and melancholy, pastorals and elegies, and other echoes of Shenstone, Gray, and even Mason. It is noticeable that the songs and light social lyrics of the close of the century come from Philadelphia, the social capital. The gifted and original William Cliffton (1772-1799) was both a satirist and a lyrist. His half-dozen lyrics, quite the two best of which are To fancy and To a Robin,1 are not without grace and delicacy, which he owes largely to his models, Gay, Prior, and Collins. Like Freneau and other poets of the time, Cliffton found his surroundings unsympathetic:
In these cold shades, beneath these shifting skies,So he characterizes his environment in his epistle to William Gifford, which was prefixed to the American edition of the Baviad and Maeviad in 1799. Gifford's stinging satire on the “Della Cruscan” school of poetry was welcomed in America by Cliffton, whose verse was at least manly and sincere. It is not certain that Joseph Brown Ladd (1764-1786) wrote his Poems of Arouet under Della Cruscan influence, for they were published in the year in which the school took its rise in Florence; they are at least an anticipation of its more languishing side. But whether or not the Della Cruscan mania had reached Charleston, where Ladd was killed in a duel, in 1786, it was certainly widespread in Boston less than a decade later. Mrs. Sarah Wentworth Morton (1759-1846),2 termed by her admirers “The American Sappho,” praises Della Crusca in a fervid address prefixed to her narrative poem Ouabi, or the Virtues of Nature (1790), and as “Philenia” exchanged poetical tributes with her “Menander,” no less a celebrity than Robert Treat Paine, Jr. (1773-181I). Boston's craving for a native poet, the bad taste of the time, and the poet's own wayward life combined to give Paine a reputation surpassing that of any of his contemporaries. At Harvard he was known by his occasional poems, and his
Where Fancy sickens, and where Genius dies;
Where few and feeble are the Muse's strains,
And no fine frenzy riots in the veins.