1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Capel Lofft

Samuel Egerton Brydges, in "Original Poems by Mr. Capel Lofft" Censura Literaria 9 (1809) 199-202.



For the principal contents of the present paper I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Capel Lofft, hose name is too well known in the literary world to require any eulogy from me. Whoever knows how to appreciate duly the qualities of the human mind, will admire that constant activity and energy of its powers, which enables this learned and ingenious author to employ them so unweariedly in composition. As the business, the cares, and evils of life come upon us, we are too apt to suffer our thoughts to become weakened and distracted; and are too much inclined to prefer the ease of languid idleness to fame, which must be purchased by unprofitable toils. That noble fire from heaven, which prompts us

To scorn delights, and live laborious days,

too frequently sinks with our youth, and almost expires before the termination of our middle age.

It has been lamented how common it is to see genius "consume itself by its own blaze." The high degree of sensibility, which is at once its glory and its disease, renders its operations so perpetually liable to derangement, that it can seldom act with the steady pace of a more calm and sluggish temperament. It shrinks from every rude touch like the sensitive plant; and the most trifling incident, an unkind or disagreeable letter, like the spell of the evil necromancer, can, in an instant, turn elysian gardens and golden visions into barren and frowning deserts.

However I may differ from a large portion of our professional censors, I shall never cease to think that the highest products of the mind are formed from the mingled ingredients of the head and the heart. Whoever therefore can properly regulate without destroying or damping those finer feelings, which give the most beautiful and attractive colours to the effusions of the poet or the moralist, possesses a rare and enviable degree of self-command, capable of the most meritorious efforts!

The desire of recording and communicating the refined, the virtuous, or exalted sentiments, which swell the bosom, is an impulse very generally experienced, and implanted in our natures for the most benevolent purposes. But between the wish and the fulfilment of this impulse, how many difficulties intervene! To what numbers may we apply the enchanting words of Thomson in his inimitable Castle of Indolence.

Tho' "oft the heavenly fire, that lay conceal'd
Beneath the sleeping embers mounted fast,
And all its native light anew reveal'd;
Oft as he travers'd the cerulean field,
And mark't the clouds that drove before the wind,
Ten thousand glorious systems would he build,
Ten thousand great ideas fill'd his mind;"
Yet "with the clouds they fled, and left no trace behind!"

To form splendid day-dreams, and to delineate as well as form them, require very different degrees of exertion, and indeed of power! These airy phantasies too often elude the grasp, and vanish in the very act of embracing them, even when we strive to retain them; an effort which is made by very few; and which is too frequently interrupted and dropped, even when, if pursued, it would have terminated in success! If there are many who scribble without the proper talents, how many gems are there buried in the ocean; and how many flowers whose sweetness has been wasted in the desert air!

They who recollect the various productions of Mr. Lofft for the last thirty years will know how to value those which follow.

I. ON AKENSIDE.
Quinqain. Lyric.
1.
O Akenside divine!
Not only to the strain,
Round which Imagination's train
Their brightest wreaths and happiest tones combine,
Shall my enraptur'd ear incline;
But my eye wander o'er thy lyric chain
Perplext to sight profane,
Form'd round the hallow'd few its sacred bands to twine.

2.
Not even Pindar's lay,
Winds free harmonious way,
Fraught with diviner tints, sublimer airs;
Nor beams with purer ray,
Nor from the bowers of bliss more heavenly fragrance bears;
Far above sordid cares,
And meaner joys, the soul raising to purer day.
C. L. Sept. 4, 1808.

II. MY FLAGEOLET.
Lov'd Flageolet, whose tone
Breathes to myself alone,
Nor dare I trust thy voice to other ears,
E'en half ashamed to own
That thy imperfect moan
Wak'd by my touch unskill'd, thee to my heart endears!

2.
Though n ot the force and fire
Of the sonorous lyre,
The tender viol's finely varied sound,
Nor tones, which from the soul-enchanting wire
Of the piano steal, in thee are found,
Light simple instrument — yet bound
Within like slumber space the breath did once inspire
Of Goldsmith, of Rousseau, the happy groups around.
C. L. Sept. 4, 1808.

III. ON MUSIC.
CLEMENTI! Power there is in charming sounds
To soothe, exalt, and purify the mind,
When graceful their melodious way they wind,
And harmony the perfect measure bounds.
Not to the ear alone delight redounds:
The heart, the soul, such notes symphonious find;
The brow of Melancholy these unbind,
Whom with her frensied train Despair surrounds.
To Man the universal language speaks;
And breathes of sentiment the angelic voice;
Here every good affection feels her tone:
Beasts soften'd hear; the tuneful birds rejoice:
And, sweet PIANO, since thy touch is known,
Not the mild blush of May so lovely breaks!
C. L. Sept. 9, 1808.