1805 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Address to a Gothic Chair (In the Priory of Bracondale Lodge, Norfolk.)

Collective works of the late Dr. Sayers; to which have been prefixed some biographic particulars by W. Taylor of Norwich.

Dr. Frank Sayers


An undated burlesque ode, posthumously published in 1823. This is a contribution to the series of imitations of Philips's The Splendid Shilling describing humble objects, though in this instance the humble object was formerly very grand. Frank Sayers, who in his later days became a devoted antiquary, describes the earlier history of the Gothic Chair in its several ceremonial functions before its sad declension in modern times: "But much, I fear, alas! no scenes like these | Have lately grac'd thee; hurl'd by scornful arm | 'Midst mouldering trunks, and shreds, and portraits grim | Of Aldermen and May'rs, thy sturdy limbs | Were deeply shrouded in the garret's gloom" p. 258. But recently the seat has been restored to more appropriate surroundings. Sayers makes scant use of the Miltonic burlesque, and may have owed the manner as well as the idea for the poem to Cowper's The Task ("I sing the sofa...").

William Taylor of Norwich: "Other poems of this class by the same hand have slidden into circulation, some Charades, for instance, but I find no copy of them among the papers. The address to a Gothic Chair written in the Album at Bracondale, Lodge, the villa of Philip Meadows Martineau, Esq. and the lines on the Extirpation of Thorpe Grove, are still more splendid specimens of his occasional verses" p. lxxxviii.



Yes, venerable chair! I surely prize
Thy massy limbs, thy broad and towering back,
Thy dark unfaded gloss, and carvings quaint,
'Bove all the seats that fickle fancy forms
Of daintier trim. The ever-creaking cane,
The light deal trick'd with many a gaudy tint,
The tottering, 'broider'd stool, and such slim toys,
Are but gay lackeys to thy majesty.
Safe in thy solid sides, I love to roll
My weary limbs — thy form of antique guise
Flings o'er my mind a mystic, soothing charm;
And then, in musing mood, I conjure up
The scenes that pass'd beside thee—oft thou'st stood
High at the festive board, amid the shouts
Of hospitable mirth — in lofty hall,
With armour dight, and echoing to the din
Of minstrelsy and song, thy liberal lord
From heart-of-oak has cheerly push'd around
The wassail-bowl, and roar'd the welcome toasts
Of good old-English loyalty. And oft,
To gentler duty doom'd, thou'st foster'd well
The patriarch of the house, who turn'd the page
Of holy Writ, and with right reverend grace,
Taught to his blooming family around
The words of endless Truth; with decent awe
They listen to the lore, except, perchance,
Some heedless prattler, youngest of the flock,
Whom the scar'd mother, by her winks and frowns,
Can scarcely chide to silence. Then again,
The grandsire crept to rest, some blushing girl
Of slender mould, would glide into his seat,
And slily view the ample space she leaves
Unoccupied — nor is the hint disdain'd
By the bold youth that woos her; briskly rising,
He claims the vacant half, and spite of all
Her feign'd denials, nestles by her side.
In merrier sports too, ever-honour'd seat,
Thou'st surely play'd thy part — with foil and lace,
With gems of glass, and many a checker'd wreath
Of ribbands deck'd, thou'st form'd a splendid throne
For him, the happy wight, whom chance pronounc'd
The Twelfth-night king; in thee his mimic state
He jocund held, whilst his gay court around
Mix'd in the song, the dance, and gambols wild.
But not thus fearless has thy stately form
Been always view'd — the stern-brow'd Justice there
Has held his seat; with beard of formal cut
And velvet cap terrific, well he weigh'd
The culprit's deeds of guilt; but loud reproof
Was all he oft, bestow'd, which scarce conceal'd
The tide of mercy flowing in his heart.
But much, I fear, alas! no scenes like these
Have lately grac'd thee; hurl'd by scornful arm
'Midst mouldering trunks, and shreds, and portraits grim
Of Aldermen and May'rs, thy sturdy limbs
Were deeply shrouded in the garret's gloom—
Blest be the hand that dragg'd thee back to light
And wholesome air; restor'd thee to the state
Thou well may'st claim; and doom'd thee, thus secure,
To the still cell, congenial with thy form!

[pp. 256-58]