1786
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Reflections upon leaving Oxford.

General Evening Post (18 November 1786).

Anonymous


A parody of the anonymous "Effusions on retiring from the University" published in the General Evening Post on 21 October. Wherever the disaffected student turns he finds new occasions for disgust, the turgid rivers and narrow bridges becoming a metaphors for the university as a whole: "Devious no more through splashy paths I stray, | Where Cherwell stagnates in the putrid meads; | Incompetent to work his weary way | Thro' hosts of frogs and toads, and mud and weeds." In this mode, compare Robert Southey's "The Chapel Bell" (1794).

Headnote: "Sir, having seen in a late paper of your's, 'Effusions on retiring from the University,' I send you the following thoughts on the same subject, which will be acknowledged to be equally just. I am, Sir, Your very humble servant. Nov. 15."



Farewell, ye hated walls, fantastick towers,
Thou ancient seat of pedantry, farewell;
Bear me, bear me, to Contentment's bowers,
Far, far remote from sound of College bell.

Here petty school-boys ape the manly feat,
To dress and drink here make their first essays;
Here tainted harlots cumber every street,
And spread disease and death a thousand ways.

Curs'd be the man who first a College built,
To foster dulness, and to fatten pride;
May penitence ne'er expiate his guilt,
Be Heaven for ever to his prayers deny'd.

From memory's records be his odious name
For ever blotted by the hand of fate;
Nor ever let his race be known to fame
For virtue, letters, or for aught that's great.

Tho' forc'd at early mattins to appear,
The chilly student sits a whole hour long
To pater-nosters murmur'd in his ear,
In mystick cadence, like a witch's song.

Tho' in these seats the reigning powers combine,
In slavish chains the free-born soul to bind;
Tho' cooks and butlers aid the same design,
And starve the body to subdue the mine;

Yet still with youthful infidels you meet,
Who make religion and the priest a jest;
Yet still the bold licentious heart can beat,
Which scorns all laws, the wisest and the best.

Devious no more through splashy paths I stray,
Where Cherwell stagnates in the putrid meads;
Incompetent to work his weary way
Thro' hosts of frogs and toads, and mud and weeds.

Thy conduit, Carfax, rear'd by ancient hand,
Oft have I view'd with death-denouncing eyes;
As thou hast stood, for ever may'st thou stand,
Eternal nuisance to each passer-by.

No more shall I, with grief and anger big,
Thy model of a bridge, O Maudlin, pass,
All cut and mangled like a one-ear'd pig,
And scarcely visible above the grass.

No more in picture-gallery shall I tread,
Midst rows of portraits, dull as alehouse sign;
Where devils and monkeys, o'er the ceiling spread,
Make wondering ladies cry, O la, how fine!

Full many a time, with grating sound annoy'd
Of wretched music, have I clos'd mine ear;
Go on, sweet sirs, most gloriously employ'd,
But never more shall I be drawn to hear.

Let me forget the gloom of garret vile,
Perpetual cell of sickness and of spleen;
Forget the years I've pass'd without a smile,
Without one ray of joy to cheer the scene.

Farewell ye damps, and fogs, a long farewell,
And all your train of agues, fevers dire;
The place where Health was never known to dwell,
I leave, in air more wholesome to respire.

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