1809
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Miss Gertrude Louisa Allen.

Wallace; or the Flight of Falkirk; a Metrical Romance

Margaret Holford


A Horatian ode in six Spenserian stanzas. After bidding defiance to the critics, the poet lauds the heroic spirit of England and its aging king George III: "Yes! for mine eyes first open'd on the day | In England! gem and glory of the west; | Where the light minstrel pours the unbidden lay, | Untremulous, untrampled, unoppress'd, | Pours from a free, a proud, a happy breast!" Wallace, or the Flight of Falkirk was written in irregular stanzas and first appeared in 1809. The volume was published anonymously.

Literary Panorama: "If the Flight of Falkirk be really the work of a young lady, (—and it has been attributed in our hearing to a Miss Holford of Bath) it is an extraordinary effort of genius. That the structure of its versification is an imitation of Mr. Scott's poetry, cannot be denied; but the turn of thought, and sentiment evinces a mind of no ordinary powers, and justifies our describing it as an effort of genius, notwithstanding the inferiority usually and justly annexed to the character of an imitator" 8 (July 1810) 413.

British Critic: "So much fame has justly been engrossed by the Northern Muse, Miss Joanna Baillie, that on hearing of an applauded poem, on a Scottish subject, we began to feel a little jealous for our country-women, on this side of the Tweed, lest they should fall at all behind in the race of glory. The name of Holford a little reassured us, carrying with it no 'clannish' sound; and we had not perused the dedicatory poem, before we found the authoress avowing her country, with a pride that becomes her, and does honour to us" 37 (January 1811) 37.

In an 1837 letter to Joanna Baillie, Margaret Holford reported that Reginald Heber had her that he had offered to review Wallace for the Quarterly Review but had been turned down, Collected Letters of Joanna Baillie (1999) 2:667.



Oh, Friend! who hand in hand, o'er steep and vale,
Along life's path still journeyest by my side,
Content alike, if sorrow's storms assail,
Or hope and fortune shed their sun-lights wide,
With me the varied climate to abide!
Oh, Friend! thro' every change of feeling dear!
Or droops my heart, or emulant in pride,
My bouyant fancy wings her high career,
And scatters with bright glance the flimsy forms of fear.

Wilt thou reject my Muse, and scorn the song
She lov'd to weave and consecrate to thee?
No! for thy glowing cheek and faithful tongue
Say, thy heart cherishes the minstrelsy!
Then let the critic scowl with frosty eye,
Let censure's marking finger soil the lay,
Let envy's demons, flitting thro' the sky
Shed their dence vapour — if the Muse's ray,
And friendship's steady light, with lustre gild the day!

And deem not, jealous for our native land,
With alien step I sought the billowy Forth,
When led a pilgrim by the Muse's hand,
I climb'd the rude hills of the stormy north,
And sung her sons — their hardihood and worth!
No! as I turn again my truant eyes,
To mark the pleasant land which gave us birth,
Quick in my soul what rushing crowds arise,
Heart-cheering visions all of native sympathies!

Yes! for mine eyes first open'd on the day
In England! gem and glory of the west;
Where the light minstrel pours the unbidden lay,
Untremulous, untrampled, unoppress'd,
Pours from a free, a proud, a happy breast!
Home of the exile! Mother of the brave!
England! among the nations singly bless'd!
O'er the wide world whose arms are stretch'd to save,
Whose silver throne stands fix'd, amid the eternal wave!

Long, long my country, may thy favour'd land
Drink at the source benign whence blessings flow!
Long my we kiss our Father's gentle hand,
And mark with moisten'd eye his sacred brow,
Bleaching in many a rugged winter's snow!
And oh! while are around the nations shake,
While ruin's wasteful whirlwinds o'er them blow,
Let not the sight of our rash presumption wake,
God his Annointed loves, and spares us for his sake!

Hail George the Good! our sovereign, and our friend!
Hail christian king! Thy people's father, hail!
Oh! as thy feet life's craggy path descend,
Which from the hill-top winds into the vale,
Millions with blessings lad thy evening gale!
Belov'd by England, dreaded by the foe,
Unquench'd by age, thy spirit scorns to fail;
Smiling thou bidst thy sons to battle go,
And when they fight for thee, 'tis heaven directs the blow!

[pp. iii-v]