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Thomas Shoel, psalmist 1759-1823

Image below: Montacute Borough in around 1795 as seen in the 1995 film 'Sense and Sensibility'; this is an idealised interpretation of late 18th century village life, all that I've read would indicate a very squalid image would be more appropriate.

Thomas Shoel (1759-1823) was born the year before the end of George II's reign (King of GB and Ireland but also Duke of Hanover). He lived through the reign of George III (King of GB, Ireland and prince then King of Hanover) and 3 years into the reign of George IV (King of GB, Ireland and Hanover). He was a Montacute labourer who, according to his writings, had a dreadful and impoverished life - his first wife and 6 children died, his second wife took her own life - but, quite extraordinarily, he composed psalms and hymns and wrote poetry. He is said to have been an eccentric with music constantly in his head. He was fortunate enough that his father was able to send him to school from the age of about 15 (see biography below); the booklet pictured below was written by Thomas Shoel in his own hand.


Son of Samuel Shoel and Miriam Hann, Thomas Shoel married Phyllis Bool and had 6 children. Although there are no Montacute Shoels recorded in the 1841 census, Bool and Hann are common surnames in the village. Below is the registrer entry for their marriage as well as 2 Banns notices:

Accessed via from Somerset Heritage Service; Taunton, Somerset, England; Somerset Parish Records, 1538-1914; Reference Number: D\P\mont/2/1/6; original data: Somerset Archives & Local Studies, South West Heritage Trust, Taunton, England

Llewelyn Powys (1884-1939) was born 50 years after the death of Thomas Shoel; he records Thomas Shoel's first wife Phylis Bool died in poverty as did all their children. Shoel's second wife, Mary Taunton, (register entry above) gave him 3 daughters. The youngest of these, Julia Burt, had a grandaughter Ellen Greenham who had shown Llewelyn Powys her great-grandfather's family bible. Powys records Shoel as having lived in "a small yard to the east of the Montacute Borough. In the old days this yard was called Hallet's Yard, and it was within its precincts during the reign of Queen Victoria that Ellen Mitchel, the mother of the 'Man from the Plough,' brought up her family." So this was the same yard where the Methodist trades-unionist George Mitchell (1827-1901) later grew up!

Although many of Shoel's poems focused on the poverty and misery he saw around him, Shoel's 1803 poem Mileshill, published in his 1821 book 'Poems, on Various Subjects' is a celebration of Montacute and St Michael's Hill. Although exhaustingly long, this poem exalts the village and the surrounding area, touching on Shoel's life in Montacute, the long history of the village, the history of Albion, and the history of Europe! I have included 'Mileshill' (parts I and II) at the end of this snippet; this is not considered one of his best works and some might liken it to the poetry of Paula Jennings, but I've included it here because it is said to have been written while he sat by Montacute Tower surveying the village and countryside below. 

The National Archives catalogue a collection of letters to Mr Llewelyn Powys about Thomas Shoel (held at the Somerset Heritage Centre) from Mrs Ellen Greenham (Shoel's great grand-daughter) and Mr H. G. Tavender (a Montacute resident) "concerning Shoel's life and music with references to Montacute Baptist Chapel and other Montacute parishioners". Several letters from Llewelyn Powys to Mr H. G. Tavender have been compiled by Peter J. Foss, in 'Llewelyn Powys: The Essayist at Work: Letters to H.G.Tavender' (The Powys Journal, vol. 10, 2000, pp. 42–59; At the time of writing he mentions 14 letters from Mr H. G. Tavender held at the Dorset County Museum; I think these are now held in the Powys Archive at the University of Exeter.

Thomas Shoel contributed contributed cryptic puzzles and poetry to The Weekly Entertainer, and West of England Miscellany published between 1783 and 1824.  I include some extracts below as well as a biography published in the same journal when Shoel was 59 years old.

I have found a few examples of puzzles in the format of things 'enigmatically expressed':

He also had 'rebus' puzzles published:


And quite a few poems. Although this one says 'by Thomas Shoel, late of Montacute', he certainly was very much alive and had several more contributions published.

The last reference I found to Shoel in the Weekly Entertainer was a biography published in 1818. The author is not declared however  think it was probably written by Shoel himself? 

And below is Shoel's poem 'Mileshill'. After browsing the poem you might like to read the gruesome tale of highwayman Richard Forster who came to a horrible end near Batemore Barn, on the Ham Hill road.

