1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Local Attachment. Book the Third.

The Influence of Local Attachment with respect to Home, a Poem in Seven Books.

Rev. Richard Polwhele


The third book consists of illustrations of the force of local attachment taken from ancient and modern literature culminating in an apostrophe to patriotism. The digression on the loneliness of a Winchester College lad is one of the better things in the poem.

Monthly Mirror: "When our readers are told that Dr. Darwin, Miss Seward, and Mr. Hayley, have given their opinion in favour of this production, it is presumed no further recommendation will be required. A more elegant and sensible poem, embracing a subject so nearly allied to the finest feelings of our nature, enforced by philosophical argument, and illustrated by familiar example, has, perhaps, seldom been written; for tender and refined sentiment poetically expressed, for luxuriant imagery, vigorous description, and metaphysical investigation; considered, not separately, but as connectedly embellishing and elucidating the subject; no modern poem certainly, of the same compass, can be brought in comparison with it" 2 (July 1796) 156.

Walter Scott: "Among the poems which have not received their due share of public attention, we are disposed to reckon Mr. Polwhele's Influence of Local Attachment, which contains some passages of great beauty: But its desultory plan as, probably, been unfavourable to its popularity" "Living Poets" in Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808 (1810) 2:442-43.

Analysis of Book III: "1. I have noticed the delight which accompanies the mental correspondence with localities. But this delight is very different ON THE SPOT where the Local Attachment originates — DURING ABSENCE from that spot, and ON OUR RETURN to that spot, after absence. 2. ON THE SPOT, we feel a calm pleasure: the objects around us are too familiar to the senses, to afford any intense gratification. IN ABSENCE from home, we experience a degree of tender delight in reflecting on what we love: but we have such a longing for the desired objects — we are often so heartsick 'from hope deferred,' that we find pain almost absorbing pleasure — which the examples of the Israelites, &c. Ulysses, Ovid, the Swiss, the Wyckehamist, sufficiently illustrate. ON RETURNING to our homes, after a long absence, our pleasure is exquisite, but mixed with melancholy, and frequently exprest with tears; as instanced in the case of Catullus, and of Xenophon's army. 3. After these distinct views of the Local Attachment, in which it appears an amiable instinct, we naturally enquire into its FINAL cause: and this seems to be its usefulness to our families in the exercise of the domestic virtues, and on a wider scale, to our country, in the exercise of patriotism" (1798) 1:vi.



Whilst in each bosom glows the local fire,
Let us the sympathetic passion trace;
Whether our bliss the present scene inspire,
Or, absent from a long-frequented place,
The shadows of the past with pain we chase;
Or, after years of foreign toil, we hail
Our dear horizon, eager to embrace
Perchance, the comforts of the cottag'd vale,
And round the cheerful hearth to tell our travell'd tale.

If, where we first observ'd its kindling dawn,
We note the local sympathy display'd,
There, to no treachery-smiling haunt withdrawn,
Its pure delights with fancy only fade!
There, by the sunny hill or mid the shade,
Memory her portraiture still fresh reviews;
And, as clear brooks or alders lend their aid,
Back e'en to frolic infancy pursues
Life's many-colour'd forms, thro' passion's changeful hues.

In absence only from our natal ground,
With sickly grief we languish, tho' we rank
Our sorrows high: Warm suns may beam around:
Yet is a foreign land one gloomy blank.
There, as on Lethe's spectre-crouded bank,
Flitting at memory's feeble call, enlist
The ideal hosts. There, all obscure and dank,
No clear localities the mind assist;
But 'tis a dizzy scene, involv'd in floating mist.

Then, then, we glory in the feeling tear,
Poor solitary tribute of regret!
Then, if a momentary pleasure cheer
Our aching bosoms, bidding us forget
Those objects which our earliest passion met,
We wish, more ardent, to bring back to view
Our righted love, and pant to pay the debt
So fondly deem'd from cold indifference due,
And think our callous hearts to gratitude untrue.

