1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Beltinge Bay.

Poetic Effusions; pastoral, moral, amatory, and descriptive. By William Perfect, M.D.

Dr. William Perfect


A sea-side descriptive rhapsody in fifteen double-quatrain stanzas. William Perfect, evidently writing from a vacation cottage at the shore, devotes most of the poem to the conventional strains of a retirement ode; he comes around to describing the sea near the end of the poem: "Unlimited ocean thy coasts | I view with contemplative eye, | The sports huge Leviathan boasts | Beneath the pale lamps of the sky." The poem concludes by praising the monument on Mt. Reculver raised by the sisters Frances and Isabel: "Who rais'd the fam'd spires as a mark | In merciless tempests to save | From danger the sea-dashing bark, | Its crew from a watery grave."

Critical Review: "He has formed himself upon the model of Shenstone, whose particular thoughts he has likewise imitated very closely in several places. One half of this volume is filled by a poem entitled The Months. The idea is elegant. It is a sort of poetical calendar, and describes, in twelve different parts, the productions and other circumstances peculiar to the different months. Much of the imagery is pleasing; and the whole would be particularly adapted to young people, had the author made it his business to observe nature more, and Shenstone less. A circumstance which tends to enfeeble the poem, is the monotony of the measure, which is that of Shenstone's pastoral ballad, 'My banks they are furnished with bees,' — a measure which suits very well a small piece, but becomes so extremely tiresome when the reader is carried in that cantering kind of pace through the greatest part of a volume (and most of the other poems are in the same stanza), that we have seldom found a book more difficult to get through" NS 20 (July 1797) 297.



From cabin-like cot on the beach
This Metre imperfect is penn'd,
And here let Humility teach
How much she's Humanity's friend;
Description! thy pencil I crave,
Delineate thou my retreat,
On the edge of the rude roaring wave
In a hut that is homely and neat.

Whose side to the ocean inclined,
Aloof on the pebble-strew'd land;
The door well-secur'd from the wind,
Shuts under the cliff on the strand;
Straw-crown'd though no grandeur its boast,
Contracted in figure and size,
A fisherman's throne on the coast
Contemn not ye candid and wise.

Sincerity (virtue most rare!)
Displays her respectable mien,
And gives to the man of the wear
A pearl in high life seldom seen;
Whilst Cleanliness, Hebe of life,
Presides o'er the enviable shed,
Attends to the care of the wife,
And dresses the table and bed.

And health as propitious as light
Munificence freely bestows,
With countenance blooming and bright:
As Sharon's imperial rose;
When she, genial cherub, is near,
A cottage may vie with a crown;
But when her soft smiles disappear
How painful's the pillow of down.

Come Fancy! my guest and my friend,
Dispense thy illusions so kind,
The Muse at thy altar shall bend
And fortune ne'er trouble her mind;
At peace in this care-soothing state,
Permit me a pilgrim to rove,
I ne'er can repine at my fate
With nature so humble in love.

Retirement, how blest is thy ease!
How tranquil and pure is thy throne!
Does study and privacy please?
O make their enjoyments my own!
Whether spread on the fir-crested hill,
In valleys well shaded below,
By the side of the soft-winding rill,
Or in cliffs jetting over the brow.

How sweet is his silent recess!
Confin'd to the leaf-checquer'd glade,
Whose station's exempt from excess,
The rout and the late masquerade!
Blest state, well secur'd from the snares,
The guileful allurements of court,
Loud faction, ambition, and cares,
And fortune's fantastical sport.

Be silence and reason my lot
Where rural felicities reign,
Forgetful of life and forgot
By the sordid, the proud, and the vain;
But let not attachment forget
(Whate'er by my station below,)
How dear and how sacred's the debt
In absence to friendship we owe.

To oblivion who'd be a prey?
Though blest with retirement and ease,
His comforts must fall to decay
Whose friendship is suffer'd to freeze;
And though all be paradise round
In charming variety's dress,
If not by society crown'd
The whole would but prove a finesse.

But see on the broad-bosom'd main,
As far as the eye can extend,
The ships canvas-wing'd how they strain,
Alternately sink and ascend;
Small islands alive they appear
As the billows they buffet and cleave,
Or distant, or midway, or near,
Not a trace of their way do they leave.

Unlimited ocean thy coasts
I view with contemplative eye,
The sports huge Leviathan boasts
Beneath the pale lamps of the sky;
Descending the cliff I explore
Its precipice wide and immense
Stretch'd over the foam-whiten'd shore
In a horrible kind of suspense.

But now the twin towers above
On Reculver's brow I survey,
Memorials of virtue and love,
But hast'ning, I fear, to decay;
If, Neptune, thy bosom e'er found
Compassion for human distress,
Encroach not on this hallow'd ground,
Thy water's intrusion repress.

Drops history a tear to relate
What sorrows the sisters befell?
How divided in life the hard fate
Of Frances and good Isabel!
Who rais'd the fam'd spires as a mark
In merciless tempests to save
From danger the sea-dashing bark,
Its crew from a watery grave.

Pious souls! may example like yours
To virtue forever be dear,
And while such memorial endures
To Gratitude let us adhere;
And blest in her rolls be your names,
As goodness your lot was below,
Return'd to inherit those claims
Which spirits congenial know.

But Phoebus descends to the main
And checks my poetic career,
I turn to my cottage again,
And thanks to my stars it is near;
For lours the welkin around,
The winds pile up wave upon wave,
And terribly rough is the sound
Of Boreas just broke from is cave.

[pp. 139-44]