MILESHILL,A Poem.Sweet Michael's, loveliest of the hills around,
With beauty clad, with constant verdure crown'd,
How shall an humble bard persume to sing,
In verse unpolish'd to an artless string,
The countless beauties that in thee combine,
Or how describe such varied charms as thine ?
Though bold th' attempt, yet candour will excuse
The homely effort of an untaught muse.
Not Cooper's hill, nor Grongar could bestow
More charms than on my native mountains grow;
But chief, sweet Michael's, on thy pleasing height,
What endless pleasures crowd upon the sight!
What noble prospects open to the view!
The rich, the grand, the beautiful, and new!
'Tis morn; and in the east, the rising sun
Prepares through heaven his daily course to run*;* The author is aware that the sun is stationary. but these lines are written in conformity to its apparent motion ."[2]
What brilliant scenes of grandeur fill my eyes!
What tides of radiance stream along the skies!
Stupendous globe! vast magazine of fire!
Of light the fountain. never to expire,
Till that almighty breath. which wak'd thy flames,
By the same fiat quenches all thy beams;
For nothing less than infinite could be,
The power that form'l, and still continues thee!
That in thy orb could store such floods of light,
And roll it flaming through the realms of night;
Bid ancient chaos with thy splendours glow,
And day's bright blessings cheer the worlds below.
Here Atheist, leave thy reason, or confess
The truths that on thy callous bosom press;
Look to that sun, no optick's mighty aid
(By Jansen, or immortal Newton made)
Is here required to help thy feeble eye,
This work of lab'ring nature to espy :
Gaze for a moment then with wonder tell.
How atoms could to such a glory swell! *
Or how blind fate to barren nothing spoke,
And yon huge globe's unwasting flames awoke!
That mighty mass to which this earth can boast,
Nought but a speck, deep swallow'd up and lost!
Say then no more, no longer dare advance,
That such a wonder was the work of chance!
O let thy reason teach (for teach she can)
From what eternal source yon heavens began.
Who form'd yon wond'rous lamp, and bade it shine ?* These lines are intended to redicule the idea that the universe was produced by chance. or the fortuitous combination of atoms.[3]
'Twas power Almighty. ' twas a hand Divine;
Own this, be man, be worse than brute no more,
Resume thy reason. and a God adore.
But these are themes that tower above my strain,
And which a Poet might attempt in vain :
My humbler verse descending from the skies.
Attempts to paint the scenes that round me rise .
Sweet Michael's loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad. with constant verdure crown'd,
On thy high summit while I wond'ring stand,
And my pleas’d eyes thy charming views command,
Reflection to my mind will oft present
Each act important, ev'ry great event,
Recorded in the fair historic page,
And handed down to each succeeding age;
Nor shall oblivion's sable hand efface
The deeds of fame which here have taken place :
And did keen science my poor breast inspire,
Or warm poetic glow my fancy fire,
My verse might hope to please. and smooth and clear
With richer cadence then would charm the ear .
Here, on this spot, a lofty castle stood,
In days of old. those times of war and blood,
When feudal tyranny the world o'erspread.
And at each pore the ravag'd nations bled;
When rival lords. through all the subject plains,
In endless contests kept the vassal swains;
Those little despots fill'd the earth with woe,
And bade the streams of life in torrents flow .
Hence too, perhaps, some chief or baron bold,
The far stretch'd vales and distant hills controll’d.
While all the groaning peasants view'd with dread,
Th ' aspiring mansion of their mighty head;
Cring'd at the portal. trembled at his nod,
And little less ador'd him than a god .
For Britain has such scenes of horror known;
Such tyrants forc'd e’en Albion's isle to groan,
But Heaven she now for better times can bless;
No feudal lord now dares the swain oppress;
Her well-pois'd state, and strict impartial laws,
Secure each native in a righteous cause,
Nor pride, nor av'rice dares the peasant harm,
Unpunish'd by great Justice mighty arm.
Hail! happy land! and long 0! may’st thou prove,
The bliss for which thy sons so bravely strove;
Ne'er may'st thou sink beneath oppression's hand;
Ne'er may fell tyranny thy plains command.
Nor curs'd corruption dare to undermine
The sacred base of such a state as thine.
Sweet Michael's, loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad. with constant verdure crown'd!
On thy green top reclin'd. now let me throw.
My well-pleas'd eye, and view the plains below .
And first my native village meets my view.
Where on the morn of life, my breath I drew :
Now cruel mem'ry paints my youthful day,
Sweet hours of bliss for ever pass'd away,
When full of hope, my throbbing bosom beat,
But hope, alas! too often proves a cheat;
A glitt'ring meteor, whose deceitful light
Illumes with transient beams the gloom of night;
Soon the false glare to sudden darkness turns,
And the fond soul the fled illusion mourns.
Ah! had my mother, had my father known,
When I an infant on the world was thrown;
Had fate but let my doating parents see,
What destiny awaited hapless me;
What dire misfortunes I was born to prove.
How had it rent their hearts! how had they strove
In ardent paryer, that heaven its love would show,
And from their child avert the dreadful woe.
My dear lov'd parents. whither are they fled ?
