1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Recollections.

Poems, by Bernard Barton.

Bernard Barton


Seventeen Spenserians: wandering thoughts on the past and the dear departed. Bernard Barton's note: "These verses were first suggested by, and indeed partly composed during, a long meditated visit to a friend's house. Those referred to in it, the writer had once hoped to meet there."

British Critic: "They consist, without any exception, merely of occasional effusions, and such as were intended to serve some temporary purpose, or to record some temporary feeling. In this point of view they are highly creditable to the writer; but as verses, so composed, seldom lay claim to high praise, they are also, in common candour, sheltered from any thing like exact criticism. We could certainly produce a great number of lines from various parts of the volume, which it would be easy to find much fault with; but they are generally such as rather indicate the hastiness of composition, than bad taste or any want of good sense, on the part of the author; and therefore to animadvert upon them, would rather imply a condemnation of the custom of publishing occasional verses, than any censure of his talents or taste. On the other hand, the volume, as we before observed, contains very few poems or even lines that are greatly above mediocrity" NS 13 (1830) 537.

Monthly Magazine: "The beautiful stanzas to Madame Lavalette, the lines attributed to Lord Byron, and published as his in America, with numerous poems, which have appared in our periodical prints, are sufficient testimony of his very pleasing powers as a poet. With much sweetness and harmony of versification, there is united a strain of feeling and poetical expression in the volume before us which we too seldom meet with" 49 (June 1820) 450.



All round was still and calm; the noon of night
Was fast approaching: up the unclouded sky
The glorious moon pursued her path of light,
And shed her silvery splendour far and nigh:
Nor sound, save of the night-wind's gentlest sigh,
Could reach the ear; and that so softly blew,
It scarcely stirr'd, in sweeping lightly by,
The acacia's airy foliage; faintly too
It kiss'd the jasmine's stars which just below me grew.

Before me, scatter'd here and there, were trees
Whose massy outline of reposing shade,
Unbroken by that faint and fitful breeze,
With the clear sky a lovely contrast made:
'Twas Nature, in her chastest charms array'd!
How could I then abruptly leave such scene?
I could not: for the beauties it display'd
To me were dearer than the dazzling sheen
Of noon's effulgent hour, or morning's sparkling mien.

Awhile in silent reverie I stood,
Pensively gazing on the objects round;
And soon my mind, in contemplative mood,
Abundant theme for meditation found;
And far beyond the shadowy visible bound
Of my eye's glance did eager fancy fly;
Nor even Virtue on her flight then frown'd,
But mark'd her progress with approving eye,
For heav'n-ward was her course, her visions pure and high.

They err, who calculate time's silent pace
By the mere lapse of minutes, or of hours;
Not even thought his printless step can trace,
Which hastens onward, over thorns and flowers,
Nor cares for sun that shines, or storm that lowers.
'Twere wiser far in us to count his flight
By the improvement of our mental powers,
And by the store of suffering, or delight,
Which cheers Life's fleeting day, or clouds Death's coming night.

Oh, there are hours! aye moments, that contain
Feelings, that years may pass and never bring;
Which, whether fraught with pleasure or with pain,
Can never be forgot: as if the wing
Of time, while passing o'er, had power to fling
A dark'ning shade, or tint of happier hue,
To which fond memory faithfully should cling
In after life: I felt, and own'd it true,
While I stood still, and look'd upon that moonlight view.

I thought of some, who once beheld, like me,
The peaceful prospect then before me spread;
And its still loveliness appear'd to be
One of those visions morning slumbers shed
Upon the pensive mourner's pillow'd head:
Its beauties, less distinct, but far more dear,
Seem'd to invoke the absent, and the dead!
And by some spell to bring the former near,
Although it could not call the latter from their sphere.

Nor did I wish it. — No, dear MARY! no:
How could I ever wish thou shouldst resign,
For any bliss this being can bestow,
Pleasures eternal, deathless, and divine?
Yet, when I saw the pale moon coldly shine
On the same paths and turf which thou hadst trod,
Forgive my vain regret! — Yet, why repine?
Its beams sleep sweetly on thy peaceful sod,
And thou thyself hast sought thy FATHER, and thy GOD!

