turning,
And moving my bowels with womanish yearning.
To expressions of friendship I listen no more—
He has touch'd me, compeers! where, I own, I am sore.
I have done — on the subject 'tis vain to enlarge—
But, I beg, you'll consider each separate charge;
And, if guilty you judge him, in spite of repentance,
Of expulsion at once we proceed to the sentence."
He said: and, fast-rolling his eyes in fine frenzy,
Sat down by the side of his brother Morenzi:
His brother Morenzi look'd sheepish and shy,
And the president only address'd with a sigh.
Not so a prig parson. Though squat on his breech,
He, grinning, then sputtering, replied to the speech:
"As, doubtless, my friend, you've asserted with spirit,
Of sonnets in blank the original merit;
Dear doctor! as first you have touch'd on a theme
Such as never was heard by the Helicon-Stream;
(My idea that streams have got ears is well known—
Which I'll boldly maintain at the risk of my own),
I feel at my heart not the slightest revulsion,
When I vote for the man that forestall'd you, expulsion."
Then started another fierce son of the cloth,
Of port more majestic, and foaming with wrath;
(Not one of the nine that first met at the Globe)
And cried — (of his lungs as he strain'd a strong lobe
So manfully, that to his countenance flusht
You would think all the blood of his body had rush'd)
"I conceive, Mr. P., by such anticipation,
Good doctor, hath justly incurr'd castigation.
'Tis true, I am printing, this moment, a sheet
On a subject young P. must professedly treat—
The cromlech I mean, and druidical column,
Which will occupy, soon, a large part of his volume.
But yet, my good Sirs! in such cases as these,
Men of consequence, surely, may act as they please.
However, the name of young P. I insist,
It behoves us, at once to expunge from the list."
Strait another arose, who, sarcastic and sly,
While contempt of the question deep lurk'd in his eye,
Begg'd leave, with respect to the moon, to suggest
What, perhaps, might appear an infallible test
To determine the matter of plagiarism,
That had made in the meeting so hideous a schism
"Now, my friends! (he observ'd) I am greatly in doubt
Whether e'er such a moon at Manaccan shone out!
If not, why, besure, there's no question upon it—
We are meanly fobb'd off with a second-hand sonnet.
No more, then, to throw out conjectures at random,
In my humble opinion, hoc est demonstrandum,
That a bard, in a corner by nature forsaken,
Could never have seen such a moon at Manaccan."
With quick interruption, another, nam'd Petre,
Cried aloud: "My dear friends, now a word for the metre.
On verse your ideas tho' high I must rank,
My opinion on rhyme is against you point-blank;
And, (I trust, I may say, with no danger of treason)
Blank verse on the moon is without rhyme or reason:
And many, I judge, who are fond of lampoon,
Would refer our sage counsels forthwith to the moon.
I, therefore, at once would the question dismiss,
Lest the foes of the muse at the lunatics hiss."
"Besides, (said the feeling Morenzi) 'tis wrong
That friendship be sacrific'd thus — for a song.
Sure, candor, attributing this little piece
(Admit 'tis a copy) to spleen or caprice,
Will ask, if the man, in the scale of regard,
Be sunk very low, by one freak of the bard?
But a notion of mine I've no scruple to own
A brother too nearly approaches the throne."
Quoth Flip, "from the question, my brethren, you wander,
Perplext in the midst of an idle meander.
But, to banish all strife, let us wave our debate
On the culprit, and leave him within his retreat;
And abstractedly look to the sonnet and image
Which the doctor discover'd alone in this dim age.
You know the decision, or crazy or crank,
That sonnets, in future, be written in blank:
And damme, it any one dare interpose,
We'll resolve, that all sonnets be written in prose.
To conclude — I now move for an instant decree
That my friend of blank sonnets be sole patentee;
While we publish the fact far and near, that at noon
In the sight of the sun, he was struck by the moon."
He ceas'd — his last words like the water-fall's lapse;
And the chamber re-echoed with hisses and claps;
When the bard who the sceptre would never usurp — (he
Who had wooed the lone shade but for madam Euterpe)
Stepp'd forth from his corner, a figure so risible
Where Madam Euterpe had made him invisible,
And cried: "What a shame, that resembling the rabble,
You, sons of the Muse! should delight in a squabble;
That you, who the sweets of Parnassus would rifle,
Should thus, so tenaciously proud, to a trifle
(All the same whether falsehood or matter of fact) stick—
O ye, who pen past'rals, and poems didactic!
