431 irregular Spenserians (ababcC) with interspersed lyrics comprise this sentimental novel in verse, set in the middle of the eighteenth century. In the story, two Welsh friends, representing the British virtues, triumph in Canada only to come to grief at home. Francis Hodgson, a disaffected Whig, seems to have discovered little to admire in either British poetry or politics following the loss of the American colonies; indeed, his literary conservativism is such that much of the poem might have been written in the period in which it is set. The author's views are developed in copious digressions on poetry, politics, religion, and education.
Spenser is praised in the third book ("That tuneful parent of the pleasing dream, | Where Allegory spreads her lucid veil" p. 101) and The Friends is, in some ways, Spenserian poem. Hodgson, later a master at Eton College, was not given to originality: he borrows themes and draws inspiration from Beattie's The Minstrel, Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming, Byron's Childe Harold, and possibly Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night.
The first canto rings changes on James Beattie's Minstrel, with the themes of civic education placed first, then aesthetic education in a description of the natural wonders of the Welsh landscape. The two "friends," Theodore and Ferdinand, are differentiated by their spiritual and military callings, both emblematic in some sense of the virtues of the growing British Empire, which forms the subtext of a poem set during the conquest of Canada in the 1760s. Hodgson's rather peculiar story has some resemblance to William Laurence Brown's Philemon, or the Progress of Virtue (1811), which he had reviewed in the Monthly Review.
British Critic: "Ulric, a widower, lives secluded from the world in a 'rock-built mansion,' 'by Dee's wild stream,' with his only son Theodore, and Ferdinand the orphan child of a friend. The two boys are bred up together and become friends, in the strongest sense of the term. They are educated by Ulric in an intimate acquaintance with the great truths of revealed religion, and at the same time with all the various stores of Pagan literature; and dwell with particular delight upon the ancient examples of heroic friendship. They agree in contemplating with rapturous admiration the romantic scenery around them ... from whence the author takes an opportunity of describing some of the natural and artificial wonders of Wales and the counties adjacent, particularly mines of different kinds. This he does at such length that we were rather glad at the appearance of a third character, in the person of Egbert, a soldier by profession, and the common friend of Ulric and Ferdinand's father. And here we are made acquainted with the time of the poem's opening, which is a little before the memorable campaign in Canada, in which Wolfe fell. The stranger draws such a 'glorious picture of enchanting war,' that he inspires Ferdinand with a military ardour, who leaves his home with him, in spite of the dissuasive arguments of his friend. Theodore, with the approbation of his father, embraces the clerical profession" NS 11 (March 1819) 269-70.
New British Lady's Magazine: "The poem before us, like the former productions of its author, from its uniformly moral tendency, cannot fail to be received with attention, although it frequently soars so little above mediocrity as to be incapable of exciting a strong interest. The descriptions are too narrative, the admonitions too didactic. In a volume of entertaining poetry, instruction should rather be insinuated than broadly stated, although the motive which has prompted Mr. H. to attack the principles and morals of certain writers of the day is very praiseworthy" 2 (May 1819) 215.
Lord Byron to John Murray: "I have read Parson Hodgson's Friends in which he seems to display his knowledge of the subject by a Covert attack or two on some of his own. He probably wants another Living; at least I judge so by the prominence of his piety, although he was always pious — even when he was kept by a Washerwoman on the New Road. I have seen him cry over her picture, which he generally wore under his left Armpit. But he is a good man, and I have no doubt does his duty by his Parish. As to the poetry of his New-fangled Stanza, I wish they would write the octave or the Spenser; we have no other legitimate measure of the kind. He is right in defending Pope against the bastard Pelicans of the poetical winter day, who add insult to their Parricide by sucking the blood of the parent of English real poetry — poetry without fault, — and then spurning the bosoms which fed them." 18 May 1819; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 4:303-04.
Lord Byron to Francis Hodgson: "Murray sent me your Friends, which I thought very good and classical. The scoundrels of scribblers are trying to run down Pope, but I hope in vain. It is my intention to take up the cudgels in that controversy, and to do my best to keep the Swan of Thames in his true place" 22 November 1820; in Memoir of Francis Hodgson (1878) 2:75.
James T. Hodgson [son]: "Besides the delineation of a friendship pure and unalloyed by selfish ambitions, this poem contains many very beautiful descriptive passages. Some of the most remarkable features of the scenery of Derbyshire, of Devonshire, and of Wales are portrayed with picturesque simplicity, and the mutual interests of the friends are made the occasion for introducing comments upon literature and science. Among those who pronounced favourable opinions on the Friends were Byron and Gifford, the latter of whom liked it better than any other of Hodgson's compositions" Memoir of Francis Hodgson (1878) 2:66-67.
