1764
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion: or, a Bridal Poem.

Epithalamion: or, a Bridal Poem on the Marriage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Augusta of England, to His most Serene Highness the hereditary Prince of Brunswick-Lunenburgh.

Anonymous


An epithalamium written on the occasion of the marriage of Augusta (1737-1813), elder sister of George III, to the Duke of Brunswick. Their daughter Caroline would later wed her cousin, the Prince of Wales, with untoward results. This anonymous poem is a free adaptation of Spenser's Prothalamion, done into heroic couplets. The writer, an enthusiastic supporter of the House of Brunswick, is a very amateurish versifier, rendering Spenser's famous refrain, "Sweete Themmes runne softly, till I end my Song" as "Whose days prolong, smooth as the Thames's stream, | The great example of my bridal theme." The pair of swans appear of course, but are nothing to the purpose in this hapless imitation. The poem is conceivably the work of George Pooke, whose acknowledged loyal effusions had been harshly reviewed. If so, he had found a new publisher.

Advertisement: "Of all my reading, I never read but one good Bridal Poem, which was written by Mr. Spencer, in honour of the Marriages of the Lady Elizabeth, and Lady Catharine Somerset — and I am prouder of being the Copier of so good a piece, in praise of so illustrious a Princess, than thought the Author of such jargon as daily offends the ear. I am, in another respect, particular: I had rather hear an Ecclesiastic Gentleman repeat a sermon of Mr. Tillotson, than favoured with a laboured child of his own brain. In the subsequent lines are Mr. Spencer's words and thoughts in a modern dress, which are presented by the Author as a testimony of his Loyalty to the illustrious Princess Augusta.

Critical Review: "The author tells us, in an advertisement prefixed to this poem, that it contains nothing but the famous Mr. Spencer's words and thoughts, in a modern dress, and is taken from his bridal poem on the marriages of lady Elizabeth and lady Catherine Somerset — What Spencer's poem is we do not recollect; but certain it is, the modern dress which our author has fitten him out with is not very becoming" 17 (January 1764) 79.

John Langhorne: "We hope the royal pair, who are here so wretchedly berhymed, have not taken this Epithalamion abroad with them, as a specimen of English poetry. The goose of an Author has metamorphosed them into swans, through a presumptuous imitation of Spenser, in whose steps he is just as capable of treading, as a Dutch Boor is of dancing with Galini. He has the vanity, however, to affirm, in his dedication, that his poem will be an 'endless' proof of a subject's loyalty: but whether the materials will really prove so lasting as he supposes, let the Reader judge from the following specimen: 'Sing, sing Augusta's praise, like Thames's stream, | And endless subject, but a glorious theme. | If Phoebus is the father of the Muse, | Can he this simple one request refuse?' In the last quoted line, we apprehend, there is a typographical error, and that it should be read thus: 'Can he this simple 'one's' request refuse?' In the following good wishes we do most heartily join the Poet: 'May — — | Peace, and Augusta's name for ever ring, | And a more able Muse her virtues sing!' Ding, dong, ding! God save the King!" Monthly Review 30 (February 1764) 158.



Ye learned SISTERS of that silver stream,
Who have assisted to an humbler theme;
When other's merits fill'd my simple lays,
Now, raise the Muse to carrol BRUNSWIC'S praise.

Virtues, like theirs, a master's hand require,
A Spencer's fancy, or a Dryden's fire:
Since both are wanting to compleat the whole,
She dare but boast of Loyalty of soul.
Then flow my verse, flow like thy THAMES'S stream;
And be my pattern, to the noblest theme.

Calm was the day, the sun serenely fair,
And southern breezes trembl'd thro' the air;
When I, who long had been the adverse sport
Of partial Fortune, and the slaves of Court,
Walk'd forth to breathe the fragrance of the breeze,
Beneath the umbrage of the tallest trees,
Along the banks of rapid rolling Thames;
(Which scarce the fullness of his current hems:)
Where painted flowers adorn the regal seat,
Proud of the pressure of AUGUSTA'S feet;
Whose days prolong, smooth as the Thames's stream,
The great example of my bridal theme.

There, on the surface of the glassy flood,
Fair as the soul that's truly chaste and good,
A lovely Swan appear'd of lovely hue,
Fairer than Godlike JOVE, who LEDA knew:
No virgin snow upon the mountain's height,
Was e'er so very fair, so pure, so white;
The very stream the stately creature bare,
Seem'd conscious she was foul, and fled, for fear
Her waves should soil her silken snowy pride,
Swimming supinely down the chrystal tide.
As easy flow your time, as this fair stream,
The fair example of to the bridal theme.

