1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The School.

Literary Magnet 1 (1824) 181-82.

G.


Eight Spenserians, signed "G.": the anonymous poet returns to his former school, remembering the schoolhouse, pedagogue, and lessons, and reflecting on the passing of time. The School derives in almost equal parts from Shenstone's School-Mistress, Gray's Eton College Ode, and Goldsmith's The Deserted Village "But how the fearful man shall I describe— | The Prince of Pedagogues — his stately plight— | Or paint the frown that awed th' unruly tribe, | And put audacious mirth to instant flight?"

The Literary Magnet, conducted by "Tobias Merton, Gent." may originally have been conducted by Samuel Egerton Brydges and his son; in 1825 it was purchased by Alaric Alexander Watts; see the article by Ted. R. Ellis III in English Literary Magazines: The Romantic Age (1983) 261-68.



Great pleasure 'tis, when years have roll'd away,
And time hath swept from the remembrance clean
Those joyous thoughts, which gilded boyhood's day,
And mark'd that age of life the most serene,
To view, with manly eye, some well-known scene—
Some thicket, copse, or truant-playing wood;
Or orchard, pilfer'd oft at dusky e'en:
Or chief, to stray, chance-led, in pensive mood,
Where, erst the School — to us a fearful fabric — stood.

A spacious room it was, and fitly form'd
To compass learning in: long, lofty, light:
Nor lack'd there bamboos for the uninform'd,
Nor birchen-twigs, to set the wrong aright—
As well can witness many a luckless wight,
That writh'd beneath the sense-bestowing rod.
And then a stool, and cap, with bells bedight,
Where dance and idler bore the wink and nod—
A sort of Helotry our Spartan laws allowed.

But how the fearful man shall I describe—
The Prince of Pedagogues — his stately plight—
Or paint the frown that awed th' unruly tribe,
And put audacious mirth to instant flight?
In sooth, to us, less dire had been the sight
Of Phorcys' daughters, who could turn to stone,
And fix their victims in a marble night,
Than that prophetic glance, which darkling shone—
Portent of blows not light, and many an aching bone.

A tall, gaunt figure, meagre, pale, and wan,
With lengthen'd visage, and eventful brow,
Charged with the fates of many a rising man,
That looks with wonder on his terrors now.
How often have I, while I trembling stood,
With burning cheek, expectant of my doom,
Sudden, pour'd forth, from suppliant eyes, a flood,
As his dread ire beclouded all the noon!
So shadows gather strength from evening's dusky gloom.

Full fifteen streets about he held the name
For erudition: and, if all agree,
With very little aid — save Walkingame—
Could teach the labyrinthine "Rule of Three:"—
Nay, some have even said he burn'd the "Key"—
But that was rumour: yet is it a fact,
That he was learn'd in Latin; and that he,
By "ipse dixits," could, whene'er attack'd,
Beat twenty stouter men, by two small Romans back'd.

Oh! spot once fear'd, but venerated now—
Maugre thy tasks, and pains, and boyish griefs;
Oft-times, when care sits heavy on my brow,
To thee I turn for comfort and relief:—
In sooth, thou art the very welcom'st thief
That e'er stole sorrow from th' aggrieved heart:
Small joy to us, that boyhood is so brief!
Years and unwelcome knowledge bid depart,
Too soon, thy guileless age! too soon, their cares impart!

Companions of my careless, fearless prime,
When yet our friendship suffer'd no alloy,
Say, did we ever mourn the passing time;
Or, courting sorrow, dash the present joy?
We toil'd not then to hoard the treach'rous clay,
That, like a poison'd spring, pollutes the soul;
Or broods, like Night, o'er each expiring ray.
Nathless, the generous spirit bursts control,
And scorns its earthly thrall, and seeks a heavenly goal!

Maugre thy tasks, and pains, and boyish dole,
Oft shall Ambition, from its topmost height,
In secret sigh, as Mem'ry opes her scroll,
And points to thee; and mourn thy peaceful site,
And long, in vain, to grasp the lost delight—
To crime unknown. Sage Prudence, too, shall strive
Thy better, guileless Wisdom, to invite
Back from the past; and bid it once more live.
In vain: 'tis Death alone such second youth can give!

[pp. 181-82]