Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Vol. 3
Part 4 out of 7
Witness En-gedi's conscious cave,
And Shimei's blunted dart.
9 Clean--if perpetual prayer be pure,
And love, which could itself inure
To fasting and to fear--
Clean in his gestures, hands, and feet,
To smite the lyre, the dance complete,
To play the sword and spear.
10 Sublime--invention ever young,
Of vast conception, towering tongue,
To God the eternal theme;
Notes from yon exaltations caught,
Unrivalled royalty of thought,
O'er meaner strains supreme.
11 Contemplative--on God to fix
His musings, and above the six
The Sabbath-day he blessed;
'Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,
To bless and bear the rest.
12 Serene--to sow the seeds of peace,
Remembering when he watched the fleece,
How sweetly Kidron purled--
To further knowledge, silence vice,
And plant perpetual paradise,
When God had calmed the world.
13 Strong--in the Lord, who could defy
Satan, and all his powers that lie
In sempiternal night;
And hell, and horror, and despair
Were as the lion and the bear
To his undaunted might.
14 Constant--in love to God, the Truth,
Age, manhood, infancy, and youth;
To Jonathan his friend
Constant, beyond the verge of death;
And Ziba, and Mephibosheth,
His endless fame attend.
15 Pleasant--and various as the year;
Man, soul, and angel without peer,
Priest, champion, sage, and boy;
In armour or in ephod clad,
His pomp, his piety was glad;
Majestic was his joy.
16 Wise--in recovery from his fall,
Whence rose his eminence o'er all,
Of all the most reviled;
The light of Israel in his ways,
Wise are his precepts, prayer, and praise,
And counsel to his child.
17 His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
The Abishag of his age.
18 He sang of God--the mighty source
Of all things--the stupendous force
On which all strength depends;
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power, and enterprise
Commences, reigns, and ends.
19 Angels--their ministry and meed,
Which to and fro with blessings speed,
Or with their citterns wait;
Where Michael, with his millions, bows,
Where dwells the seraph and his spouse,
The cherub and her mate.
20 Of man--the semblance and effect
Of God and love--the saint elect
For infinite applause--
To rule the land, and briny broad,
To be laborious in his laud,
And heroes in his cause.
21 The world--the clustering spheres he made,
The glorious light, the soothing shade,
Dale, champaign, grove, and hill;
The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,
And wisdom hides her skill.
22 Trees, plants, and flowers--of virtuous root;
Gem yielding blossom, yielding fruit,
Choice gums and precious balm;
Bless ye the nosegay in the vale,
And with the sweetness of the gale
Enrich the thankful psalm.
23 Of fowl--even every beak and wing
Which cheer the winter, hail the spring,
That live in peace, or prey;
They that make music, or that mock,
The quail, the brave domestic cock,
The raven, swan, and jay.
24 Of fishes--every size and shape,
Which nature frames of light escape,
Devouring man to shun:
The shells are in the wealthy deep,
The shoals upon the surface leap,
And love the glancing sun.
25 Of beasts--the beaver plods his task;
While the sleek tigers roll and bask,
Nor yet the shades arouse;
Her cave the mining coney scoops;
Where o'er the mead the mountain stoops,
The kids exult and browse.
26 Of gems--their virtue and their price,
Which, hid in earth from man's device,
Their darts of lustre sheath;
The jasper of the master's stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,
Among the mines beneath.
27 Blest was the tenderness he felt,
When to his graceful harp he knelt,
And did for audience call;
When Satan with his hand he quelled,
And in serene suspense he held
The frantic throes of Saul.
28 His furious foes no more maligned
As he such melody divined,
And sense and soul detained;
Now striking strong, now soothing soft,
He sent the godly sounds aloft,
Or in delight refrained.
29 When up to heaven his thoughts he piled,
From fervent lips fair Michal smiled,
As blush to blush she stood;
And chose herself the queen, and gave
Her utmost from her heart--'so brave,
And plays his hymns so good.'
30 The pillars of the Lord are seven,
Which stand from earth to topmost heaven;
His wisdom drew the plan;
His Word accomplished the design,
From brightest gem to deepest mine,
From Christ enthroned to man.
31 Alpha, the cause of causes, first
In station, fountain, whence the burst
Of light and blaze of day;
Whence bold attempt, and brave advance,
Have motion, life, and ordinance,
And heaven itself its stay.
32 Gamma supports the glorious arch
On which angelic legions march,
And is with sapphires paved;
Thence the fleet clouds are sent adrift,
And thence the painted folds that lift
The crimson veil, are waved.
33 Eta with living sculpture breathes,
With verdant carvings, flowery wreathes
Of never-wasting bloom;
In strong relief his goodly base
All instruments of labour grace,
The trowel, spade, and loom.
34 Next Theta stands to the supreme--
Who formed in number, sign, and scheme,
The illustrious lights that are;
And one addressed his saffron robe,
And one, clad in a silver globe,
Held rule with every star.
35 Iota's tuned to choral hymns
Of those that fly, while he that swims
In thankful safety lurks;
And foot, and chapiter, and niche,
The various histories enrich
Of God's recorded works.
36 Sigma presents the social droves
With him that solitary roves,
And man of all the chief;
Fair on whose face, and stately frame,
Did God impress his hallowed name,
For ocular belief.
37 Omega! greatest and the best,
Stands sacred to the day of rest,
For gratitude and thought;
Which blessed the world upon his pole,
And gave the universe his goal,
And closed the infernal draught.
38 O David, scholar of the Lord!
Such is thy science, whence reward,
And infinite degree;
O strength, O sweetness, lasting ripe!
God's harp thy symbol, and thy type
The lion and the bee!
39 There is but One who ne'er rebelled,
But One by passion unimpelled,
By pleasures unenticed;
He from himself his semblance sent,
Grand object of his own content,
And saw the God in Christ.
40 Tell them, I Am, Jehovah said
To Moses; while earth heard in dread,
And, smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All nature, without voice or sound,
Replied, O Lord, Thou Art.
41 Thou art--to give and to confirm,
For each his talent and his term;
All flesh thy bounties share:
Thou shalt not call thy brother fool;
The porches of the Christian school
Are meekness, peace, and prayer.
42 Open and naked of offence,
Man's made of mercy, soul, and sense:
God armed the snail and wilk;
Be good to him that pulls thy plough;
Due food and care, due rest allow
For her that yields thee milk.
43 Rise up before the hoary head,
And God's benign commandment dread,
Which says thou shalt not die:
'Not as I will, but as thou wilt,'
Prayed He, whose conscience knew no guilt;
With whose blessed pattern vie.
44 Use all thy passions!--love is thine,
And joy and jealousy divine;
Thine hope's eternal fort,
And care thy leisure to disturb,
With fear concupiscence to curb,
And rapture to transport.
45 Act simply, as occasion asks;
Put mellow wine in seasoned casks;
Till not with ass and bull:
Remember thy baptismal bond;
Keep from commixtures foul and fond,
Nor work thy flax with wool.
46 Distribute; pay the Lord his tithe,
And make the widow's heart-strings blithe;
Resort with those that weep:
As you from all and each expect,
For all and each thy love direct,
And render as you reap.
47 The slander and its bearer spurn,
And propagating praise sojourn
To make thy welcome last;
Turn from old Adam to the New:
By hope futurity pursue:
Look upwards to the past.
48 Control thine eye, salute success,
Honour the wiser, happier bless,
And for thy neighbour feel;
Grutch not of mammon and his leaven,
Work emulation up to heaven
By knowledge and by zeal.
49 O David, highest in the list
Of worthies, on God's ways insist,
The genuine word repeat!
Vain are the documents of men,
And vain the flourish of the pen
That keeps the fool's conceit.
50 Praise above all--for praise prevails;
Heap up the measure, load the scales,
And good to goodness add:
The generous soul her Saviour aids,
But peevish obloquy degrades;
The Lord is great and glad.
