1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Local Attachment. Book the Seventh.

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

Rev. Richard Polwhele


The concluding book is autobiographical, Richard Polwhele describing his childhood haunts and activities before leaving Polwhele for Oxford. He plants a prominent allusion to Beattie's The Minstrel in stanza 20: "Such was the faery moment, when I chas'd | The glitter of the rainbow, yet a boy. . . | Then expectation and high-flusht desire | To wilder minstrel tones awak'd my trembling lyre" (1798) 1:85.

Analysis of Book VII: "1. On the whole it appears, that the Local Attachment (originating in the delight which accompanies the action of fancy and passion as aided by external objects) is felt most sensibly by men of cultured minds — that it is chiefly discoverable after absence from the beloved spot — that in youth and old age it is more vivid than in manhood; and amidst the tenderness of sorrow than the pride of prosperity — that it is more visible in the home of our infancy, than in any subsequent home — and that it is most conspicuous in seclusion, particularly if that seclusion hath been consecrated to our family. 2. By way of illustrating the whole, then, let us imagine a person not yet advanced to the middle stage of life, and who has suffered distress from illness and the loss of friends, revisiting, after a long absence, the place of his birth, a retired spot, which he holds sacred as the residence of his forefathers. — Here is a combination of every circumstance of MIND and PLACE, which can set the local attachment in its strongest light. — If that mind and place be my own, may I be permitted to exhibit them, as such? May I, after the experience of many sorrows, far off from my natal spot, express my feelings on revisiting it? May I exclaim — How chang'd! — Quantum mutatus ab ille! May I, there, look back on my puerile amusements — on the features of a deceased, a beloved father and sister; or recall the enthusiasm of youth as displayed amidst the varying seasons? May I retrace my feelings, as, leaving this place, I joined "the academic band," or as accident led me to settle at a distance from it? 3. Alas! the pleasures of youth, of health are no more! — Yet will I venture to cherish the delightful hope, that hither retreating, I may die at last!" (1798) 1:ix-x.



An instinct of the universal mind,
Lo, rising, to a vivid ardor, glows
The local passion, when in souls refin'd
It breathes; and, after absence, bliss bestows;
And o'er the free, the untainted bosom flows;
And the heart soften'd by distress inspires,
And seeks, in scenes of early youth, repose;
And to a still secluded spot retires;
And consecrates a home where liv'd and died our sires.

Then, O ye woods, perhaps in kind relief,
Ye wave, the sighs of such a heart to suit—
Ye conscious woods, that, rustling, soothe my grief
Now plaintive as a tone from pity's lute;
That now, as sinks each leafy murmur, mute,
Bid e'en the untrembling aspin pause on air;
Alas! with many a feeling too acute,
From your lov'd haunts 'twas mine to wander far!
Yet not a feeling died, extinct thro' sordid care.

How wearisome "the race my feet have run,"
Since on this green I gather'd infant flowers!
Ah! little dream'd I, when life's morn begun,
That I should pass my exile-saddening hours,
Where pale amidst her cloud affliction lours;
Where sickness gives to bitter tears the night:
Yet, distant from Polwhele's deserted bowers,
Hath sorrow, tainting the purpureal light,
Render'd those prospects dim, which once were lovely-bright.

Each object by a few short years how chang'd!
The hall, where once we hail'd the cheerful blaze;
The chairs in social order once arrang'd;
Those mouldering pannels where we us'd to gaze
On the light shadework that in many a maze
Danc'd to the foliage of yon falling elm,
While evening ting'd its boughs with saffron rays;
Those portraits, where the golden-pictur'd helm—
The hauberks' mimic steel, dark webs and dust o'erwhelm.

And, as the parlour-hinges harshly grate,
The torn prints flutter but the type of me,—
Where once so warm each crimson-gleaming seat,
And once so rich appear'd the soft settee;
Where, the flower'd carpet as I trod with glee,
The mirror would reflect my frolic smile;
Where from yon screen, once wrought in filligree
By some old aunt with ill-requited toil,
I oft the spangles pick'd, and look'd askance the while.

There too, above the round-archt portal, hung
The branching antlers of a forest-deer,
For whom with hounds and horn the deep dales rung.
But, as enamour'd of the wild-wood cheer,
Full many a moon o'er vallies, far and near,
He ran, and seem'd to scorn the murderous crew;
Till, where the tops of yon oaks scarce appear,
The gunner bade his blood the copse imbrue—
Yet e'en that relic pale is vanish'd from the view!