Thus as she row'd her stately form, I spied,
Striving against the torrent of the tide,
A Second, with that dignity of brood,
That shines throughout the Princes of the flood:
Under the rushy bank he seem'd to sail,
Rais'd his white wings, and catch'd the driving gale;
A thousand nymphs, till now, had gathering been,
The sweetest flowers, and tripping o'er the green,
To lively sounds, that fill'd the caseing air,
Ran from their dance to see the Princely PAIR:
Sliding along the Thames's silver stream,
The fair example to the fairest theme.

So sweet a PAIR were never seen before
Within the limits of the ENGLISH shore,
So fair, so lovely, that they deem'd them born
Of heavenly race, chaste as the virgin morn;
They seemed more than any royal seed,
Angels themselves, if not of Angel breed:
As they advance, the nymphs their flowrets strew,
And form'd sweet garlands for the lovely two,
THAMES, like old PENEUS smil'd, whose water glides
With sweetest flowers from TEMPE'S flowery sides:
Pleas'd with the sight, a maid this bridal theme
Rehears'd, which died a-down the falling stream.

Fair birds, the grace, fair ornament of time,
When love and virtue make the soul sublime,
When virtues, only yours, combine to prove,
The bliss of mortals in connubial love;
Joy may you have in this, and ev'ry hour,
And shew of friendships of the bridal bower;
Shew to a wond'ring world, what glories roll
From BRITAIN'S Daughter, and from BRUNSWIC'S soul.
May endless peace, and plenty bless your days,
Your worth the monuments of endless praise.
And may the bravest, fairest issue prove
The heart of WILLIAM, and AUGUSTA'S love.
Accept, great Pair, the tributary theme,
Smooth flow your time as Thames's smoothest stream.

She ended — and anon the virgin throng,
Began their chorus to the bridal song;
And Eccho from the neighbouring Hills resounds
Their loyal words, and most melodious sounds;
In love's embraces, such another pair
Ne'er met,
As WILLIAM brave, and as AUGUSTA fair:
In manners gentle, in affections fair,
A Kingdom's darling, and a Soldier's care.
Birds of all kinds from ev'ry bush and tree,
Came to behold the pair a-down the LEE;
But how inferior to the feather'd race,
To these in Beauty, Majesty, and Grace,
But still they did excell the rest as far
As silver CYNTHIA does the smallest star:
Thus ev'ry creature of the earth, and air,
With joy attended on the lovely pair.
With joy prolong'd the happy, bridal theme,
Which roll'd melodious down the glassy stream.

Next to the crowded Capital they came,
To SOMERSET, that ancient House of Fame,
Where English Peers have boasted of their birth,
Inferior only to a BRUNSWIC'S worth:
One WILLIAM who remov'd his Country's woes,
And sav'd her, sinking under Gallic foes;
One WILLIAM who, with ev'ry good possess'd,
To make him dear to all the brave and best:
One WILLIAM who did honour to our law,
The Son of Mars, the Brother of Nassau:
Here lodg'd the noble, honour'd, princely pair,
The world's great glory, and our England's care:
A Prince, whose name gave terror to the earth,
To slaves, a freedom, to the mournful, mirth;
And may thy prowess, and victorious arms,
Save fertile Lunenbourgh from foreign harms,
Peace and AUGUSTA'S praise like Thames's stream,
An endless subject, but a glorious Theme.

If Phoebus is the Father of the Muse,
Can he this simple one request refuse?
Let but this bridal day, this day be mine,
And all the rest I promise shall be thine.
Tell me, ye NOBLE Daughters, did ye see,
A Maid so lovely, and so good as she?
A Maid so kind, so fair; most chaste, most kind,
A Princess with a most exalted mind:
Honour and virtue all her deeds approve,
In ev'ry gesture, majesty and love.
Attend ye Dressers of her beauty's pride,
Strive to adorn the beautifullest Bride:
Fair Sun, appear in thy serenest ray,
In honour of AUGUSTA'S bridal day:
May ev'ry day like THAMES'S gentle stream,
As gently flow, and crown the poet's Theme.

See, whilst she now before the Altar stands,
Bless'd by the holy Priest with sacred hands;
The virgin blushes flush upon her cheeks,
And a pure white succeeds them, while he speaks:
Angels themselves, forgetful of the rite,
Peep round the Bride, enraptur'd with the sight:
But she, with thoughts intent on sacred ties,
Fix'd on the ground the lustre of her eyes.
The knot is tied. — Hear what a loyal noise,
The world gives approbation with the voice,
All Hymen Io, Io Hymen sing,
And spacious LONDON with the Echo's ring:
She durst not look, tho' pleas'd, upon the crowd,
But blush'd to hear her praises sung so loud:
Sing, Hymen sing, the chorus of the theme,
Nor cease thy carrol but with Thames's stream.

Long may ye live below your people's Love,
And soar from Earth to blessed Saints above,
Give to posterity a princely Brood,
As WILLIAM brave, and as AUGUSTA good.
Live Royal Pair the glory of the theme,
Uninterrupted like the Thames's stream.

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