51 For Adoration all the ranks
Of angels yield eternal thanks,
And David in the midst;
With God's good poor, which, last and least
In man's esteem, thou to thy feast,
O blessed bridegroom, bidst.
52 For Adoration seasons change,
And order, truth, and beauty range,
Adjust, attract, and fill:
The grass the polyanthus checks;
And polished porphyry reflects,
By the descending rill.
53 Rich almonds colour to the prime
For Adoration; tendrils climb,
And fruit-trees pledge their gems;
And Ivis, with her gorgeous vest,
Builds for her eggs her cunning nest,
And bell-flowers bow their stems.
54 With vinous syrup cedars spout;
From rocks pure honey gushing out,
For Adoration springs:
All scenes of painting crowd the map
Of nature; to the mermaid's pap
The scaled infant clings.
55 The spotted ounce and playsome cubs
Run rustling 'mongst the flowering shrubs,
And lizards feed the moss;
For Adoration beasts embark,
While waves upholding halcyon's ark
No longer roar and toss.
56 While Israel sits beneath his fig,
With coral root and amber sprig
The weaned adventurer sports;
Where to the palm the jasmine cleaves,
For Adoration 'mong the leaves
The gale his peace reports.
57 Increasing days their reign exalt,
Nor in the pink and mottled vault
The opposing spirits tilt;
And by the coasting reader spied,
The silverlings and crusions glide
For Adoration gilt.
58 For Adoration ripening canes,
And cocoa's purest milk detains
The western pilgrim's staff;
Where rain in clasping boughs enclosed,
And vines with oranges disposed,
Embower the social laugh.
59 Now labour his reward receives,
For Adoration counts his sheaves
To peace, her bounteous prince;
The nect'rine his strong tint imbibes,
And apples of ten thousand tribes,
And quick peculiar quince.
60 The wealthy crops of whitening rice
'Mongst thyine woods and groves of spice,
For Adoration grow;
And, marshalled in the fenced land,
The peaches and pomegranates stand,
Where wild carnations blow.
61 The laurels with the winter strive;
The crocus burnishes alive
Upon the snow-clad earth:
For Adoration myrtles stay
To keep the garden from dismay,
And bless the sight from dearth.
62 The pheasant shows his pompous neck;
And ermine, jealous of a speck,
With fear eludes offence:
The sable, with his glossy pride,
For Adoration is descried,
Where frosts the waves condense.
63 The cheerful holly, pensive yew,
And holy thorn, their trim renew;
The squirrel hoards his nuts:
All creatures batten o'er their stores,
And careful nature all her doors
For Adoration shuts.
64 For Adoration, David's Psalms
Lift up the heart to deeds of alms;
And he, who kneels and chants,
Prevails his passions to control,
Finds meat and medicine to the soul,
Which for translation pants.
65 For Adoration, beyond match,
The scholar bullfinch aims to catch
The soft flute's ivory touch;
And, careless, on the hazel spray
The daring redbreast keeps at bay
The damsel's greedy clutch.
66 For Adoration, in the skies,
The Lord's philosopher espies
The dog, the ram, and rose;
The planets' ring, Orion's sword;
Nor is his greatness less adored
In the vile worm that glows.
67 For Adoration, on the strings
The western breezes work their wings,
The captive ear to soothe--
Hark! 'tis a voice--how still, and small--
That makes the cataracts to fall,
Or bids the sea be smooth!
68 For Adoration, incense comes
From bezoar, and Arabian gums,
And from the civet's fur:
But as for prayer, or e'er it faints,
Far better is the breath of saints
Than galbanum or myrrh.
69 For Adoration, from the down
Of damsons to the anana's crown,
God sends to tempt the taste;
And while the luscious zest invites
The sense, that in the scene delights,
Commands desire be chaste.
70 For Adoration, all the paths
Of grace are open, all the baths
Of purity refresh;
And all the rays of glory beam
To deck the man of God's esteem,
Who triumphs o'er the flesh.
71 For Adoration, in the dome
Of Christ, the sparrows find a home;
And on his olives perch:
The swallow also dwells with thee,
O man of God's humility,
Within his Saviour's church.
72 Sweet is the dew that falls betimes,
And drops upon the leafy limes;
Sweet Hermon's fragrant air:
Sweet is the lily's silver bell,
And sweet the wakeful tapers' smell
That watch for early prayer.
73 Sweet the young nurse, with love intense,
Which smiles o'er sleeping innocence;
Sweet when the lost arrive:
Sweet the musician's ardour beats,
While his vague mind's in quest of sweets,
The choicest flowers to hive.
74 Sweeter, in all the strains of love,
The language of thy turtle-dove,
Paired to thy swelling chord;
Sweeter, with every grace endued,
The glory of thy gratitude,
Respired unto the Lord.
75 Strong is the horse upon his speed;
Strong in pursuit the rapid glede,
Which makes at once his game:
Strong the tall ostrich on the ground;
Strong through the turbulent profound
Shoots xiphias to his aim.
76 Strong is the lion--like a coal
His eyeball--like a bastion's mole
His chest against the foes:
Strong the gier-eagle on his sail,
Strong against tide the enormous whale
Emerges as he goes.
77 But stronger still in earth and air,
And in the sea the man of prayer,
And far beneath the tide:
And in the seat to faith assigned,
Where ask is have, where seek is find,
Where knock is open wide.
78 Beauteous the fleet before the gale;
Beauteous the multitudes in mail,
Ranked arms, and crested heads;
Beauteous the garden's umbrage mild.
Walk, water, meditated wild,
And all the bloomy beds.
79 Beauteous the moon full on the lawn;
And beauteous when the veil's withdrawn,
The virgin to her spouse:
Beauteous the temple, decked and filled,
When to the heaven of heavens they build
Their heart-directed vows.
80 Beauteous, yea beauteous more than these,
The Shepherd King upon his knees,
For his momentous trust;
With wish of infinite conceit,
For man, beast, mute, the small and great,
And prostrate dust to dust.
81 Precious the bounteous widow's mite;
And precious, for extreme delight,
The largess from the churl:
Precious the ruby's blushing blaze,
And alba's blest imperial rays,
And pure cerulean pearl.
82 Precious the penitential tear;
And precious is the sigh sincere;
Acceptable to God:
And precious are the winning flowers,
In gladsome Israel's feast of bowers,
Bound on the hallowed sod.
83 More precious that diviner part
Of David, even the Lord's own heart,
Great, beautiful, and new:
In all things where it was intent,
In all extremes, in each event,
Proof--answering true to true.
84 Glorious the sun in mid career;
Glorious the assembled fires appear;
Glorious the comet's train:
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;
Glorious the Almighty's stretched-out arm;
Glorious the enraptured main:
85 Glorious the northern lights astream;
Glorious the song, when God's the theme;
Glorious the thunder's roar:
Glorious hosannah from the den;
Glorious the catholic amen;
Glorious the martyr's gore:
86 Glorious--more glorious is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down,
By meekness called thy Son;
Thou that stupendous truth believed,
And now the matchless deed's achieved,
Determined, Dared, and Done.