Drear is the sun-clad wall, where erst at noon
I bask'd beneath the yet unblushing fruit;
Oft as the gardener's skill was wont to prune
From the rich nectarine each luxuriant shoot,
Or net to every train'd morella suit.
And lo! where light its twinkling florets play'd,
The dark-green jasmine shrivell'd to its root!
And the grass-walk, where sighs the poplar-shade,
Sinks deep at every step with leaves and moss o'erlaid.

And see, beyond the garden's northern bound,
The ruin'd cottage, to the blasts of heav'n
Unroof'd, and crumbled to a naked mound!
There, ere its walls by cruel time were riv'n,
The rays of sweet domestic peace were giv'n
To bless the cot! The wicket, where it hung,
Yet to and fro I view, in fancy, driv'n;
And swinging careless there, as erst I swung,
Again the good old hind attack with flippant tongue.

Alas! the chesnut on yon slaty steep
That the wild eddies of the westwind brav'd,
Displays no more its vesture shadowy-deep,
Nor, late dismantled as the tempest rav'd,
Waves the fair blossoms which it whilom wav'd!
And lo! its wither'd roots no longer gleam
Thro' the clear riv'let that its fibres lav'd—
There, where the pigeon-cote that met the beam
Of morn, now prostrate lies, amid the brawling stream.

Lorn is the landscape, since the blissful prime,
When on the daisy-darting sod I play'd,
Caught the quick radiance quiv'ring thro' the lime,
Breath'd the fresh odors of its evening shade,
And on its bark the rude impression made—
E'en now, half-crusted o'er, the name appears!
And, where my school-companions cross'd the glade,
Lo! other sweet memorials wakening tears,
Wear, like the joys they speak, the pale cold damp of years!

And, not averse to many an agile prank,
Full oft our little hands essay'd to reach
The sun-brown catharine, from the shelving bank;
Or pluck'd in haste the downy-purpled peach;
Or gave the magpie, nestling in her beech,
The coal-streakt eggs of barn-door hen to hatch;
Or, scrambling thro' the brake where howlets screech,
Seiz'd the sharp-clawing young with wild dispatch;
Or lur'd, by lanthorn-light, the sparrows from the thatch!

But, in a gentler hour, an airy troop
Of school-imps from the town, I lov'd to hail;
And, fond to mingle with the tittering groupe,
For them would pick the sorrel of the dale,
The wall-flower brightening by the garden-rail,
The soft anemone, the gay jonquil;
Or, midst its leaves detect the strawberry pale,
Some future day resolv'd to eat our fill;
Or seek green apples crude, ascending the rough hill.

Still in the cause of female beauty staunch,
For them I climb'd that silk-worm tree decay'd,
And briskly shook the berry-teeming branch;
Whilst with her open mouth each wanton maid
Catching the juicy fruit, her skill display'd!
When, oft as I remark'd, approaching fly,
Their chins that, stain'd so red, the freak betray'd;
Some pretty Thisbe wink'd her roguish eye,
And squeez'd upon my face the berry's sanguine dye.

Nor seldom, by a rompish girl amus'd,
I pluck'd the yellow ribbon from her cap,
That on the roseteint of her cheeks diffus'd
A flushing light as wild she aim'd a slap!
Then, as with hazel-nuts I fill'd her lap,
Or strung for her white neck the berries brown,
Then (tho' my face would rue the sad mishap)
With sudden jerk I threw the damsel down,
Yet stole a lurking smile beneath her mimic frown.

And I would oft, to soberer pleasures prone,
Observe my parent the young cherry plant,
Visit the swelling beds with acorns sown,
And mark, if his red oaklings thick or scant
Sprung up, or if his vigorous grafts might want
The pruning hand; or wind, at evening grey,
Up the deep coppice, from the woodcock's haunt,
And, anxious for the few last gleams of day,
Mid opening pines arrest the poor bird's twilight way.

But ah, my sire! how fleeting is the view
Of pleasures shar'd with thee! — E'en now I shed
Fresh tears; in fancy all my griefs renew;
And wring my little hands beside thy bed;
Press thy cold lips, and pillow up thy head!
Yet by a sweet remembrance sooth'd, I tell
How with a placid smile thy spirit fled;
And on those charities delight to dwell
Which I ador'd in death, and lov'd in life so well!

