1776
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lycidas: an Elegy.

St. James's Chronicle or British Evening Post (3 September 1776).

Edward Drewe


36 ballad quatrains "By Capt. Edward Drewe, of the 35th Regiment, to an Officer in the same Corps, after the Affair at Bunker's Hill." In this remarkable love elegy Edward Drewe, a Devonshire poet, laments leaving his beloved friend behind in Boston. The center of the elegy describes a childhood spent together when Fancy's "creative pencil" would transform a cottage into "A crested Turret ... Which valiant Knights assail." Their shared pleasures included reading the poets: "How oft beneath yon hoary Oak | Indulg'd the Noon-tide Hour, | Entranc'd by Shakespeare's Wood-notes wild, | Or Spenser's Magic pow'r!" The poet imagines his friend's death (permitting some eulogistic stanzas), then predicts a favorable outcome to the war and a happy reunion.

Drewe never collected his poems in a volume and biographical information about him is sparse. He was a college friend of Richard Hole at Oxford, and was afterwards a member of the coterie of provincial poets that included Hugh Downman and Richard Polewhele.



Oh, Lycidas! and must we part?
Alas, the fatal Day!
And must I leave thee, gentle Youth,
And tempt the raging Sea?

Must we untwine the firmest Link
In Friendship's golden Chain?
But so stern Destiny decrees,
And Friendship pleads in vain.

In Childhood's Days, ere Reason dawn'd,
We felt her sacred Beam,
'Twas Love instructive fill'd the Spot,
Where now dwells pure Esteem.

Say, had thy Edward e'er a Grief
That was not mourn'd by thee?
Or had'st thou e'er a secret Joy
Which brighten'd not in me?

Each Thought, each Act seem'd but th' Effect
Of one united Mind,
So close had Friendship's magic Pow'r
Our mutual Hearts entwin'd.

When late fell Discord rear'd her Torch
O'er Boston's hapless Land,
Unmov'd we left our weeping Friends
At Honour's high Command;

Together tempted Ocean's Rage,
And dar'd the unequal War,
For Time had brighten'd to a Sun
Young Friendship's early Star.

And must we part, my Lycidas!
Yon Signal speaks it true;
The Ship unmoor'd, the Canvas spread,
Once more, once more adieu!

Whilst thou, dear Youth, art doom'd to pine
Where scorching Sirius reigns,
Where Pestilence pollutes the Air,
And Carnage gluts the Plains;

To fav'ring Winds, and tempting Skies
I spread my eager Sails,
And seek Hygeia's sacred Fane
In Devon's peaceful Vales.

For me my much-lov'd joyful Sire,
The plenteous Board prepares,
And pale Disease at length shall yield
To soft maternal Cares.

Yet let no jealous Pang, dear Youth,
Deprive thy Mind of Rest,
Nor think that Distance, Place, or Time,
Shall rob thee of my Breast:

Tho' Parents fond, or anxious Friends,
Prepare each Joy for me,
Yet still my Soul disdains all Ease
While thus bereft of thee.

Frequent I'll tread the enamell'd Mead,
Or climb th' aspiring Hill,
Where Fancy oft her Revels kept
Obedient to our Will.

By her creative Pencil touch'd
The Cottage of the Dale,
A crested Turret proudly stands,
Which valiant Knights assail.

Oft in yon Flow'r-embroider'd Lawn
Which skirts the waving Wood,
Aerial Armies fiercely charg'd,
And dy'd the Plains with Blood.

The Wood itself is hallow'd Ground,
Where Dryads keep their Court,
Where Pan leads up the Sylvan Dance,
And jocund Satyrs sport.

How oft together have we stray'd
By Isca's Silver Streams,
In Meditations wrapt like these,
And visionary Dreams!

How oft beneath yon hoary Oak
Indulg'd the Noon-tide Hour,
Entranc'd by Shakespeare's Wood-notes wild,
Or Spenser's Magic pow'r!

Still at that Hour, O well-known Tree,
I'll court thy friendly Shades,
Where Vi'lets bloom and Cowslips bend
Their Dew-bespangled Heads.

Ill-boding Flow'r, ah me! ere now
Far from his native Land,
A fairer Flowret droops his Head,
Oppress'd by Death's pale Hand.

Horror! behold his mangled Corse
All bleeding on the Shore,
The ruddy Bloom of native Health
Now paints that Face no more.

Silent those Lips, whose Accents soft
Beguil'd the live-long Day;
Dim are those Eyes which fondly beam'd
With Friendship's living Ray.

Oh! War, thou fell insatiate Fiend,
Yet spare his tender Age;
In vain I pray, he sinks beneath
Thy undiscerning Rage.

Alas! he wanton'd not in Blood,
Fame call'd him to the Field,
The proud Opposer felt his Sword,
The vanquish'd bless'd his Shield.

His Mind was of that steady Bent,
It gave the Mock to Fear:
His Eye was of that melting Sort,
It stream'd with Pity's Tear.

Gentle to all, yet to himself
He wore an harsher Tone;
He gave to others Grief that Sigh
He indulg'd not to his own.

In him each amiable Grace
Was mix'd in nice Degree;
Truth, filial Love, Affection pure,
And bright Sincerity.

What tho' around thy Brow, brave Youth,
Glory her Wreath shall twine;
Say can it recompence the Loss
Of Virtue such as thine?

But stay! 'tis all illusive Shade,
The Phantom of the Brain;
It sinks, it fades, it dies, and now
I wake to Life again.

And sure some Deity divine
My heaving Breast inspires;
My Soul the Pow'r prophetic feels,
And glows with all its Fires.

Thou shalt not fall, my Lycidas,
By War's insatiate Hand;
Yet shalt thou live, Oh! much lov'd Friend,
To bless thy native Land.

Yet shalt thou live, my Lycidas,
This anxious Mind to calm,
And chear a Parent's drooping Age,
With sweet Affection's Balm.

The Virtues o'er their fav'rite Son,
Will shed some secret Charm,
To shield him from the furious Foe,
Or else that Foe disarm;

And when Rebellion stern is crush'd,
And War's Alarms shall cease,
Restore him to his wish'd-for Home
In Victory and Peace.

Come then, dear Youth, oh! quickly come,
With me rejoice or weep;
With me the Muses court again;
With me one Sabbath keep.

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