The history of this 'marvellous boy' is familiar to all the readers of
English poetry, and requires only a cursory treatment here. Thomas
Chatterton was born in Bristol, November 20, 1752. His father, a teacher
in the free-school there, had died before his birth, and he was sent to
be educated at a charity-school. He first learned to read from a black-
letter Bible. At the age of fourteen, he was put apprentice to an
attorney; a situation which, however uncongenial, left him ample leisure
for pursuing his private studies. In an unlucky hour, some evil genius
seemed to have whispered to this extra-ordinary youth,--'Do not find or
force, but forge thy way to renown; the other paths to the summit of the
hill are worn and common-place; try a new and dangerous course, the
rather as I forewarn thee that thy time is short.' When, accordingly,
the new bridge at Bristol was finished in October 1768, Chatterton sent
to a newspaper a fictitious account of the opening of the old bridge,
alleging in a note that he had found the principal part of the
description in an ancient MS. And having thus fairly begun to work the
mint of forgery, it was amazing what a number of false coins he threw
off, and with what perfect ease and mastery! Ancient poems, pretending
to have been written four hundred and fifty years before; fragments of
sermons on the Holy Spirit, dated from the fifteenth century; accounts
of all the churches of Bristol as they had appeared three hundred years
before; with drawings and descriptions of the castle--most of them
professing to be drawn from the writings of 'ane gode prieste, Thomas
Rowley'--issued in thick succession from this wonderful, and, to use
the Shakspearean word in a twofold sense, 'forgetive' brain. He next
ventured to send to Horace Walpole, who was employed on a History of
British Painters, an account of eminent 'Carvellers and Peyneters,' who,
according to him, once flourished in Bristol. These labours he plied in
secret, and with the utmost enthusiasm. He used to write by the light of
the moon, deeming that there was a special inspiration in the rays of
that planet, and reminding one of poor Nat Lee inditing his insane
tragedies in his asylum under the same weird lustre. On Sabbaths he was
wont to stroll away into the country around Bristol, which is very
beautiful, and to draw sketches of those objects which impressed his
imagination. He often lay down on the meadows near St Mary's Redcliffe
Church, admiring the ancient edifice; and some years ago we saw a
chamber near the summit of that edifice where he used to sit and write,
his 'eye in a fine frenzy rolling,' and where we could imagine him, when
a moonless night fell, composing his wild Runic lays by the light of a
candle burning in a human skull. It was actually in one of the rooms of
this church that some ancient chests had been deposited, including one
called the 'Coffre of Mr Canynge,' an eminent merchant in Bristol, who
had rebuilt the church in the reign of Edward IV. This coffer had been
broken up by public authority in 1727, and some valuable deeds had been
taken out. Besides these, they contained various MSS., some of which
Chatterton's father, whose uncle was sexton of the church, had carried
off and used as covers to the copy-books of his scholars. This furnished
a hint to Chatterton's inventive genius. He gave out that among these
parchments he had found many productions of Mr Canynge's, and of the
aforesaid Thomas Rowley's, a priest of the fifteenth century, and a
friend of Canynge's. Chatterton had become a contributor to a periodical
of the day called _The Town and Country Magazine_, and to it from time
to time he sent these poems. A keen controversy arose as to their
genuineness. Horace Walpole shewed some of them, which Chatterton had
sent him, to Gray and Mason, who were deemed, justly, first-rate
authorities on antiquarian matters, and who at once pronounced them
forgeries. It is deeply to be regretted that these men, perceiving, as
they must have done, the great merit of these productions, had not made
more particular inquiries about them, and tried to help and save the
poet. Walpole, to say the least of it, treated him coldly, telling him,
when he had discovered the forgery, to attend to his own business, and
keeping some of his MSS. in his hands, till an indignant letter from the
author compelled him to restore them.
Chatterton now determined to go to London. His three years' apprenticeship
had expired, and there was in Bristol no further field for his aspiring
genius. He found instant employment among the booksellers, and procured
an introduction to Beckford, the patriot mayor, who tried to get him
engaged upon the Opposition side in politics. Our capricious and
unprincipled poet, however, declared that he was a poor author that could
not write on both sides; and although his leanings were to the popular
party, yet on the death of Beckford he addressed a letter to Lord North
in support of his administration. He had projected some large works, such
as a History of England and a History of London, and wrote flaming
letters to his mother and sisters about his prospects, enclosing them at
the same time small remittances of money. But his bright hopes were soon
overcast. Instead of a prominent political character, he found himself a
mere bookseller's hack. To this his poverty no more than his will would
consent, for though that was great it was equalled by his pride. His life
in the country had been regular, although his religious principles were
loose; but in town, misery drove him to intemperance, and intemperance,
in its reaction, to remorse and a desperate tampering with the thought,
'There is one remedy for all.'
At last, after a vain attempt to obtain an appointment as a surgeon's
mate to Africa, he made up his mind to suicide. A guinea had been sent
him by a gentleman, which he declined. Mrs Angel, his landlady, knowing
him to be in want, the day before his death offered him his dinner, but
this also he spurned; and, on the 25th of August 1770, having first
destroyed all his papers, he swallowed arsenic, and was found dead in
He was buried in a shell in the burial-place of Shoe-Lane Workhouse.
He was aged seventeen years nine months and a few days. Alas for
'The sleepless soul that perished in his pride!'
Chatterton, had he lived, would, perhaps, have become a powerful poet,
or a powerful character of some kind. But we must now view him chiefly
as a prodigy. Some have treated his power as unnatural--resembling a
huge hydrocephalic head, the magnitude of which implies disease,
ultimate weakness, and early death. Others maintain that, apart from the
extraordinary elements that undoubtedly characterised Chatterton, and
constituted him a premature and prodigious birth intellectually, there
was also in parts of his poems evidence of a healthy vigour which only
needed favourable circumstances to develop into transcendent excellence.
Hazlitt, holding with the one of these opinions, cries, 'If Chatterton
had had a great work to do by living, he would have lived!' Others
retort on the critic, 'On the same principle, why did Keats, whom you
rate so high, perish so early?' The question altogether is nugatory,
seeing it can never be settled. Suffice it that these songs and rhymes
of Chatterton have great beauties, apart from the age and position of
their author. There may at times be madness, but there is method in it.
The flight of the rhapsody is ever upheld by the strength of the wing,
and while the reading discovered is enormous for a boy, the depth of
feeling exhibited is equally extraordinary; and the clear, firm judgment
which did not characterise his conduct, forms the root and the trunk of
much of his poetry. It was said of his eyes that it seemed as if fire
rolled under them; and it rolls still, and shall ever roll, below many
of his verses.
1 The feathered songster, chanticleer,
Hath wound his bugle-horn,
And told the early villager
The coming of the morn.
2 King Edward saw the ruddy streaks
Of light eclipse the gray,
And heard the raven's croaking throat
Proclaim the fated day.
3 'Thou'rt right,' quoth he, 'for by the God
That sits enthroned on high!
Charles Bawdin and his fellows twain
To-day shall surely die.'
4 Then with a jug of nappy ale
His knights did on him wait;
'Go tell the traitor that to-day
He leaves this mortal state.'
5 Sir Canterlone then bended low,
With heart brimful of woe;
He journeyed to the castle-gate,
And to Sir Charles did go.
6 But when he came, his children twain,
And eke his loving wife,
With briny tears did wet the floor,
For good Sir Charles' life.
7 'O good Sir Charles!' said Canterlone,
'Bad tidings I do bring.'
'Speak boldly, man,' said brave Sir Charles;
'What says the traitor king?'
8 'I grieve to tell; before that sun
Doth from the heaven fly,
He hath upon his honour sworn,
That thou shalt surely die.'
9 'We all must die,' quoth brave Sir Charles;
'Of that I'm not afeard;
What boots to live a little space?
Thank Jesus, I'm prepared:
10 'But tell thy king, for mine he's not,
I'd sooner die to-day
Than live his slave, as many are,
Though I should live for aye.'
11 Then Canterlone he did go out,
To tell the mayor straight
To get all things in readiness
For good Sir Charles' fate.
12 Then Master Canynge sought the king,
And fell down on his knee;
'I'm come,' quoth he, 'unto your Grace
To move your clemency.'
13 'Then,' quoth the king, 'your tale speak out;
You have been much our friend;
Whatever your request may be,
We will to it attend.'
14 'My noble liege! all my request
Is for a noble knight,
Who, though perhaps he has done wrong,
He thought it still was right:
15 'He has a spouse and children twain--
All ruined are for aye,
If that you are resolved to let
Charles Bawdin die to-day.'
16 'Speak not of such a traitor vile,'
The king in fury said;
'Before the evening star doth shine,
Bawdin shall lose his head:
17 'Justice does loudly for him call,
And he shall have his meed;
Speak, Master Canynge! what thing else
At present do you need?'