And she, congenial mind! — she, too, is gone,
Whose cherub features yet the scene endear—
She, whom a brother's love with pride shall own,
As long as love shall heave the sigh sincere!
Thy lively voice yet vibrates on my ear,
While on thy favourite crocus' golden hue,
Thy lily's tender tint, I drop a tear;
While I again salute as life were new,
Thy garden's southern hedge, where peep'd the harebell blue.

Yes! where the lilacs flaunt their vagrant shade,
With thee I seem to haste, as once we tried,
To the trim spot, and wield my careless spade,
And plant thy roots, the sunny fence beside,
And prop thy hyacinth's, thy tulip's pride;
Or listen to thy woodnotes clear and sweet;
And bid thy gentle redbreast there abide—
Poor cheerless bird! still fond thy form to meet,
Still hopping o'er each print that marks thy little feet!

'Twas there the blackbird built his early nest,
Plaistering its neatly-fibred round with clay;
And, seeming in a narrow circuit blest,
Swell'd to the morning light his sprightly lay.
And there, while fleecy clouds sunk west away,
Thy own melodious robin pour'd her throat,
Nor ceas'd, tho' all around were dusky grey!
E'en now, the melancholy warblings float—
I see thee tranc'd, as erst, by every pensive note!

Such was the faery moment, when I chas'd
The glitter of the rainbow, yet a boy;
When each new form my lively hopes embrac'd;
When each short sorrow was absorb'd in joy.
But ah! full soon I heav'd a deep'ning sigh—
Full soon I felt the enthusiast's kindling fire
As nature open'd to my eager eye!
Then expectation and high-flusht desire
To wilder minstrel tones awak'd my trembling lyre.

O ye green woodwalks! breathing fresh delight!
Ye glens, where fond imagination stray'd;
Yet once again, in summer-foliage bright,
O fold me in your health-restoring shade!
Ye breezes, that on wings of rapture play'd
To raise on my young cheeks the rosy bloom,
O give me back those spirits that fast fade
Damp'd by the world! One moment, yet relume
My lamp of life that faints amid the gathering gloom!

How oft, where your full umbrage, wave on wave,
Floated on air, in sweet delirium lost,
I rov'd; and sought at eve the dripping cave;
And, as the lunar hour I valued most,
Welcom'd the line of dancing light that crost
The pond's deep shadow, or the still repose
Of moonlov'd bank, that seem'd to sleep in frost—
Delicious at the day's solstitial close,
Or the rush gleaming green, where lambent meteors rose.

And when the plane was tawny-rob'd; when glow'd
The scarlet sycamore; when pale the lime
Tinctur'd by autumn's magic pencil flow'd;
When shone each polisht trunk, or, white from rime,
Glimmer'd beneath the gradual touch of time;
When calm the lucent cloud seem'd clad with dews,
Veiling the sun ere yet he pour'd, sublime,
O'er the film-netted field a thousand hues;
Listening to every leaf, I hail'd the varied views!

But, with my muse, accordant, the sad air
Of sable-cinctur'd winter, charm'd my mind;
When down the slope of yonder orchard bare
And stript of every shelter, unconfin'd
Darted my eye, and saw the valley wind
Round the dun hill. And oft, alert and brisk,
My balmy spirits danc'd, tho' deep-enshrin'd
In frosty mist appear'd the solar disk,
While on yon croft I view'd my kindred lambkins frisk.

And, as with one dark aspect, were embrown'd
The furzy upland, plash, or filbert-hedge;
Pleas'd have I heard the bittern's croak resound
Amidst the crackling of the tangled sedge;
Or saunter'd at the pool's pale-osier'd edge,
Startling the wild duck; or, as clear and still
Stream'd the frost-ether, listen'd from that ledge
Of rockstone, to the hern's shriek echoing-shrill;
Or the grey plover ey'd, far-wheeling round the hill.

Amid these walks my mounting spirit flew
Up to the proudest times of old renown:
When a long lineage I too fondly drew,
And saw the glittering vane its turret crown,
And mark'd around the moat, a vassal-town!
But ah! descending into Charles's days,
That spirit sunk before the blasting frown
Of dire usurpers fiercely-leagu'd to raze
Each monument of fair hereditary praise.

