1794 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Whitehouse

Mary Robinson, "Lines to the Rev. I. Whitehouse (Author of Odes, Moral and Descriptive)" Gentleman's Magazine 64 (November 1794) 1033-34.



In this dread aera, when the Muses' train
Shrink from the horrors of th' embattled plain!
When all that Grecian elegance could boast
'Midst the loud thunders of the scene is lost;
As one vast flame, with force electric hurl'd,
Grasps the rous'd legions of th' enlighten'd world;
The Bard, neglected, droops upon his lyre,
And all the thrills of POESY expire;
Save where the melting melody of verse
Steals, in slow murmurs, round the Soldier's hearse,
While, o'er the rugged sod that shields his clay,
Soft pity chants the consecrated lay!
For ah! no more can FANCY'S livelier art
Light the dim eye, or animate the heart;
Can all the tones that harmony e'er knew
The sigh suppress, — the gushing tear subdue?
No charm she owns the bleeding breast to bind,
The breast, — that palpitates — for HUMAN-KIND.

Thus did Reflection o'er each wounded sense
Pour the strong tides of Reason's eloquence;
As 'midst the scene of desolating woe
She mark'd, aghast! the purple torrents flow;
Man against Man oppos'd! with furious rage
To blur with kindred gore Life's little stage;
While high above the thickening legions stood,
Dark-brow'd REVENGE! bath'd in a NATION'S blood!
'Twas then persuasive FRIENDSHIP'S soothing power
Bade Fancy greet thee in thy classic bower!
There, from the thorny maze of ill, retir'd,
I found the Muse, and all the Muse admir'd;
Fair wreaths of amaranth, a boundless store!
Truth's golden page, and Wisdom's treasur'd lore!
Description's pencil dipp'd in rainbow dyes;
And Genius first-born offspring of the skies!
The HARP inspir'd! the ever-varying song,
Correct though wild! and elegant, though strong!
There Albion's MUSE, in Grecian beauty drest,
At once could awe, and vivify the breast,
In mingling cadence tune the yielding wire,
To sooth, instruct, to soften, or inspire!

First, the ENTHUSIAST'S energy she prov'd
As o'er the chords her glowing fingers mov'd!
The witching wildness thro' each fibre stole,
And seiz'd on all the faculties of Soul!
Then fierce AMBITION smote the thundering string,
In strains, that bade the azure concave ring!
The deaf'ning crash awoke the nations round,
And millions trembled at the mighty sound!

Next, o'er the wond'ring throng impetuous War,
The LORD of SLAUGHTER, roll'd his brazen car!
A flaming brand the red-eyed Monster held,
And wav'd it high in air, and madly yell'd!
While HORROR bath'd in agonizing dew,
Before his rattling wheels distracted flew!
Down his gaunt breast fast stream'd the scalding tear,
And now he groan'd aloud! now shrunk with fear!
His humid front was crown'd with bristling hair,
His glance was frenzy! and his voice — despair!
Then follow'd BEAUTY; in whose beaming eye
Sat sainted TRUTH, coeval with the sky!
Her song dispens'd extatic pleasure round,
The soft lyre throbbing to the dulcet sound!
Then elfin-tribes in many groups advanc'd,
Flaunted their gaudy trim, and nimbly danc'd;
Tun'd their shrill voices to the tinkling string,
Or lit, with glow-worm's eyes, the grassy ring:
With wanton GLEE their moonlight gambols kept,
And dealt the witching spell, — where mortals slept!

Such is the power of FANCY! such the skill
That forms her varying shadows to the will!
To crown her altars; which old Time has chose
Where silver CAM, in silent grandeur flows;
And many a turret, many a lofty spire,
Marks where Pindaric GRAY attun'd his lyre!
Still shall enamour'd Genius haunt the shrine,
The MUSES triumph! and their smiles be THINE!
Yet, think not, Bard inspir'd! that, o'er the wreath,
Thy hand has form'd, no poison'd blast shall breathe!
Tho' blossoms fair, in mingling colours vie,
Bright, but not transient, as the rainbow's dye!
ENVY will penetrate thy halcyon bow'r,
And crush, with hurried step, each rising flow'r;
Or tasteless Rage, with voice infuriate wild,
Bid Malice triumph where the Muses smil'd,

For oft, where high the Tree of Genius springs,
The pale Fiend hovers, with her mildew wings;
Shades the rich foliage from the fost'ring ray,
And marks each leaf for premature decay;
Dims the warm glow that decorates the fruit,
And strikes the rent fragments of each latent bloom,
Nor leaves one branch, to deck the POET'S tomb!

Such is the fate of GENIUS! yet when ART,
So sweet as thine, can elevate the heart;
Though Envy's eye, or Hate's remorseless rage,
May strive to dim the philosophic page;
Tho' war's hot breath may blast the wreath of Fame,
Immortal TIME shall consecrate thy name.