18 'My noble liege!' good Canynge said,
'Leave justice to our God,
And lay the iron rule aside;--
Be thine the olive rod.
19 'Was God to search our hearts and reins,
The best were sinners great;
Christ's vicar only knows no sin,
In all this mortal state.
20 'Let mercy rule thine infant reign;
'Twill fix thy crown full sure;
From race to race thy family
All sovereigns shall endure:
21 'But if with blood and slaughter thou
Begin thy infant reign,
Thy crown upon thy children's brow
Will never long remain.'
22 'Canynge, away! this traitor vile
Has scorned my power and me;
How canst thou then for such a man
Entreat my clemency?'
23 'My noble liege! the truly brave
Will valorous actions prize;
Respect a brave and noble mind,
Although in enemies.'
24 'Canynge, away! By God in heaven,
That did me being give,
I will not taste a bit of bread
While this Sir Charles doth live.
25 'By Mary, and all saints in heaven,
This sun shall be his last.'--
Then Canynge dropped a briny tear,
And from the presence passed.
26 With heart brimful of gnawing grief,
He to Sir Charles did go,
And sat him down upon a stool,
And tears began to flow.
27 'We all must die,' quoth brave Sir Charles;
'What boots it how or when?
Death is the sure, the certain fate
Of all us mortal men.
28 'Say why, my friend, thy honest soul
Runs over at thine eye?
Is it for my most welcome doom
That thou dost child-like cry?'
29 Quoth godly Canynge, 'I do weep,
That thou so soon must die,
And leave thy sons and helpless wife;
'Tis this that wets mine eye.'
30 'Then dry the tears that out thine eye
From godly fountains spring;
Death I despise, and all the power
Of Edward, traitor king.
31 'When through the tyrant's welcome means
I shall resign my life,
The God I serve will soon provide
For both my sons and wife.
32 'Before I saw the lightsome sun,
This was appointed me;--
Shall mortal man repine or grudge
What God ordains to be?
33 'How oft in battle have I stood,
When thousands died around;
When smoking streams of crimson blood
Imbrued the fattened ground?
34 'How did I know that every dart,
That cut the airy way,
Might not find passage to my heart,
And close mine eyes for aye?
35 'And shall I now from fear of death
Look wan and be dismayed?
No! from my heart fly childish fear,
Be all the man displayed.
36 'Ah, godlike Henry! God forefend
And guard thee and thy son,
If 'tis his will; but if 'tis not,
Why, then his will be done.
37 'My honest friend, my fault has been
To serve God and my prince;
And that I no timeserver am,
My death will soon convince.
38 'In London city was I born,
Of parents of great note;
My father did a noble arms
Emblazon on his coat:
39 'I make no doubt that he is gone
'Where soon I hope to go;
Where we for ever shall be blest,
From out the reach of woe.
40 'He taught me justice and the laws
With pity to unite;
And likewise taught me how to know
The wrong cause from the right:
41 'He taught me with a prudent hand
To feed the hungry poor;
Nor let my servants drive away
The hungry from my door:
42 'And none can say but all my life
I have his counsel kept,
And summed the actions of each day
Each night before I slept.
43 'I have a spouse; go ask of her
If I denied her bed;
I have a king, and none can lay
Black treason on my head.
44 'In Lent, and on the holy eve,
From flesh I did refrain;
Why should I then appear dismayed
To leave this world of pain?
45 'No, hapless Henry! I rejoice
I shall not see thy death;
Most willingly in thy just cause
Do I resign my breath.
46 'O fickle people, ruined land!
Thou wilt know peace no moe;
While Richard's sons exalt themselves,
Thy brooks with blood will flow.
47 'Say, were ye tired of godly peace,
And godly Henry's reign,
That you did change your easy days
For those of blood and pain?
48 'What though I on a sledge be drawn,
And mangled by a hind?
I do defy the traitor's power,--
He cannot harm my mind!
49 'What though uphoisted on a pole,
My limbs shall rot in air,
And no rich monument of brass
Charles Bawdin's name shall bear?
50 'Yet in the holy book above,
Which time can't eat away,
There, with the servants of the Lord,
My name shall live for aye.
51 'Then welcome death! for life eterne
I leave this mortal life:
Farewell, vain world! and all that's dear,
My sons and loving wife!
52 'Now death as welcome to me comes
As e'er the month of May;
Nor would I even wish to live,
With my dear wife to stay.'
53 Quoth Canynge, ''Tis a goodly thing
To be prepared to die;
And from this world of pain and grief
To God in heaven to fly.'
54 And now the bell began to toll,
And clarions to sound;
Sir Charles he heard the horses' feet
A-prancing on the ground:
55 And just before the officers
His loving wife came in,
Weeping unfeigned tears of woe,
With loud and dismal din.
56 'Sweet Florence! now, I pray, forbear;
In quiet let me die;
Pray God that every Christian soul
May look on death as I.
57 'Sweet Florence! why those briny tears?
They wash my soul away,
And almost make me wish for life,
With thee, sweet dame, to stay.
58 ''Tis but a journey I shall go
Unto the land of bliss;
Now, as a proof of husband's love,
Receive this holy kiss.'
59 Then Florence, faltering in her say,
Trembling these words she spoke,--
'Ah, cruel Edward! bloody king!
My heart is well-nigh broke.
60 'Ah, sweet Sir Charles! why wilt thou go
Without thy loving wife?
The cruel axe that cuts thy neck
Shall also end my life.'
61 And now the officers came in
To bring Sir Charles away,
Who turned to his loving wife,
And thus to her did say:
62 'I go to life, and not to death;
Trust thou in God above,
And teach thy sons to fear the Lord,
And in their hearts him love:
63 'Teach them to run the noble race
That I their father run;
Florence! should death thee take--adieu!--
Ye officers, lead on.'
64 Then Florence raved as any mad,
And did her tresses tear;--
'Oh, stay, my husband, lord, and life!'--
Sir Charles then dropped a tear;--
65 Till tired out with raving loud,
She fell upon the floor:
Sir Charles exerted all his might,
And marched from out the door.
66 Upon a sledge he mounted then,
With looks full brave and sweet;
Looks that did show no more concern
Than any in the street.
67 Before him went the council-men,
In scarlet robes and gold,
And tassels spangling in the sun,
Much glorious to behold:
68 The friars of St Augustine next
Appeared to the sight,
All clad in homely russet weeds
Of godly monkish plight:
69 In different parts a godly psalm
Most sweetly they did chaunt;
Behind their backs six minstrels came,
Who tuned the strong bataunt.
70 Then five-and-twenty archers came;
Each one the bow did bend,
From rescue of King Henry's friends
Sir Charles for to defend.
71 Bold as a lion came Sir Charles,
Drawn on a cloth-laid sled
By two black steeds, in trappings white,
With plumes upon their head.
72 Behind him five-and-twenty more
Of archers strong and stout,
With bended bow each one in hand,
Marched in goodly rout:
73 Saint James's friars marched next,
Each one his part did chaunt;
Behind their backs six minstrels came
Who tuned the strong bataunt:
74 Then came the mayor and aldermen,
In cloth of scarlet decked;
And their attending men, each one
Like eastern princes tricked:
75 And after them a multitude
Of citizens did throng;
The windows were all full of heads,
As he did pass along.
76 And when he came to the high cross,
Sir Charles did turn and say,--
'O Thou that savest man from sin,
Wash my soul clean this day!'
77 At the great minster window sat
The king in mickle state,
To see Charles Bawdin go along
To his most welcome fate.
78 Soon as the sledge drew nigh enough
That Edward he might hear,
The brave Sir Charles he did stand up,
And thus his words declare:
79 'Thou seest me, Edward! traitor vile!
Exposed to infamy;
But be assured, disloyal man!
I'm greater now than thee.
80 'By foul proceedings, murder, blood,
Thou wearest now a crown;
And hast appointed me to die,
By power not thine own.
