As the King is welcomed to heaven, Robert Southey delivers an apostrophe to "Spenser, my master dear! with whom in boyhood I wander'd | Through the regions of Faery land, in forest or garden | Spending delicious hours, or at tilt and tourney rejoicing; | Yea, by the magic of verse enlarged, and translated in spirit, | In the World of Romance free denizen I" p. 54. The catalogue of Georgian worthies in A Vision concludes with a list of poets who died young: Thomas Chatterton, Michael Bruce (the "Youth of Loch Leven"), Thomas Russell, John Bampfylde, and Henry Kirke White.
A Vision of Judgement was, inevitably, ridiculed by critics, and it has suffered more from the brilliant parody by Byron. To write in hexameters (which Southey defends in a long preface) was tantamount to courting abuse. Yet A Vision is a better poem than its reputation would suggest, and it deserves attention as one of the last and most daring poems in the eighteenth-century Spenserian tradition. The subject was difficult and Southey handles the King's infirmities with great tact. For better or worse, he renders the reign of George the III as the court wanted to be perceived, in a curious mixture of modes gothic, baroque, Christian, and sentimentally domestic. One might compare the allegorical frame of the poem to the anonymous "The Vision. A Poem to the Memory of Jonas Hanway, Esquire" (1786), which Southey very likely knew.
Robert Southey to Grosvenor C. Bedford: "What a bespattering of abuse I shall have when the Vision appears! Your walk at the Proclamation was but a type of it, — only that I am booted and coated, and of more convenient stature for the service. Pelt away my boys, pelt away! if you were not busy at that work you would be about something more mischievous. Abusing me is like flogging a whipping-post. Harry says I have had so much of it that he really thinks I begin to like it" Life and Correspondence (1849-1850) 5:61.
Robert Southey to Walter Savage Landor: "I am endeavoring to find how I can send to you a poem which will be published in about a fortnight. The title is A Vision of Judgment: the personage brought to judgment is the late king; and the verse is a metre constructed in imitation of the hexameter.... The poem is long enough for the reader to become accustomed to it, and lose the first sense of its strangeness. It is something more than six hundred lines. I expect a hurricane of abuse, — hurricane-like, from all quarters; for among the worthies of the late reign I have placed neither Pitt nor Fox. The spirits whom I whom I have confronted with the king are Wilkes, Junius, and Washington. If you can tolerate the measure, the rest will be sufficiently in accord with your feelings" 8 February 1821; John Forster, Walter Savage Landor: a Biography (1869) 288-89.
Anti-Jacobin Review: "Perhaps Mr. Southey is the only poet of the present age who ought to have attempted such a subject, if, indeed, it ought to be attempted at all; and he certainly has, by the splendour of his descriptions, and the grandeur of his conceptions, advanced his fame, as a poet and a christian, to a still higher pinnacle than it had before attained" 60 (1821) 325.
Literary Gazette: "Mr. Southey has indeed indulged in a Vision, but in the Judgment part of the matter he has been lamentably deficient; as the public judgment on his performance must inevitably and painfully convince him. The sin of Wat Tyler was nothing to this" (17 March 1821).
Literary Chronicle: "How are the mighty fallen? how is the fine gold changed? must be the exclamation of every admirer of Mr. Southey, when he reads this abortion of his genius, the Vision of Judgment. Is this the man who sung the Maid of Orleans, Wat Tyler, and of Thalaba the wild and wondrous song. To what extent the debasement of talents, and the prostitution of principle may be carried, Mr. Southey furnishes a memorable instance. We know not which to condemn most, the prosing absurdity of this poem, its wanton political profligacy, or its blasphemy" (24 March 1821) 180.
London Magazine: "This poem is dedicated to the king, — being, as is stated in its preface, a tribute to the memory of his father. It is, in short, one of the Laureate Odes, or an equivalent for one, — and we intreat our readers, in consideration of these circumstances, to allow Mr. Southey the extremity of forbearance, if any of the extracts require animadversion; and at the same time to attribute the absence of such, on our part, to some other cause than remissness" 3 (April 1821) 428.
Monthly Review: "We could multiply most abundantly the instances of absurd sentiment, and extravagant versification, which are suppplied in this tame though odd effort. Our poetical readers will have observed (as we requested) the vile work which Mr. Southey makes with his own ludicrous hexameters" NS 95 (June 1821) 173.
Lord Byron: "He might have written hexameters, as he has written everything else, for aught that the writer cared — had they been upon another subject. But to attempt to canonise a monarch, who, whatever were his household virtues, was neither a successful nor a patriot king, — inasmuch as several years of his reign passed in war with America and Ireland, to say nothing of the aggression upon France — like all other exaggeration, may be spoken of in this new Vision, his public career will not be more favourably transmitted by history" preface to Vision of Judgment (1821) in Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge (1901) 4:483.
Leigh Hunt to Elizabeth Kent: "Lord B. made me a present the other day of a satire on Southey, called the Vision of Judgment, which my brother has accordingly to get from the hands of Murray, and print for our mutual benefit" 8 July 1822; in Correspondence (1862) 1:189.
