William Thomas Fitzgerald, “An Address to the Company assembled at Freemason’s Hall, on the Anniversary of the Literary Fund, May 2 1799″

[WILLIAM THOMAS FITZGERALD, ESQ.]

“An Address to the Company assembled at Freemason’s Hall, on the Anniversary of the Literary Fund, May 2 1799”

Is there a sight the heart can hold more dear,
Than what Humanity contemplates here?
Pure the delight that animates the breast,
To see you throng to succour the distress’d.
Manes of Butler, Otway, Dryden, rise!                                                 5
Behold an object grateful to your eyes;
England, at last atoning for her crime—
England, that starv’d the witty and sublime,
With contrite feeling opes her ample store,
And bids the Sons of Genius starve no more.                                  10
‘Tis said, that some to Poesy are foes,
And think that Literature engenders woes:
Such would bring back a barb’rous age again;
For none but Vandals persecute the pen!
Though some profane the Muse’s gift divine,                                   15
And bow at Avarice of Ambition’s shrine;
Though some illiberal Satire’s pen employ,
And mingle hemlock in the cup of joy;
Pierce the recesses of domestic life,
Expose the husband, or defame the wife;                                          20
The tale of scandal bring to public eye,
And in smooth numbers circulate the lie—
The Muse’s happier office is, to prove
The bond of Friendship, and the lamp of Love;
To harmonize the passions of the Mind,                                             25
To please, instruct, and meliorate Mankind.
By her the selfish feelings are suppress’d,
And social virtues kindle in the breast;
She points to Nature’s wise and gen’rous plan,
And shews how strongly man depends on man;                               30
This sacred truth the thatch-roof’d Peasant owns,
And ermin’d Monarchs feel it on their thrones!
A loyal zeal for Freedom she inspires,
And nerves to energy the Patriot’s fires—
Is there a man so base, so lost to shame,                                            35
Who does not venerate the Patriot’s name!
Not the proud leader of the servile crew,
Who grind the many, to enrich the few;
But he who, active in his Country’s cause,                                            40
Asserts her liberties, maintains her laws;
Whose upright mind pursues no private end,
At once the Monarch’s, and the People’s friend!
Who stems Oppression, which much oft’ner springs
From Tyrant Factions than from Tyrant Kings;                                    45
Arms for his Sovereign, to his standard flies;
For Freedom conquers, or for Freedom dies:
Not for that Fiend, detested by the good,
That bath’d unhappy France with kindred blood;
That brutaliz’d a Nation once humane,                                                 50
Whose sire is Discord, and whose offspring Pain!
That drinks the tears despairing orphans shed,
Tortures the living, and insults the dead!
That leads from crime to crime, from bad to worse,
The Prince’s tyrant, and the People’s curse!                                         55
Which, like a torrent bursting ev’ry mound,
Destroys the harvest, desolates the ground;
Saps the foundation of the loftiest tow’r,
And whelms the work of ages in an hour!
This Gallic Daemon, hated by the wise,                                                 60
Shuns the keen searching of the Patriot’s eyes:
‘Tis not for her his country’s foes he braves,
In burning climes, or on the stormy waves;
But for that Freedom, native of our soil,
That dignifies command, and sweetens toil!                                         65
Whose graceful form, unbent by time, appears,
Blooming as youth, though sanctified by years!
For British Liberty—that draws the line,
‘Twixt wild Democracy, and Right Divine;
With equal zeal the Monarch’s powers maintains,                                70
And guards the Subject from despotic chains:
The slave who once imbibes the English air,
Freed from his fetters, owns the Goddess there!
Where Heaven these words, in voice of thunder spoke,
The Tree of Freedom is the British Oak!                                                  75

Excuse the warmth with which my Muse express’d
The subject nearest, dearest to my breast;
But, when the foes of earth and heaven conspire,
To desolate the world with sword, and fire,
Each honest man’s a patriot at the heart,                                               80
And burns to take his King’s and Country’s part.
When Time has swept the present race away,
And friends to Science celebrate this day;
Remembrance shall with more than pleasure name
And give your liberal patronage to Fame—                                              85
To rival Genius—mutual Envy past—
Succeeding ages shall be just at last;
And He, who first this noble fabric rais’d,
Shall with no common gratitude be praised:
Time, that destroys the Hero’s trophied bust,                                         90
Shall spare the bay that blossoms o’er his dust.

NOTES:

Title The Literary Fund Now, “The Royal Literary Fund.” Founded in 1790 by Rev. David Williams, the fund aims to support writers in pursing their work in times of financial hardship. The fund has aided well-known writers like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce, as well as countless other lesser-known authors.

5 Manes of Butler, Otway, Dryden Summoning the souls of poets Samuel Butler (1612-1680), Thomas Otway (1652-1685), and John Dryden (1631-1700).

9 opes Opens, provides opportunity.

11 Poesy Poetry.

17 illiberal “Unscholarly, not refined” (OED).

18 hemlock “The common name of Conium maculatum, a poisonous umbelliferous plant, having a stout branched stem with purplish spots, finely divided leaves, and small white flowers; it is used medicinally as a powerful sedative” (OED).

32 ermin’d “Cloaked in ermine fur; garmented” (OED).

36 venerate “To regard with feelings of respect and reverence” (OED).

60 Gallic Daemon References the French version of “freedom,” or “liberté,” one of the rallying cries of the French Revolution (1789-99).

69 Right Divine A reference to the divine right of kings, which asserted that a king’s absolute power was sanctioned by God.

75 British Oak An emblem of British nationalism.

88 He, who first this noble fabric rais’d Rev. David Williams (1738-1816), Welsh minster and philosopher who founded the Literary Fund.

91 the bay Or, laurel; “Leaves or sprigs of this tree, esp. as woven into a wreath or garland to reward a conqueror or poet” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine (May 1799), pp. 420-21.

Edited by Tanashati Anderson


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