1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dedicatory Stanzas to Mary.

Literary Gazette, and Journal of the Belles Lettres (31 January 1818) 73-74.

Chandos Leigh


Fifteen Spenserians, signed "Chandos Leigh," follow an introduction in couplets. Leigh's poem, part palinode, part prothalamion, was not collected in his later publications; the fact that it is much more personal than usual with this writer certainly adds to its attractiveness.

Leigh's career as a poet follows, not by accident, a clear pattern, moving from mildly libertine verses in youth, to mildly satirical political satires in middle age, to mildly devotional mediations in old age. The "Dedicatory Stanzas" mark the transition from youth to maturity as he abandons the company of players and libertines in London to set up as a wealthy squire upon his marriage, which took place in 1819. The editor of the Literary Gazette, William Jerdan, claimed that Leigh was a contributor in his Autobiography (1852-53).

Headnote: "Mr. Editor, The inclosed poem, hitherto confined to private circulation, I have taken the liberty to forward for insertion in your interesting work, having first obtained the author's consent to its appearance. You will no doubt agree with me, that it possesses great beauties as well as sublimities, with some few defects, no doubt, resulting from haste. Yours, &c. C. W." p. 73.

Portions of the Dedicatory Stanzas appeared in Leigh's next publication, The View (1818), where "Mary" and the references to the poet's private situation are excised.

Chandos Leigh's "Ode on the Lamented Death of the Princess Charlotte of Wales" was published in the Morning Chronicle, 27 November 1817.



Robust October comes — brown exercise,
Blythe sport, and health's unforced vitalities,
Welcome the green age of the passing year:
There's freshness in the air — the sky is clear;
The "rich-hair'd youth of morn" with deepen'd glow
Mellows his splendour on the world below.
Now all things feel the exuberance of life;
My Muse, with most exulting feelings rise,
Is sprightly up; and as the lark upsprings,
She wantons with that joyous bird, and sings.

Soul of my soul, my MARY, how my heart
Leaps at thy name with unaccustom'd glee!
To be for ever near thee, where thou art,
I'd hug my chains, and never would be free;
The future, present, center'd all in thee.
Thy genius, wonderful beyond thy years,
Each liberal science woos most lovingly;
Thy voice — how that has charm'd me! that endears,
Sweet "child of song," to me a life which sorrow wears.

To share each other's joys — to live, indeed,
In our own little world of happiness,
With interchange of thought, as time may need;
To brighten fancy — make our labours less;
To give and to return the warm caress;
To visit distant realms (not both unknown)
To be each other's helpmates in distress;
To laugh through mutual aid at fortune's frown—
That were a bliss, indeed, which few can call their own!

My gilded vanities — but they are past,—
I'll think of them no more — they drive me mad!
I'll prize thy golden lamp at last:—
Thou, only thou can'st make my bosom glad,
Since late through constant grief my brow was sad!
'Tis not in grandeur-pampering saloon
That real happiness is to be had;
It is the mind, the mind that gives the boon;—
This is exampled well by ev'ry rustic loon.

Nor splendid portraitures, nor beds of state,
Nor the rich ceiling's gay magnificence;
Nor sumptuousness of feasts, nor massy plate,
Nor all the vain adornments of expense;
Nor marble statues; though CANOVA'S, whence
Beauty an almost breathing charm puts forth;
Nor heads of bronze, that seem inform'd with sense,
Can give to sorrowing hearts a moment's mirth,
Or soften down the pangs of care-worn sons of earth!

"Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow,"
Thought doth pervade the universe; we seem
More than this world can circumscribe to know;
Yet is our life but one protracted dream;
For moralizing fools an endless theme.
He, whom gaunt evil smites, whose days, though few,
In thought are numberless, he well may deem
That under Heaven there is nought that's new:
His sole delight at length fair Nature's scenes to view.

