[Entry from Chambers’s Cyclopædia of English Literature, New Editon by David Patrick, LL.D, Vol. II; W. & R. Chambers, Limited; London and Edinburgh, 1902; p. 533-534.]
Samuel Bishop (1731-95), born in London and educated at Merchant Taylor’s School and St. John’s, Oxford, became, after taking orders, master of his old school. His poems (which fill two volumes quarto!) are none of them long, and deal with subjects as miscellaneous as spring, the man of taste, cricket, the library, Sunday, the privateer, the easy-chair, arithmetic, landscape painting, and the English sailor. Many of his happiest verses were addressed to his wife and daughter.
To Mrs. Bishop, on the Anniversary of her Wedding-day, with a Ring.
‘Thee, Mary, with this ring I wed’ —
So, fourteen years ago, I said.
Behold another ring! — ‘For what?’
‘To wed thee o’er again?’ Why not?
With that first ring I married youth,
Grace, beauty, innocence, and truth;
Taste long admired, sense long revered,
And all my Molly then appeared.
If she, by merit since disclosed,
Prove twice the woman I supposed,
I plead that double merit now,
To justify a double vow.
Here, then, to-day, with faith as sure,
With ardour as intense, as pure,
As when, amidst the rite divine,
I took thy troth, and plighted mine,
To thee, sweet girl, my second ring
A token and a pledge I bring:
With this I wed, till death us part,
Thy riper virtues to my heart;
Those virtues which, before untried,
The wife has added to the bride;
Those virtues, whose progressive claim,
Endearing wedlock’s very name,
My soul enjoys, my song approves,
For conscience’ sake as well as love’s.
And why? — They shew me every hour
Honour’s high thought, Affection’s power,
Discretion’s deed, sound Judgment’s sentence,
And teach me all things — but repentance.
Two hundred and ninety-seven short poems are classified — oddly enough, some of them — as ‘epigrams,’ of which these are specimens:
John Bull whene’er the maggot bites,
Cropsick with ease and quiet,
Raves about wrongs, roars about rights,
All rumpus, rage, and riot.
But if a foreign foe intrudes,
John tells a different story;
Away with fears! away with feuds!
All’s Union, Triumph, Glory!
He scorns Dons, Dutchmen, and Mounseers,
And spite of their alliance,
With half the world about his ears,
Bids t’other half defiance!
When England’s foes her follies view,
Each day, each hour shews something new;
But let them try in arms their skill,
And England is — Old England still!
When Johnson the lives of our poets composed,
He scarce thought how his own would be hacked when it closed,
We’ve had life upon life without end or cessation,
A perfect biographical superfetation:
Male, female, friend, foe have had hands in the mess,
And the paper announces still more in the press —
Not a cat, though for cats fate spins ninefold the thread,
Has so many lives, living, as Johnson has dead.