1827
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Princess Elizabeth at Woodstock.

Forget Me Not; a Christmas and New Year's Present for MDCCCXXVII.

Bernard Barton


Ten double-quatrain stanzas: the Quaker poet finds the idea of young Elizabeth in captivity at Woodstock a more proper subject for poetry than the elderly queen amid her pomp and power. Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Burghley are named in a catalogue of Elizabethan worthies: "And who can tell but in the day | Of royalty's full pomp and pride, | When Sidney's, Spenser's, Shakspeare's lay, | With Burleigh's manly wisdom vied | To grace thy triumph's flowing tide | With richest fruits and deathless flowers." The poem is illustrated with an engraving by H. Fradelle of Elizabeth gazing out of a casement window. Compare Mary Howitt's Spenserians in "Surrey in Captivity" published in the Literary Souvenir published the year before.

Monthly Review: "The literary part of the volume is marked by a great variety of serious and pleasant matter, arranged evidently with a view to allure the reader from page to page, without surfeiting him with any particular subject. Yet, we do not think that there are many things in the whole collection which call for distinguished praise. There are, indeed, very few of the compositions that can be set down as contemptible, although we are much disposed to place all those signed Montague Seymour (heaven knows who he is!) under that head. There are also three or four other writers, whose names appear in the volume, such as John Luscombe, Esq., David Lester Richardson, Esq., Alexander Balfour, Esq., and David Lyndsay, Esq. of whose existence we must confess we had no previous knowledge, and of whose talents we have formed, from their present labours (perhaps erroneously) no very flattering opinion. But their contributions are doubtless of a 'friendly nature' — that is to say, they cost nothing; and they help, not only to fill up the volume, but to serve as so many foils to the better names upon which its literary popularity must depend. Among these, we may mention, Mrs. Hemans, Mrs. Bowditch, Mrs. C. B. Wilson, Miss Mitford, Miss Landon, and the Rev. Mr. Croly" S3 3 (November 1826) 284.



In ancient Woodstock's regal bower
A maiden sate, of lineage high,
One who might grace the festal hour
Of mirth and courtly revelry;
But pensive was her brow — her eye
Thoughtful beyond her early years—
And oft the half-unconscious sigh
Bespoke a captive's doubts and fears.

Before an antique window placed
She sate, and on the crystal pane
The quaint and simple lines she traced,
Which told she knew suspicion vain;
When hark! upon her ear a strain
As artless, and as rude, arose—
Yet one which might well audience gain,
And make her feel a prisoner's woes.

It was the blithesome roundelay
Of one who, on her labour bent,
And doom'd to toil from day to day,
Had peace, health, freedom, and content:
'Mid fields and groves her life was spent;
And Nature's self the song awoke,
Which, caroling where'er she went,
In rustic music wildly broke.

Could SHE, though born to fill a throne,
With dull indifference coldly hear
A voice which seem'd in every tone
To Liberty and Nature dear?
She drank, with eager-listening ear,
The sounds which glad the peasant's cot,
And wish'd, perchance with starting tear,
That hers had been the milkmaid's lot.

What, then, were thrones and crowns to her,
But blossoms fenced by many a thorn?
Well might she at that hour prefer
The simplest harebell ever worn
On brow or breast of lowly born
To York's or Lancaster's proud flower,
And envy what the haughty scorn,
While prisoner in a palace bower.

There might be anguish in the thought,
For hearts, while young, can quickly feel;
And royalty not then had taught
Her own its feelings to conceal:
If lapse of years warm hearts may steel
In humble life's sequester'd way,
Can theirs withstand the stern appeal
Whom all around with awe obey?

And hence, Elizabeth! to me,
E'en in that hour of grief and pain,
When the dark lot appointed thee
Was bondage, though it knew no chain,
Far more I see which might obtain
The homage of a poet's lyre
Than after-policy could gain,
Or regal pride and pomp inspire.

England's best hopes then fondly look'd
To Woodstock's sternly-guarded hall;
And spirits which no thraldom brook'd
Mourn'd fearfully thy jealous thrall;
And prayers, which might not powerless fall,
For thee at morn and eve arose,
That God, who guides and governs all,
Would soon thy prison-doors unclose.

And who can tell but in the day
Of royalty's full pomp and pride,
When Sidney's, Spenser's, Shakspeare's lay,
With Burleigh's manly wisdom vied
To grace thy triumph's flowing tide
With richest fruits and deathless flowers,
At times thy weary spirit eyed,
With wistful glance, old Woodstock's bowers?

For when did Time on earth fulfil
The promise of our opening years?
Or sad experience fail to chill
The hope which early life endears?
Earth's pains and sorrows, doubts and fears,
With added years bring deeper gloom,
Till death dries up the fount of tears,
And calls the mourner to the tomb!

[pp. 329-32]