For thou wert number'd with the "PURE IN HEART,"
Whom CHRIST pronounced blessed! and to thee,
When thou wast summon'd from this world to part,
We well may hope the promis'd boon would be
Vouchsaf'd in mercy, — that thy soul should see
HIM, whom the angelic hosts of heaven adore;
And from each frailty of our nature free,
Which clogg'd that gentle spirit heretofore,
Exulting, sing HIS praise, who lives for evermore!

Farewell! thou lov'd and gentle one, farewell!
Thou hast not liv'd in vain, or died for nought!
Oft of thy worth survivors' tongues shall tell,
And thy long-cherish'd memory shall be fraught
With many a theme of fond and tender thought,
That shall preserve it sacred. What could years,
Or silver'd locks, of added good have brought
Unto a name like thine? Even the tears
Thy early death has caus'd, thy early worth endears!

Mix'd with thy memory, in that moonlight scene,
Came thoughts of one still living here below,
Who had thy sister-like companion been,
When first I met you both, long, long ago;
And all the pleasure which I us'd to know
In your society, to my mind's eye
Reviv'd again, ting'd with a brighter glow
Of feeling than it wore in days gone by;
Like some delightful dream, whose influence could not die.

I turn'd me to past hours, remember'd yet,
When we together walk'd the ocean shore;
What time the sun in hues of glory set,
What time the waves obey'd the winds no more,
And music broke, where thunder burst before:
I thought of moments when we turn'd the page
Of Scotia's Shepherd Bard, and linger'd o'er
His simple pictures of an earlier age,
KILMENY's heav'nly trance, THE ABBOT's pilgrimage.

These Recollections still have charms for me,
And for their sake, my lovely friend, wilt thou
Pardon me, if thine eye this page should see,
The expression of my feelings then, and now:
So may the breeze which fans thy SISTER's brow
Bear healing on its wings! and when for home
Once more your bark shall ocean's surface plough,
May your bright eyes, around you as they roam,
Tell that your hearts are light as ocean's feathery foam.

Thou too, young BRIDE! thine image pass'd me by,
While looking on a spot to thee so dear,
It scarcely could be left without a sigh,
Though Love had conquer'd vain, foreboding fear:
I thought of thee; and hope and faith were near,
And whisper'd tidings of thy future fate;
They told me too, that feelings cherish'd here
Should on life's after progress love to wait,
And gild with happiest hues thy hymeneal state.

Then, shouldst thou cast a retrospective glance
On thy late home, may its lov'd memory seem
Thy present pleasures only to enhance,
By flinging from the past a vivid gleam
Of brightness, like some well-remember'd dream,
Which charms us when we wake to sober bliss:
Still be life's earliest ties a tender theme,
Dear to affection; and thou shalt not miss,
In any earthly home, enjoyment found in this.

But why pursue to Memory's utmost scope
Her "Recollections?" Here then let them end.
Peace to the dead! And oh! may blissful hope
Wait on the image of each absent friend;
That so with our adieus may sweetly blend
The pleasing prospect of a future day,
When the last parting shall but seem to lend
To our re-union a still brighter ray,
Like the sun's new-born beams, when night has past away.

Frail is that friendship, that affection cold,
Whose transient influence is limited
To the brief hour in which we can behold
Their faces whom we love; and then is fled!
The sweetest drops which Providence hath shed
Into my cup of life have ever flown
From the remembrance of the moments sped
With those whom I hold dear: and joys then known
On solitary hours their social light have thrown.

And therefore are they, in my inmost heart,
As the deep waters of a hidden well;
Whose living freshness have a power to impart
Far more than e'en the poet's page can tell
Of pure enjoyment inexhaustible,
Valued beyond old ocean's rarest gem;
Nor, while I feel my grateful bosom swell
With feelings they confer, can I condemn
Myself, for having thus in song recorded them!

[pp. 159-67]