1805
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Retirement.

Censura Literaria 1 (1805) 286-89, 425-29.

Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges


Edmund Spenser appears in a catalogue of suffering poets (with Milton and Otway): "O say, while haunting savage soils, amid barbaric clans, | Whose discords rude, and yells | Of hideous tone, might e'en appall the hearts | Of stoutest heroes, say, enchanting Bard, | What but the Muse could soothe those anxious days | Of never ceasing peril." Samuel Egerton Brydges, the antiquary and editor of Censura Literaria, published "Retirement" in installments in this pioneering bibliographic journal. While he had assistance from Thomas Park and Octavius Gilchrist, Brydges did most of the writing.

A correspondent wrote to Censura Lliteraria: "What signifies it to them [book collectors], if you lose the long day in woodland solitudes, dreaming of the splendour of past ages, realising in your fancy all the glories of the times of chivalry, and marshalling the Fairy Knights of Spenser in golden visions? These occupations will not enable you to tell the peculiar marks, or minute variations of a liber raris, or help you in the discovery of an unknown Caxton! Do not give heed to the exploded doctrine that to criticize a poet requires something of a congenial feeling. A collector, it seems, can do it well; but, no doubt, a maker of catalogues can do it best of all!" Censura Literaria 6 (1808) 314.

Robert Southey transcribed the following remark by Richard Gough: "Mr. Gough says in a letter to Cole. 'Our duty as antiquaries is to prepare for the worst, and treasure up all we can come at, before popular rage, heightened by faction, anticipates time in his ravages" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 3:740.



Now wakes the poet's strain: from yonder shades
Methinks I hear the rapturous notes pour'd forth.
O hail! ye masters of the Lyre!
If, long an alien to your holy rites
Lost I have wander'd, once again admit
A sad repentant votary to your shrines!
From you he seeks for genuine joy; from you
He asks the charm that bids the gloomier depths
Of Solitude to smile, and peoples all
The frowning wilderness with heavenly forms.
O thou, from whose inspired lips arose
The tale of "Fairy castles, of brave Knights
And gentle Ladies — whose immortal song
Fierce wars, and faithful loves have moraliz'd,"
O say, while haunting savage soils, amid barbaric clans,
Whose discords rude, and yells
Of hideous tone, might e'en appall the hearts
Of stoutest heroes, say, enchanting Bard,
What but the Muse could soothe those anxious days
Of never ceasing peril — She, who bad
E'en Mulla's murmuring waters, as thou lay'st
Calm on her banks, while Murder stalk'd around,
Nurse thy sweet dreams, and cherish for thy lyre
The brilliant scenes of visionary worlds!
And thou, sublimest Milton, from whose tongue
Flow'd holy inspiration, when beset
With poverty, with sorrow, blame and scorn,
"With darkness and with dangers compass'd round,"
What but the Muse, thy dreary rooms could light
With glories of serpahic brillancy? . . .

[pp. 426-27]