1 BOAST of proud Shropshire, Oxford's lasting shame,
2 Whom none but Coxcombs scorn, but Fools defame,
3 Eternal war with dulness born to wage,
4 Thou Paracelsus of this wondrous age;
5 BEDDOES, the philosophic Chymist's Guide,
6 The Bigot's Scourge, of Democrats the Pride;
7 Accept this lay; and to thy Brother, Friend,
8 Or name more dear, a Sans Culotte attend,
9 While in Rhyme's Galligaskins I enclose
10 The broad posteriors of thy brawny prose,
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11 And sing, by thee inspir'd, in tuneful strain,
12 The blest return of Saturn's golden reign!
13 Oh had I, silly swain, the force and fire
14 Of some, whom Frenchmen's bloody deeds inspire;
15 Could I, ascending on the wing of sound,
16 Pleas'd with the grand, the lofty and profound,
17 Rise above mortal ken in rapturous glow,
18 Leaving poor pursy Sense to pant below;
19 Could I, for ever studious to refine,
20 Prank with my pearly phrase each pretty line,
21 Or like an empty Bottle, deep immers'd,
22 Whence Bubbles after Bubbles bustling burst,
23 Amus'd to view my noisy nothings swell,
24 In the sweet vanity of thought excel;
25 Now bursting o'er the bounds of vulgar Rhyme,
26 Gracefully great and terribly sublime;
27 Trolling in full-toned melody along
28 With all the clattering clang of modern song;
29 I'd hail the progress of those blissful days,
30 When fair Philosophy's meridian rays
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31 Shall brighten Nature's face, shall drive the Moles
32 Of blinking Error to their secret holes,
33 Disperse the darkness of primaeval Night,
34 And bid a new Creation rise to light!
35 Proceed, great days! and bring, oh! bring to view
36 Things strange to tell! Incredible, but true!
37 Behold, behold, the Golden Age appears:
38 Skip, skip, ye Mountains! Forests lend your Ears!
39 See red-capt Liberty from heaven descend,
40 And real Prodigies her steps attend!
Nec varios discet mentiri lana colores:
Ipse sed in pratis Aries jam suavè rubenti
Murice, jam croceo mutabit vellera luto:
Sponte suâ sandyx pascentes vestiet agnos.
No more immers'd in many a foreign dye
42 Shall British wool be taught to blush and lie;
43 But all our pastures glow with purple Rams,
44 With scarlet Lambkins, and their yellow Dams!
The renovation of the world under the benign influence of French Freedom has been long foretold by prophets of every description, by some who manufacture verses, others who manufacture cotton, by maudling Mrs's, and mincing Misses, by enlight ened Lawyers and more enlightened Physicians; but by none more fully expected, more ardently longed for, than by Dr. Beddoes and
* A Gentleman of Pembroke College, Oxford, to whom Dr. Beddoes addresses a late elaborate work〈…〉appellation
his "Dear Giddy!" The great Dr. assures us, that not only science in general will shortly advance towards perfection, but that in particular "a new Medicine will arise from the ashes of the old with healing in its wings." How this revolution is to be effected we are informed in the dedication of his Observations on Calculus, &c. p. 4. "We are just beginning to catch a glimpse of the laws of animal Nature; and now when the human mind seems in so many countries〈…〉be roused from that torpor, by which it has so long been benumbed, we may reason ably indulge the expectation of a rapid progress in this the most beneficial of all the sciences. An infinitely small portion of genius has hitherto been exerted to diminish the sum of our painful sensations; and the force of society has been exclusively at the disposal of Des pots and Juntos, the great Artificers of human Evil. Should an entire change in these two respects any where take place, every member of society might soon expect to experience in his own person the consequence of so happy an innovation; and should the example be generally〈◊〉, there is no improvement in the condition of the World, for which we might not〈◊〉from the bloodless rivalship of Nations. " But we are told, that the same influence of Liberty and Genius will not only in other respects effect equal wonders, but produce greater blessings. " We know, "exclaims this egregious Chymist," that vegetables are capable of forming oils either exactly the same as those of Animals, or very nearly resembling them. Thus we have the suet of the Croton Sebiferum, the butter of the Phoenix Dactylifera and of the Butyrum Cacao. When, from a more intimate acquaint ance with them, we shall be better able to apply the Laws of organic bodies to the accommo dation as well as preservation of Life, may we not, by regulating the vegetable functions, teach our woods and hedges to supply us with Butter and Tallow? " Observations on Calculus, &c. p. 109.
