Pains of Memory. A Fragment.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton

42 Spenserians on the pleasures and pains of memory, with salutes to Samuel Rogers and James Beattie, and reflections on the hardships of penal colonies: "No mourning relatives to gather round, | And watchful stand to catch my parting sigh; | Excluded from the sacred churchyard's bound, | Where Father, Mother, Sisters, Brothers lie, | Who o'er my poor remains shall cast a pitying eye?" Metrical Effusions, an anonymous production, was the first volume published by Bernard Barton, who would become one of the most the popular and prolific poets of the 1820s and 30s.

Francis Hodgson: "The Pains of Memory supply several tolerable stanzas, and several which are very indifferent. Nothing sinks very low, and nothing rises near to those exquisite lines which are printed in the notes to some of the editions of the Pleasures of Memory, on the former subjects. The familiarity of introducing 'Hannah Meadows' in the Spenserian stanza cannot be too keenly ridiculed. Every person of taste is in duty bound to contribute his quota of sarcasm, or of argument, or of downright laughter, (the most successful instrument of the three, in all cases of the kind,) to prevent the further degradation of our poetry by admitting into it all the population of our villages. Hobbinol and Colin Clout were quite graceful compared to these vulgar realities. The couplet has been already sacrificed to them by powerful genius, which overthrows all obstacles, and contrives in spite of every drawback to please even those who are most conscious of its offences. — Let the stanza of Spenser at least be preserved sacred from these sins of grossness; which destroy all the ideal charm of verse; and which, instead of rendering it a pleasant relief to the cares and crosses of the world, make it a tame copy of existing miseries" Monthly Review NS 70 (February 1813) 213.

Epes Sargent: "Barton (1784-1849) has often been spoken of as 'the Quaker poet.' He became a banker's clerk at the age of twenty-six, and continued in that position, like Lamb in the East India House, to the end of his life. Pure, gentle, and amiable, his poetry reflects his character. To the Sonnet to a Grandmother, Charles Lamb affixed the characteristic comment, 'A good sonnet. Dixi. — C. Lamb.' Barton's Poems and Letters were published, with a memoir, by his daughter, in 1853" Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 368.

An "Address to Memory" in eight Spenserians by John Mackay Wilson was published in The Athenaeum (7 January 1832) 11.

Memory! mysterious principle, whose power
Can ope alike the source of joy, or wo;
Can gild with "gladsome ray" the passing hour,
Or bid the starting tear of anguish flow:
Fain would my mournful song aspire to show
What keen regret, what deep remorse is thine;
How in the wreath which decks thine awful brow,
The cypress with the willow should entwine,
Alas! my plaintive lyre, a gloomy theme is mine!

Far different visions happier bards have seen,
Far different lays have happier poets sung;
And on those soul-enchanting sounds I ween
Full many a captivated ear hath hung.
Nor would I spurn the lyre to rapture strung,
Or deem the song of Memory's joys untrue;
For oft, ere anguish had my bosom wrung,
Did former hours recur to fancy's view,
In gaudier colours drest, with graces ever new.

Yes, Memory! in thy richly varied page,
Some pleasing passages may charm the eye;
The guileless records of our earlier age
May bring some dreams of retrospective joy;
But is that pleasure then without alloy?
Or does not contrast turn that bliss to wo?
But few, I fear, can think of hours gone by,
Nor witness in their hearts compunction's throe
For moments unimproved, and time mispent below.

Grant that nor vice, nor folly wounds the heart,
Yet various feelings may regret inspire;
The agonizing tear may often start,
To see departed friendship's flame expire.
The mother mourns her child, the son his sire,
Once loved on earth, now number'd with the dead;
The weeping maiden's trembling steps retire
From the green sod where rests her lover's head:—
Who hath not mourn'd in vain for joys that long have fled?

To meditate, with retrospective glance,
On vanish'd transports of gay hours of pleasure,
Our present happiness may well enhance,
As former gains increase our present treasure.
Benignant time's insensible erasure
May mitigate the heart-felt pangs of sorrow;
And from the cheering view of well spent leisure,
Some gleams of hope the mind may justly borrow
To usher in the dawn of heaven's eternal morrow.

For, can the wiles of art, the grasp of power,
Or all the fiends which blast the mind's repose,
Snatch the rich reliques of a well spent hour,
Or quench the light it gives at life's dark close?
No — when the lamp of life but faintly glows,
E'en when the trembling spirit wings her flight,
Conscience shall blunt departing nature's throes,
And smiling hope shall pour, with lustre bright,
Around her heaven-ward path a stream of living light.

Such were the sounds, which, on my youthful ear,
In strains of harmony and rapture fell;
When Rogers bade his song, melodious, clear,
In sweetest accents Memory's pleasures tell;
Did not my glowing bosom feel the spell
Of his celestial theme? My raptur'd thought
Would oft, by him inspired, with fondness dwell
On hours for ever fled, with pleasure fraught
By Memory's magic power from infant pastime brought.

