Royall Tyler (1757-1827)
The next [second] American sonneteer is Royall Tyler (1757-1826), the author of The Contrast, our first comedy, and the second play by an American to be produced in America by a professional company. Tyler's two sonnets are found in The Spirit of the Farmers' Museum and the Lay Preacher's Gazette, Walpole, N.H., 1801, under the caption "From the Shop of Messrs. Colon & Spondee." This pseudonym covered the prose of Joseph Dennie and the poetry, chiefly satire and parody, of Royall Tyler.
Tyler's two sonnets are best introduced in his own words:
The plaintive and affected style of Charlotte Smith is familiar, it is supposed, to most readers. Criticism has frowned upon the verbose grief of a sobbing poetess. . . . We insert the following as a pleasant introduction to an attack soon to be made upon the above sighing sonneteer from the Shop of Colon and Spondee.
[Smith published in Philadelphia in 1787 an edition of her "Elegiac Sonnets."]
On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country
And this reft house is that the which he built,
Lamented Jack! and here his malt he pil'd,
Cautious in vain! These rats that squeak so wild,
Squeak, not unconscious of their father's guilt.
Did ye not see her gleaming through the glade!
Belike, 't was she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho' she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho' she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
Yet, aye, she haunts the dale where erst she stray'd;
And aye, beside her stalks her amorous knight!
Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
And thro' those brogues, still tatter'd and betorn,
His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white;
As when thro' broken clouds at night's high noon
Peeps in fair fragments forth the full orb'd harvest moon.
Sonnet to an Old Mouser
Child of lubricious art, of sanguine sport!
Of pangful mirth! sweet ermin'd sprite!
Who lov'st, with silent, velvet step, to court
The bashful bosom of the night.
Whose elfin eyes can pierce night's sable gloom,
And witch her fairy prey with guile,
Who sports fell frolic o'er the grisly tomb,
And gracest death with dimpling smile!
Daughter of ireful mirth, sportive in rage,
Whose joy should shine in sculptur'd bas relief
Like Patience, in rapt Shakespeare's deathless page,
Smiling in marble at wan grief.
Oh, come, and teach me all thy barb'rous joy,
To sport with sorrow first, and then destroy.