1736
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Descriptive: a Miltonick. After the Manner of the Moderns.

Poems on Several Occasions. By Samuel Wesley, A.M. Master of Blundell's School at Tiverton, Devon, sometime Student of Christ-Church, Oxford; and near Twenty Years Usher in Westminster School.

Rev. Samuel Wesley the Younger


A Miltonic burlesque directed at James Thomson, author of The Seasons, and his trio of imitators: David Mallet, author of The Excursion (1728), James Ralph, author of Night (1728), and Richard Savage, author of The Wanderer (1729). Samuel Wesley, educated at Christ Church College, Oxford, and a protege of Bishop Atterbury, was not one likely to have much sympathy for "Moderns." He appends an epigram "On the foregoing Miltonicks": "What makes You write at this odd Rate? | Why, Sirs, it is to imitate. | What makes You rant and ramble so? | Why, 'tis to do as others do. | But there's no Meaning to be seen: | Why, that's the very Thing I mean" p. 156.

Argument: "The Invocation: The Poem slides insensibly into the midst of Things, and presents a Flower-piece; then proceeds to the Heat of Africa, the Fertility of Harvest, and the Cold usually ensuing: This naturally leads to the Stages of Man's Life: Infancy: A Bird's-nest, illustrated from Homer: Youth, closed with a Simile: APHROGALA [Greek characters]. The next two Ages slightly touched, make way for a Sketch of the Morning: A moral Reflection on the Uncertainty of human Things, by way of Transition to Night; wherein is introduced an Assemblage of Allegorical Persons, perfectly picturesque, and highly suitable to the Nature of this kind of Poetry. The Conclusion" p. 151.

Dwight Durling: "The established school of poetry did not look with favor on these descriptive writers, whatever may have been Pope's personal attitude toward Thomson. The pontiff of English letters several times delivered pronouncements on descriptive verse: 'a feast of sauces' was his characterization. The younger Samuel Wesley, however, seems to be the only poet of the time who attempted a satire of the descriptive form" Georgic Tradition in English Poetry (1935) 130.



O thou sweet-musing in th' umbrageous Grots
Of cool CITHAERON, or th' embow'ring Shade
Of PIMPLA'S lofty Top, aerial Height;
Or hear'st Thou rather from the secret Cave
Oracular, yawning with awful Night?
Or else where-e'er by visionary Bard
Thou sitt'st enthron'd, to me alike where-e'er,
Present to me alike. Not unobserv'd
By rural Swains, and not unwish'd the Guest
Approaches glad, with smiling Chaplets crown'd,
And Odours floating soft on ZEPHYR'S Wings,
With early blooming Sweets: The Primrose fair,
Nam'd from the joyous Prime. The Violet
Impurpled, blue-ey'd, thicket-loving Flow'r.
With ruddier Specks their paly Gold among,
Cowslips distinct emblazon'd. He who speaks,
Speaks adequate the Numbers numberless
Of various Flowrets, from all-bearing Earth
Self-rais'd, spontaneous, may perchance recount
Or Buds which swell with vernal Warmth's return
Or Drops descending in prolifick Show'rs,
Or Epithets in sacred Poet's Song.

Thee, Torrid Zone adust, Thee who shall praise
Except by SIRIUS or his Brother Star
Haply inspir'd. PHAEBUS' Meridian Fires
Intense, extreme, (while the fierce Lion reigns,
Malignant reigns, morbifick, pestilent,)
Heat AFRICK'S Furnace into sev'n-fold Flame;
Whose Burnings join'd, reflexive and direct,
Half vitrify her Sands; impois'ning more
Dragons impoison'd, Basilisks Death-crown'd
And DIPSAS dry, and sublimate their Stings
Or Teeth, erst dang'rous; now avoidless Fate,
Quick, instantaneous. When Autumnal Boughs
Fruit-bent to Earth hang pendent, Parent Earth
As studious to repay; Apples forth pour
Draughts emulous of the Vine, mature Produce,
Nectareous Vales with yellow Harvests crown'd,
Ambrosial tempt the careful Reaper's Toil.
Nor CERES, fancy'd Pow'r! but Nature boon
Toughens the furrow'd Plain with beardy Gold.
Behold He comes with trembling Pace, but sure,
Whose icy Breath the circum-ambient Air
Chills frore; by Rustick Foot or Carriage prest,
Unyielding, unobsequious stands the Frost,
Nitrous, incrusted, crispy, crackling, crimp.

Life's Stages fleet in quick Succession roll,
Each after each. Babes tell aloud their Woe,
Too plain, alas! tho' inarticulate:
Tho' unexperinc'd yet to form the Sound
Distinct, syllabick; while the infant Tongue
With still-born Motion flutters into Speech.
See! the Boy storms the Bird's weak Citadel,
Straw or Stick-built, or of what Stuff soe'er
They choose, instinctive, lin'd with smoothest Moss,
Or Down still smoother, waving in mid Sky,
Transcending boasted Architecture far,
DORICK, CORINTHIAN, PLAIN OR COMPOSITE;
The helpless Brood small, callow, bare, unfledg'd
He seizes, sportive; ah! their tender Limbs
With ruthless Hands he pulls, he tugs, he tears.
So blind MAEONIDES, in Body blind,
Of Soul sharp-sighted, sung a Snake devour'd
Eight Young in presence of their frighted Dam;
The Dam the ninth; which shadow'd ILIUM'S Fall,
And the robb'd Bird's-Nest show'd the Fate of TROY.

In wild Designs is giddy Youth absorpt,
Conceiv'd with Rashness, and with Rage pursu'd,
Idle, unprofitable, void, and vain.
So in pellucid Crystal turgid swells
The creamy Viand, gently turgid swells,
Unsolid Sweet, with Vacuum full-fraught,
Something like Nothing, flying Taste and Touch,
Yet to the transient Eye alluring, soft,
Spumaceous, aphrodisian: Manhood ripe
Advanc'd, autumnal yields the Fruits, which erst
Youth's Bloom had promis'd fair, but verges swift,
Too swiftly verges to Decline of Life;
Decrepid, querulous, unthought-of Eld,
With unsuspected Silence, creeping on,
Not fear'd 'till found, not understood till felt.

Hail! gladsome Prime of Day, when orient Sol
Shoots horizontal Beams on dew-drop'd Pearls
Mellifluous; ethereal Poets chant,
Two-legg'd, but not unfeather'd, melting Lays,
With Trill harmonious and responsive Tune:
Sweet ANTIPHON! but what, alas! if fair,
In mortal State is permanent? The Morn
Brings on Meridian Blaze, Day beckons Night;
And each Beginning leads us to an End.
When Birds obscene, by the all-viewing Sun
Ages unview'd, fly forth; ill Omens all!
With Scream portentous and terrifick Wing.
Chill FEAR, and shudd'ring GUILT, and pale DISMAY,
Moony DISTRACTION, life-consuming GRIEF,
And HORROR raven-plum'd, enormous Group!
Cut the dank Moist, and cleave the dark Obscure.

To Thee, O Night! what shall to Thee compare?
Save the black Grave, where loftiest Poets' Dust
Undreaming sleeps, stiff, senseless, motionless,
Silent, untuneful all; far, far remov'd
From Mortals' busy Paths and Sight humane,
From Touch ethereal of Heaven's fiery Rod;
Vocal their Harps no more, in rory Damp
Moulders the lifeless, ever-living Choir.

[pp. 151-56]