Nay, poems didactic ye frame passing well—
So Monthly Reviewers, and Journalists tell.
But that he should build epics, with just enough rhyme
In a tale or a fable to decently chime—
With just enough metrical power to dispense
Of Maro or Naso in numbers the sense—
For instance, to sing of the Centaurs and Lapithae—
Must awaken to wrath e'en the bosom of apathy!—
Go then, and in peace as each finds out his level,
May harmony smile on your spiritual revel!"
ELEGIES AND DESCRIPTIVE POETRY.
"WYKEHAM SHALL PAY HIS RESPECTS."
PYE, heartily sick of the strange coalition
Of dullness and wit on the banks of the Exe,
Where he heard of male pangs and of male parturition
To the utter confusion of science and sex,
Flew off to the East, nor stopp'd short, till bewitching
In her musical murmurs, meander'd the Itchin.
There he (and he scarcely had cut capers faster
If escorted by Fellows and Warden and Master)
All unceremoniously scamper'd, just under
The statue of Wykeham, munificent founder;
When struck like a shuttlecock, strait did he dart on—
To the bench of that classical wizard, JOE WARTON!
Alas! Joe no longer could charm with his lay, us—
No longer could pipe like his own Melibaeus!
But ravish'd from earth to effulgence Elysian
He was gliding a shade to poetical vision.
To his mem'ry, lo! busily building a shrine,
Two Poets appear'd; and each call'd on the Nine.
Fantastic the monument rear'd in a trice is;
And its sides are embellish'd with various devices.
His skill the vain Artist endeavour'd to try had
In the figures of Pan and a young Hamadryad:
And his rival in sculpture had carved out a glade
Whither ran from his ravishing godshop the maid.
The poor breathless maid, whether mortal or goddess,
In the hurry of flight had burst open her boddice;
And — (vestments beseeming the pulpit and hassock)
Hoar Pan was trick'd out in a gown and a cassock;
Pan look'd in his cassock, as seiz'd by the cramp;
When, sudden, a wild multitudinous tramp
From the youth whom to feats of agility joy stirs,
Was mingled with many a voice in the cloysters;
And the boys rushing in, without quibble or quirk,
Cried down (in sharp terms of derision) the work,
And, to mark more than words their dislike of the plan,
(Very captious indeed!) flung their caps at "hoar Pan!"
The artists, no other than Hayley and Rogers,
Tho' smooth were the tongues of the pleasant old codgers,
With oil-of-fool aiming in vain to cajole
High striplings that breathed the republican soul,
Slank away from a scene of confusion and din,
And rejoic'd at their happy escape in whole skin.
But scarce had sheer'd off the unfortunate couple,
To the Manes of genius and learning so supple,
Ere a poet indeed! to his prototype just,
Appear'd — 'twas the elegant Bowles — with a bust;
And Crowe waved a chaplet deliciously chaste,
The beautiful product of fancy and taste.
On the delicate wreath, like the morn's ruddy break, a ray
Illuming its hyacinths, beam'd from Terpsichore!
Not Flora, in springtime, so pencils the bowers!
'Twas the tint of the rose on the fairest of flowers.
"THE FEASTS OF OLD BLADUD."
'Twas thus like a whirligig harried about
Was he forc'd to perform each unmerciful route;
And a new expedition our poet now made had,
Arrived at the beautiful city of Bladud:
And scarce had he time to recover the shocks
From a rumbling machine, and comb out his grey locks,
Ere — "over the island, thou bard! in a crack sent
To the pump-room haste, haste!" cried an audible accent.
The pump-room seem'd all as alive to swim round;
There were faces that grinn'd, and more faces that frown'd;
There was laughter relaxing each risible muscle,
And the guttural harsh discords of folks in a bustle,
And the soft sound of silks that more pleasantly rustle;
And the creaking of boots, and the flapping of fans,
And the whisper — "were I that agreeable man's!"
(A whisper so gentle — to friendship aside)
The toss of contempt and the strutting of pride;
And the pale convalescent, that wriggled her rump,
As she drank oft a glass steaming hot from the pump;
When sudden, a terrible panic appear'd
To arrest the pert prig and puling grey beard,
And the rustic and cit, whether artist or squire,
And the minx and the damsel of fashion and fire—
A squeaking voice tittering "O bless me, I shant stay!"
And it glided off quickly, affrighted by Anstey!
