1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Felicia Hemans

Bernard Barton, "To Mrs. Hemans" The Literary Gazette (7 July 1821) 428.



Lady! if I for thee would twine
The IVY-WREATH, can feeling trace
No cause why, on a brow like thine,
The Muse might fitly place
Its verdant foliage — "never sere,"
Of glossy, and of changeless hue?
Ah! yes, there is a cause most dear
To Truth, and Nature too.

It is not that it long hath been
Combin'd with thoughts of festal rite;
The cup which thou hast drunk, I ween,
Not always sparkled bright!
Nor is it that it hath been twined
Round VICT'RY'S brow in days gone by;
Such glory has no power to blind
Thy intellectual eye.

For thou canst look beyond the hour
Elated by the wine-cup's thrall,
Beyond the Victor's proudest power,
Unto the end of all!
And therefore would I round thy brow
The deathless wreath of Ivy place,
For well thy song has prov'd — that thou
Art worthy of its grace.

Had earth, and earth's delight alone—
Unto thy various strains giv'n birth;
Than had I o'er thy temples thrown
The fading flowers of earth:
And trusting that e'en those — pourtray'd
By thee in song, would spotless be,
The Jasmine's, Lily's, Hare-bell's braid,
Should brightly bloom for thee.

But thou to more exalted theme
Hath nobly urg'd the Muses' claim;
And other light before thee beams
Than Fancy's meteor flame.
And from thy harp's entrancing strings
Strains have proceeded more sublime
Than e'er were waken'd by the things
Which appertain to TIME!

Yes! Female Minstrel! thou hast set,
Even to the MASTERS OF THE LYRE,
An eloquent example! — yet
How few have caught thy fire!—
How few of their most lofty lays
Have to Religion's cause been given,
And taught the kindling soul to raise
Its hopes, its thoughts to Heaven!

Yet this, at least, has been thy aim;
For thou "hast chos'n that better part,"
Above the lure of worldly fame,
To touch — and teach the heart!
To touch it by no slight appeal
To feelings — in each heart confest;
To teach — by truths that bear the seal
GOD hath himself imprest!

And can those flowers, which bloom to fade,
For thee a fitting wreath appear?
No! wear thou, then, the Ivy-braid,
Whose leaves are never sear!
It is not gloomy — brightly play
The sunbeams on its glossy green;
And softly on its sleeps the ray
Of moon-light — all serene.

It changes not, as seasons flow
In changeful, silent course along;
Spring finds it verdant, leaves it so—
It outlives Summer's song.
Autumn no wan, or russet stain
Upon its fadeless glory flings,
And Winter o'er it sweeps in vain,
With tempest on his wings.

"Then wear thou this" — THE IVY CROWN!
And though the bard who twines it be
Unworthy of thy just renown,
Such wreath is, worthy thee.
For her's it is, who, truly wise,
To Virtue's cause her powers hath given;
Whose page the "Gates of Hell" defies,
And points to those of HEAVEN!