No more the lazy Ox shall gormandize,
46 And swell with fattening grass his monstrous size;
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47 No more trot round and round the groaning field,
48 But tons of Beef our loaded Thickets yield!
49 The patient Dairy-Maid no more shall learn
50 With tedious toil to whirl the frothy Churn;
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51 But from the Hedges shall her Dairy fill,
52 As pounds of Butter in big drops distil!
53 The sottish Jews, who in a God believ'd,
54 And sometimes blessings, oftener plagues receiv'd,
55 Shouted a Miracle, when on the ground
56 Their boasted bread the greedy grumblers found:
57 By no dry crusts shall Infidels be fed,
58 Our soil producing Butter to our Bread!
59 See reverend Thames, who God of Rivers reigns,
60 And winds meand'ring through our richest plains,
61 To treat the Cits, that many a sixpence give
62 Once in a week like Gentlemen to live,
63 Resign his majesty of mud, and stream
64 O'er strawberry beds in deluges of Cream!
65 See Tallow Candles tip the modest Thorn,
66 Candles of Wax the prouder Elm adorn!
67 See the dull Clown survey with stupid stare
68 Where Leaves once grew, now periwigs of Hair!
69 While fluids, which a wondrous change betray,
70 Ooze from the vernal bud, the summer spray,
71 Differing from animals alone in name,
72 (As Botanists already half exclaim).
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73 See plants, susceptible of joy and woe,
74 Feel all we feel, and know whate'er we know!
75 View them like us inclin'd to watch or sleep,
76 Like us to smile, and, ah! like us to weep!
77 Like us behold them glow with warm desire,
78 And catch from Beauty's glance celestial fire!
79 Then, oh! ye fair, if through the shady grove
80 Musing on absent Lovers you should rove,
81 And there with tempting step all heedless brush
82 Too near some wanton metamorphos'd Bush,
83 Or only hear perchance the western breeze
84 Steal murmuring through the animated Trees,
85 Beware, beware, lest to your cost you find
86 The Bushes dangerous, dangerous too the Wind,
87 Lest, ah! too late with shame and grief you feel
88 What your fictitious Pads would ill conceal!
89 While Plants turn Animals, Man, happy Man,
* "If this supposition were just, might not some means be discovered to protract the period of Youth and Vigour indefinitely? Whether true or false, and even though we should never be able to restore new excitability to the system, there can be no doubt of the immediate practicability of prolonging Life considerably; and what is much more desirable, of maintaining a firmer state of Health." Observations on Calculus, &c. p. 106. "Nor, however remote Medicine may be at present from such perfection, do I see any reason to doubt, that by taking advantage of various and continual acces sions as they accrue to Science, the same power may be acquired over living as is at present exercised over some inanimate bodies; and that not only the cure and preven tion of diseases, but the art of protracting the fairest season of Life, and rendering Health more vigorous, will one day half realize the dream of Alchemy!" Beddoes's Letter to Darwin, p. 29.
To ages shall extend Life's lengthen'd span.