William Hazlitt: "He may have given up the reform of the State: but depend upon it, he has some other hobby of the same kind. Does he not dedicate to his present Majesty that extraordinary poem on the death of his father, called The Vision of Judgment, as a specimen of what might be done in English hexameters? In a court-poem all should be trite and on an approved model. He might as well have presented himself at the levee in a fancy or masquerade dress. Mr. Southey was not to try conclusions with Majesty — still less on such an occasion. The extreme freedoms with departed greatness, the party-petulance carried to the Throne of Grace, the unchecked indulgence of private humour, the assumption of infallibility and even of the voice of Heaven in this poem, are pointed instances of what we have said. They shew the singular state of overexcitement of Mr. Southey's mind, and the force of old habits of independent and unbridled thinking, which cannot be kept down even in addressing his Sovereign!... The Wat Tyler and the Vision of Judgment are the Alpha and Omega of his disjointed career" The Spirit of the Age (1825) 373-74, 376.
Looking out of his study window at dusk, the poet hears the bells tolling, and hears a visionary voice. He raises his head, and discovers himself in a sepulchre, listening to divine music performed by unseen hands. He beholds the spirit of the King, restored to his senses and greeted by the assassinated prime minister Spencer Percival, who conveys to George what has passed during the years of the regency. The King is borne towards Heaven, where an angel summons him to judgment. The accuser appears, a Blatant Beast: "Many-headed and monstrous the Fiend; with numberless faces, | Numberless bestial ears erect to all rumours, and restless, | And with numberless mouths which were fill'd with lies as with arrows" pp. 16-17. Confronted with the presence of the King, Wilkes and Wolcot fall silent. The accusers fly, leaving George Washington, who at the the center of the poem has a cordial meeting with George III. As he ascends to meet his maker, the monarch is greeted by the noble monarchs of England, from William of Orange running back to Alfred. There follows a long catalogue of notable persons of the Georgian era, and a reunion of the King with his family. The poet strives to follow, but finds himself once more at his writing-desk, listening to the tolling bell.
For a bibliography of nineteenth-century criticism on English hexameters, see Samuel Austin Allibone, under "Abraham Fraunce" in Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:636.
'Twas at that sober hour when the light of day is receding,
And from surrounding things the hues where with day has adorn'd them
Fade, like the hopes of youth, till the beauty of earth is departed:
Pensive, though not in thought, I stood at the window, beholding
Mountain and lake and vale; the valley disrobed of its verdure;
Derwent retaining yet from eve a glassy reflection
Where his expanded breast, then still and smooth as a mirror,
Under the woods reposed; the hills that, calm and majestic,
Lifted their heads in the silent sky, from far Glaramar
Bleacrag, and Maidenmawr, to Grizedal and westermost Withop.
Dark and distinct they rose. The clouds had gather'd above them
High in the middle air, huge, purple, pillowy masses,
While in the west beyond was the last pale tint of the twilight;
Green as a stream in the glen whose pure and chrysolite waters
Flow o'er a schistous bed, and serene as the age of the righteous.
Earth was hush'd and still; all motion and sound were suspended:
Neither man was heard, bird, beast, nor humming of insect,
Only the voice of the Greta, heard only when all is in stillness.
Pensive I stood and alone, the hour and the scene had subdued me,
And as I gazed in the west, where Infinity seem'd to be open,
Yearn'd to be free from time, and felt that this life is a thraldom.
Thus as I stood, the bell which awhile from its warning had rested,
Sent forth its note again, toll, toll, thro' the silence of evening.
'Tis a deep dull sound that is heavy and mournful at all times,
For it tells of mortality always. But heavier this day
Fell on the conscious ear its deeper and mournfuller import,
Yea, in the heart it sunk; for this was the day when the herald
Breaking his wand should proclaim, that George our King was departed.
Thou art released! I cried: thy soul is deliver'd from bondage!
Thou who hast lain so long in mental and visual darkness,
Thou art in yonder heaven! thy place is in light and in glory.
Come, and behold! . . . methought a startling Voice from the twilight
Answered; and therewithal I felt a stroke as of lightning,
With a sound like the rushing of winds, or the roaring of waters.
If from without it came, I knew not, so sudden the seizure;
Or if the brain itself in that strong flash had expended
All its electric stores. Of strength and of thought it bereft me;
Hearing, and sight, and sense were gone; and when I awaken'd
'Twas from a dream of death, in silence and uttermost darkness;
Knowing not where or how, nor if I was rapt in the body,
Nor if entranced, or dead. But all around me was blackness,
Utterly blank and void, as if this ample creation
Had been blotted out, and I were alone in the chaos.
Yet had I even then a living hope to sustain me
Under that aweful thought, and I strengthen'd my spirit with prayer.
Comfort I sought and support, and both were found in retiring
Into that inner world, the soul's strong hold and her kingdom.
Then came again the Voice, but then no longer appalling,
Like the voice of a friend it came: O son of the Muses!
Be of good heart, it said, and think not that thou art abandon'd;
For to thy mortal sight shall the Grave unshadow its secrets;
Such as of yore the Florentine saw, Hell's perilous chambers
He who trod in his strength; and the arduous Mountain of Penance,
And the regions of Paradise, sphere within sphere intercircled.
Child of Earth, look up! and behold what passes before thee.
So by the unseen comforted, raised I my head in obedience,
And in a vault I found myself placed, arch'd over on all sides.
Narrow and low was that house of the dead. Around it were coffins,
Each in its niche, and palls, and urns, and funeral hatchments;
Velvets of Tyrian dye, retaining their hues unfaded;
Blazonry vivid still, as if fresh from the touch of the limner;
Nor was the golden fringe, nor the golden broidery tarnish'd.
Whence came the light whereby that place of death was discover'd?
For there was there no lamp, whose wonderous flame inextinguish'd,
As with a vital power endued, renewing its substance,
Age after age unchanged, endureth in self-subsistence:
Nor did the cheerful beam of day, direct or reflected,
Penetrate there. That low and subterranean chamber
Saw not the living ray, nor felt the breeze; but for ever
Closely immured, was seal'd in perpetual silence and darkness.