Samuel Smiles: "The Rev. Francis Hodgson, the friend and correspondent of Lord Byron, published a poem entitled 'The Friends,' which was favourably noticed by the reviewers, but was soon forgotten. Hodgson afterwards said it should have been called 'Foes' instead of 'Friends.' In a letter to Murray (30th May, 1818), he wrote: — 'They have come late into the world, but with this you have nothing to do, and I (if possible) still less. In proportion to the slow arrival of a guest at a fashionable party, he should be loudly announced by the people at the stair-head. In plain English, every exertion will be necessary to prevent this last comer from dropping dead from the press" A Publisher and his Friends: Memoir of John Murray (1891) 2:14.
By Dee's wild stream, where gathering mountains rise
In every coloured change of Beauty's form;
Half hid by guardian oaks from stranger eyes,
A rock-built mansion braved the native storm:
Far from that world which few have loved till death,
Here thoughtful Ulric drew his latest breath.
Prop of his days, his pride and hope of heart,
The youthful Theodore consoled his sire
For each fair gift that time had seen depart;
For bounding health, for Fancy's first-strung lyre,
For rainbow dreams of youth; all bathed in tears
By her unequalled loss who lit his vernal years.
Nor did thine orphan bloom, sweet Ferdinand!
Fail to diffuse the self-approving balm
O'er his lone age, whose ever-watchful hand
Here held thee in Retirement's rural calm,
With his own tender Theodore to share,
Dear remnant of his friend, a father's care.
Fond image of the love that bound their sires,
Transmitted full, the happy sons it binds;
Warms their expanding hearts with equal fires,
Directs to like pursuits their strengthening minds;
Lives in their studies, lends their sports delight,
And bids a void be felt without each other's sight.
Soft, as the transitory breath of Spring,
Childhood has flown: a manlier purpose grew
In firmer frames: the Muse, with thrilling string,
Woke the young voice of Theodore, and drew
Tears from that listening youth, whose glad acclaim
Found generous friendship far more dear than fame.
Nor freshening exercise, nor healthy toil
Lacked the delighted pair: — they roamed along
O'er each famed barrier of their parent soil,
Harped by Llewellyn soft, or Owen strong;
Each legendary rock, and fabled vale,
Where tuneful echoes once inspired the gale.
There, as they range, they view with varying taste
The year's alternate robes that round them lie:
The snow-clad mountain and the trackless waste,
Regions of bleak but grand sterility,
Would charm the one; and nigh the torrent's roar
He felt his breast dilate, his kindling spirit soar.
The low green valley, and the wooded plain,
Where evening sunshine lights the grassy slope,
Were dear to Theodore — a pleasing pain
Would there be mingled with his dreams of hope—
His mother's gentle memory there would rise,
And infant pictures fill his pensive eyes.
He stood that infant at her honour'd side—
The sacred page was open to his view:
Safe in the wisdom of his tenderest guide,
He chose the models of the good and true;
O'er Joseph's kind forgiving heart he wept,
And mourn'd when Moses in the desert slept.
Here too his friend the holy fountain drank,
And dwelt with mutual joy on heavenly lore:
Together oft on Summer's evening bank,
Careful they mused the wondrous volume o'er:
On Pagan themes full frequent had they proved
Their differing strength — but here alike they loved.
The prudent sire had drawn with early chain
Their governed hearts that gift of Heaven to prize:
Where reason failed their search, no cavil vain
Obscured their faith; they looked with reverent eyes
On Revelation's sun till growing light
Cast down in modest awe their conquered sight.
Not thus, I ween, when Greece or Rome upheld
Her laurelled favourites to their ardent gaze—
Here by no bond their rising thoughts were quelled;
And oft they roamed half lost in Error's maze,
Till Ulric won them back to purer Truth,
And checked the Pagan pride that taints the core of youth.
O'er the dim light of Heathen virtue sad,
They mourned for those who sought a brighter creed;
Whose high bewildered souls, sublimely mad,
Leant on the shadow of a broken reed,
On Reason's frail support, to pierce the veil
That wrapped the throne, and Heaven's Last height assail.
They pitied him, who from his country's wrongs
Indignant burst to realms unknown away:
Sanctioned and praised by thoughtless poets' songs,
And led by Error's philosophic ray,
They pitied many a brave and lofty son
Of ancient fame, for deeds in darkness done.
Each had his chosen heroes; each would dwell
On some distinguished scene with prime delight—
Whether the Greeks mid Pelion's rocks who fell,
Or that brave band who sank in Cannae's fight,
Inspired their beating breasts — but when they saw
The Stoic murderer raise the sword of law,
There both rebelled; and Brutus' iron name,
And Manlius' heartless pride, with pitying eyes,
With only pitying eyes, and honest shame
For wandering man's mistaken eulogies,
Firmly they viewed; undaunted by the host
Of faithless Christian bards, who dare such deeds to boast.
