1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alaric Alexander Watts

Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen, "To Alaric A. Watts, Esq." Gentleman's Magazine 90 (November 1820) 449.



I hear a voice in this deep hour
Of midnight; it is true, my friend,
That unsubstantial things have power
The settled spirit's strength to bend,
And to our aspirations lend
The mystic key of smiles and tears;
A shaken harp — a gust of wind,
Can thus unlock within my mind
The spells of vanished years.

I hear the inhospitable rain
Against the illumined casement beat,
With somewhat like a sense of pain,
That the ripe woodbines, young and sweet,
Which over-arch this summer seat,
Should in insurgent winds be driven,
When June, if only for their sake,
Should send her fine stars forth to make
A blue and brilliant heaven.

Perchance it has been ours to view
With a like promise, like decay
Of powers, that freshly as they blew,
Were worn by pining griefs away.
Howe'er it be — whate'er the sway
With which my spirit droops, I cast
A mournful eye on figures fled,
Those apparitions of the dead,
The Passions of the Past!

Mine were rich visions of the bright
And beautiful! sweet thoughts that ran
Through many a change, and made Delight
In all — the bounteous bride of man;
A fascinated eye — whose scan
Was fix'd in overweening quest
On angel-forms that go and come
With sympathy, that make their home
The enthusiast's virgin breast.

The hills — the woods — I trod with awe,
I people solitude with dreams
Of Oread, Dryad, Faun, and saw
Naiads by brooks and babbling streams;
Whilst solemn and romantic themes
And antique fables, swarm'd around
By Greek or Tuscan Prophet pour'd,
From lyric strings, and I ador'd
In strong entrancement bound.

I gaz'd within the glass of Hope;
I saw her dazzling suns, and laid
My hands upon her telescope
To grasp the images display'd:
It shiver'd at my touch — betray'd
And baffl'd, from her world I drew;
Each wonted impulse lost its force,
From sorrow, as a slight resource,
To Poesy I flew.—

She acts no false dissembler's part,
Her accents, merciful and mild,
Fall sweet upon the wounded heart,
As Beauty's o'er her weaning child.
Amid her valleys, green and wild,
At summer-eves loose loitering,
With daring hand I sought to strip
Some flowers that bore a kindredship
With day-dreams of my spring.

When gather'd, they were soon thrown by,
The lightly won are lightly lost,
And sorrow has a wayward eye
That soon forgets what pleas'd it most.
Of what remains I ill can boast;
In hours of gloom and mental strife,
THOU cam'st across my solitude,
(Apollo to a wintry wood)
And warm'd the leaves to life.

These reliques thus, with grateful heart,
To thee, dear Alaric, I bring,
To whose fine hand the Nine impart
The concords of a sweeter string;
Familiar access to their spring
Of starry visions thou canst vaunt;
Enough for me if not denied,
A chance-brought votary by thy side
To tread their hallow'd haunt.
Woburn, June 23, 1820.