81 'Thou thinkest I shall die to-day;
I have been dead till now,
And soon shall live to wear a crown
For ever on my brow:
82 'Whilst thou, perhaps, for some few years
Shall rule this fickle land,
To let them know how wide the rule
'Twixt king and tyrant hand:
83 'Thy power unjust, thou traitor slave!
Shall fall on thy own head'----
From out of hearing of the king
Departed then the sled.
84 King Edward's soul rushed to his face,
He turned his head away,
And to his brother Gloucester
He thus did speak and say:
85 'To him that so much dreaded death
No ghastly terrors bring,
Behold the man! he spake the truth,
He's greater than a king!'
86 'So let him die!' Duke Richard said;
'And may each of our foes
Bend down their necks to bloody axe,
And feed the carrion crows!'
87 And now the horses gently drew
Sir Charles up the high hill;
The axe did glisten in the sun,
His precious blood to spill.
88 Sir Charles did up the scaffold go,
As up a gilded car
Of victory, by valorous chiefs,
Gained in the bloody war:
89 And to the people he did say,--
'Behold, you see me die,
For serving loyally my king,
My king most rightfully.
90 'As long as Edward rules this land,
No quiet you will know;
Your sons and husbands shall be slain,
And brooks with blood shall flow.
91 'You leave your good and lawful king
When in adversity;
Like me unto the true cause stick,
And for the true cause die.'
92 Then he with priests, upon his knees,
A prayer to God did make,
Beseeching him unto himself
His parting soul to take.
93 Then, kneeling down, he laid his head
Most seemly on the block;
Which from his body fair at once
The able headsman stroke:
94 And out the blood began to flow,
And round the scaffold twine;
And tears, enough to wash't away,
Did flow from each man's eyne.
95 The bloody axe his body fair
Into four quarters cut;
And every part, likewise his head,
Upon a pole was put.
96 One part did rot on Kinwulph-hill,
One on the minster-tower,
And one from off the castle-gate
The crowen did devour:
97 The other on Saint Paul's good gate,
A dreary spectacle;
His head was placed on the high cross,
In high street most nobile.
98 Thus was the end of Bawdin's fate;--
God prosper long our king,
And grant he may, with Bawdin's soul,
In heaven God's mercy sing!
1 O! sing unto my roundelay,
O! drop the briny tear with me;
Dance no more at holy-day,
Like a running river be:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
2 Black his cryne as the winter night,
White his rode as the summer snow,
Red his face as the morning light,
Cold he lies in the grave below:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
3 Sweet his tongue as the throstle's note,
Quick in dance as thought can be,
Deft his tabour, cudgel stout;
O! he lies by the willow-tree:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
4 Hark! the raven flaps his wing,
In the briared dell below;
Hark! the death-owl loud doth sing
To the night-mares as they go:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
5 See! the white moon shines on high;
Whiter is my true love's shroud,
Whiter than the morning sky,
Whiter than the evening cloud:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
6 Here upon my true love's grave,
Shall the barren flowers be laid,
Not one holy saint to save
All the celness of a maid:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
7 With my hands I'll dent the briars
Round his holy corse to gree;
Ouphant fairy, light your fires--
Here my body still shall be:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
8 Come, with acorn-cup and thorn,
Drain my heartė's-blood away;
Life and all its goods I scorn,
Dance by night, or feast by day:
My love is dead,
Gone to his death-bed,
All under the willow-tree.
9 Water-witches, crowned with reytes,
Bear me to your lethal tide.
'I die! I come! my true love waits!'
Thus the damsel spake, and died.
 'Cryne:' hair.
 'Rode:' complexion.
 'Dent:' fix.
 'Gree:' grow.
 'Ouphant:' elfish.
 'Reytes:' water-flags.
THE STORY OF WILLIAM CANYNGE.
1 Anent a brooklet as I lay reclined,
Listening to hear the water glide along,
Minding how thorough the green meads it twined,
Whilst the caves responsed its muttering song,
At distant rising Avon to he sped,
Amenged with rising hills did show its head;
2 Engarlanded with crowns of osier-weeds
And wraytes of alders of a bercie scent,
And sticking out with cloud-agested reeds,
The hoary Avon showed dire semblament,
Whilst blatant Severn, from Sabrina cleped,
Boars flemie o'er the sandės that she heaped.
3 These eyne-gears swithin bringeth to my thought
Of hardy champions knowen to the flood,
How on the banks thereof brave Aelle fought,
Aelle descended from Merce kingly blood,
Warder of Bristol town and castle stede,
Who ever and anon made Danes to bleed.
4 Methought such doughty men must have a sprite
Dight in the armour brace that Michael bore,
When he with Satan, king of Hell, did fight,
And earth was drenched in a sea of gore;
Or, soon as they did see the worldė's light,
Fate had wrote down, 'This man is born to fight.'
5 Aelle, I said, or else my mind did say,
Why is thy actions left so spare in story?
Were I to dispone, there should liven aye,
In earth and heaven's rolls thy tale of glory;
Thy acts so doughty should for aye abide,
And by their test all after acts be tried.
6 Next holy Wareburghus filled my mind,
As fair a saint as any town can boast,
Or be the earth with light or mirk ywrynde,
I see his image walking through the coast:
Fitz-Hardynge, Bithrickus, and twenty moe,
In vision 'fore my fantasy did go.
7 Thus all my wandering faitour thinking strayed,
And each digne builder dequaced on my mind,
When from the distant stream arose a maid,
Whose gentle tresses moved not to the wind;
Like to the silver moon in frosty night,
The damoiselle did come so blithe and sweet.
8 No broidered mantle of a scarlet hue,
No shoe-pikes plaited o'er with riband gear,
No costly robes of woaden blue,
Nought of a dress, but beauty did she wear;
Naked she was, and looked sweet of youth,
All did bewrayen that her name was Truth.
9 The easy ringlets of her nut-brown hair
What ne a man should see did sweetly hide,
Which on her milk-white bodykin so fair
Did show like brown streams fouling the white tide,
Or veins of brown hue in a marble cuarr,
Which by the traveller is kenned from far.
10 Astounded mickle there I silent lay,
Still scauncing wondrous at the walking sight;
My senses forgard, nor could run away,
But was not forstraught when she did alight
Anigh to me, dressed up in naked view,
Which might in some lascivious thoughts abrew.
11 But I did not once think of wanton thought;
For well I minded what by vow I hete,
And in my pocket had a crochee brought;
Which in the blossom would such sins anete;
I looked with eyes as pure as angels do,
And did the every thought of foul eschew.
12 With sweet semblatė, and an angel's grace,
She 'gan to lecture from her gentle breast;
For Truth's own wordės is her mindė's face,
False oratories she did aye detest:
Sweetness was in each word she did ywreene,
Though she strove not to make that sweetness seen.
13 She said, 'My manner of appearing here
My name and slighted myndruch may thee tell;
I'm Truth, that did descend from heaven-were,
Goulers and courtiers do not know me well;
Thy inmost thoughts, thy labouring brain I saw,
And from thy gentle dream will thee adawe.
14 Full many champions, and men of lore,
Painters and carvellers have gained good name,
But there's a Canynge to increase the store,
A Canynge who shall buy up all their fame.
Take thou my power, and see in child and man
What true nobility in Canynge ran.'
15 As when a bordelier on easy bed,
Tired with the labours maynt of sultry day,
In sleepė's bosom lays his weary head,
So, senses sunk to rest, my body lay;
Eftsoons my sprite, from earthly bands untied,
Emerged in flanched air with Truth aside.
16 Straight was I carried back to times of yore,
Whilst Canynge swathed yet in fleshly bed,
And saw all actions which had been before,
And all the scroll of fate unravelled;
And when the fate-marked babe had come to sight,
I saw him eager gasping after light.
17 In all his shepen gambols and child's play,
In every merry-making, fair, or wake,
I knew a purple light of wisdom's ray;
He eat down learning with a wastle cake.
As wise as any of the aldermen,
He'd wit enough to make a mayor at ten.