Oh! sweetest Minstrel! since to thee belong
The gift of verse, the poet's art divine;
Why should thy silence thus the muses wrong?
Why lies unstrung a harp so sweet as thine?
"Oh! wake once more!" pour forth the flowing line,
Assert the honours thou hast justly won:
"Oh! wake once more!" invoke the favoring nine,
And ere thy yet remaining sand be run,
Resplendently shine forth like the meridian sun.

But, though thy pleasures, Memory, justly claim
The votive tribute of the minstrel's song;
Yet keen regret, despair, and blushing shame,
Horror and madness too, to thee belong.
Of torturing fiends a fell relentless throng
Attend thy course, and goad the anguish'd mind,
Recal the hour when vice betray'd to wrong,
Anticipate the doom to guilt assign'd,
And to each glimpse of hope the wandering senses blind.

And shall thy pleasures then alone inspire
The poet's song? shall fancy, sportive, gay,
To notes of joy ecstatic tune the lyre,
Unmindful that those Pleasures soon decay?
Forgetful that the brightest, happiest day
Must often, by misfortune overcast,
Call forth the tear for moments pass'd away,
For hopes dispers'd by disappointment's blast,
And pleasing spells dissolv'd, which fancy said should last.

And do not Themes like these deserve the lay?
Yes; though ungrateful, gloomy, and forlorn;
Scorn'd by the young, unnotic'd by the gay,
Who sport enraptur'd in the glowing morn
Of life: yet hearts there are who may not scorn
The song which bids the tear of pity start;
Hearts which have deeply felt the rankling thorn
Which Memory can through every Fibre dart;
To such my lay shall flow warm from a kindred heart,

Not broken tho' subdued; for I have known
The day of sunshine, and the night of gloom;
Have seen the star of love, which brightly shone,
Descend in Death, my Prospects to illume
No more. If over some unsculptur'd Tomb
The drops of hopeless anguish ye have shed;
I well can weep with you your luckless doom,
For She, with whom I hop'd life's path to tread,
Rests in her silent grave, companion of the dead!

Dear sainted Spirit! wheresoe'er thy home,
How gladly to thy presence would I fly;
With thee through boundless fields of ether roam;
And praise with thee the source of love on high.
Blest Shade! in thy refined society,
Nor pain, nor sorrow, nor remorse is known,
But glory, bliss, and immortality;
For transient life, and early death atone:
A heav'nly prize is thine, an earthly lot my own.

Are there who mourn for friendship known no more?
For cold neglect, unmerited disdain?
Are there who weep adversity's dark hour?
Reluctant vassals in misfortune's train?
Are there for evil past who sigh in vain,
Harass'd with grief, worn out with toiling care?
Whoe'er ye are, whose bosoms throb with pain,
Deem not your own distress beyond compare,
But learn from heavier griefs your lighter load to bear.

Hapless the lover in his nymph's disdain,
Hapless the mariner by tempests driven,
Hapless the cripple bent with age and pain,
Hapless the blind amid the light of heaven;
More hapless still the wretch who long has striven,
And o'er his fierce desires no battle won;
But, Oh! how hapless he, whose heart is riven
With conscious guilt! on whom the glorious sun
Shines with unwelcome ray, and tells of mischief done!

Go, turn thine eye on Rome's heroic page,
And learn how Regulus, in days of yore,
The fiercest brunt of Carthaginian rage,
With tranquil soul, and mien unalter'd bore.
Or rather mark, where, bath'd in human gore,
The infuriate Bonner eyes the flaming pile;
And learn that conscious innocence has power
To meet the bitterest pains with cheerful smile;
To share the felon's fate, and e'en exult the while.

Far different views yon gloomy cell shall yield,
Where, doom'd to die, th' ensanguin'd murd'rer lies;
No conscious innocence his breast can shield
From horror's sharp and speechless agonies.
Draw near; contemplating with pitying eyes
The chilly dews which bathe his humid brow;
Mark from his breast what sobs convulsive rise,
What briny torrents from his eyelids flow:
Tokens of dark despair and overwhelming wo.

Oh! say, what power thus lacerates his heart,
And shakes with dread dismay his quivering frame?
'Tis Memory! Memory points the cruel dart;
'Tis Memory brings "regret, remorse, and shame:"
Her direful visions all his senses claim;
She reconducts him to the gloomy wood,
Where erst he waited till the traveller came:
By lust of gold seduced to vicious mood,
And urg'd by whispering Fiends to shed his brother's blood.