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91 Bane to our bliss, no more the wrinkled face
92 Beauty's bewitching circles shall disgrace;
93 But see the reigning Toast half kind, half coy,
94 Her Rivals' envy, and her Lover's Joy,
95 Skill'd to allure, to charm us, and beguile,
96 In all the bloom of Eighty sit and smile!
97 Thus shall each Belle a lovely L'ENCLOS prove,
98 Drive Boys of future Cent'ries mad with love;
99 The Marriage Table its degrees extend,
100 And to our great, great Grandmother ascend.
101 Poor POPE, who griev'd "that Life could scarce supply
102 "More than to look about him, and to die, "
103 Had he but flourish'd in these Halcyon days,
104 Might long have bid Life's little Candle blaze,
105 Have grown strait, handsome, brisk and debonnair,
106 The Muses' favourite, favourite of the Fair!
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107 Happy the Poet's lot, who can prolong,
108 Till time shall be no more, his deathless song;
109 And live himself to see his swelling name
110 Roll, like a Snowball, gathering all its fame!
111 Happy, thrice happy he, who at his will
112 Can drink of Life's sweet cup his constant fill;
* Dr. Beddoes, in a little tract addressed to the Author of this Epistle, entertains us with a long history of how he made himself very lean, very fair (his complexion having been before of an uniform brown), very pretty, and very consumptive, by the use of a certain "Cosmetic" called Oxygenous Air; and how he afterwards cured himself of the said Leanness and Consumption at his Friend's, Quaker Reynolds's, in Colnbrook Dale, by a diet in which Butter and Cream bore the largest proportions. See pages 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, and 55.
Who, if excess of Oxygene create
114 Symptoms, which lean Consumption indicate,
115 A sure specific can procure with ease,
116 Rich Cream and Butter from his herd of Trees:
117 Or if he find excess of
To prevent our Sailors from growing fat, and afterwards falling into the Scurvy (of which Obesity, we are informed, is the first symptom), Dr. Beddoes proposes that the jolly Tars should eat their food raw! Observations, p. 60.
118 His body load with fat, his mind with spleen,
119 True health and vigour to restore, can take
120 From some regenerate Oak a savoury steak,
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121 Sliced off the slaughter'd Monster's quondam stump,
122 Converted now into a real Rump,
123 And, blest with an accommodating maw,
124 Devour the luscious bit, red, recent, raw!
125 Now rise, my Muse, and, warm with rapture, dart
126 From Men to Manners, "Fancy to the Heart."
127 Transporting sight! to view the Sons of Pride
128 Their little heads with shame and sorrow hide,
129 Ranks and Distinctions cease, all reeking lie
130 In the mean muck of low Equality!
131 Favourites of freedom, Sons of frisky France,
132 Who never learnt like British Bears to dance,
133 And, while their Premier's humdrum Bagpipes sound,
134 Led by the nose, jog growling round and round;
135 But more like Monkeys, airy, light, and gay,
136 Pleas'd on your Master's head to skip and play;
137 Ye pious Atheists, Moralists, who deem
138 The Christian's Heaven and Hell an idle Dream,
139 Delighted to deride all vulgar fears
140 Of Beelzebub's black Claws, cropt Tail, and Ears,
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141 With manly Scorn and Dignity to tread
142 On prostrate Superstition's hoary head;
143 Who, foes to Power Despotic, dare defy
144 The King of Kings, that Bugbear of the sky;
145 Dreading for present crimes no future rod,
146 Self-praise your worship, Vanity your God:
147 Oh how my Eyes with tears ecstatic fill,
148 What new felt transports through my bosom thrill,
149 When I behold you with gigantic blow
150 The pigmy pride of Royalty lay low,
151 With pikes and guns this moral dogma teach
152 Virtue consists in nudity of Breech!
153 Soon shall we view no more the glittering Things
154 Bestarr'd, begarter'd, and befool'd by Kings;
155 The pretty Twinklers that so sweetly shone,
156 And deem'd their lovely lustre all their own!
157 No more the Despot view, whose mighty nods
158 Shook nature, and proclaim'd him God of Gods;
159 Drunk with applause who rais'd his rolling Eyes,
160 And seem'd, whene'er he mov'd, to tread the skies!
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161 Despis'd, detested, all shall wing their flight,
