1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Waller

William Henry Ireland, "Edmund Waller" Neglected Genius (1812) 29-30 &n.



Not to distress alone does genius owe
The poignant arrow of corrosive woe;
Its bosom pierc'd by that envenom'd dart,
That dooms to hopeless love the bleeding heart:
Mark where dejected Waller pensive sighs,
And quaffs his care from Sacharissa's eyes;
Repulsive nymph, who laughs his vows to scorn,
And leaves the lover and the bard forlorn.
Slow 'neath the shade of yonder spreading trees,
Whose verdant foliage trembles in the breeze,
Through whose expanded arms the moaning wind
In pity seems to sooth the poet's mind,—
Behold he wanders: — now, with tearful gaze,
Pausing impassion'd, breathes some ardent lays;
Then downward bends once more his sadden'd mien,
With folded arms proceeds — invokes his queen,
Carves on the bark some emblem of his flame,
And ev'ry tree bears Sacharissa's name.
Sometimes he feels enkindling pride prevail,
Spurns the proud nymph, and breathes the scornful tale.
"I know the female heart, the female mind;
I read from nature, and solve human kind;
Women, the pictur'd angels of life's state,
Are but the goading spurs of hidden fate;
They please the eye, they tantalize the breast,
And give the lover's bosom all — but rest."
Yet, ah! how faint this transient gleam of ire,
Tears soon extinguish the disdainful fire;
Edmund more ardent still the passion feels;
Anew, with contrite heart, his soul reveals,
Nor flies from warring passion's baneful snare,
Till Hymen to another yields his fair.

The object of Waller's affection was the Lady Dorothy Sidney, daughter of the Earl of Leicester, whom he compliments in several poems under the name of Sacharissa: this lady, of whom there are some fine portraits at Penshurst in Kent, was certainly a first rate beauty; she proved, however, inexorable to the poet's passion, and became the wife of the Earl of Sunderland.