Long have their bodies dwelt among the dead :
But hope pursues, and sees their spirits blest,
In that pure state, where all the righteous rest;
Where cloudless day in endless beauty beams,
And joy's rich tide unwasting ever streams.
Here recollection, often to my view,
My long lost babes in all their charms will shew;
Will bring my former partner to my sight,
Recalling all those hours of soft delight,
When full of love, I clasp'd them to my breast,
Blest in my children. in their mother blest.
Oh! had I sunk with them into the dust,
(My spirit fled with theirs to join the just)
Then had I ne'er these scenes of trouble known,
Nor pain had rack’d, nor anguish made me groan.
Nor had my present wife been doom'd to share,
( Far as she can) the suff'rings that I bare;
Then you, my children, pledges of my love,
Had never known the trials that I prove;
But lost amidst the silence of the tomb,
Hid in th ' unconscious grave's perpetual gloom,
My body long had mixt with kindred clay,
And like a dream my mem'ry pass'd away .
But why on these lost pleasures do I dwell ?
Why here this tale of sorrow do I tell ?
Unlikely such a melancholy strain,
To please the sprightly nymph or cheerful swain;
Return my verse, thy artless theme pursue.
And paint the charms of Montacute to view;
Fair healthful village, thriving in the shade,
Form'd by sweet Michael's ever verdant head.
See! at the leisure hour, how swarms the street!
How brisk the youths, the blooming nymphs, how sweet!
How blithe a countenance does manhood wear!
And e'en in age the traits of joy appear;
For though the population here is great,
Yet business long has own'd it for her seat;
Here trade in various shapes her fingers plies,
And poverty with all her wan allies,
That haunts so oft the native of the plain.
Here seldom holds her melancholy reign.
And hark! the loom resounds, the wheel is turn'd.
The nimble spinner, decently adorn'd,
Flies up and down the walk. while from her tongue
Proceeds the jocund tale, or artless song;
While the neat glover, seated at the door,
Or in the porch, employs the busy hour;
The lusty smith the sounding anvil beats,
Or at the lab’ring bellows tugs and sweats;
The carpenter the axe with vigour wields,
And to his keen tooth'd saw the timber yields;
The cooper frames the well compacted cask,
Whose ample room the cider soon will ask;
The nimble tailor plies the well-edg d shears,
Or makes the coat that soon gay Colin wears;
The leather dresser at the perch too stands,
And the keen knife employs his busy bands;
And Crispin's sons, each seated in his stall.
Form the strong thread, or point the piercing awl;
The mill drives briskly round. the ovens burn,
And well- bak'd bread succeeds to purest corn.
See, too, ( for here my eyes afar can view,)
How in the fields the swains their toils renew;
The ploughman whistles, and the shepherd sings.
Nor wish the state of princes or of kings;
The mower to his annual task attends,
And ripen'd harvest to the reaper bends.
Sweet Michael's loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad. with constant verdure crown'd,
I cannot wonder, that when darkness reign'd.
And ignorance her hateful sway maintain'd.
Sad superstition chose so sweet a seat,
And led her vot'ries, to this blest retreat;
For here, ( so shows, fair history thy page)
Ere Henry's brutal, yet his useful rage,
First broke the odious pow'r of haughty Rome,
And banish'd false religion's monkish gloom;
Here, on this spot, the Fathers rear'd a shrine.
And here perform'd the mysteries divine;
Here, on this ground, where now my footsteps tread,
Was breath'd the pray'r - for living and for dead; -
Here, stood the dome, in which the matins rung,
And round whose roof were solemn vespers sung;
While sacred music lent her magic sound.
And bade the fretted arches loud rebound;
And, full of fervour, by devotion fir'd.
In rich idea all to heav'n aspir'd.
See, where yon building rears its Gothic head.
There dwelt the Fathers, who to pleasure dead.
Forsook the world. its vanity and care.
And spent their lives in penitence and pray’r :
Though censure, oft, with bitter tongue, has said
That monkish sanctity was but a trade.
And that religion serv'd them for a veil,
Their odious crimes and vices to conceal.
But let reproach her hasty judgment stay,
Till heav'n shall usher in the solemn day;
That awful hour each secret shall diclose,
And shew for what those saints this station chose :
To conscience only, and to God's dread throne,
Each mortal answers, and to these alone.
Sweet Michael's loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad, with constant verdure crown'd!
How shall my verse thine endless beauties shew,
Or bring thy various, pleasing scenes to view ?
Thy blooming verdure, and thy countless flowers,
Thy beauteous evergreens, and verdant bowers ?
Thy groves of fir. where sings the warbling thrush,
While black birdswhistle from the hawthorn bush ?
Thy deepen'd shades, where coos the plaintive dove,
While echo soft repeats the tale of love ?
Thy dells, impervious to the solar ray.
Where tunes the nightingale her matchless lay ?
Thy tow'ring trees. that rear their heads on high,
Wide spreading oaks, and elms that pierce the sky ?
Thy copses, that their spacious glooms extend,
Whose branches soon with burnish'd nuts shall bend ?
Thy underwoods, the timid hare's retreat,
Or cunning reynard's more secluded seat,
Till comes the season, when the sounding horn
Shall with its echoes wake the drowsy morn,
And ev'ry vale, and distant hill around,
