1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Written amidst the Ruins of Broomholm Priory in Norfolk.

Fugitive Pieces.

Henry Headley


A descriptive ode in the manner of Henry Headley's friend Thomas Warton: "Fancy, still fond, presents the long-drawn aile, | And feels the brooding Genius of the pile; | Her magic spell th' emblazon'd arms supplies, | And gives the gorgeous pane a thousand dyes." The concluding lines on music echo Milton's Il Penseroso. The volume was published anonymously; the version appearing in Headley's Poems (1786) is considerably revised.

To the Reader: "The following Miscellaneous Pieces, many of which have been before made public at different times, through different channels, and under various signatures (the Invocation to Health excepted), were all written at the age of nineteen, without assistance from friends or from scholars: the indulgence, therefore, of the candid is earnestly hoped for, though unsolicited by vague excuse, or feigned diffidence. Few books that are not immoral are totally useless; for the diversion of opposite capacities different materials must be had recourse to; the erudition of one man's mind, the perverseness of another's, and the stupidity of a third's, have each their separate demands. Let him, therefore, who judges with rigour remember, that to publications of this kind, the man of genius is indebted for his toil, the illiterate for his amusement, and even the critic for his bread" iii.

Gentleman's Magazine: "his works are entitled to considerable praise. His thoughts are, in general, poetical, original, and just; and, in our opinion, he possesses talents which time and application may mature into excellence. To direct his studies, and to correct his taste, Mr. Headley cannot have a more valuable friend than the learned, ingenious, and respectable character [Samuel Parr] to whom the poems are dedicated" 56 (May 1786) 413.

"Edgar": "The various objects which the appearance of the University of Oxford presented, could not fail to produce a powerful effect on his imagination. The delightful gardens and public walks; the various seats of learning and piety, where heroes had been taught the lessons of honour and virtue, sages had planned their systems of philosophy, and poets had indulged their flights of fancy — the survey of the gothic battlements and lofty towers 'mantled with the moss of time' — the crisped roofs, the clustered columns, and the mellow gloom of the painted windows, were all objects so closely connected with the study of the by-gone times, as to give a deep tincture to his mind; they were perfectly congenial with his taste, and contributed to mature and refine it" Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction 3 (28 February 1824) 133-34.

David Fairer: "The clearest example of a Wartonian 'ruin' poem, and one directly indebted to the much-imitated Vale-Royal ode, is Headley's 'Written amidst the ruins of Broomholm Priory, in Norfolk' ... As in other Wartonian poems of this type, the scene soon comes to life, as hims imagination brings the coloured glass back to the windows and rebuilds the tombs" "Wordsworth and the School of Warton" in Ribeiro and Basker, eds, Tradition in Transition (1996) 328.



Broomholm, thy vaulted roofs and towers sublime
Yield to the gradual touch of silent Time,
Whose sable stole in dusky mantlings spread,
Veils the fair prospect of thy once-fam'd head;
His robe, full quaint with moss, at random thrown,
Proudly o'erspreads this mansion for his own.
As from the view at late decline of day
Th' expanded lanscape slowly fades away;
Thy beauty thus but dimly now appears,
Thro' the dark backward of a thousand years.
O'er the cold limbs that ever mouldering lie
Beneath the Winter's wind and summer sky,
By the wan moon-beam oft the Bird of Night
Lengthens her feral note, and wings her flight,
The foul bat, rous'd at eve's ill-omen'd hour
Flits from the lonely nook and rugged tower.
What tho' in vain with curious eye we trace
The tarnish'd pourtrait of the sacred place;
With eye profane its fading tints explore,
That mark the features of the days of yore,
And fain would eager snatch from ruffian Time
The hoary fragment of a monkish rhyme:
What tho' no more at early dawn of day,
Eve's lonely hour, or twilight's trembling ray,
With ken full blithe the mariner espies
Thy glittering domes and massy towers arise,
Far from the dizzy mast he looks in vain,
And longs to view his native shore again.
What 'tho' no scanty path we here descry,
To chear with foot of man the sick'ning eye,
Rough from the grasp of age, thy walls deride
The slighter symmetry of modern pride,
Fancy, still fond, presents the long-drawn aile,
And feels the brooding Genius of the pile;
Her magic spell th' emblazon'd arms supplies,
And gives the gorgeous pane a thousand dyes;
Rebuilds the tottering tomb of many a knight
With burnish'd helm and ponderous spear bedight:
Still the damp shrines a grateful awe inspire,
Pale burn the lamps, and rapt th' attentive choir,
Still the loud organ's peal I seem to hear
That wakes the slumb'ring soul, and fills the ravish'd ear.

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