1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen

J. T. M., "Lines written in Aspley Wood, incribed to the Author of Aonian Hours" European Magazine 78 (December 1820) 549-50.



Hail, Aspley — thro' thy lonely glen
I love with silent pace to tread,
To ponder on the deeds of men,
And pour my sorrows o'er the dead.
There is within thy shade a charm,
Can every latent fancy warm,
And wake the soul with grief o'ercast
To some sweet mem'ry of the past.

As thro' thy dell I pace, my mind
Glows with the retrospect of years,
I muse upon some promise kind
That calms my troubles and my fears:
And thou mightst bid, at fancy's call,
Poetic ardour rise or fall!
But ah! with grief unfeign'd I see
Thine inspiration lost on me.

'Tis vain — I cannot breathe the lay
That tells of Woburn's olden day,
Nor 'neath the covert of the wood
Point where Thane Alric's turret stood;
With rapture could I kiss the earth
That gave unshaken Slingshy birth,
With sweet remembrance might I dwell,
Fair Woburn, on thy martyr's cell.

Perhaps beneath some humble shed,
Was Abbot Robert born and bred;
Nor while he own'd a master's claim,
Gave presage of his future fame.
Content he gave, devoid of care,
His life to penitence and pray'r;
Conscious of no unholy deeds,
He said his aves, told his beads,
And from his couch his limbs he flung
Ere Mary's bell her matin rung.

Oh! had ambition's subtle fire
Ne'er bid the pure recluse aspire
By merit's dint, no favour shewn,
Chair, cowl, and crosier, are thine own.
E'en as some fix'd and lucid star
The light of Luther beam'd afar;
And guided, o'er fair England spread,
A monarch to his subject's bed:
Now scaith to him who truly bold,
Dares his religious rights uphold;
Danger to all who firm may he,
And peril, Abbot, lurks for thee.

Lo from yon cell a ruffian throng
Some hapless victim force along!
It is thine eye with sullen scowl
Reams scornful 'neath the canon's cowl;
It is religion's firmness — faith—
That scorns the proffered bribe or scaith.
Conscious of no unhallow'd act,
Nor that his vows devotion lack'd,
Whelm'd in a nation's jarring strife,
He gives, to Him who gave, his life.
Exil'd alike from breath and fame,
They brand thy fall with treason's shame;
Yet shall thy name for ever shine,
Yet shall the martyr's wreath be thine;
And Woburn's bards hereafter tell
How for his faith her Robert fell.

Far is that task from me — my lyre
Teems not with so divine a fire;
Thou, bard of Isleburne, must give
The verse that bids each action live;
To thee, should rival strains arise,
May Phoebus grant his laurel prize;
And (meed far dearer) may those eyes,
Constant in spite of all they see,
Wiffen of Woburn beam for thee.
September 1820.