Repeats the cry of hunter and of hound ?
The verdant plain that at thy foot is spread,
Where range the kine, on fatt’ning herbage fed.
Where graze the flocks, and where the lambkins play,
In harmless frolic while they spend the day ?
Ye solemn shades! ye venerable groves!
You the sage power of contemplation loves :
For solitude, O! what a charming seat!
For meditation. what a blest retreat!
Come then. ye swains. whom sacred science charms,
And whom the love of keen-eyed learning warms,
Whene'er your toils afford a leisure hour,
Come, and recline beneath this solemn bower;
When summer reigns, and yonder ardent sun.
Pours from high heaven the fervid beams of noon;
Here sit retir'd beneath this jess’mine shade,
Whose branches from the heat shall screen your head;
And with th ' informing page employ your time,
While wing'd imagination mounts sublime
To loftier scenes. and treads the sacred road.
That leads from nature to the throne of God;
Sees the vast chain of being as it rose,
Through each gradation to its final close;
Views power Almighty, in th' amazing whole.
The thron'd archangel. and the grov'ling mole.
Or ye who love to hear the muse's strain.
Whom poetry's sweet voice can entertain.
When care relaxes, hither, hither. haste,
And the pure pleasures of retirement taste;
For hark! while silence hushes all around,
The sacred lyre awakes its noble sound;
Here then. the strain. thy deep attention lend,
And on the swelling notes to heaven ascend.
Here ancient bards attune the darling string,
And paint fierce wars, of Jove's high praises sing;
While Homer pours his full majestic lay,
Or lofty Pindar bears the soul away .
Or far above them all. the Hebrew swain.
Ascends to heaven in his immortal strain.
Or brings th ' Eternal from his dread abode,
While sweeping whirlwinds speak the coming God.
Attending angels on their maker wait,
And earth with horror trembles at her fate;
The everlasting hills beneath him bow,
And thunders roll, and forked lightnings glow;
Th' expanding fire around his chariot plays,
And wraps the world in one tremendous blaze;
The globe convulsing to its centre shakes,
While his dread will heaven's great Eternal speaks :
Such scenes as these the sons of Israel saw,
When He from Sinai's top declar’d his law.
Or else the sacred poet strings his lyre
To milder notes, and bids the song aspire
To sound Messiah's glory soon to come,
The sinless offspring of a Virgin's womb,
On earth a life of poverty to lead,
And soon for guilt, a guiltless victim made;
To suffer death upon the cursed tree,
And thus the ruin'd sons of Adam free.
See. on the cross, he bows his awful head.
And for a season dwells among the dead.
Till comes the joyful morn's appointed ray.
And ushers in the third. th' auspicious day;
Then crown'd with vict'ry see the conqu’rer rise.
Forsake the tomb and reascend the skies.
Exulting angels hail the rising God.
And, raptur'd. shout him to his bright abode;
He drags th ' old serpent at his chariot wheels,
And vanquish'd death the mighty ruin feels.
Such themes as these (by heaven alone inspir'd)
The ravish'd soul of Jesse's offspring fir'd :
Lo, on the sounding harp his fingers play.
And Judah's list’ning sons are rapt away,
While Bethlem's groves, or Sion's sacred hills,
Repeat his matchless music's liquid thrills.
Your country, too, her num'rous bards can boast;
The Muse has visited fair Albion's coast;
And many a strain. in British numbers sung.
Have grac'd the lyre, and warbled on the tongue.
Here raptur'd Young, and pious Hervey, soar
Through Nature's works, and Nature's God adore;
While burning suns, and blazing stars conspire,
The rolling thunder, and the lightning's fire,
The rending earthquake and the meteor's flame,
The spacious earth. and heav'ns unmeasur'd frame,
The sons of earth, that here in darkness mourn,
And heav'ns blest offspring, that with ardour burn,
All, all unite, in one great song to join.
And celebrate the love and pow'r Divine.
Or else their strain assaults the sceptic's ear,
Or strives the dying sinner's heart to cheer;
While they the soul's immortal essence prove,
Or paint a dying Saviour's wondrous love.
Hear Thompson through the various seasons range,
And mark creation's beauties as they change;
Bid nature one eternal chorus raise.
And pealing thunders wake their dreadful praise :
Anon. of heav'n-born liberty he sings.
Or Newton's glory sounds upon his strings;
Then, in his song recounts Britannia's fame,
Or consecrates an Alfred's deathless name.
Now, with chaste Addison. on classic ground.
Here tread the various. ever-pleasing round;
Or here him sing great Malb'rough's conq’ring arms,
Or paint fair Virtue's never fading charms;
Or tell how Cato. (falling Rome's late pride)
His country's freedom lost, indignant died.
Then let the lyres of Dryden, Pope, and Gray,
On swelling numbers bear your souls away;
While”Fancy scatters from her pictur’d urn,
“ The thoughts that breathe, the words that burn;”
And harmony, delighted, as they sing,
To richest cadence tunes her golden string.
Or led by Ogilvie, to time's last end,
Hear Gabriel's trump the burning concave rend;
While his uplifted arm sublime he rears
Aloft to heav'n. and by th ' Eternal swears,
(By that dread pow'r, whom heav'n and earth adore, )
That time's revolving orb shall move no more;
While flames dissolve the earth. and melt the skies,
Chaos returns, and all the dead arise.
Jehovah comes, array'd in all his ire,
Thron’d on a flaming car, with wheels of fire;
Th' assembled world at his tribunal wait,
