1901 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Herbert

Rowland E. Prothero, in Byron, Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 5:39-40n.



The Hon. William Herbert (1778-1847), poet, linguist, botanist, ornithologist, and divine, was the third son of the first Earl of Carnarvon. He began life as a barrister, and became M.P. first for Hampshire (1806), then for Cricklade (1811). Ordained in 1814, he was made Dean of Manchester in 1840. As a boy at Eton, he had edited the Musae Etonenses (1795). In 1804-06 he published, in two parts, his Select Icelandic Poetry. Herbert was one of the earliest Edinburgh Reviewers, and hence Byron alludes to him in English Bards, and Scotch reviewers, lines 510, 511—

Herbert shall wield Thor's hammer, and sometimes
In gratitude, thou'lt praise his rugged rhymes.

His Helga, a poem in seven cantos, appeared in 1815, and Hedin, or the Spectre of the Tomb, in 1820. The metre of Hedin is peculiar. Stanza lvii. runs as follows:—

Strange signs upon the tomb her hands did trace;
Then to strong spells she did herself address,
And in slow measures breathed the fatal strain,
Whose awful harmony can wake the slain,
Rive the cold grave, and work the charmer's will.
Thrice, as she called on Hedlin, rang the plain;
Thrice echoed the dread name from hill to hill;
Thrice the dark wold sent back the sound, and all was still.