1775
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Subject, First of May.

Poetical Amusements at a Villa near Bath. [Lady Anne Miller, ed.]

Frances Greville


A Miltonic ode signed "Mrs. G—v—l" in octosyllabic couplets describing May and her train. Like several other poems in the volume, this ode seems to have been composed to honor the duchess of Devonshire on her marriage: "SPENCER, DEVON, join the song, | To you these rapturous truths belong; | Your hearts shall feel, your tongues shall say, | That henceforth every month is May." The Gentleman's Magazine, which reprints this poem in its review, identified the author as "Mrs. Greville, author of the Prayer for Indifference." This is Frances Greville (1726?-1789), wife of Fulke Greville (1717-1806) of Wiltshire.

Gentleman's Magazine: "This little collection consists of what the French call bouts rhimez, and other jeux d'esprit on given subjects, contributed by several friends of both sexes, most of whom visited weekly at Batheaston, near Bath, at the house or villa, we suppose, of J. Miller, Esq; whose lady seems to have been the muse that inspired them, or, in the editor's word, 'the institutress' of this society. Prefixed is a representation of an elegant ancient vase on a modern altar, decorated with laurel branches, &c. which was found by a labouring man in 1769 at Frescati, near the spot where is supposed to have stood the Tusculanum of Cicero, and by its workmanship seems not unworthy of such an owner. It is at present the receptacle of all the contending poetical morsels which every other Thursday are drawn out of it indiscriminately, and after being read aloud by the gentlemen present, prizes are assigned to those three which are thought the most deserving, and the authors, when announced, are presented publicly by the institutress with wreaths of myrtle" 45 (March 1775) 136.

Ruth Avaline Hesselgrave: "But the outstanding beauty during the early days of the Miller assemblies was Lady Georgina Spencer, who became the Duchess of Devonshire on June 5, 1774. Her graces were everywhere acknowledged. The story was popularly told of a certain dustman so affected by the beauty of her eyes that he exclaimed, 'Lord love you, my lady, let me light my pipe at your eyes.' Several poetic effusions were written at Batheaston in her honor, and Mr. Miller rose to the occasion grandly, extolling her charms and congratulating the Duke upon the approaching nuptials" Lady Miller and the Batheaston Literary Circle (1927) 29.



Pale April, with her childish eye,
Alike prepar'd to laugh or cry,
All unlamented hies away,
And leaves the world to Love and May.

MAIA comes! fair Queen of Blooms,
Scattering round her choice perfumes:
Lo, she comes! and leads her train
With songs and dances o'er the plain.

Cupid there, the wanton boy!
With every Grace, and every Joy;
And rosy Youth, and gay Desire,
And Zephyrs, breathing amorous fire;
See, they frolic, — hark! they say,
"Mortals, mortals, hail the May!"

Time and pleasure fly too fast,
Catch the blessings while they last;
MAIA soon shall quit the plain,
Winter soon resume his reign.
Alas! when once you leave the May,
All the sweets of life decay.

But see! no more, no more complain,
HYMEN comes to join our train;
The God descends, — sweet sounds declare
The God of heart-felt bliss is there.

HYMEN hail! celestial boy!
Source of every virtuous joy;
Life and Love, by heaven's decree,
Owe their choicest charms to thee.

Thou, for such thy pow'r divine!
Can'st every earthly bliss refine;
Improve the pleasures that are past,
And, by reflection, make them last.

SPENCER, DEVON, join the song,
To you these rapturous truths belong;
Your hearts shall feel, your tongues shall say,
That henceforth every month is May.

[pp. 105-07]