Colin's Mistakes. Written In Imitation Of Spenser's Style

A poem by Matthew Prior

Fast by the banks of Cam was Colin bred,
(Ye Nymphs, for every guard that sacred stream)
To Wimple's woody shade his way he sped,
(Flourish those woods, the Muses' endless theme.)
As whilom Colin ancient books had read,
Lays Greek and Roman would he oft rehearse,
And much he loved, and much by heart he said,
What Father Spenser sung in British verse.
Who reads that bard desire like him to write,
Still fearful of success, still tempted by delight.

Soon as Aurora had unbarr'd the morn,
And light discover'd Nature's cheerful face,
The sounding clarion and the sprightly horn
Call'd the blithe huntsman to the distance chase.
Eftsoons they issue forth, a goodly band;
The deep mouth'd bounds with thunder rend the air,
The fiery coursers strike the rising sand,
Far through the thicket flies the frighted deer;
Harley the honour of the day supports,
His presence glads the woods, his orders guide the sports.

On a fair palfrey, well equipp'd, did sit
An Amazonian dame; a scarlet vest,
For active horsemanship adaptly fit,
Enclosed her dainty limbs; a plumed crest
Waved o'er her head; obedient by her side
Her friends and servants rode; with artful hand
Full well knew she the steed to turn and guide:
The willing steed received her soft command.
Courage and sweetness on her face was seated:
On her all eyes were bent, and all good wishes waited.

This seeing, Colin thus his Muse bespake,
For alltydes was the Muse to Colin nigh,
Ah me, too nigh! or, Clio, I mistake,
Or that bright form that pleaseth so mine eye,
Is Jove's fair daughter Pallas, gracious queen
Of liberal arts; with wonder and delight
In Homer's verse we read her; well I ween
That emulous of his Grecian master's flight,
Dan Spenser makes the favourite goddess known,
When in her graceful look fair Britomart is shown.

At noon as Colin to the castle came,
Oped were the gates, and right prepared the feast;
Appears at table richly clad a dame,
The lord's delight, the wonder of the guest;
With pearl and jewels was she sumptuous deck'd,
As well became her dignity and place,
But the beholders mought her gems neglect,
To fix their eyes on her more lovely face,
Serene with glory, and with softness bright:
O beauty sent from heaven to cheer the mortal sight!

Liberal Munificence behind her stood,
And decent State obey'd her high command,
And Charity, diffuse of native good,
At once portrays her mind and guides her hand.
As to each guest some fruits she deign'd to lift,
And silence with obliging parley broke,
How gracious seem'd to each th' imparted gift!
But how more gracious what the giver spoke!
Such ease, such freedom, did her deed attend,
That every guest rejoiced exalted to a friend.

Quoth Colin, Clio, if my feeble sense
Can well distinguish yon illustrious dame,
Who nobly doth such gentle gifts dispense
In Latian numbers, Juno is her name;
Great goddess who, with peace and plenty crown'd,
To all that under sky breathe vital air,
Diffuseth bliss, and through the world around
Pours wealthy ease, and scatters joyous cheer;
Certes of her in semblant guise I read,
Where Spenser decks his lays with Gloriana's deed.

As Colin mused at evening near the wood,
A nymph undress'd, beseemeth, by him pass'd,
Down to her feet her silken garment flow'd,
A riband bound and shaped her slender waist;
A veil dependent from her comely head,
And beauteous plenty of Ambrosial hair,
O'er her fair breast and lovely shoulders spread,
Behind fell loose, and wanton'd with the air:
The smiling Zephyrs call'd their amorous brothers,
They kiss'd the waving lawn, and wafted it to others.

Daisies and violets rose where'er she trod,
As Flora, kind, her roots and buds had sorted
And, led by Hymen, wedlock's mystic god,
Ten thousand Loves around the nymph disported.
Quoth Colin, Now I ken the goddess bright
Whom poets sing: all human hearts enthrall'd
Obey her power; her kindness the delight
Of gods and men; great Venus is she call'd,
When Mantuan Virgil doth her charms rehearse;
Belphebe is her name in gentle Edmund's verse.

Heard this the Muse, and with a smile replied,
Which show'd soft anger mix'd with friendly love;
Twin sisters still were Ignorance and Pride:
Can we know right till error we remove?
But Colin, well I wist will never learn;
Who slights his guide shall deviate from his way:
Me to have ask'd what thou couldst not discern
To thee pertain'd; to me the thing to say.
What heavenly will from human eye conceals,
How can the bard aread unless the Muse reveals?

Nor Pallas thou nor Britomart hast seen,
When soon at morn the flying deer was chased;
Nor Jove's great wife, nor Spenser's fairy Queen,
At noontide dealt the honours of the feast:
Nor Venus nor Belphebe didst thou spy,
The evening's glory and the groves delight;
Henceforth, if ask'd, instructed right, reply,
That all the day to knowing mortals' sight
Bright Ca'ndish-Holles Harley stood confess'd,
As various hour advised in various habit dress'd.

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