Solihull Poem by Richard Jago


From Edge-Hill, Book III

Hail, Solihull! respectful I salute
Thy walls; more awful once! when, from the sweets
Of festive freedom and domestic ease,
With throbbing heart, to the stem discipline
Of pedagogue morose I sad return'd.
But though no more his brow severe, nor dread
Of birchen sceptre awes my riper age,
A sterner tyrant rises to my view,
With deadlier weapon arm'd. Ah, critic! spare,
Oh, spare the Muse, who feels her youthful fears
On thee transfer'd, and trembles at thy lash.
Against the venal tribe that prostitutes
The tuneful art, to soothe the villain's breast,
To blazon fools, or feed the pamper'd lust
Of bloated vanity; against the tribe
Which casts its wanton jests at holy truths,
Or clothes with virtue's garb th'accursed train
Of loathsome vices, lift thy vengeful arm,
And all thy just severity exert.
Enough to venial faults and hapless want
Of animated numbers, such as breathe
The soul of epic song, hath erst been paid
Within these walls, still stain'd with infant blood.
Yet may I not forget the pious care
Of love parental, anxious to improve
My youthful mind. Nor yet the debt disown
Due to severe restraint and rigid laws,
The wholesome curb of Passion's headstrong reign.
To them I owe, that e'er with painful toil
Through Priscian's crabbed rules, laborious task!
I held my course; till the dull tiresome road
Plac'd me on classic ground, that well repaid
The labours of the way.

Nor can the Muse, while she these scenes surveys,
Forget her Shenstone, in the youthful toil
Associate; whose bright dawn of genius oft
Smooth'd my incondite verse; whose friendly voice
Call'd me from giddy sports to follow him
Intent on better themes - call'd me to taste
The charms of British song, the pictured page
Admire, or mark his imitative skill;
Or with him range in solitary shades,
And scoop rude grottos in the shelving bank.
Such were the joys that cheer'd life's early morn;
Such the strong sympathy of soul, that knit
Our hearts congenial in sweet amity!
On Cherwell's banks, by kindred science nurs'd;
And well-matur'd in life's advancing stage,
When on Ardenna's plain we fondly stray'd,
With mutual trust and amicable thought;
Or in the social circle gaily join'd:
Or round his Leasowes' happy circuit rov'd;.
On hill and dale invoking every Muse,
Nor Tempo's shade, nor Aganippe's fount
Envied; so willingly the Dryads nurs'd
His groves; so liberally their crystal urns
The Naiads poured, enchanted with his spells;
And pleas'd to see their ever-flowing streams
Led by his hand, in many a mazy line
Or in the copious tide collected large,
Or tumbling from the rock in sportive falls,
Now from the lofty bank, precipitate;
And now, in gentler course, with murmurs soft
Soothing the ear! and now, in concert join'd,
Fall above fall, oblique and intricate,
Among the twisted roots. An I whilst I write,
In deeper murmur flows the saddening stream;
Wither the groves; and from the beauteous scene,
Its soft enchantments fly. No more for me
A charm it wears, since he, alas! is gone,
Whose genius plann'd it, and whose spirit grac'd.
Ah! hourly does the fatal doom, pronounc'd
Against rebellious sin, some social band
Dissolve, and leave a thousand friends to weep;
Soon such themselves, as those they now lament!
This mournful tribute to thy memory paid,
The Muse pursues her solitary way;
But heavily pursues, since thou art gone,
Whose counsel brighten'd, and whose friendship shar'd
The pleasing task.

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