Offley Park 1761
"I got myself disinherited1 — The Wound is still open I perceive for it bleeds again at my writing out a poem which I wrote to please my uncle2 in old Days and called it by the pompous Title of Offley Park 1761. This little Poem will be easily seen to have been written by way of Flattery to Sir Thomas Salusbury with whom I then lived — he was I well remember exceedingly pleased with it, and made me a handsome present.
While Bards distinguish’d in these rhyming Days3
Can soar triumphant on the wings of Praise;
In lofty Odes their loyal Spirit show
Or tune their Grief to Elegies of Woe ;
My oaten Pipe obscure in Offley Grove
Still sings the Praises of the Place I love.
Oh could lone approving Whisper gain,
And please the Patron of the local Strain,
For him alone should burn the partial Fire,
Live in his Name, nor till his Fame expire.
To tell the Beauties of the Sylvan Scene,
Assist me Fancy-faery-finger’d Queen,
Come in loose Robe of lucid White alone
Slightly upon thy slender Substance thrown,
Or take fresh Tints from ev’ry falling Ray
Chameleon-like, in varying Colours gay.
Or as unseen you take your favrite Stand,
And wait the Wonders of your Wilson’s hand,
Touch his transparent Lakes, & pendant Trees,
Whose dancing Shadows tremble to the Breeze ;
Till the deluded Gazers with Surprize
Mid Albion’s Snows see glowing Suns arise,
And warm Italia wanton in their Eyes.
Oh come a while and sooth my rustic Song,
Who boast the Country whence your Wilson sprung;
Hear me the Charms of our lov’d Haunt rehearse,
And to each transient Season tune the Verse:
Smooth flow the Lines when April Showrs descend,
And their weak heads the bashful Snowdrops bend;
When the pale Plumb foretells a fruitful Year,
And blushing Almonds cloth’d in Pink appear;
To warmer Flights my Mind oh Fancy lead,
When sportive Summer paints th’enamel’d Mead;
She roofs the rural Cott, She strews the Grain
In glitt’ring Handfuls o’er the fertile Plain;
While each pleas’d Infant brings the boasted Store
With early Pride to deck his lowly Door.
She smiles serene, bright blooms each op’ning Leaf
The Shrub’s full Verdure and the Yellow Sheaf;
Green Spots and Gold diversify the Vale
And fraught with fragrance flies each tepid Gale.
Rich Autumn next our gratful Praise demands,
Who showrs her Bounties with unwearied hands:
Consults the Taste of Insect and of Man,
And makes all Creatures happy while She can.
’Tis then with Head high held above his Peers,
Pride of the Park the pamper’d Stag appears,
With early Arts to sooth his Master bred,
And taught betimes to bow the branching Head;
Fierce in the Covert, servile at the Board,
Stern to his Fellows, supple to his Lord.
By ill earn’d Plenty puff’d his haughty Mind
Prompts him to reign the Tyrant of his Kind:
He shakes his shining Sides, his swelling Neck
Proclaims the Fav’rite eminently sleek;
And now elate all Justice he defies,
Seeking by Force to seize each beauteous Prize;
Till tir’d with Tyranny the generous Herd
Rouze all their Strength, by Love and Freedom stirr’d;
Then first opposed, he whets his Horns in vain,
To guard by Rage his still oppressive Reign;
In Death he groans, in Sobs his Grief he vents,
And less his Life than Loss of Pow’r laments.
But blest the Man who with unequal’d Ease,
Can court each Season, and each hour can seize;
Let Summer, Spring and Autumn disappear,
Not Winter’s Self at Offley seems severe;
Now fancy to thy Charge and swift redeem
An Age long past—from Time’s too rapid Stream
’Tis thine alone Time’s Torrent to oppose,
And snatch the fleeting Moment as it flows;
The rest redundant down the Mountains roll,
There slumbring stagnate in Oblivion’s Pool.
Haste then bright Goddess give the known Command,
And o’er my Temples wave the magic Wand;
Let antique Modes of ancient Kings arise
And regal <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offa_of_Mercia"">Offa I wait our wond’ring Eyes.
