John Dyer.

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Melsb Xtbrarg.

Edited by OWEN M. EDWARDS, Aulhot
of " Wales" Each volume Foolscap 8i>o.
2s. Cloth; is. paper.



Edited by EDWARD THOMAS, B.A.,
Author of "Jforae Solitariae"


By the EDITOR.




Edited by Miss LOUISE I. GUINEY.





JOHN DYER, 1701-1757.

JOHN DYER was born at Aberglasney, a considerable
house, in the parish of Llangathen, in Caermarthen-
shire, in 1700 according to some, in 1701 according
to others; more probably in 1701. The register
which would have shown the date of his birth has
been lost, and I can only learn that he was fifty-six
years old when he died in 1757. He was the second
son of a solicitor " of great reputation," and from
father and mother had English blood. He was
educated, first at a country school, then at West-
minster School, under Dr Freind. Of his attainments
we know nothing. It is likely that he painted and
wrote verse at an early age ; and he is said to have
planned " Grongar Hill " when he was sixteen years
old. Before he was ripe for a university, he
was called from Westminster to his father's office.
Having no taste for the law, he left it on his father's


death, soon afterwards. His taste for painting led
him to become a pupil of Jonathan Richardson, in
Lincoln's Inn Fields. Richardson's written work
inspired Reynolds, but his teaching would not seem
to have matured Dyer's capacity to anything beyond
a skilled mediocrity. According to one of his own
published letters, the youth, on leaving Richardson,
became " an itinerant painter " in South Wales and
the neighbouring counties of England. He must
have paid visits to London about this time. Savage
and Aaron Hill were among his friends. From an
epistle by the former, it appears that, like his master,
he painted portraits. His character, gentle, amiable,
independent and unworldly, endeared him to those
whom he met, if it did not attract the literary

Probably in 1724, he went, still as a painter, to
Italy. He spent two years in Rome and Florence
and other cities that were a matter of course. Like
some of the next century's poets, whom he faintly but
certainly foreshadowed, he was delighted by the
riches of Nature, the Renaissance, the Middle Ages,
and antiquity, which he saw. With a milder rapture
than Shelley's, he was happy in sight of the Baths
of Caracalla and the Coliseum. He is said to have
been more successful with pen and ink sketches
than with crayon and oils ; but it may be conjectured
that his work in colour and line had little but the
indirect value of training his eye in a way that


afterwards served him as a poet of Nature. To
"Clio" probably the "Clio" whom he is known
to have painted he addressed some trifling " Verses
from Rome"; Clio sent back a set of verses of
equal merit.

1726, the year of his return to England, was a
year of some literary activity for Dyer. It was the
year of the publication of Thomson's " Winter."
Savage's Miscellany of that date contained five
pieces from Dyer's pen, viz. : " The Inquiry," an
unimportant composition that proves his rural
contentment ; " To Aaron Hill," a complimentary
epistle; "An Epistle to a Painter," i.e. to Richardson;
"The Country Walk," and " Grongar Hill." As
then published, " Grongar Hill" was not significant.
In form "an irregular ode," divided into stanzas,
it displayed some unattractive Pindarism and the
antics of that day. " The Country Walk," the one
wild flower of the collection, slender but unique, in
manner suggested the turn which was given later
to "Grongar Hill." He was again an itinerant

In 1727, "Grongar Hill" appeared in its final
shape. The revision had been happy, but somewhat
imperfectly inspired. Thus the opening lines are
negligent and vague, and " unhappy fate," etc., is
indefensible. But when we consider the fitness of
the metre, and the skilful presentation of a mood so
uncommon in his day, breathing in the first lines,


and gracefully completed in the last, we must grant
to the poem a very special claim. If we exclude
consideration of the age in which it appeared,
it has still a charm, if only for the small number
of readers who care for all the poetry of Nature.
As a product of 1727, it must be allowed that
it adds to the strength of a necessary link in
the chain of English literature that deals poetic-
ally with Nature. It has been praised in English
and Welsh, and in the last century was para-
phrased in Welsh. The manner of Dyer's work,
and the combination of personal fancy with
accurate observation, make him a closer relative
to Wordsworth than his bulky rival Thomson, who
was in many ways far more richly gifted. It is
necessary to add, since it has been wrongly located,
that Grongar is in Caermarthenshire, and in sight of

It is obvious that Dyer must have been much out
of doors. He probably knew South Wales intimately.
He had a short, practical experience of agriculture,
and a love of animals. At the same time he was
not a hearty out-door philosopher. His health was
always indifferent, and the Campagna had injured it.
He seems to have had an amiable, constitutional
melancholy, and must have known the angrier moods
of that "sweet enemy"; for, in 1729, he is said to
have written his epitaph. He called himself "old
and sickly " in middle age ; for many years in later


life he was deaf; yet remained true to the
character which was given to him by Aaron Hill,
who says,

"You look abroad serene
And marking both extremes, pass clear between."