162 And sink, no more to rise, in endless night!
163 Arm'd with a bristled End and glittering Awl,
164 Behold a minor Monarch in his Stall!
165 No circling Gold his royal brow surrounds,
166 A Yard of Room his sphere of Action bounds;
167 His sole ambition and his prime pursuit,
168 With skill a Shoe to patch, to stitch a Boot!
169 Nor deem his fate severe! The time may come
170 When many a pious King in Christendom,
171 Dash'd from his throne, and made Dame Fortune's Fool,
172 Shall envy little Capet's cobbling stool!
173 Mark with the Peer and Prince the
* "It is a law of human Nature, the less of ecclesiastical influence, the less of deadly animosity among Men. " "It is reasonable to presume that the majority of French Priests in England partake of the Spirit of their Brethren; and to a large portion of the popish Priesthood, Christianity is believed, upon good grounds, to be as much foolish ness as it was to the Greeks. Their faith in the advantages of the immense emolu ments which those Reverend Robbers, their predecessors, had extorted from superstitious Barbarians, never suffered any abatement; hence probably that conduct to which their sufferings are to be imputed. " "Through all the calumny that has been vomited forth against the French, the most injured and most enlightened people upon Earth, it is easy to discern some advantages which the Nation owes to Liberty Tythes, the accursed relic of Popery, have been abolished. France is purged not only from Ec clesiastical Drones, which consumed the sweetest honey of the hive, but also from the monstrous debauchery of the richer, and the beggarly insolence of the poorer Noblesse. " Dr. Beddoes's admirable Reasons for believing the friends of Liberty in France not to be the Authors or Abettors of the crimes committed in that Country; humbly addressed to those who from time to time constitute themselves Judges and Jury upon affairs public and private and, without admitting any testimony but the gross lies of Beldame Rumour, damn their Neighbours individually, and the rest of the World by the Lump; the celebrated Hand bill circulated in Shropshire, which eventually occasioned his resignation of the Chemical Chair in the University of Oxford.
canting Priest,
174 Forbidden on his Country's fat to feast,
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175 While peace looks down sweet smiling on the swains,
176 And untax'd Plenty crowns the fruitful plains!
177 No more that lazy Lubbard shall we pay,
178 With phiz so farcical to preach and pray;
179 No more behold that Harpy of the land
180 Lay on our largest sheaves his greedy hand;
181 With Bigotry's black banner wide unfurl'd,
182 Fright into Gothic Ignorance the world:
183 But Truth and Light shall come, with hostile rage,
184 "To drive the holy Vandal off the stage."
185 See Tythes expire, and ancient Slavery fail;
186 Proud Superstition turn her vanquish'd tail;
187 No zealous Minister the Church befriend,
188 But all her sorceries with the Beldame end:
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189 Lo! Babylon is fallen! That mystic
190 That Sink of Wickedness, is now no more!
191 Great Babylon is fallen! Shout, shout, ye Meads!
192 And, oh! ye Corn-fields, wave your happy heads!
193 Ye lovely Lambkins, strain your feeble voice,
194 And with your Dams in loudest Baas rejoice!
195 Calves, join your notes to swell the gladdening sound!
196 Cows, let your lowings from the skies rebound!
197 Prolific Ducks, quack mid the mighty noise!
198 Hens, more prolific, cackle out your joys!
199 And ye, oh! Swine, lift up your little Eyes,
200 With rapture riot round your rotten Styes!
201 Stretch your triumphant throats, and strive to make
202 The frighten'd welkin with your Gruntings shake!


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE GOLDEN AGE, A POETICAL EPISTLE.
Genres: heroic couplet; epistle

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Source edition

Darwin, Erasmus, 1731-1802. The golden age, a poetical epistle: from Erasmus D-n, M.D. to Thomas Beddoes, M.D. London: printed for F. and C. Rivington; and J. Cooke, Oxford, 1794, pp. []-15. 15,[1]p. ; 4⁰. (ESTC N7154; OTA K004299.000)

Editorial principles

The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Secondary literature

  • Faubert, Michelle. Erasmus Darwin, Thomas Beddoes, and The Golden Age of the 1790s.European Romantic Review 22(4) (2011): 453-476. Print.