And now ungrateful Greece to generous rage
Would stir their minds — when he, his country's guard,
In pining sickness wastes his weaker age,
Whose strength the Persian from his spoil debarred;
When wondrous Marathon's bright wreaths decay,
Lost in one island's inauspicious day.
So deep the sordid vice had pierced the heart
Of ardent Ferdinand, he almost bore
The apostate patriot's too revengeful part:
Not thus the ingenuous soul of Theodore,
But each revolted child who wronged his home
He gave to shame, through Greece or thankless Rome.
Where'er they parted, or where'er they met
In admiration's tribute to the dead;
While Caesar's mercy this could ne'er forget,
Or that still claimed Ambition's forfeit head;
One strain congenial waked in either soul
The like emotions with the same control.
How transport fills them at each treasured tale
Of sacred Amity's high deeds of yore!
With pulse yet quick, with tears that never fail,
The faithful friend of Nisus they deplore,
The fall'n, the young Euryalus! whose head,
A flower o'ercharged with rain, lies drooping mid the dead.
How, when enchained before the Tyrant stands
Devoted Damon, eager for his friend
To meet fell Cruelty's too tardy hands,
And claim, ere Pythias comes, his fated end—
How beats the heart responsive, to behold
The deathless palm by Friendship won of old.
Nor did the fairy garb that Fiction weaves
Yet disenchant the glowing breast of youth;
While each fond tale the willing ear receives
Of stainless honour, of unshaken truth:
Even to the shades great Theseus dares descend
To save Pirithous, to redeem his friend.
Unblest Orestes! by a Father's ghost
Urged a polluted Mother to pursue;
All charm of life to thee indeed were lost,
But for thy friend, the generous and the true:
Darkness and death around thee, one bright ray
Sheds thy brave Pylades on sorrow's day.
How gloomily the sun in blood has set
On Roncesvalles' vale! the turbans fly
In ruthless pride above — but mounting yet
'Mid thundering rocks, and crowds that round them die,
Orlando, Oliver, in arms are found,
The last sad bulwarks of that glorious ground.
Oh happy both in valour's best renown,
In friendship's purest praise! and happier now,
Since ever-daring song has wreathed the crown
Of Christian glory o'er your warlike brow!
Italia, England, France, your fame enshrine,
And Friendship lives in Vigour's burning line.
Well-pleased they mark, in Rome's degraded years,
When blood-stained Despots filled her trembling throne,
When all was blank dismay and coward tears,
His bolder friend the graceful courtier own;
And one exalted lore they proudly prize
Bind Pliny's heart to Tacitus the wise.
Well-pleased they linger o'er the soothing page,
Like a green spot by circling battles spared,
Where from his country's wounds the Arpinian sage
Refreshment sought, by worthy friendship shared;
And, as they muse, their conscious hearts rejoice,
While Laelius breathes again in Tully's voice.
"First then thyself to Virtue's height aspire,
And seek some heart with kindred gifts endowed:
Here shall thy friendship burn with steady fire,
Nor dread the changes of the heartless crowd:
Both firmly true, both temperately brave,
Lords of those lusts to which the world's a slave.
"There each shall undertake his friend's request,
Sure that no wrong from such a source can rise;
Shall honour him the most they love the best,
Nor dare a crime before his sacred eyes:
Oh bloom of Friendship, withering to decay,
When modest mutual fear is worn away!
"Ill do they deem of that celestial state,
For unrestrained excess who deem it given:
Virtue's pure aid, not passion's guilty mate,
Friendship first rose, the true-born child of Heaven:
Propped by her social strength, on loftier throne
Sits Virtue than herself could reach alone."
Oh blest and blessing union! yet in thee
Perfection dwells, and man his loss regains;
O'er his own Paradise he ranges free,
Free from Earth's cares, from conscious Folly's Pains:
Wealth, glory, pleasure, all in thee we find,
Thou lasting Peace of Concord's lovely mind!
Thus felt the friends; and Memory's hoarded stores
Opened for them their everlasting wealth—
Thrice happy they, on whom a parent pours
These ancient fountains famed for mental health!
No low delights are theirs, no thirst for gain;
Rivals they stand, and sons, of Friendship's hallowed train.
Ye too with joy each answering heart inspired,
Illustrious youths of Judah's chosen race;
By well-tried Friendship's holiest ardour fired
That e'er through time's recorded path we trace:
The cave of danger charms a prince's sight,
Shared with his David, with his sours delight.