It seems, she was one of the Blunderhead progeny,
Whom, cruelly ferretted out from her lodging, he
Had resolv'd through the circles of fashion to hunt,
Another Miss Jenny, or Tabitha Runt!
And away rush'd Miss Fubby Fatarmine, and chubby
Master Marmoset, all by the side of Miss Fubby,
Mrs. Danglecap's boy, and Miss Carrot Fitzoozer,
Afraid Master Anstey again would, abuse her;
And the widow Quicklackit, the bombazine lady,
Whose husband did die — O did die in the heighday
Of gaiety leaving the fair summer blossom!
How swelleth — from sorrow — that lily-white bosom!
Meantime, from a couple who led arm in arm,
It appear'd a few Parsons betray'd an alarm.
And, 'tis said, of disciples of Galen a few,
At the sight of the cynical couple look'd blue:
To the cynical couple the muse was no drab;
For, behold and bow down! they were Cowper and Crabbe.
Nor long, ere with hostile demeanor, a groupe here,
Drew off the attention, from Crabbe and from Cowper.
And, foaming out vengeance against a poor wight,
Thro' every gradation, of shadow and light
They caper'd and stamp'd, and, right prominent figures,
Advanc'd with their canes, as if pulling their triggers.
There was Gainsborough and West and Rigaud, who cried "hic est!"
And a female, who making her way thro' the thickest,
"Of vengeance" exclaim'd, "now beginning the work is!
Full soon the grey caitiff shall rue his cock-turkies!"
To the back ground they slowly retreated; and Peter
Was left for awhile to his scurrilous metre.
But hardly the echoes of anger and pride
In the ears if the poor sneaking Peter had died,
Before a deep groan, a fierce glance and a hiss,
And a titter, as if from a boarding-school Miss,
And a half smother'd scream, and a die-away languish,
Betray'd agitation or hatred or anguish.
Della Crusca dropp'd tremulous the gossamer tear,
And Anna was "icicled over with fear;"
And Laura's pulse flutter'd, like, "zephyrs of gauze;"
And Adelaide stood in "a petrified pause;"
And Emma, her eyes lighted up were, as beryls,
That shot, all on Gifford, their "liquified perils!"
At length, Phoebus' sons, after bearing the brunt
Of the menacing throng who had taken affront,
Were left all alone: and one musical brother
Seem'd awaked from a trance, just to grinn at another!
'Twas a meeting so strange. Now, to close up the matter,
To Pye, gleaming forth, said her museship of satire—
(Her museship at times young and frolic and light,
Now solemnly serious, and sable as night)
"Tell Anstey, I love his good humour and wit
That the foibles of Fashion so finely have hit!
Tell Crabbe, that his strictures are just and are pleasant,
Tho' too low he descends, hand in glove with the peasant!
Tell Cowper his laurels have lost half their bloom
In the damp of a sad puritanical gloom!
Tell Peter, tho' gross and profane, yet his Odes
I hail with high glee! — There, he soar'd to the Gods!
Tell Gifford, with joy I his numbers embrac'd,
When from Folly he rescued the regions of Taste!"
She spoke; and expanding her raven-black wings,
Like the joints of a rattle-snake, rattled her stings!
And she shed forth a light as she mounted the skies,
She shed forth a light, like the basilisk's eyes!
In order, the Laureate each poet address'd
The sweet things repeated, nor cancel'd the rest.
But scarce the satirical gentry the whole heard,
Ere Pindar and Gifford each other had collar'd!
Ah me! that the Bard should his province profane
By the smack of a whip, or the crack of a cane!
Lo Pye, turning round him to scenes more quiescent,
With Anstey in haste stole away to the Crescent!
As the springs of hot Bladud lay smoking behind,
PYE, on Pegasus mounted, to rival the wind,
Now posted away: and fair Isis her stream
Bade murmur his coming to high Academe!
Ah then! — if fond fancy could wander at will,
She rov'd in a tranport o'er Faringdon-hill!
To the theatre strait did the poet repair:
And he felt himself proudly exalted in air,
—As he took, Muse-impell'd, the Vice-Chancellor's chair!—
In order — at that most particular crisis—
Arrang'd on his right, were the lyrists of Isis;
And, all in the area, the velvet-sleeved proctors,
And, scarlet or crimson, the pomp of the doctors;
And a croud of square-caps, and gowns shabbily dusk,
To envelope the many light shades of subfuse!
