Six Spenserians on the author's departure for Tripoli on the way to explore the southern Sahara. These posthumously published verses, appended to an obituary notice, read like a riposte to the first canto of Childe Harold, which may have suggested the theme. Joseph Ritchie was evidently exchanging verses with John Keats at the time, which may also explain the use of the stanza; he promised Keats he would carry a copy of Endymion to Africa. Joseph Ritchie died during the expedition. In April 1821 the poem was reprinted from Liverpool's Kaleidoscope in the London Magazine under the title "Albion," without signature or explanation.
Robert Southey to John Kenyon, 13 June 1818: "I am very sorry that your friend Ritchie should have gone upon an expedition which has proved fatal to every one who has yet undertaken it, and which I think the amateur geographising 'gentlemen of England who sit at home at ease' are altogether unjustifiable in pursuing at such a cost of valuable lives. The object is not tantamount, as it is in a voyage of discovery. In such voyages men are only exposed to some additional risk in the way of their profession, and the reward, if they return safe, is certain and proportionate; but, here, Mungo Park went upon his second expedition literary because he could not support his family after the first. If, however, Ritchie should live to accomplish his object, I am no ways apprehensive that his reputation will be eclipsed by his intended rival Ali Bey, that solemn professor of humbug having always made less use of his opportunities than any other traveller" Life and Correspondence (1849-50) 4:306.
The Kaleidoscope: "His poetical talents, too, were of no common order; and we subjoin, as a specimen, the following lines, which were written during the passage between Dover and Calais, when he took his final leave of this country, which he was destined never to revisit" 2 (7 March 1820) 140.
Anti-Jacobin Review: "The following beautiful lines were written by the late Joseph Ritchie, Esq. in the cabin of the ship which bore him to the contagious climes of Africa, as he receded from the shores of his native country. The touching manner in which he anticipates the probability of the fatal close of his adventurous enterprise, must draw upon the sympathy of every feeling mind" 58 (1820) 486.
The poem, untitled in The Kaleidoscope, was reprinted under various titles and with textual variants in several periodicals.
Thy chalky cliffs are falling from my view;
Our bark is dancing gaily o'er the sea;—
I sigh while yet I may, and say Adieu,
Albion, thou jewel of the earth, to thee
Whose fields first fed my childish fantasy;
Whose mountains were by boyhood's wild delight;
Whose rock, and wood, and torrent, were to me
The food of my soul's youthful appetite,—
Were music to my ear, — a blessing to my sight.
I never dreamt of Beauty, but behold,
Straitway thy daughters flash'd upon mine eye;
I never mus'd on Valour, but the old
Memorials of thy haughty chivalry
Fill'd my expanding breast with extacy;
And when I thought on Wisdom, and the crown
The Muses give, with exultation high
I turn'd to those whom thou hast call'd thine own,
Who fill the spacious earth with their and thy renown.
When my young heart, in life's gay morning hour,
At Beauty's summons beat a wild alarm,
Her voice came to me from an English bower,
And English smile they were that wrought the charm.
And if, when lull'd asleep on Fancy's arm,
Visions of bliss my riper age have cheer'd—
Of home, and Love's fire-side, and greetings warm,
For one by absence and long toil endear'd,—
The fabric of my hope on thee hath still been rear'd.
Peace to thy smiling hearths when I am gone!
And may'st thou still thy ancient dowry keep,
To be a mark to guide the nations on,
Like a tall watch-tow'r flashing o'er the deep!
Long may'st thou bid the sorrowers cease to weep,
And shoot the beams of truth athwart the night
That wraps a slumb'ring world; till from their sleep
Starting, remotest nations see the light,
And earth be blest beneath the buckler of thy might!
Strong in thy strength I go; and whereso'er
My steps may wander, may I ne'er forget
All that I owe to thee; and oh! may ne'er
My frailties tempt me to abjure that debt!
And what if far from thee my star must set!
Hast thou not hearts that shall with sadness hear
The tale, and some fair cheeks that shall be wet;
And some bright eye, in which the swelling tear
Shall start for him who sleeps in Afric's desarts drear?
Yet will I not profane a charge like mine
With melancholy bodings, nor believe
That a voice, whispering ever in the shrine
Of my own heart, spake only to deceive.
I trust its promise, — that I go to weave
A wreath of palms, entwin'd with many a sweet
Perennial flower, which time shall not bereave
Of all its fragrance: that I yet shall greet
Once more the Ocean Queen, and throw it at her feet.