Whence then this lovely light, calm, pure, and soft, and cerulean,
Such as the sapphire sheds? And whence this air that infuses
Strength while I breathe it in, and a sense of life, and a stillness,
Filling the heart with peace, and giving a joy that contents it?
Not of the Earth that light; and these paradisiacal breathings,
Not of the Earth are they!
These thoughts were passing within me,
When there arose around a strain of heavenly music,
Such as the hermit hears when Angels visit his slumbers.
Faintly it first began, scarce heard; and gentle its rising,
Low as the softest breath that passes in summer at evening
O'er the Eolian strings, felt there when nothing is moving,
Save the thistle-down, lighter than air, and the leaf of the aspin.
Then as it swell'd and rose, the thrilling melody deepen'd,
Such, methought, should the music be, which is heard in the cloister,
By the sisterhood standing around the beatified Virgin,
When with her dying eyes she sees the firmament open,
Lifts from the bed of dust her arms towards her beloved,
Utters the adorable name, and breathes out her soul in a rapture.
Well could I then believe such legends, and well could I credit
All that the poets old relate of Amphion and Orpheus;
How to melodious sounds wild beasts their strength have surrender'd,
Men were reclaim'd from the woods, and stones in harmonious order
Moved, as their atoms obey'd the mysterious attraction of concord.
This was a higher strain; a mightier, holier virtue
Came with its powerful tones. O'ercome by the piercing emotion,
Dizzy I grew, and it seem'd as though my soul were dissolving.
How might I bear unmoved such sounds? For, like as the vapours
Melt on the mountain side, when the sun comes forth in his splendour,
Even so the vaulted roof and whatever was earthly
Faded away; the Grave was gone, and the Dead was awaken'd.
Then I beheld the King. From a cloud which cover'd the pavement
His reverend form uprose: heavenward his face was directed,
Heavenward his eyes were raised, and heavenward his arms were extended.
Lord, it is past! he cried; the mist, and the weight, and the darkness; . .
That long and weary night, that long drear dream of desertion.
Father, to Thee I come! My days have been many and evil;
Heavy my burthen of care, and grievous hath been my affliction.
Thou hast releas'd me at length. O Lord, in Thee have I trusted;
Thou art my hope and my strength! ... And then in profound adoration,
Crossing his arms on his breast, he bent and worshipp'd in silence.
Presently one approach'd to greet him with joyful obeisance;
He of whom in an hour of woe, the assassin bereav'd us
When his counsels most, and his resolute virtue were needed.
Thou, said the Monarch, here? Thou, Perceval, summon'd before me? . . .
Then as his waken'd mind to the weal of his country reverted,
What of his son, he ask'd, what course by the Prince had been follow'd.
Right in his Father's steps hath the Regent trod, was the answer:
Firm hath he proved and wise, at a time when weakness or error
Would have sunk us in shame, and to ruin have hurried us headlong.
True to himself hath he been, and Heaven has rewarded his counsels.
Peace is obtain'd then at last, with safety and honour! the Monarch
Cried, and he clasp'd his hands; . . . I thank Thee, O merciful Father!
Now is my heart's desire fulfill'd.
With honour surpassing
All that in elder time had adorn'd the annals of England,
Peace hath been won by the sword, the faithful minister answer'd.
Paris hath seen once more the banners of England in triumph
Wave within her walls, and the ancient line is establish'd.
While that man of blood, the tyrant, faithless and godless,
Render'd at length the sport, as long the minion of Fortune,
Far away, confined in a rocky isle of the ocean,
Fights his battles again, and pleased to win in the chamber
What he lost in the field, in fancy conquers his conqueror.
There he reviles his foes, and there the ungrateful accuses
For his own defaults the men who too faithfully served him;
Frets and complains and intrigues, and abuses the mercy that spared him.
Oh that my King could have known these things! could have witness'd how England
Check'd in its full career the force of her enemy's empire,
Singly defied his arms and his arts, and baffled them singly,
Roused from their lethal sleep with the stirring example the nations,
And the refluent tide swept him and his fortune before it.
Oh that my King, ere he died, might have seen the fruit of his counsels!
Nay, it is better thus, the Monarch piously answer'd;
Here I can bear the joy; it comes as an earnest of Heaven.
Righteous art Thou, O Lord! long-suffering, but sure are thy judgements.
Then having paused awhile, like one in devotion abstracted,
Earth ward his thoughts recurr'd, so deeply the care of his country
Lay in that royal soul reposed: and he said, Is the spirit
Quell'd which hath troubled the land? and the multitude freed from delusion,
Know they their blessings at last, and are they contented and thankful?
Still is that fierce and restless spirit at work, was the answer;
Still it deceiveth the weak, and inflameth the rash and the desperate.
Even now, I ween, some dreadful deed is preparing;
For the Souls of the Wicked are loose, and the Powers of Evil
Move on the wing alert. Some nascent horror they look for,
Be sure! some accursed conception of filth and of darkness
Ripe for its monstrous birth. Whether France or Britain be threaten'd,
Soon will the issue show; or if both at once are endanger'd,
For with the ghosts obscene of Robespierre, Danton, and Hebert,
Faux and Despard I saw, and the band of rabid fanatics,
They whom Venner led, who rising in frantic rebellion
Made the Redeemer's name their cry of slaughter and treason.
THE GATE OF HEAVEN.
