1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Response to the three Valedictory Stanzas, subjoined to the Lady of the Lake.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton


Four Spenserians addressed to Sir Walter Scott, whose Lady of the Lake (1810) concludes with three verses in the Spenserian stanza. Scott writes, "And little reck I of the censure sharp | May idly cavil at an idle lay."

Bernard Barton's "obscure estate" was his position as a bank clerk. Nonetheless one suspects that the Quaker poet (who corresponded with Byron, Southey, and Lamb and many others) had an eye to the main chance. While he followed Lamb's advice not to give up his day job, Barton's prolific verse eventually found its way into some remunerative periodicals.

Arthur Roberts: "It is well impressed upon my mind, that when Mr. Barton forwarded his first volume of poems to the British Review, as a candidate for criticism, it was accompanied by a long apologetic letter, addressed to the editor, in which,, anxious to remove and unfavourable prejudice which might arise from the circumstance of his belonging to the Society of Friends, he laboured to prove, by an appeal to facts, that Quakers are not incapacitated for poetical exertion — that they have written, and therefore can write, real poetry, however little in harmony their dress and habits may appear with the effusions of the muse. My father, I remember, was interested by the letter, and was led, in consequence, to read the poems, which he might otherwise have put aside among the many common-place productions of the kind which sought notice in the journal. The name of Bernard Barton was then new to the public; and, I believe, the favourable notice of his poems in the British Review, considerably helped to make their merits known" Memoir of William Roberts (1850) 51.



Bard of the North! abandon not the Lyre,
Whose strains, so sweetly wild, thy skilful hand
Has taught surrounding nations to admire
Beyond the sleight of all Cecilia's band:
Ne'er shall the wires, by casual breezes fann'd,
Vibrate in harmony more rich than thine;
Nor artist e'er be found in all the land,
Like thee the dregs of fiction to refine
By inspiration's blast, and fancy's flame divine.

When malice shall again invade thy breast,
Misfortune sieze thee in her rude embrace;
Sorrow disturb the chamber of thy rest,
Or envy spread her snares for thy disgrace;
What charm shall then embolden thee to face
Th' impending shock, if thou the strain forego?
Or from thy memory's crowded page erase
The records manifold of former wo,
And all the countless pangs that none but poets know?

There was a time, in numbers, though uncouth,
When I could cheer the solitary hour;
But ere I reach'd the joyous prime of youth,
A fiend of ghastly form, and giant power,
Intruder oft upon the muses' bower,
Dash'd from my feeble grasp the sounding shell;
My fancy from the heights she wont to tower
Drove headlong downward; and by magic spell
Bound her to furnish sport for every imp of hell:

The fairy visions opening to her view
They scatter'd to the winds, and mock'd my pain;
And though her labour she would oft renew
'Twas worthless skill, and labour all in vain;
Yet never could she from the task refrain:—
From thine, alas! how different is my fate!
Thou leav'st the muse, though fame applauds thy strain;
While I, though grovelling in obscure estate,
Pursue her still in spite of more than mortal hate.

[pp. 58-60]