18 As the dulce downy barbe began to gre,
So was the well thighte texture of his lore
Each day enheedynge mockler for to be,
Great in his counsel for the days he bore.
All tongues, all carols did unto him sing,
Wond'ring at one so wise, and yet so ying.
19 Increasing in the years of mortal life,
And hasting to his journey unto heaven,
He thought it proper for to choose a wife,
And use the sexes for the purpose given.
He then was youth of comely semelikede,
And he had made a maiden's heart to bleed.
20 He had a father (Jesus rest his soul!)
Who loved money, as his cherished joy;
He had a brother (happy man be's dole!)
In mind and body his own father's boy:
What then could Canynge wishen as a part
To give to her who had made exchange of heart?
21 But lands and castle tenures, gold and bighes,
And hoards of silver rusted in the ent,
Canynge and his fair sweet did that despise,
To change of truly love was their content;
They lived together in a house adigne,
Of good sendaument commily and fine.
22 But soon his brother and his sire did die,
And left to William states and renting-rolls,
And at his will his brother John supply.
He gave a chauntry to redeem their souls;
And put his brother into such a trade,
That he Lord Mayor of London town was made.
23 Eftsoons his morning turned to gloomy night;
His dame, his second self, gave up her breath,
Seeking for eterne life and endless light,
And slew good Canynge; sad mistake of Death!
So have I seen a flower in summer-time
Trod down and broke and wither in its prime.
24 Near Redcliff Church (oh, work of hand of Heaven!
Where Canynge showeth as an instrument)
Was to my bismarde eyesight newly given;
'Tis past to blazon it to good content.
You that would fain the festive building see
Repair to Redcliff, and contented be.
25 I saw the myndbruch of his notte soul
When Edward menaced a second wife;
I saw what Pheryons in his mind did roll:
Now fixed from second dames, a priest for life,
This is the man of men, the vision spoke;
Then bell for even-song my senses woke.
 'Amenged:' mixed.
 'Wraytes:' flags.
 'Swithin:' quickly.
 'Ywrynde:' covered.
 'Faitour:' vagrant.
 'Digne:' worthy.
 'Cuarr:' quarry.
 'Forgard:' lose.
 'Forstraught:' distracted.
 'A crochee:' a cross.
 'Adawe:' awake.
 'Carvellers:' sculptors.
 'A bordelier:' a cottager.
 'Maynt:' many.
 'Dulce:' sweet.
 'Mockler:' more.
 'Ying:' young.
 'Bighes:' jewels.
 'Ent:' bag.
 'Adigne:' worthy.
TRANSLATED FROM THE SAXON.
When winter yelled through the leafless grove; when the black waves
rode over the roaring winds, and the dark-brown clouds hid the face of
the sun; when the silver brook stood still, and snow environed the top
of the lofty mountain; when the flowers appeared not in the blasted
fields, and the boughs of the leafless trees bent with the loads of
ice; when the howling of the wolf affrighted the darkly glimmering
light of the western sky; Kenrick, terrible as the tempest, young as
the snake of the valley, strong as the mountain of the slain; his
armour shining like the stars in the dark night, when the moon is
veiled in sable, and the blasting winds howl over the wide plain; his
shield like the black rock, prepared himself for war.
Ceolwolf of the high mountain, who viewed the first rays of the
morning star, swift as the flying deer, strong as the young oak,
fierce as an evening wolf, drew his sword; glittering like the blue
vapours in the valley of Horso; terrible as the red lightning,
bursting from the dark-brown clouds; his swift bark rode over the
foaming waves, like the wind in the tempest; the arches fell at his
blow, and he wrapped the towers in flames: he followed Kenrick, like
a wolf roaming for prey.
Centwin of the vale arose, he seized the massy spear; terrible was his
voice, great was his strength; he hurled the rocks into the sea, and
broke the strong oaks of the forest. Slow in the race as the minutes
of impatience. His spear, like the fury of a thunderbolt, swept down
whole armies; his enemies melted before him, like the stones of hail
at the approach of the sun.
Awake, O Eldulph! thou that sleepest on the white mountain, with the
fairest of women. No more pursue the dark-brown wolf: arise from the
mossy bank of the falling waters; let thy garments be stained in
blood, and the streams of life discolour thy girdle; let thy flowing
hair be hid in a helmet, and thy beauteous countenance be writhed into
Egward, keeper of the barks, arise like the roaring waves of the sea:
pursue the black companies of the enemy.
Ye Saxons, who live in the air and glide over the stars, act like
Like the murmuring voice of the Severn, swelled with rain, the Saxons
moved along; like a blazing star the sword of Kenrick shone among the
Britons; Tenyan bled at his feet; like the red lightning of heaven he
burnt up the ranks of his enemy.
Centwin raged like a wild boar. Tatward sported in blood; armies
melted at his stroke. Eldulph was a flaming vapour; destruction sat
upon his sword. Ceolwolf was drenched in gore, but fell like a rock
before the sword of Mervin.
Egward pursued the slayer of his friend; the blood of Mervin smoked on
Like the rage of a tempest was the noise of the battle; like the
roaring of the torrent, gushing from the brow of the lofty mountain.
The Britons fled, like a black cloud dropping hail, flying before the
Ye virgins! arise and welcome back the pursuers; deck their brows with
chaplets of jewels; spread the branches of the oak beneath their feet.
Kenrick is returned from the war, the clotted gore hangs terrible upon
his crooked sword, like the noxious vapours on the black rock; his
knees are red with the gore of the foe.
Ye sons of the song, sound the instruments of music; ye virgins, dance
Costan of the lake, arise, take thy harp from the willow, sing the
praise of Kenrick, to the sweet sound of the white waves sinking to
the foundation of the black rock.
Rejoice, O ye Saxons! Kenrick is victorious.
FEBRUARY, AN ELEGY.
1 Begin, my muse, the imitative lay,
Aeonian doxies, sound the thrumming string;
Attempt no number of the plaintive Gray;
Let me like midnight cats, or Collins, sing.
2 If in the trammels of the doleful line,
The bounding hail or drilling rain descend;
Come, brooding Melancholy, power divine,
And every unformed mass of words amend.
3 Now the rough Goat withdraws his curling horns,
And the cold Waterer twirls his circling mop:
Swift sudden anguish darts through altering corns,
And the spruce mercer trembles in his shop.
4 Now infant authors, maddening for renown,
Extend the plume, and hum about the stage,
Procure a benefit, amuse the town,
And proudly glitter in a title-page.
5 Now, wrapped in ninefold fur, his squeamish Grace
Defies the fury of the howling storm;
And whilst the tempest whistles round his face,
Exults to find his mantled carcase warm.
6 Now rumbling coaches furious drive along,
Full of the majesty of city dames,
Whose jewels, sparkling in the gaudy throng,
Raise strange emotions and invidious flames.
7 Now Merit, happy in the calm of place,
To mortals as a Highlander appears,
And conscious of the excellence of lace,
With spreading frogs and gleaming spangles glares:
8 Whilst Envy, on a tripod seated nigh,
In form a shoe-boy, daubs the valued fruit,
And darting lightnings from his vengeful eye,
Raves about Wilkes, and politics, and Bute.
9 Now Barry, taller than a grenadier,
Dwindles into a stripling of eighteen;
Or sabled in Othello breaks the ear,
Exerts his voice, and totters to the scene.
10 Now Foote, a looking-glass for all mankind,
Applies his wax to personal defects;
But leaves untouched the image of the mind;--
His art no mental quality reflects.
11 Now Drury's potent king extorts applause,
And pit, box, gallery, echo, 'How divine!'
Whilst, versed in all the drama's mystic laws,
His graceful action saves the wooden line.
12 Now--but what further can the muses sing?
Now dropping particles of water fall;
Now vapours riding on the north wind's wing,
With transitory darkness shadows all.
13 Alas! how joyless the descriptive theme,
When sorrow on the writer's quiet preys;
And like a mouse in Cheshire cheese supreme,
Devours the substance of the lessening bays.
