1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Queen of Golconda's Fete.

Second Letter to a Friend in Town and other Poems. By Chandos Leigh, Esq.

Chandos Leigh


Fourteen Spenserians that contrast the glittering balls at Brighton Pavilion with Chandos Leigh's retired life at Stoneleigh Abbey. Golconda, in the far East, was famous for its fabulous riches; the Brighton Pavilion was decorated in the oriental manner.

The Queen of Golconda is the closest Chandos Leigh (who wrote many poems in Spenserians) came to actually writing a Spenser imitation; the themes and some of the decor are modelled on the Bower of Bliss (a note glosses Spenser's "pavone" — a peacock), though the orientalism derives from Leigh's mentor Byron. The theme is, of course, a general one in the Spenserian tradition; one might compare James Thomson's Castle of Indolence, or Leigh Hunt's Palace of Pleasure ("Leigh" Hunt, named after Chandos Leigh's father, was a life-long friend).

Literary Chronicle: "Mr. Leigh is not only the patron of poets, under whose auspices many a first-born has been ushered to the public, but he is also a poet himself; and although we are not certain whether his Second Letter ever had a first, yet if this is not the case, it is not his first sin in poetry. The Second Letter is rather of a moral character, and contains some just reflections, in easy verse, interspersed with a few satirical remarks.... The Queen of Golconda's Fete and a Song are the other poems in this unassuming little work" 6 (12 June 1824) 375.

Gentleman's Magazine: "We hail with sincere pleasure such proofs of the love of intellectual exertion; so rare in a man of high fashion and of large fortune; and though we trust these latter considerations could never bias our opinions, yet we confess we have a high gratification in awarding praise, where it has been honourably earned by those who have so many seductions to combat, and such strong temptations to become indolent and sensual. The little poem entitled the Queen of Golconda's Fete is elegantly fanciful, and rich in embellishment" 94 (October 1824) 352.

Monthly Review: "Mr. Leigh's poems are evidently the productions of a scholar and a gentleman, and there are occasionally lines and images worthy of a true poet: but there are a few passages of sustained beauty, and not a few in which the thought is worked out. Sometimes, however, when Mr. Leigh thinks proper, he can pour out very rich and harmonious stanzas.... We could easily multiply similar quotations; but as such gems are better enchased in Mr. Leigh's poetry than in our plain prose, we shall here close, entreating those who may be inclined to gather more of them, to haste to Golconda's Fete" S3 2 (June 1826) 222-23.



The Queen of fair Golconda is "at home:"
Her palace (its immensities must bar
Description) is of gold; the blazing dome
Of one entire ruby, from afar
Shines like the sun in his autumnal car
Crowning a saffron mountain; e'en the proud
Zamaim's palace is a twinkling star
Compared with this. And now the tromp aloud
Proclaims the guests are come to an admiring crowd.

The ceilings, crusted o'er with diamonds, blaze;
A galaxy of stars, room after room!
The lights interminable all amaze:
But far more dazzling are the fair in bloom
Of youth, whose eyes kind answering looks illume.
Ah! where the Muse of greater bards must fail
In painting female charms, shall mine presume
To try her hand? though similes be stale,
Yet she to fancy's eye their beauties will unveil.

As delicately shaped as the gazelle;
As beautiful as is the blush of morn;
As gay as Hebe, ere alas! she fell;
Fair as Dione in her car upborne
By little Loves, while Tritons wind the horn;
Splendid as young Zenobia in their dress
(Crowns bright as sunny beams their hair adorn)
They were. This perfect festival to bless,
Art, Beauty, Nature, Grace, combine their loveliness!

Oh Youth and Beauty! Nature's choicest gems,
All Art's adornments ye for aye outshine:
Far more attractive than the diadems
That ever glitter'd on the brow divine
Of the wise king; or, great Darius, thine.
Though time may dim your lustre, in my heart
Your charms shall be enshrined, while life is mine.
Yet sad experience will this truth impart
To loveliest maid on earth — a fading thing thou art.