While his dread arm unseals the book of fate :
The just ascend, in endless bliss to dwell.
While sinks the sinner to the glooms of hell!
Or let your jarring passions all subside,
Let life's rich streams in calmest current glide,
While charming Watts to heav'ns bright scene aspires,
And strives to mingle with celestial choirs;
Rapt with devotion. hear him mount on high,
And imitate the music of the sky;
Hymn, in extatic strains. th' eternal name,
(Creating pow'r. redeeming love. his theme )
Whilst list'ning seraphs hover o'er the song.
Surpris'd to hear it from a mortal tongue .
Or let attention all your pow'rs engage.
While with deep rev'rence you unfold the page
By mighty Milton writ, or hear his song .
How roll the bold. stupendous notes along!
While from the sacred page he draws his theme.
And sings the wondrous birth of nature's frame;
Tells how the world began. and how man fell,
Deceiv'd by treach'rous snares of envious hell;
Their glory quench’d. their peace and freedom fled.
Their Eden lost, and all their offspring dead;
Till heav'n. propitious. calls the wand'rers home.
And bids them hope à Saviour soon to come!
Now. led by him. ascend the fields of light.
And view the seraphim engaged in fight;
Hear Michael's solemn clarion. from afar.
Sound the loud signal for the dreadful war.
While countless myriads 'gainst their God rebel,
Contend for heav'ns bigh throne, but sink to hell.
There you behold the foe of God and man.
In whom th ' accursed reign of sin began.
High on his” sun -bright chariot” vaunting loud
To his compeers. and madly in his proud.
Ambitious heart. aspiring to the high
Empire of heaven. or in th ' attempt to die.
While his deluded train th ' apostate trust.
And are from God. and bliss forever curst .
There Michael you behold. in God's high cause.
The faithful legions to the field he draws;
The fight begins, th' ethereal region shakes,
And hell through all her gloomy caverns quakes.
In dreadful combat long the armies try
Their matchless force, to conquer, or to die
Their fixt resolve; but now before the view,
Another scene th ' immortal poet drew.
For lo! th ’ Eternal in the equal Son,
Puts his tremendous train of terrors on;
(Fate in his look, destruction in his frown )
He nods. and Satan with his host are thrown
From hills of light, to deepest depths of woe,
Where seas of wrath in burning torrents glow;
There plung'd in billows of eternal fire,
Where plagues and torments never can expire;
They learn. too late. what madness to offend,
Or with incens’d Omnipotence contend.
Themes such as these, the bard enraptur'd sings,
While harmony attunes the sounding strings;
Themes such as these. have rais'd the poet's name,
And stamp'd his memory with immortal fame.
Or does fair history your mind engage,
Recording each event of ev'ry age ?
Here learn how each succeeding empire rose,
How states have fall’n or kingdoms found their close;
How conquerors in their turn. were forc'd to bend,
How heroes died. or monarchs met their end;
How Providence dispos'd of earthly crowns,
And fate awaited on its smiles or frowns,
See Ninus wide extend the Assyrian sway.*
Or Asia's climes great Babel's chiefs obey;
See Syrus bid Chaldea's glory fall.
And rear, O Solyma, thy sacred wall;
See haughty Xerxes fill the Persian throne,
And Ammon vainly call the world his own.
View next how Rome and rival Carthage fought,
And how proud Cæsar Rome's subjection wrought;
How false Mohammed did his fraud maintain,
While nations own the vile impostor's reign;
How Othman's sons from distant regions came,
And on Byzantium's ruins rais'd their fame;
How Austria sought t'impose fell slavery's yoke,
And how the Swede the new form’d fetters broke;
(On Lutzen's plain the hero yields his breath.
His temples bound with glory's” laureate wreath :”
How haughty Louis would the earth subdue,
And how great Malb'rough all his schemes o'orthrew .
Oft in her mirror has fair History shown,
Each haughty tyrant frowning from his throne;
While prostrate deep, beneath his dreaded seat,
His cringing subjects worship'd at his feet.
Or else she shows him mounted on his car,
Amidst the scenes of desolating war;
His numerous butchers waiting at his side,
In horror drest. and all in slaughter dy'd :
In the stern front are terror, dread, and fear,
And grim destruction marches in the rear :
While ravag'd realms, and wide unpeopled plains,* Scripture history is omitted for obvious reasons:[17]
Repay the ruthless savage for his pains.
Oft too her pencil to the ravish'd view,
The patriot chief, the friend of man will shew;
Some dauntless soul in each succeeding age,
Sent by kind heaven, to stem the tyrant's rage;
Shew how the Spartan, crown'd with glory. fell
A sacrifice to his dear country's weal,
When at Thermopylæ he dar'd t'oppose,
With his brave few the millions of her foes.
Now Socrates, now Cato brings to sight,
Or bids a Titus be mankind's delight;
An Alfred, Hampden, or a Wallace brings,
The greatest patriots and the best of kings;
Shew how a Sydney, or a Russell. bled.
How William tore the wreath from Bourbon's head;
How Churchill and -Eugene, on Blenheim's plains,
From groaning Europe broke the Gallic chains;
How Chatham spoke, (his wond'ring country's pride)
Or gallant Wolfe in victory's moment died;
Or how. great Washington. thy honor'd name,
Gain’d the bright meed of ever spotless fame.
These truths, and thousands more, sage history writes,
These scenes pourtrays, these great events recites;
Bids tyranny with infamy be crown'd.
And virtue be through endless years renown'd.

