1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Anonymous, "Lines addressed to Sir Walter Scott, an acknowledged supporter of The Beacon, and a supposed Co-Editor of Blackwood's Magazine" Morning Chronicle (22 November 1821).



If, when the God who sways the silver bow
Dwelt among men, nor scorn'd the paths below,
The bolt grasp'd awful in the eternal hand,
To scatter vengeance on the trembling land,
Spar'd, with attempter'd flame, the sacred bough
Whose graceful leaves adorn the Poet's brow;
And round the Sage's, Warrior's, Statesman's head,
In many a verdant wreath their honours shed;
Oh! let not now the angry lightnings thrown,
In evil hour from Faction's burning throne,
Scathe with unholy fires the laurel crown
That proudly circles Poets of our own!
Let not those names which, on th' historic page,
To future minds shall dignify our age,
And teach full many a spirit yet unborn,
With kindling ardour to our times to turn,
E'en as we now, with thrilling bosoms, gaze
On the proud records of Augustan days,
Or on the maiden QUEEN'S bright galaxy,
And ask, "Have such men liv'd — can such men die?"
Let not those names, whose blameless trace should stand
The mightiest treasure of a mighty land,
Ting'd by calumnious Envy's arts, resign
Their spotless pride and purity divine!
Descend, protecting Muse! descend from Heav'n,
And shield the hallow'd garland thou hast given!
But should we find a spirit dark and mean
Beneath the shelter of that sacred screen,
Slander's envenom'd darts at all below,
Then, then, avenging sparks, pour down your blight,
And drag the struggling culprit into light.

On thee I call, — whose spell of witching pow'r
Lends its wild magic to each fleeting hour;
A new creation opens to our sight,
Chills us with awe — or opens to our sight,
Instructs — o'erpow'rs — enchants — and whiles away,
In dreams of vision'd joy, Life's tedious day!
If thou — rever'd by all, by all carest,
With loudest welcome hail'd by ev'ry breast,
Hast in the hour of social converse sought,
In that unguarded interchange of thought
Which from the confidence of friendship flows,
Food for the filthy appetite of those
Who, like the Pontic Monarch, feed alone
On mortal poisons; — if, in whispering tone
Of deadliest candour, thou hast dealt around,
Hid under cloak and mask, thy bravo wound,
"If thou hast done a deed like this," to thee
Its odium cleaves with deeper infamy!
Come forth — strip off thy magic panoply,
And shine confest before each scornful eye
A very slave, whose prostituted pen
Aims at the liberties and lives of men.
But can it be? Canst thou, whose spirit scorns
"All seasons and their change," whose mind adorns
Our wond'ring vision, and our wak'ning love;
Canst thou descend to deeds so criminal—
So coldly base? Once more to thee I call,
Disprove the charge — efface the hateful blot
With which suspicion clouds thy glorious lot;
Nor let us deem that Party's vile controul
Could thus subdue thy nobleness of soul;
Or that, for hire, a pen like thine could lend
Its aid, to pierce the bosom of a friend!
Party! thou night-mare of this latter time!
Who shedd'st e'en now thy curses o'er our clime
Sterility upon the barren earth—
Hate and dismay on each domestic hearth,
Coldness between the friends of early years,
And shame and dark mistrust in madd'ning strife
Between the husband and the blameless wife;
And last and worst, disgrace upon the bed
Of the pure matron, slumbering with the dead!
What boon — what precious gift can'st thou bestow,
To expiate thy fiendish acts below?
What hast thou compass'd! — what ennobling end
Dost thou secure, whose iron fingers lend
Their cankering chains in horrid spell to bind
Each nobler impulse of a mighty mind?
Whose inspirations, fraught with malice keen,
Obscuring every sense by petty spleen,
Enlist the pen in base detraction's cause,
Bound to uphold the rigour of our laws?
What noble end? The page of history—
The Patriot's voice — the Christian's pray'r, reply,
None! and a cause by links so base combin'd,
Deserves the scorn it meets with from mankind!

Say, veteran WENTWORTH — CAVENDISH, reply—
Ye, who have oft in gentle colloquy,
Amid St. Anne's or Chiswick's peaceful bow'rs,
Trod with the Patriot of our brighter hours—
Ye, latest lingerers of that glorious band,
Who, 'mid the perils of their native land,
Dar'd with unshrinking souls arraign the will
Whose timid weakness wrought the threaten'd ill—
Say, when with ready zeal they dar'd t' oppose
The machinations of their country's foes,
Was it with tools like these — whose blund'ring hate
O'erpow'rs the decent calmness of debate—
Was it by base assassins, won by hire,
To point the weapons of malignant ire?
To probe the wound of each domestic grief,
That in the veil of silence seeks relief?
To sow mistrust, and jealous doubts unkind,
Between the wedded hearts "which GOD has joined?"
Was it with weekly dole of thund'rous lies,
Whose page the loathing of the land defies?
Was it with tale obscene, and venom'd word?
No! Justice shuns the poignard for the sword!
In open day, and open warfare strives,
Nor points an ambush'd weapon 'gainst our lives!
Or if — for thus the foes who thou hast made,
By Party's ensigns o'er thy head display'd,
Deplete thee, SCOTT! all worshipp'd as thou art—
If avaricious cares could move thy heart,
To forfeit thy renown, in faction's cause,
Yet in thy dark career of falsehood, pause!
If, when the midnight storm unpitying shed
Its torrents on the houseless poet's head
(SAVAGE, whose heart was crush'd by penury);
If, when the morsel won from charity,
By famish'd OTWAY, in his hour of pain,
Destroy'd the life it promis'd to sustain;
If GOLDSMITH, pennyless, and JOHNSON, poor,
Wand'ring, with tedious toil, from door to door,
They in their abject poverty retain'd
The virtuous pride of Genius still unstain'd—
If honest MARVELL in his garret strove,
In ragged worth, the bribes of Kings above—
Nor stoop'd for lucre to defile a mind
Whose lustre shone, a beacon to mankind—
Oh! let not one, whom fortune's lavish hand
Hath placed among the magnates of the land,
And with her bounteous gifts so richly stor'd,
With niggard bosom, 'mid his golden hoard
And garners brimming o'er, forget the pride
That suits a soul to Heav'n itself allied;
And for the love of gold — that abject lust,
That haunts the meaner pilgrims of the dust,
Renounce the high self-consciousness of one,
Whom the Muse honours as her fav'rite son!

No! if the slaves of BLACKWOOD still must deal
Those wounds around, which only death can heal;
If future SCOTTS must fall their bleeding prey;
If future BARDS must flee, like KEATES, away
To gentler climes, which only offer rest
In the cold shelter of their silent breast,
Unto the wounded spirit's agony,
Writhing, until the sufferer cease to be!
If broken hearts in silent grief must fade
Beneath the influence by their hate convey'd;
If, e'en above the exile's lonely grave
Dug by their hands, their lingering rage must rave;
If each revolving Sabbath still must bring
"The fiend's arch mock," the jest with reptile sting,
To those who haunt "thine own romantic town"—
Oh! mingle not such pages with thine own.
Scorn them, like ev'ry other honest heart,
And dare to seem the Patriot which thou art.