1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Westminster Abbey.

Monthly Miscellany or Gentleman's and Lady's complete Magazine 3 (August 1775) 377-78.

Rev. William Rider


Fourteen irregular Spenserians (ababbccC) signed "Erastus, Oxford." This poem had originally appeared under the writer's name in an eleven-stanza version published in 1755. It moralizes a series of tombs in Westminster Abbey in the graveyard manner. Spenser's tomb, curiously, is omitted, though the poem contains verse characters (more interesting than most) for Chaucer, Prior, Milton, Shakespeare, Rowe, and Pope. The Prior character (new to this version) alludes to the "Letter to Monsieur Boileau" (1704) and is interesting in the light of the number of mid-century patriotic odes being published by the likes of William Rider.

The poetry column of the Monthly Miscellany (1774-77) was entitled "Flowers of Parnassus" and was distinguished by a the presence of an engraving, at least until the magazine began to fall on hard times. Most of the material in this second-tier periodical was reprinted.

W. Davenport Adams: "William Rider, historian and divine (d. 1785) was the author of a History of England" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 527.



Tir'd with the senseless trifling of the gay,
I steal from all the glare of gilded woe,
And midst the dead in pensive mood I stray,
Whilst ev'ry tomb discredits earthly show,
Pierces my breast, and bids my tears to flow.
Ah! flow my tears adown my furrow'd cheek,
Your torrents well my latent anguish speak,
And whisper virtue strong, and human glory weak.

Here let me gaze, and, as I gaze, be wise,
Ah! what avails it to have nature known,
To trace the comet's orbits thro' the skies,
To sit with science on her splendid throne,
And then become as senseless as a stone!
Newton, I wonder at thy noble plan,
Who could'st the secret laws of nature scan,
If not of angel mould, yet something more than man.

Next to that spot, I eagerly repair,
Where far-known bards allure the wond'ring eye,
Whose fame, nor time nor envy can impair;
For well their fame may envy's tooth defy,
Favour'd by men, and foster'd by the sky.
Blest spirits, oft I turn your volumes o'er,
Feed my warm'd soul with your enchanting lore,
Mimic your flights in vain, and wish, like you, to soar.

Chaucer, the first who prun'd the poet's wing,
In his half-crumbling dreary tomb I hail;
Him ev'ry muse inspir'd with ease to sing,
But yet how little doth his mirth avail!
Stale is his roundalaie, his language stale.
So shall the lightening be in Austin's eye,
So shall the charms of his Amira die,
Which far eclipse the sun, and rival with the sky.

Prior, whose verse with easy study charms,
Whose satire pleases those it deepest wounds;
Whose lofty ode like Pindar's strophe warms,
Pour'd in majestic, pour'd in solemn sounds.
Oh, with what martial fire thy song abounds!
Yet what avails thee, thy poetic fire,
Tho' Bourbon, as thou says't, cou'd go no higher
In vaunted pedigree, than honest Matthew Prior!

Twin'd round the lyre, and swelling to the sight,
The serpent seems to roll his spires along,
In Milton's lines; his frauds afford delight,
Tho' all our race bewail the direful wrong,
Such is the force of soul-enchanting song!
Well might'st thou miss the blessing of thine eyes,
Whose soul with ancient slightless Homer's vies,
And claims a nobler birth — the product of the skies!

Lo! fancy's fav'rite now attention draws;
Shakespeare! whose foibles glitter to our view,
With beauties snatch'd beyond the bound of laws,
He charm'd the soul, and seems for ever new,
And deathless laurels to his worth are due.
Shakespeare, I read thy scroll to frailty kind,
See pomp and wealth as fleeting as the wind,
"And like the baseless vision, leave no wreck behind."

On Rowe's plain bust the friendly tear I shed;
Oft to his tragic page a flood I've paid,
Oft o'er his mimic woes my heart has bled,
Wept the fall'n chief, bewail'd the captive maid,—
With so much softness all thy lines persuade
Taught by thy lore, the paths of truth I trace,
Court ev'ry virtue, call forth ev'ry grace
That speaks our heav'nly birth, and dignifies our race.

O'er Pope's sweet lines my yearning bosom glows,
Ah! who could read, unmov'd, what Pope recites?
His pen well knew to kindle human woes;
Our heart must feel whate'er his heart indites,
Sink with his woes, and madden with his flights.
Charm'd by his friendly, melancholy lay,
All who behold these weeping lines must say,
Striking their pensive bosoms, — "Here, ah! here lies Gay."

Smit with the speaking stone, enwrapt, I gaze,
Here Wisdom views, surpriz'd, her fav'rite son;
Rhet'ric his worth in all his pomp displays;
Fame writes the trophies by her minion won,
And gilds the thread of life with glory spun.
Argyle, thy fame to Scipio's ne'er shall yield;
"Argyle, the nation's thunder doom'd to wield,
And shake, alike, the wond'ring senate and the field."

With hasty step by many an urn I pass,
Whose story'd side in vain my eye invites;
Deaf to the call of monumental brass,
One tomb alone my ravish'd eye excites.
And, while it fires my rage, my soul delights,
Forgive me, O ye shades, who sleep unnam'd;
Forgive me, ye for strength or genius fam'd,
Unmention'd by my quill, but by your worth proclaim'd.

Oh, Cornwall, at thy name my bosom fires,
Thy name, to ev'ry Briton ever dear,
Immortal vengeance 'gainst thy foes inspires,
And mingles curses with each grateful tear.
Thy fate at once I envy and revere.
Who would not die, like thee, in glory's prime!
Die in defence of Albion's godlike clime!
And die applauded by the heirs of endless time!

The dormant lion now, with rage inflam'd,
Seems to arise beneath Britannia's feet,
Shakes his huge mane, and looks of rest asham'd,
Whilst real thunders arm the scupltur'd fleet,
Our foes, as erst in Anna's days, to greet.
Britannia's face contracts a graceful frown,
And, at her side, the goddess of renown
Her trumpet sounds, by sculpture laid unseemly down,

Hither let Albion's valiant sons repair,
And, as the pearly stream of woe they shed,
Learn in the midst of threat'ning deaths to dare;
Or, while the dreadful carnage round they spread,
Remember Cornwall for his country dead:
And at this pile, as Afric's son of yore,
Eternal war with Rome's republic swore,
Swear vengeance 'gainst our foes, till they shall be no more.

[pp. 377-78]