See him the artful Otter’s Wiles explore,
Or lance the Javelin at the foming Boar;
Through drifted Snows pursue the Wolf’s cold Track,
Or rouze the Roebuck through the thorny Brake;
Or when sharp Winter hangs on evry Thorn,
And drooping Doves th’inclement Season mourn;
Peck on their ruffled Plumes the falling Snow,
And perch unsteady on the slippery Bough;
See the stern King their wretched Lives require,
See one obedient to his Will expire,
While the too constant Mate still hovring nigh,
Bereft alike of Will and Powr to fly;
Falls the sad Victim of his skilful Aim
And falling strives her Anger to proclaim,
The Pitying Muse her virtuous Rage records
And kindly lends the faithful Turtle words.
“; “;Tyrant she cries, thy former fatal Stroke
“; “;Transpierc’d my Vitals—and my heart Strings broke;
“; “;The second Shaft Alas! was wing’d in vain,
“; “;Which but releas’d me from a sharper Pain.
“; “;Ah what avail the Laurels thou hast won,
“; “;The Dyke far levell’d, and the Picts o’erthrown;
“; “;Can these from Midnight Terrors guard thy Breast
“; “;When murder’d Ethalban destroys thy Rest;
“; “;Dr pale Adelfrid’s faded form appears,
“; “;Her folded Hands still wet with falling Tears;
“; “;Her Visage wan with unavailing Grief,
“; “;Her Eye cast down—despairing of Relief;
“; “;As round thy Knees the retched Suppliant clung,
“; “;When Life and Love inspir’d her Angel Tongue:
“; “;In vain to sooth her sordid Sire She try’d,
“; “;In vain She fainted at thy ruthless Side,
“; “;Ambition prompted—and the Lover died.”; ”;
Here ceas’d the Dove, for slowly creeping Death
Benumb’d her Senses and bereav’d her Breath:
Then first the Monarch felt the fiery Smart
Of late Repentance and her poyson’d Dart;
Then first was spread St Alban’s lying Fame
T’appease the Murder’d ’th a Martyr’s Name,
Whilst o’er his Tomb a costly Convent rose
To nurse the sons of Ease with soft repose;
Whose Sanctity at good StAlban’s Shrine,
Might from their King avert the Wrath divine:
Thus vain he strove his cruel Crimes t’attone,
By sculptur’d Edifice and massy Stone;
Where lazy Monks maintain’d luxurious State,
And smil’d—regardless of their Country’s fate:
Nor fear’d her Fall, nor aided her Defence
Secure in prostituted Prayer’s pretence.
While Tyranny controul’d the barren plain,
Exulting Dulness held Religion’s Chain
And Poverty proclam’d—twas Superstition’s Reign.
Where Fancy hast thou led me? pause awhile;
Nor let such horrid Scenes my Sense beguile!
Can Offley Park one gloomy Thought inspire?
Where the pleas’d Eye has only to admire;
Where lavish Nature puts forth all her Pow’r
And gives fresh Charms with ev’ry changing hour.
See the first efforts of the timid Dawn,
In glittring Stripes divide the dewy Lawn
Till the slow Mists ascend, the prospect clears,
And tipt with Crimson each tall Spire appears.
Hark! how the wakeful Lark’s wide-warbling Throat
With Rapture pours his peace-presaging Note,
And calls to Liberty and Love and Joy,
His joynt Participants of Harmony.
Oh may he still escape the fatal Snares,
Which guilty Man for Innocence prepares;
And to his Nest with equal Peace return,
To chear the Charmers that his Absence mourn.
Nor Morn alone delights our Eye or Ear,
Nor con less charms the curious Traveller;
What Time the Sun-reflecting Road he sees
Ascen the verdant Slope by just Degrees,
Till by thy Aid at length it seems to rise
And a due Distance scale the Sapphire Skies.
While Phoebus o’er each Field unrivall’d reigns,
And the faint herbage sickens on the plains;
Wher Flocks uniting for their mutual Aid,
Each lends his Fleece to fill the friendly Shade.
Their common Wants require their common Peace,
Flocks follow Nature and shall Man do less?
While thus the gasping Earth is parch’d with heat,
Swift bear me Fancy to my lov’d Retreat;
Where aged Oaks their sable Branches spread,
And form an awful Umbrage o’er my head;
Some sky-topt Turret less’ning on the View,
To close at length the long-drawn Avenue.