Thus as he spake, methought the surrounding space dilated.
Over head I beheld the infinite ether; beneath us
Lay the solid expanse of the firmament spread like a pavement:
Wheresoever I look'd, there was light and glory around me.
Brightest it seem'd in the East, where the New Jerusalem glitter'd.
Eminent on a hill, there stood the Celestial City;
Beaming afar it shone; its towers and cupolas rising
High in the air serene, with the brightness of gold in the furnace,
Where on their breadth the splendour lay intense and quiescent:
Part with a fierier glow, and a short quick tremulous motion,
Like the burning pyropus; and turrets and pinnacles sparkled,
Playing in jets of light, with a diamond-like glory coruscant.
Groves of all hues of green their foliage intermingled,
Tempering with grateful shade the else unendurable lustre.
Drawing near, I beheld what over the portal was written:
This is the Gate of Bliss, it said; thro' me is the passage
To the City of God, the abode of beatified Spirits.
Weariness is not there, nor change, nor sorrow, nor parting;
Time hath no place therein; nor evil. Ye who would enter,
Drink of the Well of Life, and put away all that is earthly.
O'er the adamantine gates an Angel stood on the summit.
Ho! he exclaim'd, King George of England cometh to judgment!
Hear Heaven! Ye Angels hear! Souls of the Good and the Wicked
Whom it concerns, attend! Thou, Hell, bring forth his accusers!
As the sonorous summons was utter'd, the Winds, who were waiting,
Bore it abroad thro' Heaven; and Hell, in her nethermost caverns,
Heard, and obey'd in dismay.
Anon a body of splendour
Gather'd before the gate, and veil'd the Ineffable Presence,
Which, with a rushing of wings, came down. The sentient ether
Shook with that dread descent, and the solid firmament trembled.
Round the cloud were the Orders of Heaven . . . Archangel and Angel,
Principality, Cherub and Seraph, Thrones, Dominations,
Virtues, and Powers. The Souls of the Good, whom Death had made perfect,
Flocking on either hand, a multitudinous army,
Came at the aweful call. In semicircle inclining,
Tier over tier they took their place: aloft, in the distance,
Far as the sight could pierce, that glorious company glisten'd.
From the skirts of the shining assembly, a silvery vapour
Rose in the blue serene, and moving onward it deepen'd,
Taking a denser form; the while from the opposite region
Heavy and sulphurous clouds roll'd on, and completed the circle.
There with the Spirits accurst, in congenial darkness enveloped,
Were the Souls of the Wicked, who wilful in guilt and in error,
Chose the service of sin, and now were abiding its wages.
Change of place to them brought no reprieval from anguish;
They in their evil thoughts and desires of impotent malice,
Envy, and hate, and blasphemous rage, and remorse unavailing,
Carried a Hell within, to which all outer affliction,
So it abstracted the sense, might be deem'd a remission of torment.
At the edge of the cloud, the Princes of Darkness were marshall'd:
Dimly descried within were wings and truculent faces;
And in the thick obscure there struggled a mutinous uproar,
Railing, and fury, and strife, that the whole deep body of darkness
Roll'd like a troubled sea, with a wide and a manifold motion.
On the cerulean floor by that dread circle surrounded,
Stood the soul of the King alone. In front was the Presence
Veil'd with excess of light; and behind was the blackness of darkness.
Then might be seen the strength of holiness, then was its triumph,
Calm in his faith he stood, and his own clear conscience upheld him.
When the trumpet was blown, and the Angel made proclamation—
Lo, where the King appears! Come forward ye who arraign him!
Forth from the lurid cloud a Demon came at the summons.
It was the Spirit by which his righteous reign had been troubled;
Likest in form uncouth to the hideous Idols whom India
(Long by guilty neglect to hellish delusions abandon'd,)
Worships with horrible rites of self-immolation and torture.
Many-headed and monstrous the Fiend; with numberless faces,
Numberless bestial ears erect to all rumours, and restless,
And with numberless mouths which were fill'd with lies as with arrows.
Clamours arose as he came, a confusion of turbulent voices,
Maledictions, and blatant tongues, and viperous hisses;
And in the hubbub of senseless sounds the watchwords of faction,
Freedom, Invaded Rights, Corruption, and War, and Oppression,
Loudly enounced were heard.
But when he stood in the Presence,
Then was the Fiend dismay'd, though with impudence clothed as a garment;
And the lying tongues were mute, and the lips which had scatter'd
Accusation and slander, were still. No time for evasion
This, in the Presence he stood: no place for flight; for dissembling
No possibility there. From the souls on the edge of the darkness,
Two he produced, prime movers and agents of mischief, and bade them
Show themselves faithful now to the cause for which they had labour'd.
Wretched and guilty souls, where now their audacity? Where now
Are the insolent tongues so ready of old at rejoinder?
Where the lofty pretences of public virtue and freedom?
Where the gibe, and the jeer, and the threat, the envenom'd invective,
Calumny, falsehood, fraud, and the whole ammunition of malice?
Wretched and guilty souls, they stood in the face of their Sovereign,
Conscious and self-condemn'd; confronted with him they had injured,
At the Judgement-seat they stood.
Beholding the foremost,
Him by the cast of his eye oblique, I knew as the firebrand
Whom the unthinking populace held for their idol and hero,
Lord of Misrule in his day. But how was that countenance alter'd
Where emotion of fear or of shame had never been witness'd;
That invincible forehead abash'd; and those eyes wherein malice
Once had been wont to shine with wit and hilarity temper'd,
Into how deep a gloom their mournful expression had settled!
