1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Henry Kirke White

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 377.



White (1785-1806), the son of a butcher, was born in Nottingham, England. His juvenile verses attracted the attention of generous patrons, particularly Mr. Southey. At seventeen he published a volume of poems. He had got admission to the University of Cambridge, and was fast acquiring distinction, when too much brain-work terminated his life. Southey wrote a brief biography of him, and edited his Remains; and Byron consecrated some spirited lines to his memory, from which we quote the following:

So the struck eagle, stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Viewed his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered to his heart.

(See the two lines by Katherine Phillips, page 119 of this volume ["And meets that eagle's destiny whose breast | Felt the same shaft which his own feathers drest"].) A tablet to White's memory, with a medallion by Chantrey, was placed in All Saints' Church, Cambridge, England, by a young American, Francis Boot of Boston. In judging White's poetry we must remember that it was all written before his twentieth year.