1807 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Eight Sonnets, modernised from Spencer.

Poems and Tales. 2 Vols.

Elizabeth Trefusis


A cycle of eight sonnets, posthumously published in 1808, very freely adapted from Spenser (one is even in octosyllabic lines). Perhaps the idea for this free-spirited treatment of a source was Anna Seward's "translations" from Horace. Four of the sonnets by Elizabeth Trefusis had previously appeared (anonymously) in the Gentleman's Magazine.

Thomas Denman: "Some of Spenser's sonnets are modernised with taste; and we think that the fifty-sixth is remarkable for felicity of expression and neat versification.... The work is closed with some pretty translations from several of the songs introduced in Florian's romances" Monthly Review NS 57 (October 1808) 208.

British Critic: "The sonnets, modernized from Spenser, have very considerable merit, and they indeed who love genuine poetry, produced by the most unsophisticated sensibility, where every lines speaks feeling, truth, and nature, will have a delicious feast in these two elegant little volumes" 32 (1808) 129.



SONNET LXXV.
Once on the Sand Dione's name I traced,
A rising wave soon wash'd that name away;
Again I wrote; again the wave effaced
The signature of love from prying day.
"Poor youth! (she cried) all vainly hast thou strove
To give a soul immortality!
Soon, soon this object of romantic love,
Alas, must sink into eternity!"
No, my soul's joy! Though vulgar beauties fade,
Immortal honours wait Dione's name;
Her bard, her Damon, sings his angel maid,
And future ages shall record her fame.
Yes, they shall tell of happy Damon's truth,
Dione's sweetness, sense, and blooming youth.

SONNET LXXXII.
Power, wealth, and beauty, sweetness, sense, and worth,
To thee, Dione, were the gifts of heav'n!
But O, a meaner star at Damon's birth
Shed its fair beams, — for only love was giv'n!
Thus, while I bless the influence which decreed
So bright an object to my soul's fond vows,
Still, still I tremble, lest her breast should bleed
That such an humble love her fate allows.
Still, still I tremble, lest the high-born fair
Should blush to favour such a lowly flame;
Lest the loved angel should disdain to share
Her Damon's fortunes, and her Damon's name.
But, while by love inspired, he sings her worth,
Th' enraptured hearer shall forget his birth.

SONNET XXVIII.
See, on the bosom of my smiling maid,
With various sweets, the laurel-branch reclines,
The laurel that encircled Damon's head
Glows on her ivory breast, and brighter shines!
All hail! blest augury of growing love—
Her poet's badge the mild Dione wears!
Teach her, sweet laurel, teach the maid to prove
A tender pity for her Damon's tears;
And when her beamy eyes are fixed on thee,
Bid her remember hapless Daphne's fate,
A blooming virgin stiffening to a tree,
Sad victim of her own relentless hate!
Then fly not, dearest, from thy Damon's arms;
A son of Phoebus woes those haughty charms.

SONNET XLVI.
'Tis night, my love! the tempest roars,
The hail descends, the lightning glares,
Yon cloud th' incessant torrents pours,
And Nature thus Heaven's will declares.
Yes, Nature thus commands my stay,
But stern Dione bids me fly;
Her cruel mandate I obey,
And go, though going be — to die!
Your wrath, kind elements, assuage,
Hide, forked lightnings, hide your fire,
Cease, boist'rous Boreas, cease to rage,
Quick to your gloomy caves retire;
Why on a hapless lover's head,
Relentless storm, your fury shed?

SONNET X.
Torn, rack'd with anguish, since that fatal hour,
When bright Dione wing'd the cruel dart,
Ah, vengeful love! by what despotic pow'r
Thus dost thou torture this perturbed heart?
Alas! my lovely tyrant joys to see
The hourly conquests of her victor eyes;
Derides my sorrows, scorns thy pow'r and thee,
And proudly triumphs o'er her vanquish'd prize!
Bend, Cupid, bend this rebel to thy sway,
Teach her to feel the passion she inspires,
Bid her some vulgar conqueror obey,
Or sorrowing consume in hopeless fires;
That Damon, now the object of her scorn,
May see her tears, and triumph in his turn.

SONNET LVI.
True, she is fair, — but cruel and unkind
As the fell tyger growling o'er his prey:
O Love! is this the image of that mind
Whose winning sweetness smil'd my peace away?
True, she is fair, — but pitiless and cold
As the wild storm that sweeps the wint'ry plain:
If chance some lonely tree its leaves unfold,
Bleak blows the blast, and makes its promise vain!
True, she is fair, — but hard and obstinate
As the rough rock, that waves in vain assail,
'Gainst which some ship, of succour desolate,
Wounds its tough sides, while human efforts fail.
The storm, the tyger, and the rock, is she;
And I, alas! the prey, the ship, the tree!

SONNET LXXVIII.
Dione lost! from place to place I rove,
As roves the fawn, the parent hind away;
And missing thee, o'er valley, hill, and grove,
Where oft we wander'd, pensively I stray.
The tender herbage late thy footsteps wore,
And late the fragrant bower conceal'd thy charms;
But now the yielding verdure bends no more,
No more the bower receives thee to its arms.
Dione lost! ah, what for me remains?
Sure sorrow's livery mourning autumn wears,
Sure the kind heavens, in pity to my pains,
Lament thine absence in continual tears.
Cease, cease ye skies, to weep Dione gone,
For here the virgin 'bides, and this fond heart's her throne.

SONNET XIII.
The laughing Amoret may fail to charm,
The winning Melicerta cease to move,
The tender Delia wake no fond alarm,
Though versed in all the witcheries of love.
But that proud port which high Dione bears
Pourtrays a mind from earth-born passions free;
And when her haughty head to heaven she rears,
She seems to soar above mortality.
For her what numbers waste in hopeless fires!
Yet, Lycon, 'tis not pride exalts the fair;
Her purer thought from earth to heaven aspires,
Love, and love's follies, are beneath her care.
Since heaven itself to pity is inclined,
Why, beauteous tyrant, why to all unkind?

[2:144-45; 146; 147; 148; 149; 150; 151;152]