1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Allegory.

Odes, and other Poems.

Henry Neele


Henry Neele happily imitates Milton's companion poems with the assistance of a clever conceit: since allegory is the marriage of Truth and Fiction, he can invoke Milton's doubleness within the confines of a single fable: "Since then together will they stray, | And sing the same impassioned lay, | The flower that Fiction's garden drest, | Blushes on Truth's celestial breast." The influence of William Collins, Neele's favorite, is apparent in this poem as well.

Literary Gazette: "We have perused this small volume with considerable interest. The tone of feeling which pervades it, is far removed from affectation; the independence it breathes, does not proceed to that violent pitch which marks discontent and impatience of salutary restraint rather than the noble aspiration of a free spirit; its melancholy seems natural; and if its poetry does not claim the highest region of Parnassus, it possesses in general a pleasing smoothness and taste which preserve it from being precipitated from the central elevation to the bottom of the two-forked hill. The author has evidently imbued his mind deeply with the bards of other times, and his half-recollections of them frequently assume an original air, which we imagine has in these instances deceived even himself. Not but there are many indications of creative fancy, some highly poetical images, and powerful descriptions; but they are so often mingled with less novel thoughts, that we feel as if their light belonged more truly to the moon than to the great fountain of day, and that they shone with borrowed and reflected splendour" (18 October 1817) 245.

The Champion: "Our young author is rather too fond of the allegorical abstractions of Collins; and treads too frequently in his steps, sometimes to the very verge of imitation — a servility to which he has no occasion to descend. Some of these allegorical odes, however, have beauties almost of the highest order that allegory is capable of — that is to say, all the beauty which that poetry can have which does not touch the heart" (30 December 1820) 852.

Nathan Drake: "We have already noticed Mr. Neele's fondness for allegorical poetry; a predilection undoubtedly springing from his warm and justly-founded admiration for the poet 'Who touch'd the tend'rest notes of pity's lyre.' And we are not surprized, therefore, to find him closing his second book of odes with one in praise of Allegory, and exclaiming in all the fervour of attachment, 'Enchantress! who thy charms can tell? | Dark smiling maid! I love thee well.' The leading object of this beautiful address is to picture the prevailing influence of Allegory is reconciling the conflicting powers of truth and fiction. This is managed with uncommon skill and grace, and with a sweetness and delicacy of finishing, both in metre and manner, which reflects no small credit on the taste and judgment of the author" "Critical Observations on the Odes of Henry Neele" Winter Evenings (1820) 2:91-92.

Port Folio [Philadelphia]: "The leading object of this beautiful address is to picture the prevailing influence of Allegory in reconciling the conflicting powers of truth and fiction. This is managed with uncommon skill and grace, and with a sweetness and delicacy of finishing, both in metre and manner, which reflects no small credit on the taste and judgment of the author" S4 11 (March 1821) 146.



Dark-smiling Maid, I love thee well,
For thou art not the flaunting fair
Who makes externals all her care,
Content to seem what others are;
No, lovely mistress of the spell,
Thy charms are soft, and all prevail,
Tho' shrouded in a mystic veil,
Conceal'd indeed from vulgar eyes,
The more we know, the more we prize,
The better seen, the better lov'd,
The deeper search'd, the fairer prov'd,
Enchantress! who thy charms can tell?
Dark smiling maid! I love thee well.

About thy cave the fairies bound,
And dance their gay fantastic round,
And shadowy circles form,
While riding through the midnight air,
Come goblins gaunt, and sylphids fair,
And spirits of the storm;
And oft they form a warbling choir,
And strike the little elfin lyre,
While to their melodies divine,
I sweep these wandering wires of mine,
These feeble strings whose lowly lays
But mock the hand that o'er them strays.

Charmer! 'tis true thy beauties fade,
When low thy votary's head is laid
They cannot animate anew;
Are dimly seen, and quickly past,
Yet are they lovely while thy last,
And unpolluted too:
And since so many joys are vain,
And life has less of joy than pain,
Oh! who shall blame amid the maze,
Th' enthusiast, who delighted strays?
Thou, thou alone, couldst reconcile
Those form'd to differ and revile,
And honour Truth, thy heavenly nest,
Yet press fair Fiction to thy breast.
Hail, Truth and Fiction! loveliest pair,
Best, brightest, most divine, most fair,
Long, long, each ranked in adverse throng,
And shunned, and scorned, and hated long:
At length she came, the dark-haired maid,
In robes of cloudy blue arrayed,
With girdle formed of wandering rays,
Caught from the sun's refulgent blaze,
And that mysterious veil, so wrought
By artful spirits heavenly taught,
Its mystic beauties only yield
To the fair features it concealed.
Th' Enchantress came, she came in pow'r,
Mistress of that transforming hour,
She breath'd a wild mysterious lay,
And sang and smiled their hate away.
O'er Truth's fair form a robe she threw,
To clothe her with attraction new,
And plucked from Fiction's pinions gay,
The vainer, gaudier plumes away,
Then bade her re-assume her pride,
And soar as lofty, not as wide:
Each paused, each strange affection knew,
And wondered whence their hatred grew,
Felt fresh delight, beheld new charms,
And sunk into each other's arms.

Since then together will they stray,
And sing the same impassioned lay,
The flower that Fiction's garden drest,
Blushes on Truth's celestial breast;
The wires that Truth has strung rejoice,
In unison with Fiction's voice;
They seek the same romantic groves,
Each loves the haunts the other loves;
They climb the steep, explore the dell,
Together roam, together dwell.

Hail, loveliest pair; hail, happiest hour
And hail, all hail, transforming power;
There's many a willing tribute paid,
In Virtue's bane and Vice's aid;
There's many a garland gay supplied,
For baseness, luxury, and pride.
For me! the song I raise shall be
Devoted to the Muse and thee;
My garlands shall not, cannot twine
Around a brighter brow than thine;
I'll breathe thy praise, while praise has breath,
I'll love and cherish thee till death;
Till then I'm garlanding thy brow,
Till then I'll honour thee as now,
And then — farewell, dissolving spell,
Dark smiling maid! farewell, farewell!

[(1821) 85-91]