Thy sons, O Israel! by Euphrates wept,
When they remember'd Zion's holy walls.
Their tuneless harps along the willows slept:
For Hebrew songs the taunting visitor calls.
"Alas! while dire misfortune thus befalls
An exil'd train far, far from Siloam's fount,
Say, can the heavy heart chaunt madrigals
Ah! days of deeper woe be ours to count,
If, Zion! we forget thy everlasting mount!"

Thus Daniel, as before his God he knelt,
Where Babylon's proud ensigns flash'd dismay,
A livelier spirit of devotion felt,
Opening his window to the balmy day
That linger'd where his natal city lay!
Thither as fond imagination flew,
He hover'd with the sun's descending ray;
And to the God of Israel nearer drew,
While rose in glorious pomp all Salem to his view!

Pining for Ithaca, Laertes' son
O'er the long billows cast his saddening eyes,
Nor listen'd by the sweet enchantress won;
Tho', "here eternal summer blooms! (she cries)
Here verdure brightens in ambrosial skies;
Here gentle loves on rosy pinions play!
Come, happy mortal! seize the present joys;
Come to my grot, where rills refresh the day,
Tinkle to curling airs and wind their amber way!"

Yet, his heart fluttering for his little isle,
Ulysses vainly to luxuriant bowers
Calypso lur'd. He scorn'd her harlot smile!
Nor spicy groves, nor everlasting flowers,
Nor grottoes, where the soft voluptuous hours
Danc'd hand in hand, nor rapture's couch had charms;
Mid glowing dalliance still his plaint he pours;
Still, unsubdued by all that passion warms,
Sighs for his sea-beat rock, tho' clasp'd in Beauty's arms.

To tuneful Ovid exil'd far from home,
Thy sweetest numbers, Elegy! we owe—
Those strains that, for a moment, sooth'd his doom,
As the kind muse, to charm the eye of woe,
Spread o'er his former years a vivid glow.
Yet, in his lonely walks, he wont to mourn;
"Ah, my poor book! (he cries) thou, thou wilt go
Without thy master, to the city borne,
Unconscious of thy fate while here I rove forlorn!"

Beneath the storms that shake the dreary pole,
Beheld his whitening temples! See him sink
A prey to agony that rends his soul!
Lo, burst each social, each endearing link,
With trembling knees he totters on the brink
Of fate! Yet, midst the Pontic horrors pale,
Tho' "o'er the bitterness of death he think,"
Yet on the distant wave a glimmering sail
He kens with kindling hope till dusky twilight fail!

Precipitous and wild, Helvetia holds
By ties, perhaps more strong, the simple breast:
His arms the languid Swiss, in absence, folds,
And longs for his bleak mountain's snowy crest.
Tho' silver-lulling streams solicit rest,
And tepid breezes fan the fair alcoves,
Where seems to glow the Elysium of the blest,
Reluctant from his pinewood gloom, he roves
Thro' soft savannahs warm, thro' gay-green whispering groves.

Lur'd not by beauties that around him blaze,
He wings his spirit to the rocky hill;
And, unbewilder'd by the magic maze,
He singles out his cataract, his rill,
The sidelong fallow he was wont to till,
His crag percht hut to all his wishes dear!
How vain, alas! his throbbing heart to still!
When forms far off, to Fancy's eye so near,
Now float within his grasp, now fainting disappear!

E'en where the blasts of war the forest shake,
Tho' leagu'd with conquering troops he firmly stand;
If some soft note his early dreams awake,
Some note that sweetly paints his native land;
Strait, falls the sabre from his nerveless hand!
And, woe-begone till moment meet he find
To steal unheeded from the foreign band,
He flies; and, as he hears in every wind
A murmur, casts full oft a fearful look behind.

And see in durance the fast-fading boy:
Mid Wykeham's walls his dulcet sorrows heave.
Fled are his fairy dreams of homely Joy.
Ah frowns too chilling, that his soul bereave
Of all that frolic fancy long'd to weave
In his paternal woods! His hands he wrings
In anguish! Yet some balm his sorrows leave
To soothe his fainting spirit, as he sings,
And suits to every sigh the sweetly-warbling strings.