The Prophet has not to his faithful given
(So prodigal of what he could not give)
Such bliss refined in his Arabian Heaven,
As that which they enjoy who here arrive.
Vain bliss indeed! that through a night may live!
Let her joys be but guiltless, Mirth again
Will, when the season sweet returns, revive!
Then let tomorrow bring or bliss, or pain:
All are united now by Pleasure's flowery chain.

Fair silver pillars grace the spacious halls;
The pavement is mosaic; precious stones
Enrich with intermingling hues the walls;
And emerald vines o'ercanopy the thrones,
Robed in all colours that the Pavone owns.
And music, with its magic influence, makes
The heart responsive to its tender tones:
A master-spirit now the harp awakes,
Till to its inmost core each hearer's bosom shakes!

And here and there from golden urns arise,
Impregn'd with perfumes, purple clouds, — that throw,
Like hues just caught from fair Ausonia's skies,
Throughout the palace an Elysian glow,—
Odorous as roses when they newly blow.
And couches, splendid as the gorgeous light
Of the declining sun, or high, or low,
As suits capricious luxury, invite
To sweet repose indeed each pleasure-laden wight.

I pass the dance, the converse soft between,
As fly the hours along with rapid pace.
Lo! in her chair of state Golconda's Queen
Sits goddess-like; majestic is her face,
Yet mild, as well becomes her pride of place.
Even Fatima in pomp of beauty ne'er
Received fair Montague with such a grace
As this all-beauteous Queen withouten glare
Of rank receives her guests — how winning is her air!

Profusely gay, th' exuberance of joy
All feel; all feel their spirits mounting high!
One feast of happiness, that ne'er can cloy,
Life seems to them, though death perchance be nigh.
Why should fair bosoms ever heave a sigh?
Life is with love so closely knit, what kills
Love in young breasts may dim the brightest eye.
Yet tears, that eloquently speak of ills,
Are as medicinal balm when grief the heart o'erfills.

In whirls fantastical the waters dance,
Springing from fountains jasper-paved; the noon
Of night their sparkling freshness doth enhance.
How glorious is the cupola! a moon
Of pearl shines mildly o'er the vast saloon.
Fair Queen of night, shall Art then imitate
Thy quiet majesty? in sooth as soon
Might the poor pageantries of regal state
On earth, Heaven's matchless splendours vainly emulate!

The banquet is prepared with sumptuous cost
Flagons of massive gold here flame around!
Amid the piles of wealth distinction's lost
All that become magnificence astound!
All that can feast the senses here abound.
Invention's highly-gifted sons unfold
(So fine their art, the like was never found,)
Peris most exquisitely wrought in gold,
And other delicate sprights in Eastern fables told!

As if "instinct with living spirits," sing
Birds of a thousand colours; and their hues,
Brilliant as flowers that o'er the meads in spring
Their gay variety of tints diffuse,
Would e'en the painter's shrewdest ken confuse.
And Art, how wonderful! has raised a tree
To rival Nature; (for such toys amuse
Those who despise dear Nature's charms,) and see
As the boughs stir — the birds all join in harmony.

Wealth, inexhaustible as Danae's shower,
That pen can scarcely blazon, thought conceive,
Excels not in itself the meanest flower
That Innocence within her hair might weave
Wandering on Avon's banks, this lovely eve!
Even Nature's humblest things can stir those deep
Feelings within us that will ne'er deceive.
Cherish these deep-sown feelings, ye shall reap
A harvest of delight, when Pride in dust shall sleep.

Not that I scorn this fete unparagon'd!
'Tis like a wellspring amid desert sands,
Or a rich vale where Flora sits inthron'd,
Surrounded by bleak hills, and barren lands!
What cynic would destroy love's rosy bands?
The paths of life are thorny; o'er our heads
Those grim magicians, Cares, uplift their wands!
Why marvel, then, that youth their influence dreads,
And basks him in the rays the sun of beauty sheds?

[pp. 31-38]