1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Introductory Verses to Maria Hack.

Poems, by Bernard Barton.

Bernard Barton


Eleven Spenserians, dated 1819. Maria Hack (1777-1844) was Bernard Barton's sister and an author of books for children, including "Winter Evenings" and "Grecian and English Stories."

British Stage and Literary Cabinet: "The volume commences with some pleasing introductory lines, written in the familiar Spenserian stanza, which is so much in vogue at present; and which, indeed, answers its purpose well" 4 (July 1820) 214.

Edward Fitzgerald: "In 1844 died Bernard's eldest sister, Maria Hack. She was five or six years older than himself; very like him in the face; and had been his instructress ("a sort of oracle to me," he he says) when both were children. 'It is a heavy blow to me,' he writes, 'for Maria is almost the first human being I remember to have fondly loved, or been fondly loved by — the only living participant in my first and earliest recollections. When I lose her, I had almost as well never have been a child; for she only knew me as such — and the best and brightest of memories are apt to grow dim when they can no more be reflected'" memoir, in Memoir and Poems (Philadelphia, 1850) 31-32.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Mr. Barton was a brother to Maria Hack, the authoress of a number of juvenile works of great merit, and his daughter, Miss Lucy Barton, has devoted her talents to the composition of scriptural works, principally for the young" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:136.

The poem was later published with a different sixth stanza: "Mine have been spent in seeking to portray | Feelings and thoughts, which o'er my spirit shed | The doubtful splendour of an April day, | Alike by showers and sweetest sunshine fed:— | Pensive communion holding with the dead; | Or bodying forth, in simple poesy, | Beautiful scenes, and thoughts which such have bred:— | These, the best fruits of leisure's blighted tree, | Though little they can boast, I now present to thee" Poems (1825).



Nay! do not half reproachfully exclaim,
"How foolish!" — Poets are not often wise.
If it be foolishness to love a name
Endear'd by one of nature's strongest ties,
And much that memory's sweetest power supplies,
I own myself no sage; for, unto me,
Thy own is one which will not bear disguise
Of dash — or stars * * * such as we often see;
O, let it stand at length, from all concealment free.

Besides, this is not call'd a dedication;
A thing, I own, of ominous extent,
And bringing with it fearful expectation
Of all that fulsome flattery can invent;
Nor is it here inscrib'd with THY consent:
So thou art unimpeach'd. On me alone
Rest all the blame of this poor monument,
(Which I will never shrink from, nor disown,)
Built by a Brother's love, to hours for ever flown.

Years have elaps'd, Maria, since we met;
More may revolve before we meet again;
The past, so far from teaching to forget,
Has added but fresh links unto that chain
Which brings no bondage and inflicts no pain;
And if the future be but like the past,
Bring what it may of other loss, or gain,
Of skies with sunshine bright, or overcast,
I have no chilling fear that life can love outlast.

With us should not; for to either's view,
In memory's busy musings, there should be
Objects and scenes that wear the self-same hue,
Awakening thoughts which have one master-key
To explain their charm. Is it not thus with thee,
When aught resembling things of former years
Attracts thy gaze? be it landscape, house, or tree,
Or ivy-mantled church-tower, which uprears
Its venerable walls, and to the sight appears—

Like a familiar object? But, no more:
In truth I dare not trust myself to dwell
On all that recollection could restore;
Or thou might'st tire, ere I one half could tell:
And that would cruelly dissolve the spell;
Then let it go! I fain would now compare,
But not as rivals do, how ill or well
Such leisure moments as we both could spare
Have been employ'd by each, and what the fruits they bear.

Mine have been spent in reading, writing, talking;
Or, when confinement had relax'd my frame,
In striving to recruit its strength by walking,
Which doctors, though they differ, scarce could blame:
Yet the result of all, I own with shame,
Or something like it, but appears to be
Like idleness beneath another name;
And the best fruits of leisure's blighted tree,
Though little they can boast, I now present to me.

Thou hast, meanwhile, (by thy experience taught
That which thou only could'st have gather'd thence,
Of winning modes to guide the expanding thought,
And knowledge with amusement to dispense,)
With noun and adjective, with verb and tense,
With History's page, or Travellers' vast supplies,
Been busily employ'd; and brought from hence
A hoard which parents and their children prize
Alike with gratitude. Thy choice has been most wise.

It is no unsubstantial good to dwell
In childhood's heart, on childhood's guileless tongue;
To be the chosen, favourite oracle,
Consulted by the innocent and young:
To be remember'd as the light that flung
Its first fresh lustre on the unwrinkled brow;
And there are hearts may cleave, as mine has clung,
To hours which I enjoy'd, yet knew not how,
To whom thou shalt be, then, what DAY to me is now!

A being lov'd and honour'd for the sake
Of past enjoyment; ay! and still possessing,
When thoughts of happy infancy awake,
A charm beyond the power of words expressing.
Yes, I am not asham'd of thus confessing
The debt my early childhood seems to owe;
And if I had the power to invoke a blessing
On them who first excited rapture's glow,
'T would fall on Barbauld, Berquin, Bunyan, Day, Defoe.

Their works were dear to me, before I knew,
Or car'd to know, if they were own'd by Fame;
And after all that life has led me through,
Of pain and pleasure, they are still the same.
Whene'er I meet them, they appear to claim
Familiar greeting not to be denied:
Nor should it; for so complex is the frame
On which the mind's whole store is edified,
'Twere hard for me to tell what they have not supplied.

But to return to thee, although it may
Be only to take leave. It must be so.
I scarcely dared, at no far distant day,
To think that ever verse of mine might show
The ardent love I bear thee; and although
Surprise, at first, forgiveness may impede,
I trust that feelings cherish'd long ago
By both will glow afresh when thou shalt read
Affection's fond farewell! and for my pardon plead.

[pp. iii-viii]