An example of society verse in the octosyllabic measure of Milton's L'Allegro, contributed to the famous vase at Batheaston Villa. The poem, signed **** B—r—ss, Esq., gives a convenient history of the institution and the artifact: "See, now on MILLER'S board it stands, | And courts a treat from Beauty's hands. | With emulation fir'd, the Fair | The choicest, purest gifts prepare; | Around it croud the great, the gay, | The tribute of a verse to pay: | While smiling belles, and happy beaux, | The variegated prospect close." The initials are like those of James Bland Burges, who having returned from the Grand Tour was at this time studying law in London. Several poems in the second volume appear with his signature. The previous poem in this volume is ascribed to "Miss **** Burgess, at ten Years old."
This is the first volume of four, the proceeds of which were given to charity. The "emulation" spoken of in this poem had its effect: as time went by the ambition and quality of the verse contribute to the Tuscan vase gained in ambition and quality, and many then-notable poets from the west of England were published in the Poetical Amusements.
Preface: "N.B. The Vase, and Sprigs of Bay or Myrtle, frequently alluded to in the following Poems, are not emblematical, but real: Of the former of which, there is a tolerable representation in the Frontispiece, with its decorations of Laurel Branches, &c. upon its present modest altar. This Vase was found by a labouring man in 1769 at Frescati, near the spot where is supposed formerly 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 (formerly Friday) are drawn out of it indiscriminately, and read aloud by the Gentlemen present, each in his turn. Their particular merits are afterwards discussed by them, and prizes assigned to three out of the whole that appear to be most deserving. Their authors are then, and not before, called for, who seldom fail to be announced either by themselves, or, if absent, by their friends: Then the prize poems are read a second time to the company, each by its author, if present, if not, by other Gentlemen, and wreaths of Myrtle presented publicly by the Institutress to each successful writer" pp. vii-viii.
Hence, each frown, and wrinkled care,
To your dark abode repair!
Nor trespass on the sacred rites
To which fair MILLER'S voice invites.
But come each gay, each winning Smile,
And Jest, which labour can beguile;
Complacency, and pleasing Joy,
With Mirth that knows not of alloy.
Hither haste each gentle swain,
Seek BATHEASTON'S shades again;
Each with his Fair-one in his hand,
Whose eyes no mortal hearts withstand:
'Tis MILLER bids, the call obey,
To pleasure dedicate the day.
Approach with a respectful eye,
And view the sacred vase on high:
Ah! far beyond all vases blest,
The first of all antiques confest!
Happy, thrice happy, was its doom,
When, in the envied days of Rome,
At Tusculum it grac'd the board,
And boasted TULLY for its Lord.
What mirth convivial then it saw!
When those who gave to worlds the law,
Who honours shar'd, almost divine,
Together quaff'd the gen'rous wine.
But honours greater still await,
Provide by auspicious fate;
See, now on MILLER'S board it stands,
And courts a treat from Beauty's hands.
With emulation fir'd, the Fair
The choicest, purest gifts prepare;
Around it croud the great, the gay,
The tribute of a verse to pay:
While smiling belles, and happy beaux,
The variegated prospect close.
Quick the happy minute seize;
Write with transport and with ease;
Careless let your verses roll;
Breath th' effusions of the soul.
We want no borrowed aid of art
Whenever HARDINGE warms the heart;
Love alone the bard inspires,
When his breast fair DUTTON fires.
PITT and DIBGYS', lovely pair!
Claim the poet's choicest care;
And others, whom surrounding sighs
Upbraid with wounds of murd'rous eyes.
But, alas! my aching sight
Bears no more th' assemblage bright:
Ye belles! my feeble lines forgive,
Ah! sweetly smile, and let them live.
But hold — fond hopes invade my mind,
Blest immortality to find!
Verse shuns the fate of mortal things,
While it Worth and Beauty sings;
Ne'er can die the happy lines
Where fair PRATT unrival'd shines;
This preserves the poet's name,
This insures an endless fame.