1748
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Ode, written in a Grotto near Farnham in Surrey, call'd Ludlow's Cave.

Poems on Several Occasions. By the Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton, Batchelor of Divinity, later Vicar of Basingstoke in Hampshire, and sometime Professor of Poetry in the University of Oxford.

Rev. Joseph Warton


Five changeful, irregular, rhapsodic stanzas by Joseph Warton explore the windings of the imagination in an emblematic grotto. The final lines penetrate darker recesses: "Here let me dwell, | 'Till Death shall say — "Thy Cavern leave, | Change it for a darker Grave." The poem is presented as the elder Warton's, though two drafts of the poem survive in Joseph's handwriting.

David Fairer: "The poet's final retreat in section five to his 'solemn Cell' beneath the oaks recalls the last resting-place of Il Penseroso, and like Milton he intends to devote himself to a life of melancholy contemplation. The thoughtful sadness evoked by the Surrey landscape ('Here what a solemn Silence reigns, | Save the Tinklings of a Rill') was to be caught most memorably by Thomas Gray, in describing the 'drowsy tinklings' heard above the 'solemn stillness' of a country churchyard. In fact, the Elegy (completed in 1750) is in several ways a refined culmination of the poetic trends of the 1740s as exemplified in the work of the Warton brothers" "Poems of Thomas Warton the Elder?" RES NS 26 (1975) 397.



I.
Close in this deep Retreat
O coolly let me sit,
Shelter'd from the sultry Day!
Sirius and Sol with burning Beams
So strike the gasping Fields below,
That not an Ox is heard to low,
Or little Warbler from his Throat
To pour the sweetly-winding Note.

II.
The Nymphs that keep this circling Wood,
And beauteous Naiads of the neighb'ring Flood,
With their Dew-dropping Hair,
Oft to this unadorned Cave repair,
To dance and trip it in a Round
On the smooth and hallow'd Ground;
And say — "That Diana's Grott, and Thetis' Bow'rs,
Must yield in Coolness and in Shade to our's."—

III.
'Twas Here, as old Traditions tell,
A wither'd Witch was wont to dwell;
The magic Mutterings of whose Voice could call
A thousand Daemons from their darksome Hall,
Bid haste the wild Winds from their Northern Caves,
Obscure the Moon, and rouse the roaring Waves:
Here LUD, retiring from fierce Battle came,
And from his Helmet quaff'd the cooling Stream;
Leant on his Spear, unreign'd his foamy Steed,
To pasture on the green, refreshful Mead.

IV.
Here what a solemn Silence reigns,
Save the Tinklings of a Rill,
That gushing from the hollow Hill,
Pensive, as it runs, complains.
But hark! methinks a Spirit speaks,
A Voice from the remotest Caverns breaks;—
"From the vain World learn, Mortal, to retire,
With true Ambition to high Heav'n aspire;
Grandeur and Glory trifling Hearts trepan,
These Toys disdain, for Virtue makes the Man."—

V.
Let me therefore ever dwell,
In this twilight, solemn Cell,
For musing Melancholy made,
Whose entrance venerable Oaks o'ershade,
And whose Roof that lowly bends,
With awful Gloom my serious Thoughts befriends:
Here let me dwell,
'Till Death shall say — "Thy Cavern leave,
Change it for a darker Grave."

[pp. 115-18]