Now he surveys in Memory's faithful glass
The dreadful deeds of that tempestuous night:
The howling winds through leafless branches pass,
And faintly glimmer to his low'ring sight
The conscious stars, no more in lustre bright,
But pale and wan, as ominous of wo;
The distant village clock now tolls the flight
Of lingering time: — still dark, and darker grow
The gathering clouds of heaven; and hoarser breezes blow!

But hark! a foot approaches: — now his breast
Alternate throbs with horror, and with fear:—
Then, springing forth, by daemons's ire possess'd,
He seems again with agony to hear
His victims dying groan appal his ear.—
Blood-chill'd: with hair erect, he stands aghast!
Again the murmuring gale sweeps by so drear:
Another groan, still deeper than the last!
Another deeper still! — and now the scene is past!

But think not Memory's pains exhausted yet:—
Led by her hand, with haggard eye he sees
The spot, where once, a stranger to regret,
Each passing Hour and changing Scene could please
Lo! where, embosom'd by surrounding trees,
The neatly white-wash'd cottage strikes his eye;
That dear abode of innocence and ease;
The scene of happiest hours, long since gone by,
Now rises on his sight, and prompts the rending sigh.

Once more transported there on fancy's wing,
He seems to taste of joys for ever flown;
Once more he hears the tuneful warblers sing:—
Ah! never on that favorite cot has shone
A ray more bright: — nor ever yet were known
The chiming Bells more charmingly to sound
From yon tall tower, with ivy over-grown;
He seems to hear, in reverie profound,
The call to prayer and praise of all the village round.

Forgot his crimes, his destiny, his woes;
He seems once more to join his early friends;
And, as the pious precept mildly flows
From reverend pastor's lips, an ear he lends:
And now and then a wistful glance he sends
Tow'rds the known Seat, where, modestly array'd,
In sabbath garb so trim, as wont, attends
His much lov'd Anne; his blue-eyed cottage maid,
The hamlet's fairest flower! the boast of rural shade!

The service o'er, their devious path they take,
Where chance or inclination guides their way;
Through winding lane, green mead, or flowery brake,
Or by the murmuring brook they fondly stray,
And watch the trembling sun-beams fitful play
Through the cool shelter of the aspen's bough:
And while he talks of love in accents gay,
The timid maiden hears his frequent vow,
With hesitating sigh, deep blush, and pensive brow.

Delightful hours! yet stay enchanting spell!
Oh! banish truth and horror for a while;
And let his fancy some few moments dwell
On dreams of happiness, which may beguile
His sense of wo, and bid his dungeon smile!
It must not he: the jailor's hollow tread
Once more recals the thought of "durance vile;"
Each fairy picture fancy sketch'd is fled;
Peace, innocence is gone, and hope itself is dead.

Horrid transition! can there now be nam'd
A reptile crawling on this earthly ball;
However vile, dishonour'd, and defam'd,
Whom suffering worse than this can e'er befal?
Oh! memory! why thus cruelly recal
Life's happiest hours? why paint past scenes so fair?
Why add to him who drinks the cup of gall,
Sorrow to sorrow, Frenzy to despair?
Cease, cruel Memory! cease; in mercy learn to spare.

Now turning from the murderer's cell, survey
Where yonder bark, obedient to the gale,
From Britain's shore to Jackson's distant bay,
Conveys the wretch who next demands my tale.
Oh! while the breeze expands the glistening sail,
Let fancy catch the note, which, murmuring low
Floats on the air; it seems a plaintive wail;
It tells of heart-felt grief, despair, and wo,
As thus its mournful accents tremulously flow.

And do these swimming eyes indeed behold,
For the last time dear England's sea-girt shore?
Ye lofty cliffs! reflecting streams of gold—
And must I see your glittering heights no more?
Must I in endless agony deplore,
At dreadful distance from my native land,
The loss of Friends! of Home? If life were o'er
'Twere well. Then welcome death! thy icy hand
Alone can cut the knot which binds to Albion's strand.

Cease, Cease ye breezes! swell not thus the sail,
Nor hasten thus my course, thou rolling wave!
Ah! hear a Female exile's plaintive tale,
Her folly's victim, and her passion's slave!
O that I now might find a watery grave,
Discharg'd of all my crimes the dreadful debt;
The peaceful tenant of some coral cave:
I might at length, perchance, my woes forget,
Or lessen Memory's store of torment and regret.

Yet, even then, hard fate, alas! it were
That, thus reposing in unhallow'd ground,
These mould'ring bones, remote from Albion's air,
Should sink unwept in Ocean's deep profound.
No mourning relatives to gather round,
And watchful stand to catch my parting sigh;
Excluded from the sacred churchyard's bound,
Where Father, Mother, Sisters, Brothers lie,
Who o'er my poor remains shall cast a pitying eye?