With precipitation, as if to intrench
Upon time he was sorry, Holmes rose from his bench,
And waved a large scroll! From the ruins of Greece
He declared he had rescued a fugitive piece:
But his musings, in sooth, he much wish'd to impart, on
The death of their sweetest of minstrels, Tom Warton!
And Maurice was eagerly conning his verse,
To deck the Professor's poetical hearse;
And Lipscombe, presuming, for "Inoculation"
He nigh Aganippe had gain'd a snug station,
Stepp'd forth; the fond warbler tho' Clio look'd bitter on,
And beckon'd him off to his "shade" of sweet "citron;"
And with hottest impatience, now all on a fret,
That aper of odes! — was poor Trinity-Kett;
And Richards a stanza or two had now hit on,
Sublime as his own "Aboriginal Briton;"
When open the doors of the theatre flew,
And five poets from Cam appear'd aweful in view,
"Ah! Maurice! (said Holmes) see the mighty Matthias
Come hither, alas! from his Cam, to defy us!
And Sir Egerton Brydges — how dreadful the critic,
As one dish of his pen is a stroke paralytic!
And Dyer and Pott — and — the destinies rot her!—
The demon of tragedy bands in her Potter!"
Thus muttering their sorrows, they ceased; as ascended
From the lyrists of Cam in soft symphony blended
So varied a strain, of so dulcet a tone,
That Isis ne'er hail'd such a chorus her own.
To Gray and to Mason the minstrelsy flow'd;
And Clio bade Pembroke re-echo the ode.
Impartial with blushes the Laureate resign'd
To Cam a rich chaplet that Clio had twined.
"HIGH HOMAGE AUGUSTA SHALL PAY."
Hurl'd along, as fumed up the poetical fury,
PYE found himself strait in the precincts of Drury.
And, the theatre opening, there glanced thro' the door,
A tall shadowy form, and still glided before,
Till now in the green-room and now on the boards,
He saw in strange attitudes Ladies and Lords,
And others so rueful — all held by constraint—
Their looks of dejection no pencil could paint—
Each bearing a burden (from which he must part,)
On his shoulders or back, tho' it clung to his heart.
Dear as to Aeneas was father Anchises!
Of our works, to ourselves, how enormous the price is!
At that instant a Being tripp'd forth, debonnair,
And laughing and arch, with a frolicksome air,
Leading briskly a troop, on the opposite side,
A troop oddly drest, particolour'd and pied.
These too, with a burden attach'd to the back,
Went wriggling along, as if put to the rack.
The two Muses then seized, each a female, whose vanity
(From childhood to age) had span verse from inanity,
And, above the mixt multitude, set them on high;
And, as they accepted their thrones, nothing shy,
Crown'd one with a glimmer (so feeble her lyre is!)
With a glimmer just caught from the bow of an Iris
Whilst the raindrops Cyllene was penciling, tho' fair
Yet all evanescent and fainting in air;
Then weaving a tissue of scarlet and yellow,
Flung it up, to encircle the head of her fellow;
Assur'd, that no garland more aptly would fit her,
Than the tiny web glistering — the gossamer glitter.
The Lady, indebted to Luna, engross'd
The care of a dramatist, certes a host;—
Of Sheridan, who had condemn'd her not wholly,
But in tenderness view'd her, and pitied her folly!
Bright Hannah of Bristol, (the maid Iris-crown'd)
For some one to prop her, look'd wistfully round:
Her vanity-feeder, her Garrick was gone!
How "cruel" alas! was her seat on the throne;
Till Cumberland who was too late to escort her,
Now bustling came forward, no pigmy supporter!
PYE stared; and at once by the Muses provok'd,
To the bards of the stage, whether buskin'd or sock'd,
Utter'd words not his own, highly season'd with satire,
Not his own — for poor PYE was the milk of good nature.
"Come! each of you quietly lay down your care,
To many a burden too grievous to bear!
To thee, Dr. Downman! (perforce I am brief)
To get rid of thy load would be, sure, a relief—
Tho' as friends of stern virtue, perhaps it may suit us,
To speak a kind word in behalf of thy "Brutus."
And thou, tho' thy liver, my Lord of Carlisle!
May possibly swell with poetical bile,
Down, down with thy works, or my hands shall arrest all—
If rich, rich alone from the pencil of Westall!
And Hayley! — we value the lays of thy youth,
Embellish'd by talent-exalted by truth!
How couldst thou, not deeming thy "Triumphs" enough,
Manufacture of late such combustible stuff?
