1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on Love.

The South American, a Metrical Tale, in four Cantos, with historical Notes; and other Poems.

James Scott Walker


Seven Spenserians on the universal sway of the amorous passion: "Love bids the warrior bind his brow with steel, | And weaves his laurels when the battle's o'er; | Love bids the seaman, with undaunted keel, | Career the trackless ocean." As was becoming the norm, James Scott Walker updates the allegorical ode by trimming back the abstractions. His three poems in Spenserians are notable for showing little of the Byronic influence so apparent elsewhere.

Orphaned at an early age, James Scott Walker traveled as a merchant in South America before establishing himself as a journalist in Liverpool, where he was involved with founding one of the original Mechanic's libraries.



O gentle Muse! whose song has oft beguiled
The lingering hour, and still could rapture bring,
Whether thy trembling harp the measure wild
Did to the balmy gales of India fling,
'Mid regions blooming in eternal spring;
Or Scotia's ruder crags gave back the lay!
Thou who hast dared to dip thy fluttering wing
In Oroonoko's flood: Enchantress! say
May'st thou yet sing of Love, and Love's all powerful sway!

When Nature first adorned, in loveliest bloom,
Fair Eden's bowers, unmoved by other wind
Save the soft zephyr, wafting the perfume
Of fruits luxuriant — flowers of every kind;
Where never sound the enraptured ear might find,
Save of th' harmonious warblers of the grove;
Even there, amid uncloying sweets reclined,
Man cheerless eyed the earth, and heavens above,
Till tender woman came, and filled his soul with Love.

Then, had not sin allured the guileless pair,
And stamped mankind the being of a day,
Each season, seeming than the past more fair,
In joy's ecstatic stream had rolled away,
His graceful form unwithered by decay!
But now such countless ills with life are twined,
Admitting scarce joy's transitory ray,
That 'twere a burden, had not heaven been kind,
And left us cheering Hope, and kindred Love behind.

O, what avail the lordly name of king,
The glittering gaudy trappings of the great;
Can gold, can grandeur, pure contentment bring,
Or all the smiles on majesty that wait,
If Love fly, trembling, from the palace gate?
Ah, no! that only want his bliss can mar;
And oft the monarch, mournful to relate!
With envy views the humble cot afar,
And wages, with mankind, an unrelenting war.

Behold the peasant! he, at peep of morn,
Blythe singing, hastens to the field alone;
Pausing abrupt, as to his ear is borne,
The linnet's early song, — of sweeter tone,
But not, I ween, more lively than his own:
What though the toil-drop down his cheek may stray;—
When evening sun his latest beam has thrown,
His little babes around his knees shall play,
And Anna's speaking glance shall all his toil repay.

Love bids the warrior bind his brow with steel,
And weaves his laurels when the battle's o'er;
Love bids the seaman, with undaunted keel,
Career the trackless ocean, and explore
The loneliest bounds of India's burning shore;
But the rude surge that rears its foamy crest,
And bursts against his bark with thundering roar,
Can never wash the image from his breast,
Of the far distant Maid, — he long has loved the best.

Love prompts to daring deeds the good, the brave,
And bids them Fortune's rudest shocks disdain;
Who would not rush to "glory or the grave,"
The blissful homage of the fair to gain!
Love treads the grove and traverses the main:
Yea, when all Nature dies, shall virtuous Love,
Relieved from every care and every pain,
Borne on the pinions of the gentle dove,
Rejoin each kindred soul, in happier realms above.

[pp. 127-30]