1819
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The View.

The View.

Chandos Leigh


Privately published in 1819: 36, later 44 Spenserians with one stanza in couplets. Chandos Leigh imitates Byron's Childe Harold in a descriptive poem beginning with a sunrise on Mount Blanc. Leigh had been a younger contemporary of Byron's at Harrow, and later added a salute to him in a revised conclusion.

Travelling in Switzerland and Italy, Chandos Leigh is very much the Englishman: he finds fault with Calvinism and Roman Catholicism, though the view, he admits, is lovely. The stanzas later added glance at Greece and the United States as more liberal alternatives: "Columbia has her souls of fire: | The dawning light of science there doth gleam" Sylva (1823) 26. "Corinna" is Madam de Stael.

An earlier version of the poem had appeared as "Dedicatory Stanzas to Mary" in the Literary Gazette No. 54 (31 January 1818) 73-74. Who "Mary" was is not disclosed, but she has been erased in the authorized version of the poem.



The world has seen strange change; yet here art thou
Mont Blanc, while generations pass away;
Thy vast heights glistening with untrodden snow,
On which the sun at eve imprints his ray;
There lingers yet the mild farewell of day.
The blue lake sleeps below in tranquil sheen;
There among Nature's miracles I'll pray
To Nature's Deity; how vast the scene!
The loveliest works of God — the grandest too are seen!

Here from our slumbers light we rise to feel
The consciousness of being; fresh and free
The soul pours forth its orisons with zeal
To the great Spirit of Eternity
That was, that is, and shall for ever be.
The fertile vallies, giant mountains, prove
The Omnipresence of the Deity;
Best emblems of his wisdom, power, and love,
Pervading all things here around, below, above.

The golden sun has colour'd all the woods!
Fresh views succeed; each brighter than the last!
There barren rocks are channell'd by the floods,
Here Flora's beauties cannot be surpast.
Lausanne, an universe of charms thou hast;
There Winter's fetter'd in his icy bed—
Steeps rise o'er steeps immeasurably vast—
While the rude crags projecting over-head
Strike in the stoutest hearts a momentary dread!

Th' ambitious rhododendron climbs the snow,
Pines darken round the mountain's sides, behold,
A thousand rills from icy caverns flow,
Rushing o'er rocks irregularly bold,
Where the tenacious sapling keeps its hold:
Below, the dark stream with collected force
Still rolling on as it has ever roll'd
Through the wide plains shapes its resistless course,
As rude as Ocean's self; as grand as is its source.

Look on these glorious wonders, think of Him,
Lord of a million worlds that have perchance
Greater phenomena, mine eyes grow dim,
With gazing on these heights, as we advance
Now all things seem envelop'd in a trance,
Save when at times the avalanche doth fall,
Startling the ear; still at a vast distance
The masses of thick-ribbed ice appal
The soul, as if they form'd the world's extremest wall!

The prospect lengthens, far and far beneath
See cities, mansions, beautifully placed,
While the smoke rises in a frequent wreath
From cottages by greenest arbours graced.
These, like man's proudest works, may be defaced
By war's unsparing hand; but yonder trees,
Self-planted, by thick-woven shrubs embraced;
They with their towering grandeur long will please—
How can the spoiler's axe fell forests such as these?

The buoyancy of spirits, the wild hope
Of something indefinable, the joy
Of giving thus to all my feelings scope,
Feelings, which man's injustice can't destroy;
These bring back former years, and I'm a boy
Joyful as sailor in his bounding bark;
Whose rapid course no sudden squalls annoy;
Wild as the stag that spurns his narrow park,
Light as the young chamois, blythe as the mountain lark!

Is not the soul immortal? Whence its thought?
Its constant aspirations after bliss?
Its vast capacity for good, if nought
But a fortuitous element it is?
Away, nor preach a doctrine such as this.
For by yon blessed sun-rise there's a road,
Be but our faith unmoved, we cannot miss,
That leads us to that ever-blest abode;
Where Mind perceives all things, not as here, thro' a cloud.

At Vevai lies our Ludlow, there he dwelt,
The patriot exile; there he loved to roam;
There to the Father of all Mercies knelt;
There Freedom woo'd him in her own sweet home,
Presenting to his view an ample tome
Wherein was writ (in characters how true)
That an unyielding spirit doth become
Man, when the many govern'd by the few
Give to their masters praise that to their God is due.

Yes, the fresh air that circumfused around
Bids us think nobly, mountains, too, sublime
The soul; the free-wing'd things that here abound,
Tell us that passive virtue is a crime,
When tyrants would destroy the work of time!
Gaze on, thy feelings here will teach thee more
Than doubtful legends, or than lying rhyme;
Gaze on; and Heaven's magnificence adore!
Does not thine heart exult now to its very core?

But gloomy Calvin, how couldst thou prevail
With thy dark doctrines, and ascetic pride,
Where the ripe harvest smiles along the vale,
Where glows the vintage near Lake Leman's tide,
And all was mirth and cheerfulness beside?
Why didst thou not to northern regions hie,
Or in some dreary wilderness abide?
Why spread thy, faith where Heav'n and earth deny
The truths of thy heart-withering creed of destiny?

