Ode to Genius. Written in the Year 1805. Inscribed to the Young Roscius.

Poems, by Miss Holford

Margaret Holford

Six Spenserians published in 1811, rather in the manner of William Collins. "The Young Roscius" was the Shakespearean actor William Henry West Betty (1791-1874), who made his theatrical debut in 1803 at the age of twelve.

Author's note: "This Poem was written early in the year 1805, when the Young Roscius made his first appearance in London; thither it was sent to him by the author, who had seen him in his favourite characters at the Chester theatre; the author likewise sent it to Miss Seward, from whom two years subsequent she received a letter enclosing a copy of the lines on the same subject inserted in the collection of poems lately edited by Mr. Scott; she now thinks it expedient to mention this circumstance to prevent a suspicion of plagiarism, though in all probability the letter to which she alludes makes one of the series in the possession of Mr. Constable, and promised to the public" 54n.

Scourge and Satirist: "The volume before us exhibits a very fair specimen of the art of book-making. The average of lines in a page is twelve, and the number of pages one hundred and sixteen. We leave our readers to discover the price. It is less provoking, however, to expend two guineas in the purchase of poems like those of Miss Holford, than to pay five shillings for the cant of Pratt, and the insipidity of Hayley. The chief objection that we have to the publication of these poetical effusions, is the conviction that she could have favoured us with something better. She does not appear to have written a single stanza in the collection with a view to reward the favourable opinion of the readers of Wallace, but to have rummaged her port-folio for every scrap of poetry she could find, and to have sent them to her printer" 1 (April 1811) 329.

Whence is that pow'r, whose awful magic call,
Imperious bids the astonish'd world attend,
Before whose shrine adoring myriads fall,
To whom the hero, age, and monarch bend;
Whose touch has force to chain the rebel mind,
To teach the Critic's torpid heart to feel,
Silence the snakes round Envy's brow entwin'd,
And bid the tear from sullen eye-balls steal?
'Tis Genius, rushing from his native sky,
Lord of his kindling soul, and brightly-beaming eye!

Oh, Genius! who can bear thy solar blaze,
Nor dazzled shrink, by too much splendour blind?
Yet lo! thy wildest, warmest, fiercest rays,
Fling their untemper'd radiance on the mind
Of feeble infancy! thy lightnings play
With mystic lustre round an infant's brow;
On his clear'd vision breaks unclouded day,
And his rapt soul receives the quick'ning glow;
Throbs his young breast, wild rolls his sparkling eye,
And all his form betrays the inspiring deity!

Lo! where he soars; Experience, far behind,
Astonish'd views the wondrous infant range
The mighty empire of mysterious mind,
Tracing its vast recesses, dark and strange!
And see, the Passions, an infuriate crew,
Rush on his sight! — he smiles to see them rage—
His fancy sports 'mid visions wild and new,
The great, the sad, the terrible, engage
Each tranced scene! — behold his hand he rears,
Tears Time's all covering veil, and leaps the mound of years!

And dares an eye, just open'd on the light,
Search the black tablet of the villain's soul;
With mad ambition climb the dizzy height,
Or headlong down the gulph of danger roll?
And can that ear where childhood's lullaby
Has scarcely ceas'd to hum its sleepy sound,
List unappall'd to horror's midnight cry,
When murder bids the death-shriek echo round?
And can the brow youth's greenest garland binds,
Beam with th' unutter'd thoughts, that swell a thousand minds!

And may it be, that sounds so widely felt,
Can from the lisping tongue of childhood flow!
Oh! Genius, canst thou bid a nation melt
In anguish o'er an infant's mimic woe?
See! from his lab'ring breast the expiring pang
Heaves its quick throb! what death-like stillness reigns,
While breathless crowds in mute amazement hang,
The freezing stream scarce moving in their veins!
And ah! he dies! — grief claims the transient pause,
Then yields a people's voice the thunder of applause!

Children of Genius, on that lasting page
Where ne'er oblivion's chilling fingers rest,
Your names shall dwell thro' many an after age,
When long, life's scene has clos'd upon the breast!
When wealth and pow'r, of short-liv'd honours proud,
Their pageant play'd, obey the general doom,
Mix unrecorded with the mouldering crowd,
And never stranger footstep seeks their tomb,
Borne on the breath of Memory's warmest sigh
Your name shall float thro' time to dim futurity!

[pp. 50-54]