1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas, addressed to Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Poems, by Bernard Barton.

Bernard Barton


Six Spenserians: "Ere it shall prove too late, thy steps retrace: | The heights thy muse has scal'd, can never be | Her loveliest, or her safest dwelling-place."

Bernard Barton's note: "No one can more admire the genius of this highly-gifted man than I do; but, in exact proportion to my admiration, is the regret I feel, for what I consider as the perversion of powers so rare, the misapplication of talents so splendid."

Donald H. Reiman: "Though Barton never met or corresponded with Shelley, it was, possibly, Barton's shocked response to Charles Ollier after perusing Laon and Cythna that led Ollier to insist that Shelley revise the poem and reissue it as The Revolt of Islam.... Barton's 'Stanzas, Addressed to Percy Bysshe Shelley' ... and Verses on the Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1822) helped to define the reaction of religiously oriented readers towards Shelley's poetry through the Victorian era" Poems, ed. Donald H. Reiman (1977) vii.



Forests, and lakes, the majesty of mountains,
The dazzling glaciers, and the musical sound
Of waves and winds, or softer gush of fountains:
In sights and sounds like these thy soul has found
Sublime delight; but can the visible bound
Of this small globe be the sole nurse and mother
Of knowledge and of feeling? Look around!
Mark how one being differs from another;
Yet the world's book is spread before each human brother.

Was this world, then, the parent and the nurse
Of him whose mental eye outliv'd the sight
Of all its beauties? — Him who sang the curse
Of that forbidden fruit, which did invite
Our first progenitors, whom that foul sprite,
In serpent-form, seduc'd from innocence,
By specious promises, that wrong and right,
Evil and good, when they had gather'd thence,
Should be distinctly seen, as by diviner sense?

They pluck'd, and paid the awful penalty
Of disobedience; yet man will not learn
To be content with knowledge that is free
To all. There are, whose soaring spirits spurn
At humble lore, and, still insatiate, turn
From living fountains to forbidden springs;
Whence having proudly quaff'd, their bosoms burn
With visions of unutterable things,
Which restless fancy's spell in shadowy glory brings.

Delicious the delirious bliss, while new;
Unreal phantoms of wise, good, and fair,
Hover around, in every vivid hue
Of glowing beauty; these dissolve in air,
And leave the barren spirit bleak and bare
As alpine summits: it remains to try
The hopeless task (of which themselves despair)
Of bringing back those feelings, now gone by,
By making their own dreams the code of all society.

"All fear, none aid them, and few comprehend;"
And then comes disappointment, and the blight
Of hopes, that might have bless'd mankind, but end
In stoic apathy, or starless night:
And thus hath many a spirit, pure and bright,
Lost that effulgent and ethereal ray,
Which, had religion nourish'd it, still might
Have shone on, peerless, to that perfect day,
When death's veil shall be rent, and darkness dash'd away.

Ere it shall prove too late, thy steps retrace:
The heights thy muse has scal'd, can never be
Her loveliest, or her safest dwelling-place.
In the deep valley of humility,
The river of immortal life flows free
For thee — for all. Oh! taste its limpid wave,
As it rolls murmuring by, and thou shalt see
Nothing in death the Christian dares not brave,
Whom faith in God has given a world beyond the grave!

[pp. 63-66]