Sweet Michael's, loveliest of the hills around,
With beauty clad with constant verdure crown'd!
Beneath thy shade, ( with name from thee deriv'd
Sweet Montacute *, through num’rous years has thrivid;
Laid out with beauty open spacious, fair.
Blest with a fruitful soil and healthy air;
Water'd abundant with the purest rills.
And screen'd from tempests by surrounding hills,
While blooming gardens in nice order rise.
And the rich orchard native wine supplies.
See the fair structure for devotion rear'd!
Where sounds the anthem. where the hymn is heard;
Where, when the Sabbath beams its holy ray,
The reverend pastor and his people pray,
And from his lips proceeds the precept pure
That frights from sin or does to heaven allure:
Here, too, the solemn contract oft is made,
That joins the ardent youth and blushing maid,
While full of hope, and with enraptur'd heart,
They form the league which death alone can part.* Montacute. I believe signifies sharp mountain. and seems to take its name from the shape of the hill.[19]
Here, too, when life's short fleeting day is o'er
And the fled soul informs the clay no more;
Here sounds the sentence, solemn - awful- just,
That bids the earth receive its kindred dust,
And shuts the body in th' unconscious tomb,
Till the dread hour of retribution come;
Then the last trump shall pour its piercing sound
Thro’ heaven's wide vault, and rend the trembling ground;
Bid every grave its long-lost dust restore,
To meet the body, and to part no more;
Before God's dread tribunal to appear,
And from his mouth its final sentence hear;
And, as it acted on this mortal stage.
Be blest. or curst. through an immortal age.
See yon fair Mansion, noble, vast, and grand!
Which here the view, with pleasure, can command;
Phelips! thy seat, descended from a line,
Whose names. for wealth. in long succession shine. And here let gratitude her tribute pay,
In a sincere, but far too feeble lay;
For 0! my infant, when I look on thee,
When my sweet Mara's helpless form I see,
How can my verse the kindness overlook.
That on my friendless babe such pity took ?
Unable I a garment to procure,
From pinching cold my darling to secure;
An bonor’d Matron. with preventive care,
Clothi'd her dear form, and oft her hand was near,
My little cherub's wants to satisfy,
And from her cheek pale sorrow's tear to dry.
Accept the strain that here I strive to raise,
' Tis gratitude, not flatt'ry, wakes my lays;
For flatt'ry sure a gen'rous mind disdains,
When the false bard attunes the fulsome strains;
His sounding lyre instructed to impart,
A language foreign to the poet's heart.
Believe the verse, whilst here a wish I breathe!
May ev'ry blessing of the earth beneath,
May every good that mortals e'er can know,
That man can relish, or high heaven bestow,
On you, and all your blooming race descend.
Till life is done, and time's short race shall end :
May health's sweet power still o'er your house preside,
And wealth's rich streams in ample currents glide;
May heav'n-born virtue here her dwelling hold.
And public spirit, in great actions bold.
Descending down through ev'ry distant year,
Fire ev'ry breast of each succeeding heir;
Spotless each act, unsullied ev'ry name,
While nature lasts, or time his sway shall claim;
Successive blessings to their wide domains,
And benefactors to the thankful swains :
And when eternity succeeds to time,
Then may each mount to pleasures all sublime,
And from this transitory scene ascend.
To joys that ne'er can know a pause or end.
Sweet Michael's loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad. with constant verdure crown'd!
Now shall my steps thy lofty tower ascend,
And to the horizon shall my views extend.
Prospect immense! how vast! how wide! how deep!
What an amazing landscape do I sweep!
Whether to east, or west, my eyes I throw.
To north or south. to heaven. or earth below.
Turn to the east, there Stourton meets my eye.
Whose lofty Pillár seems to pierce the Sky;
Fair record of an Alfred's matchless name;
( Immortal hero! heir of deathless fame! )
There the great chief his sacred ensign rear'd.
And for his foes the fatal blow prepar'd
Fear'd by his enemies, by Albion lov'd;
For soon the plundering Danes his prowess prov’d :
In head-long haste the barbarous hordes withdrew.
And to the north in consternation flew .
Greatest of kings! thy name shall ever stand
Confest in endless honor through the land;
Thy country's father by the nation own'd.
And by the muse in deathless glory thron'd .--
Now to the north I turn my wond'ring sight,
And still new scenes my well-pleas'd eye delight;
Here Mendip rises. Glastonbury there,
With its fam’d Tor ascending through the air;
Seat once, of superstition too. where dwelt
In a fam'd structure for devotion built,
The servile slaves of Rome, till learning bright
Pierc'd the deep horrors of the papal night.
And Luther's zeal. and Tudor's furious rage,
Gave to th ' enlight'ned world a better age.
Here too. (if old Tradition says aright)
Dwelt the fam'd Saint who brought the gospel light
To this benighted isle; and fable sings.
"Here Arthur rests. greatest of British kings,"
Whose mighty acts, whose prowess, and whose name,
The muses consecrate to endless fame.--
But Glastonbury long has met decay,
And all her ancient splendour's pass'd away.
Now lift the optic tube, and. almost lost
Amidst the clouds. descry the Cambrian coast;
Fair land! in ev'ry age be thou renown'd,
Freedom in thee a safe asylum found;
' Twas to thy mountains, craggy, steep. and strong,
She led her hardy British tribes along,
When the fierce Saxon rag'd throughout the land,
And rul'd fair Albion with an iron hand.
Sweet Michael's, loveliest of the hills around,
With beauty clad. with constant verdure crown'd!
From thy fair summit, what a charming sight!
What scenes of pleasure! prospects of delight!
While num'rous towns and villages arise,
And ev'ry moment crowd upon my eyes!
Behold where Odcombe's Tower exalts its head.
Contiguous to its yew tree's ample shade;
While on the plain. and in the vale below.
The village does its decent buildings show;
A pleasant spot and not unknown to fame;
It boasts the honor of a Coryat's name! *
Here Yeovil rises, near its lucid stream;
There Ilchester, renown'd in ancient fame;* Thomas Coryat, the noted Traveller.. Sce some Account of him at the end of the volume.[23]
( So history writes ) now gone her former boast,
And all her grandeur sunk, her greatness lost :
Here, pleasant Martock's spacious village lies;
There, Petherton, thy spire affects the skies;
Here Hinton's Park, majestic, large, and fair,
