1806 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Francis Hodgson

John Herman Merivale to Francis Hodgson, 1806 ca.; Memoir of Francis Hodgson (1878) 1:40-43.



Dear Hodgson, — In the letter which Bland and I, desultorily as usual, composed at the half-way house last Saturday I said nothing on the subject of yours which I had just then received — because of course I said not a word to him about it. But your melancholy strains gave me much room for reflection both going and coming; and reflection presented itself in a poetical form. Such as my thoughts were, take them.

Life is not made to flow in smooth delight,
Nor to be lost in unavailing sorrow;
It is a chequer'd scene of dark and light,
The clouds scarce form'd to-day may burst to-morrow.

It is for action given, for mental force,
For deeds of energetic hardihood;
There is no time for wailing and remorse,
There is no room for dreary solitude.

There is no day doth pass but teems with fate,
No fleeting hour but alteration brings;
O'er this our perishable mortal state
Variety for ever waves her wings.

Vain is the lay, tho' couch'd in sacred writ,
That Israel's fastidious monarch sung,
Tho' since usurp'd by many an idle wit,
By many a melancholy sophist's tongue.

Let not my "Narva" then of change complain,
A change which governs our sublunar sphere:
Nor waste in fond regret and listless pain
The hours assign'd to generous action here.

The dreams of lawless youth, 'tis true, are fled,
The glass brisk-circling and the jovial song,
The careless heart, the wild fantastic head
That to the early burst of life belong;—

All these are past; — perhaps with them are flown
Some cherished visions yet more closely twined,
Which soon Delusion fondly called her own,
And Fate, unpitying, claims to be resign'd.

Perhaps the parting pang was worse than all
That studious tyrants could invent of pain;
Perhaps — but ah! thy tortured thoughts recall,
Think what remains in life, — awake again!

Has fickle Fancy fled? Yet Friendship lives,
And breathes a balm into the wounded heart.
Firm, faithful Friendship, which survives
The storms of Hate, and never will depart.

Are youth's chimaeras check'd? Ambition glows
With fiercer heat in our maturer age,
Honour is left — the foe to dull repose—
And points a hard, but glorious pilgrimage.

And shall, my "Narva," such a soul as thine,
So bright with genius, and in vigour warm,
Now, at the very prime of life, decline,
Nor burst again through Fortune's partial storm?

Perish the thought! for nobler objects made—
Let nobler resolutions fire thy soul;
Call Honour, Virtue, Courage, to thy aid,
And let warm Friendship still inspire the whole.

Did you write the review of Dermody? I was delighted with it. Edinburgh critics I have not read; but if they abuse the wretch. Heaven have mercy on their black souls, say I. Write to me from the road, and
Believe me
Ever your most affectionate friend,
J. H. MERIVALE.