1825
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnets.

Poems, legendary, incidental, and humorous, by John F. M. Dovaston.

John F. M. Dovaston


Twelve Spenserian sonnets, by John F. M. Dovaston, friend of the poet John Hamilton Reynolds and a frequent contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine (where the two glow-worm sonnets had first appeared a decade earlier). Unlike most, Dovaston's Spenserian sonnets treat Spenserian themes and make occasional use of Spenserian diction.

Ralph Rylance (b. 1782), a weaver-turned man of letters, was a friend of both Dovaston and Reynolds. David Parkes (1763-1833) was a schoolmaster, antiquary, and painter who established a mercantile school at Shrewsbury.



I said unto the Muse, Muse, we must part,
And thou'lt be law'd; for that whereas thy smile
Hath stol'n my time. Quoth she, with all my heart.
And so forsooth we parted for a while.
Then, in the books of Law I took to toil,
And conn'd his Comments (Oh! much-minded Sage)
That lov'd the Muse, but did her lurements foil;
Yet peep'd her well-known eye thro' many a page,
And wink'd, as 'twere in scorn. — With that, in rage
I sought the Justice-Hall: but there she flung
Her "airy nothings," like friend Dauncey's tongue,
Vers'd witnesses against me did engage,
Swore, by the Bay botanic, that she could
By th' Attic Act transport me when she would.

The man that's poor, and prosecutes the Muse,
Said I, alas! is like to lose his cause.
So I resolv'd with her to have a truce,
Quite well aware I could not learn her laws.
Tho' some assert that her's, like ours, have flaws,
Which let her pleaders 'peach. I'm ev'n content
To own her pow'r, and give my bickerings pause,
A liegeman to her gambol government.
For late, as saunt'ring thro' the woods I went,
She met me smiling. Come, said I, let's plight
Our troth again. Quoth she (with lips up-bent)
We're not so near akin but what we might!
So now we lead a joyous jangling life,
And kiss and quarrel — just like man and wife.

Worm of the night! thee let the Poet view,
And learn to point his mental spark aright,
When on the wayside bank light sprent with dew,
Thou kindlest thy green lamp of em'rald bright,
Pure, self-illumin'd; not with borrow'd light
Tinsel'd, like busy insects of the day;
Thou giv'st a brilliance to the silent night,
That cheers the homeward trav'ller on his way.
Poor worm! (the pensive poet well might say)
Ev'n He that lit thee on his humble soil,
Hung all you lamps that His high dome array,
And feeds their fires with everlasting oil.
And ev'n my lamp, poor worm, like theirs and thine,
Shines not in vain, if in His praise it shine.

Lord, when I look upon thy starry sky,
With pearls empath'd like scatter'd dust of gold,
I humble me, lost in amazement high
To think what he thy gifted son hath told,
Far-sighted Newton; that round each are roll'd
Un-number'd worlds. And then I marvel sore
That any eye that can Thy works behold
Should in the schoolmen's tangled volumes pore,
That ev'ry Age may garble o'er and o'er,
Yet cannot blot from Thine the smallest part.
God! tho' I cannot comprehend their lore,
I bless thy hallowed name with humble heart;
And hope, with them, uncumber'd of my clay,
Sabbath'd in peace to see thy bright eternal day.

My fairest thus a mystic charm did chalk.—
—A circle that should ev'ry mind invest,
For it will tice the merriest fays; and balk
The spleenish hags that haunt connubial rest.
The mightiest Bard without it is unblest:
Sweet Music hails it as her hallowed cell;
It more than magic circle guards its guest,
And pow'r imparts rude spirits to compell.
'Tis bright and blushing as the tinted shell,
Tho' tenderer than the day-moth's downy wings,
And smear'd with slighter touch; yet can repell
(So ye o'erstep it not) the foulest things.—
How true, my fairest fabled! — for I hent
TRUE DELICACY was the charm she meant.

Insects that flit in ev'ning's yellow beam
Are my light musings, that in airy maze,
Thoughtless how short the warm and gilded gleam,
Buoy their light hey-dance in it's mellow blaze;
Joyous to sun themselves while passing praise
Of genial goodness large it's lustre flings,
Tho' then, ev'n then, full many a vacant gaze
Or disregards or deems them worthless things.
But soon the North it's hissing storm-pipe rings,
And drives a murky mist across their sky,
Roughens their down, and rips their gauzy wings,
And bids them, reft of joy, dull reptiles die.
Then flutter, while ye may, my little lines,
Sweet is your setting sun, tho' short it shines.

