The Introduction and Conclusion of John Abraham Heraud's legendary tale are in eight and five Spenserian stanzas, respectively. The poem itself consists of four cantos composed in irregular stanzas in the manner of Sir Walter Scott. The framing stanzas present the author as Edwin in Beattie's The Minstrel, a lover of sylvan shades and meditation, though condemned to a difficult urban existence: "But not to me 'tis given to command | My flight o'er wave, rock, mountain, wood, and wild, | Nor e'en in rurals of my father land | To learn the things dear to poetic child; | In Thracian coil for aye, and City strife turmoiled!" In turning to ancient times, he imagines Tottenham, the site of his narrative, as a green and leafy place.
In the preface Heraud comments, "The primitive conception occurred in the August of 1819, on the spot, and at the time, alluded to by the Spenserian stanzas forming the Introduction, and which were then produced" p. xi. Though published afterwards, The Legend of St. Loy was composed before its companion, Tottenham, a Poem (also 1820), which is composed entirely in Spenserians. Though it was later reprinted, Heraud's poem, set in the days of Edward the Martyr, garnered only one review in the Gentleman's Magazine; imitations of Walter Scott's tales were apparently of little interest to the critics in 1820, though they continued to appear. Perhaps Heraud also suffered also from the "Cockney" stigma attached to Keats and Hunt.
Gentleman's Magazine: "The Poem is divided into four Cantos, 'The Hermitage,' 'The Well,' 'The Wood,' and 'The Vola.' The story is simple, and the denouement is admirably kept from discovery till the close, while at the same time an interesting mystery is thrown over the whole.... There are several passages in this Poem which breath the very soul of sensibility; but we must candidly acknowledge that the irregular flights of the young Poet's numbers occasionally involve his ideas in obscurity — a fault that maturer years will doubtless correct" 90 (December 1820) 531.
Away ye Cares of th' ever-toiling World,
Toiling for gain, and reaping but dismay;
Still on the rack of Disappointment hurled,
Alike the wise, the busy, and the gay,
In the pursuit of that prismatic ray
Of luring Hope, that, as they follow, flies,
Each, — all, — enjoying ne'er the present day,
Still doating on the morrow, as it dies,
Until no morrow comes, to cheer their stony eyes!
Away, ye Cares! — and let me calm survey
The blushes of the western skies, that tell
The steps of the departure of the day;
And bid the broad pavilioned Sun farewell;
And muse, along the sweet sequestered dell,
On every charm of Nature, as I stray;
And wish for some lone, melancholy cell,
All silent, save the birds, and dashing spray,
There would I tune my harp, and meditate the lay!
My Soul delights in every sylvan spot,
Where she may find the Beauteous and the Grand,
And trace the semblance of her inmost thought
On every work of her Creator's hand!
But not to me 'tis given to command
My flight o'er wave, rock, mountain, wood, and wild,
Nor e'en in rurals of my father land
To learn the things dear to poetic child;
In Thracian coil for aye, and City strife turmoiled!
Nor frequent to these shades may I retire:
Nor here is Nature throned in native charms
To wake the notes from the consenting lyre—
The fields partake Trade's dissonant alarms!
This not her TEMPLE, redolent of balms,
And made of music perfect and supreme,
Whose solemn grandeur every passion calms
That pines for base desires: — and speaks of Him,
Who framed the finished whole, Nature's immortal Theme!
No! this is not the Centre of her Dome,
Where soars her incense from the sacred shrine,
Whence Bards convey the genuine rapture home,
Their fragrance steal, their minstrelsy design—
Oh, that their blessings were, my soul! but thine—
Yet, 'tis the PORTAL to her ample FANE,
And, at the threshold, thou may'st well divine,
As thou dost down the aisles thy vision strain,
From the long levelled beams, the Glories of her reign!
But 'twas not always so. — In days of yore,
Ere lawless Trade his landmark did remove,
And on the pastures won still more and more,
These plains the Goddess ruled with fertile love!
Deer wantoned in the wood, the hawk above,
And Fays in every field, by moonlight, made
Their ringlets quaint, and haunted spring and grove,
The Fauns and Sylvans danced in ev'ry shade,
The Zephyrs waved their wings, and hill and lawn surveyed.
The Seat of Happiness! if mortal life
Certain were not to teem with mortal woe;
Where is the place without convulsive strife
That will, at least, dash every joy below?
Of those old dusky times my numbers flow,
When he, the young and royal Martyr, fell!
Ere on his lips her offered wine could glow,
Her coward stroke behind did Treachery deal!—
Woman! thy tender breast can thus Ambition steel?
Not that my theme. — O, ye who love to feel!
To follow vagrant Fancy's wayward flight,
And yield the soul, in sympathetic zeal,
To sorrows not your own, with sweet delight,
While stillness murmurs through the pensive night:—
List to the Minstrel, and his Tale of Woe:
Scorn not the verse, although a youth invite;
So may the wild Song thro' your bosom glow,
And thrill the tender thought with Grief's delicious throe!
TOTEHAM! the Legend of thine olden day,
To the last note hath on thine echoes died;
But the Bard's soul still lingers o'er the lay,
To muse upon thy transitory pride
The pride of times that hath been — blank and void—
When all was Nature, big with many a song
Of Chivalry and Fame, with Love allied—
But Time both changed the scene — now houses throng
Where once was solitude — and people crowd along.
Where now thy WOOD, that spread its misty shade
O'er twice two hundred acres? — past away!
And vain its PROVERB, as the things that fade,
Earth, sun, moon, stars, that change as they decay!
The lonely CELL, the tenor of the lay,
Its grove, which hermit tendance loved to rear;
And, St. LOY, mouldering to Time's gradual sway,
Thy rites, thy OFFERTORY disappear;—
Forgot thy SPRING OF HEALTH no votary worships there!
Forgot, neglected — still my harp shall dwell
On thee, thou blest BETHESDA of ST. LOY!
As Fancy muses o'er the vital WELL
On years of storied yore, with grief and joy,
Exults they were — weeps Truth should e'er destroy!
Thrice I invoke the Spirit of the Stream
With charm she may not question, or deny,
And, like a Naiad, o'er the watery gleam
She rises to my voice, and answers thus the theme:—
"Wild Son of Meditation! Lover wild,
Of lonely paths, that Fancy may have play,
Thou reck'st not whither, so by her beguiled,
Thyself delight in thy created ray!
Wouldst thou that Truth should yield her heavenly sway,
And mild civilization be distraught,
That still the marvellous gloom the barren way?
Consider ALMAR — when to sorrow brought,
Call'st thou the calm he found, the happiness he sought?
"Deprived the promises he once pursued,
Abandoned over to, Despair's control,
Employed in no imaginary good,
Man's proper bliss, Hope rests as at its goal,
And idly busy Thought preys on the soul—
But when the dawn of social Love agen
Brightened his vision, in its varied roll,
He hailed his happiness returning then!
KNOW, SOLITUDE'S FOR GOD, SOCIETY FOR MEN!"
[pp. 1-7, 165-67]