1803
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Il Romito, or, the Hermit.

European Magazine 44 (October 1803) 300-301.

Sabinus


An imitation of Milton's Il Penseroso signed "Sabinus" in which "to see all things with a poet's eye" is to enter the "realms of fairy land" — very much in the gothic manner of Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy. As was the case elsewhere, the poetry columns of the European Magazine at this era were crowded with sonnets, elegiac quatrains, and lyric measures — but with virtually nothing in the Spenserian stanza, which had become unfashionable in the first decade of the nineteenth century.

Eleanor M. Sickels: "there is Il Romito; or the Hermit, which is in tripping octosyllabics in the best ode-tradition — with 'Meditation, pensive maid,' curfew, Gothic ruins, promontory, moon, tempest, a tomb, 'dying tapers,' yews, 'the frequent sigh,' 'Ah! what avails...?,' and a closing prayer for a dark and solitary grave" Sickels, Gloomy Egoist (1932) 79.



Come, gentle Peace, companion mild,
Of Virtue the immortal child!
O hither come! and bring with thee,
Who loves thee well, Philosophy,
And let Religion join thy train,
And Art and Science, sisters twain,
With Meditation, pensive maid,
And Silence, daughter of the shade!
And now, sweet Peace, O let me dwell
With thee, in this secluded cell!
Nor Pride, nor Envy, knows this spot,
And Malice here pursues me not:
But here the Muses still retire,
Forgetting not to bring the lyre;
And charming thought and care away,
Oft cheat me of a summer's day;
What time they sing of heroes bold,
Whose martial deeds were fam'd of old;
What time they dwell in alter'd measures,
O Love! upon thy pains and pleasures.

'Tis mine to love the gloomy shade,
For grief and contemplation made.
Oft when the curfeu tells the hour
From Gothic pile or antique tow'r,
When with the light of closing day
The ev'ning landscape fades away,
I muse by some romantic stream,
Pleas'd by many an idle dream;
Or in the fairy-peopled grove,
When Fancy sees her phantoms rove,
I walk, and meditate alone
On gayer hours — on pleasures gone.

But if the time my steps invite,
I scale yon promontory's height,
And there, upon the pointed steep
That frowns terrific o'er the deep,
I list, while with incessant roar
Wave after wave invades the shore;
Or watch the moon through ether blue
Her solitary course pursue,
While clouds, swift passing in their flight,
Now hide, and now reveal her light.

But should the tempest lift its voice,
Then is yon cavern drear my choice,
Where once, self-punish'd, on the shore
A hoary hermit liv'd of yore:
There, while disturb'd the eagle shrieks,
And the scar'd owl a covert seeks,
I mark'd the storm with gather'd force
Resistless rush with whirlwind course.
In hours like these, in northern isles,
Where summer cheers with transient smiles,
The hoary-wizard thinks he sees
Portents, and signs, and prodigies,
And views throughout his realms of snow,
Lord of the clime — the Winter go,
Attended by aerial hosts,
By warlike troops of restless ghosts,
By spectres dire, of hideous form,
And demons, riding on the storm.

Or should its awe-inspiring gloom,
Delay my steps at yonder tomb,
Where dying tapers dimly burn,
And grief still ponders o'er the urn;
There, sitting underneath the yew,
The sad and solemn scene I view:
And while I heave the frequent sigh,
A voice thus seems to whisper nigh:
"Ah! what avails, or youth, or health,
The boast of birth, or pride of wealth!
Ah! what is pleasure! what is pow'r!
The dreams that charm us for an hour;
What are ye now, who toil'd for fame?
Mere dust — a story — and a name."

Still when the morn with purple light,
Shall chase my slumbers with the night,
Let me retire to some green bow'r,
Inlaid with many a blooming flow'r,
Where sportive Zephyr oft repairs,
With odours sweet, and vernal airs;
Where Flora and Pomona bring
The gifts of autumn and of spring;
Where, flying from the solar ray,
The nightingale resumes her lay;
Where, from the deep parental cave,
Unsullied glides the virgin wave:
'Tis then, O Muse, at thy command,
I seek thy realms of fairy-land!
And, as from haunts of men I fly,
See all things with a poet's eye.
But graver themes delight me more,
Than all that wit and fancy store;
And oft I meditate the cause
Of Nature's works, and Nature's laws—
How Fate has bound the human will—
Whence sorrow sprang — and why is ill—
How passive matter is combin'd
With pure intelligence, and mind—
How things external are perceiv'd—
What should be doubted — what believ'd.

And when, at length, my sand has run,
Let Death's dread work be quickly done.
Let Solitude around my tomb
Spread dark her unrelenting gloom,
Save when recluses here repair,
With lengthen'd rosary and pray'r;
Save when poets hither stray,
When musing on some mournful lay,
And, o'er their sorrows pausing here,
With laurels strew a brother's bier.

[pp. 300-01]