Scarce had I breath’d my Wish, methought I stood,
Deep in the dark Recesses of the Wood;
My Pipe no longer to my Lips applied
Hung negligently pendent by my Side,
The Bees that murmur’d in the mossy Dell,
The distant Wether with his tinkling Bell;
The sharp’ning Sickle my sooth’d Ear subdu’d
And thus my Thoughts their pleasing Train pursu’d.
Sure in this shadowy Nook, this green Resort,
Imagination holds his aery Court:
Bright Fancy fans him with her painted Wings,
And to his Sight ten Thousand Pleasures brings.
His glancing Eye, his Heav’n-aspiring Mind
Pervades the Deep and mounts the winged Wind:
Obedient Comets roll at his Command.
And the Cold Gates of Death confess his op’ning hand.
While yet I spoke, a Gleam of trembling Light
Shot thro’ the Trees, and play’d before my Sight
Touch’d ev’ry Sense and fill’d me with Delight.
Not more enraptur’d feels the lab’ring Swain
Who traverses at Eve the misty Plain,
When the kind Glowworm’s glimm’ring Fire he spies,
And cautious follows with attentive Eyes;
Till some known Object on their way they meet,
With surer Steps to guide his weary Feet.
Nor less attentive I, nor more amaz’d,
As blindly follow’d, and as guiltless gaz’d.
Saw the young Light from Tree to Tree remove
Till a new Dawn illumin’d all the Grove:
When thus a female Voice the Silence broke,
And with authoritative Accent spoke:
“; “;Mortal behold! and what thou seest—relate,
“; “;Nor ought diminish from the Words of Fate;
“; “;That Task perform’d. thy trivial Strains give o’er,
“; “; And let these Groves repeat thy Songs no more.”; ”;
I look’d and 10! a venerable Band
Full in my Sight had fix’d their sacred Stand:
Various their Ages—various was their Dress,
Some stiff in Steel, some rich in Robes of Peace:
A Star, their Merit’s Emblem and Reward,
Distinguish’d those who Sov’reign’s smiles had shar’d;
A Crimson Sash o’er each straight Bosom flow’d.
Where wove in Gold the Name of Spencer glow’d.
In Act to speak, the foremost of the Train
Advanc’d some Paces on the hallow’d Plain:
His Figure such as when th’unerring Line
Boasts the true Stroke of Holbein’s firm Design.
In ev’ry Look his generous Spirit shone,
And thus the visionary Sage begun.
“; “;Whence comes it Stranger—when your Voice you raise,
“; “;With Offley’s Charms t’adorn your Sylvan Lays;
“; “;No Lines recount the great Possessor’s Fame
“; “;Which adds fresh Lustre to fair Offley’s Name:
“; “;Can you behold the Field-bespangling Morn,
“; “;Yet slight the Virtue which those fields adorn
“; “;Or rule your heart the Milk-Maid’s Song admires,
“; “;Neglect the Bounty which her Song inspires?
“; “;Can you this sacred Structure still survey
“; “;Which robs Oblivion of so rich a Prey,
“; “;Nor ove the liberal Hand which rais’d the Stone,
“; “;And Mind that marks all Merit but its own,
“; “;If strangely dull to Worth you daily feel,
“; “;The Dead must wake his Glory to reveal;
“; “;Give me the pleasing Portraiture to take,
“; “; And love my Memory for his living Sake,
“; “;With all that Wealth or Friendship could afford
“; “;Like is, was deck’d my hospitable Board:
“; “;Like him for these I left my native Fields,
“; “;Where the clear Stream both Health & Pleasure yields:
“; “;And Oh may <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercia>Mercia long his Name record,
“; “;Who chang’d his Country to be Offley’s Lord:
Nor sigh’d to quit his long-emblazon’d Line,
Of valiant Knights, and Heroes half Divine:
“; “;And you Oh Stranger! tremble not to tell,
Facts which his Frowns would force you to conceal,
Whate’er his Words, his Actions prove them true,”; ”;
He ceas’d—the Vision vanish’d from my View,