1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Walter Scott

Henry, "To Walter Scott, Esq." Port Folio [Philadelphia] NS 1 (January 1809) 84.



In these uncultur'd, wild dominions,
Where Avarice holds her tyrant sway,
And Luxury in proud array,
Swells her long train with Fortune's minions;
Can aught inspire a bard to raise,
The tributary song of Praise?
To pour the soul-enchanting lay,
And soaring wing his airy way
On Fancy's rainbow-tinted pinions?
Alas, the lyre neglected lies,
And Genius proud, deserted dies:
Or forc'd with swelling heart to bow
To some unjoyous cold pursuit,
Which damps each fine romantic feeling;
The tuneful voice now hushed and mute;
The pallid cheek and frowning brow,
His inward high disdain revealing,
Down his wan cheek the big tear stealing,
I see him breathe an ardent vow,
And dash to earth his shattered lute.

Oppressed he leaves the Muses' court,
His piercing eye and lofty port
But ill a broken heart concealing.
Yes, Scott, such cruel fate attends,
In this rude clime, the Muses' friends:
Here all must bow to law and trade,
And humble homage must be paid
To Folly, if in wealth array'd.
Even Vice can purchase fair renown,
If Wealth her base exertions crown:
But talents languish in the shade:
While Poesy, enchanting maid,
And towering Genius here are born
To brook the world's malignant scorn:
Or sad retire to some wild mountain
And sigh beside the murmuring fountain.

Yet even in this unbless'd retreat,
The pensive poet still shall meet,
One guerdon to his soul most dear,
In woman's angel smile and tear.
Yes, lovely woman, thou shalt cheer,
With sweetest smile, his prospect drear;
And when his spirits sink beneath
A broken heart, and close in death,
Benignant thou shalt spread his pall,
Shalt kindly weep his early fall;
And Spring's first violets shall bloom,
Reared by thee around his tomb.

Sweet Minstrel, here, though care-infected
Too sure the poet's laurels die,
Though oft by such sad scenes dejected
Columbia's Genius heaves the sigh;
Think not thy border Muse, neglected,
Even here shall pass unhonoured by.
No, in thy praise one son of Song,
Ere yet he leaves the vocal throng,
Though low his voice, unknown his name,
Among the favoured sons of fame,
Shall, trembling, strive to tune the lyre,
And catch one spark of heavenly fire.
Oh! could he sweep like thee the wire,
And notes of softest tune inspire,
He'd boldly echo back again,
Thy feeling, wild romantic strain:
Then sounds so soft, so loud, and clear,
Should break on thy enraptured ear,
That thou should'st think the gales of even,
Came freighted with the songs of heaven.
And as he poured the deathless strain,
Self-kindling with a rapture holy,
He'd proud repel the cold disdain
Of wretches born to wealth and folly.

Yet though no bright, no dazzling ray
Of genius round his pencil play,
Still shall thy glowing strain impart
A joy to sooth his troubled heart.
When Fancy sees thy "champions proud,"
Meet like the "bursting thunder cloud,"
Scarce can that heart restrain a sigh,
Amid the battle's storm to die.
And when in Cranstoun's noble mind,
He sees the "courtly Baron bold,"
By towering valour love-refined,
His Margaret's fond affection hold,
He sighs to think those days are o'er,
And knightly feats can charm no more.
When Clara's image blooming breaks
Upon his mind and fondly wakes
His soul to scenes so deeply traced,
In colours ne'er to be effaced;
He'll think upon his early youth,
And his own Stella's matchless truth;
Who seven long years, besieged by fiends
In human shape, in guise of friends,
Though thick malignant scandal flew,
Still own'd her Henry just and true.
When victor in the evening fight,
Stands famed de Wilton's injured knight,
When Vengeance raised the flaming brand
And scarce he stays his lifted hand,
She'll see her Henry in the one
Who spared the guilty Marmion.
For joys like these, much honoured Scott,
Accept this strain, ah, scorn it not,
Accept the tribute of a youth,
Unskilled in Flattery's art,
It bears, howe'er in sounds uncouth,
The homage of a feeling heart,
Traced in the sacred characters of truth.