1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Fragment.

Durovernum; with other Poems.

John Chalk Claris


Five Spenserians of Byronic musings: "Is there no Idol I can form on earth? | Have I no anchor where my hopes may rest?" While the mania for Byron affected almost everyone, John Chalk Claris was one of the hardest bit. Claris published under the pseudonym "Arthur Brooke."

Walter Scott: "The vulgar author is usually distinguished by his treading, or attempting to tread, in the steps of the reigning favourite of the day. He is didactic, sentimental, romantic, epic, pastoral, according to the taste of the moment, and his 'fancies and delights,' like those of Master Justice Shallow, are sure to be adapted to the tunes 'which the car-men whistle.' The consequence is, not that the herd of imitators gain their object, but that the melody which they have profaned becomes degraded in the sated ears of the public — its original richness, wildness and novelty are forgotten when it is made manifest how easily the leading notes can be caught and parodied, and whatever its intrinsic merit may have been, it becomes, for the time, stale and fulsome. If the composition which has been thus hunted down possesses intrinsic merit, it may — indeed it will — eventually revive and claim its proper place amid the poetical galaxy; deprived, indeed, of the adventitious value which it may at first have acquired from its novelty, but at the same time no longer over-shaded and incumbered by the croud of satellites now consigned to chaos and primaeval night" Review of Childe Harold Canto IV; uarterly Review 19 (April 1818) 216.



And this is vain! once more I must return
To my own breast, like Madness to its cell;
Yet not deceived; I had not now to learn
That nought could break that everlasting spell
Which shuts me from the world. Ah! could I dwell
As others do, in some beguiling dream
Of joy and love eternal, could I quell
The spirit's aimless wandering, life would teem
For me as for the rest, with many a blissful scheme.

It may not be: 'tis blank and barren all,
Whate'er the rest may reach I cannot prize.
Shrouded in torpor — lost to Pleasure's call—
An icy heart within this bosom lies,
Which in its self-despising scorn defies
The sympathies of Earth: and e'en the charm
Which moved so long, sweet Woman's smiling eyes,
Rest there in radiance now, but fail to warm
That pulse, or wake again Love's tremulous alarm.

If this be Knowledge, this the bitter fruit
Of that fair tree which Man alone may find,
Why was I raised beyond the happier brute?
Why cursed with reason — tortured with a mind
Which wakes when I would rest, which cannot blind
Itself to its own frailties, while the sense
Of those appalling truths which lurk behind
Delusion's blossoms, with a beam intense,
Strikes the aching brain, piercing that flowery fence?

Is there no Idol I can form on earth?
Have I no anchor where my hopes may rest?
Still must I live thus lonely in the dearth
Of all delights which warm another's breast?
Where shall I hie me? in what halcyon nest
May my worn spirit fold its weary wings?
When shall my bosom own its ancient guest,
Oh, Love young Love! whose cherished memory clings
E'en in the wreck of all round my heart's bleeding strings!

———*———*———*———*———*———

Then leave me, oh my friends! to my despair,
Nor in my drooping breast these hopes infuse;
Or worse distress me with officious care,
Lest this dim spot, ye call the world, refuse
A longer sojourn to me: I can lose
Little with this sad being; though to you
Existence be enjoyment, might I choose
Between a life like that I have passed through,
And a calm grave's repose, — this were my last adieu.

[pp. 116-19]