1767
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Exercise, containing a Dialogue, and two Odes, performed at the public Commencement in the College of Philadelphia, November 17, 1767.

Pennsylvania Gazette (26 November 1767).

Rev. Thomas Coombe


A pastoral eclogue composed for the 1767 commencement of the College of Philadelphia "Written by T. Coombe, B.A." The three interlocutors, Eudosius, Amyntor, and Pollio, review the progress of Science from Egypt to Athens, Rome, and Britain. From hence, with some assistance from the trustees of Philadelphia College, Science crosses the Atlantic to the New World. The pastoral then waxes prophetic, in the manner of Virgil's Pollio eclogue: "On purple Hills, the clust'ring Vines abound, | And lavish Culture spreads Profusion round; | Rich Fruitage blooms, majestic Gardens glow, | That vie with Eden or imperial Stow." An Indian chief is imagined responding to the call: "His Heart beats quick — his sick'ning Spirit flies, | His bosom heaves with penitential Sighs— | Adown his Cheeks the trickling Sorrows flow, | And his Soul melts in Extasies of Woe!"

After the prophetic portion of the poem concludes with a vision of universal peace, the strain turns to elegy as Coombe mourns the passing of one of the College's recent graduates, Nathaniel Evans, one of the more notable eighteenth-century American poets.

The sentiments in this pastoral take on added interest in the light of Coombe's later career as an American Tory who emigrated to Britain where he would become a fashionable preacher. Before departing, he expressed his disillusion with the American scene in another eclogue, Edwin, or the Emigrant (1775), a poem which later received some attention when it was reprinted in Britain as The Peasant of Auburn (1783).



While Autumn, gliding o'er the leafy Plain,
Droops in the Blast of pale November's Reign,
Amid the Scene the Graces deign to stray,
Lur'd by your Smiles, on this auspicious Day.
Then hail, thrice hail, from rich Castalia's Stream,
Blow your soft Shells, and wake the joyous Theme.

EUDOSIUS.
'Tis done! 'Tis done! — Hills, Woods and Vallies ring,
SCIENCE commands, and all the Muses sing.

AMYNTOR.
In Egypt's Climes fair LEARNING first begun,
It rose and travell'd with the Westward Sun;
Enraptur'd Athens catch'd the bright'ning Ray,
Her courtly Sons inhal'd the gladsome Day.
Next Rome, her Features rough with many a Scar,
Drank the pure Lustre of the orient Star.
Here virtuous Numa form'd his godlike Thought,
Here Tully, Piso, Antonius taught;
And sacred Virgil, lab'ring with his Theme,
With melting Music charm'd Tiberia's Stream.
Heav'ns! What a Change, how sunk the Roman Name,
That once, with Thunder, swell'd the Trump of Fame;
Her Forums, Temples, all in Ruins lie,
Torn and dejected to the weeping Eye!

POLLIO.
These are thy Deeds, O Luxury, to whose Sway
Rome's tow'ring Genius owes its sad Decay,
Exil'd from hence, Philosophy serene,
With Step reluctant, sought a milder Scene;
To Albion's Coasts the shining Stranger fled,
And all the Muses follow'd where she led.
Then Nature's Handmaids Arts were all our own,
The featur'd Canvas, and the speaking Stone.
Then Bacons, Sidneys, Boyles, advanc'd to Light,
Reason's gay Dawn dispell'd the Shades of Night.
Last Newton rose — and borne on Eagle-Wings,
Collected Knowledge from a thousand Springs,
Stopt the bright Planets in the blue Expanse,
And saw thro' Nature at a single Glance.

EUDOSIUS.
And name we Britain without filial Awe!—
The Queen of Justice, Liberty, and Law;
Britain, whose Blood from antient Worthies runs,
Her Charter seal'd by Heroes and their Sons;
Britain, whose Name strikes Terror all around,
The Sons of Freedom glory in the Sound.
Be this great Truth upon our Hearts imprest,
He loves his King, who serves his Country best.

