Loose-Reined Careers of Poetry

selection: Elegy on the Death of Thomas Shepard
Urian Oakes (1631–1681)

OH! that I were a Poet now in grain!
How would I invocate the Muses all
To deign their presence, lend their flowing Vein,
And help to grace dear Shepard’s Funeral!
How would I paint our griefs, and succours borrow
From Art and Fancy, to limn out our sorrow!

Now could I wish (if wishing would obtain)
The sprightli’est Efforts of Poetick Rage,
To vent my Griefs, make others feel my pain,
For this loss of the Glory of our Age.
Here is a subject for the loftiest Verse
That ever waited on the bravest Hearse.

And could my Pen ingeniously distill
The purest Spirits of a sparkling wit
In rare conceits, the quintessence of skill
In Elegiack Strains; none like to it:
I should think all too little to condole
The fatal loss (to us) of such a Soul

Could I take highest Flights of Fancy, soar
Aloft; If Wits Monopoly were mine:
All would be much too low, too light, too poor,
To pay due tribute to this great Divine.
Ah! Wit avails not, when th’Heart’s like to break,
Great griefs are Tongue ti’ed, when the lesser speak.

Away loose rein’d Careers of Poetry,
The celebrated Sisters may be gone;
We need no Mourning Womens Elegy,
No forc’d, affected, artificial Tone.
Great and good Shepard’s Dead! Ah! this alone
Will set our eyes abroach, dissolve a stone.

Poetick Raptures are of no esteem,
Daring Hyperboles have here no place,
Luxuriant Wits on such a copious Theme,
Would shame themselves, and blush to shew their face
Here’s worth enough to overmatch the skill
Of the most stately Poet Laureat’s Quill.

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