1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Henry Fothergill Chorley, "Sir Walter Scott's Return to England" The Athenaeum (30 June 1832) 415.



Change is abroad, and tumult: — ancient thrones
Shake on their pedestals — distrust and fear
Brood o'er the dwellings of those haughty ones
Whose names were late a tower of strength,— we hear
Rumours of battles from afar, — the ear
With ghastly tales of pestilence runs o'er;
And dauntless hearts grow dull, that never sunk, before.

We live not in the easy plenteous day
Of seed-time hope and harvest merriment;
This land no longer to some rustic lay
Whetteth his scythe — but sadly doth lament
Bright years gone by — or plods along, intent
On care and want to come; — in every field
Sadness hath silenced song; — the lover's lip is sealed.

We hear of heavy things — the mighty fall,—
And none rise up to fill their vacant seat;
The tomb those great magicians doth enthrall
Who held the world of hearts beneath their feet—
The Bard whose music made our pulses beat
Even as he willed — the Prophet and the Sage—
Rests by his princely friend — the giant of his age!—

We hear of heavy things — there went one forth
Whose spells ten thousand thousand hearts obeyed—
We thought th' inclement breezes of the north
Too boisterous for a flame about to fade:
And to the spirit of the south we prayed
With genial airs to nurse its waning fire,
Nor let its precious light in her warm breast expire.

The summer brings him back — ah! woeful day,
When the tired wanderer finds his native shore,
Not with the buoyant step, the promise gay
Of active health, to gladden us once more—
Lies not life's secret in his treasured lore?—
Vain thought — how vain! — a cloud of boding fears
Sinks on the anxious heart, and loads the eyes with tears.

Must he too go? — Come, sit we by his gate
To catch the tidings of the passing hour,—
Is there not yet retrieval left to Fate?
Is there not Hope, unalienable dower
That clings to Life? — Hath mind divine no power
For him who bears it, to increase the span
Of few and changeful years allotted unto man?

Thou seek'st too much — and yet, that spark from Heaven,
That mind divine, itself shall never die!—
Lo — on the earth it shall survive — the leaven
Of future triumphs over worlds that lie
In the gross darkness of the sealed eye.
Years pass — it spreads — it breathes — it burns — and light
Breaks out where was but mist — and knowledge springs from night!

Then hold thy hope — though they must go — whose songs
We hung upon like oracles — the seed
Is sown among the world's unheeding throngs,
From which the Tree of Life shall yet proceed,
Whose fruit is lofty thought, and noble deed;
It shall increase — shall flourish — bright and brave,
Albeit its Planter's hand lie withered in the grave.