Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901. Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 17101775
Thomas Godfrey and Nathaniel Evans
T HOMAS G ODFREY and Nathaniel Evans were so closely related in friendship and literary labors that it is natural to speak of them together. Both were Philadelphians, and both poets. The former, a son of the philosophical glazier of the same name mentioned in Franklins Autobiography, was born December 4, 1736; he died in North Carolina, August 3, 1763, from a fever contracted on a commercial voyage. He had already spent three years in the Southern colony as a purchasing agent, and while there had written a poetical tragedy, The Prince of Parthia, the first important dramatic undertaking made in the Colonies. He wrote also, and published, in the year of his death, The Court of Fancy, a poem, suggested by Chaucers House of Fame, and bearing other marks, of imitativeness, yet on the whole giving evidence of distinct poetic powers. His poems were issued with a sketch by his friend Evans in 1767. The latter also, who was born June 8, 1742, was a poet by nature, and had been first a merchant, then a student in the College of Philadelphia, and after ordination in England in 1775, a missionary in New Jersey for the Society for Propagating the Gospel. He died October 29, 1767, his poems appearing five years later with a Memoir by the Rev. Dr. Smith. Like those of Godfrey, the verses of Evans are distinctly immature. They have probably less power than those of the elder victim of adverse fate, but they have in compensation more charm. Godfreys and Evanss Court of Fancy are too long for our pages, and are not to be mutilated without loss, but the second of the selections from Evans will probably leave the reader with a pleasant feeling for both amiable devotees of the Muse. Ode on the Prospect of Peace, 1761, 1
I ONLY ask a moderate fate,
And, though not in obscurity,
I would not, yet, be placed too high;
Between the two extremes Id be,
Not meanly low, nor yet too great,
From both contempt and envy free.
If no glittering wealth I have,
Content of bounteous heaven I crave,
For that is more
Than all the Indians shining store,
To be unto the dust a slave.
With heart, my little I will use,
Nor let pain my life devour,
Or for a griping heir refuse
Myself one pleasant hour.
No stately edifice to rear;
My wish would bound a small retreat,
In temperate air, and furnished neat:
No ornaments would I prepare,
No costly labors of the loom
Should eer adorn my humble room;
To gild my roof I naught require
But the stern Winters friendly fire.
Free from tumultuous cares and noise,
If gracious Heaven my wish would give,
While sweet content augments my joys,
Thus my remaining hours Id live.
By arts ignoble never rise,
The misers ill-got wealth despise;
But blest my leisure hours Id spend, The Muse enjoying, and my friend. 2
L ONG had Amyntor free from love remained;
The God, enraged to see his power disdained,
Bent his best bow, and, aiming at his breast
The fatal shaft, he thus the swain addrest:
Hear me, hear me, senseless rover,
Soon thou now shalt be a lover,
Cupid will his power maintain;
Haughty Delia shall enslave thee,
Thou, who thus insulting bravst me,
Shall, unpitied, drag the chain.
He ceased, and quick he shot the pointed dart;
Far short it fell, nor reached Amyntors heart;
The angry God was filled with vast surprise;
Abashed he stood, while thus the swain replies:
Think not, Cupid, vain deceiver,
I will own thy power ever,
Guarded from thy arts by wine;
Haughty Beauty neer shall grieve me,
Bacchus still shall eer relieve me,
All his rosy joys are mine; All his rosy joys are mine. 3
(Evans.) [Poems on Several Occasions. 1772.]
N OW had the beam of Titan gay
Ushered in the blissful May,
Scattering from his pearly bed,
Fresh dew on every mountains head;
Nature mild and debonair,
To thee, fair maid, yields up her care.
May, with gentle plastic hand,
Clothes in flowery robe the land;
Oer the vales the cowslip spreads,
And eglantine beneath the shades;
Violets blue befringe each fountain,
Woodbines lace each steepy mountain;
Hyacinths their sweets diffuse,
And the rose its blush renews;
With the rest of Floras train,
Decking lowly dale or plain.
Through creations range, sweet May!
Natures children own thy sway
Whether in the crystal flood,
Amorous, sport the finny brood;
Or the feathered tribes declare
That they breathe thy genial air,
While they warble in each grove
Sweetest notes of artless love;
Or their wound the beasts proclaim,
Smitten with a fiercer flame;
Or the passions higher rise,
Sparing none beneath the skies,
But swaying soft the human mind
With feelings of ecstatic kind
Through wide creations range, sweet May!
All natures children own thy sway.
Oft will I, (eer Phosphors light
Quits the glimmering skirts of night)
Meet thee in the clover field,
Where thy beauties thou shalt yield
To my fancy, quick and warm,
Listening to the dawns alarm,
Sounded loud by Chanticleer,
In peals that sharply pierce the ear.
And, as Sol his flaming car
Urges up the vaulted air,
Shunning quick the scorching ray,
I will to some covert stray,
Coolly bowers or latent dells,
Where light-footed Silence dwells,
And whispers to my heaven-born dream,
Fair Schuylkill, by thy winding stream!
There Ill devote full many an hour,
To the still-fingered Morphean power,
And entertain my thirsty soul
With draughts from Fancys fairy bowl;
Or mount her orb of varied hue,
And scenes of heaven and earth review.
Nor in milder eves decline,
As the sun forgets to shine,
And sloping down the ethereal plain,
Plunges in the western main,
Will I forbear due strain to pay
To the song-inspiring May;
But as Hesper gins to move
Round the radiant court of Jove,
(Leading through the azure sky
All the starry progeny,
Emitting prone their silver light,
To re-illume the shades of night)
Then, the dewy lawn along,
Ill carol forth my grateful song,
Viewing with transported eye
The blazing orbs that roll on high,
Beaming lustre, bright and clear,
Oer the glowing hemisphere.
Thus from the early blushing morn,
Till the dappled eves return,
Will I, in free unlabored lay, Sweetly sing the charming May! 4
Ode to My Ingenious Friend, Mr. Thomas Godfrey
W HILE you, dear Tom, are forced to roam,
In search of fortune, far from home,
Oer bays, oer seas and mountains;
I too, debarred the soft retreat
Of shady groves, and murmur sweet
Of silver prattling fountains,
Must mingle with the bustling throng,
And bear my load of cares along,
Like any other sinner:
For, wheres the ecstasy in this,
To loiter in poetic bliss,
And go without a dinner?
Flaccus, we know, immortal Bard!
With mighty kings and statesmen fared,
And lived in cheerful plenty:
But now, in these degenerate days,
The slight reward of empty praise,
Scarce one receives in twenty.
Well might the Roman swan, along
The pleasing Tiber pour his song,
When blessed with ease and quiet;
Oft did he grace Mæcenas board,
Who would for him throw by the lord,
And in Falernian riot.
But dearest Tom! these days are past,
And we are in a climate cast
Where few the muse can relish;
Where all the doctrine now thats told,
Is that a shining heap of gold
Alone can man embellish.
Then since tis thus, my honest friend,
If you be wise, my strain attend,
And counsel sage adhere to;
With me, henceforward, join the crowd,
And like the rest proclaim aloud,
That money is all virtue!
Then may we both, in time, retreat
To some fair villa, sweetly neat,
To entertain the muses;
And then lifes noise and trouble leave
Supremely blest, well never grieve At what the world refuses. 5