1810 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Fragment, after the Manner of Spenser.

Poetical Works of Reginald Heber, D. D.

Bp. Reginald Heber


The future Bishop of Calcutta hails Spenser as "master mine" in three Spenserians, not dated and posthumously published in Works (1841). The stanzas recall the Phantasties episode in the second book of the Faerie Queene, though knowing that Heber would later give up writing poetry in order to pursue his Christian vocation, it is hard not to think of Thomson's Castle of Indolence as well. Is the library described that of his half-brother Richard, the famous book collector?

Amelia Heber: "This admiration of the Faerie Queene he preserved in his maturer years; he seldom travelled without a volume of the same copy which he had at school, to read on the road" in Life of Reginald Heber (New York, 1830) 1:8n.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Bishop Heber died, at Trichinopoly, in the East Indies, in April 1826. He was one of the most elegantly accomplished scholars of his time. In 1803, at the age of twenty, he wrote the Oxford Prize Poem of 'Palestine.' At that time, Scott (who knew his brother, Richard, the book-collector) visited Oxford, and made his acquaintance. Heber read the poem to him, and Scott remarked that in the verse on Solomon's Temple, he had omitted to allude to the fact that no tools were used in its erection. The young poet retired to another part of the room, and in a few minutes returned with the beautiful lines, — 'No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung— | Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung. | Majestic silence,' &c. He entered the Church, as was presented to the rectory of Hodnel, in Shropshire, where he zealously performed the duties of a parish priest. In 1822, he was appointed preacher at Lincoln's Inn, (his own letter to Sir Thomas Plomer, Master of the Rolls, offering himself as a candidate, is in my collection of autographs,) and soon after, he was offered the Bishopric of Calcutta, vacant by the death of apostolic Middleton. Having twice declined it, he accepted it, on the entreaty of his wife — herself a bishop's daughter — and embarked for the East Indies in June 1823, arriving at Calcutta in the following October. He displayed much zeal and judgment in the execution of his Episcopal duties, and died suddenly — being found lifeless at the bottom of a cold bath. Heber's literary labors were considerable. He published several sermons, edited Jeremy Taylor's writings, produced several poems, (chiefly on sacred subjects,) and contributed largely to the Quarterly Review" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:365n.

Reginald Heber's father, also Reginald, published anonymously An Elegy among the Tombs in Westminster Abbey (1762).



And by that mansion's western side there stoode
An ancient bowre enwrapte in darkest shade
Of sacred elde, and wide-encircling woode;
Seemed it was for saintlye abbesse made.
Strong were the doors with yron barrs arraide
For fear of foe that them enharmen myghte,
Ne any durst that fort for to invade,
For by the wicket grate, bothe daye and nyghte,
A snowy gaurdian sate; of old that Bunny highte.

And all withinne were books of various lore,
St. Leon's toils, and Bible nothinge newe,
And needle-work, and artists' busie store
Of crumbling chalke, and tyntes of everie hue;
And on the ground, most terrible to view,
Dame Venus' mangled limbs were strewed around;
For soothe to tell, the goddess envyous grewe
When here she saw myght fairer forms be found,
And dash'd in pieces small her statue on the ground.

Such is that bowre, but who shall dare pourtraye
What sister fairies there their spells combine;
She, whose younge charms the rugged harte cold swaye
Of prelate olde, and never tamed divine.
She, limneresse of Spenser, (master mine,)
Angelic limneresse, in whose darke eye
Dothe wit's wilde glance and playful beauty shine
And she of shapeliest form and stature highe,
And meeke unconscious state and winning majestie.

[(1842) 271-72]