1784
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Elegy written in St. Stephen's, a Parody.

Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser (2 January 1784).

Anonymous


Sixteen burlesque quatrains on the fall of the ministry: "The votes of venal Senates to command, | To break the Constitution's strongest ties; | To seize the sacred Charters of the land, | And on the ruins of her Commerce rise | Their lot forbade." The poem has not signature. The short-lived coalition ministry ("strange connection") of Lord North with Charles James Fox had been formed in April 1783 and lasted less than a year; among the casualties was Fox's attempt to reform the East India Company. Henry Sampson Woodfall (1739-1805) was the manager of the Public Advertiser, a London daily newspaper and brother of the editor of the Morning Chronicle, William Woodfall.

W. Davenport Adams: "The Morning Chronicle was started in 1769. William Woodfall was the first editor, reporter, and printer — all of which functions he combined; being followed in 1789 by James Perry, who became part-proprietor of the paper about twelve years afterwards. During the latter's regime such men as Coleridge, Lord Campbell, Campbell the poet, Sir James Mackintosh, Porson, and Hazlitt were contributors to the Chronicle" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 407.



Gazettes now toll the melancholy knell,
Of Statesmen fallen from their high degree:
Whitehead disdains to ring their passing bell,
And leaves the task to Woodfall and to me.

Now fades Ambition's landscape on the sight,
Mock-patriot faces marks of sadness hold,
Dire Disappointment hides his head in night,
But Faction wakes to pen Addresses bold.

In yonder stately rook'ry (Brookes's fane)
Nothing is heard but rout and wild uproar;
Th' affrighted rooks forsake their wonted reign,
Tables are turn'd, and hazard is no more.

Beneath this dome, where dwells St. Stephen's shade,
And benches rise in many a verdant bed,
No seats are occupied, no motions made,
The Quondam Treas'ry Members all are fled.

The early call of incense-breathing tools,
The Council's summons thund'ring at their door;
The Levee's courtly pomp (the pride of fools)
Shall rouse them from their privacy no more.

For them no more shall Council dinners smoke,
Or City feasts display their sumptuous fare.
No needy hangers on retail each joke;
No parasite the flatt'ring smile prepare.

Some time they reap'd the harvest of the seats,
Full many an act they plann'd, debated well;
Their chariots rattled thro' Augusta's streets,
And loud they laugh'd, whilst Public Credit fell.

Yet let not future Statesmen mock their toil,
Their strange connection, and their means obscure;
Nor grandeur look with a disdainful smile,
Because, beside their faults, these men were poor.

Not all the wealth that either India brings,
Not all those arts which fell Corruption tries,
Can buy the best Prerogative of Kings,
To listen to an injur'd People's cries.

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the blame,
That mem'ry, o'er their fall, no trophies raise;
Those men had better die without a name,
Who merit infamy instead of praise.

Perhaps, amidst this band, have sunk in night,
Some hearts once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that might well have done their Country right,
Or wak'd to extasy the Muse's lyre.

But Science, tho' she led their early youth,
Beheld her power to politics give way;
Accurst self-interest hid the face of truth,
And party zeal assum'd unrivall'd sway.

Perhaps some Calvin, in whose restless brain,
Things call'd Reform Bills lurk'd, (a specious brood)
Perhaps some Cataline might head their train,
Some Cromwell yet unstain'd with Regal blood.

The votes of venal Senates to command,
To break the Constitution's strongest ties;
To seize the sacred Charters of the land,
And on the ruins of her Commerce rise

Their lot forbade, nor circumscribed alone,
Their views tow'rd India, but their plots unplann'd.
Forbad to chain their Sovereign on his throne,
And ride triumphant o'er the insulted land.

Far from their Monarch's sight, the Senate's strife,
These madding Patriots now shall learn to stay
Along the cool-sequester'd vale of life,
Unplac'd, unpension'd, unlamented, stray.

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