1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Bagshaw Stevens

Anna Seward, "To William Bagshaw Stevens, on his Poem Retirement" 1783; Poetical Register for 1805 (1807) 78-80.



If yet, unbless'd by Learning's guardian aids,
I rov'd the labyrinths of Aonian shades,
And in the gloomy and the silent hour
Wove the dun foliage of their cypress bower,
The oak-crown'd Chief, and laurell'd Warrior's tomb
Solemn to strew; and cropt their floral bloom
For a fair Votary's urn, my priz'd reward
Lives in the smile of Repton's classic Bard.

Yet not the letter'd smile's inspiring ray
When most its warmth shall gild me pensive lay,
Such intellectual luxury can impart,
Or pour such sweet sensations on my heart,
As when, ingenuous Lyrist, brightly shine
Thro' the clear medium of thy classic line,
On every hill and vale, and plain and grove,
The Seraph Forms of BEAUTY, TRUTH, and LOVE.

Sing on, sweet Bard! for to thy happy lyre,
When beams the setting sun with chasten'd fire,
And Evening clouds, half pierc'd with light, have spread
Their floating purple round his golden head,
High o'er their edge, as soft they sail along,
Shall bend the Spirits of congenial Song;
THOMSON, great Nature's darling Spirit, bow
The leafy honours of his placid brow,
And lofty AKENSIDE shall hail the strains
That Beauty decks, and Energy sustains.

Sing on, sweet Bard, when SPRING'S gay Warblers cease
To celebrate the jocund Year's increase,
And SUMMER must no more his thirst subdue
In the expanding rose-bud's lucid dew;
But, with their fading hues, and closing bells,
The pale, shrunk flowers shall strew the whiten'd dells,
And AUTUMN'S lingering steps, retreating, press
Their fallen petals down the lone recess,
Still may thy song, to every rising gale,
Sing thro' the dim and melancholy Vale!

And when th' aerial Archer, as he flies,
Wings the red arrow thro' the gloomy skies,
And furious Trent, high o'er his banks shall pour
The turbid waters round thy favourite bower,
Ceaseless, do THOU the rising strain prolong,
And hail stern WINTER with thy solemn song!
While for the Lyre, that erst to the soft days
Of bloomy SUMMER breath'd the lovely days,
On thy nerv'd arm th' Eolian Shell be slung,
Full to the Tempest's angry wailings flung;
And he, whose strains, on cold Temora's hill,
Mourn'd o'er the eddies of the fallen brave,
O'er Erin's heath, and Ullin's stormy wave,
He, on his thin, grey mist descending slow,
Shrill as the frequent Blast is heard to blow,
'Mid the lone Rocks thy wandering steps shall find,
And life the Harp to WINTER'S loudest wind.

O! when its tones fall murmuring on the Floods,
Deeply respondent to the groaning Woods,
Each lofty note, that hymns the rifted year,
With force impressive shall assail the ear,
As when thou call'st the shuddering Thought to mourn
O'er Talents wither'd in th' untimely urn;
To grieve that Penury's resistless storm
Beat cold and deadly o'er the shrinking Form,
Where mighty Genius had those powers enshrin'd,
Whose reign is boundless o'er each feeling Mind;
To mourn the anguish durst the Heart invade
Beneath the regal Purple's aweful shade,
That steep'd in blood, at the Fanatic Frown
From Charles' pale brows shou'd fall the thorny Crown;
That England's Virgin Majesty shou'd close
A long illustrious life in bitterest woes;
She, who in wisdom firm, as vast in power
On grateful Millions shed the prosperous hour.
O! how unlike those Councils dark, that hurl'd
The torch of Discord o'er the Western World!

Whatever ills may to the past succeed,
Tho' lust of War may doom a World to bleed,
And bleed in vain, yet may no public gloom,
Nor private sorrow, blight thy classic bloom!
And to the Sons of Genius, whose sad fate
Thy mournful lines with sacred force relate,
O! may thy fortunes no resemblance bear,
Yet may thy rising fame their deathless laurels share.
April, 1783.