1813 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Jeremiah Holmes Wiffen, "Epistle to Walter Scott, Esq." Poems by Three Friends (1813) 93-100.



The rose, the deeply-crimsoned rose,
The sweetest, loveliest flower that blows,
Ne'er opened to the summer morn
Its leaves, uncircled by the thorn.
Who but would wish in that fond hour,
When plucks his hand the blooming flower,
To deck some lovelier blooming fair,
The thorn were not encircled there!
But vain the wish, — where'er it blows,
The thorn must flourish with the rose.
And leave the garden's narrow bound
To view the world's wide scenery round;
Extend the deep-enquiring ken
To every varying class of men;
Whatever race you turn to view,
Still will you find the maxim true.
In every face, however fair,
The tear at times has glistened there;
And on that face, some happier day,
Again shall smiles of rapture play;
And thus through life, where'er it blows,
The thorn must blossom with the rose.

For even I, whose feet have trod
So short a time life's checquered road,
Whose early years as yet have seen
So little of its busiest scene,—
E'en I could bring some griefs to view,
Could paint the flower so sweet that blew,
When opening to the summer morn,
And I could tell you of the thorn,
That rising in an envious hour,
Destroyed the beauty of the flower,
But that as these gay scenes depart,
Though sorrow rend my bursting heart,
Yet would it strive with stedfast mind,
To bow to Heaven's high will resign'd;
Remembering that, where'er it blows,
The thorn must flourish with the rose.

And since beneath the arch of heaven,
To every soul that breathes is given
Like summer's sun and winter's rain,
Its share of pleasure, share of pain;
As fade the fairy scenes away
So bright that decked the rising day,
And leave no vestige to illume,
The darkness of the midnight gloom,—
O happiest they who best can find
Some light amusement for the mind!
Whether they cull from learned pages
The wisdom of the ancient sages,
Turn with enraptured feelings o'er,
The pleasing tomes of metric lore,
Or glowing with the bardic fire,
They gently touch the warbling wire,
If they but soothe one hour of pain,
Whate'er the means, to them 'tis gain;
Hence I the sage advice pursue,
And turn from all my griefs to you.

Who but has read the border tale
Thy muse in Ettrick's breezy vale,
In wildly-pleasing numbers told,
Which erst the bard, infirm and old,
In changeful life's declining hours,
Awoke in Branksome's lordly towers?
Who but admires the lofty lay,
That paints the fierce, the dreadful day,
When to the charge the war-horse dashing,
Helm and hauberk rudely clashing,
And loud the din of spear and shield,
Fierce was the fight on Flodden field?
Yet who that marks the lofty song,
Like rapid streams that foam along,
Who sees sweet Nature's wide domain,
Depictured in thy pleasing strain,
Her frowning rocks, her foaming floods,
Her barren heaths, her shaggy woods,
And all those scenes so rudely wild
That mark thee grandeur's darling child,
But deeply grieves full oft to see
Some grovelling thoughts, that ill agree,
With strains of such sublimity.
And while they mark the unequal lay,
Now proudly high, now lowly gay,
They find, e'en where it sweetest blows,
The thorn must flourish with the rose.

Yet though we see the wilding flower
Bloom sweet in Nature's forest bower,
Transplanted to a richer soil,
Its lovelier hue rewards his toil,
Who tends with gentle, fostering care,
Its blossoms in the gay parterre.
And e'en the wild-wood eglantine,
Thy chosen emblem, taught to twine
Round sylvan grots which art has made,
Blooms fairer than in copse-wood glade,
Then why should not the florist's art,
One simple hint to thee impart,
Whose power of rich description vies
With flowerets of a thousand dyes,
That in the hot-house shelter bloom,
Or give the garden's rich perfume?
Spare than no labour to refine
The grovelling thought, the rugged line,
Nor let inglorious love of ease,
Permit those wild luxuriancies,
Which many a poet's hand might tame,
Yet none but thine could ever frame,
Heard not were then the bitter jeer,
On legends framed for childhood's ear,
Or censure upon uncouth words,
From Criticism's mole-eyed lords;
Whilst friends who hail thy rising fame,
Admit no trivial cause for blame.
And though, to check man's soaring pride,
Art's full perfection is denied,
In Life as bright a wreath were thine,
As ever bloomed at poet's shrine.

For though we find, where'er it blows,
The thorn must flourish with the rose,
If we perceive the hand of care
Has scattered on the ambient air,
A spoil of richer fragrancy,
If brighter colours meet the eye;
Like rose-bud that is fondly prest,
A lover's gift to maiden's breast,
So sweet the smell, the hue so fair,
We see no thorn engrafted there.