1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas on Happiness.

New London Magazine 5 (January 1789) 47-48.

William Hamilton Reid


A Horatian ode signed "W. Hamilton Reid" consisting of seven irregular Spenserians (ababcC) of moral reflections: "All happy he who builds on reason's lore alone." The smattering of archaic diction ("lore') is probably meant to suggest Spenser. The poem is "Respectfully inscribed to J. Atwood Legg, Esq. of Market Lavington, Wilts." It was printed with variations in the Universal Magazine the same month it appeared in the New London Magazine.

William Hamilton Reid, who had recently served as an apprentice to a buckle-maker had been publishing poems in the New London Magazine on an almost monthly basis since 1786, as well as verse in several rival periodicals. He enjoyed a brief period of fame as an "unlettered genius," including a Della-Crusca style exchange of compliments in the periodicals. Like the Della Cruscans, his poetry might be regarded as anticipating the Cockney poets of the next generation.



Not to the camp, the court, or hoary cell,
Is pure Felicity's bright meed confin'd;
Nor yet with wealth th' brilliant deigns to dwell,
Nor beat the billows round the gem refin'd:
But where to man true estimation's giv'n,
Of chequer'd good below, it beams th' light of heav'n.

If birth, or art, a competence procures,
As sages own throughout the ethic clime,
The wants that Nature undebauch'd endures,
Deep to lament is reason's weakest crime!
Yet far be hence the rigid Stoic's plan,
More spleen than joy awaits who feels not as a man.

But happy he who gloriously obscure,
Far from the mockery of pomp and state;
Good without noise, or without murmuring poor,
Rich without treasure, without title great;
Remov'd from av'rice and ambition's strife,
Tastes the calm silence of a blissful life.

Thrice happy he! whom no false splendor fires,
Who studies in himself his strength to find,
Whose humble fortune limits his desires,
Or with his little plot improves his mind;
Benevolent to all, a slave to none,
All happy he who builds on Providence alone.

Unmov'd by cares that wealth and grandeur bring,
He envies none the glory of a crown;
The monarch of himself is more than king,
His will a sceptre, and his breast a throne:
Wisely ambitious we each hour may find
A thousand undiscover'd empires in the mind.

Who prudent keeps his fortune in his breast,
Fresh Nectar quaffs e'en from the crystal flood,
And in a charnel-house he'd sweetly rest,
Nor gaudy raiment asks, nor dainty food;
To healthful labours he by day attends,
And on his brow at night a peaceful sleep descends.

While Wisdom's sun's my influ'nce and my guide,
Here I'll subject my little world within,
Restrain my anger, and controul my pride,
Estrang'd by principle from sordid sin;
Then welcome sure and genuine liberty:
Who's courage thus to live, has priv'lege to be free.

[pp. 47-48]