1829 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Anonymous, "Lines, supposed to be written by H. K. White, after the Review of his Clifton Grove" Imperial Magazine 11 (January 1829) 67-68.



Oh, Fortune! wilt thou ne'er regard
The sufferings that are heap'd on me?
Why disappoint the anxious bard,
And blast those hopes he'd form'd of thee?

How oft before thy throne I've knelt,
And paid due homage to thy shrine;
And what enlivening joys I've felt,
As fondly I have thought thee mine!

For on my infant strains you smiled,
And bade me seek a poet's fame;
And oft my simple heart beguiled
With hopes of an immortal name.

But ah! thou vain, deceitful power,
(False when we think we're most thy care,)
Thou crown'st thy votary for an hour,
Then frown'st, and leav'st the wretch — despair.

As tender buds in spring unfold
Their blossoms to mild Phoebus' ray,
Unconscious that e'er Boreas cold
May nip their beauties in a day;

So I, by thy false smile deceived,
My verses to the world exposed,
But soon of every hope bereaved;
Soon all my brightest prospects closed.

For the stern critic's dire review
Hurl'd all the thunders of his rage;
Relentlessly exposed me to
The scorn of each succeeding age.

Ah! little dream'd I of that scorn,
When first I twined the laureat wreath;
I seized the rose, nor saw the thorn
That lurk'd so fatally beneath!

No more shall this sad heart rejoice,
For still the critic haunts my sight —
In every wind I hear his voice—
My thoughts by day, my dreams by night.

When midnight round her darkness spread,
And earth was hush'd in calm repose!
I dream'd that oft beside by bed
His dreaded phantom slowly rose.

Upon his head a crown he wore,
Circled with wither'd leaves of bay;
An iron pen his right hand bore.
Sad emblem of despotic sway!

With proud disdain he trampled down
Poor bards, who writh'd beneath in fear;
Then on me cast a scornful frown,
As he saluted thus my ear:

"Profane no more the poet's lyre,
That weeps when rudely swept by thee;
And, till the muse thy song inspire,
Dare aim not at sublimity!"

Loud scream'd the owlet to the wind,
The lightning lent a deadly flash;
Pale, meagre fiends their voices join'd,
And echoed to the critic's lash!

Oh! why was I e'er born to feel
Keen sensibility's fine flame?
Why did poetic thoughts e'er steal
With sweet delusion o'er my frame;

If I, incompetent to sing
The muse's soul-enrapturing strain;
And strike with trembling hand the string
Of Orpheus' sacred lyre in vain?

Was it that I should brave the power
Of every dark, unfeeling mind;
Or perish like the forest flower,
Beneath the bitter northern wind?

How could my simple lays offend
Th' imperious tyrant o'er the muse;
Did I to vice with meanness bend,
And with her scenes my verse abuse?

Soft were my notes, my numbers stole
Smooth as Illyssus' stream along;
The fond effusions of my soul
Pour'd forth in many an artless song.

For every smiling dale and hill,
Sweet Philomela's warbling lay,
The murmuring of the winding rill,
Had charms to soothe all care away.

I sang of love, and every joy
That wakes th' impassion'd lover's heart:
Ruthless the hand that could destroy
My all, that life can e'er impart!

Life cheers no more — my soul is dead
To every feeling of delight;
Hope from my bosom's ever fled—
No more her pleasing scenes invite!

But dark despair and horror reign
Triumphant in this trembling breast:
Tis death alone can ease my pain,
And give to me eternal rest.

Then farewell honour, farewell fame,
I bid ye both a long adieu!
Ye tuneful Nine! accept the same,
Though parting rends this heart in two.