After the publication of "Grongar Hill," he
continued to write verse. Italy lived impressively in
his memory. He probably took many notes during
his tour, and certainly made a preparatory sketch of
"The Ruins of Rome," which was published in its
final shape in 1740. Portions of it have been praised
by Johnson, Hervey, Wordsworth and others. It
is, indeed, a dignified and impassioned meditation.
Like " Grongar Hill," it hints at the ampler manner
of the next century. In execution it is sometimes
tame, and the poet here uses Miltonisms for the
first time; but the conception, and some of the
thoughts, might well remind us of Shelley. Here,
again, Dyer is to be respected as an interesting
link, though " The Ruins of Rome " appears less
like a finished poem than a first draft by a powerful

In 1740, or at about that time, he married a Miss
Ensor; and failing health and, we may surmise, an
aptitude of temperament, led him into the Church.
He was presented by " one Mr Harper " to the
living of Catthorpe in Leicestershire, in the following
year. In 1751, he left Catthorpe for Belchford in
Lincolnshire, to which he was appointed by Lord


Hardwicke, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the
recommendation of Daniel Wray, Deputy Teller ; and
in the same year, Sir John Heathcote presented him
to the living of Coningsby in Lincolnshire, and in
1755 to Kirky-on-Bane in the same county, in place
of Belchford. He became LL.B., Cantab., by royal
mandate, in 1752.

Coningsby Rectory was then his home, which he
left seldom and unwillingly. He was probably care-
ful in the performance of his duties, preached fair
sermons, and built part of the present rectory. He
kept his registers with singular neatness. His poems
are more or less clearly impressed by reminiscences
of such writers as Spenser, Drayton, Milton, Gray,
Appollonius Rhodius, Theocritus, Lucretius and
Virgil ; he quoted from Columella and Janus Vitalis,
and in his leisure must have been mainly occupied
with books. There seems to be no reason for be-
lieving that he understood Welsh. His letters do
not lead us to suppose that he was often afield in his
later years : he was unable to tell Duncombe when
the swallows had appeared, but was "told they
had been skimming about his garden this fort-
night." Perhaps Lincolnshire was not altogether
consoling to one who had known the Towy valley.
His last work was full of reminiscences of Wales.
At Coningsby, he was busy with his longest poem,
"The Fleece." He composed laboriously; and
Akenside, who was giving him medical advice,


helped him in the work. It is his biggest effort,
and when we consider the subject, his greatest
success. A very large proportion of dulness is to be
expected from Dyer on wool ; but it does not
obscure the excellence of his design ; even where
his thought is rustic, the style is pure; in some
places he is nearly grand ; in many, felicitous.
These isolated lines are characteristic of Dyer at
his best :

" Or the tall growth of glossy-rinded beech,"
" No prickly brambles, white with woolly theft,"
" Rolling by ruins hoar of antient towns,"
" Long lay the mournful realms of elder fame

In gloomy desolation. ..."
" Nor what the peasant, near some lucid wave,
Pactolus, Simois or Meander slow,
Renowned in story, with his plough upturns."

Wordsworth found parts of the poem "dry
and heavy," and parts superior to any writer in
verse since Milton, for imagination and purity
of style. It was praised, among Dyer's contem-
poraries, by Dr James Grainger, a verse-writer in
The Monthly Review, and by Gray.

I do not think it necessary to add much size
and no light to this volume, by commenting on
the numerous proper names of men and places in
" The Fleece." I have retained Dyer's spelling e.g.
"Mincoy" for "Minikoi" almost as it was in the
first edition. His abbreviations as "ev'n" for


" even " have been as carefully as possible preserved,
as illustrating Dyer's (and his century's) preferences in
rhythm. In Book I. the 72nd and 8gth lines have
been changed in accordance with Dyer's directions
to the printer. In former editions, these lines have
been :

" Or marl with clay deep mixed, be then thy choice,"


"At a meet distance from the upland ridge."

These unimportant changes, and possibly others,
had been suggested, as we learn from Duncombe's
correspondence, to Dodsley the publisher; but without
effect, because the poet died of a consumptive malady
in the year of publication, i5th December, 1757,
"aged 56," says the register at Coningsby. There he
was buried and remains without memorial.

