In an early allusion to James Beattie's The Minstrel, Anna Seward lauds the accomplishments of William Newton, an untutured bard living secluded in Derbyshire: "The self-taught EDWIN, in his lowly state, | Feels this sweet glen an emblem of his fate; | For as it glows with beauty rich and rare, | Near heathy hills, unsightly, bleak, and bare, | So, 'midst unletter'd hinds as rude as those, | He, pensive minstrel of the mountains, rose" p. 213.
Seward had previously contributed a memoir of Newton to the Gentleman's Magazine: "William Newton's father was a carpenter, too ignorant to give his son any advantages, and too indigent to procure them for him. A dame-school and a writing-master formed the boundaries of our Minstrel's education. He worked at his father's trade, and very early became so ingenious, skilful, and industrious, as to be employed by some few genteel families of the neighbourhood. On these occasions, I have been told, he used to examine books which accidentally lay about in the apartments where he was at work. They awakened into sensibility and expansion the internal fires of his spirit. Every species of fine writing engaged him. From that period all the earnings of his ingenious industry, which he could prudently spare, were expended in books" 55 (March 1785) 169.
Thou gentle Bard, on whose internal sight
Genius has pour'd her many-colour'd light;
With whom the loveliest of the Virtues dwell,
And wave their halcyon plumes around thy cell,
Tho' wayward Fortune has not deign'd to throw
One gaudy trophy on thy pensive brow,
With conscious dignity thy free-born soul
Disdains to court her insolent controul;
And tho' proud Fame no sunny glance has shed
On the low roof that screens thy modest head,
The same exalted spirit scorns to wail
Her echoes silent in thy lonely vale.
Yet, while one votary of the Muses blames
Th' unjust neglect of the capricious dames,
Still may she stimulate that noble pride,
Which rather seeks in humblest roof to hide
The shining gifts that lavish Genius gave,
Than, courting Fortune's smile, commence her slave;
Than climb Parnassus' steep and thorny ways,
And drop the rose of Peace to grasp the bays.
Thy quiet haunts Reflection loves to trace
Thro' walks of savage, or of smiling, grace;
And pleas'd she finds the scenes, that gave thee birth,
Types of thy lot, thy talents, and thy worth.
As conscious Memory, with reverted glance,
Roves o'er wild and mountainous expanse,
Her faithful traces to my sight restore
The long, long tracts of Tideswell's naked Moor;
Stretch'd on vast hills, that far and near prevail,
Bleak, stony, bare, monotonous, and pale.
Wide o'er the waste, in noon-tide's sultry rays,
The frequent lime-kiln darts her umber'd blaze;
Her suffocating smoke incessant breathes,
And shrouds the sun in black convolving wreathes;
And here, with pallid ashes heap'd around,
Oft sinks the mine, and blots the dreary ground.
In vain warm Spring demands her robe of green,
No sheltering hedge-rows vivify the scene;
O'er its gray breast no undulating trees
With lavish foliage court the lively breeze;
But from the Moor the rude stone walls disjoin,
With angle sharp, and long unvaried line,
The cheerless field, — where slowly-wandering feed
The lonely cow, and melancholy steed,
Expos'd abide the summer's ardent breath,
And wintry storm that yells along the heath.
At length benigner mountains meet the eyes;
Their shrubby heights in rounder grace arise;
And, from the first steep summit, pleas'd I throw
My eager glances on the depths below,
As sinks abrupt the sylvan Monsaldale
From the swart sun-beam and the howling gale.
Behold in front the lucid river spread
His bankless waters o'er the sunny mead;
As of his broad and sheety shallows proud,
Shine the clear mirror of the passing cloud:
Then to the left along the valley glide,
With smooth meander, and with narrower tide,
Thro' banks, where thick the spreading alders grow,
And deep calm waves reflect their pendent bough.
Refreshing sweets the breathing hay-cocks yield,
That richly tuft the long and narrow field,
As gentle to the right it curves away
Round the green cliffs with scatter'd nut-trees gay;
Cliffs, whose smooth breast, above the silver stream,
Swells to the sun, and yellows in his beam,
While on th' opposing shore dwarf foliage hides,
Sombrous, and soft, the mountain's lofty sides,
And throws its latest fringe upon the flood,
That laves the concave of the pensile wood;
Till down the rocks, rude, broken, mossy, sleep,
In parted tides the foaming waters leap;
Then thro' the mazes of the rambling dale
With silent lapse they flow, or rush with tuneful wail.
The self-taught EDWIN, in his lowly state,
Feels this sweet glen an emblem of his fate;
For as it glows with beauty rich and rare,
Near heathy hills, unsightly, bleak, and bare,
So, 'midst unletter'd hinds as rude as those,
He, pensive minstrel of the mountains, rose;
Who, like devoted Chatterton, was born
In Nature's triumph, and in Fortune's scorn;
With kindred talents, and an happier mind,
By prudence guarded, as by taste refin'd;
Whom industry preserves from woes severe,
Which ill the noble spirit knows to bear;
Saves from those pains what Wealth's mean sons deride,
Dependent hopes, and heart-corroding pride,
When, for wish'd amity, and ow'd respect,
It meets the chilling air of base neglect;
The stingy Patron's contumelious aid;
The taunt of Envy, studious to upbraid;
Those thousand ills, by which the Great are prone
To crush the talents that eclipse their own.
Be thine the blessings, EDWIN, that reward
Ev'n manual labour to th' enlighten'd bard!
Energic health, and, in rare union join'd,
The melting heart, and philosophic mind;
Genius is thine — before her solar state,
O fly, ye mists of inauspicious fate!
Hers is the flood of cloudless day, that shews
The charms that Nature, and that Art bestows;
And she has given thee wealth, that shames the toys
Which Fortune grants, and Vanity enjoys;
The toys of groveling souls, empower'd to seize
On the soft splendors of luxurious ease;
Whom yet with scorn discerning eyes behold
Pleas'd with life's tinsel, reckless of her gold;
Gold richer far than India's mine affords,
Th' internal wealth of intellectual boards;
Which buy, disdaining Fortune's bounded plain,
Creative Mind's illimitable reign.
O! if in that wide range my Muse's powers
May lure thy tarrience in her cypress bowers,
Should'st thou perceive that genuine sweets belong
To the pale flowrets of her pensive song,
The thought, that they have sooth'd thy toils, shall dwell
Warm with the bosom joys that Fame's bright meed excel.