1811
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Westminster Abbey.

Poems. Second Edition.

Mary Russell Mitford


A descriptive ode in the octosyllabic measure by Mary Russell Mitford: Spenser appears in a catalogue of worthies buried in Westminster Abbey: "Here gentle Spencer; foulest stain | Of his own Gloriana's reign! | And he, who mock'd at Art's control, | The mighty master of the soul, | Shakespeare, our Shakespeare! by his side, | The man who pour'd his mighty tide" p. 224. The worthies include Isaac Newton, both Pitts, and Charles James Fox. The ode was added in the augmented second edition of Mitford's Poems.

Poetical Repository for 1810-11: "If these poems had not speedily reached a second edition, we confess that we should have thought unfavourably of the public taste. They possess merit of no common kind. In every page we have found proofs that their author has a vigorous and elegant mind, a highly poetical imagination, a command of glowing language, and an ear finely tuned to all the harmony of verse" (1814) 605.

John Mitford to Dr. Mitford: "I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of a volume of poems which Mssrs. Longman transmitted to me a few days since, and for which I am indebted to your politeness. I have been very much pleased with Miss Mitford's poems generally, and many passages I think excellent. In particular I was delighted to see her muse busy in Northumberland, the scenery of which in many parts is well worthy of a poet. The counties near London are now become almost its suburbs, a circumstance which is of considerable disadvantage to some of our old poets, particularly to Thomson and Akenside, whose favorite spot was Richmond Hill — a place that will not, I suppose, be again celebrated in verse till the revival of the City Laureateship. Miss Mitford seems peculiarly to excel in descriptive poetry, which, after all, is the poetry that pleases most and clings closest to the mind. For myself, I would give whole pages of Dryden and Young for one of Milton or of Cowper" 4 February 1811; in L'Estrange, Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford (1882) 38-39.



Where all that strikes th' admiring eye
Breathes beauty and sublimity;
Where the cool air and tranquil light
The world-worn heart to peace invite;
Whence comes this sadness, pure and holy,
This calm resistless, melancholy?
This hallow'd fear, this awe-struck feeling?
Comes it from yonder organ pealing?
From low chaunt, stealing up the aisle?
From clos'd gate echoing through the pile?
From storied windows glancing high?
From bannerets of chivalry?
Or from yon holy chapel, seen
Dimly athwart the Gothic screen?
No, 'tis the stranger's solemn tread,
Resounding o'er the mighty dead!
He came to see thy wond'rous state,
The wise, the beautiful, the great,
Thy glory, Empress of the Wave,
He came to see — and found a grave:
But such a grave, as never yet
To statesman paid a people's debt!
In battle-strife, the Hero's sigh
Is breathed for thee or victory;
And Bards immortal, find in thee
A second Immortality!

He, who first rais'd from gothic gloom
Our tongue; here Chaucer finds a tomb:
Here gentle Spencer; foulest stain
Of his own Gloriana's reign!
And he, who mock'd at Art's control,
The mighty master of the soul,
Shakespeare, our Shakespeare! by his side,
The man who pour'd his mighty tide:
The brightest union Genius wrought,
Was Garrick's voice, and Shakespeare's thought.
Here Milton's heaven-strung lyre reposes;
Here Dryden's meteor brilliance closes:
Here Newton lies, — and with him lie,
The thousand glories of our sky:
Stars, numerous as the host of Heaven!
And radiant as the flashing levin!

Lo, Chatham! The immortal name,
Graven in the patriot's heart of flame!
Here, his long course of honours run,
The mighty Father's mighty Son!
And here — Ah wipe that falling tear!
Last, best, and greatest, Fox lies here!
Here sleep they all: on the wide Earth
There dwell not men of mortal birth,
Would dare contest fame's glorious race,
With those who fill this little space.
Oh could some wizard spell revive
The buried dead, and bid them live,
It were a sight to charm dull age,
The infant's roving eye engage,
The wounded heal, the deaf man cure,
The widow from her tears allure,
And moping idiots tell the story
Of England's bliss and England's glory!

And they do live! — Our Shakespeare's strains
Die not while English tongue remains;
Whilst light and colours spread and fly,
Lives Newton's deathless memory:
Whilst Freedom warms one English breast,
There Fox's honored name shall rest.
Yes, they do live! — they live t' inspire
Fame's daring sons with hallowed fire;
Like sparks from Heaven, they wake the blaze,
The living light of Genius' rays;
Bid England's glories flash across the gloom,
And catch her Heroes' spirit from their tomb.

[pp. 222-26]