1820
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bothwell.

Peter Faultless to his Brother Simon, Tales of Night, in Rhyme, and other Poems.

Ebenezer Elliott


The introduction is in five irregular Spenserians (various), beginning, after the manner of Sir Walter Scott, a tale of Mary Queen of Scots in media res: "The action of this poem commences a few hours before the death of Bothwell, which I suppose to be preceded by an awful, though imperfect, return of reason and memory, during which, with fervid and half-frantic irregularity, he relates his history to his fellow prisoner, with whom he had been confined ten years, without knowing him, and without being even conscious of his presence" p. 117.

William Sharp: Elliott "does not rank among high sonneteers. He was one of the most convinced opponents of the legitimate or Petrarchan sonnet, and a strong advocate for the Spenserian" Sonnets of this Century (1886) 287n.

George Saintsbury: "He is a violent and crude thinker, with more smoke than fire in his violence, though not without generosity of feeling now and then, and with a keen admiration of the scenery — still beautiful in parts, and then exquisite — which surrounded the smoky Hades of Sheffield" History of Nineteenth-Century Literature (1896) 111.

Ebenezer Elliott's verse in regular Spenserians was written after 1830, much of it collected in Kerhonah, the Vernal Walk, Win Hill, and other Poems (1835).



Splendour in heaven, and horror on the main!
Sunshine and storm at once, a troubled day.
Clouds roll in brightness, and descend in rain.
How the waves rush into the rocky bay,
Shaking th' eternal barriers of the land!
And ocean's face is like a battle-plain,
Where giant demons combat, hand to hand,
While — as their voices sink, and swell again,—
Peace, on the beauteous bow, sits listening, but in pain.

Mighty to calcine on woe's cheek the tears,
Or, least he perish, bid the current flow,
Where is the voice, whose stillness man's heart hears,
Like dream'd of music, wordless, soft, and low?
That voice the whirlwind in his rage reverses;
It bids the blast, a tranquil Sabbath keep;
Lonely as death, harmonious as the spheres,
It whispers to the wildness of the deep;
And, calm as cradled babe, th' obedient billows sleep.

Oh, careless of the tempest in his ire,
Blush, ruby glow of western heaven! oh, cast
The hue of roses, steep'd in liquid fire,
O'er ocean in his conflict with the blast,
And quiver into darkness, and retire,
And let wild day to calmest night subside;
Let the tir'd sailor from his dread respire,
The drench'd flag hand, unmoving, o'er the tide,
And, pillow'd on still clouds, the weary whirlwind ride.

The, Queen of silence, robe thee, and arise,
And, through the barr'd loop of that dungeon old,
Visit once more its inmate blasted eyes,
Which shall again, though late, thy light behold.
Soulless, not sightless, have his eye-balls roll'd
Alike, in light and darkness desolate:
The storm beat on his heart — he felt no cold;
Summer look'd on him, from heaven's fiery gate—
He scowl'd, but felt no heat, and knew not that he scowl'd.

Unweeping, yet perturb'd; his bed a stone;
Bonds on his body; on his mind a spell;
Ten years in solitude, (yet not alone,)
And conscious only to the inward hell,
There hath it been his hideous lot to dwell.
But pitying Night shall bid a dream depart,
To chase from his dark soul the demon fell,
And whispering, find a listener in his heart;
And he shall weep again! then, tearless, dreamless, dwell,
Dark tenant, in the dust, unrung by passing-bell.

[pp. 118-20]