1814
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oft, in romantic Fantasy of Thought.

Stanzas, by the Author of "Dunluce Castle."

Edward Quillinan


Four Spenserians of romantic musings: "O mournful Harp! and shalt thou never more | Breathe tones at which my wither'd soul may smile?" The poem is part of the series of Spenserian poems imitating Scott's address to his harp in Lady of the Lake (1810). The volume was printed at Samuel Egerton Brydges's Lee Priory Press. Brydges would soon become Quillinan's father-in-law, as William Wordsworth would be after his second marriage.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Edward Quillinan, 1791-1851, a native of Oporto, of Irish descent, entered the Royal Army in 1808, and became a Lieutenant of the 3d Dragoon Guards; published 'an elegant and piquant satire,' entitled Ball-Room Votaries, and contributed other satirical effusions (which resulted in his undertaking three duels) to a periodical called The Whim; in 1817 married Jemima Anne Deborah, second daughter of Sir S. Egerton Brydges, who died in 1822; in 1841 married the only daughter of the poet Wordsworrth, and again became a widower in 1847. For some years before his death Mr. Quillinan resided in the beautiful valley between Ambleside and Rydal, near the residence of Wordsworth, and rests near him in Grasmere Church" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 2:1717.

Mary Katherine Woodworth: "Approximately two score books were published at Lee Priory, and of none were there more than one hundred copies. As the editor prophesied, they soon became scarce, and in 1835 only eleven complete sets were known to exist" Literary Career of Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges (1935) 19.



Oft, in romantic fantasy of thought,
When holding strange communion with my Heart,
I think it is a Harp, which Nature wrought,
Whence all variety of sounds might part;
Where every passing hand might try its art:
And, though the notes of Joy would suit it best,
And Sorrow's touch its sweetest music thwart,
Yet if ungentle hands its strings addrest,
And bade it thrill with woe, 'twould answer the behest.

This Heart, this Harp of mine, this public Toy,
Hath now endur'd its three-and-twentieth year,
And, save when Hope hath tried the note of Joy,
(And even her strings were warp'd with Memory's tear,)
All have been sounds of harsh affliction here;
The coarse dull fingers of a vulgar crowd
Have struck it still with insolence severe;
And its indignant answers, deep, not loud,
Acutely sad have been; but not more sad than proud.

One string there was upon this injured Harp,
Whence Music of sublimest influence woke;
'Twould sooth my cares when most my cares were sharp,
For with a noble melody it spoke;
'Twas Friendship's string; but that is long since broke:
The hand of Falsehood snapt the chord in twain,
And my whole soul so harrowed with the stroke,
That now, when other hands would try again
To bind that broken string, it spurns them with disdain!

O mournful Harp! and shalt thou never more
Breathe tones at which my wither'd soul may smile?
Alas! the season of delusion's o'er!
That soul hath shrunk beneath the blight of guile;
The pestilential contact of the vile:
Yet, Oh! one more last lofty strain endeavour;
Let Pride sustain thine energy awhile:
Let Pride all softer bonds at once dissever;
Then burst thy strings, O Harp! and silent be for ever!

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