O he had notch'd, unweeting of distress,
The hours of school-boy toil! Nor irksome flew
The moments — for, each morn, his score was less!
Visions of vacant home yet brighter grew;
When lo! stern fate obscur'd the blissful view!
Droops his sick heart. And "ah, dear fields (he cries)
Ye bloom no more! Dear native fields, adieu!"
'Home, charming home,' still plaintive echo sighs;
And to his parting breath the dulcet murmur dies.

Meanwhile returning to our native hearth,
How keen the pleasure that our grief repays,
When, drinking every gale from kindred earth
As redolent of youth's refreshing days,
Fancy the wonders of her art displays;
And o'er each object we in absence mourn'd
Shedding the richness of her faery rays,
Bids e'en the little hedgerow that we scorn'd
Rise in a mellow light by some new charm adorn'd.

Lo, as he hails his own congenial soil,
What joys the way-worn traveller's bosom fill,
When, after many a danger, many a toil,
He seeks the covert of his native hill!
Sudden he feels a dear delicious thrill
At the first gleaming of his distant trees;
And hastens to the clump that shades the mill;
And deems it an illusion, as he sees
His oak from childhood lov'd, yet waving to the breeze.

With quivering hand he opes his lighten'd door,
Eyes, in his pannell'd hall, each welcome chair;
Pensive surveys the windows o'er and o'er,
That all his waken'd feelings seem to share!
(Sweet recompense for long, long years of care!)
And many a silent tear 'tis his to shed,
As, tremulous for joy his steps repair
To his old chamber, where his weary head
May press secure at last, his own accustom'd bed.

Thus pleasant to his fond poetic soul
Catullus saw once more the lucid tide
Around the green banks of his Sirmio roll,
And hail'd his tranquil home now dim-descried,
Happy at length, his labors laid aside,
Amid his oliv'd island to repose!
"Here, on my own old couch (the master cried)
Shall I dismiss a train of wakeful woes;
Here, in delicious sleep, my heavy eyelids close."

Such were the ideas which electric ran
Thro' Xenophon's faint troops, when opening bright
A prospect of the sea surpris'd the van
Now gaining the Carduchan mountains height:
"The sea! the sea!" they shouted with delight,
As trembled quick in every eye the tear!
Each o'er the billows strain'd his aching sight;
And, as "the sea" re-echoed from the rear,
Already seem'd to grasp the home his soul held dear.

So fervent for our homes, in life, in death,
We bid the sympathies of nature swell;
There happy to resign our vital breath
Where in fond youth we own'd the trancing spell.
The local passion yet should pride repel,
Should sordid interest quench this partial love;
No more attracted by the silent dell,
The sweetly-bubbling fount, the sheltering grove,
Would not, too wildly wing'd, the restless spirit rove?

Go, sons of Albion! smother the pure flame
That all your fathers had so fondly fed;
Then tell me, are your social ties the same?
Say, whither is the sweet illusion fled?
Go, seek, by more sagacious wisdom led,
Some genial spot by balmier nature blest!
Go, where the laws a milder influence shed!
But of its generous cares the soul divest,
As local sighs no more disturb the impartial breast!

Yes, British youths! the love of home inspires
Generous affections! Is not the retreat
Where burn the filial, the parental fires,
Full oft the nursery of the good and great;
Where friendship kindles an heroic heat,
And links amid the hospitable hall,
Bosoms in sympathetic union beat;
Whence, if their country good or ill befal,
They rise with noble warmth, they start at honor's call?

O say, ye scowling cynics who deride
All tenderness of feeling, and austere
Glance the cold eye of philosophic pride
On those to whom domestic scenes are dear;
Say, when in quick emotion starts the tear
To valor's eye, ignobly does it flow?
Does not the patriot check the dread career
Of hostile squadrons, and with manly glow
Shielding his menac'd land, avert the fateful blow?

Does he not bid wide forests wave around,
And o'er the vales autumnal fruitage bloom?
Does he not bid the harmonious anvil sound,
And speed the fervid labors of the loom,
Where silence hover'd o'er a waste of gloom?
Say, tho' the vengeance of his hand hath hurl'd
The shaft of death, to feel the invader's doom,
Are not his awe-inspiring sails unfurl'd
His country to enrich, yet bless the enlighten'd world?

[(1798) 1:23-35]

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