1803
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy. Written on a Country Hill-side.

The Sun (3 February 1803).

John Taylor Esq.


A line-by-line parody of Gray's Elegy, not signed, written to ridicule Charles James Fox on the occasion of the Peace of Amiens. The speaker in the Elegy is Fox, who surveys the ruined hopes of the Opposition, and muses on what might have been: "Doubtless among our Party's ruin'd band, | Are hearts that burn with democratic ire; | Heads that the fall of Empire could have plann'd, | Or spread around a Revolution fire." Before presenting its mock "Inscription," the poem imagines Fox dying in France, cringing at the feet of Napoleon. The poem is accompanied by copious notes. Poems printed in The Sun, a Tory daily newspaper, tended to loyal odes and songs.

A modified version of the poem was printed in the Sun 13 January 1822 signed "John Taylor, Esq." Taylor was a proprietor and longtime contributor to The Sun. For many years he published annual birthday odes to William Pitt in its pages.

Author's note: "The Hero of this Work, and all his political Associates, have uniformly contended against the evidence of the plainest facts, that the late War, which had its origin in French aggression, arose from English folly. These men can neither read nor think, if they really declare their opinions in this respect. But their assertions are the offspring of conscious falsehood."

Headnote in The Anti-Jacobin Review and Magazine: "The following political Parody has, we understand, found its way into some of the public Prints. As it gives a fair representation of the character and conduct of a man whom his party hold up to the world as the mirror of 'political wisdom and integrity,' to use his own words, as applied to that dreadful source of human woes the French Revolution, we think it deserves a less fleeting existence than could be expected from the journals of the day, and therefore present it to the Public in a more correct shape. It is evident that many political changes have taken place since the Poem was written, but none that can make it less acceptable to our Readers with a reference to the hero of the Piece" 5 (February 1805) 218n.



The folly of the War at length is o'er,
The grateful People hail the Peace with glee,
The PARTY now my counsels seek no more,
And leave the World to Solitude and me.

Now fades the last faint hope of future pow'r,
And all Mankind our scatter'd Squadron shun,
Save where some Mongrel turns in lucky hour,
Or needy GENIUS flies a threat'ning Dun.

Save that, among the title-varnish'd tribe,
Some wealthy Dupe, inclin'd to purchase fame,
Our leading Patriots may with banquets bribe,
In fond ambition of a Statesman's name.

Amid our Tavern crowds, and Clubs select,
Who form'd full many a Gallic scheme for pow'r,
Each in his flatt'ring dreams for ever checkt,
The bold Reformers of the Nation low'r.

The labour'd speech of lily-liver'd GREY,
The nonsense hiccup'd by his MAUDLIN GRACE,
The yell of ERSKINE, or sly TIERNEY'S bray,
No more shall raise them to a chance of place.

For them no more the Tavern bells shall ring,
Or easy Landlord tick the daily fare;
No Waiters at the sound shall eager spring,
Or club their vails the gaming lot to share.

Oft would the giddy to their sophisms yield,
Their fury oft the Senate's order broke;
How did they bawl in COPEN-HAGEN field,
How laugh'd the Mob at every hackney'd joke!

Let not the Placeman their distress deride,
The shifting life, the hardships they endure;
Nor Ministry behold with lofty pride,
The hopeless horrors of the patriot Poor.

The pride of Cabinets, the Sov'reign's choice,
And all that Budgets, all that Loans provide,
Depend alike upon the public voice,
The paths of Office lead t' other side.

Nor you ye Rich impute to these the crime,
If Patronage to them her gifts refuse,
Where through the kind neglect of heedless Time,
The perquisites are ampler than the dues.

Can study'd speech or unprepar'd reply,
Rouse all the House with opposition fire?
Can Wisdom's plans be baffled by a lie,
Or clamour force a Premier to retire?

Doubtless among our Party's ruin'd band,
Are hearts that burn with democratic ire;
Heads that the fall of Empire could have plann'd,
Or spread around a Revolution fire.

But Britain, adverse to their golden dreams,
Blind to the worth of France, oppos'd the storm,
Dull Magistrates repress'd their honest schemes,
And damp'd the noble spirit of Reform.

Full many a hardy Patriot of our Gang,
The dark and dismal dens of Prisons bear:
Full many a hero Law has doom'd to hang,
A shackled warning in the tainted air.

Some low-born ORLEANS, who, to greatness bred,
With just contempt would Titles have resign'd,
Some MARAT wishing millions dead;
Some BONAPARTE fit to rule mankind.

Th' abuse of loyal Bigots to disdain,
The Slavish Code of Britain to despise,
The cause of Gallic Freedom to maintain,
And paint its glories to the nation's eyes,

Well may we boast: — nor do we only boast
To mend the State, but save its stores we try'd;
To obviate needless levies for our coast,
In mean distrust of Gallia's hostile pride,

The people their inherent rights to teach,
To shew that lineal Pride has had its hour,
The doctrines of Equality to preach,
And prove resistance but a point of pow'r.

Lost to the chance of all official sweets,
A casual income some derive from Play,
Along obscure and unfrequented streets,
Some keep the careful tenor of their way.

Yet e'en our Band from Catchpoles to protect,
Those, fam'd for parts, a happier fortune meet,
And, wheedling Peers or People to elect,
Secure the lucky shelter of a seat.

Their names, their deeds, puft in the daily news,
The world with pointed paragraphs surprize;
And many a useful lesson they diffuse,
That teach the timid Democrat to rise.

For who to tame obscurity a prey,
The lively tattle of the town resign'd,
Scorn'd the diverting columns of the day,
Nor wish'd some notice of himself to find?

On some kind Print the Orator depends
The morning record of his speech to bring,
E'en when at home we tell it to our friends,
E'en in our dreams we make ST. STEPHEN'S ring.

For thee, who feeling for thy PARTY'S woe,
Dost in these mimic strains their fate bemoan;
If urg'd by indignation's honest glow,
Some British Patriot shall inquire thine own,

Haply some angry Traveller may say,
"Oft have we seen him to the THUILLERIES go,
Casting all sense of British Pride away,
To fawn upon his Country's deadliest foe.

"There, at the footstool of the Gallic Chief,
Who rears his bold triumphant head so high,
He stood in abject state that shocks belief,
To catch each motion of THE CONSUL'S eye.

"Grave as if now on some historic plan,
Searching o'er musty rolls of former times;
Now shameless rev'ling with an exil'd clan,
Or cheer'd their hopes, or prais'd their horrid crimes.

"One more I saw him on THE CONSUL wait,
Beside the Throne, and with a bending knee;
Another came, and still in cringing state,
With supple joint, beside the throne was he.

"The next with censures due he took his way,
In praise of GALLIA anxious to declaim;
Attend and hear (for all should hear) the lay,
That still with infamy should brand his name."

THE INSCRIPTION.
Here rests his Tongue, in this deserted place
A Wight to Fortune, and to Fame well-known;
Kind Nature stor'd his mind with lib'ral grace,
But DISSIPATION mark'd him for her own.

Wild were his actions, tho' profound his reach,
Fortune her favours, did as wildly dash,
He gave his Party all he had — a Speech—
His Party gave, 'twas all he wish'd — their Cash.

No farther seek his vices here to tell,
O'er e'en his follies to the World proclaim,
(There they, alas, have long been known too well)
The Idol of his Faction, and their Shame.

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