1772
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Melancholy.

Lady's Magazine or Entertaining Companion 3 (December 1772) 576.

Rev. George Crabbe


Juvenilia by George Crabbe: four Spenserians, published under the signature "C., Woodbridge." A portrait of the poet's Muse of Gloom, perhaps? The verse character unites the sequence of eighteenth-century poems on Despair to that of Il Penseroso imitations: "A yellow paleness spreads all o'er her face, | Nor wanton art in mazes weave her hair; | A wither'd leaness, to the fair disgrace, | And tear-stain'd eyes, sad tokens of despair, | Are the indisputable marks she bear." Crabbe contributed to both publications called The Lady's Magazine; this poem appears in the journal edited by John Wheble.

At least one other imitation of Spenser by Crabbe dates from this period, as appears from the memoir published by the poet's son in 1834: "In fact, even before he quitted his first master at Wickham-Brook, he had filled a drawer with verses; and I have now a quarto volume before me, consisting chiefly of pieces written at Woodbridge, among which occur 'The Judgment of the Muse, in the Metre of Spenser,' — 'Life, a Poem,' — 'An Address to the Muse, in the Manner of Sir Walter Raleigh,' — an ode or two, in which he evidently aims at the style of Cowley, — and a profusion of lyrics 'To Mira'; the name under which it pleased him to celebrate Sarah Elmy" ed. Blunden (1947) 20.

George Crabbe: "He had with youthful indiscretion written for magazines and publications of that kind, wherein Damons and Delias begin the correspondence, that does not always end there, and where diffidence is nursed till it becomes presumption. There was then a Lady's Magazine published by Mr. Wheble in which our young candidate wrote for the prize on the subject of Hope, and he had the misfortune to gain it; by which he became intitled to we know not how many magazines, and in consequence of which he felt himself more elevated above the young men his companions, who made no verses, that, it is to be hoped he has done at any time since, when he has been able to compare and judge with a more moderate degree of self-approbation" "Account of Crabbe" in New Monthly Magazine 4 (January 1816) 512.

W. Davenport Adams: "A periodical, to which Oliver Goldsmith was the principal contributor" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 332.



In a dark cave which never feels a ray
Of vivifying light from Phoebus' beam,
Where spiders weave their webs, and crickets play,
Or softly singing, like a virgin scream;
Trees which a century past full old did seem;
Elms, oaks, and firs in mournful order grow:
This we the cave of Melancholy deem!
Sweet Melancholy! blessing unknown to few!
And Solitude enjoy'd beneath the withering yew.

A yellow paleness spreads all o'er her face,
Nor wanton art in mazes weave her hair;
A wither'd leaness, to the fair disgrace,
And tear-stain'd eyes, sad tokens of despair,
Are the indisputable marks she bear;
Pensive and slow with even steps she goes,
Giving a thought to every murd'ring care,
All noisy pomp, and worldly pride her foes,
And to the silent ruins vents she all her woes.

Oft by the lustre of the moon she walks
On the low bank of some pellucid fountain,
Or to herself in wild distraction talks,
At the firm basis of a lofty mountain,
Years, months, and weeks, and days she's always counting;
How long 'twill be before the body dead;
How long before her tow'ring sprits mounting,
Are to the summit of her wishes fled,
And all her yearings after Heaven are sped.

This, this is Melancholy, sober sage;
Thus dwells the soul on earth that's ever mourning;
Nought can, below, this fond desire assuage,
Which, tho' once conquer'd, ever is returning,
And with new ardor, for its absence, burning;
Is fed by silence, save the chearless noise
Of ravens, bats, and owls, who sweet repose are scorning.
She beats her heaving breast and sadly sighs,
Longs to hear heavenly trumpets sound, and then she dies.

[p. 576]