1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Headley

Henry Kett, "Verses on Mr. Headley, Author of a Collection of Poems, and Editor of Selections from the Old English Poets" Gentleman's Magazine 59 (January 1789) 75.



Sweet Pensiveness, who once did'st love to throw
O'er Headley's Muse the fading tints of woe!
How does thy swelling bosom heave with sighs,
To see how low thy youthful votary lies!
Cynthia, whose praise adorn'd his tuneful lay,
And gilds his tomb with her mild streaming ray.
And Philomela, fav'rite of his song,
Charms his cold ear no more with thrilling tongue.
Taste, to his call obedient, drew aside
Oblivion's veil, that thick was wove to hide
The long-neglected Bards of other days.—
Reveal'd to sight, they trim their wither'd bays;
Their patron's loss with doleful dirges mourn,
And wreaths of ivy twine around his urn.
Led on by Gratitude, they ask of Fame
To mark her scroll with Headley's honour'd name.

But in his volumes vain the search to find
The perfect picture of his noble mind.
There Genius only shoots his feeble rays,
And Taste refin'd but half his skill displays,
Compar'd with that bright intellectual power
That spread its influence o'er his social hour;
When health's fresh rose o'er his features bloom'd,
And joy's bright glance his eagle-eye illum'd;
When brilliant wit, and sense energic shone,
Whose striking features mark'd them for his own.

His fancy with congenial rapture fir'd,
That first the Poet's ardent soul inspir'd;
With Shakspeare wander'd o'er the magic isle,
With Milton saw the groves of Eden smile;
With gallant Surrey mourn'd his distant fair;
Or rais'd, with Mulla's Bard, the fiend Despair;
On Cherwell's sedgy banks with Warton stray'd;
And woo'd the Muse in Gothic stole array'd.

O Death, why hadst thou pluck'd, with ruthless hand,
The fairest flower that grac'd our favour'd land?
Soon as, with fragrance rich, and colours fair,
It bared its bosom to the vernal air.
But Faith, whose steady eye can Heaven survey,
Views it transplanted to the realms of day;
Where with fresh bloom its ripening beauties shine,
And mix with amaranth its leaves divine.

Oft as mid Bromholm's holy walls I stray,
Where Superstition mourns her own decay,
Thy lovely image shall to fancy rise,
And dreams of former joys entrance my eyes.
Here we remark'd, how Time's relentless power
Broke the arch'd gate, and bow'd the ivy tower;
How keen delight must chase the sailor's woes,
When o'er the waves these misty walls arose
To his charm'd eye — omen of heart-felt bliss,
That he his motherless children soon shall kiss.

When the world's eyes with poppy wreaths are bound,
And Sleep, the child of Silence, reigns around,
Kind Melancholy, guide my lonely feet,
Where thou and Headley fix'd your classic seat!
If the dear scenes that won their earthly love
Can draw down angels from the joys above,
Soft let me breathe thy name with many a tear;
Perhaps thy gentle spirit stoops to hear!

In vain did slow decay with pain conspire
To quench the lustre of affection's fire;
No wasting pains its vital heat consume,
Strong as the lamp that gilds the mouldering tomb.
From friendship's base no storms his soul could move,
The last sad look was sympathy and love.

Before bright genius and soft friendship find
A nobler mansion than his heaven-born mind;
That eye in death shall close that melts with woe,
And Time's dark stream in distant ages flow.