Little avail'd it now that not from a purpose malignant,
Not with evil intent he had chosen the service of evil;
But of his own desires the slave, with profligate impulse,
Solely by selfishness moved, and reckless of aught that might follow.
Could he plead in only excuse a confession of baseness?
Could he hide the extent of his guilt; or hope to atone for
Faction excited at home, when all old feuds were abated,
Insurrection abroad, and the train of woes that had follow'd!
Discontent and disloyalty, like the teeth of the dragon,
He had sown on the winds; they had ripen'd beyond the Atlantic;
Thence in natural birth sedition, revolt, revolution;
France had received the seeds, and reap'd the harvest of horrors; . .
Where . . . where should the plague be stay'd? Oh, most to be pitied
They of all souls in bale, who see no term to the evil
They by their guilt have raised, no end to their inner upbraidings!
Him I could not choose but know, nor knowing but grieve for.
Who might the other be, his comrade in guilt and in suffering,
Brought to the proof like him, and shrinking like him from the trial?
Nameless the libeller lived, and shot his arrows in darkness;
Undetected he pass'd to the grave, and leaving behind him
Noxious works on earth, and the pest of an evil example,
Went to the world beyond, where no offences are hidden.
Mask'd had he been in his life, and now a visor of iron
Rivetted round his head, had abolish'd his features for ever.
Speechless the slanderer stood, and turn'd his face from the Monarch
Iron-bound as it was, . . so insupportably dreadful
Soon or late to conscious guilt is the eye of the injured.
Caitiffs, are ye dumb? cried the multifaced Demon in anger;
Think ye then by shame to shorten the term of your penance?
Back to your penal dens! . . . And with horrible grasp gigantic
Seizing the guilty pair, he swung them aloft, and in vengeance
Hurl'd them all abroad, far into the sulphurous darkness.
Sons of Faction, be warn'd! And ye, ye Slanderers! learn ye
Justice, and bear in mind that after death there is judgement.
Whirling, away they flew. Nor long himself did he tarry,
Ere from the ground where he stood, caught up by a vehement whirlwind,
He too was hurried away; and the blast with lightning and thunder
Vollying aright and aleft amid the accumulate blackness,
Scatter'd its inmates accurst, and beyond the limits of ether
Drove the hircine host obscene: they howling and groaning
Fell precipitate, down to their dolorous place of endurance.
Then was the region clear; the arrowy flashes which redden'd
Through the foul thick throng, like sheeted argentry floating
Now o'er the blue serene, diffused an innocuous splendour,
In the infinite dying away. The roll of the thunder
Ceased, and all sounds were hush'd, till again from the gate adamantine
Was the voice of the Angel heard thro' the silence of Heaven.
Ho! he exclaim'd, King George of England standeth in judgement!
Hell hath been dumb in his presence. Ye who on earth arraign'd him,
Come ye before him now, and here accuse or absolve him!
For injustice hath here no place.
From the Souls of the Blessed
Some were there then who advanced; and more from the skirts of the meeting,
Spirits who had not yet accomplish'd their purification,
Yet being cleansed from pride, from faction and error deliver'd,
Purged of the film wherewith the eye of the mind is clouded,
They, in their better state, saw all things clear; and discerning
Now in the light of truth what tortuous views had deceived them,
They acknowledged their fault, and own'd the wrong they had offer'd;
Not without ingenuous shame, and a sense of compunction,
More or less, as each had more or less to atone for.
One alone remain'd, when the rest had retired to their station:
Silently he had stood, and still unmoved and in silence,
With a steady mien, regarded the face of the Monarch.
Thoughtful awhile he gazed; severe, but serene, was his aspect;
Calm, but stern; like one whom no compassion could weaken,
Neither could doubt deter, nor violent impulses alter;
Lord of his own resolves, . . of his own heart absolute master.
Aweful Spirit! his place was with ancient sages and heroes:
Fabius, Aristides, and Solon, and Epaminondas.
Here then at the Gate of Heaven we are met! said the Spirit;
King of England! albeit in life opposed to each other,
Here we meet at last. Not unprepared for the meeting
Ween I; for we had both outlived all enmity, rendering
Each to each that justice which each from each had withholden.
In the course of events, to thee I seem'd as a Rebel,
Thou a Tyrant to me; . . . so strongly doth circumstance rule men
During evil days, when right and wrong are confounded.
Left to our hearts we were just. For me, my actions have spoken,
That not for lawless desires, nor goaded by desperate fortunes,
Nor for ambition, I chose my part; but observant of duty,
Self-approved. And here, this witness I willingly bear thee, . .
Here, before Angels and Men, in the aweful hour of judgement, . .
Thou too didst act with upright heart, as befitted a Sovereign
True to his sacred trust, to his crown, his kingdom, and people.
Heaven in these things fulfill'd its wise, though inscrutable purpose,
While we work'd its will, doing each in his place as became him.
Washington! said the Monarch, well hast thou spoken and truly,
Just to thyself and to me. On them is the guilt of the contest,
Who, for wicked ends, with foul arts of faction and falsehood,
Kindled and fed the flame: but verily they have their guerdon.
Thou and I are free from offence. And would that the nations,
Learning of us, would lay aside all wrongful resentment,
All injurious thought, and honouring each in the other
Kindred courage and virtue, and cognate knowledge and freedom,
Live in brotherhood wisely conjoin'd. We set the example.
They who stir up strife, and would break that natural concord,
Evil they sow, and sorrow will they reap for their harvest.