But oh! what wondering gratitude is their's,
When He, who died to rescue ruined men,
To change the race of wrath to glory's heirs,
And grant the boon of forfeit life again,
The bonds of earthly tenderness approved
In that high-favoured follower whom he loved.—
So rolled their even course; — nor realms of frost
Restrained their wanderings wild; when, glittering down
Its crystal path, the arrested stream was lost
In one small rill; nor when the mountains brown
Were parched with sultry suns; and round the heath
The drowsy flocks were laid, some shadowy rock beneath.
That eye was Theodore's, which Nature forms
To mark the glories of her general reign;
The hill-tops clearing from their veil of storms,
While watery sunbeams cross the chequered plain:
The whole commingled living scene, that strove
In dumb or speaking praise to thank the God of love.
A softer spell the human feeling lent
To sheltered cot, and lowly village tower;
Where some calm valley looked and breathed content,
At yellow Autumn's peaceful evening hour:
Then swelled the strain of Theodore, and praised
The beauteous world of bliss, for man by Mercy raised.
Still, as it changed, the fourfold year of joy,
Nature's fresh charms his eager love engage;
Contrast divine! too mutable to cloy,
They dawn with Spring, they smile in Winter's age;
Betray, Benevolence! thy pure design,
And wake ungrateful man to prize these works of thine.
Glorious Author of the year,
Teach us at thy shrine to bow!
As thy varying months appear,
Let our lips renew the vow.
When the dove-ey'd Spring looks out
From her infant nest of flowers,
On the green fresh woods about
Sparkling in the sunny showers—
When, as up the blue profound
Summer climbs her noonday height,
Not the breathing of a sound
Wanders through the depth of light—
When o'er harvest-waving hill,
And on gaily-blossomed heath,
Autumn glows — or, beauteous still,
Wears the golden veil of death—
When, like some unspotted corse
Shrouded in its virgin white,
Nature yields to Winter's force,
Only to revive more bright—
Glorious Author of the year,
Teach us at thy shrine to bow!
An thy varying months appear,
Let our lips renew the vow.
Like circling planets round the sun of Hope,
Thus rolled the Seasons o'er the admiring youth
Love, light, and joy the centre of their scope—
Thus, at each new-born landscape, simple Truth
Look'd from his conscious eyes, and caught the grace
Eternal Nature wears upon her glowing face.
But Ferdinand beheld with closer look
The portion'd forms of Beauty scatter'd round:
The moss-grown roots that overhung the brook,
The broken lights on yonder upland ground,
The tree beside the mill, the rustic bridge,
The tottering ruin on the mountain's ridge.
His ready pencil fixed each narrower scene,
And won the sister Muse to guide his hand:
He gazed at moments with sublimer mien
On the wild features of the rocky land—
Then, as despair forbade their form to seize,
Turned to his brother's harp, that ever knew to please.
To far untrodden wastes, by winding Dee,
They shaped their path: the torrent's track they crost,
And, separate now, in sportive energy,
Through moors, and distant woodlands, wandered lost;
Till patient, practised toil regained their way,
And pleased they told at night the labours of the day.
Awe-struck they gaze, where, borne from height to height,
The aerial river rolls in channel strange;
And dread gigantic forms, at fall of night,
Seem o'er the vale in shadowy march to range—
Till, close beheld, the disenchanted host
Bids human Pride awake her haughty boast.
High soars the imperial aqueduct, and Dee
Runs wondering at the way himself has past:
Pleased from that air-drawn way thy hills they see,
Thy crown of pictured hills, around thee cast,
Llangollen, vale of Rest! where shining streams
Roll their long murmuring round, and soothe Retirement's dreams.
There warlike Dinas-Bran recals the day
Of bright embattled power, or feudal feast:
There, where the wood-girt waters idly stray,
From glittering cares, from toils of pomp released,
Some weary heart, in Valley Crucis' towers,
Gave to repose and prayer her happier evening hours.
Nor to the smiling surface of the land
Their pleased career the youthful wanderers bound:
Eager they dive, where Man's resistless hand
Has raised a throne of darkness under ground;
Where, from the mouth of yon abhorred descent,
Conquered by lustral fires, empoisoned airs are sent.
They reach the guardian flame — and round it stand,
With eyes that doubly sparkle in the light,
In ghastly merriment, a blackening band,
The free-born tenants of this reign of night:
Diverging far around, full many a road
Through low and narrow rocks runs o'er the pale abode.
A distant sound approaches — louder yet
Ring on their iron path those iron wheels:
By yon faint lamp, in lonely station set,
A boyish hand that guarded door unseals:
The car has past — in rapid thunder back
Falls the rebounding gate, and shuts the infernal track.
But ampler realms of subterranean wealth
Allure them now — midway suspended there,
Silent they gaze, while freshening airs of health
Breathe from the crystal rock; and still and fair
The illuminated scenes of wonder shine,
As like some sacred roof upshoots the magic mine.