Yet Genius, eagle-eyed, has dared to raise
The torch of truth on high, and here his few,
His favour'd, sons look'd up, with unblench'd gaze,
On its eternal brightness; those who knew
The dignity of man and prized it too.
Alas! to her, whose philosophic mind
Shew'd more than manly strength, a long adieu!
What, though her thoughts were somewhat too refin'd;
She yet was Freedom's daughter — Pride of womankind!

Sweet wanderer! art thou not happier now,
Climbing the, mountain steep with fairy feet,
Thy cheeks carnation'd with health's vivid glow,
Not flushing with the ball-room's impure heat?
Is not thy simple rural feast, more sweet
Than gorgeous suppers, and the lovely things
That court thy steps, companions far more meet
For Nature's child, than those poor vain worldlings,
Who taint a woman's heart, then pierce it with their stings?

Thou might'st a model to Canova be
For young Diana, with thy steps of lightness;
And none of living sculptors, none, save he
Could image forth thy look of angel brightness.
His Psyche's scarce excels thy bosom's whiteness
Such as thou art, all-beauteous, and all-fair,
Oh, may'st thou never trust the world's politeness,
But always breathe with joy as pure an air,
Fresh as is yon wild flower, that shuns the sun's full glare?

Had man no other duties he might live
In yonder vale; his second Paradise;
Enjoying all that pure content can give;
And while he lives, be, without learning, wise,
Winning by silent prayer his heavenly prize.
But this must never be: he can't forsake
His post, though stung by calumny and lies.
No! rather let him be the more awake!
Give back his foemen blows that he is forced to take.

It is the lot of all to be reviled,
And who can hope to 'scape that general lot?
Not I; the traitor-friend, who lately smiled
And cringed before me, now remembers not
Past favours; what, are benefits forgot?
Aye more, not mere ingratitude, but hate;
Hate, with his ready sponge, will quickly blot
Out from the memory's tablet sign or date
Of friendship there; and then hypocrisy will prate!

No matter; tares will grow up with the wheat;
And none but knaves deem all mankind the same.
Though in society there be deceit,
Yet there prevails the love of honest fame;
Still on her altars Friendship's holy flame
Burns undiminished; misanthropes may rail
And sceptics smile, yet many could I name
Whose generous zeal was never known to fail,
Even in the hour of need, but then did most prevail.

The true friend's heart as yonder lake is calm;
Pure as yon snows, but firm as mountain rocks:
His voice is as the glowing morn, a balm
To the hurt mind that's felt the world's rough shocks.
His looks as cheerful as the sun's bright locks.
This high-soul'd being fearlessly will shield
A failing brother from the scorner's mocks.
Oh! when the book of life shall be unseal'd
How gladly shall his name by Angels be reveal'd!

Evils there are, but many self-created
In this our busy world; why should we grieve
And murmur at our destiny, when fated
To be alone; why should we learn to weave
The web of thought too finely, to deceive
Ourselves, not others; still where'er thou art,
'Mid cities, or near cottages, relieve
The poor man's wants, thou wilt perform thy part
Well on the stage of life, and blunt e'en envy's dart!

Adieu, sweet country; of Helvetia's wrongs,
Even in my childhood, have I thought, and wept
When the war-cry was heard, where late the songs
Of Innocence spread mirth around; where slept
The child securely; where the goat-herd kept
His flocks untroubled, then the spoiler came,
Treading in innocent blood where'er he stept—
Hell's horrid offspring — Anarchy his name:
Affecting Freedom's voice fair Freedom's cause to shame.

Had France no Washingtons, Timoleons then
To point the way to Virtue's temple? read
The latest records of Corinna's pen
And Gallia's woes will make thy bosom bleed.
The plant she nourish'd was a poisonous weed;
Her friends were foes, none prized the golden mean;
Each wild lawgiver had his separate creed;
All spoke in vain, the soldier rush'd between,
Th' imperial consul's pomp then closed th' eventful scene.

All things have their alloy; go southwards on,
See Italy, with varied landscapes gay,
A waste of sweets; the sun ne'er shone upon
A lovelier country, with a brighter ray;
Her very winter's softer than our May;
What are its natives now? but imps from hell
Peopling a Paradise; though kinglings pray,
Those who degrade the human mind, as well
As Satan's self, 'gainst God's high purposes rebel!

Great Loyola! how well thy sons succeed,
Dwarfing man's intellect to tread him down!
'Tis not enough that he must toil and bleed
To win for fellow-man, perchance, a crown;
But Superstition scares him with her frown.
Poor wretch, to beg, to flatter, stab, or steal;
Such are the vices Jesuits spare, alone
He loves; alas, to whom shall we appeal;
Oh! when will monarchs learn to prize the general weal?

Here is Religion rob'd in rich attire,
To please the eve, not meliorate the heart;
Her pageantries, her glittering shrines, inspire
Devotion, in which morals have no part.
Does God delight in works of human mart?
He heedeth not the labour of man's hands;
He loves a soul devoid of guile and art;
Fear him, and love him, honour his commands,
But his all-perfect state no earthly pomp demands!

