1825 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Childe Harold's Last Pilgrimage.

Literary Souvenir, or Cabinet of Poetry and Romance. [Alaric Alexander Watts, ed.]

Rev. William Lisle Bowles


Six Spenserians consisting of healing sentiments published in 1826 in the famous annual edited by Alaric Alexander Watts. Lord Byron and William Lisle Bowles had exchanged acrimonious remarks in the Pope Controversy, the infidel peer defending his beloved satirist against Bowles, who upheld the "pure poetry" position first argued by his master at Winchester School, Joseph Warton. Bowles was a friend of the editor.

Leigh Hunt to Elizabeth Kent: "I could not help feeling emotion at the news of Lord B.'s death, strange as his conduct was. Poor fellow! he was the most spoilt of men; and I do believe was naturally good" 2 June 1824; in Correspondence (1862) 1:222.

Literary Chronicle: "The graphic part of the work it is not easy to describe; and we can afford no example of its skilful execution; we can, however, afford our readers an opportunity of judging of its literary merits, and this we shall do at once, premising only that, in addition to ten engravings, there are two pages of autographs including the autographs of some of the most eminent characters of the age. The first we shall select is a literary curiosity — a tribute to the talents, if not to the virtues, of Lord Byron, by the Rev. Mr. Bowles, who had some severe sparring with his lordship, when living, as to Pope and his moral character" 7 (26 November 1825) 756.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Mr. Bowles, albeit described by Byron (in English Bards) as 'The maudlin prince of mournful sonneteers' exercised an important influence upon English literature.... One of his best poems was a generous tribute to the memory and genius of Byron, his old antagonist " Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:62-63n.

Ernest Hartley Coleridge: "Byron's senior by twenty years, he was destined to outlive him by more than a quarter of a century; but when English Bards, etc. [1809], was in progress, he was little more than middle-aged, and the 'three score years' must have been written in the spirit of prophecy. As it chanced, the last word rested with him, and it was a generous one" Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809) in Poetical Works, ed. E. H. Coleridge (1898-1904) 1:324n.

Samuel C. Chew: "Notably magnanimous in tone is Childe Harold's Last Pilgrimage" by W. L. Bowles, with whom Byron had lately been in controversy. The kindly poet prays that 'not one thought unkind' be murmured over Byron's grave, and that Heaven's mercy may rest upon him" Byron in England (1924) 198.

John Wilson: "SHEPHERD. What! a new poem? I houp it is. Lisle Bolls is a poet o' real genius. I never could thole a sonnet till I read his. NORTH. No, Shepherd. It is prose; — being a farther portion of Botheration about Pope. SHEPHERD. I care little about Pope — except his Louisa and Abelard. That's a grand elegy; but for coorseness it beats me hollow. The subject is coorse. 'A helpless lover bound and bleeding lies,' that is a line, which, if I had written it in the Spy, would hae lost me five hundred subscribers. NORTH. Mr. Bowles, in his edition of Pope, committed himself, I think, on one point of essential importance. He did not do justice to Pope's character as a man. My friend Bowles (for I love and admire him) has therefore proved somewhat restive and obstinate when taxed with this misdeed. He will not eat in a single word, — no, not even a syllable, — not so much as the least letter in the alphabet; and, being a most able and accomplished man, he comes forth a controversialist, and lays about him with a vigor and skill highly conciliatory and commendable. But he was originally in the wrong respecting Pope's personal character; and in the wrong he will be until doomsday" Blackwood's Magazine (March 1825) in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:62.



So ends Childe Harold his last pilgrimage!—
Above the Malian surge he stood, and cried
"Liberty!" and the shores, from age to age
Renown'd, and Sparta's woods and rocks, replied,
"Liberty!" But a Spectre, at his side
Stood mocking; — and its dark uplifting high
Smote him: — he sank to earth in life's fair pride:
Sparta! thy rocks echoed another cry,
And old Ilissus sighed — "Die, generous exile, die!"

I will not ask sad Pity to deplore
His wayward errors, who thus early died:
Still less, Childe Harold, now thou art no more.
Will I say aught of genius misapplied;
Of the past shadows of thy spleen or pride:—
But I will bid the Arcadian cypress wave,
Pluck the green laurel from Peneus' side,
And pray thy spirit may such quiet have,
That not one thought unkind be murmur'd o'er thy grave.

So ends Childe Harold his last pilgrimage!—
Ends in that region — in that land renowned,
Whose mighty genius lives in Glory's page,
And on the Muses' consecrated ground,—
His pale cheek fading where his brows were bound
With their unfading wreath! I will not call
The nymphs from Pindus' piny shades profound,
But strew some flowers upon thy sable pall,
And follow to the grave a Briton's funeral.

Slow more the plumed hearse, the mourning train,
I mark the long procession with a sigh,
Silently passing to that village fane
Where, Harold, thy forefathers mouldering lie;—
Where sleeps the mother, who with tearful eye
Pondering the fortunes of thy onward road,
Hung o'er the slumbers of thine infancy;
Who here, released from every human load,
Receives her long-lost child the same calm abode.

Bursting Death's silence — could that mother speak—
When first the earth is heaped upon thy head,
In thrilling, but with hollow accent weak,
She thus might give the welcome of the dead:—
"Here rest my son, with me ;— the dream is fled;—
The motley mask and the great coil are o'er:
Welcome to me, and to this wormy bed,
Where deep forgetfulness succeeds the roar
Of earth, and fretting passions waste the heart no more.

"Here rest! — on all thy wanderings peace repose,
After the fever of thy toilsome way;
No interruption this long silence knows;
Here no vain phantoms lead the soul astray:
The earth-worm feeds on his unconscious prey;
Here both shall sleep in peace till earth and sea
Give up their dead, at that last awful day,
King, Lord, Almighty Judge! remember me;
And may Heav'n's mercy rest, my erring child, on thee!"

[pp. 43-45]