But, as they lower sink, what strange delight
Awaits them, rapturous! wide that pavement spreads,
Broad those dark columns; while in circle bright
Lamps glitter round the hall, and o'er their heads
Reflect the roof of salt — some patriot band
In council here might meet, and save their injured land.
And deeper yet, where buried waters run
In silent passage through the hollowed hill;
Where the sad boat that never sees the sun
Plies its cold task in patient darkness still,
They urge their thoughtful way, where caverns dread
Conceal the precious mass of stone-encumbered lead.
Oh ever restless band of Avarice,
Insatiably prompt to tear her spoils
From pierced, insulted earth! — Yet art thou vice,
Thou spur of dormant strength, whose useful toils
Open, enrich, embellish, and refine,
And raise the native ore of Reason's cultured mine?
Good from thy partial evil freely flows,
Controlled by Heaven: yet woe to him, thy slave!
He, 'mid the neighbouring sighs of others' woes,
Holds his hard path, unheeding, to the grave:
Then thy heaped gold with foreign lustre gleams,
Poured forth by nobler heirs in bounty's new-born streams.
Ill deem they yet of doubts like these, that blest,
That friendly pair: they listen to the tale
Of those whose daring labour first possesst
The conquered inlet of this kingdom pale,
Where wealth and danger dwell: they move beneath
The o'erhanging vault of night, and dream and talk of death.
Now to the closing cave, whose height unknown
Is lost in shadows, thrilled with joy they come—
There, from the precipice of horror, thrown,
Seeking a strange, unseen, unfathomed home,
The sudden torrent falls with sleepless roar,
And Echo grows around, and thunders more and more.
Up the sharp crags opposing, to their head
That sink the dim, unmeasured roof below,
With glimmering lamp in hand (a passage dread!)
Climbs their swift guide — the jutting fragments glow
With passing light, and flash each brown recess
On keen unsated eyes, that love to glance and guess.
Here — when the sulphurous blast of human power
First forced the stony entrance — fearful, loud,
The rushing streams, in everlasting shower,
Broke on the sense of that astonished crowd
Who fly, nor cast one look of terror back
To view the fancied death that follows on their track.
Breathless they stop — the sound has died away—
So when of old upon the startled ear
Of each polluted son of mortal clay
The gathering tumult, still more near and near,
Rose from that sea of ruin, Earth grew pale—
But, ah! nor terrors then, nor tears, nor prayers avail.
What shall they feel, when, swifter in advance,
Sounds the last whelming fire? avert it, Heaven!
From eyes of conscious guilt, whose misty trance
Away at once by that dread glare is driven—
Oh! soften such a sign of vengeful doom
To shivering, naked souls, just wakened from the tomb.
Gladly the friends in upper air again
Inhaled the cheerful day, and hastened on
Where Denbigh's castled height o'erlooked the plain,
And Clwyd's harvest vale in glory shone:
But high each bosom beat with native pride,
When Conway stern arose her guarded flood beside.
That regal hall no splendid vision wakes
In patriot breasts — their iron king they saw!
And ruthless Edward to his trammels breaks,
Not to her ancient yoke of inborn law,
The struggling soul of Freedom: — fierce they turn
From tyrant towers, and still for Cambria's wrongs they burn.
But oh, that view of Heaven! when, issuing now
From rude Nantfrangon's solitary pass,
Lingering they gaze on fair Beaumaris' brow
O'er evening Ocean's azure waves of glass:
And lo! the Druid's isle, in stillness spread,
Seems to call up and soothe her host of prophets dead.
For gloriously around the sunset falls
On sky, wave, wood, and hill — yet darkening there,
Rise in the backward scene embattled walls,
And imaged palaces beyond in air
Range their deep-clustered spires, till clouds of gold
Spread out their brilliant breast the picture to enfold.
Such forms, by Natures visionary hand
Traced on her shattered rocks, perchance awoke
The aspiring soul of Art, whose towers command
Yon craggy glen: and thus too Nature spoke
In long arched lines of lofty trees, that bade
The holy roof arise, and spread her solemn shade.
Revolving dreams like these, or borne in thought
To fairy kingdoms of still wilder grace,
Strayed on the happy youths; while Memory brought
Stores of recorded time, or pictured space,
To lend the joys of sense that charm of mind,
That music all unknown to bosoms unrefined.
They climb old Snowdon's hill! Yr-Wyddfa's height!
What rapture-raising visions dawn around!
The veil of cloud rolls sudden from their sight,
And Wicklow's distant head with gold is crowned;
Gold, glittering gold, the joyous seas between,
Rock, forest, cataract crowd the circling scene.
Beauteous in peace, Llanberris' vale below
Lies in the sleeping mirror of her lake:
Girt by vast hills, the noiseless waters flow
As formed by Heaven for Contemplation's sake;
And, with yon answering concave spread on high,
Deep in their blue repose to soothe sad Virtue's eye.
