1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Lament. Written after seeing Timon of Athens performed at Drury-Lane Theatre, 1816.

Juvenile Poems.

Chandos Leigh


Nine Spenserians, printed without a signature. "The Lament" is an early example of the ruminative verse that Chandos Leigh would issue for several decades: "Life is a blank to those whom Fancy blest, | E'en in their infancy, for why, they scorn, | When Pleasure warmly sought, has lost her zest | Those social duties for which man is born." The stern subject calls forth from Chandos Leigh the weight of a few Spenserian archaisms. The poem was later titled "The Lament of Altamont." The volume was printed with a date of "1815"; it was evidently reissued in 1817 (under two different titles) with an added section entitled "Verses" with a separate title page, though the pagination is continuous. Leigh issued a number of privately printed volumes and his bibliography is perplexed.

Advertisement: "These few Verses form a Supplement to a collection of Poems which were printed some time since, and circulated by the Author, under the title of 'Juvenile Poems.' — They were never published" 77.



Genius of fallen Babylon — behold
In London, mart of opulence and vice,
Thy scenes of former luxury unroll'd;
Here every thing, e'en woman, has its price.
Here Mammon plies his subtle trade with dice;
Bevies of dainty damsels here abound,
With Levi's tribe the unwary to entice;
That neither land nor body, may be sound.
Corruption's fatal gulphs here menace all around!

Much is allow'd to youth, to feelings strong,
To Pleasure's tempting look, companions gay;
He who would scorn the soul-awak'ning song,
Whose heart is shut 'gainst beauty's genial ray,
He would despise the loveliness of May.
Not outward, no, nor inward sunshine warms
His soul, himself a moving mass of clay.
The goodliest prospect has for him no charms;
He never, never felt the lover's sweet alarms.

Awake to life — no more of woman's smiles
Dream, nor the noisy merriment of knaves.
How many Losels perish by the wiles
Of sweet Aspasias, Timon's grateful slaves.
Lo! the trim yacht rides buoyant o'er the waves
Fairer in shew more fragile than the rest
Of meaner barks; the sudden tempest raves:
Amidst the ignoble craft she rolls distrest,
It nought avails her now to be so gaily drest.

'Tis vain to mourn — yet oft remorse will tear
The breast, from which all virtues are not wrung
By wantonness, false witch, whose aspect fair
Blinds doating old, but fascinates the young,
Till by her arts their sinews are unstrung
Their strength exhausted, wasted in their prime,
They mar those hopes to which their parents clung,
Fame, fortune, genius sacrificed to crime,
And all these lessons learn'd in boyhood's happier time.

Life is a blank to those whom Fancy blest,
E'en in their infancy, for why, they scorn,
When Pleasure warmly sought, has lost her zest
Those social duties for which man is born;
A long, long night succeeds their lovely morn
Where shall the luckless child of Nature turn,
Baffled by hope, by fiercer passions torn;
He dares the wisdom of the world to spurn,
Yet by the world misled, for ever doom'd to mourn!

Be then utility alone the aim
Of all thy actions; ere it be too late
The doubtful meed of poesy disclaim.
Let nobler hopes thy glowing soul elate,
With honest zeal uphold the sinking state—
Be this the penance for thy follies past.
Far better than in maudlin verse to prate
Of what in days of revelry thou wast,
Shall self-recorded vice its acted time outlast?

Invention too must cease to yield delight;
For pleasure has its limits, then refrain
Awhile from courting fancy's aid — poor wight,
Thoughts too intense will prey upon thy brain:
Since e'en an o'er-fraught memory brings pain.
Nature's unbounded realms would'st thou explore,
She views thy puny efforts with disdain.
The learned are but idlers on her shore;
So deem'd that wondrous man best skill'd in Nature's lore.

Thy brethren in distress demand thy care,
Whose only bed is now the cold damp earth;
Go these relieve; far sweeter is the prayer
For thee, for thine, that gratitude pours forth,
Than heartless praises which the sons of mirth
Madd'ning with lust and wine on thee bestow.
Shall they to-morrow still proclaim thy worth,
Who with o'erflowing zeal to-night do glow?
Fond liberal fool I fear 'twill not indeed be so!

O Howard, Reynolds! names to man more dear
Than those of heroes who have fought and died!
You follow'd well our Saviour's footsteps here,
While dove-eyed charity — celestial guide—
Scatter'd unnumber'd blessings by your side!
To save the soul opprest by guilt, to give
To virtuous industry an honest pride,
This your ambition, may it ever live—
Fresh with the dews of heaven its boundless laurels thrive.

[pp. 150-54]