1761
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Hymn to Hope.

A Hymn to Hope. By the Rev. J. Langhorne.

Rev. John Langhorne


A charming imitation of Milton's L'Allegro in fifteen stanzas of octosyllabic couplets; few imitators were so successful in spinning a series of commonplaces into such melting verse. Since the subtext of this poem on Hope is apparently patronage, it is worth noting that John Langhorne praises the "Lord of HAGLEY'S Lyre" — referring to George Lyttelton. At the time of publication Langhorne, the son of a Westmoreland clergyman, was a struggling young writer working as a tutor near London. The poet, later in life at least, was acquainted with the master of Hagley.

Critical Review: "We have met with frequent occasions to admire the elegance, the neatness, and flowing harmony of Mr. Langhorne's verses. The beautiful hymn before us confirms our opinion, and greatly exalts the reputation of his poetical genius. It would be doing him injustice to give an extract, which can possibly convey but a small portion of the merit of this admirably pretty performance" 11 (May 1761) 420.

Monthly Review: "It may be termed an irregular Ode, as the length of the different stanzas are various and arbitrary; though, if we except the first, the rhymes and measure of the two successive lines correspond throughout the whole piece. Nevertheless, wherever a different image requires a diversity of pause or numbers, they are so artfully varied, as to avoid that monotony, which becomes tiresome and sating, however melodious in itself, to a delicate judicious ear" Monthly Review 25 (1761) 15.

J. T. Langhorne: "The Doctor's genius and talents procured him several respectable connections among the great, in the number of whom was lord Lyttelton, who had strongly expressed his admiration of the Hymn to Hope, and who not only corresponded with but visited him" (1804) 1:24.

Richard Alfred Davenport: "It was probably while he lived at Dagenham, that he published his Hymn to Hope, one of the best of his poems. The topics of it are well chosen, and well managed, and the diction is elegant. From the tone in which it is written, we may perceive that he laboured under no serious apprehensions as to the result of his attachment to Miss Cracroft. There is, indeed, nothing of the despairing lover in any of the verses which she inspired. He knew that he was a favoured suitor, and was resigned, if not content, to wait till a more propitious period for the reward of his affection" Chiswick British Poets (1822) 65:10-11.



I.
Sun of the soul! whose chearful ray
Darts o'er this Gloom of Life a Smile;
Sweet HOPE, yet further gild my Way,
Yet light my weary Steps awhile,
Till thy fair Lamp dissolve in endless Day.

II.
O come with such an Eye and Mien,
As when by amorous Shepherd seen,
While in the violet-breathing Vale
He meditates his Evening Tale!
Nor leave behind thy Fairy Train,
REPOSE, BELIEF, and FANCY vain;
That towering on her Wing sublime,
Outstrips the lazy Flight of Time,
Riots on distant Days with Thee,
And opens all Futurity.

III.
O come! and to my pensive Eye
Thy far-foreseeing Tube apply,
Whose kind Deception steals us o'er
The gloomy Waste that lies before;
Still opening to the distant Sight
The Sunshine of the Mountain's Height;
Where Scenes of fairer Aspect rise,
Elysian Vales, and azure Skies.

IV.
Nor, gentle HOPE, forget to bring
The Family of Youth and Spring;
The HOURS that glide in sprightly Round,
The Mountain-Nymphs with wild Thyme crown'd;
DELIGHT that dwells with raptur'd Eye
On Stream, or Flower, or Field, or Sky:
And foremost in thy Train advance
The LOVES and JOYS in jovial Dance;
Nor last be EXPECTATION seen,
That wears a Wreath of ever-green.

V.
Attended thus by BELA'S streams,
Oft hast thou sooth'd my waking Dreams,
When prone beneath an Osier Shade,
At large my vacant Limbs were laid;
To thee and FANCY all resign'd,
What visions wander'd o'er my mind!
Illusions dear, adieu! no more
Shall I your Fairy Haunts explore;
For HOPE withholds her golden Ray,
And FANCY'S Colours faint away.
To EDEN'S shores, to ENON'S Groves,
Resounding once with DELIA'S Loves,
Adieu! that name shall sound no more
O'er ENON'S Groves or EDEN'S Shore:
For HOPE withholds her golden Ray,
And FANCY'S Colours faint away.