When that Spirit withdrew, the Monarch around the assembly
Look'd, but none else came forth; and he heard the voice of the Angel, . .
King of England, speak for thyself! here is none to arraign thee.
Father, he replied, from whom no secrets are hidden,
What should I say? Thou knowest that mine was an arduous station,
Full of cares, and with perils beset. How heavy the burthen
Thou alone canst tell! Short-sighted and frail hast Thou made us,
And Thy judgements who can abide? But as surely Thou knowest
The desire of my heart hath been alway the good of my people,
Pardon my errors, O Lord, and in mercy accept the intention!
As in Thee I have trusted, so let me not now be confounded.
Bending forward he spake with earnest humility. Well done,
Good and faithful servant! then said a Voice from the Brightness,
Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord . . . The ministering Spirits
Clapt their pennons therewith, and from that whole army of Angels
Songs of thanksgiving and joy resounded, and loud hallelujahs;
While on the wings of Winds upraised, the pavilion of splendour
Where inscrutable light enveloped the Holy of Holies,
Moved, and was borne away, thro' the empyrean ascending.
Beautiful then on its hill appear'd the Celestial City,
Soften'd, like evening suns, to a mild and bearable lustre.
Beautiful was the ether above; and the sapphire beneath us,
Beautiful was its tone, to the dazzled sight as refreshing
As the fields with their loveliest green at the coming of summer,
When the mind is at ease, and the eye and the heart are contented.
Then methought we approach'd the gate. In front of the portal,
From a rock where the standard of man's Redemption was planted,
Issued the Well of Life, where whosoever would enter,
So it was written, must drink, and put away all that is earthly.
Earth among its gems, its creations of art and of nature,
Offers not aught whereto that marvellous Cross may be liken'd
Even in dim similitude, such was its wonderful substance.
Pure it was and diaphanous. It had no visible lustre;
Yet from It alone whole Heaven was illuminate alway;
Day and Night being none in the upper firmament, neither
Sun, nor Moon, nor Stars; but from that Cross as a fountain
Flow'd the Light uncreated; light all-sufficing, eternal,
Light which was, and which is, and which will be, for ever and ever;
Light of light, which, if daringly gazed on, would blind an Archangel,
Yet the eye of weak man may behold, and beholding is strengthened;
Yea, while we wander below, opprest with our bodily burthen,
And in the shadow of death, this Light is in mercy vouchsafed us,
So we seek it with humble heart; and the soul that receives it
Hath with it healing and strength, peace, love, and life everlasting.
Thither the King drew nigh, and kneeling he drank of the water.
Oh what a change was wrought! In the semblance of age he had risen,
Such as at last he appear'd, with the traces of time and affliction
Deep on his faded form, when the burthen of years was upon him.
Oh what a change was wrought! For now the corruptible put on
Incorruption; the mortal put off mortality. Rising
Rejuvenescent he stood in a glorified body, obnoxious
Never again to change, nor to evil and trouble and sorrow,
But for eternity form'd, and to bliss everlasting appointed.
Lift up your heads, ye Gates; and ye everlasting Portals,
Be ye lift up! For lo! a glorified Monarch approacheth,
One who in righteousness reign'd, and religiously govern'd his people.
Who are these that await him within? Nassau the Deliverer,
Him I knew: and the Stuart, he who, serene in his meekness,
Bow'd his anointed head beneath the axe of rebellion,
Calm in that insolent hour, and over his fortune triumphant.
Queen of the eagle eye, thou too, O matchless Eliza,
Excellent Queen, wert there! and thy brother's beautiful spirit;
O'er whose innocent head there hover'd a silvery halo,
Such as crowns the Saint when his earthly warfare is ended.
There too was he of the sable mail, the hero of Cressy,
Flower of chivalry, he, in arms and in courtesy peerless.
There too his royal sire I saw, magnificent Edward,
He who made the English renown, and the fame of his Windsor
In the Orient and Occident known, from Tagus to Tigris.
Lion-hearted Richard was there, redoubtable warrior,
At whose irresistible presence the Saracen trembled;
At whose name the Caliph exclaim'd in dismay on Mahommed,
Syrian mothers grew pale, and their children were scared into silence.
Born in a bloody age, did he in his prowess exulting
Run like a meteor his course, and fulfil the service assign'd him,
Checking the Mussulman power in the height of its prosperous fortune;
But that leonine heart was with virtues humaner ennobled,
(Otherwhere else, be sure, his doom had now been appointed,)
Friendship, disdain of wrong, and generous feeling redeem'd it,
Magnanimity there had its seat, and the love of the Muses.
There with the Saxon Kings who founded our laws and our temples,
(Gratefully still to be named while these endure in remembrance,
They, for the pious work!) I saw the spirit of Alfred;
Alfred than whom no Prince with loftier intellect gifted,
Nor with a finer soul, nor in virtue more absolute, ever
Made a throne twice-hallow'd, and reign'd in the hearts of his people.
With him the Worthies were seen who in life partook of his labours,
Shared his thoughts, and with him for the weal of posterity travail'd:
Some who in cloisters immured, and to painful study devoted
Day and night, their patient and innocent lives exhausted,
And in meekness possess'd their souls: and some who in battle
Put the Raven to flight: and some who intrepid in duty
Reach'd the remotest East, or invading the kingdom of Winter,
Plough'd with audacious keel the Hyperborean Ocean.
I could perceive the joy which fill'd their beatified spirits
While of the Georgian age they thought, and the glory of England.
THE ELDER WORTHIES.