Yet, tho' I mus'd upon heroic worth,
(Fostering, alas! a vain transmitted pride)
Of sweet emotions soon I trac'd the birth;
And, since congenial feelings were denied
Mid social circles, by the gelid side
Of woodbin'd fountain breath'd my amorous flame,
As from my lips half-utter'd murmurs died!
And, as I strove to speak Eliza's name,
Tho' plunging into shade, I blush'd for conscious shame.

'Twas thus I told my passion to these groves
That in soft whispers o'er their inmate hung—
But oh! not long, to nurse my lonely loves,
Their "spreading favor" friendly shadows flung.
Full soon the pangs of parting anguish wrung
My bosom, as I bade these groves adieu!
"Ah! never more, to aid my faultering tongue,
Shall your soft whispers, to my passion true,
Repeat, how closely-linkt young love and fancy grew!"

Then, as to other tenants I resign'd
My genial meads, my dear paternal walls,
How many a sorrowing look I cast behind!
And, tho' immur'd where pale-ey'd science calls
Her votaries to the pomp of learned halls,
Long'd to revisit this sweet solitude—
Where I might guide romantic waterfalls,
Form into wavy lawn yon hillocks rude,
And mid creations fair, poetic visions brood.

But ah! 'twas mine, beneath far other bowers,
To wooe the muses to my Laura's praise—
Tho' brilliant, Laura! not serene as ours!
Ah! little suited to my Dorian lays!
What tho' a Courtenay's lively taste may raise
Groves ever green, and landscapes ever new;
What tho' he bid exotic Flora blaze,
Her gorgeous blooms unfolding to the view;
Yet I prefer these fields and downs of russet hue.

What tho' a Lilburne clothe the umbrageous height
With sweeping vest, and scoop the vermeil dale,
And give to all the sport of faery light
The dark-rich wood, the far-retiring vale,
The hamlet, the dim tower, the gliding sail;
What tho' a Swete his gothic cot may rear,
His mimic gateway deck with ivy pale,
Or lull with tortuous dreams the drowsied ear;
Still, "as the needle true," my wishes tremble here!

What tho', where Haldon lifts its flinty head,
What tho', where erst its savage grandeur frown'd,
A Palk the gentler smile of beauty spread,
Soft blooms, romantic verdure glowing round;
Tho', where the hand of classic skill hath crown'd
His pinewoods with a proud piazza'd dome,
He bid the voice of friendly mirth resound;
And, patron of the muses, ope the tome
To learning's foes, I still prefer my humbler home.

Yet, mid Devonian scenes, how sweet the flow
Of souls by genius fir'd — refin'd by taste!
And I should bid Elysium round me glow,
If they who own the friendly pleasures chaste
This lowly villa with their converse grac'd—
Downman, the first in physic as in song;
And Burrington, whom learning hath embrac'd
Her favourite child; and Jones, to whom belong
Talents that bear him high above the toga'd throng.

Nor less, ye lovely nymphs, your converse kind,
Chasing thy yawn, Ennui! from learned ease,
With fascination lures my ductile mind:
Witness the placid Julia, as the breeze
That whispers o'er the calm of summer seas
When halcyon skims the wave with emerald wing;
Whose smiles the turbulence of wrath appease;
To cheering light the spleen-dark spirit bring,
And heal the festering wound from pale affliction's sting.

And lo, the maid! who far from Isca roves
Where sister-waves with Tavy's stream unite,
Who charms with melting tones the secret groves;
Whose innocence and candor, vestal white,
Live in the lustre of their native light;
Whose polilst manners might a court adorn;
The radiance of whose eyes beam heavenly bright;
Whose blush, of sweet-retiring meekness born,
Glows, like the crimson beam, that mantles to the morn!

But ah! the joys of youth, of health are o'er!
And I am sunk with trembling frame too low
To feel the charm of polisht converse more—
To breathe ecstatic ardors mid the flow
Of harmony! Alas! too well I know
The faintings of disease, to bid the plume
Instinct with all the muse's vivid glow,
Waft me where visionary beauties bloom,
Riot in fields of bliss and disappoint the tomb!

O! since my gaudier hopes no more avail,
Here shelter'd, may I heave a few fond sighs;
And, as the wounded dove o'er hill and dale
To her own nest on flagging pinion flies,
Languish amidst domestic sympathies,
Sooth'd by these shades! Here, after many a blast
Darkening the pale horizon of my skies—
Here, o'er my head the wintry horrors past,
Be mine, in that still pause, at home to breathe my last!

[(1798) 1:75-93]