1746
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Father Francis's Prayer to St. Agnes. In imitation of Chaucer.

General Advertiser (19 December 1746).

Gilbert West


An unsigned, faux-antique inscription for a hermitage, later reprinted in the fourth volume of Dodsley's Collection of Poems under the title "Father Francis's Prayer. Written in Lord Westmoreland's Hermitage." John Fane, seventh earl of Westmoreland (1682?-1762) served under the Duke of Marlborough, served in Parliament, and was Chancellor of Oxford University, 1759-62. The substance of this little poem is closely akin to the allegorical odes that were about to become popular, with St. Agnes standing in for the usual allegorical abstraction.

William Shenstone to Richard Graves: "There is nothing I am more pleas'd with [in Dodsley's volume] than Father Francis's Prayer. Mr. Berkley repeated it to me in my Root-house this last summer, and I think said it was Mr. West's" 21 March 1755; Letters, ed. Mallam (1939) 318-19.

Samuel Johnson: "Perhaps it may not be without effect to tell that he [Gilbert West] read the prayers of the publick liturgy every morning to his family, and that on Sunday evening he called his servants into the parlour, and read to them first a sermon and then prayers. Crashaw is now not the only maker of verses to whom may be given the two venerable names of 'Poet and Saint'" "Life of West" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:329.

William Prideaux Courtney: "These verses, with a Latin translation made in 1750 by Nicholas Hardinge, are inserted in poems by Hardinge (1818) pp. 100-2. 'There is nothing I am more pleased with than Father Francis's prayer' (Shenstone to Graves in Select Letters, ed. Hull, i. 230)" Dodsley's Collection (1910) 41.

The General Advertiser published verses only occasionally, though in 1745 and 1746 its pages, like those of other newspapers, were filled with a whole series of poems on the Jacobite rebellion.



Ne gey Atire, ne Marble Hall,
Ne Arched Roof, ne Painted Wall,
Ne Cook of Fraunce, ne Dainted Board
Bestrew'd with Pyes of Perrygord,
Ne Power, ne such like idle Fauncies,
Sweet Agnes, grant to Father Frauncis.

Let me ne more myself deceive,
Ne more regret the Toys I leave;
The World I quit, the Proud, the Vain,
Corruption, and Ambition's Strain;
But not the Good (pardie) nor Fair;
'Gainst them I make ne Vow, ne Prayer;
Be such aye wellcome to my Cell,
And oft, not alway, with me dwell.

Then cast, sweet Saint, a Circle round,
And guard from Fools this Holy Ground;
From all the Foes to Worth and Truth,
From wanton Eld, and homely Youth;
The gravely Dull, and pertly Gay;
O Banish these — and, by my Fay,
Right well I ween, that in this Age
Mine House shall prove an Hermitage.

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