Postscript. I thank Mr John Jenkins ("Gwili"),
the Rev. Arthur Wright, Rector of Coningsby, and
the Rev. J. Alex. Williams, Vicar of Llangathen, for
their answers to my enquiries concerning the poet.


Note by the Publisher.

The portrait which appears as a frontispiece to this volume
is taken from an Edition of Dyer's Poems, bearing the date
1779. There is, however, some doubt as to its being an
authentic likeness of the poet.












Bard of the Fleece, whose skilful genius made

That work a living landscape fair and bright ;

Nor hallowed less with musical delight

Than those soft scenes through which thy childhood strayed,

Those southern tracts of Cambria, ' deep embayed,

With green hills fenced, with Ocean's murmur lulled';

Though hasty fame hath many a chaplet culled

For worthless brows, while in the pensive shade

Of cold neglect she leaves thy head ungraced,

Yet pure and powerful minds, hearts meek and still,

A grateful few, shall love thy modest lay,

Long as the shepherd's bleating flock shall stray

O'er naked Snowdon's wide aerial waste ;

Long as the thrush shall pipe on Grongar Hill !


SILENT Nymph ! with curious eye,

Who, the purple ev'ning, He

On the mountain's lonely van,

Beyond the noise of busy man,

Painting fair the form of things, 5

While the yellow linnet sings,

Or the tuneful nightingale

Charms the forest with her tale ;

Come, with all thy various hues,

Come, and aid thy sister Muse ; 10

Now while Phoebus, riding high,

Gives lustre to the land and sky,

Grongar Hill invites my song ;

Draw the landscape bright and strong ;

Grongar in whose mossy cells, 15

Sweetly musing Quiet dwells ;

Grongar, in whose silent shade,

For the modest Muses made,

So oft I have, the ev'ning still,

At the fountain of a rill 20

Sat upon a flow'ry bed,

With my hand beneath my head,

While stray'd my eyes o'er Towy's flood,

Over mead and over wood,


From house to house, from hill to hill, 2 5

Till Contemplation had her fill.

About his chequer'd sides I wind,
And leave his brooks and meads behind,
And groves and grottoes where I lay,
And vistoes shooting beams of day. 3

Wide and wider spreads the vale,
As circles on a smooth canal :
The mountains round, unhappy fate !
Sooner or later, of all height,

Withdraw their summits from the skies, 35

And lessen as the others rise :
Still the prospect wider spreads,
Adds a thousand woods and meads ;
Still it widens, widens still,
And sinks the newly-risen hill. 4

Now I gain the mountain's brow,
What a landskip lies below !
No clouds, no vapours intervene ;
But the gay, the open scene

Does the face of Nature show 45

In all the hues of heaven's bow,
And, swelling to embrace the light,
Spreads around beneath the sight.

Old castles on the cliffs arise,

Proudly tow'ring in the skies ; 5

Rushing from the woods, the spires
Seem from hence ascending fires ;
Half his beams Apollo sheds
On the yellow mountain-heads,

Gilds the fleeces of the flocks, 55

And glitters on the broken rocks.

Below me trees unnumber'd rise,
Beautiful in various dyes ;


The gloomy pine, the poplar blue,

The yellow beech, the sable yew, . v 60

The slender fir, that taper grows,

The sturdy oak with broad-spread boughs,

And beyond the purple grove,

Haunt of Phillis, queen of love !

Gaudy as the op'ning dawn, 6 5

Lies a long and level lawn,

On which a dark hill, steep and high,

Holds and charms the wand'ring eye :

Deep are his feet in Towy's flood,

His sides are cloath'd with waving wood, 7

And ancient towers crown his brow,

That cast an awful look below ;

Whose ragged walls the ivy creeps,

And with her arms from falling keeps ;

So both a safety from the wind 75

On mutual dependence find.

'Tis now the raven's bleak abode ;
'Tis now th' apartment of the toad ;
And there the fox securely feeds,
And there the pois'nous adder breeds, So

Conceal'd in ruins, moss, and weeds ;
While, ever and anon, there falls
Huge heaps of hoary moulder'd walls.
Yet Time has seen, that lifts the low,
And level lays the lofty brow, 85

Has seen this broken pile compleat,
Big with the vanity of state :
But transient is the smile of Fate !
A little rule, a little sway,

A sunbeam in a winter's day, 90

Is all the proud and mighty have
Between the cradle and the grave.