Now pausing, slow, and filled with heavenward thought,
The brothers wander through that vale of dreams;
Till, on to old Dolbadarn's turret brought,
Enwrapt they stand between the double streams:
From that wild isthmus, to the rocks above,
Glowing with health and joy, their airy road they rove.
Down by the faithful Greyhound's rocky grave
They wind their long descent — how bold a sound
Their country's harp, inspirer of the brave,
Flings from you humble roof the hills around!
Well might that harp, in this its native reign,
Thrill patriot hearts with Valour's ancient strain.
Or, if at times, Bethgelert's crags among,
Binding the heart with some accustomed spell,
The simple stream of legendary song
Flowed through the mountain land they loved so well;
Their untaught ears would drink that legend rude,
Pleased as if loftier lays inspired their solitude.
Bright upon Snowdon's double peak
The rays of morning rest;
And clouds, like flying armies, seek
Yon ocean's azure breast.
Loud rung the glen with horn and hound,
To hail the dawning day;
As up the steep defile they wound,
Llewellyn's vassals gay.
Fair in the midst the chieftain moved
Upon his fiery steed;
And oft he called the dog he loved—
But Gelert would not heed.
The deer is up — away, away!
O'er moorland, heath, and hill,
Close on the traces of their prey,
The keen hounds follow still.
Yet, foremost as Llewellyn rides
Along the narrow dale,
Or crosses swift the mountain tides,
Down rushing to the vale,
In vain with eager glance around
For Gelert's eye he looks;
In vain his voice, with gentle sound,
His absent friend rebukes.
The chase is done — the quarry's won—
Slow homeward bend the train;
Though, blithe as when the day begun,
They tell it o'er again.
Alone, regardless of their mirth,
The Prince rides down the dell:
"How fare they, at his own loved hearth
Good angels, guard them well!"
Some secret augury of woe
Hangs heavy at his heart;
And coming tears refuse to go,
Unconscious why they start.
Far distant in the wooded plain
His sylvan towers appear—
And cheering voice, and loosened rein,
Have brought him panting here.
Ha! — moaning, and distained with gore,
His Gelert meets his eyes;
And, rushing through the unguarded door
"My child, my child!" he cries.
Blood, blood, discoloured all around
O'erturned the cradle lay—
And furious on the trembling hound
He sprang in wild dismay.
The death, descending from his sword,
Stretched Gelert lifeless there—
"And is it thus thy thankless lord
Repays thy guardian care!"
Too late the Prince in sorrow sighs—
When safe within his nest
His rosy infant he descries,
And clasps him to his breast.
A monstrous wolf beside him slain
Attests the bloody strife—
But oh! what tears will bring again
His faithful dog to life?
Though Memory o'er his Gelert's grave
Long mourns his cruel lot;
Where yonder weeping birch-trees wave
To mark the honoured spot.
But now, an honoured guest at Ulric's home,
Undaunted Egbert from the field of war
Welcome appears; awhile allowed to roam
From pausing scenes of blood in realms afar:
The orphan's sire had shared his old campaigns,
And Ulric too had viewed the battle plains:
No warrior he — but, some great conquest o'er,
He sighed to hail his long-loved Ferdinand;
And eager left his native Cambrian shore,
To grasp again the rescued soldier's hand—
Wounded he lay on Glory's crimsoned bed,
While faithful Egbert propped his fainting head.
But oh! what pangs were Ulric's, to behold
The partner of his youth untimely lost:
The tale of safety prematurely told,
And mangled thus the dearest of his host:
Low drooped the dying Ferdinand, and gave
His farewel blessing to his comrades brave.
'Twas then the parting friend alone reposed
The dearest burthen of a parent's soul
On Ulric's breast — his eyes in darkness closed—
He felt no more the scalding tears that roll
Down Friendship's face upon his hand of death;
He heard no more the sigh of Pity's struggling breath.
Young Honour's corse is cold! away, away—
His orphan call thee to thy chosen care—
"Egbert, adieu! — if no foredoomed affray
Joins thee to Ferdinand, his youthful heir
Mid Cambria's hill thy coming shall attend,
And the glad boy shall hail his father's friend."
It boots not now on Ulric's mournful path
To bend our eyes — to share his fond design
Of softening Fortune's doubly cruel wrath,
That robbed the remnant of a noble line
Of both the natural props, that friends may try
With Friendship's every care, ah vainly! to supply.
"My own kind Clara," thus the wanderer cried,
Now with his orphan charge near murmuring Dee;
"My own kind Clara, with delight and pride
Shall fill a mother's place, poor boy! for thee:
Nor shall a friend here fail thee — nay, nor more—
A brother shall be thine in Theodore."
