1726
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Grongar Hill. [Stanzas.]

Miscellaneous Poems and Translations. By Several Hands. Published by Richard Savage, Son of the late Earl Rivers.

Rev. John Dyer


John Dyer's poem was one of the more admired short works of the eighteenth century. This is the Pindaric version; the poem was also published in couplets the same year. The imagery of Grongar Hill figures in later descriptive imitations of Milton's companion poems, such as J. Glasse's Quantock-Hill, in London Magazine 29 (June 1760) 316. The publisher, Richard Savage, seems to have been inspired by Grongar Hill in several of the landscape passages in The Wanderer (1729).

Thomas Gray to Horace Walpole: "Mr. Dyer (here you will despise me highly) has more of poetry in his imagination than almost any of our number; but rough and injudicious" Works, ed. Gosse 2:220.

Edinburgh Review: "The grand and pervading fault, however, of the poets of the early part of the last century, is the indistinctness of their drawing, and the want of picturesque grouping. Milton and Spencer paint the landscapes they describe. Their distances are really indistinct; nor, when Milton describes towers and battlements, 'bosom'd high in tufted trees,' does he describe the accurate form, or enter into a detail of their windows and furniture. Pope, on the other hand, and the author of Grongar Hill, (by no means the most feeble in their style of poetry), give rather a dry catalogue of beauties, than a representation of their general effect. Light and shade are disregarded; and they describe alike the foreground and the horizon with all the monotonous glare of a Chinese screen" in review of Richard Mant, Poems; 11 (October 1807) 168.

Henry Neele: "The history of English poetry for a long period afterwards presents a very dreary and melancholy prospect. It is in the didactic walk alone, which is the nearest allied to prose, that we meet with any production approaching to excellence, with the exception of the beautiful odes of Collins. Thomson, Akenside, Goldsmith, Young, and Dyer are men to whom English literature is greatly indebted, and who distinguished themselves as much as the narrow walk in which they chose to be confined would allow them" Russell Institution Lectures on English Poetry, 1827; in Remains (1829) 35.

George Saintsbury: "The poem is really a little wonder in subject and form alike. The devotees of 'the subject' cannot fail, if they know the facts, to recognise in it the first definite return to that fixing of the eye on the object in nature which, though not so absent from Dryden as Wordsworth thought, had been growing rarer and rarer (same in such obscure work as Lady Winchelsea's) for generation after generation, and which was to be the most powerful process in the revived poetry of the future" Cambridge History of English Literature (1913) 10:164.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "Dyer possessed a genuine though slender vein of poetry, and might, had he been born fifty years later, have produced something of 'power to live and serve the future hour;' but he had fallen on evil days for a writer of blank verse. Like other descriptive poets, he is best when he is least Miltonic — but he is usually Miltonic" Influence of Milton (1922) 241.

Harko Gerrit De Maar: "Wordsworth wrote a sonnet in praise of Dyer, and said of him, 'I am not sure that he is not in imagination superior to any writer after Milton'. Byron knew Grongar Hill and Samuel Johnson said of it 'the scenes which it displays are so pleasing, the images which they raise so welcome to the mind and the reflections of the writer so consonant with the general sense or experience of mankind, that when it is once read, it will be read again" History of Modern English Romanticism (1924) 186.

For an early study of Grongar Hill and descriptive poetry, see John Scott of Amwell's Critical Essays (1785).



I.
Fancy! Nymph, that loves to lye
On the lonely Eminence;
Darting Notice thro' the Eye,
Forming Thought, and feasting Sense:
Thou! that must lend Imagination Wings,
And stamp Distinction, on all worldly Things!
Come, and with thy various Hues,
Paint and adorn thy Sister Muse.
Now, while the Sun's hot Coursers, bounding high;
Shake Lustre on the Earth, and burn, along the Sky.

II.
More than Olympus animates my Lays,
Aid me, o'erlabour'd, in its wide surveys;
And crown its Summit with immortal Praise:
Thou, aweful Grongar! in whose mossy Cells,
Sweetly musing Quiet dwells:
Thou! deep, beneath whose shado'wy Side,
Oft, my sick Mind serene Refreshment took,
Near the cool winding of some bubbling Brook:
There have I, pensive, press'd the grassy Bed,
And, while by bending Arm sustain'd my Head,
Stray'd my Charm'd Eyes o'er Towy's wand'ring Tide,
Swift as a Start of Thought, from Wood to Mead,
Glancing, from dark to bright, from Vale to Hill,
Till tir'd Reflection had no Void to fill.