And (tedious it were to address each by name)
You vile poetasters, who think to raise fame
On an elephant's trunk, or on any sea monster—
Fling away your abortions! — Hence, hence shall not one stir,
His shoulders unless he shall quick disencumber
From his melos, and all such theatrical lumber!
Now — dear madam Cowley! descend from thy height,
Archpriestess of Comedy, frothy and light!
Tho' more of the tragedy-queen in thy looks—
Descend, madam Cowley! and build up the books.
Yet first — (thro' thy tears I perceive a faint smile)
With thy own pretty pieces embellish the pile.
And as, to set fire to this soul-breathing pyramid,
Apollo's self bade us provoke and bestir a maid,
Devoted Miss Hannah! of vestals the purest,
Of saints or of methodist-maidens demurest!
Thy books bring together — come, toss in thy "Percy;"
Nor on thy "Inflexible Captive" have mercy!"
Whilst with Deans so familiar, and Bishops we rank her,
Can Hannah still after the theatre hanker?
"No!" contracting her brow into furrows full risible,
(As a torch met her hands from some spirit invisible)
"No — no!" (scream'd Miss Hannah) "all hail! Benedicite!"
And thus made a virtue of savage necessity.
Then, (her visage with zeal or malevolence flusht)
To the heap of high wit, like a Bacchanal, rush'd
And dash'd in the torch. Strait ascended the smoke,
And feeding on goblins and giants and joke,
From the pyre, a fine blue, the flame crackled and broke.
And certes! or nourisht by matter bituminous,
Or nonsence or wit, it was very voluminous!
When rising and flying, more subtle and bright,
Than it e'er has aspired on a Benefit-night,
The wit or the flame was now curling aloof,
Till suddenly all in a blaze was the roof.
Away scamper'd the crowd: And the Muses upflew
To their Sheridan — Cumberland — bidding adieu!
"THE BLUE ROOM."
Now, snorting forth lightnings his snowy-wing'd horse,
To Lichfield the Laureate directed his course.
His Pegasus, not as at other times wayward,
Flew strait to the Close, the fair mansion of Seward;
And, invisibly rein'd by the muse Polyhymnie,
On the roof, safe and sound, and then plump thro' the chimney
In "the Blue-room" of Genius the Poet let down;
Where, to the surprise of her parents, a crown
Of myrtle or bays, to delight or to bore us,
Was said to be woven by no less than Horace.
In the Blue-room so meet for the blue-stocking ladies,
And others their mimics, whose pleasure or trade is
"To talk sentimentals," as if they were fuddled,
What a crowd of strange beings together were huddled!
Miss Seward — her fingers all blacken'd with ink—
(On such indecorums in merit we wink)
Just then was devoutly engaged, after Flaccus,
In pouring libations to Venus and Bacchus;
While whispering and sighing, in spite of all cavil,
Beside her was seated her silver-toned Saville!
He, tho' to digest her sweet nonsense but ill-able,
Each little word swallow'd, and every dissyllable!
Miss Seward voluptuously roll'd her dark eye:
And Opie perceived the effect, very sly,—
The wife of the Painter — her cap all awry.
There was Hardinge, to faults and to beauties awake;
And that fine philologist, good Dr. Drake;
Lady Burrel, in verse that so often hath made a trip;
And, Manners whom, likewise, we christen' her ladyship;
And Mundy so pleasant — so meltingly soft—
In poetical landscape; — and poor Capel LOFFT
Tho' scarce in the province of sonnets a tetrarch,
Yet vaunting his prowess, as if a new Petrarch;
And Cartwright; and Helen exalting a varlet
To the rank of a lord; and monotonous Charlotte;
Mrs. Radcliffe romancing, and eke Montolieu;
And some looking buxom, and some looking blue.
From his task as a President (PYE was no Hector!)
The Laureate recoil'd. But (instead of a lecture
On verse or on prose) with bright wine-cups of nectar
The board, that had groan'd beneath Flaccus, shone rich:
And from Polyhymnie a pinch or a twitch
Bade PYE rising briskly around him dispense
To talent and taste, to wit science and sense,
And to folly — (tho' not with contempt or in malice,)
The fluid contents of the cup or the chalice.
The nectar, it seems, to the liquors, that suited
Their characters, was in a moment transmuted.
Lady Burrel, instead of the nectar divine,
Had only some weak and insipid Cape-wine:
Lady Manners was angry, — presuming to rate her
So low, as the Laureate address'd her with water.