14 Come, February, lend thy darkest sky,
There teach the wintered muse with clouds to soar:
Come, February, lift the number high;
Let the sharp strain like wind through alleys roar.
15 Ye channels, wandering through the spacious street,
In hollow murmurs roll the dirt along,
With inundations wet the sabled feet,
Whilst gouts, responsive, join the elegiac song.
16 Ye damsels fair, whose silver voices shrill
Sound through meandering folds of Echo's horn;
Let the sweet cry of liberty be still,
No more let smoking cakes awake the morn.
17 O Winter! put away thy snowy pride;
O Spring! neglect the cowslip and the bell;
O Summer! throw thy pears and plums aside;
O Autumn! bid the grape with poison swell.
18 The pensioned muse of Johnson is no more!
Drowned in a butt of wine his genius lies.
Earth! Ocean! Heaven! the wondrous loss deplore,
The dregs of nature with her glory dies.
19 What iron Stoic can suppress the tear!
What sour reviewer read with vacant eye!
What bard but decks his literary bier!--
Alas! I cannot sing--I howl--I cry!
Dr Johnson said once of Chesterfield, 'I thought him a lord among wits,
but I find him to be only a wit among lords.' And so we may say of Lord
Lyttelton, 'He is a poet among lords, if not a lord among poets.' He was
the son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, of Hagley in Worcestershire, and was
born in 1709. He went to Eton and Oxford, where he distinguished himself.
Having gone the usual grand tour, he entered Parliament, and became an
opponent of Sir Robert Walpole. He was made secretary to the Prince of
Wales, and was in this capacity useful to Mallett and Thomson. In 1741,
he married Lucy Fortescue, of Devonshire, who died five years afterwards.
Lyttelton grieved sincerely for her, and wrote his affecting 'Monody' on
the subject. When his party triumphed, he was created a Lord of the
Treasury, and afterwards Chancellor of the Exchequer, with a peerage. He
employed much of his leisure in literary composition, writing a good
little book on the Conversion of St Paul, a laboured History of Henry II.,
and some verses, including the stanza in the 'Castle of Indolence'
'A bard there dwelt, more fat than bard beseems,' &c.--
and a very spirited prologue to Thomson's 'Coriolanus,' which was written
after that author's death, and says of him,
--'His chaste muse employed her heaven-taught lyre
None but the noblest passions to inspire:
Not one immoral, one corrupted thought,
_One line which, dying he could wish to blot_.'
Lyttelton himself died August 22, 1773, aged sixty-four. His History is
now little read. It took him, it is said, thirty years to write it, and
he employed another man to point it--a fact recalling what is told of
Macaulay, that he sent the first volume of his 'History of England' to
Lord Jeffrey, who overlooked the punctuation and criticised the style.
Of a series of Dialogues issued by this writer, Dr Johnson remarked,
with his usual pointed severity, 'Here is a man telling the world what
the world had all his life been telling him.' His 'Monody' expresses
real grief in an artificial style, but has some stanzas as natural in
the expression as they are pathetic in the feeling.
FROM THE 'MONODY.'
At length escaped from every human eye,
From every duty, every care,
That in my mournful thoughts might claim a share,
Or force my tears their flowing stream to dry;
Beneath the gloom of this embowering shade,
This lone retreat, for tender sorrow made,
I now may give my burdened heart relief,
And pour forth all my stores of grief;
Of grief surpassing every other woe,
Far as the purest bliss, the happiest love
Can on the ennobled mind bestow,
Exceeds the vulgar joys that move
Our gross desires, inelegant and low.
* * * * *
In vain I look around
O'er all the well-known ground,
My Lucy's wonted footsteps to descry;
Where oft we used to walk,
Where oft in tender talk
We saw the summer sun go down the sky;
Nor by yon fountain's side,
Nor where its waters glide
Along the valley, can she now be found:
In all the wide-stretched prospect's ample bound
No more my mournful eye
Can aught of her espy,
But the sad sacred earth where her dear relics lie.
* * * * *
Sweet babes, who, like the little playful fawns,
Were wont to trip along these verdant lawns
By your delighted mother's side:
Who now your infant steps shall guide?
Ah! where is now the hand whose tender care
To every virtue would have formed your youth,
And strewed with flowers the thorny ways of truth?
O loss beyond repair!
O wretched father! left alone,
To weep their dire misfortune and thy own:
How shall thy weakened mind, oppressed with woe,
And drooping o'er thy Lucy's grave,
Perform the duties that you doubly owe!
Now she, alas! is gone,
From folly and from vice their helpless age to save?
* * * * *
O best of wives! O dearer far to me
Than when thy virgin charms
Were yielded to my arms:
How can my soul endure the loss of thee?
How in the world, to me a desert grown,
Abandoned and alone,
Without my sweet companion can I live?
Without thy lovely smile,
The dear reward of every virtuous toil,
What pleasures now can palled ambition give?
Even the delightful sense of well-earned praise,
Unshared by thee, no more my lifeless thoughts could raise.
For my distracted mind
What succour can I find?
On whom for consolation shall I call?
Support me, every friend;
Your kind assistance lend,
To bear the weight of this oppressive woe.
Alas! each friend of mine,
My dear departed love, so much was thine,
That none has any comfort to bestow.
My books, the best relief
In every other grief,
Are now with your idea saddened all:
Each favourite author we together read
My tortured memory wounds, and speaks of Lucy dead.
We were the happiest pair of human kind;
The rolling year its varying course performed,
And back returned again;
Another and another smiling came,
And saw our happiness unchanged remain:
Still in her golden chain
Harmonious concord did our wishes bind:
Our studies, pleasures, taste, the same.
O fatal, fatal stroke,
That all this pleasing fabric love had raised
Of rare felicity,
On which even wanton vice with envy gazed,
And every scheme of bliss our hearts had formed,
With soothing hope, for many a future day,
In one sad moment broke!--
Yet, O my soul, thy rising murmurs stay;
Nor dare the all-wise Disposer to arraign,
Or against his supreme decree
With impious grief complain;
That all thy full-blown joys at once should fade,
Was his most righteous will--and be that will obeyed.
We know very little of the history of this pleasing poet. He was born in
1729, the son of a wine-cooper in Dublin. At the age of seventeen he
wrote a farce; entitled 'Love in a Mist,' and shortly after came to
Britain as an actor. He was for a long time a performer in Digges'
company in Edinburgh, and subsequently resided in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Here he seems to have fallen into distressed circumstances, and was
supported by a benevolent printer, at whose house he died in 1773. His
poetry is distinguished by a charming simplicity. This characterises
'Kate of Aberdeen,' given below, and also his 'Content: a Pastoral,' in
which he says allegorically--
'Her air was so modest, her aspect so meek,
So simple yet sweet were her charms!
I kissed the ripe roses that glowed on her cheek,
And locked the dear maid in my arms.
'Now jocund together we tend a few sheep,
And if, by yon prattler, the stream,
Reclined on her bosom, I sink into sleep,
Her image still softens my dream.'
MAY-EVE; OR, KATE OF ABERDEEN.
1 The silver moon's enamoured beam
Steals softly through the night,
To wanton with the winding stream,
And kiss reflected light.
To beds of state go, balmy sleep,
(Tis where you've seldom been,)
May's vigil whilst the shepherds keep
With Kate of Aberdeen.
2 Upon the green the virgins wait,
In rosy chaplets gay,
Till Morn unbar her golden gate,
And give the promised May.
Methinks I hear the maids declare,
The promised May, when seen,
Not half so fragrant, half so fair,
As Kate of Aberdeen.
3 Strike up the tabor's boldest notes,
We'll rouse the nodding grove;
The nested birds shall raise their throats,
And hail the maid I love:
And see--the matin lark mistakes,
He quits the tufted green:
Fond bird! 'tis not the morning breaks,
'Tis Kate of Aberdeen.