What is the pomp of art to him who loves
On Chimborazo's height to breathe keen air?
Or with a HUMBOLDT fortunately roves
Through forests deep; — though all is savage there,
Yet Nature seems to him for ever fair:—
As near the river's slow majestic course,
Onwards he roves, forgetful of past care,
His soul mounts up unto that very source
Whence all existence springs, with an unusual force!

Eternity — how wonderful it is!
A shoreless Ocean — nothing, every thing.
To be for ever what I shall be; this
Far, far exceeds the mind's imagining
Though it would soar for ever on the wing,
To reach a KEPLER'S, NEWTON'S height — 'tis vain.
Yet some will dream of a perpetual spring:
These dreams perchance may please a vacant brain,
But in our sober mood are quitted with disdain!

See, CAESAR baffled by a little state!
Such is the will of Him who doth command
Empires to rise, decay, regenerate;
Who weigheth worlds as balls within his hand:
Whose wrath not hell's fierce legions may withstand!
Who is enthron'd in light, Ancient of Days!
The pure Intelligence, whose wisdom
This universal frame — His be the praise—
Creatures of clay, to Him your loud thanksgivings raise!

The mind that well doth exercise its powers,
Shall to the perfect beauty be allied;
When from this grosser frame released, it towers
Above the reach of earth-born care or pride:
Yet it must it be through ages purified,
Ere it can live near GOD'S eternal throne,
Ere it can bask in glory's lum'nous tide;
That sun of suns, unmingled and alone,
Whose everlasting light on earth has never shone!

The Godhead dwells with thee, thou blessed one,
COWPER, through some deride thy pious song,
Too pure for them; the sun of genius shone
On thy immortal mind, that scorn'd the throng
Of busy triflers, as they moved along,
Fretting themselves with brain-born dreams that mar
Man's proudest hopes; to thy sweet verse belong
Those soothing strains, that hid tile violent jar
Of passions cease, and still the bosom's inward war!

Oh, could we seek, my MARY, those bright Isles
Where 'tis a sensual pleasure even to breathe;
Where Nature in her classic livery smiles,
And gives to BYRON'S muse a deathless wreath;
Where youth is life, age slumbers into death;
Where bowers to meditation dear abound;
Where glow the heavens above, the flowers beneath;
Where every nook is consecrated ground;
And songs of other times float in the air around!

Then might appear to us dear Liberty,
But in a dream, (whole hosts before her driven)—
A sun beam is her spear; she strikes, and see
Its touch consumeth like the burning levin—
Or like a comet hurl'd to earth from heaven!
A fierce disdain is flashing from her eye:—
Thus look'd Apollo, when, asunder riven,
The monster serpent wreath'd in agony,
Then all convulsed, at length expired with hideous cry!

She triumphs now! a laureate band attend
Her steps; while AESCHYLUS awakes the lyre!
Before her now the mighty masters bend:—
A slave's no man, thus sings their Godlike Sire;
His strains the whole triumphant choir inspire.
O glorious sight! And is it all a dream?
No — No. Columbia has her soul of fire;
The dawning light of science there doth gleam;
There Poets must arise, since Liberty's the theme!

I woo thee, Mary, with no love-sick lay,
But daring hopes — akin to thine, sweet maid.
Heed not what wretched tale-bearers will say;—
Be thou my friend, my soul is undismay'd!
Ambition both our destinies has sway'd:—
My fair confessor, many were my crimes,
As Slander, envious of my bliss, has said:—
Yet here they are embodied in my rhymes;
My virtues may be known perchance in after times.

Together, dearest, we will watch the star
Of Science beaming ever o'er our heads,
Brighter, and brighter still, in peace, in war.
Its light a fresh supply of glory sheds;
No sanguine mist of tyranny it dreads,—
While PLAYFAIRS, DAVYS, bless its heavenly ray,
And Chemistry's young genius CERES weds;
Creation's wonders have a full display,
And secrets yet unborn may soon be brought to day!

[pp. 73-74]