To Radcliffe the claim of desert, and no favour,
Of Frontiniac was adjudged the high flavour—
Its lusciousness somewhat allay'd by pale sherry;
To Helen champagne — tho' perchance it was perry!
But it sparkled and cream'd with the tint of Aurora;
And Montolieu relish'd the light Alba Flora;
And O the sweet Charlotte! metheglin to sip
(How she took it to heart!) was the lot of her lip;
While not brooking a rival, and prompt to deride her,
Madam Opie was sentenced to cocagee-cyder!
As her cocagee fumed, like herself effervescencing,
To see how she fretted was truly distressing!
And Seward — for bounce! it was gone to a drop—
Was regaled with a goblet of Ashburton-pop!
Mellow mountain was Cartwright's — which soon changed to Bronte
Diluted a little with aqua de fonte;
Whilst Mundy! thy modestly beckon'd to pass
To another, of Chateau margaux a small glass;
And, catching the scent as of something grown stale,
Capel Lofft was astonish'd to find it hard ale;
And Hardinge drank off a full wine-cup of rhenish;
And look'd with an eager desire to replenish;
And last, tho' not least, where the Muses resort,
Dr. Drake was delighted with generous old port.
PYE rubb'd his eyes — left on a sudden, alone—
The Blue-room and all the bright vision was gone!
"WINDEMERE GREET THEE!"
To determine this wondrous poetical warfare,
Away to the north was PYE whisk'd in a car, far
As he ever had travel'd thro' half a moon's age;
In a minute — a truly miraculous stage!
Urania, in sooth, over mountains and glens
Over moorlands and rivers and vallies and fens,
Over castles and hamlets, and manors and glebes,
Now bears us to Athens, now wings us to Thebes.
She can waft e'en a temple across the wide ocean—
The shrine of Loretto was thus set in motion!—
And lo! in our Isle, 'midst the fells and the meers
Her bidding the fane of Minerva uprears!
'Twas eve. O'er a lake frown'd a fell ribb'd with rock;
And burst from broad chasms the wild ash and the oak.
Now gradual the fell a rich purple o'erspread,
Where the sunbeam had tinted its azure-girt head.
Of crag and of woodland now deepen'd mass;
And the lake slept beneath like, a mirror of glass:
When slow from its bosom a dense cloud arose,
That parted, a fabric sublime to disclose—
The fane of the goddess Minerva at Athens—
(Tho' perdie there way moved nor a stone nor a lath thence)
Its features from old time were hoarily solemn;
But the Doric grace breathed in each fine fluted column.
Shadowy figures at once gliding quickly were seen
To its portals, and then to a chamber within;
Where PYE, by his office compell'd, to a crowd
Of Epic-competitors, awkwardly bow'd,
As if he would every pretension disclaim
To decide, where such wranglers were fighting for fame.
Moreover, a feeling unpleasantly lurk'd
In his heart, that himself in heroics had work'd:
And, as he was hemming, Urania cried: "PYE!
Come, be of good cheer; nor the scrutiny fly!
Tho' not rank'd with Bards, whom we deem Boanerges—
Thy number's are smooth — thou art better than Burges!
What tho', as they jeer, with a joke or a gibe, us,
The wicked wits couple thee often with Pybus;
Sir Bland! thou shouldst rather have labour'd to whistle
To Dunning, another heroic epistle,
Than have climb'd up, and roll'd down the rock to thy breech hard,
In struggling to grasp at the shade of King Richard!
But see how he snivels and sneaks behind Helen;—
Tho' neither in rhyme nor in reason a felon:—
Secure from the charge of a theft as of treason,
His own is his rhyme, and his own is his reason!
Up Pindus tho' creeping to carry the farce on, he
Still laboured, too weak for one poor petit larceny!—
Such metrical monsters ah! why do I mark,
While beams in my presence the "Poet of Arc?"
Full soon great Eliza, tho' tragedy lend her
From one bard all the blaze of poetical splendour,
Shall yield to an era fast opening; and Anne
(Tho' a race her prime poets so gloriously ran,)
Shall veil to a Coleridge — a Southey her bonnet—
Compared to a Pope, like an ode to a sonnet!"
She said: And the temple with Southey — ascending,
And the grandeur of trumpets with dulcimers blending,
On the broken cloud — each seem'd to cling to a flake—
Sir Bland and poor Pybus sank down in the lake!