Twelve Spenserians: Bernard Barton muses on physico-theology: "So far alone as nature's charms can lead | To thee who fram'd them all, and canst destroy, | Or innocent enjoyment serve to feed; | Grant me to gaze and love, and thus thy works to read."
Nathan Drake: "The versification, of which, from the multifarious contents of the collection, a considerable variety might naturally be anticipated, is, in general, correct and sweet. Occasionally, it may be deemed rather too light and effervescent for the weight and solemnity of the subject on which it is employed, but it is seldom otherwise than flowing and harmonious. It is usually of the lyric or elegiac cast, but there are several specimens of the Spenserian stanza, in which the author seems to move with uncommon ease and dignity" "On the Poetry of Bernard Barton" in Evenings in Autumn (1822) 1:76-77.
Edward Fitzgerald: "His excursions rarely extended beyond a few miles round Woodbridge — to the vale of Dedham, Constable's birth-place and painting-room; or to the neighbouring sea-coast, loved for its own sake — and few could love the sea and the heaths beside it better than he did — but doubly dear to him from its association with the memory and poetry of Crabbe. Once or twice he went as far as Hampshire on a visit to his brother; and once he visited Mr. W. B. Donne, at Mattishall, in Norfolk, where he saw many portraits and mementoes of his favourite poet Cowper, Mr. Donne's kinsman" Memoir of Barton (1850) 30.
It is the very carnival of nature,
The loveliest season that the year can show!
When earth, obedient to her great Creator,
Her richest boons delighteth to bestow.
The gently-sighing breezes, as they blow,
Have more than vernal softness; and the sun
Sheds on the landscape round a mellower glow
Than in his summer splendour he has done,
As if he near'd his goal, and knew the race was won.
It is the season when the green delight
Of leafy luxury begins to fade!
When leaves are changing daily to the sight,
Yet seem but lovelier from each deepening shade,
Or tint, by autumn's touch upon them laid;
It is the season when each streamlet's sound,
Flowing through lonely vale, or woody glade,
Assumes a tone more pensive, more profound;
And yet that hoarser voice spreads melody around.
And I have wander'd far, since the bright east
Was glorious with the dawning light of day;
Seeing, as that effulgence more increas'd,
The mists of morning slowly melt away:
And, as I pass'd along, from every spray,
With dew-drops glistening, evermore have heard
Some feather'd songster chant his roundelay;
Or bleat of sheep, or lowing of the herd;
Or rustling of fall'n leaf, when morning's breezes stirr'd.
Thus having roam'd, and reach'd my home at last,
Can I do better, while my bosom glows
With all the loveliness through which I've pass'd,
Even till enjoyment wishes for repose,
And meditation still with memory grows;
Can I do better, than once more to trim
My evening fire, and these my labours close,
Before my feelings chill, or sense wax dim,
With solemn strain of prayer, fit for a parting hymn?
O GOD! it is an awful thing indeed
For one who estimates our nature well,
Be what it may his outward sect, or creed,
To name thee, thou Incomprehensible!
Hadst thou not chosen of thyself to tell,
As in thy gospel thou hast done; nor less,
By condescending in our hearts to dwell;
Could man have ever found to thee access,
Or worshipp'd thee aright, in spiritual holiness?
"No! for the utmost that we could have done,
Were to have rais'd, as Paul at Athens saw,
Altars unto the dread and unknown One,
Bending before, we knew not what, with awe;
And even now, instructed by a law
Holier than that of Moses, what know we
Of thee the HIGHEST? Yet thou bidd'st us draw
Near thee in spirit: O then pardon me
If, in this closing strain, I crave a boon of thee.
"It shall be this: permit me not to place
My soul's affections on the things of earth:
But, conscious of the treasures of thy grace,
To let them, in my inmost heart, give birth
To gratitude proportion'd to their worth:
Teach me to feel that all which thou hast made
Upon this mighty globe's gigantic girth,
Though meant with filial love to be survey'd,
Is nothing to thyself: — the shadow of a shade.
If thou hast given me, more than unto some,
A feeling sense of nature's beauties fair,
Which sometimes renders admiration dumb,
From consciousness that words cannot declare
The beauty thou hast scatter'd every where;
O grant that this may lead me still, through all
Thy works to thee! nor prove a treach'rous snare
Adapted those affections to enthral,
Which should be thine alone, and waken at thy call.
I would not merely dream my life away
In fancied rapture, or imagine'd joy;
Nor that a perfum'd flower, a dew-gemm'd spray,
A murmuring brook, or any prouder toy,
Should, for its own sake, thought or song employ;
So far alone as nature's charms can lead
To thee who fram'd them all, and canst destroy,
Or innocent enjoyment serve to feed;
Grant me to gaze and love, and thus thy works to read.
But while from one extreme thy power may keep
My erring frailty, O preserve me still
From dulness, nor let cold indifference steep
My senses in oblivion: if the thrill
Of early bliss must sober, as it will,
And should, when earthly things to heavenly yield,
I would have feelings left time cannot chill;
That, while I yet can walk through grove or field,
I may be conscious there of charms by thee reveal'd.
And when I shall, as, soon or late, I must,
Become infirm: in age, if I grow old;
Or sooner, if my strength should fail its trust;
When I relinquish haunts where I have stroll'd
At morn or eve, and can no more behold
Thy glorious works: forbid me to repine;
Let memory still their loveliness unfold
Before my mental eye, and let them shine
With borrow'd light from thee, for they are THINE!"
Enough: the goal is reach'd; my final page
Is now before me. Reader, fare thee well!
And if this volume could awhile engage
Thy thoughts from idler themes, its transient spell,
Though feeble, may be deem'd unblameable.
Accept, from him who fram'd it, an adieu,
Such as on frienship's faltering tongue should dwell;
Fraught with his wish, most ernest, warm and true,
That THOU in peace and joy mayst pass life's journey through!