1772
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Time Past. Written Dec. 1772.

Llangollen Vale, with other Poems: by Anna Seward.

Anna Seward


Four irregular Spenserians (ababccbdD) on the theme of friendship: "Affection, — Friendship, — Sympathy, — your throne | Is Winter's glowing hearth; — and ye were ours." The poem was first published in 1796 (in Poetical Works it appears as "Time Past, written January 1773"). Anna Seward was no great admirer of Spenser, but she adored Milton and her own ornate style owes much to the mid-century Spenserians. This unusual stanza would later be taken up by Felicia Hemans in The Forest Sanctuary (1825).

Anna Seward: "Among our English poets, and of those only, alas! can I judge, the first class seems formed by those who are at the head of some particular branch of their science; — as Spencer of the allegoric; Shakespeare of the dramatic; Milton of the epic; Butler of the burlesque; Dryden, Pope, and Sam. Johnson of the ethic, heroic, and satiric; Thomson of the descriptive; Prior of the narrative and epigrammatic; Gray of the lyric and elegiac; Shenstone of the pastoral" February 1763; in Poetical Works (1810) 1:lxxxiii.

Gentleman's Magazine: "The tender retrospections of the poem intitled Time Past; the chill features of the wintry nature which it paints, from observation and not from books; the delight professedly taken in them, as more favourable to social intercourse than the gay scenes of summer, when out-door sterility is recompensed by the glowing hearth and the smiles of affection; the union of philosophic and moral precept with scenic painting in the six Sonnets: — these styles of composition are forcibly opposed by the bold and terrific wildness of the Runic dialogue, built upon the rude hints of an antient Norse poem, which is given in the notes" 66 (May 1796) 414.

Samuel Egerton Brydges: "The poets of the last age raised themselves into a style too abstracted and allegorical, or too cumbrously ornamented; and both their sentiments and language became far too remote from common experience and common use. I am afraid that the present, in avoiding this rock, have fallen too often into a negligence of composition more lax, more diffuse and less polished than becomes the severity of the models which have stood the test of time" Restituta or ... English Literature Revived 4 (1816) 333.



Return, blest years! — when not the jocund Spring,
Luxuriant Summer, nor the amber hours
Calm Autumn gives, my heart invok'd to bring
Joys, whose rich balm o'er all the bosom pours;
When ne'er I wish'd might grace the closing day,
One tint purpureal, or one golden ray;
When the loud Storms, that desolate the bowers,
Found dearer welcome than Favonian gales,
And Winter's bare, bleak fields, than Summer's flowery Vales!

Yet, not to deck pale hours with vain parade
Beneath the blaze of wide-illumin'd Dome;
Not for the bounding Dance; — not to pervade,
And charm the sense with Music; — nor, as roam
The mimic Passions o'er theatric scene,
To laugh, or weep; — O! not for these, I ween,
But for delights, that made the heart their home,
Was the grey night-frost on the sounding plain
More than the Sun invok'd, that gilds the grassy lane.

Yes, for the joys that trivial joys excell,
My lov'd HONORA, did we hail the gloom
Of dim November's eve; — and as it fell,
And the bright fire shone cheerful round the room,
Dropt the warm curtains with no tardy hand;
And felt our spirits, and our hearts expand,
Listening their steps, who still, where'er thy come,
Make the keen stars, that glaze the settled snows,
More than the Sun invok'd, when first he tints the rose.

Affection, — Friendship, — Sympathy, — your throne
Is Winter's glowing hearth; — and ye were ours,
Thy smile, HONORA, made them all our own.—
Where are they now? — alas! their choicest powers
Faded as they retreat; — for thou art gone,
And many a dark, long Eve I sigh alone,
In thrill'd remembrance of the vanish'd hours,
When storms were dearer than the balmy gales,
And Winter's bare bleak fields than green luxuriant vales.

[pp. 41-42]