1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Nathan Drake, in Essays Illustrative of the Rambler (1809-10) 2:477-79.



MELANCHOLY HOURS. These essays, twelve in number, are the composition of Henry Kirke White; a young man of extraordinary talents, and of extraordinary virtues; and whose premature death, at the age of twenty-one, must be considered both by the literary and the moral world, by the disciples of genius and of piety, as a heavy and irreparable loss. His Life and Remains, lately published by Mr. Southey, form one of the most affecting and interesting productions which has, for many years, been given to the public. They present us with a picture the most lovely and engaging; where virtue pure and firm, devotion warm and sincere, are united with feelings exquisitely keen, and with poetic talent of the highest order: while to the whole an impression the most pathetic is imparted; as we perceive all these steadily existing under the pressure of perpetual bodily suffering.

The following address to, and personification of, the disease under which he died, cannot be read without the most poignant regret and admiration.

TO CONSUMPTION.
Gently, most gently, on thy victim's head,
Consumption, lay thine hand! — Let me decay,
Like the expiring lamp, unseen, away,
And softly go to slumber with the dead.
And if 'tis true what holy men have said,
That strains angelic oft foretell the day
Of death, to those good men who fall thy prey,
O let the aerial music round my bed,
Dissolving sad in dying symphony,
Whisper the solemn warning in mine ear;
That I may bid my weeping friends good bye,
Ere I depart upon my journey drear:
And smiling faintly on the painful past,
Compose my decent head, and breathe my last.

The Melancholy Hours of this lamented youth were, I believe, first published in the Monthly Mirror during the year 1805. They exhibit much feeling, taste, and judgment, and are written with correctness and purity of style.