1764
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Pastoral Elegy. To the Memory of Mr. Charles Churchill.

London Chronicle (17 November 1764) 476.

Christopher Crabtree


Fourteen anapestic quatrains; a tribute to Charles Churchill signed "Christopher Crabtree, Esq.," who had been among the poet's many detractors: "That CHURCHILL had errors we know; | But then he was frank and sincere; | And never was told of a woe, | But he gave it his purse, or his tear." The use of the pastoral ballad measure in connection with Churchill seems odd, though the idea may have been suggested by John Cunningham's "Corydon, a Pastoral to the Memory of William Shenstone" (1763). Churchill had attracted considerable attention during his short career, and the London newspapers published a considerable amount of obituary verse, perhaps more than for any eighteenth century poet save Pope and Johnson.

Thomas Gray to William Mason: "Mr. Churchill is dead indeed, drowned in a butt of claret, which was tapped on the meeting of the Friends at Boulogne. He made an excellent end, as his executor Humphrey Cotes testifies. I did not write any of the elegies, being busy in writing the Temple of Tragedy" 1764; Correspondence of Gray and Mason ed. John Mitford (1853) 317-18.



Ye echoes my sentiments hear,
While CHURCHILL I truly deplore;
And now wet his grave with a tear,
Whom I freely have censur'd before.

With candor not enmity fraught
I sometimes deny'd him the bays;
So if sensible e'er of a fault,
O let me be just to his praise.

By GENIUS mark'd out from the throng,
The Goddess beheld him and smil'd:
And FAME still beam'd thro' his song,
Tho' rough, inharmonious, and wild.

'Twas his thro' the musical maze
With a perfect indiff'rence to steer;
And teach e'en the harshest of lays
To please the most difficult ear.

In a burst of the noblest flame
His sentiments frequently ran:
Yet oft has the BARD bought a name
At the total expence of the MAN.

The vicious still shrunk at his pen
Where'er it appear'd to their view:
Yet O the most worthy of men
Have oftentimes dreaded it too.

His Muse with a fury would glow
Too partial for sense to commend;
O'erlook all the worth of a foe,
And forget all the faults of a friend.

Hence black as the vestments of night
A BUTE has he studied to shew;
And painted his WILKES in a light
That washes him wholly to snow.

Hence ev'ry engagement of pow'r,
He censur'd as national wrong:
And bid SCOTLAND eternally lour
All barren and dreary in song.

But who, if a stricture is made,
Can justice with certainty name,
That never has deviously stray'd
Nor once been to pity, or blame!

That CHURCHILL had errors we know;
But then he was frank and sincere;
And never was told of a woe,
But he gave it his purse, or his tear.

Too proud, when his fortune he met
By far, to a Statesman to bend;
And too humble by much to forget
The name of the shabbiest friend.

Then round the poor spot where he's laid
May the laurel eternally bloom;
And nought but his virtues be made
An epitaph e'er for his tomb.

If a fault is unhappily shewn
Let us place it to nature and man;
And engag'd by his merit alone
Strive to imitate that if we can.

[p. 476]