And lofty Henly near to Crewkerne. there.
Now. Dorset's mountains interrupt the view,
Or the keen eye would fetch the ocean too;
Now Sherborne's shady groves arrest the sight;
Now, Kingsdon's tow'r. and Burton's column'd height,
The lasting monument of Chatham's fame;
( For ever dear to Britain be his name! )
Here, Langport, seated 'midst the fatt'ning moors.
With ample Parrett visiting her doors;
There Quantock hills. and bere, Blackdown extends,
And, nearer home, great Hambdon high ascends,
While subject Stoke is seated at his feet,
And, deep behind, is Norton's calm retreat.
And, oft as Norton's pleasant vale I see,
Can I be thoughtless, O! my friend! of Thee ?*
Thou oft my deep distresses didst relieve,
And the pure balm of welcome comfort give;
Thou best of youths, accept this humble verse,
That would thy kindness to a wretch rehearse!
O! ne'er may sorrow reach thy gen'rous heart,
Nor grief. nor pain. inflict their bitter smart;
But, calm thy ev'ning and serene thy day,
Till this short scene of things is past away;
Then peaceful drop into thy kindred dust,* Mr. Robert Chaffey.[24]
And rise. to reign for ever with the just.
Nor while I Petherton, or Martock view.
Or while fond memory would Crewkerne-shew.
Can recollection fail to represent
The happy hours I with my friends have spent;
Or can the grateful muse from thanks refrain.
To those who strove so oft to ease my pain ?
Sparks. Gidley. Crabb, and Herdsman claim the song.
To them the strains of gratitude belong;
Take, generous patrons, take this artless lay,
"Tis all a hapless poet e'er can pay!
To aid the wretch. to hear his thankful breath. -
Is meed more glorious than the victor's wreath;
The deed of friendship earns a stronger claim,
To praise more glorious, and a better fame.
Friendship! sweet name! of all the virtues best,
And dearer far to man, than all the rest;
For lost to feeling sure must be that heart,
Which cannot to the wretched aid impart.
When heav'n affords the means, or else bestow
(The means denied) a tear on sorrow's woe;
And lost to gratitude that wretch must prove,
Who cannot pay the tear of thankful love.
From such a part my verse indignant turns,
For O! to thank my friends my bosom burns :
May no kind heart that ever felt for Me,
E’er know the pangs of grief or misery;
May Heaven protect them still. and still defend,
Blest be their life and happy be their end.
Once more I throw my wond'ring eyes around,
And Hatchcock view thy lofty fir - trees crown'd;
Survey again great Hambdon's craggy hed,
Useful and rich, of stone the ample bed :
Thence the strong mason his subsistence gains,
And costly buildings grace the western plains;
And, though far distant, many a noble dome
Did from the quarries of fam’d Hambdon come.
Here, too in days of old. as history writes,
War fiercely rag'd in various dreadful fights;
Here the wide trench begirts the hill around,
Indented deeply in the rocky mound :
Perhaps the legions of victorious Rome,
Here form’d a camp, and fix'd awhile their home;
Hence their fierce eagles kept the plains in awe,
When Claudius gave to vanquish'd Britain law.
Ah! how revers'd is fortune's changing wheel!
For Rome is fall’n. but Britons flourish still;
Britain triumphant rules the subject waves.
While abject Romans are the worst of slaves.
And here reflection drops the pitying tear,
For how from weeping can the eye forbear ?
To see what ravages Ambition makes,
As through the world her hateful way she takes.
Speak. Albion, speak, thou. to thy cost, canst tell;
The monster's track thou know’st alas! too well;
Oft hast thou viewd her tresses dipt in gore;
Her blood -stain'd chariot oft has shook thy shore;
While thy best sons have fall’n in ev'ry age,
The victims of this reckless fury's rage.
First Cæsar with his furious legions came,
Led by the thirst of conquest and of fame;
Say, then, what streams of blood distain'd thy coast!
What num'rous lives were, through the monster, lost .
Long did thy sons for sacred freedom strive;
Long did they keep the gen'rous flame alive;
At length, superior skill their might o'ercame,
They fell, and lost, of liberty, the name:
Soon Rome decay'd, fled was her mighty boast,
Her grandeur sunk, her dear-earn'd glory lost!
Then Britain might have hop'd again to know
The sweets that would from peace and freedom flow;
But soon the barb'rous Picts and Saxons came,
And plung’d the reeking isle in blood and flame;
Now war with mis'ry all the country fills,
And Britons flee to Cambria's barren hills.
Next came the Dane to plunder and to waste,
And next the Norman and his tyrant race;
What scenes of desolation then were known!
Beneath what horrors, then did Albion groan!
When ruin'd towns and desolated plains,
The houseless village, and the homeless swains,
Of curst Ambition felt the iron hand.
And mourn'd the fate of Freedom's ancient land.
Next come the fierce Plantagenets, and bind
( Fast as they can.) the body and the mind;
Now blood. in ample streams, again must flow.
Nor rest, nor peace, the ravag'd isle shall know;
Till Tyranny is forc'd to bend the knee,
And”Magna Charta" sets the nation free.
Stop here, at length, fell fiend. detested power!
This, this, Ambition, be thy final hour!
Ah, No! new quarrels must again succeed;
Again Britannia at each pore must bleed .
For see fierce Lancaster his claim advance,
And rival York high poize the dreadful lance;
Long years of conflict urge their dreadful way,
And groaning Britain bleeds amidst the fray;
Till Richmond taught, in Bosworth's bloody field.
Th'inhuman Head of Yorks' proud house to yield.
And thus reveng'd a Henry's pious breath.
And Edward's murder'd childrens' cruel death .
Awhile ambition! cease thy trump to blow,
For Britain now another curse must know .
See bloody Rome prepares to play her game,
And bids her votries light the scorching flame;
While bigot Mary fills the blood stain'd throne,
The pious pastors and their people groan;
Her day is short and great Eliza reigns;
Then peace awhile her sacred sway maintains;
Awhile fair Albion finds a short repose;
But see the halcyon æra meets its close.
For haughty Philip, by ambition fir'd,
Again Britannia's ruin soon conspir'd.
See his proud navy o'er the burden'd sea,
To Albion's trembling shores direct its way.
Hoping ere long, her children to enslave,
And sink her fame in dark oblivion's grave;
But heaven forbade, and Drake and Howard sent,
Pride's direful aim and purpose to prevent;
Then soon proud Spain's defeated chiefs return'd,
And in disgrace their lost Armada mourn’d.
And often since has fell ambition strove,