Pleased with the promised vision of delight,
The husband sees his home — Ah, dreams of man!
How fades the phantom from thy straining sight,
The shooting star of hope that lights thy little span!
All wild the shrubs round Ulric's mansion grew,
Neglected all, and sad — and silent too!
No sound of welcome, no receiving eye
Of quick delight, no pressure of the hand,
No long, long kiss of speechless ecstacy—
No varied look of love from all the friendly band—
Why dwell upon the tale? — Oh wretched life!
Nor love, nor truth, nor tears, can save the faithful wife.
Fresh are these flowers upon the new-made grave—
But yesternight they bore her to her rest—
Oh where is now the courage of the brave,
And where the pious patience of the best?
He clasped his lonely Theodore — he prayed
In agony of soul for Mercy's aid.
The dove of Heaven descends on every woe
That bows before the Lord of good and ill—
In softer stream Time bids his anguish flow;
Though ever undefaced, though bleeding still,
Within his deepest heart her image lies,
Saved till herself erase it in the skies.
"Ye tender scions of the cherished dead,
How like some desert rock I shield you here!
Keep the rude tempest from each infant head,
And brave myself the cold and wintry year!
Enough — while duty claims, the task be mine
Through joyless life to labour and resign."
But deep within himself sad Ulric hid
The sigh despondent and the bitter tear—
Compassion, Justice, Piety, forbid
To cloud the young with ceaseless sorrow here:
Brief life has gleams between, so bright in my,
That Hope may well preside o'er Fancy's dawning day.
So hoped young Ferdinand, when Egbert drew
The glorious picture of enchanting War—
The lines advancing in their foeman's view,
The fields, the roads, the thronging hills afar,
All bright with arms! the banners floating round,
The leader's echoed voice, the trumpet's answered sound.
Yet rests the thunder in repose — but hark!
Peal upon peal redoubling through the ranks,
In deep-mouth'd death, from every ambush dark,
Down yonder craggy paths, and wooded banks,
Burst the thick vollies! horse and towering crest,
As rolls the smoke away, in mingled ruin rest.
The centre too — they reel! they break — advance!
Quick to the charge, ye Sons of England! — now!
Where am the laurel wreaths of boasting France?
They were but won to grace Britannia's brow;
For her they bloomed, for her they grew; at length
To crown with matchless fame her matchless strength.
Loudly the trumpet told this glorious truth
In Gallia's frighted ears on Danube's shore;
Where, all in arms, resistless England's youth
Bathed her red rose in dyes of deeper gore—
Loudly o'er Ganges' wave that Echo spoke,
And bade her Eastern slaves renounce pale Gallia's yoke.
And Ocean's western bounds shall hear it still,
Where newborn Empire rears her growing reign—
Oh! guard from fierce Disunion's awful ill
Britannia's offspring realms beyond the main,
Ye, whose angelic watch to her is given,
And guide against her foes the wrath of Heaven!
Yet on those foes alone the thunder fell,
And only France the coming tempest feared:
Her ruined forts, her scattered thousands tell
How quick the conquest o'er the toil of years,
Where patriot hands avenge their country's wrong,
And England joys to tame the haughty and the strong.
Ill could the voice of gentle Theodore
Suppress the gathering ardour of his friend—
Vainly he showed, the inspiring combat o'er,
War's dread result — its wretched aim and end—
The pale unburied crowd — the orphan's tears—
A grief that dwelt awhile in kindred ears—
Still all was vain — in Freedom's cause to die,
Was glory, duty — so the Roman felt,
So the brave Greek — "Oh! ne'er should English eye
For Valour's victims thus too fondly melt:
Thy friend shall wear Renown's unfailing plume,
Or seek his parent in the soldier's tomb.
"Why waste we here our youth?" — "Oh, call not waste,"
Replied the glowing Theodore, "his life,
Whose restless reason, whose yet soaring taste,
High o'er the Kings of Earth, and all their strife,
Nerves day by day the strength by Nature given,
And here begins the eternal lore of Heaven.
"The lore, that, opening with the mind's increase,
Shall teach us yet those secret springs of power,
Which bid the soul aspire to her release
From the dark bondage of life's little hour;
And sweeten still her bonds, and make her home
Dear now below, more dear above to come.
"Oh happy village task that erst we loved,
To soothe the wretched, to instruct the low;
Oh happy woodland walks where erst we roved,
Unconscious yet of all but other's woe;
Oh sweet return from Cambria's mountain views
To home's paternal smile, to winter's evening muse—
"Thus hast thou deemed, my Ferdinand! — but go,
If such thy choice, to Valour's brightest meed—
Ye guardian angels of the good, bestow
Truth on each thought, and fame on every deed!
And haste, oh haste! ye hours of parted love,
To bid war's Lion sleep, and wake the peaceful Dove."
