1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The World as it is.

Juvenile Poems.

Chandos Leigh


Six, afterwards five Spenserians, privately printed. The concluding stanza on Napoleon was dropped in Poems (1839). Chandos Leigh rails against venal verse: "The worshippers of images offend | Against Omnipotence; nor they alone; | Those too, who mindless of their nature, bend | Before or fool or tyrant on a throne."

The Champion: "It has become very much the custom of late for the young spirits of fashion to come with a harassed constitution and a penitent face, and confess all the vices of their lives and the faulty feelings of their heart, to the heedless and heartless world: — and a style of poetry has been manufactured expressly for this confessional purpose. The style is not like Mr. Moore's, which is scholastic, — nor like Mr. Spencer's, which is fantastic, — nor like Mr. Lewis's, which is bombastic: — but it is 'a thing of its own,' — short, catchy, and cynical. Lord Byron was the first who thought proper 'truly to confess the vices of his blood,' — and certainly he did it with a pride and a solitariness which 'forced an all-unwilling interest:' — then followed the self-exposing verses of hosts of gentlemen — sinners, who were as vicious as they could be, and as dull as they need be. Assuredly some of these owned to more crimes than they were entitled to, and talked of a self-abasement which was only verse-born. We fear, however, from many passages in the book before us, that Mr. Leigh has seen quite enough of dissipation to justify a good deal of honest regret, and a little of gentlemanly moroseness" review of Poems (1817) (28 September 1817) 309.



That master-vice Ambition has its course;
It wakens Hope, it promises success;
Can Wisdom, Reason, Justice break the force
Of those bold passions that o'erlook distress?
Not Fear itself, their vigour can repress.
Hence Pride attempts what Fancy had design'd,
Betraying often its own littleness;
Fortune unbalances the strongest mind,
And vanities beset the mightiest of mankind.

These truths experience, history ever taught,
And many a moral tale in Childhood lov'd;
But men by splendid wickedness are caught,
They laud those acts which erst they disapproved.
Their spleen, by buried crime alone is mov'd—
Great villains thrive — we deem them great indeed.
How brave their spirits, wheresoe'er they rov'd
To desolate the world, while millions bleed!
Officious fools for aye the cause of bravoes plead.

While Aves vehement confuse their brains,
Kings would be demigods; and courtiers kneel.
Audacious mockery! the muse refrains
From courting those who ne'er for others feel.
Alas! she cannot scorn the proud appeal
Of steel-clad heroes to her lofty lay;
For them she weaves the Laurel-wreath with zeal
As hirelings stalk along in proud array,
Where blazing lights shed forth an artificial day.

And Genius thus is self-betray'd to please
An heartless tyrant, in his pride of pow'r.
The love of flattery is a sore disease,
It spreads from Chieftains' hall to ladies' bow'r.
The worm that gnaws the oak destroys the flow'r.
Shall sacred poesy, that heavenward springs,
Her flights, to creep before a mortal, lower?
She scorns the song which venal minstrel sings,
Nor to delight the proud her own proud off'ring brings.

The worshippers of images offend
Against Omnipotence; nor they alone;
Those too, who mindless of their nature, bend
Before or fool or tyrant on a throne.
Such men to scorn their God are ever prone.
Their idols soon are swept away from earth,
In folly riotous, with pride upblown.
What then avail their victories or mirth,
The splendour of their deeds, the lustre of their birth?

Truth must prevail at length; who now reveres
Almanon's wealth, or Akber's mighty name?
Or his far more renown'd in later years,
Once loudly thunder'd through the trump of fame!
His hardihood may women-warriors shame.
The beams of science pierce through northern gloom,
Barbarian tribes their love of arts proclaim;
Justice may soon in all her beauty bloom,
And prejudice lie sunk in dark oblivion's tomb.

[pp. 85-89]