1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Lieutenant-General Sir Rowland Hill, K. B.

Poems and Translations by Reginald Heber, A.M.

Bp. Reginald Heber


A Spenserian sonnet. General Rowland Hill (1772-1842) had a long and distinguished career in the Napoleonic wars; he later fought at Waterloo and was second-in-command during the occupation of France (1815-18). Reginald Heber's model is doubtless the commendatory sonnets printed with the Faerie Queene (1590).

On Heber's facility: "It was in the spring of 1803 that Reginald Heber wrote "Palestine." In the course of its composition, Sir Walter Scott happened to breakfast with him one morning, together with his brother and one or two friends, previous to their joining a party of pleasure to Blenheim. "Palestine" became the subject of conversation, and the poem was produced and read. Sir Walter, to whom the editor is indebted for the anecdote, said, "You have omitted one striking circumstance in your account of the building of the temple, that no tools were used in its erection." Reginald retired from the breakfast table to a corner of the room, and before the party separated, produced the beautiful lines which now form a part of the poem" Life of Reginald Heber (New York, 1830) 1:28-29.

Rufus W. Griswold: "The lyrical writings of Heber possess great and peculiar merits. He is the only Englishman who has in any degree approached the tone of Pindar, his translations from whom may be regarded as nearly faultless; and his hymns are among the sweetest which English literature contains, breathing a fervent devotion in the most melodious verse. I doubt whether there is a religious lyric so universally known in the British empire or in our own country, as the beautiful missionary piece beginning 'From Greenland's icy mountains.' The fragments of 'Morte d'Arthur,' the 'Mask of Gwendolen,' and the 'World before the Flood,' are not equal to his 'Palestine,' 'Europe,' or minor poems; but they contain elegant and powerful passages. The only thing unworthy of his reputation which I have seen is 'Blue-Beard,' a serio-comic oriental romance, which I believe was published after his death" Poets and Poetry of England in the Nineteenth Century (1844) 186.



Hill! whose high daring with renew'd success
Hath cheer'd our tardy war, what time the cloud
Of expectation, dark and comfortless,
Hung on the mountains; and yon factious crowd
Blasphem'd their country's valour, babbling loud!
Then was thine arm reveal'd, to whose young might,
By Toulon's leaguer'd wall, the fiercest bow'd;
Whom Egypt honour'd, and the dubious fight
Of sad Corunna's winter, and more bright
Douro, and Talavera's gory bays;
Wise, modest, brave, in danger foremost found.—
So still, young warrior, may thy toil-earn'd praise,
With England's love and England's honour crown'd,
Gild with delight thy Father's latter days!

[pp. 62-63]