AMYNTOR.
Yes, my Eudosius, 'tis a Truth I feel,
Thy Patriot Raptures kindle all my Zeal.
Methinks I see BRITANNIA Self-confest,
The Star of Empire glowing on her Breast;
Thro' Clouds of liquid Gold she wings her Flight,
To Climes where Phoebus sheds his parting Light.
Triumphant Conquest marks her radiant Way,
And the NEW-WORLD is usher'd into Day.
'Twas then, — O Mem'ry! save the glorious FEW,
'Twas then, this modest Dome was rear'd by YOU,
Swift at your Word, a young Lycaeum came,
The humble Rival of the Graecian Fame;
While YOU preside, its growing Worth shall spread,
Wide as the native Forests which we tread.
Then SCIENCE haste! — diffuse thy sacred Rays,
Till the whole World be lighten'd with the Blaze.
Begin the Choral-Rite, ye tuneful Train,
Let the broad Vault re-echo with your Strain!

DUET.
SCIENCE! fair seraphic Maid,
Still extend thy boundless Sway;
Widely o'er yon Western Shade,
Pour the golden Flood of Day.

PEACE, her Brows with Olive bound,
Strews the Plain with bloomy Flow'rs,
Smiling HARVESTS robe the Ground,
JOY prepares his Myrtle-Bowers.

POLLIO.
Rapt with the Thoughts, my Spirit mounts anew,
And all the Prospect rushes to my View!
Fair Temples rise, Athenian Beauties please,
Commerce unfurls her Canvas to the Breeze.
On purple Hills, the clust'ring Vines abound,
And lavish Culture spreads Profusion round;
Rich Fruitage blooms, majestic Gardens glow,
That vie with Eden or imperial Stow.
Gay Attic Manners mark the faultless Taste,
And Rome revives amid the Desart-Waste.

EUDOSIUS.
On the torn Cliffs of yon romantic Steep,
Whose shelvy Summits threat the neigh'bring Deep,
RELIGION there shall shed her Silver Ray,
And the glad Native bask in Gospel-Day.
While no fierce Sounds his humble Cot invade,
The Chief, reclining in the dusky Shade,
Plucks the black Eagle from his Warrior-Crest,
And bids Compassion warm his savage Breast.
As thus his Thoughts o'er past Adventures roll,
He feels soft Sorrow swell his throbbing Soul;
His Heart beats quick — his sick'ning Spirit flies,
His bosom heaves with penitential Sighs—
Adown his Cheeks the trickling Sorrows flow,
And his Soul melts in Extasies of Woe!

AMYNTOR.
Resound ye Hills! ye distant Vales resound,
Let all the Nations learn the gladd'ning Sound;
To where bleak Zembla's Snow-clad Turrets shine,
And scorching Afric pants beneath the Line.
Then shall the brazen Tongue of Discord cease,
And War's stern Front be soften'd into Peace;
Earth, in her Lap, the richest Gifts shall bring,
And Nature blossom in eternal Spring!

POLLIO.
Yet ere we part, indulge the tender Tear,
Which bleeding Friendship sheds on STREPHON'S Bier.
The sweetest Warbler in the tuneful Train,
STREPHON is dead, and hush'd is Music's Strain.

EUDOSIUS.
Oft have we heard him trill his dulcet Lay,
Where yonder Woods their rural Shades display;
And while soft Transport held the wond'ring Throng,
Thy Streams, O Schuylkill, listen'd to his Song.

AMYNTOR.
Could Genius polish'd by the Smiles of Art,
Could gentle Manners, Sanctity of Heart,
A Life unspotted as the Vestal-Snow,
Fancy's warm Stroke, and Wisdom's steady Glow;
Could these prevail, or stay the venom'd Spear,
Then had not STREPHON ask'd this votive Tear.
But ah! good Heav'n, how intricate thy Ways,
In vain we strive to pierce the devious Maze;
Death gave the Word — the Cloud-drest Scene is o'er,
The WISE, the GOOD, the TUNEFUL is no more!—

POLLIO.
Then pour your Dirges o'er his hallow'd Urn,
Shall STREPHON die, and shall not MUSIC mourn!—

AIR.
Child of Anguish, weeping Care,
Haste thee from the dewy Sod,
Seek him in the azure Air,
Seek him in the Courts of GOD.
To golden Lutes your POET sings,
While prompting Angels wake the Strings!

[unpaginated]