VI.
Life's Ocean slept, — the liquid Gale
Gently mov'd the waving Sail.
Fallacious HOPE! with flattering Eye
You smil'd to see the Streamers fly.
The Thunder bursts, the mad Wind raves,
From Slumber wake the 'frighted Waves.
You saw me, fled me thus distrest,
And tore your anchor from my Breast.

VII.
Yet come, fair Fugitive, again:
I love thee still, though false and vain.
Forgive me, gentle Hope, and tell
Where, far from me, you deign to dwell.
To sooth AMBITION'S wild desires;
To feed the Lover's eager Fires;
To swell the Miser's mouldy Store;
To gild the dreaming Chymist's Ore;
Are these thy Cares? or more humane,
To loose the war-worn Captive's Chain,
And bring before his languid Sight
The Charms of Liberty and Light:
The Tears of drooping GRIEF to dry;
And hold thy Glass to SORROW'S eye.

VIII.
Or do'st Thou more delight to dwell
With SILENCE in the Hermit's Cell;
To teach DEVOTION'S Flame to rise,
And wing her Vespers to the Skies;
To urge with still returning Care,
The holy Violence of Prayer;
In rapt'rous Visions to display
The Realms of everlasting Day,
And snatch from TIME the golden Key
That opens all Eternity.

IX.
Perchance on some unpeopled Shore,
Whose wild Rocks bound the Ocean's Roar,
Thy soothing Smile in Desarts drear,
A lonely Mariner may chear,
Who bravely holds his feeble Breath,
Attack'd by FAMIN, PAIN, and DEATH.
With Thee, he bears each tedious Day
Along the dreary Beach to stray:
Whence their wide Way his toil'd Eyes strain
O'er the blue Bosom of the Main;
And meet where distant Surges rave
A white Sail in each foaming wave.

X.
Doom'd from each native Joy to part,
Each dear Connection of the Heart,
You the poor Exile's Steps attend,
The only undeserting Friend.
You wing the slow-declining Year;
You dry the solitary Tear;
And oft, with pious Guile restore
Those Scenes he must behold no more.

XI.
O most ador'd of Earth or Skies!
To Thee ten thousand Temples rise;
By Age retain'd, by Youth carest,
The same dear Idol of the Breast.
Depriv'd of Thee, the Wretch were poor,
That rolls in Heaps of Lydian ore:
With Thee the simple Hind is gay,
Whose Toil supports the passing Day.

XII.
The rose-lip'd Loves that, round their Queen,
Dance o'er "Idalia's velvet Green,"
Thy Aid implore, thy Power display
In many a sweetly-warbled Lay.
For ever in thy sacred Shrine,
Their unextinguish'd Torches shine;
Italian Flowers their Sweets diffuse,
And Myrtles shed their balmy Dews.
Ah! still propitious, may'st thou deign
To sooth an anxious Lover's Pain!
By Thee deserted, well I know,
His Heart would feel no common Woe.
His gentle Prayer propitious hear,
And stop the frequent-falling Tear.

XIII.
For me, fair HOPE, if once again
Perchance, to smile on me you deign,
Be such your sweetly-rural Air,
And such a graceful Visage wear,
As when, with TRUTH and young DESIRE,
You wak'd the Lord of HAGLEY'S Lyre;
And painted to her Poet's Mind,
The Charms of LUCY, fair and kind.

XIV.
But ah! too early lost! — then go,
Vain HOPE, thou Harbinger of Woe.
Ah! no; — that thought distracts my Heart.
Indulge me, HOPE, we must not part.
Direct the Future as you please;
But give me, give me present Ease.

XV.
Sun of the Soul! whose chearful Ray
Darts o'er this Gloom of Life a Smile;
Sweet HOPE, yet further gild my Way,
Yet light my weary Steps awhile,
Till thy fair Lamp dissolve in endless Day.

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