1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Imitation of Spenser. [Spring.]

London Advertiser and Literary Gazette (15 March 1751).

Moses Mendez


Seven Spenserian stanzas, with a glossary attached, not signed. An Imitation of Spenser was reprinted the following month as the first part of Moses Mendez' The Seasons. Here it appears as a descriptive ode of sorts, celebrating the natural forces unleashed by a fine Spring morning: "And now the human Bosom melts to Love, | The raptur'd Bard awakes his skilful Lyre, | By Running-streams, or in the Laurel-grove, | He tunes to am'rous Notes his sounding Wire, | All all is Harmony, and all Desire." The poet attends less to verbal imitation than to an evocation of Spenserian themes — natural description, love, rusticity, and (in the concluding lines) melancholy. "Bateman" appears to refer to the an old ballad known by the title of "Young Beichan" concerning the adventures of one Gilbert, who in the Holy Land meets with a fair Saracen who follows him to England.

Two weeks later, the conductor of the London Advertiser comments in a review of Gilbert West's Education: "It has been an unluckily judicious Remark, that, of the professed Imitators of the earlier English Poets, the greater Part have arrived at no farther Likeness to them than that of using the same obsolete or antiquated Words" (8 April 1751). In a review of The Seasons he returns to this theme: "I could have wished, for the Sake of the Author, that some Observations published in this Paper on the Fondness for obsolete Words, occasioned by Mr. West's Poem on Education, had appeared sooner; as I am apt to flatter myself he would have agreed with the World, that there was Weight in the Objections made there to the Use of them; but however much he may have been convinced of the Truth of this, no body can blame him for not having, in this Piece, set an Example of imitating this venerable Author, without those trite Resemblances, when they consider that the Poem was written before those Observations were made" (29 Spril 1751). But in contrast to other imitations by Thomson, West, and even Mendez himself this seems like an early attempt to capture the "spirit" of the original more than the archaic letter. The absence of burlesque qualities in a Spenser imitation of this date is notable.



It is the Cuckoo that announceth Spring,
And with his wreakful Tale the Spouse doth fray,
Mean while the Finch's harmless Ditties sing,
And hop in buxom Youth from Spray to Spray,
Proud as Sir Paridel of rich Array.
The little Wantons that draw Venus' Team,
Chirp am'rous thro' the Grove, in Beavies gay;
And he who erst gain'd Leda's fond Esteem,
Now sails on Thamis Tide, the Glory of the Stream.

Proud as the Turkish Soldan, Chaunticleer
Sees, with Delight, his num'rous Race around,
He grants fresh Favours to each Female near,
For Love, as well as Chevisaunce renown'd.
The waddling Dame that did the Gauls confound,
Her tawny Sons doth lead to Rivers cold,
While Juno's dearling, with majestic Bound,
To charm his Leman doth his Train unfold,
That glows with vivid Green, that flames with burning Gold.

The balmy Cowslip gilds the smiling Plain,
The Virgin Snow-drop boasts her Silver Hue,
And hundred Tints the gaudy Daisy stain,
And the meek Violet in amis Blue,
Creeps low to Earth, and hides from public View;
But the rank Nettle rears her Crest on high,
So Ribaulds loose their Fronts unblushing shew,
While modest Merit doth neglected lye,
And pines in lonely Shades, unseen of vulgar Eye.

See all around the Gall-less Culvers bill,
Mean while the Nightingale's becalming Lays
Mix with the plaintive Music of the Rill,
The which in various Gyres, the Meadow bays.
Behold! the Welkin bursts into a Blaze!
Fast by the Car of Light the nimble Hours
In Songs of Triuimph hail his genial Rays,
And as they wend to Thetis' cooling Bow'rs,
They bound along the Sky, and strew the Heav'ns with Flow'rs.

And now the human Bosom melts to Love,
The raptur'd Bard awakes his skilful Lyre,
By Running-streams, or in the Laurel-grove,
He tunes to am'rous Notes his sounding Wire,
All all is Harmony, and all Desire.
The happy Numbers charm the blooming Maid,
Her blushing Cheeks pronounce her Heart on Fire;
She now consents, then shuns th' embow'ring Shade,
With faint Reluctance yields; desirous, yet afraid.

Now rustic Cuddy, with untutor'd Throat,
(Tho' much admir'd, I ween, of Nymph and Swain)
By various Songs would various Ends promote.
Seeks he to prove that Woman's Vows are vain?
He Bateman's Fortune tells, a baleful Strain!
And if to honour Britain he be led,
He sings a 'Prentice bold, in Londs profane,
Who, all unarm'd, did strike two Lions dead,
Tore forth their savage Hearts, and did a Princess wed.

But, hark! the Bagpipe summons to the Green,
The jocund Bagpipe that awaketh Sport,
The blythesome Lasses, as the Morning sheen
Around the flow'r-crown'd May-pole quick resort,
The Gods of Pleasure, here, have fix'd their Court.
Quick on the Wing, the flying Moment seize,
Nor build up ample Schemes, for Life is short,
Short as the whisper of the passing Breeze,
Yet ah in vain I preach! — mine Heart is ill at Ease.

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