1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Verses respectfully and affectionately inscribed to a Professional Friend.

Poems, by an Amateur.

Bernard Barton


A verse epistle in eight Spenserians. The "Amateur" is Bernard Barton.

In later additions, Bernard Barton added this note: "I cannot conclude this note without applying to my 'professional friend' one of the most expressive tributes ever paid by an Author to a Patron: 'Sir,' said Dr. Johnson, speaking of one by whom he had been early encouraged, 'he praised me at a time when praise was valuable to me.'"

Bernard Barton had many friends, though perhaps "professional" in this context would point to Charles Lamb who, like Bernard Barton, worked as a clerk.

W. Davenport Adams: "The Edinburgh Review says [of Barton's Poems and Letters, 1853]: — 'The whole staple of his poems is description and meditation — description of quiet home scenery, sweetly and feelingly wrought out, and meditation, overshaded with tenderness and exalted by devotion, but all terminating in soothing and ever cheerful views of the conditions and prospects of mortality.' 'The gift of genius,' says Alexander Smith, 'can hardly be conceded to him. He had no fire, no imagination, no passion; but his mind was cultivated, his heart pure, and he wrote like a good and amiable man'" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 59.



Thou art not one of those, who, by retreating
Far from the tumult of life's busy throng,
Have foster'd feelings, fair; — but, O how fleeting!—
Fraught with delight to every child of song:
Yet should I do thee, sure, ungrateful wrong,
Did I not feel a poet's warmest pride
In styling thee my patron: — since among
The few, whose partial smiles have hope supplied,
Thine, dear for friendship's sake, have never been denied.

Yet when at first I met thee, (pardon me,
I did not know thee then as now I do,)
I scarcely dar'd to hope that there might be
One rallying point between us: — well I knew,
By common fame, thy life to honour true;
Integrity unquestion'd, warm good-will;—
And yet I could but think how very few
Can mingle with the world and cherish still
That genuine love of song which worldly feelings chill.

The panting pilgrim, who on Arab's sands
Plods wearily along the sterile scene,
Where far and wide a dreary waste expands;—
When on his eye a glimpse of living green
Glances at distance, with what alter'd mien
He journeys on: — hope in his bosom glows,
And fancy's eye beholds the glist'ning sheen
Of the fair streamlet, as it freshly flows,
Beside whose brink ere long he gladly shall repose.

And such the feeling was, by thee excited,
When first this volume ask'd thy friendly aid:—
All I could ask was given, though unrequited,
Except as far as feeble thanks repaid
Thy generous efforts; still more grateful made
By that unpatronizing grace, which cast
O'er kindnesses conferr'd a partial shade
As wishing them to be unheeded past;—
Despite that delicate veil their memory long shall last.

To thee, and one like thee, whose honour'd name
Could not be honour'd more by verse of mine,
These fleeting pages owe their right to claim
Existence: — and if here and there a line,
Worthy a votary of the tuneful Nine,
Be found to Nature's better feelings true;
Or in my verses aught of genius shine,
Or passion's genuine tone, or fancy's hue;
Much of their meed of praise is justly due to you.

Enough of this: — 'tis time such theme should end,
Yet more might be forgiven: could he say less,
Who in a stranger finds a steadfast friend?
No, surely not: the warm heart will express
What generous bosoms easily may guess
Is glowing in it: — it will entertain
Wishes most ardent for the happiness
Of those who've foster'd it: nor can refrain
E'en when expression gives a sense of transient pain.

One of the purest blessings life can give
Is felt by those, who, ere its final close,
Have given decided proof they did not live
For themselves only: — this the parent knows,
Who, ere he sink to Nature's last repose,
Sees round him those who owe their all to him;
While the warm smile that in each visage glows
Lends buoyant vigour to the languid limb,
And keeps the cup of joy still mantling to its brim.

Nor less his pure delight, though far more rare,
Who lonely, — not unlov'd; — by ties unbound,
Except by choice impos'd, and free as air,—
Attaches to him those whose hearts have found
Much in the world to inflict that rankling wound
Which disappointment deals. O! does not he,
(If ever bard his benefactor crown'd,)
Deserve that round his brows entwin'd should be
A wreath more deathless far than I have woven thee?

[pp. 118-22]