By force or fraud fair freedom to remove;
Oft have the Stuarts, oft the Bourbons tried.
With deep laid schemes, and mighty strength allied;
But heaven has still this favour'd isle upheld,
Still power omnipotent has been its shield;
And William's arm. or Churchill's sword has shone,
Or Brunswick's house has fill'd the British throne.
Illustrious house, to freedom's children dear,
Ne’er may it want to Albion's crown an heir;
While earth her orb around the sun shall roll,
Or Cynthia's beams illume the glowing pole;
While stars shall shoot their radiance through the sky,
Or till old time, worn out with age shall die!
And still may George, with ev'ry blessing blest,
Long reign. as now. in ev'ry subject's breast :
May Heaven, with its Almighty power, defend
A patriot king, of all mankind the friend;
Serene and happy be his closing day,
And blest the isle beneath his prosp'rous sway;
Till late he lays terrestrial glories down,
Then be his portion an immortal crown!
And while heaven's favors on the monarch wait,
May its kind providence protect the state :
Though other lands consent to be enslav'd.
From the dire yoke let Albion still be sav'd .
May Liberty her ancient seat maintain.
Aud peace and plenty through the nation reign;
May heaven-born virtue at its helm preside,
And wisdom's dictates all its counsels guide;
While king and people bless its equal laws,
And all unite in freedom's sacred cause.
Then vain may Gaul, with boundless pride elate.
Attempt the ruin of Britannia's state;
Her boldest, mightiest efforts here must fail,
While heaven in Albion's favor turns the scale.
And see! the fire of generous ardour runs,
From breast to breast through all her free-born-sons :
Shall Britons bow to France ? the general cry;
No, Britons free shall live, or fighting die.
Shall they, whose fleets triumphant role the waves,
E'er stoop to be Ambition's servile slaves ?
Confess a haughty rival's tyrant-sway,
And throw their rights and liberties away ?
The thought be scorn'd! arise at freedom's call,
And bid each tyrant's ill-got empire fall.
What though proud Gallia wide her rule extend,
Though subject Europe to her pow'r shall bend;
Though Austria's vanquish'd eagles from her fly;
Though Othman's faded glory courts her eye;
Though Belgia's lion fawn beneath her feet,
And Spanish pride cringe at her dreaded seat;
Though fam’d Helvetia's hardy bands should yield
To Gaul's superior force. the foughten field.
And Rome's soft sons ( forgot their former fame)
Of liberty. resign the very name;
Tho' all the world to France should bend the knee,
By heaven protected, Britain shall be free.
But see! the sun is sinking fast away,
And bears to western climes the falling day;
Lo! sable night resumes her wonted throne,
Begirt around with her resplendent zone.
Silence attends, and hushes every breath,
And all is still as though 'twere nature's death;
Save where the zephyrs flit on balmy wing,
And to the sense their fragrant treasures bring;
Or music wakes sweet Philomela's song.
And bids it thrill the darkling sbades among;
The waiting echoes, hovering around.
Repeat the lonely minstrel's matchless sound;
And care reclin'd on ev'ning's downy breast,
Is by the melting solo charm'd to rest.
Now let me view the swift revolving spheres,
The lucid moon, the planets, and the stars!
See in each twinkling point a blazing sun,
While num'rous worlds around their centre run,
By never ceasing energy impell'd.
And always in their proper orbits held;
While ev'ry star and planet as they shine,
Proclaims aloud”our Maker is Divine.”
Sweet Michael's loveliest of the hills around.
With beauty clad with constant verdure crown'd!
These are thy beauties, these rich prospects thine;
These charms and thousands more, in Thee combine;
But my low strain and rough unpolish'd verse,
Can never hope them fully to rehearse;
Some better bard from Montacute be found,
The beauties of their native spot to sound,
And give of sweet Saint Michael's hill the name,
To the loud trump of everlasting fame!P. 22-” A pleasant spot, and not unknown to fame; It boasts the honor of a Coryat's name!" 
THOMAS CORYAT was the son of the Rev. Geo. Coryat, rector of Odcombe, and was born there in 1577. He received part of his education at Winchester school, and became a Commoner of Gloucester Hall in Oxford. in 1596, where he continued three years, and became well acquainted with the Greek and Latin languages. He then probably returned home, as we find him at Odcombe, in 1606. in which year his father died and was buried in the Chancel. In consequence of his Father's death, he appears to have left Odcombe for the Metropolis, where he was received into the family of Henry, Prince of Wales, who allowed him a Pension, and kept him as a servant. This circumstance introduced him to the Wits of those times, who, by way of diverting themselves. frequently exposed him to ridicule . It is not known by whose means he came to be noticed by Prince Henry, but as his name does not occur in the List of that Prince's Household, it is presumed he was retained only for the purpose of creating mirth. ”Sweet Meats and Coryat” (says Fuller)” made up the last course of all entertainments. ”Indeed” (as this Writer quaintly expresses it) ”he was the Courtiers' Anvil to try their wits upon, and sometimes this Anvil returned the hammers as hard knocks as he received, his bluntness repaying their abuse”.[Footnote to Mileshill about Thomas Coryat reproduced as it appears in Thomas Shoel's 1821 publication 'Poems, on various subjects'; a 1776 version of Coryat's 1611 'Coryat's Crudities' can be read online]

Work in Progress: Ref Powys Somerset Essays p133; grave at Five Ashes? Also ref. Powys letters to Tavender ( where did Thomas Shoel live? Was it in a cottage behind the houses on the west side of the Borough? Check 1821 census records - Montacute and Tintinhull survive, in Somerset Record Office Location: SomRO D\PC\mont/6/9 Source: Chapman Pop: 973 Type: H  listed in Census schedules and listings, 1801- 1831: an introduction and guide (Wall et al 2004)  see also: Colin R. Chapman, Pre‐1841 censuses and population listings (Dursley: Lochin Publishing, 5th ed., 1998)

Next you might like to read about highwayman Richard Forster who came to a horrible end near Batemore Barn, or you may prefer the uplifting tale of George Mitchell 'Man from the Plough', or check out Montacute snippets for my notes on different topics.

If you scroll to the bottom of the homepage you will find the gallery containing some pictures of the village.