1790
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas, for the Festival of Christmas.

European Magazine 17 (January 1790) 58.

William Hamilton Reid


Three irregular Spenserians (ababbcdcdD): Charles Dickens would render the subject of this sermon in verse memorably in A Christmas Carol. This seems to be one of the first poems to adopt the stanza is that Thomas Chatterton invented for his Rowley poems.

William Hamilton Reid, who began life as a servant and made his living as an artisan, contributed verse to a number of magazines, including the European Magazine. Once described as "the English Burns," it is possible that Reid selected this seasonal subject after reading The Cotter's Saturday Night. This variant-Spenserian stanza form was later taken up by Thomas Dermody and others.



Pure as the snowy bosom of the morn,
Now may Urania all her graces bend;
First, let Benevolence the hours adorn,
And Charity o'er all her mantle wend,
Ah! let not aught refrain the fost'ring friend!
Ill would it suit when Riot roams around,
O'erpaid with blessing on this festive day,
That e'en Misfortune cheerless should be found,
Or Worth excluded from the glad scenes stray,
Where Heav'n has smil'd on man with warm benignant ray.

And come, Philanthropy! devoid of gall,
Who like the sun a constant smile supplies;
Now may Contraction shrink from off the ball,
Smit with the milder radiance of thine eyes,
Maugre the groveling Bigot's bursting sighs:
Nor let th' unthinking mock thy god-like power,
Who never knew the thrilling joy to bless;
Who never check'd the swoln eye-burning show'r,
Nor hush'd the wild waves of acute distress;
Nor gave a tongue to Heav'n its grateful aid to bless.

The, tho' the wintry waste should heap around,
And Nature's gay variety destroy,
Each cheerful trace in icy sheen confound,
The mind's bright orb shall know no damp alloy;
Nor time nor age exhaust the source of joy!
But like th' Equatorial clime shall bring
Perennial blossoms to adorn the year;
And oft to Happiness renew the spring,
More richly redolent, serenely clear,
To fame-recording song and every virtue dear.

[p. 58]