TO MR. JOHN HAMILTON REYNOLDS, AUTHOR OF SAFIE, AND OTHER POEMS.
REYNOLDS, no more as erst two frolic boys
By Severn's side our school-day tricks we try,
For me now holds the love of rural joys,
Thee city pomp, light Sock, and Buskin high.
Yet Distance dares not bid us leave to ply
The social sheet, or court our mutual Muse,
For Distance cannot time-tied souls untie,
Nor dim the long horizon of their views.
But never let my woods their leafage lose
'Till thou ha'st there admir'd ripe August glow;
Nor shall in turn my friendly foot refuse
To beat thy threshold with December's snow.
So shalt thou love my rural joys: and I
Approve thy scenic pomp, light Sock, and Buskin high.

TO R. RYLANCE; THEN IN SCOTLAND.
RYLANCE, from sweet Westfelton's lone resorts
To thee two bardlings new in union write,
Much wishing thee SPECTATOR of their sports,
SIR ROGER this, and that WILL WIMBLE hight.
Whether thou view'st Melrose in pale moonlight,
Or Norham's tow'rs in yellow ev'ning glow,
Or morning glitter on Loch Katrine bright,
Or pond'ring pacest Rokeby's ruins low,
We greet thee cordial: for right well we know
Thee not forgetful of the merry glee
When last warm August's ev'ning sun, as now,
Spark'd our three glasses thro' the greenwood tree,
Whence we two send, as here our wreaths we twine,
This little friendly flow'r to fade in thine.

I've bade the Muse a million times farewell,
And parted — just as youthful lovers do:
Yet still on heath, hill, forest, dale, or dell,
Turn where I will, she fascinates my view.
She adds a bloom to ev'ry object's hue,
She calls me up the fays of footsteps light,
That shake but never shed, the glittering dew,
All dancing on the hedge-webs, beaded bright.
Like, as I've read on a blithe Winter's night
Of the poor maid that nurs'd the fairy-child,
And with elf-unguent dar'd anoint her sight
That in a vision'd spell her eyes beguil'd,
For ever doom'd to see the dapper elves
Tripping where'er she turn'd "o'er tables, stools, and shelves."

WRITTEN ON A FROSTED WINDOW, WITH A LADY'S BODKIN.
The chrystal foliage of the frosted pane
Enflak'd with flow'rs and silvery feathers fair,
Seems tablet meet my fancies to retain,
And so I scrawl this idle Sonnet there.
Belike to ladies' love I might compare
Blossoms of ice: or like to lover lorn
Spangling his dreams in Hope's nocturnal star,
For some more pow'rful sun to melt at morn.
Or should some quaint conceit my lines adorn
I'd say Dan Phoebus doffs the sparry crown
From Winter's brow, to 'venge his Autumn shorn.
—But Frost and Flow'rs affirm 'twere fitter done
To pray the Hand that these frail beauties made,
In me to raise the flow'rs that neither freeze nor fade.

TO MRS. MARY YATES; ON HER SENDING ME A BRANCH OF THE CRABTREE IN WHICH SHAKSPEARE IS SAID TO HAVE SLEPT.
Poets may proudly prize the laurel bough,
And lovers fondly the fair myrtle see,
But prouder, fonder far, I honour now,
Lady, the wilding cyon sent by thee,
Brought from the branches of that hallow'd tree
That screen'd benighted Shakspeare in it's shade.—
—Tho' like forsooth, ye thought it meet for me,
Sour, stubborn wight — a crown of crab-tree made!
But I shall plant it in some grassy glade
Where oft at eve I con his peerless page;
And there at motled morning, duly paid,
Shall fondly be my walk in waning age,
Reminded by the Firmness of the tree,
And by it's Blossoms pure, of Him and Thee.

TO MR. D. PARKES.
Right sooth the Painter's and the Poet's skill
From the same source in kindred currents flows;
And as the heart-springs pulse it on the will,
Just so the Canvas or the Canto shows.
Thus comes it, PARKES, that on the soft repose
(Soft as thy tints) of Shenstone's landscape line,
Lull'd in delight thy fancy loves to gloze,
And thy chaste pencil with his pen combine.
He was my father's friend, as thou art mine,
Nor slighted he the mute admiring thought
Awak'd in others by his Art divine,
And hail'd him friend that but the feeling caught,
If then the Muses' sons do not disdain
Who feel what they perform — I'm of your train.

[pp. 315-24, 326-27]