Quick are the Italian's feelings, prompt to wrong,
Why may they not be then alive to good?
In this sweet land of Music and of song,
The powers of the mind cannot be rude.
What then doth cause revenge, and acts of blood?
The vivid spirit that delights the muse,
Not the less willing, when she's fiercely woo'd;
Those impulses, how dangerous their abuse,
Which when directed well heroic acts produce.

'Twas here the light of science first broke forth
Amid the Gothic gloom of former ages;
Strange change, that light's diffused throughout the earth
Yet Barbarism's evil genius rages
E'en in a country long since famed for sages.
Invasions, civil wars, the jealous strife
Of princes, sully here th' historian's pages.
Awake, Italia's sons, awake to, life;
Throw off your foreign yoke, but scorn the inglorious knife.

Where Mind to marble gives a living grace,
Where Music's inspiration's fully felt:
Where Poetry all passions doth embrace
In language form'd to rouse the soul, or melt.
Where too the Muse of painting long has dwelt,
Can there be wanting courage-wakening men
Who have not to imperial tyrants knelt?
Be what ye were in ages past again,
Brave Milanese; the spoilers must re-seek their den.

And he who mid dark cypresses, and urns
Mourns o'er the buried mighty ones, in verse
Plaintive as nightingale's sweet song, he burns
T' avert from Lombardy's fair plains the curse
Of foreign slavery; what plague is worse?
In vain Bologna boasts her learned youth
In vain Firenze is of arts the nurse;
The prisoner hates the light, and lovely truth
When seen and not embraced heightens our woes in sooth.

But Leopold's kind genius yet presides
O'er rich Etruria's gardens, there is man
Comparatively happy; there resides
Smiling Content, though short may be the span
Of life, when princes do what good they can
They live for ever, not in marble busts,
While the poor subject's looks are pale and wan,
Not in some courtly verse that lauds their lusts,
But in that general wealth the stranger ne'er distrusts.

Th' exuberant produce Ceres here brings forth,
For here if husbanded she cannot fail,
Shews him at once the patriot monarch's worth;
The numerous houses studding hill and dale,
The fattening olive with its leaves so pale,
The cheerful peasantry, for years must pass
Ere laws that tend t' improve mankind can fail
In doing good, though scarce observed, alas!
Honor his memory more than monuments of brass.

I dream not of Utopias, nor a race
Of patriot kings; men may be bettered yet
If power be but administered with grace
Let monarchs shine in robes all gorgeous; let
The statesman, boast his star and coronet;
But as for those who first insult and scorn
Then catch within their Machiavelian net
The freeborn mind, though diadems adorn
Their brows, they hardly rank 'bove knaves ignobly born.

O Italy, rich in thy wood-cover'd mountains;
Thy rain-bow crown'd falls, and their ever-green fountains;
Thy skies in the thunder-storms even are bright,
With the rapid effulgence of rose-coloured light;
Thy shores do embrace, with their vast arms, the deep,
On whose blue tranquil bosom the sun loves to sleep;
While silvery mists round its islets are gleaming,
And gauze clouds along the horizon are streaming;
And Horace yet lives near his favourite hill
The delicate air breathes his poetry still;
Thy temples decay, still their ruins are seen,
Half grey through old time, or with ivy half green;
The fig-tree, pomegranate, pinastre, and vine,
The blossoming almond-tree's blushes, are thine;
But thy heroes are dust, and thy spirit is fled,
And the last of thy warriors, the White-Plumed, is dead.

Amid rich orange-trees, whose beauteous fruit
Glows like the western sun with deepen'd hue;
Where carelessly the southern plants up shoot,
Their green contrasting to the sky's deep blue
Think ye to find Arcadian fables true?
Vain hope; pale misery sallows every face,
Yet still to Nature's works full praise is due;
Oft in the peasant's wretched looks ye trace
Some lineaments unspoil'd as yet of manly grace.

Such were my thoughts when fast from Ischia's isle
The little vessel bore me, as the glare
Of noon-day soften'd itself down awhile,
A passing breeze o'er Baiae's bay so fair,
Gave a delicious fragrance to the air.
Sunny Neapolis, thy loveliness
Of clime, thy fruitage, thy luxurious fare,
Pamper thy sons with sensual excess;
Thy daughters dream of nought save lustful wantonness!

Here all is strenuous idleness! the hum
Of men, like children bustling about nought
The bawling mountebank, and frequent drum
Are glorious substitutes for troublous thought;
While business is unheeded and unsought.
Here to the last they whirl around; the bier
Bears to the grave some noisy trifler caught
By death; the world's epitome is here;
The sight provokes a smile, yet mingled with a tear.

Give Italy one Master; she will thrive
Again, and triumph in her countless stores:
But bigots with their dead'ning influence drive
Wealth from her lands, and commerce from her shores;
While Heaven its choicest gifts in vain out-pours;
When Monks, in locust-swarms, oppress the soil,
When the vile spy of Government explores
The people's wealth; th' industrious will not toil
T' enrich their puny Masters with a greater spoil.

[pp. 1-19]