Poems by David Robertson.

David Robertson

As David Robertson points out in his note, L'Inamorato is not an imitation of Milton's L'Allegro (though it is included as such in R. D. Havens's bibliography of imitations). The poem may, however, derive inspiration from Hamilton of Bangor's Miltonic allegory, Contemplation: or, the Triumph of Love (1747), as well as from the moral sense allegories by John Ogilvie (Solitude: or, the Elysium of the Poets: a Vision) and James Beattie (The Judgement of Paris: a Poem), both published in 1765. Robertson, however, is of a younger generation of Scottish writers, and approaches his subject in ways that at times rather suggest John Keats's Endymion or Phineas Fletcher's Britain's Ida. If not the deepest, it is surely the most entertaining of the series of eighteenth-century Scottish philosophical allegories. One might compare also William Hayley's Triumphs of Temper (1781) which treats of courtship from the feminine side of the relationship. Robertson is thought to have emigrated to the West Indies soon after this volume was published; in any event he was not heard from again.

L'Inamorato is first aroused by a lovely though unsatisfactory young woman: "HARRIET'S soft and polish'd frame | Only shone with Beauty's flame, | And conceal'd a vulgar mind, | Dead to every charm refin'd"; next there is Anna of "The jocund leer, the dimpled smile, | And nod, and wink, replete with guile," who proves a worse choice still. Disgusted, he ventures in the Vale of Spleen, where Prudery reads him a lecture even less to his liking. The Lover sleeps, and is visited by a fourth lady in a vision: "On a fleecy cloud she rode, | A sky-wove robe around her flow'd, | In folds so fine, it more reveal'd | Her mingling beauties, than conceal'd" p. 7. This proves to be Sensibility. She explains that she is his guardian genius, and that she has deliberately been leading him in a course of erotic education; he had been put him to sleep lest, escaping from Prudery, he would fall victim to her companion, Apathy. Sensibility explains how he can recognize the proper kind of girl by her rising breast and glowing cheek.

In the second canto Sensibility leads the Lover to her Vale of Delight where, observing Anna with her tribe of admirers, he is told that all such attractions will prove but transitory. He next witnesses the transports of "a village nymph and swain" dancing on a level mead, followed by a maiden with "heaving bosom bare" weeping over a freshly-made grave. The Lover is then led to a retired grove where he sees Julia, in whose character "The flowers of Taste in vernal blow, | And every charm the Muse bestows; | Yet lovelier seem'd the plaintive air | Of Innocence divinely fair" p. 21. Julia, who is discovered reading Henry Mackenzie's Man of Feeling, proves to be just the right kind of girl, indeed, a woman raised by Sensibility from birth. The guardian genius then withdraws, leaving Art and Nature to take their course. The line "Slow-sailing down the yielding sky" in the penultimate paragraph, a note informs us, is from the poems of "Mr. Cameron" — the pupil and friend of James Beattie.

Author's note: "As the title of this Poem may lead some readers to look on it as one of the many imitations of L'ALLEGRO and IL PENSEROSO, the author begs leave to mention, that the design of his poem no ways resembles that of Milton's two beautiful lyric pieces. — The Italian title and his easy flowing versification are adopted, because the subject seemed to require it; and the rhimes are pretty frequently transposed, in order to give more variety to the performance" p. 1n.

Edmund Cartwright: "These poems, which consist chiefly of lyrical pieces, such as odes descriptive and allegorical, &c. are apparently the effusions of a youthful imagination. Exhibiting no marks either of originality or genius; to lavish criticism upon them would be a waste of time that ought to be appropriated to more valuable purposes" Monthly Review 72 (February 1785) 151.

Critical Review: "Of these Poems, we are rather at a loss to decide whether they deserve most praise or censure. They bear evident marks of genius and fancy, and as evident ones of incorrectness and puerility. We would willingly incline to the more favourable opinion, as we are led to suppose, from some passages, that the author is a young adventurer in the poetic lists. We shall therefore pass over several defects which might otherwise have deserved reprehension, and allow that many passages are neither destitute of elegance nor taste. If our conjecture is just, we doubt not but these wild saplings will fully repay the labour of their cultivation. The following personification of Sensibility, in the principal poem, entitled L'Inamorato, will, we apprehend, justify our sentiments" 58 (July 1784) 69-70.