Lift up your heads, ye Gates; and ye everlasting Portals,
Be ye lift up! Behold the Worthies are there to receive him,
They who in later days, or in elder ages ennobled
Britain's dear name. Bede I beheld, who, humble and holy,
Shone like a single star, serene in a night of darkness.
Bacon also was there, the marvellous Friar; and he who
Struck the spark from which the Bohemian kindled his taper;
Thence the flame, long and hardly preserved, was to Luther transmitted,
Mighty soul, and he lifted his torch, and enlighten'd the nations.
Thee too, Father Chaucer! I saw, and delighted to see thee,
At whose well undefiled I drank in my youth, and was strengthen'd;
With whose mind immortal so oft I have communed, partaking
All its manifold moods, and willingly moved at its pleasure.
Bearing the palm of martyrdom, Cranmer was there in his meekness,
Holy name to be ever revered! And Cecil, whose wisdom
'Stablish'd the Church and State, Eliza's pillar of council.
And Shakespeare, who in our hearts for himself hath erected an empire
Not to be shaken by Time, nor e'er by another divided.
But with what love did I then behold the face of my master, . .
Spenser, my master dear! with whom in boyhood I wander'd
Through the regions of Faery land, in forest or garden
Spending delicious hours, or at tilt and tourney rejoicing;
Yea, by the magic of verse enlarged, and translated in spirit,
In the World of Romance free denizen I; . . . till awakening,
When the spell was dissolved, this real earth and its uses
Seem'd to me weary, and stale, and flat.
With other emotion
Milton's severer shade I saw, and in reverence humbled
Gazed on that soul sublime: of passion now as of blindness
Heal'd, and no longer here to Kings and to Hierarchs hostile,
He was assoil'd from taint of the fatal fruit; and in Eden
Not again to be lost, consorted an equal with Angels.
Taylor too was there, from whose mind of its treasures redundant
Streams of eloquence flow'd, like an inexhaustible fountain:
And the victor of Blenheim, alike in all virtues accomplish'd,
Public or private, he; the perfect soldier and statesman,
England's reproach and her pride; her pride for his noble achievements,
Her reproach for the wrongs he endured: And Newton, exalted
There above those orbs whose motions from earth he had measured,
Through infinity ranging in thought: And Berkeley, angelic
Now in substance as soul, that kingdom enjoying where all things
Are what they seem, and the good and the beautiful there are eternal.
THE WORTHIES OF THE GEORGIAN AGE.
These with a kindred host of great and illustrious spirits
Stood apart, while a train whom nearer duty attracted
Through the Gate of Bliss came forth to welcome their Sovereign.
Many were they and glorious all. Conspicuous among them
Wolfe was seen: And the seaman who fell on the shores of Owhyhee,
Leaving a lasting name, to humanity dear as to science:
And the mighty musician of Germany, ours by adoption,
Who beheld in the King his munificent pupil and patron.
Reynolds, with whom began that school of art which hath equall'd
Richest Italy's works, and the masterly labours of Belgium,
Came in that famous array: and Hogarth, who follow'd no master,
Nor by pupil shall e'er be approach'd, alone in his greatness.
Reverend in comely mien, of aspect mild and benignant,
There, too, Wesley I saw and knew, whose zeal apostolic,
Though with error alloy'd, hath on earth its merited honour,
As in Heaven its reward. And Mansfield the just and intrepid;
Wise Judge, by the craft of the Law ne'er seduced from its purpose;
And when the misled multitude raged like the winds in their madness,
Not to be moved from his rightful resolves. And Burke I beheld there,
Eloquent statesman and sage, who, though late, broke loose from his trammels,
Giving then to mankind what party too long had diverted.
Here, where wrongs are forgiven, was the injured Hastings beside him:
Strong in his high deserts, and in innocence happy, though injured,
He, in his good old age, outlived persecution and malice.
Even where he had stood a mark for the arrows of slander,
He had his triumph at last, when moved with one feeling, the Senate
Rose in respect at his sight, and atoned for the sin of their fathers.
Cowper, thy lovely spirit was there, by death disenchanted
From that heavy spell which had bound it in sorrow and darkness,
Thou wert there, in the kingdom of peace and of light everlasting.
Nelson also was there in the kingdom of peace, though his calling
While upon earth he dwelt, was to war and the work of destruction.
Not in him had that aweful ministry deaden'd, or weaken'd
Quick compassion, and feelings that raise while they soften our nature.
Wise in counsel, and steady in purpose, and rapid in action,
Never thought of self from the course of his duty seduced him,
Never doubt of the issue unworthily warpt his intention.
Long shall his memory live, and while his example is cherish'd,
From the Queen of the Seas, the sceptre shall never be wrested.
THE YOUNG SPIRITS.
Ye whom I leave unnam'd, ye other Worthies of Britain,
Lights of the Georgian age, . . . for ye are many and noble,
How might I name ye all, whom I saw in this glorious vision? . . .
Pardon ye the imperfect tale! Yet some I beheld there,
Whom should I pretermit, my heart might rightly upbraid me,
That its tribute of honour, poor though it be, was withholden.
Somewhat apart they came, in fellowship gather'd together,
As in goodly array they follow'd the train of the worthies.
Chosen spirits were these, of the finest elements temper'd,
And embodied on earth in mortality's purest texture;
But in the morning of hope, in the blossom of virtue and genius,
They were cut down by death. What then, . . were it wise to lament them,
Seeing the mind bears with it its wealth, and the soul its affections?
What we sow, we shall reap; and the seeds whereof earth is not worthy
Strike their roots in a kindlier soil, and ripen to harvest.