And see the rivers how they run
Thro' woods and meads, in shade and sun !
Sometimes swift and sometimes slow, 95

Wave succeeding wave, they go
A various journey to the deep,
Like human life to endless sleep :
Thus is Nature's vesture wrought,
To instruct our wand'ring thought ; io

Thus she dresses green and gay,
To disperse our cares away.

Ever charming, ever new,
When will the landskip tire the view !
The fountain's fall, the river's flow, 105

The woody vallies warm and low ;
The windy summit, wild and high,
Roughly rushing on the sky !
The pleasant seat, the ruin'd tow'r,
The naked rock, the shady bow'r ; 1 10

The town and village, dome and farm,
Each give each a double charm,
As pearls upon an Ethiop's arm.

See on the mountain's southern side,
Where the prospect opens wide, "5

Where the ev'ning gilds the tide,
How close and small the hedges lie !
What streaks of meadows cross the eye !
A step, methinks, may pass the stream,
So little distant dangers seem ; 120

So we mistake the future's face,
Ey'd thro' Hope's deluding glass ;
As yon summits soft and fair,
Clad in colours of the air,

Which, to those who journey near, 125

Barren, brown, and rough appear ;


Still we tread the same coarse way ;
The present's still a cloudy day.

O may I with myself agree,

And never covet what I see ; 13

Content me with an humble shade,
My passions tam'd, my wishes laid ;
For while our wishes wildly roll,
We banish quiet from the soul ;
'Tis thus the busy beat the air, 135

And misers gather wealth and care.

Now, ev'n now, my joys run high,
As on the mountain-turf I lie ;
While the wanton Zephyr sings,

And in the vale perfumes his wings ; 14

While the waters murmur deep ;
While the shepherd charms his sheep ;
While the birds unbounded fly,
And with music fill the sky,
Now, ev'n now, my joys run high. 145

Be full, ye Courts ! be great who will ;
Search for Peace with all your skill :
Open wide the lofty door,
Seek her on the marble floor :

In vain ye search, she is not there ; 150

In vain ye search the domes of Care !
Grass and flowers Quiet treads,
On the meads and mountain-heads,
Along with pleasure close ally'd,
Ever by each other's side, 155

And often, by the munn'ring rill,
Hears the thrush, while all is still,
Within the groves of Grongar Hill.


THE morning's fair ; the lusty sun
With ruddy cheek begins to run,
And early birds, that wing the skies,
Sweetly sing to see him rise.

I am resolv'd, this charming day,
In the open field to stray,
And have no roof above my head,
But that whereon the gods do tread.
Before the yellow barn I see
A beautiful variety 10

Of strutting cocks, advancing stout,
And flirting empty chaff about :
Hens, ducks, and geese, and all their brood,
And turkeys gobbling for their food,
While rustics thrash the wealthy floor, 15

And tempt all to crowd the door.

What a fair face does Nature show !
Augusta ! wipe thy dusty brow ;
A landscape wide salutes my sight
Of shady vales and mountains bright ; 20

And azure heavens I behold,
And clouds of silver and of gold.
And now into the fields I go,
Where thousand flaming flowers glow,


And every neighb'ring hedge I greet, 25

With honey-suckles smelling sweet.

Now o'er the daisy-meads I stray,

And meet with, as I pace my way,

Sweetly shining on the eye,

A riv'let gliding smoothly by, 3

Which shows with what an easy tide

The moments of the happy glide :

Here, finding pleasure after pain,

Sleeping, I see a weary'd swain,

While his full scrip lies open by, 35

That does his healthy food supply.

Happy swain ! sure happier far
Than lofty kings and princes are !
Enjoy sweet sleep, which shuns the crown,
With all its easy beds of down. 4

The sun now shows his noon-tide blaze,
And sheds around me burning rays.
A little onward, and I go
Into the shade that groves bestow,
And on green moss I lay me down, 45

That o'er the root of oak has grown ;
Where all is silent, but some flood,
That sweetly murmurs in the wood ;
But birds that warble in the sprays,
And charm ev'n Silence with their lays. 5

Oh ! pow'rful Silence ! how you reign
In the poet's busy brain !
His num'rous thoughts obey the calls
Of the tuneful water-falls ;

Like moles, whene'er the coast is clear, 55

They rise before thee without fear,
And range in parties here and there.

Some wildly to Parnassus wing,
And view the fair Castalian spring,


Where they behold a lonely well 60

Where now no tuneful Muses dwell,
But now and then a slavish hind
Paddling the troubled pool they find.