As the bee, in woodbine shade,
Wanders o'er the dewy blade,
Sipping balm, or juicy sweet,
From lily, rose, or violet;
So I, with Fancy, chanc'd to stray
Erewhile in Pleasure's flowery way,
Where Beauty and the Graces rove,
Smiling, hand in hand with Love;
And fairy-featur'd Hope is seen,
Lightly skipping o'er the green,
Scattering many an am'rous wile,
The winning look, the pleading air,
Of the young timid yielding fair,
And Modesty's approving smile.

The opening bloom on HARRIET'S cheek,
Her dewy lips, and snowy neck,
The swelling of her bosom bare
Half seen beneath her auburn hair
And glowing softness of her arm,
And graceful step of heav'nly charm—
First allur'd my thoughts to rove
In the wild'ring ways of Love.
But HARRIET'S soft and polish'd frame
Only shone with Beauty's flame,
And conceal'd a vulgar mind,
Dead to every charm refin'd,
From Wit or Sentiment that flows,
Or blithe-ey'd Cheerfulness bestows.

Not long I saunter'd with this fair,
Till ANNA'S gay enam'ring air,
And flowing mirth, and sweetest song,
And artless prattle of her tongue,
Won my heart ere well aware.
No soul has he, who could have seen
The Graces rising in her mien,
As often, in sequester'd grove,
At evening time, we talk'd of love;
Soft mingling with a tender sense
Of modesty and innocence,
The jocund leer, the dimpled smile,
And nod, and wink, replete with guile,
Th' inviting glance, when transport high
Wanton'd in her azure eye,—
And yet for ANNA never sigh.
Oft would that eye in fondness roll,
As by my side she sat reclin'd,
My arms around her waist entwin'd,
While many a kiss I slyly stole.
Anon I felt unknown alarms,
And fell a victim to her charms;
Nor ever thought a nymph so gay,
In triumph, would her swain betray;
Or that the tear should e'er bedew
My bosom, when she prov'd untrue.

With Beauty cloy'd, and being bit
By the serpent call'd Coquette,
Pensive, I left the flowery green,
Where I had sported many a day,
Following Pleasure's transient ray,
And, heedless, sought the dell of Spleen;
Where Prudery, in gloomy pride,
And scowling Apathy, reside.

Soon roaming o'er a desert dale,
Where never breathes the genial gale,
Where hemlock beds with reptiles teem
As moisten'd by a muddy stream,
And vapours rise in volumes grey,
Clouding the cheerful face of day;
By chance I spied the prudish maid
In snowy vestment prim array'd:
No flounce or fold was pinn'd awry,
So much she studied nicety;
Her jetty hair, sleek'd up behind,
Ne'er floated in the sportive wind,
Nor modest handkerchief reveal'd
What young coquettes scarce wish conceal'd:
Like them, she never knew the grace
Of pleasing, or the bland embrace
Of paramour; nay deem'd amiss
The side long glance, the yielding kiss.

As I approach'd this rigid dame,
With fault'ring step, and shudd'ring frame;
On me, in sullen discontent,
Her grey unsparkling eye was bent:
Nor from her seat she deign'd to rise,
Nor welcome brighten'd in her eyes;
And looks demure, and squeamish pride,
The place of every smile supplied.

But when I scornful by her past,
A simpering leer on me she cast,
Good-humour gleam'd upon her mein
And mingled with a glance serene;
While in a trim affected air,
Much she warn'd me to beware
Of Pleasure's gay enchanting wiles,
And young-ey'd Beauty's cheerful smiles,
Of winning Mirth, and Wit's sly graces,
And Love's unsolemniz'd embraces;
Then much she talk'd of Virtue's power
To guard us in th' impassion'd hour,
Of Prudence, and of Friendship's flame,
And meek Reserve, and virgin Shame,
And Chastity's dear honour'd name.

