1801
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lines, written upon seeing the unclaimed Corpse of a Suicide exposed upon the Bank of a River.

Morning Chronicle (8 January 1801).

Thomas Campbell


Two "Rowley" Spenserians (ababbcdcdD), a form which had been used twice before in poems published in the European Magazine. Thomas Campbell treats a traditional topic in Spenserian verse in an original manner, stripping away the allegory in order to heighten the pathos of the scene. Compare the two-stanza form of William Collins's How Sleep the Brave. The edition of Campbell's poems edited by J. Logie Robertson dates the poem 1800. The poem was later titled "Lines on the Grave of a Suicide."

Rufus W. Griswold: "Campbell's poetry has little need of critical illustration. His chief merit is rhetorical. There is not vagueness of mysticism in his verse. The scenes and feelings he delineates are common to human beings in general, and the impressive style in which these are unfolded, owes its charm to vigor of language and forcible clearness of epithet. Many of his lines ring with a harmonious energy, and seem the offspring of the noblest enthusiasm. This is especially true of his martial lyrics, which in their way are unsurpassed" Poets and Poetry of England in the Nineteenth Century (1844) 114.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "From 1806 until his death in June, 1844, Campbell had a pension of £200 a year, out of the public revenue of England. He owed this to the kindness of Charles James Fox, when minister. Campbell cannot have realized less than £7,000 by his poery. His prose was also well paid for, and during the ten years of his connection with the New Monthly, he had a salary of £500 a year. Contrast this wealth (for such it was) with the poverty of Burns and the lifelong struggles of Hogg" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:68n.

W. J. Courthope: "Thomas Campbell was born on the 27th July 1777 in Glasgow, where his father, who was engaged in the Virginia trade, had a house of business. Thomas was the youngest of a large family, which was at the time of birth in needy circumstances, his father having lost his fortune in consequence of the revolt of the American colonies. In 1785 the boy was sent to the Grammar School in Glasgow. From 1791 to 1796 he studied in the University of the same city, and distinguished himself by his translations from the Greek classics. His earliest finished verses, 'When Jordan hushed his waters still,' were the work of 1795. In 1799 appeared The Pleasures of Hope, and in the same volume were included The Wounded Hussar, Gilderoy, The Harper, and Elegy on Love and Madness. The Pleasures of Hope at once secured for the author a position of mark among the poets of the day" History of English Poetry (1895-1910) 6:100.



By strangers left upon a lonely shore,
Unknown, unhonour'd, was the FRIENDLESS DEAD:
Nor child to weep, nor widow to deplore,
There ever came to his unburied head!
All from his lonely habitation fled;
Nor will the lanthern'd fisherman at eve
Launch on that water by the Witches' Tower,
Where Hellebore and Hemlock seem to weave
Round its dark vaults a melancholy bower
For Spirits of the Dead, at night's enchanted hour!

They dread to meet thee (poor unfortunate!),
Whose crime it was, on life's unfinish'd road
To feel the step-dame buffeting of Fate,
And render back thy Being's heavy load!
Ah! once, perhaps, the social Passions glow'd
In thy devoted Bosom; and the Hand
That smote its kindred Heart might yet be prone
To deeds of Mercy! Who can understand
Thy many Woes, poor Suicide unknown!—
He who thy sorrows gave shall judge of thee alone!

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