And you, my Children! must you hear with shame,
From many a wanton tongue, your Mother's crime—
Yet do not learn to curse her guilty name,
For though, transported to a foreign clime,
By force she leaves you in your beauty's prime,
Yet still for you she sheds the frequent tear;
Nor e'er can distance, or the lapse of time,
Or guilty fetters, cause that shame or fear
Shall from your Mother's heart efface her children dear:

But, farewell England! and, alas! farewell!
My friendless offspring! from my fate beware!
Avoid the crime by which your Parent fell,
For thus the sacred oracles declare:
"Thou shalt not steal," Oh! then suppress with care
Each lawless wish; and seek to Him for might,
Whose gracious ear attends the Orphan's prayer:
You yet may stand approv'd in his dread sight,
And steer to Heaven's calm port your dangerous course aright.

Clos'd be the Convict's Lay! But let thine ear
Attention lend to notes of further wo,
And stray with me, when twilight time is near,
Where Hannah's slighted reliques sleep below
Th' untrodden heap of earth; and thou shalt know
Her bright beginning, her unhallow'd end;
And should a frown of censure cloud thy brow
For Virtue lost; — yet still attention lend,
Since Thou thyself art frail, and may'st like her offend.

"For virtue lost, and ruin'd man I mourn,"
Thus, Beattie! flow'd thy hermit's solemn strain.
And, as that strain to Edwin's ear was borne,
His guileless bosom felt accordant pain.
Oh! could that plaintive sage but raise again
His warning voice! and sing the hapless maid,
Seduc'd by love from virtue's spotless train;
How would the Minstrel mourn, as he survey'd,
So sweet, so fair a flower so prematurely fade.

Among the rustic beauties, passing fair,
Whose native bloom no tints of art excel,
What maid with Hannah Meadows could compare?
Or could the neighbouring market-town, where dwell
Accomplish'd nymphs, produce one shining belle,
Whose face, whose figure, Hannah's might surpass?
Oft would her youthful bosom vainly swell,
As she beheld, reflected in the glass,
Charms prais'd by every swain, and own'd by many a lass.

Oh Vanity! thou subtle, powerful foe!
Who can withstand thy soul-deceiving wile?
If e'en to courtly dames thy accents flow
Uncheck'd, in rustic intercourse thy guile
Can raise in many a damsel's cheek the smile
Of conscious beauty; and her fluttering heart
Fresh hopes of conquest meditates the while:
No more she thinks that nature's charms impart
Alone sufficient grace, without the aid of art.

Who now each Sabbath strikes the wandering sight
Of every envious fair, and gazing swain?
For neatly printed gown, a robe of white
Is now assumed: for cottage bonnet plain,
A modish hat. Ah! Maiden idly vain!
Not half so lovely dost thou now appear,
As when the simplest of the simple train:
Those who most love thee, now, with anxious fear,
Review thy guileless days and scarce suppress the tear.

But Hannah saw no danger, though her sire
With prudent caution and forbidding frown,
Condemn'd the frequent visits of the squire,
Who to the Manor-house came lately down.
A Profligate! who sought for no renown
But such as vice and dissipation yield;
Who, train'd to fraud and flattery in town,
Knew every thought the Maiden's sigh reveal'd:
Against a foe like this how vain was Caution's shield!

I may not paint the guileful, cruel art,
Which, under semblance vile of love and truth,
Ensnar'd poor Hannah's unsuspecting heart;
And, void of honour, and of gentler ruth,
Blasted her charms: with treacherous poison smooth
Tainted her bosom to deceit unknown:
The Maiden fell. Let inexperienc'd youth
Beware her fate. Ah! could the anguish'd groan,
Which rends her tortur'd breast, for her offence atone.

Here too shall Memory, with avenging hand,
Unrol the record of departed years:
How shall the hapless sufferer's heart withstand
Reiterated pangs, when thus appears
Frightful the prospect round! With fruitless tears
To mourn for honour, and for virtue fled
Oh Memory! is thy work! Arm'd by her fears,
Her hand arrests her heart. Oh lightly tread
Beside the grass-green turf which marks poor Hannah's bed.

By the road side, beneath yon bushy thorn,
Which scents with fragrance mild the vernal gale;
Victim of guilt, despair, and ruthless scorn,
Is laid the loveliest blossom of the vale.
Ill-fated Maiden! though thy artless tale
Shall many a sympathetic bosom rend,
Or prompt one sigh, let justice still prevail,
And, whilst o'er thy dishonour'd grave we bend,
With horror we must view thy rash, thy frantic end.

E'en now, though lovely beams the lunar ray,
Through quivering branches, on thy grave so green;
No villager benighted dares to stray
To that sad spot; for Fancy there has been
So scar'd, as stories go, that she hath seen
At midnight's silent hour, in vesture white,
A shadowy wand'rer of unearthly mien,
Whose hollow groans the passenger affright,
And hurry through the gloom of Winter's lonely night.

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