1757
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The School-Boy. A Poetical Essay.

London Chronicle (15 September 1757) 261.

William Woty


30 ballad quatrains, signed "Juvenis." The poem is modeled on Gray's Eton College Ode, though not without echoes of Gray's Elegy as well: "Let not proud man, buoy'd up by self-conceit, | Contemn the various frolics of the child, | Nor wisdom seated on her aged throne | Deem youthful sports romantic all and wild." If its sentiments are trite and the verses scan with difficulty, the poem is notable as an early treatment of what would shortly become a major theme in romantic verse. The attribution is based on the reprinting in William Woty's Poetical Works (1770).

Headnote: "Gentlemen, As your Paper is the Vehicle of literary Productions, I should be pleased if you think the inclosed little Attempt worth your Notice. A Sight of it in public would greatly oblige your constant Reader, Juvenis. George's Coffee House, Temple-Bar, Sept. 12, 1757."



Back, memory, to scenes of pleasure past,
To scenes 'ere childhood ripen'd into man;
When school day sports employ'd the busy hours,
And ev'ning finish'd what the morn began.

In those gay meads how gladsome have I play'd,
Those meads encircled with meand'ring streams,
Where lavish Flora spreads her chequer'd sweets,
And Phoebus darts his lustre-adding beams.

Oft, as the pale-ey'd regent of the night
Held forth her lamp, and lighten'd all the green,
Have I exulting frolick'd with my mates,
And hail'd the brightness of the silver scene.

Yon sloping lawns, where skips the frisky lamb,
Yon herbag'd vales, and inter-twisted bow'rs,
Yon velvet plains, and daisy-plaited hills
Can sweetly testify my playful hours.

Beside that pebled spring I oft have sat,
And listen'd to each vernal warber there,
As oft well-pleas'd I've puff'd the clay-form'd tube,
And view'd the bubbles mount, and burst in air.

Can I forget how oft the race I've run,
While hope of conquest beat in ev'ry vein?
Pomona's Prize has crown'd my vast success,
And all have hail'd me hero of the plain.

Ne'er triumph'd more a warrior in the field,
When he had vanquish'd his high daring foe,
Than I, when in my little fights engag'd,
My stubborn rival fell beneath my blow.

Then was the day (so jocund was my life)
When I could smile at ev'ry feather'd toy;
When each vain trifle that might shame the man
Delighted, nor disgrac'd the laughing boy.

Where now all those festive days of ease?
Alas! fast bound in Time's all-girting roll;
Yet as in thought each sport I fondly trace,
The lov'd idea warms my panting soul.

When years increasing swell the age of man,
How pleasing's then the recollective pow'r!
Remembrance of past joys play'd o'er in youth
Gives a fresh relish to the present hour.

Adieu that happy transit! for no more
Those moments pleasure wing'd shall I behold,
Reality no more can give them birth,
Tho' airy fancy may the shade enfold.

Let not proud man, buoy'd up by self-conceit,
Contemn the various frolics of the child,
Nor wisdom seated on her aged throne
Deem youthful sports romantic all and wild.

The title-bearing star, the garter'd badge,
The coat emblazon'd, and the flowing gown,
Is little more than emblematic farce,
One half of man is childhood over grown.

Oft now with curious retrospective eye
The stealing progress of the mind I view,
I mark how slow it to perfection tends,
Guided by pliant education's clue.

Bless'd education! all, who feel its fire,
The genial comfort it imparts, must own,
This great distinction elevates the soul,
And adds the richest jewel to a crown.

Where-e'er it spreads, it polishes the rude,
Extracts the finer from the grosser part;
The brutish passions gently charms away,
And levigates the marble of the heart.

The mind, that beauteous spark of heav'nly flame,
How be degrees it rises to a blaze!
Its fury spent, as gradual it expires,
Nor leaves one glimpse of its diminish'd rays.

So shoots a flow'r bud from day to day
Slowly, till all expanded it appears,
Then fade its colours, wither all its leaves,
And time effaces what the florist rears.

Yet e'en amidst the school boy's happy hours,
(So sure at pleasure's side pain takes her stand)
Oft have I fear'd Lorenzo's angry frown,
And the rod quiv'ring in his nervous hand.

One look from him, if anger swell'd his eyes
My classic-searching spirits has depress'd,
One look from him, if smiles seren'd his brow,
Again call'd forth the sunshine of my breast.

But slight is all the terror of the school,
Match'd with the tumult of a bustling world,
Where intermingling passions rack the soul,
From vice to vice in restless motion hurl'd.

Here seated in her silver axl'd carr
Proud Fortune rides with indiscreet command,
Spurns lowly Worth, who courts her to be kind,
Yet spreads unask'd her wealth to folly's hand.

Here Envy pours her snakes on Merit's head,
And low-born Pride extends her ample reign,
Here under sly Religion's double veil,
Lurks dark Deceit with Flatt'ry's servile train.

Bear me from these to where contentment dwells;
There shall each prospect harmonize each thought,
There shall I moralize in perfect ease
And nature's works contemplate as I ought.

Oh pure content! descending from above
Parent of smiles, with sweets eternal fraught,
Beam on thy poet's breast thy kindling blaze,
Thou guide to peace and source of tranquil thought.

Administer thy balm, or else in vain
The plodding merchant forms his airy schemes,
In vain each head grows big with embryo thought,
In vain the nodding politician dreams.

Fair painting's vivid art, sweet musick's pow'r,
The gorgeous edifice, the rural cott,
The fanning gales the cool the fev'rish air,
The tent umbrageous, and the shelly grott;

The soft delights of pleasure's fairy land,
And all that rolls from fortune's ample tide,
Without thy aid remove us from our bliss,
Without thy presence vainly sooth our pride.

Thro' thee the mind in flights excursive roves,
Confinement's welcome to the willing slave;
On rapid pinions fancy mounts the wind,
And poverty sleeps easy in her cave.

With thee, O let me dwell, celestial maid,
Or in the vale, or on the mountain's brow,
There will we two, the envy of the world,
Die, as we liv'd, in friendship's holy vow.

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