Wearied with Prudery's fretful tale,
On a bank as I repos'd
Amide the solitary vale,
Dewy Sleep my eye-lids clos'd.
Descending from the climes of light,
Anon a Figure caught my sight:
On a fleecy cloud she rode,
A sky-wove robe around her flow'd,
In folds so fine, it more reveal'd
Her mingling beauties, than conceal'd:
So shine the lily of the dale,
Array'd in Nature's softest hue,
When opening to the morning gale
'Tis thinly veil'd in lucid dew.
Love's softning blush, and Beauty's flame,
Brighten'd on her graceful frame;
And life's cerulean veins were seen
Meand'ring thro' her snowy skin:
In humid lustre, mildly shone,
Her timid eye; and "for her crown,
The Red-breast, and the Turtle-dove,"
Mimosa's trembling leaves had wove.
When from her bosom burst the sigh,
Or secret anguish fill'd her eye,
The leaves, as conscious of her woe,
No more in native verdure blow,
But seem in sympathy to share
Her pang of sorrow and of care;
Yet soon as Grief no more is seen
To o'ercast her lovely mien,
Her cheeks their vivid glow regain,
And rapture throbs in every vein;
Again the leaves begin to bloom,
And a fresher green resume.

Alighting form her chariot bright,
In all her charms she now appear'd,
And, smiling on me with delight,
Thus she express'd her fond regard,
In strains more melancholy sweet
Than ever charm'd a mortal yet,
Even tho' he chanc'd to saunter nigh
The scene of midnight minstrelsy,
When rev'lling in the Moon's soft beam,
By haunted mountain, wood, or stream,
In green and gold the Fairies gleam.

"Not distant far, in blissful grove,
Beauty, and Harmony, and Love,
With Pleasure dwell — thence I descend,
Thy heavenly Guardian and thy Friend."

"'Tis mine to waken young Desire;
The soul of Genius to inspire;
On playful Childhood's way to strew
Gay Fancy's flowers of many a hue;
And o'er the infant mind diffuse
The hallow'd influence of the Muse.
Long have you felt the mystic glow,
That on my fav'rites I bestow;
The transport of the soul refin'd,
And anguish of the feeling mind,
Successive thrill your trembling frame;
For transient pleasure, transient pain,
Mark the bosom where I reign—
Hence, SENSIBILITY my name.
'Twas I who led you first to rove
Among the myrtle bowers of Love;
Who, from young HARRIET'S blooming frame,
Inspir'd a bright, tho' transient flame:
That you, my fav'rite, hence might know,
Tho' the soft cheek of beauty glow,
Like vernal rose of freshest hue,
Blushing beneath the morning dew;
Yet soon the deepest tints will fade,
And soon the softest charms will cloy,
Should SENSIBILITY ne'er shed
A portion of ethereal joy,
Flowing from my breath refin'd,
Into the yielding female mind;
Thence, with inspiration warm,
To animate the polish'd form;
To bid the smiling Graces rise,
And pour o'er Beauty's native bloom
A softer glow, and to illume
With living fire responsive eyes.

"And when you saw these charms combin'd,
Beaming from ANNA'S gayer mind,
In winning smile, or am'rous glance,
Inviting Lovers' soft advance,
By me, the sly coquetish art,
You deem'd the language of her heart:
And when the maiden prov'd untrue,
'Twas I who bade the tear bedew
Your throbbing breast; till, more serene,
You saunter'd to this gloomy scene;
And here, lest Prudery's sullen strain,
Heard lately murm'ring from the plain,
Should have seduc'd you as a slave
To Apathy's infernal cave,
I stretch'd your limbs in bland repose,
And o'er you shed Sleep's balmy dews
From yonder cloud — hence you may learn
Thy heav'nly Guardian's fond concern;
And, from your recent anguish, know
How near the hidden thorn of woe,
The vernal buds of pleasure blow:
How well the light coquette can feign
Herself a follower in my train,
Glowing with conquest to decoy
Unwary youth to vales of Joy;
And as he roams the blissful scene
To lead him to the dell of Spleen:
Or should he clime the airy steep
Of Rapture — giddy with the sight,
Ah me! he sinks to endless night,
Where Melancholy wakes to weep.

"When I on fav'rite nymphs bestow
Of young Desire the hallow'd glow,
They roll no fond inviting eye,
Nor heave th' uncover'd bosom high,
Vainly to win the coxcomb gay,
Or heart of guileless swain betray.
To nature true, their breasts arise,
Soft-beaming languish fills their eyes;
Bright on their cheek the blush is seen,
Fine passions struggle in their mein;
And, as my rising power they feel,
The more they study to conceal
These beauties, Love and I reveal.