Here were the gallant youths of high heroic aspiring,
Who, so fate had allow'd, with the martial renown of their country
Would have wedded their names, for perpetual honour united;
Strong of heart and of mind, but in undistinguishing battle,
Or by pestilence stricken, they fell, unknown and confounded
With the common dead. Oh! many are they who were worthy,
Under the Red Cross flag, to have wielded the thunders of Britain,
Making her justice felt, and her proper power upholding
Upon all seas and shores, wheresoever her rights were offended,
Followers of Nelson's path, and the glorious career of the Wellesley.
Many are they, whose bones beneath the billows have whiten'd,
Or in foreign earth they have moulder'd, hastily cover'd,
In some wide and general grave.
Here also were spirits
To have guided, like Cecil of old, the councils of England;
Or have silenced and charm'd a tumultuous Senate, like Canning,
When to the height of his theme, the consummate Orator rising,
Makes our Catalines pale, and rejoices the friends of their country.
Others came in that goodly band whom benigner fortune
Led into pleasanter ways on earth: the children of Science
Some, whose unerring pursuit would, but for death, have extended
O'er the unknown and material, Man's intellectual empire,
Such their intuitive power; like Davy, disarming destruction
When it moves on the vapour; or him, who discovering the secret
Of the dark and ebullient abyss, with the fire of Vesuvius
Arm'd the chemist's hand: well then might Eleusinian Ceres
Yield to him, from whom the seas and the mountains conceal'd not
Nature's mystery, hid in their depths.
Here lost in their promise
And prime, were the children of Art, who should else have deliver'd
Works and undying names to grateful posterity's keeping,
Such as Haydon will leave on earth; and he who, returning
Rich in praise to his native shores, hath left a remembrance
Long to be honour'd and loved on the banks of Thames and of Tiber:
So may America, prizing in time the worth she possesses,
Give to that hand free scope, and boast hereafter of Allston.
Here too, early lost and deplored, were the youths whom the Muses
Mark'd for themselves at birth, and with dews from Castalia sprinkled:
Chatterton first, (for not to his affectionate spirit
Could the act of madness innate for guilt be accounted:)
Marvellous boy, whose antique songs and unhappy story
Shall, by gentle hearts, be in mournful memory cherish'd
Long as thy ancient towers endure, and the rocks of St. Vincent,
Bristol! my birth-place dear. What though I have chosen a dwelling
Far away, and my grave shall not be found by the stranger
Under thy sacred care, nathless in love and in duty
Still am I bound to thee, and by many a deep recollection!
City of elder days, I know how largely I owe thee;
Nor least for the hope and the strength that I gather'd in boyhood,
While on Chatterton musing, I fancied his spirit was with me
In the haunts which he loved upon earth. 'Twas a joy in my vision
When I beheld his face . . . And here was the youth of Loch Leven,
Nipt, like an April flower, that opens its leaves to the sunshine,
While the breath of the East prevails. And Russell and Bampfylde,
Bright emanations they! And the Poet, whose songs of childhood
Trent and the groves of Clifton heard; not alone by the Muses
But by the Virtues loved, his soul in its youthful aspirings
Sought the Holy Hill, and his thirst was for Siloa's waters.
Was I deceived by desire, or, Henry, indeed did thy spirit
Know me, and meet my look, and smile like a friend at the meeting?
Lift up your heads, ye Gates; and ye everlasting Portals,
Be ye lift up! Behold the splendent train of the Worthies
Halt; and with quicker pace a happy company issues
Forth from the Gate of Bliss: the Parents, the Children, and Consort,
Come to welcome in Heaven the Son, the Father, and Husband!
Hour of perfect joy that o'erpays all earthly affliction;
Yea, and the thought whereof supporteth the soul in its anguish!
There came England's blossom of hope, . . the beautiful Princess;
She in whose wedded bliss all hearts rejoiced, and whose death-bell,
Heard from tower to tower thro' the island, carried a sorrow,
Felt by all like a private grief, which, sleeping or waking,
Will not be shaken away; but possesses the soul and disturbs it.
There was our late-lost Queen, the nation's example of virtue;
In whose presence vice was not seen, nor the face of dishonour,
Pure in heart, and spotless in life, and secret in bounty,
Queen, and Mother, and Wife unreproved . . . The gentle Amelia
Stretch'd her arms to her father there, in tenderness shedding
Tears, such as Angels weep. That hand was toward him extended
Whose last pressure he could not bear, when merciful Nature,
As o'er her dying bed he bent in severest anguish,
Laid on his senses a weight, and suspended the sorrow for ever.
He hath recover'd her now: all, all that was lost is restored him;. .
Hour of perfect bliss that o'erpays all earthly affliction!
They are met where Change is not known, nor Sorrow, nor Parting.
Death is subdued, and the Grave, which conquers all, hath been conquer'd.
When I beheld them meet, the desire of my soul overcame me;
And when with harp and voice the loud hosannahs of welcome
Fill'd the rejoicing sky, as the happy company enter'd
Through the everlasting Gates; I, too, press'd forward to enter: . . .
But the weight of the body withheld me. I stoopt to the fountain,
Eager to drink thereof, and to put away all that was earthly.
Darkness came over me then at the chilling touch of the water,
And my feet methought sunk, and I fell precipitate. Starting,
Then I awoke, and beheld the mountains in twilight before me,
Dark and distinct; and instead of the rapturous sound of hosannahs,
Heard the bell from the tower, toll! toll! thro' the silence of evening.