1822
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Effusion in presence of the Painted Tower of Tell, at Altdorf.]

Memorials of a Tour on the Continent 1820. By William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth


Three Spenserians, originally untitled. Author's note: "The following stanzas were suggested by the TOWER OF TELL," at ALTORP, on the outside walls of which the chief exploits of the Hero are painted: it is said to stand upon the very ground where grew the Lime Tree against which his Son was placed when the Father's archery was put to the proof under the circumstances so famous in Swiss History." The three stanzas appear in a note at the back of the volume.

British Critic: "The Memorials of a Tour on the Continent in 1820, consist for the most part of Sonnets, but interspersed with short pieces in other measures, and all of them more or less the lively effusions of a mild yet ardent and imaginative poet, visiting some of the most magnificent scenes in Europe, which nature has put within the reach of a Summer traveller. In this age, when we are pestered with such cart-loads of ignorant, silly, and splenetic narratives of what our vagabond absentees on the Continent have or have not seen and heard, a sort of unfavourable prejudice very reasonably rises on the mind of every discreet person upon the bare advertisement of any new book of continental travels. We can assure our readers, however, that they will meet with nothing in this little work either disgusting in taste or hacknied in observation. It contains scanty but faithful memorials of the various feelings of a philosopher and a poet, as they were occasionally awakened into life by objects of greatness, wonder, and beauty. A spirit of wise tolerance and of true philanthropy breathes every where, to which the expression of an ardent patriotism imparts an additional zest" NS 18 (1822) 528.



What though the Italian pencil wrought not here,
Nor such fine skill as did the meed bestow
On Marathonian valour, yet the tear
Springs forth in presence of this gaudy show,
While narrow cares their limits overflow.
Thrice happy, burghers, peasants, warriors old,
Infants in arms, and ye, that as ye go
Homeward or schoolward, ape what ye behold;
Heroes before your time, in frolic fancy bold!

And when that calm Spectatress from on high
Looks down — the bright and solitary Moon,
Who never gazes but to beautify;
And snow-fed torrents, which the blaze of noon
Roused into fury, murmur a soft tune
That fosters peace, and gentleness recalls;
Then might the passing Monk receive a boon
Of saintly pleasure from these pictured walls,
While, on the warlike groups, the mellowing lustre falls.

How blest the souls who when their trials come
Yield not to terror or despondency,
But face like that sweet Boy their mortal doom,
Whose head the ruddy apple tops, while he
Expectant stands beneath the linden tree:
He quakes not like the timid forest game,
But smiles — the hesitating shaft to free;
Assured that Heaven in justice will proclaim,
And to his Father give its own unerring aim.

[pp. 102-03]