1823
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Flowers.

Time's Telescope for 1824: or, A complete Guide to the Almanack.

Bernard Barton


Fifteen Spenserian stanzas, a devotional garland Bernard Barton contributed to Time's Telescope, an almanac, and evidently did not collect in any of his published volumes. Yet these homely lines are surely among the more charming verse he wrote, and perhaps the only poem in which he makes a direct reference to Spenser, imagining a garden such "As Una and her milk-white lamb were there." Not seen.

The poem was accompanied by a memoir of the author, reprinted in the Literary Gazette: "It is a source of gratification to us to be able to reckon Mr. Barton among our correspondents and well-wishers, and we consider it no small honour to have such an avant-courier for our annual volume in the preliminary Ode with which he has kindly favoured us for the last and present year" (22 November 1823) 741.

Times Telescope, edited by J. Milard, was published between 1814 and 1834.



He who delights to trace, with serious thought,
In all he sees the noiseless steps of TIME,
Shall find the outward forms of Nature fraught
With ample food for many a lofty rhyme;
Or should he fear such dazzling heights to clime,
And love to tread a less aspiring way,—
Leaving untouch'd the awful and sublime,
And seeking humbler objects to pourtray,
May find in such the theme of many a pleasing lay.

What though the glorious Sun, enthron'd on high
May more conspicuously this lesson teach;
Or moon and stars, which gem the midnight sky,
A yet more touching homily may preach,
As day to day still utters ceaseless speech,
And night to night yet added knowledge shows,—
Far lowlier objects to the heart my reach,
And Wisdom purest precepts may disclose,
Cull'd from the Lily's bloom, or gather'd from the Rose!

Yes, — you, delightful handy-works of HIM
Who arch'd the Heavens, and spann'd this solid Earth,
Before whose glory day's proud light is dim,
And Art's achievements, if not food for mirth,
Display at best its barrenness and dearth,—
You, too, instruct us, and with "line on line,
Precept on precept," show us by your birth,
Your bud, your blossoming, and your decline,
TIME'S never-ceasing flight, and tell us truths divine.

You, as the changing Seaons roll along,
Still wait on each, and added beauties lend:—
Around the smiling Spring a lovely throng
With eager rivalry her steps attend;—
Others with Summer's brighter glories blend;—
Some grace mild Autumn's more majestic mien;
While some few ling'ring blooms the brow befriend
Of hoary Winter, and with grace serene
Enwreathe the King of storms with Mercy's gentler sheen.

Come forth, then, lovely heralds of the Spring!
Leave at your Maker's call your earthy bed,
At his behest your grateful tribute bring
To light and life, from darkness and the dead!
Thou, timid Snow-drop, lift thy lowly head;
Crocus and Primrose, show your varied dye;
Violets, your ceaseless odours round you shed,
Yourselves the while retiring from the eye,
Yet loading with your sweets each breeze that passes by.

And you, — in gay variety that grace,
In later months, with beauty the parterre,
"Making a sunshine in the shady place,"
As Una and milk-white lamb were there;
Arise! arise! and in your turns declare
The power of Him who has not only made
The depths of Ocean, and the heights of Air,
And Earth's magnificence, but has display'd
In you that power and skill with beauty's charms array'd.

Uplift, proud Sun-flower, to the favourite Orb
That disk whereon his brightness loves to dwell;
And, as thou seem'st his radiance to absorb,
Proclaim thyself The Garden's Sentinel:—
And thou too, gentle, modest Heather-bell,
Gladden thy lonely birth-place: Jasmines, spread
Your star-like blossoms, fragrant to the smell;
You Evening Primroses, when day has fled,
Open your pallid flowers, by dews and moonlight fed.

And where my favourite Abbey rears on high
Its crumbling ruins, on their loftiest crest,
Ye Wall-flowers, shed your tints of golden dye,
On which the morning sumbeams love to rest,—
On which, when glory fills the glowing west,
The parting splendours of the day's decline,
With fascination to the heart address'd,
So tenderly and beautifully shine,
As if reluctant still to leave that hoary shrine.

Convolvus, expand thy cup-like flower,
Graceful in form, and beautiful in hue;
Clematis, wreathe afresh thy garden bower;
Ye loftier Lilies, bath'd in morning's dew,
Of purity and innocence renew
Each lovely thought; and ye, whose lowlier pride
In sweet seclusion seems to shrink from view,—
You of The Valley nam'd, no longer hide
Your blossoms meet to twine the brow of purest Bride.

And Thou, so rich in gentle names, appealing
To hearts that own our nature's common lot;
Thou, styl'd by sportive Fancy's better feeling
"A Thought," "The Heart's Ease," or "Forget-me-not,"
Who deck'st alike the Peasant's garden-plot,
And Castle's proud parterre; with humble joy
Proclaim afresh by castle and by cot,
Hopes which ought not, like things of time, to cloy,
And feelings Time itself shall deepen — not destroy!

Fruitless and endless were the task, I ween,
With every Flower to grace my votive lay;—
And unto Thee, their long-acknowledg'd QUEEN,
Fairest and loveliest! and thy gentle sway,
Beautiful Rose, my homage I must pay,—
For how can Minstrel leave thy charms unsung,
Whose meek supremacy has been alway
Confess'd in many a clime, and many a tongue,
And in whose praise the harp of many a bard has rung?

Mine is unworthy such a lovely theme;
Yet could I borrow of that tuneful Bird!
Who sings thy praises by the moon's pale beam,
As Fancy's graceful legends have averr'd,
Those thrilling harmonies at midnight heard
With sounds of flowing waters, — not in vain
Should the loose strings of my rude harp be stirr'd
By inspiration's breath, but one brief strain
Should re-animate thy rites, and celebrate thy reign.

Vain were the hope to rival Bards, — whose lyres,
On such a theme, have left me nought to sing;
And one more Plant my humbler Muse inspires,
Round which my parting thoughts would fondly cling;
Which, consecrate to Salem's peaceful King,
Though fair as any gracing Beauty's bower,
Is link'd to Sorrow like an holy thing,
And takes its name from suff'ring's fiercest hour,—
Be this thy noblest fame, imperial Passion-flower!

Whatever impulse first conferr'd that name,
Or Fancy's dream, or Superstition's art,
I freely own its spirit-touching claim,
With thoughts and feelings it may well impart:—
Not that I would forego the surer chart
Of REVELATION for a mere conceit;
Yet with indulgence may the Christian's heart
Each frail memorial of HIS MASTER greet,
And chiefly what recalls his love's most glorious feat.

Be this the closing tribute of my strain!
Be this, fair Flowers! of charms, your last, and best!
That when THE SON OF GOD for Man was slain,
Circled by you, He sank awhile to rest,—
Not the Grave's captive, but a Garden's guest,
So pure and lovely was his transient tomb!
And He, whose brow the wreath of thorns had prest,
Not only bore for us Death's cruel doom,
But won the thornless crown of aramanthus bloom!

[Literary Gazette (22 November, 1823) 741-42]