III.
Widening, beneath the Mountain's bushy Brow,
Th' unbounded Landskip softens off below;
No skreeny Vapours intervene;
But the gay, the splendid Scene,
Does Nature's smiling Face all open show,
In the mix'd Glowings of the tinctur'd Bow.
And, gently changing, into soft and light,
Expands immensely wide, and leads the journeying Sight.

IV.
White, on the rugged Cliffs, Old Castles rise,
And shelter'd Villages lie warm and low,
Close by the Streams that at their Bases flow.
Each watry Face bears pictur'd Woods, and Skies,
Where, as the Surface curls, when Breezes rise,
Faint fairy Earthquakes tremble to the Eyes.
Up thro' the Forest's Gloom, distinguish'd, bright,
Tops of high Buildings catch the Light:
The quick'ning Sun a show'ry Radiance sheds,
And lights up all the Mountain's russet Heads.
Gilds the fair Fleeces of the distant Flocks;
And, glittering, plays betwixt the broken Rocks.
Light, as the Lustre of the rising Dawn,
Spreads the gay Carpet of yon level Lawn:
Till a steep Hill starts horrid, wild, and high,
Whose Form uncommon holds the wond'ring Eye;
Deep is its Base, in Towy's bord'ring Flood,
Its bristly Sides are shagg'd with sullen Wood:
Towers, ancient as the Mountain, crown its Brow,
Aweful in Ruin, to the Plains below.
Thick round the ragged Walls pale Ivy creeps,
Whose circling Arms the nodding Fabrick keeps;
While both combine to check th'insulting Wind,
As Friends, in Danger, mutual Comfort find.

V.
Once a proud Palace, This, — a Seat of Kings!
Alas! th' o'erturning Sweep of Time's broad Wings!
Now, 'tis the Raven's bleak Abode,
And shells, in marbly Damps, the inbred Toad.
There the safe Fox, unfearing Huntsmen, feeds;
And climbs o'er Heaps of Stone to pendant Weeds.
The Prince's Tenure in his Roofs of Gold,
Ends like the Peasant's homelier Hold;
Life's but a Road, and he who travels right,
Treats Fortune as an Inn, and rests his Night.

VI.
Ever changing, ever new,
Thy Scenes, O Grongar! cannot tire the View:
Lowly Vallies, waving Woods,
Windy Summits, wildly high,
Rough, and rustling in the Sky!
The pleasant Seat, the ruin'd Tower;
The naked Rock, the rosy Bower;
The Village and the Town, the Palace and the Farm,
Each does, on each, reflect a doubled Charm;
As Pearls look brighter on an Aethiop's Arm.

VII.
Southward, along the Mountain's waving Side,
The Vale grows liberal, and the Prospect wide.
Glowing, beneath a kind and purply Sky,
Broad flower-dress'd Meadows and rich Pastures lie.
Green Hedges, in long Parallels, are seen;
And silv'ry Lawns draw Streaks of Light between:
Distant, those Thorns diminish'd scarce appear;
As Dangers scape, unseen, that are not near.
Smiling, like this fair Prospect, soft and gay,
The flatt'ring Glass of Hope our Future shows;
But Ills, at hand, their Face, unmask'd display,
And Fortune rougher still when nearer, grows:
Still we tread, tir'd, along the same deep Way;
And still the present proves a cloudy Day.
O, may I ever with my self agree,
Nor hope the unpossess'd Delights I see!
Nobly content, within some silent Shade,
My Passions calm, and my proud Wishes laid:
Ne'er may Desire's rough Sea beneath me roll,
Drown my wish'd Peace, and tempest all my Soul!
While, idly busy, I but beat the Air,
And, lab'ring after Bliss, embosom Care!

VIII.
Here, while on humble Earth, unmark'd I lie,
I subject Heav'n and Nature to my Eye;
Solid, my Joys, and my free Thoughts run high.
For me, this soft'ning Wind in Zephyrs sings,
And in yon flow'ry Vale perfumes his Wings.
To sooth my Ear, those Waters murmur deep;
To shade my Eye, these bow'ry Woodbines creep.
Wanton, to yield me Sport, these Birds fly low;
And a sweet Chase of Harmony bestow.
Like me too yon sweet Stream serenely glides;
Just views and quits the Charms which tempt its Sides:
Calmly regardless, hast'ning to the Sea,
As I, thro' Life, shall reach Eternity.

[pp. 60-66]