1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fragment.

Gentleman's Magazine 87 (May 1817) 446-47.

John Chalk Claris


Nine Spenserians of romantic agony, signed "Arthur Brooke, Canterbury." It is curious to see a poem written in Spenserians on the theme of despair that betrays no cognizance of the Faerie Queene; Lord Byron bears it all away. Contemplating suicide, in a note in the 1818 Poems John Chalk Claris quotes Wordsworth's lines on Chatterton, "the marvelous boy, the sleepless soul that perished in his pride."

Monthly Review: "These little Anacreontic effusions, though in themselves sufficiently insignificant, discover a degree of poetical talent, which, if matured by cultivation and assisted by farther study and experience, might become fitted to exert itself on more important themes" Review of Claris, Poems NS 84 (October 1817) 211-12.



The world and the world's duties: — these are things
Which long have lost, to me, their face of joy;
Nor lightly will the mind's exhausted springs
Resume, on this low sphere, their fond employ;
The thoughts which first repress'd them, may destroy:
The dead'ning sense that all below is vain,—
Fame but a breath, and Fortune but a toy,
Reason's proud gift but ampler scope for pain,—
Hath sunk my heart's best hopes, never to rise again.

When most the afflicted spirit shrinks from life,
Bent with the weight of woe succeeding woe,
If then 'tis doom'd to mingle in the strife,
And uncomplaining hear each heartless blow,
While the breast heaves with sighs that dare not flow:
Spurn'd by the slaves, though spurn'd, it must despise,
Bleeding with wounds which pride disdains to shew,
The indignant soul, too long degraded, cries
For that releasing stroke — the dastard hand denies!

In the wild dream of days for ever gone
To trace the progress of the mind's first blight,—
To feel a wasted life rush blindly on
As though the dark an arrow's aimless flight!—
To look beyond, until the wearied sight
Turns back to earth in doubt or worse dismay:—
These are the thoughts which throw a pall of night
O'er the fair front of youth's yet-opening day,
And sweep from the dull scene Joy's lingering blooms away.

———*———*———*———*———*———*———

We do not sink at once into despair,
But while a hope survives, to that we cling;
Some lov'd deceit will tempt us still to bear
The ills which age, at length, to all must bring:
E'en in the shadow of Death's hovering wing.
The dreamer points to bliss beyond the skies:
And in this desert breast sweet feelings spring,
Oh, * * as I gaze on those soft eyes,
Lending this life a charm not earth beside supplies!

Oh, Love! when all our young delusions fail,
Still be Thou last to leave the hardening breast;
O'er its cold calm thy breath may yet prevail,
Steel'd as it is to Pleasure's quickening zest:
Yes! by thine influence yet might be repress'd
That gathering scorn which ends in deadliest hate;
Teach man this suffering lot may yet be blest:
Be thou his guide, and if he find, though late,
One fond congenial heart, then may he smile at fate!

———*———*———*———*———*———*———

O'er the rude harp these notes had idly rung;
When feeling, waken'd by the once-lov'd theme,
In its cold mansion kindling as I sung,
Leap'd to the strings, till I could almost deem
Myself absorb'd in that luxurious dream!
For I had said that cheer'd by Love alone
The drooping eye might yet with gladness beam,
And that to call one answering heart our own,
Might in the weariest hour for life's worst ills atone.

The soothing voice, whose tones of tenderness
Would whisper peace, when aught beside were pain,
The hand affectionate, whose gentle press
Would calm the throbbings of the fever'd brain,
Which sought on that soft bosom to regain
A rest too long denied it: — these would well
Repay an age of suffering! But 'twere vain
To seek for Woman's love in woe's sad cell;
That is a flower best known where pomp and pleasure dwell.

Though this be so, let those who may, love on;
It is not well to probe the soul too deep:
Why should we bid Heaven's brilliant bow, begone
Because a shade? Who would not rather sleep
Through dreams of happiness, than, waking, weep?
He that can find a respite from his woes,
Though but in fancy's shadowing, let him keep
The dear illusion; so he join not those
On whom, with opening truth, Joy's gates for ever close!

To seem alone upon a boundless sea
Where the sweet breath of Hope ne'er fann'd the wave—
Or through the deserts of Eternity
To seek for rest, where there can be no grave,
Nor stream Lethean the hot heart to lave
Which bears a sleepless vulture in its core;
These are the visions of that worldly slave,
Who, when all earth-born pleasure charms no more,
Yet, in his grovelling thought, farther can never soar!

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