1821
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas written at Polwhele, near Truro, July 19, the Day of the Coronation.

Gentleman's Magazine 91 (September 1821) 263-64.

Rev. Richard Polwhele


Eleven Spenserians. Writing anonymously, Richard Polwhele (sixty years of age and largely neglected since the advent of Scott and Byron) makes local and family traditions the basis for his passionately patriotic ode. The opening stanza quotes the third book of Richard Polwhele's major poem, The Influence of Local Attachment (1796). Burns and Burke had earlier asserted that the public weal depends upon family ties, and Polwhele appears to imitating that very public poem, The Vision of Judgement, where Robert Southey had situated his eulogy for George III from his home at Keswick. Polwhele's last work, Reminiscences (1836) is dedicated to Southey.

Author's note: "Mr. Urban: I presume the Author of the following Stanzas will excuse the trivial breach in the confidence of friendship in my communicating them to you, as a specimen of the happiness of a family circle, where a numerous progeny assembled round their father, are observed to catch from his poetry the noblest sentiments of attachment to their King and country. The stanzas were not intended for the public; but the public are always pleased with such views of domestic love and loyalty. Yours, &c. Atticus" p. 263

Sir Harding Gifford to Richard Polwhele: "Your lines on the Coronation attracted much attention here; they delighted me so much, that I had them published in our Gazette (from the Gentleman's Magazine), and thus sent through India" January 1824; in Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 2:783.



"Yes! British youths, the love of home inspires
Generous affections! Is not the retreat
Where burn the filial, the parental fires,
Full oft the nursery of the good and great;
Where Friendship kindles an heroic heat,
And, link'd amidst the lofty-pannel'd hall,
Bosoms in sympathetic union beat;
Whence, if their country good or ill befal,
They rise with noble warmth — they start at Honour's call?"

Such were my numbers on the banks of Kenne!
Nor could its slow stream soothe the pensive hour;
As Fancy wing'd me to my native glen,
And in sweet vision rear'd this distant bower.
'Twas then, no mean ambition, fond to tower
Above the crowd, a progeny pourtray'd,
Not loit'ring in green meads to cull the flow'r,
Not warbling love-notes in the secret shade,
But prompt to instruct rude minds, or sway the ensanguin'd blade.

'Twas then the azure of yon Heaven, my sons,
Had not yet open'd on your infant sight;
Nor could I mark the race that Virtue runs
Perplex'd with troubles, or in glory bright;
Nor could I trace distinct in various light,
The path of Honour each was form'd to tread:
'Twas all Imagination's fervid flight.
I saw no tempest gathering over head,
Nor trembled at the toils by Vice or Folly spread.

Where India whirls her suffocating sands;
Or in her lightnings scares the jungle gloom,
Say, for your duteous brothers shall the brands
Of death repose? Alas! for ills to come!
What, tho' of thousands they have seal'd the doom,
Say, can they bid the pestilence avaunt,
Or stray, unheeding where invaders roam?
Or welcome, from their bulwark'd elephant
The howling wilderness, or scorn the tiger's haunt?

And ye, too, whether Destiny may waft
Or Life or Death, now clust'ring round your sire,
Firm on old Albion's cliffs, the fatal shaft
Would meet unshrinking, if emergence dire
Ask'd Valour's arm, to wake the adventurous fire!
Lo, one who hail'd, fair Greece! thine altar isles,
An embryo Nelson, see his soul aspire,—
Alike unmov'd, where vast the Atlantic boils,
Or sleeps the Egean wave, array'd in summer-smiles.

Yet, from this little groupe my Country calls
For aid we rate above the warlike arm:
She looks to Academicus' learned halls!—
She looks to where forensic contests swarm
In bloodless strife, and throngs confess the charm
Of Eloquence, — Be thine that better part,
My William! in the cause of Virtue warm,
To guide thy flock with no insidious art,
Instilling heavenly truths, a balsam to the heart.

And rest we here? ah no! — we rest not here!
Three boys untutor'd trip their careless way;
Unweeting if a sorrow or a fear
Rise, on dark cloud, to dim their sunny day—
If Treachery lurk to, lead their steps astray;
When the pale sod shall cover me, so cold—
But why, from boding sighs, why faints my lay?
Hope, angel Hope! O come, thy views unfold,
And o'er the landscape shed thy rays of living gold.

O wipe away, sweet comforter, the tears
That gush unbidden from the mournful eye,
And kindly picture all the future years,
Reflecting back the fairest times gone by!
Show in clear perspective my progeny
Still emulous of hereditary worth!
O bid them with their loyal fathers vie;
And, proudly conscious of superior birth,
Salute, as with one heart, their hospitable hearth.

E'en now, perhaps, the chieftains who unsheath'd
The massy sword, to guard Matilda's throne,
Who, from the plains of Cressy, laurel-wreath'd,
First in the ranks of Western warriors shone;
And they who whilom fell where rebels won
The unrighteous palm, may hover o'er a scene
So lov'd in life, and list'ning to the tone
Of dying gales, the tremulous sprays between,
Hail the last flush of eve that tints yon glimm'ring green.

E'en now, perhaps, they note with new delight
Th' expanding minds of no degenerate race,
And long, as they anticipate the sight
Here opening fast, of ev'ry honest grace,
To clasp them in a parent's fond embrace,
Whilst Faith and Truth a blended radiance fling;
And not the minions or of Power or Place
(Tho' Heaven's wide arch with acclamations ring)
Beam from their ermin'd pomp more glory round their King!

Yes! tho' imperial grandeur to the gaze
Of millions, in one pause of wonder, flame,
And coronets flash fierce the mingling blaze,
And echo triumph in the wild acclaim,
To ratify a George's patriot aim;—
Such votive offerings as this calm recess
Shall send, unpublish'd by the voice of Fame,
The Crown shall in fraternal concord bless,
And on sure basis fix the Sovereign's happiness!

[pp. 701-03]