1752 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Mr. Mason, on his Elfrida.

Miscellanies in Prose and Verse. By Mrs. Catharine Jemmat, Daughter of the late Admiral Yeo, of Plymouth, and Author of her own Memoirs.

Catherine Jemmat


Catherine Jemmat hails William Mason's attempt to revive the classical drama on the stage, despite the vulgar tastes of the English public: "What grief, that scenes like these, by wayward chance, | Must yield to pantomime, or paultry dance? | While the true Attic elegance and wit, | Dare hope no plaudit from a British pit." Posterity has concurred with the judgment of the pit. The opening lines of the poem imitate Milton's L'Allegro. These lines may first have appeared in the 1766 edition of Jemmat's Miscellanies.



Hence, livid Envy, murkiest fiend of hell,
Hence, blood-stain'd Malice, to thy baleful cell;
Avaunt, and shed not here your venom'd rage,
Nor with your touch pollute the sacred page;
To MASON the melodious lays belong,
MASON, the soul of genius and of song!

Hail, bard sublime, with raptur'd eyes we see
The soul of Sophocles reviv'd in thee;
Hail, wond'rous youth! in whose bright strains conspire
Plato's cool judgment, and warm Pindar's fire;
Whilst Homer's grandeur, Virgil's sweetness join,
To make each noble sentiment divine.

What grief, that scenes, which in an earlier age
Had won the wreath on Athen's polish'd stage;
Those scenes produc'd beneath bright learning's throne,
Which Delpho's god without a blush might own;
Those scenes where fire-fraught fancy's strongest ray
Adorns and animates the moral lay;
What grief, that scenes like these, by wayward chance,
Must yield to pantomime, or paultry dance?
While the true Attic elegance and wit,
Dare hope no plaudit from a British pit.

What is th' applause of a theatric crowd!
The breath of folly, by caprice bestow'd.
A soul like thine disdains such trivial praise,
Nor seeks to mount to fame by vulgar ways;
Nobly content with modest merit's due,
The just applause for ever shall be thine,
And thro' all ages thy Elfrida shine;
Elfrida's still shall live with MASON'S name,
Distinguish'd in the brightest rolls of fame.

[pp. 156-58]