4 Now lightsome o'er the level mead,
Where midnight fairies rove,
Like them the jocund dance we'll lead,
Or tune the reed to love:
For see the rosy May draws nigh;
She claims a virgin queen!
And hark, the happy shepherds cry,
'Tis Kate of Aberdeen.
This unfortunate Scottish bard was born in Edinburgh on the 17th (some
say the 5th) of October 1751. His father, who had been an accountant to
the British Linen Company's Bank, died early, leaving a widow and four
children. Robert spent six years at the grammar schools of Edinburgh and
Dundee, went for a short period to Edinburgh College, and then, having
obtained a bursary, to St Andrews, where he continued till his seven-
teenth year. He was at first designed for the ministry of the Scottish
Church. He distinguished himself at college for his mathematical
knowledge, and became a favourite of Dr Wilkie, Professor of Natural
Philosophy, on whose death he wrote an elegy. He early discovered a
passion for poetry, and collected materials for a tragedy on the subject
of Sir William Wallace, which he never finished. He once thought of
studying medicine, but had neither patience nor funds for the needful
preliminary studies. He went away to reside with a rich uncle, named
John Forbes, in the north, near Aberdeen. This person, however, and poor
Fergusson unfortunately quarrelled; and, after residing some months in
his house, he left it in disgust, and with a few shillings in his pocket
proceeded southwards. He travelled on foot, and such was the effect of
his vexation and fatigue, that when he reached his mother's house he fell
into a severe fit of illness.
He became, on his recovery, a copying-clerk in a solicitor's, and
afterwards in a sheriff-clerk's office, and began to contribute to
_Ruddiman's Weekly Magazine_. We remember in boyhood reading some odd
volumes of this production, the general matter in which was inconceivably
poor, relieved only by Fergusson's racy little Scottish poems. His
evenings were spent chiefly in the tavern, amidst the gay and dissipated
youth of the metropolis, to whom he was the 'wit, songster, and mimic.'
That his convivial powers were extraordinary, is proved by the fact of
one of his contemporaries, who survived to be a correspondent of Burns,
doubting if even he equalled the fascination of Fergusson's converse.
Dissipation gradually stole in upon him, in spite of resolutions dictated
by remorse. In 1773, he collected his poems into a volume, which was
warmly received, but brought him, it is believed, little pecuniary
benefit. At last, under the pressure of poverty, toil, and intemperance,
his reason gave way, and he was by a stratagem removed to an asylum.
Here, when he found himself and became aware of his situation, he uttered
a dismal shriek, and cast a wild and startled look around his cell. The
history of his confinement was very similar to that of Nat Lee and
Christopher Smart. For instance, a story is told of him which is an exact
duplicate of one recorded of Lee. He was writing by the light of the
moon, when a thin cloud crossed its disk. 'Jupiter, snuff the moon,'
roared the impatient poet. The cloud thickened, and entirely darkened the
light. 'Thou stupid god,' he exclaimed, 'thou hast snuffed it out.' By
and by he became calmer, and had some affecting interviews with his
mother and sister. A removal to his mother's house was even contemplated,
but his constitution was exhausted, and on the 16th of October 1774, poor
Fergusson breathed his last. It is interesting to know that the New
Testament was his favourite companion in his cell. A little after his
death arrived a letter from an old friend, a Mr Burnet, who had made a
fortune in the East Indies, wishing him to come out to India, and
enclosing a remittance of £100 to defray the expenses of the journey.
Thus in his twenty-fourth year perished Robert Fergusson. He was buried
in the Canongate churchyard, where Burns afterwards erected a monument to
his memory, with an inscription which is familiar to most of our readers.
Burns in one of his poems attributes to Fergusson 'glorious pairts.' He
was certainly a youth of remarkable powers, although 'pairts' rather
than high genius seems to express his calibre, he can hardly be said to
sing, and he never soars. His best poems, such as 'The Farmer's Ingle,'
are just lively daguerreotypes of the life he saw around him--there is
nothing ideal or lofty in any of them. His 'ingle-bleeze' burns low
compared to that which in 'The Cottar's Saturday Night' springs up aloft
to heaven, like the tongue of an altar-fire. He stuffs his poems, too,
with Scotch to a degree which renders them too rich for even, a Scotch-
man's taste, and as repulsive as a haggis to that of an Englishman. On
the whole, Fergusson's best claim to fame arises from the influence he
exerted on the far higher genius of Burns, who seems, strangely enough,
to have preferred him to Allan Ramsay.
THE FARMER'S INGLE.
Et multo imprimis hilarans couvivia Baccho,
Ante locum, si frigus erit.--VIRG.
1 Whan gloamin gray out owre the welkin keeks;
Whan Batio ca's his owsen to the byre;
Whan Thrasher John, sair dung, his barn-door steeks,
An' lusty lasses at the dightin' tire;
What bangs fu' leal the e'enin's coming cauld,
An' gars snaw-tappit Winter freeze in vain;
Gars dowie mortals look baith blithe an' bauld,
Nor fley'd wi' a' the poortith o' the plain;
Begin, my Muse! and chant in hamely strain.
2 Frae the big stack, weel winnow't on the hill,
Wi' divots theekit frae the weet an' drift,
Sods, peats, and heathery turfs the chimley fill,
An' gar their thickening smeek salute the lift.
The gudeman, new come hame, is blithe to find,
Whan he out owre the hallan flings his een,
That ilka turn is handled to his mind;
That a' his housie looks sae cosh an' clean;
For cleanly house lo'es he, though e'er sae mean.
3 Weel kens the gudewife, that the pleughs require
A heartsome meltith, an' refreshin' synd
O' nappy liquor, owre a bleezin' fire:
Sair wark an' poortith downa weel be joined.
Wi' butter'd bannocks now the girdle reeks;
I' the far nook the bowie briskly reams;
The readied kailstands by the chimley cheeks,
An' haud the riggin' het wi' welcome streams,
Whilk than the daintiest kitchennicer seems.
4 Frae this, lat gentler gabs a lesson lear:
Wad they to labouring lend an eidenthand,
They'd rax fell strang upo' the simplest fare,
Nor find their stamacks ever at a stand.
Fu' hale an' healthy wad they pass the day;
At night, in calmest slumbers dose fu' sound;
Nor doctor need their weary life to spae,
Nor drogs their noddle and their sense confound,
Till death slip sleely on, an' gie the hindmost wound.
5 On siccan food has mony a doughty deed
By Caledonia's ancestors been done;
By this did mony a wight fu' weirlike bleed
In brulziesfrae the dawn to set o' sun.
'Twas this that braced their gardies stiff an' strang;
That bent the deadly yew in ancient days;
Laid Denmark's daring sons on yird alang;
Garr'd Scottish thristles bang the Roman bays;
For near our crest their heads they dought na raise.
6 The couthy cracks begin whan supper's owre;
The cheering bicker gars them glibly gash
O' Simmer's showery blinks, an Winter's sour,
Whase floods did erst their mailins' produce hash.
'Bout kirk an' market eke their tales gae on;
How Jock woo'd Jenny here to be his bride;
An' there, how Marion, for a bastard son,
Upo' the cutty-stool was forced to ride;
The waefu' scauld o' our Mess John to bide.
7 The fient a cheep's amang the bairnies now;
For a' their anger's wi' their hunger gane:
Aye maun the childer, wi' a fastin' mou,
Grumble an' greet, an' mak an unco maen.
In rangles round, before the ingle's low,
Frae gudame's mouth auld-warld tales they hear,
O' warlocks loupin round the wirrikow:
O' ghaists, that wine in glen an kirkyard drear,
Whilk touzles a' their tap, an' gars them shake wi' fear!
8 For weel she trows that fiends an' fairies be
Sent frae the deil to fleetch us to our ill;
That kye hae tint their milk wi' evil ee;
An' corn been scowder'd on the glowin' kiln.
O mock nae this, my friends! but rather mourn,
Ye in life's brawest spring wi' reason clear;
Wi' eild our idle fancies a' return,
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