Some trace the pleasing paths of joy,
Others the blissful scene destroy, 65

In thorny tracks of sorrow stray,
And pine for Clio far away.
But stay Methinks her lays I hear,
So smooth ! so sweet ! so deep ! so clear !
No, it is not her voice I find ; 70

'Tis but the echo stays behind.

Some meditate Ambition's brow,
And the black gulf that gapes below ;
Some peep in courts, and there they see
The sneaking tribe of Flattery : 75

But, striking to the ear and eye,
A nimble deer comes bounding by !
When rushing from yon rustling spray
It made them vanish all away.

I rouse me up, and on I rove ; 80

'Tis more than time to leave the grove.
The sun declines, the evening breeze
Begins to whisper thro' the trees ;
And as I leave the sylvan gloom,
As to the glare of day I come, 85

An old man's smoky nest I see
Leaning on an aged tree,
Whose willow walls, and furzy brow,
A little garden sway below :

Thro' spreading beds of blooming green, 90

Matted with herbage sweet and clean,
A vein of water limps along,
And makes them ever green and young.


Here he puffs upon his spade,

And digs up cabbage in the shade : 95

His tatter'd rags are sable brown,

His beard and hair are hoary grown ;

The dying sap descends apace,

And leaves a wither'd hand and face.

Up Grongar Hill I labour now, 100

And catch at last his bushy brow.
Oh ! how fresh, how pure, the air !
Let me breathe a little here.
Where am I, Nature ? I descry

Thy magazine before me lie. 105

Temples ! and towns ! and towers ! and woods !
And hills ! and vales ! and fields ! and floods !
Crowding before me, edg'd around
With naked wilds and barren ground.

See, below, the pleasant dome, 1 10

The poet's pride, the poet's home,
Which the sunbeams shine upon
To the even from the dawn.
See her woods, where Echo talks,
Her gardens trim, her terrace walks, U5

Her wildernesses, fragrant brakes,
Her gloomy bow'rs and shining lakes.
Keep, ye Gods ! this humble seat
For ever pleasant, private, neat.

See yonder hill, uprising steep, I20

Above the river slow and deep ;
It looks from hence a pyramid,
Beneath a verdant forest hid ;
On whose high top there rises great
The mighty remnant of a seat, I2 .

An old green tow'r, whose batter'd brow
Frowns upon the vale below.


Look upon that flow'ry plain,
How the sheep surround their swain,
How they crowd to hear his strain ! 130

All careless with his legs across,
Leaning on a bank of moss,
He spends his empty hours at play,
Which fly as light as down away.

And there behold a bloomy mead, . 135

A silver stream, a willow shade,
Beneath the shade a fisher stand,
Who, with the angle in his hand,
Swings the nibbling fry to land.

In blushes the descending sun 140

Kisses the streams, while slow they run ;
And yonder hill remoter grows,
Or dusky clouds do interpose.
The fields are left, the labouring hind
His weary oxen does unbind ; 145

And vocal mountains, as they low,
Re-echo to the vales below ;
The jocund shepherds piping come,
And drive the herd before them home ;
And now begin to light their fires, 150

Which send up smoke in curling spires ;
While with light hearts all homeward tend,
To Aberglasney I descend.

But, oh ! how bless'd would be the day
Did I with Clio pace my way, j^

And not alone and solitary stray.



HAVE my friends in the town, in the gay busy town,
Forgot such a man as John Dyer?
Or heedless despise they, or pity the clown,
Whose bosom no pageantries fire ?

No matter, no matter content in the shades 5
(Contented ! why everything charms me)
Fall in tunes all adown the green steep, ye cascades !
Till hence rigid virtue alarms me :

Till outrage arises, or misery needs

The swift, the intrepid avenger ; 10

Till sacred religion or liberty bleeds,

Then mine be the deed and the danger.

Alas ! what a folly, that wealth and domain

We heap up in sin and in sorrow !

Immense is the toil, yet the labour how vain ! 15

Is. not life to be over to-morrow,



Then glide on my moments, the few that I have,

Smooth-shaded, and quiet, and even,

While gently the body descends to the grave,

And the spirit arises to heaven. 20


SEE, the flowery Spring is blown,

Let us leave the smoky Town :

From the Mall, and from the Ring,

Every one has taken wing ;

Cloe, Strephon, Corydon, 5

To the meadows all are gone ;

What is left you worth your stay ?

Come, Aurelia, come away.

Come, Aurelia, come and see

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Online LibraryJohn DyerThe poems of John Dyer → online text (page 1 of 8)