1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Reginald Heber

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 363.



Heber (1783-1826), the son of a clergyman, was born at Malpas, in Cheshire. A precocious youth, he was admitted of Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1800. After taking a prize for Latin hexameters, he wrote the best of University prize poems, Palestine. Previous to its recitation in the theatre he read it to Sir Walter Scott, then at Oxford, who remarked that in the poem the fact was not mentioned that in the construction of Solomon's Temple no tools were used. Young Heber retired for a few minutes to the corner of the room, and returned with these beautiful lines, which were added:

No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung;
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung,
Majestic silence!

In 1807 Heber took orders in the Church, and in 1809 he married a daughter of the Dean of St. Asaph, and settled at Hodnet. Contrary to the advice of prudent friends, he accepted in 1823 the Bishopric of Calcutta. In April, 1826, a few days after his arrival at Trichinopoly, he died of an apoplectic attack while taking a bath. Heber was a man of exalted piety, earnest and faithful in the discharge of his clerical duties, and an industrious writer. There is a grace and finish in his poems, showing a high degree of literary culture as well as genuine poetical feeling.