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SEATONIAN PRIZE POEM.
BEILBY PORTEUS, M. A.
NOW LORD BISHOP OF LONDON.
A NEW EDITION, WITH A PREFACE AND NOTES.
TO WHICH IS ADDED,
KING GEORGE THE SECOND,
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
PRINTED FOR J. SPRAGG, 16, KING STREET, COVENT GARDEN,
BY A. WILSON, ORIENTAL PRESS, WILD COURT.
MR. Seaton bequeathed to the University of Cambridge the rents of his Killingsbury estate, now producing clear 401. per annum, to be given yearly to that Master of Arts who shall write the best English Poem on a sacred subject. The Vice-chancellor, the Master of Clare Hall, and the Greek Professor, (who are the disposers of this premium,) determine the subject. The Poem is to be printed, and the expence deducted out of the product of the estate. The remainder is given as a reward to the composer *.
* Raworth's Cambridge University Calendar, 51.,
The present Poem obtained the prize in the year 1759, and it has always been esteemed by competent judges as one of the best pieces produced by that Institution.
On a subject so beaten by antient and modern poets as human mortality, it is obvious that new ideas or new images can scarcely occur to the most vigorous imagination. When, therefore, we meet with descriptions and sentiments that are familiar to us, and can trace the same to corresponding ones in the works of other poets, it would be unjust to charge the parallel as a proof of plagiarism. Even MILTON himself, whose immortal epic, next to the Sacred Volume, appears to have been chiefly read by the author of this Poem, even that mighty genius has adopted liberally the noble similies and descriptions of HOMER, though he has, in every instance, improved vastly upon his original.
The description of the Cave of Death, which opens this nightpiece, is highly poetical and solemn. The "unsubstantial majesty," of the King of Terrors, is a just appropriation of our great bard's description of the same object:
black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as Hell,
And shook a dreadful dart: what seem'd his head
The likeness of a kingly crown had on.
In the employment of Sin, pointing and envenoming the stings of Death, there is a beautiful personification of the Apostle's assertion, that the Sting of Death is Sin, and an improvement of Milton's sublime description of the Sorceress at the gate of Hell. The ministers of Death are forcibly characterized, and without that accumulation of epithets, which renders poetical description oftentimes turgid and obscure.
After such a review of evils, an apostrophe to the Creator, however bold, was natural; and it is expressed with great strength and elegance.
This happily introduces the scripture history of the origin of Evil, which vindicates God from being its author, and makes Man the cause of his own misery.
The picture of patriarchal longevity, is exquisitely
In sober state
Through the sequester'd vale of rural life
This description reminds one of Virgil's admired contrast of the Court and Country Life:
O Fortunatos nimium, &c.
On the subject of War, the author is very happy and