"With me yon beaming car ascend,
I'll bring you to me fav'rite grove;
There on your footsteps shall attend,
Unseen, the Pleasures born of Love;
Around you Beauty's train shall rove,
Nor anguish more your bosom rend."

Here ceased the sweet Enthusiast's song
To warble from her plaintive tongue;
And tow'rd her region of delight,
Attended by the buoyant gale,
Anon she moved her chariot bright
From the bleak solitary dale.
And now I spied the well-known glade,
The eddy stream, and neigh'bring bower,
Where morning, noon, and evening hour,
Following Love, I blithly strayed,
Or by her side unweeting played:
Among the curious groves was ANNA seen,
Stalking along the velvet green,
With haughty step, in white brocade,
O'er which a wealth of gauzes played;
High shone above her towering locks
Gems, feathers, flow'rs, fresh from the box:
Attendant on her walk, a train
Of simpering coxcombs, pert and vain;
And as she threw her smiles around,
Each hollow heart return'd a sigh,
Like feathered shafts her glances wound—
But lo! the wounded never die.
"The gay coquette" (my Guardian said,
As slow her chariot left the glade),
"In glow of youth and beauty's pride,
A while in triumph high may ride;
Yet soon will Age his wrinkles shed,
Soon Hope, and every charm, be fled,
And never, never will she know
The joys from mutual love that flow;
Nor ever in a blooming race
A mother's graces will she trace:
And when she mingles with the dead,
No tear shall o'er her dust be shed;
No daughter for her guardian mourn,
No widow'd lover clasp her urn."

But now these scenes 'gan to recede;
And soon we pass'd a level mead,
Where many a village nymph and swain,
With summer's gayest flow'rets crown'd,
To Minstrelsy's enlivening strain
Skimm'd along the verdant ground,
Hand in hand a jocund train;
As from the welkin's western way
Glanc'd the sun's departing ray,
And gradual o'er the varying sky
Evening rose in crimson dye.
Scarce had we left the sportive green
Till a deep vale 'gan to appear,
Whence shrieks of anguish thrill'd the ear:
Here, glimm'ring thro' the trees, was seen,
By the red moon, a new-made grave;
Close by it mumur'd the dark wave;
And o'er it hung funereal yew,
Shedding the midnight's drizzly dew,
Among whose boughs the Nightingale
Sung ELUSING'S plaintive tale;
To sooth a love-lorn frantic maid,
Who on the dank moss-turf was laid.
As o'er her heaving bosom bare
Wav'd her black dishevell'd hair,
Along the grave, in silent mood,
Myrtle and willow-leaves she strew'd;
In wildest frenzy now she star'd;
Now her dead lover's cries she heard;
And now the Maniac weep'd aloud.

Tho' Sympathy's convulsive sighs
My bosom tore, and tho' my eyes
Could not supply a pitying tear,
Yet much I wish'd to linger here;
Some gentle solace to afford
The maid, who wail'd her murther'd Lord:
But soon our ether-chariot rose
Far o'er this scene of human woes.

Now Morning from the orient gleam'd,
And now in fuller radiance stream'd,
Disclosing to my ravish'd sight
A landscape, breathing gay delight—
The grassy vale, the swelling hill,
While southward fell a mazy rill,
Adown the steep, thro' mantling bowers,
And lawns o'erspread with fresh-blown flowers;
Whence Zephyr on his downy wing
Wafted the fragrance of the Spring:
Along the dewy-beaming green,
Boldly beside the crested deer,
Many a sporting hare was seen,
And snowy lambkins bleating near.
Meanwhile was heard the distant low
Of herds upon the mountain brow;
The hum of bees, the neigh'bring rills
Echoing adown the little hills;
The cooing of the turtle-dove,
And vernal melodies of love
From every minstrel of the grove:
Hard by yon copse of briar-bushes
The blackbirds chanted to the thrushes;
The red-breast, and the linnet gray,
Shook the bloomy hawthorn spray;
While overhead the lark was borne:
As higher in the sky he rose
His breast with fuller transport glows,
In sweeter strains his welcome flows
To the returning beam of Morn.
Soon as we reach'd the inmost glade,
My Guardian to a neigh'bring shade
Slowly withdrew; while on my ear
Softly flow'd her accents clear:

"Beneath yon roof of twisted vines,
On daisied bank a Nymph reclines;
Tho' many a love-inspiring grace
Smile sweetly on my JULIA'S face;
And tho' young Genius coy disclose
The mind replete with Fancy's glow,
The flowers of Taste in vernal blow,
And every charm the Muse bestows;
Yet lovelier seem'd the plaintive air
Of Innocence divinely fair;
The eye with mildest glories beaming,
Whence oft the tear of pity streaming;
The living blush, the soul refin'd,
True image of my heav'nly mind:
For to my fav'rite, when a child,
I once unveil'd my highest charms;
In extacy the Infant smil'd,
And wanton'd in her mother's arms.
Now breathing from yon echoing grove,
I catch her plaintive strains of love:
O'er Harley's tale now she reclines,
Wetting with tears the simple lines
Which I inspir'd: And as arise
The tender scenes to Fancy's eyes,
The Fairy's mimic wand, unseen,
Softly pencils Harley's mien,
Imparting each peculiar grace
That in your features she can trace.
My heav'nly Presence shall entrance
Your thoughts no longer; straight advance
To yon retreat; there you shall prove
The soft return of JULIA'S love;
And there her bosom first shall know,
That highest blessing I bestow,
Friendship, sublim'd by Passion's glow."

She paus'd. Then step by step withdrew,
Till mingling with the welkin blue.
I woke; and wand'ring by a brook,
Sudden the rustling breeze display'd,
Embosom'd in a flowery nook,
JULIA in flowing chintz array'd.
The woodland-choir above her sung,
As o'er th' endearing page she hung.
Her cheek with light of Beauty glow'd,
Which ever soft'ning feature show'd;
Her full breasts rose beyond controul,
As from her wishful glances stole
The tend'rest feelings of the soul.
Smiling the Graces round her sported;
And here young Innocence resorted,
Of gay, and sympathetic mien,
Whose form is oft by Poet seen,
While slumb'ring by some wizard stream,
Beauty employs his blissful dream.

Not sooner scuds the timid fawn
Along the verdure-mantled lawn,
When, breathing on his shrinking ear,
The breeze has whisper'd danger near;
Nor swifter o'er the dimpled stream
Glances the Sun's returning beam
At morn — than JULIA'S charms impart
A glow of rapture to my heart;
Than the full pulse, and trembling frame,
And short quick pant reveal the flame.
In transport long the maid I view'd,
Yet could not on her thoughts intrude;
So pure the spirit of Reserve,
Glowing breath'd thro' ev'ry nerve.
At length, it chanc'd a favourite lamb,
Around whose neck the eglantine
JULIA had wove with jessamine,
While gamb'ling by its placid dam,
Vain of the gay embroid'ring wreath,
Fell heedless in the bourn beneath.
As welt'ring 'midst the surgy brook,
Crying it threw a wistful look
Around, when from the copse I hied,
And sav'd it from the whelming tide.
Up sprung the Nymph — her glance caught mine;
My heart beat high with bliss divine.
The light of youth now disappear'd,
Now transient glow'd on JULIA'S mien,
Trembling, she eye'd me with regard,
Till gradual rose the smile serene;
And with the languish of her eye,
And native blush of Modesty,
Own'd sympathetic Love was nigh.

While yielding to my bland caress,
Her swelling breasts I timid press,
Ah! many a tender thought arose,
And ardent wish'd I to disclose—
Each feeling, as it ling'ring hung
Mute, on my fascinated tongue.
But soon appear'd a beaming cloud,
"Slow-sailing down the yielding sky,"
Whence straight in tuneful accents flow'd
The voice of SENSIBILITY.

"My fav'rite Pair! no other vow,
Or Heav'n, or Nature, asks of you;
For, to your bosoms I impart
Love's tend'rest unison of heart.
Affection's pure ethereal fire
My spirit ever shall inspire;
And, as you own my soft controul,
Thro' ev'ry vein shall transport roll,
And Pleasure's smile illume your soul."

[pp. 1-26]