Sorrowing they part — repentant half, awhile,
The wavering Ferdinand; and quite o'ercome
His lost deserted friend — brave Egbert's smile
Of generous pity for the loss of home,
And all the stirring promise of the war,
Soon drove the Soldier's deeper grief afar:
Yet in his dreams, and yet through many a day
The softening distant image would return;
Nor, till o'erwhelmed by fame's resistless sway,
Till braved and conquered danger bade him burn
To climb ambition's summit, could he cease
To breathe at times the sigh for Ulric's roof of peace.
What rest was Theodore's from grief like this?
Alone he wandered through the well known woods;
Alone he mused, where cloudless moonbeams kiss
The unbroken mirror of Llanberris' floods:
Seemed on that desert shore his soul was flown
In quest of Friendship, ah! no more his own.
Pale rose above Snowdonia's giant king;
His crest divided slept in azure heaven;
And all his vassal rocks, in verdant ring,
Bowed round his throne, by ancient earthquakes riven:
Even his fierce torrents seemed to rest, and gave
To awful night the stillness of the grave.
The wanderer sought Dolbadarn's ancient tower:
There, as he climbed the rough ascent, the light
Diffused down all the skies in streaming shower
Through a rude loophole to his passing sight
Betrayed a form within, that on the ground
Knelt with clasped hands, and eyes in sorrow drowned.
One glance sufficed to show the astonished youth
An honoured sufferer in that lone recess—
A trembling reverence, and the tenderest ruth,
Awed by the presence of a sire's distress
Reversed his silent steps, that softly glide
Down the steep pathway to Llanberris' side.
There, on a lonely rock, he lay him down,
And, wondering, waited for his mournful sire:
Old Glydir Vawr his adverse summits brown
Reared from the lake; unshadowed they aspire
Up the blue vault above, and deep below
Their sculptured forms the lucid waters show.
Reflected thus within the filial mind
A father's sorrow dwelt: that mind had seen
The gentle grief, by mellowing years refined,
Which mourned for Clara still; — but such a mien
Of hopeless anguish, all unknown before,
Touched him who saw it to the bosom's core.
Behold the sire from grey Dolbadawn roam—
Distant he sees his dear, his only child;
In search for whom he left his lonely home,
And ranged Snowdonia's realms of beauty wild:
For well he knew within that favourite land
The youth would mourn his absent Ferdinand.
"Return, my Theodore! return," he said,
"To Quiet's mansion where Content shall dwell—"
(He spoke unconscious of his grief betrayed)
"Too long I've taught, and thou hast learned too well
The generous claims of life, to yield thee yet
To fond unfruitful tears, to unemployed regret.
"Time too, my son! relentless time demands
(And who prepares for heaven that heeds not time?)
A new, a high exertion at your hands:
Your sacred task o'er this yet rugged clime
Knowledge, and peace, and pious fear to shed,
And call the dew of love, on every human head.
"Look then, my son! to that unsullied band
Who freed the soul of England from its yoke:
Behold recovered Cranmer's burning hand,
Hear the firm words the dying martyr spoke:
See his brave brethren at the stake expire,
And mount to Mercy from the bigot's fire.
"So, when the blazing earth shall sink at last,
Her purest sons shall first ascend to Heaven;
So, to reward the weight of sorrow past,
The crown of crowns to suffering faith is given:
But oh! far heavier than the vulgar power
Is that sad weight to bear, at death's all-trying hour.
"Then, gratefully, in shame, and humble love,
Should we not now our guardian God adore,
Who shuts the treasury of his wrath above,
And deigns his gifts of peace alone to pour?
Safe is our faith; and fortune at our side
With earth's best blessings crowns our holiest pride.
"Well might such baits, such tempting baits of fame,
Of wealth, of pleasure, win the sordid crowd;
And clothe with piety's insulted name
The fierce, the mean, the sensual, and the proud:
Guard us from prosperous strength, all-watchful Grace!
Renew in England's sons their fathers' Christian race.
"Oh, thanks to Heaven! above the venal crew
Who touch thine altar with unhallowed haste,
Thou just Avenger of the wise and true,
My brave, my guileless offspring shall be placed!
Free was his choice, and ardent his desire
To light his lamp at Judah's shrine of fire.
"Well has he judged, unlike that world of pride,
The first, the unfading dignity of man
Lodged in the love of heaven! — Oh Father! guide
His steps a nobler course than Ulric ran;
The noblest course of all, thy service pure,
Thy badge assumed on earth, but ever to endure!"
What sound so thrilling as a parent's praise?
What gift so precious as a parent's love?
The grateful youth stands fixed with downward gaze,
While unresisted tears his rapture prove—
"Oh! may I merit this!" his inmost sigh,
And Virtue's firm resolve the language of his eye.