1823
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Introductory Stanzas to the Second Canto of La Belle Tryamour. To ****.

Knight's Quarterly Magazine 1 (October 1823) 378-82.

Rev. John Moultrie


Sixteen ottava rima stanzas: a palinode in which John Moultrie apologizes for his poem to a loved one who does not appreciate his comic vein. He announces that in future he will publish more serious things, or remain silent, and he calls attention to "the sadder and more solemn tone" intermixed with the present comic production. Evidently tongues were wagging and Knight's Quarterly Magazine had acquired something of a reputation for decadence, which may explain why La Belle Tryamour was left unfinished at the third canto. In any event, Moultrie was already inclining towards a life in the Church.

Derwent Coleridge: "The mingled strains of jest and earnest, of pathetic and sportive humour which he produced at Cambridge, whether in connection with the Etonian or with Knight's Quarterly Magazine, were well suited to the turn of his mind and exhibited a variety of power to which it may perhaps be regretted that he did not afterwards give fuller scope. They were thrown off in the high spirits and unrestrained freedom of youth, and though a single specimen was republished under an altered name with his later poems, yet as a whole he would willingly have consigned them to that limbo of forgotten things, of which so many are in verse. They would not, I believe, in any case have been suffered to remain there, and certainly must be taken into account in any full estimate whether of the man or of his genius. But he had dedicated his muse to a higher and a stricter service" Poems (1876) 1:xxiii.

Thomas Babington Macaulay's father Zacharay was among those who did not approve of Knight's Quarterly: "The more I look into this magazine in which Tom cuts so conspicuous a figure the more am I dissatisfied with it, and the more pained am I at the associations which Tom has formed. It is a loose, low, coarse and almost blackguard work in some of its parts. In others, where there is less of coarseness there is still a strain of voluptuousness and even licentiousness which is quite intolerable and which almost rivals Little's poems" 1823; in Letters, ed. Pinney (1974) 187n.



Beneath these willow-boughs, whose hovering shade
Shifts with the breeze o'er this secluded stream,
'Midst reeds and waving bulrushes embay'd,
My boat hath floated since the noon-day gleam;
And now the light of eve begins to fade,
And I am scarce awaken'd from my dream—
My long day-dream of thee. — O! gentle friend,
When will this thraldom of my spirit end?

The storm, by which my heart so late was shaken,
Is over, and my thoughts are tranquil now,
And I can bear to feel myself forsaken,—
Yea, with a placid and unalter'd brow;
Though, ever and anon, doth Memory waken
The slumbering gusts which make my spirit bow
And reel to its foundations — still my sleep
Is throng'd with passionate dreams, from which I start to weep.

And though these lovely haunts have never seen
Thy beauty — nor, perchance, shall ever see,
Yet here the shadow of thy charms hath been,
And here are fresh remembrances of thee.
This lonely creek — these islands wild and green—
These woods and hills, speak feelingly to me;
For here that wild and secret passion grew,
In the first solitude my heart e'er knew.

But I must dream no more: — and if I borrow
From the cold world one last and pensive day
To bury my dead hopes, and soothe fond sorrow
With the last tears these eyes will ever pay
To passion — thou wilt pardon me. To-morrow
Breaks the last spell, and bears me far away
From this dream-haunted region; — here I part
With the last folly of my hardening heart.

So now farewell to Love, — but not to thee,
High-hearted Friend! — The hour of my despair
Did first reveal thy being's depths to me;
I saw the beauty of thy soul laid bare,—
Its power, and gentleness, and majesty;
Its deep and strong affections; and I swear,
Here, while my hopes lie crush'd and bleeding yet,
Thou art the noblest spirit I have met.

High converse, since that hour, we two have held,
Which will not be forgotten; thou alone
Hast search'd my inmost bosom, and beheld
My nature in its weakness; — thou hast known
The thoughts that shook, the passions that rebell'd,
The dreams that made me tremble — like thine own,
Have been my spirit's faintings — O! that thou
Couldst feel the fulness of my triumph now!

Methinks I could embrace my desolation,
And say "Farewell" serenely, were I sure
That thy young spring of joyous expectation
From that far-gathering tempest were secure,
Which yet may shake thy peace to its foundation—
But I believe that thou wilt well endure
The fury of the storm, and lift thy brow
To heaven, unscathed, and more serene than now.

For in thy thoughtful forehead's clear expanse,
And in the lightning of thy quick, wild eye,
And in the restless dreams, that shift and glance
Through all thy eloquent looks incessantly—
In each bright movement of thy countenance—
In thy most thrilling converse — I descry
Heaven's stamp; nor e'er shall human error bind
The strength and genius of thy mighty mind.

O! had I known thee earlier — but one year—
One little year — when thou wast fancy-free,—
While both our natures trembled with one fear,
And panted with one thirst — I swear to thee,
By all that to my soul on earth is dear,
By all thy hopes of final victory,
Bit all we feel within, around, above—
Thou shouldst have loved me with a Spirit's love.

Nor vain had been my hope that I had found
In thee the embodied phantasy, whose gleams
Kindled my sleep for years, and pour'd around
My path the brightness of a poet's dreams—
Whose voice was to my ear a phantom-sound,
So sweet, that its ideal music seems
E'en now to haunt my sense — that thou wert She
To whom my dearest hopes must cling eternally.

Tis o'er — but there are words, which thou hast spoken,
Writ on my heart in fire — and now I know
The slumber of my soul at length is broken,
Yea, by the stroke that laid its visions low:
Perchance hereafter I may find a token
Worthy to speak to thee of all I owe,
But never can repay thee — but e'en now
I must fulfil one unforgotten vow.

Have I not sworn that from this alter'd lyre
The strains thou lov'st not shall be heard no more?
Have I not sworn my spirit shall aspire
(If yet its weaken'd wing hath power to soar)
To nobler darings with a pure desire?
That when this tale is told — these wanderings o'er,
My song shall be attuned, with high endeavour,
To loftier music — or be mute for ever?

Haply, asleep in Reason's secret cells
A power is hid, which yet may make me strong;
Haply, the desart of my soul hath wells
Which yet may pour a deeper stream of song;
Haply — but oh! awaken'd conscience tells
That I have trifled with my heart too long—
Deaden'd each nobler impulse, and profaned
The strength which Nature for high toils ordain'd.

Yet, from this hour will I, with earnest thought,
Heap knowledge from neglected mines of lore.
If, haply, by long process, may be wrought
To steadfast ends my mind's unfashion'd ore:
Nor vain shall be the lessons thou hast taught,
Nor vain that purpose which, for thee, I swore
I would pursue in silence. — But 'tis time
To end this idle and presumptuous rhyme.

The task, which I began in happier hours,
Lies yet, a shapeless fragment — and 'twill be
Hard to renew, with worn and drooping
That toil whose fruits will yield no joy to thee.
Yet — for the feelings that so late were ours—
Thou wilt forgive my foolish phantasy,
Dallying with bitter jests, as if to ease
The aching of unheal'd remembrances.

Perhaps amidst my laughter, thou wilt hear,
At times, a sadder and more solemn tone,
Recalling to thine unforgetful ear
Things which are yet reveal'd to thee alone;
And thou, I think, wilt hold those accents dear,
And greet them with a pleasure all thine own;
Nor shall these gifts which I so coldly bring,
Seem in thy sight a worthless offering.

[pp. 378-82]