Five Spenserians: Bernard Barton lauds the liberal politics of the Liverpool historian, poet, and patron of the arts, William Roscoe (1753-1831), deploring the present restrictions on the liberties of Englishmen. The volume is dedicated to Roscoe, a friend of Barton's deceased father. "Coila's Bard" is Robert Burns. In launching his career as an ututored bard, Barton seems to have made it a policy to consulting or addressing the leading literary figures of his day.
Critical Review: "The author of these poems informs us, that they 'were written under the impulse of natural feelings,' (we should be glad to be informed under what other feelings than natural feelings, a man would wish to write?) 'not for the gratification of his vanity; and that they are now published at the desire of a few friends, but not in the hope of interesting the public.' It is a fortunate circumstance, that the author has not cherished any hope of interesting the public; for, we can assure him, that if he had, he would have found himself most lamentably disappointed. The author has paid his court to Mr. Roscoe in a very fulsome and absurd manner; for, whatever merit the Butterfly's Birth and the Butterfly's Ball may possess, they are not poems which we should dignify by the epithet of 'elaborate.' It is a matter of surprise to us, that the friends of the author should wish to put him to the expence of printing a collection of nothings, which they might, we should think, have been contented to peruse in manuscript" S4 1 (June 1812) 663.
Edward Fitzgerald: Barton's stepmother "died a year after marriage in giving birth to the only child, who now survives them both; and he perhaps sickened with the scene of his blighted love and finding, like his father, that he had less taste for the ledger than for literature, almost directly quitted Woodbridge, and engaged himself as private tutor in the family of Mr. Waterhouse, a merchant in Liverpool. There Bernard Barton had some family connexions; and there also he was kindly received and entertained by the Roscoe family, who were old acquaintances of his father and mother" memoir in Memoir and Poems (Philadelphia, 1850) 17-18.
"My lov'd, my honour'd, much respected Friend!"
Accept this simple, tributary Lay:
If Roscoe deign a willing ear to lend,
Fain would my Lyre its artless homage pay.
Oh! could this hand but faithfully pourtray
Those feelings of the heart which prompts the song,
Then o'er the chords with rapture would it stray
With no dishonour to the tuneful throng,
And wake its warbling notes, harmonious, rich and strong.
What varied honours shed around thy name
A brilliant lustre, gentle, and benign;
"Above all Greek, above all Roman fame,"
A nobler meed, a richer prize is thine.
Beneath the burning equinoctial line
The Negro tribes shall grateful sing thy praise;
Their children's children shall in concert join
To hail the Bard who pour'd his generous lays,
And turn'd on "Afric's Wrongs" a nation's pitying gaze.
With Poesy shall History unite,
To crown with civic wreath her favour'd son,
Whose classic pen again recals from night
Statesmen and Bards who once in splendour shone.
Proud Florence boasts Lorenzo's fame her own,
From Tiber's banks old Rome exults to hear
How learning spread around her Leo's throne,
A glory to succeeding ages dear,
Which nations yet unborn shall gratefully revere.
When heaven born Liberty on Gallic skies
Open'd the dawn of Freedom's golden day,
'Twas thine to sing the "day-star's" glorious rise:
The Patriot's warmth inspir'd the Poet's lay.
Though now, beneath stern despotism's sway,
That star be sunk in deepest shades of night;
Some future hour shall feel its cheering ray,
Some future Bard shall hail the joyful sight,
And many a "vine-clad hill" shall hear him with delight.
No more shall COWPER, on the banks of Ouse,
Resume in virtue's sacred cause the Lyre;
No more, by sweeping Nith, shall Scotia's Muse
The ardent song of COILA's BARD inspire.
Yet on fair Mersey's side the tuneful choir
Amid their ROSCOE's groves shall prompt the strain:
Oh may they never from those shades retire,
But every grace and every virtue reign,
And shed their brightest beams on Allerton's domain.