1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Festival of Delos.

Oriental Herald and Colonial Review 3 (September 1824) 28-29.

James Silk Buckingham


Fifteen irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "Bion." The poem, which possibly owes something to Keats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn," opens with a description of the festival of poets: "There flowed the gentle river, there the God | Awoke the mournful echoes with his pipe | There up the sloping hills the shepherd trod | The winding path" p. 28. Apollo mingles with the revelers. A particular poet then proves triumphant in the competition, and in the concluding line we learn that it is none other than Homer himself.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "James Silk Buckingham (whose nine volumes on America will be rememembered — for their weight) was founder of the literary London Journal called 'The Athenaeum,' which is The Asineum of Bulwer's Paul Clifford" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 3:67n.



Each year to Delos, o'er the purple main,
Their souls o'erflowing with immortal song,
Repair the bards; as to her home again
The swallow, turning, shoots the seas along;
The deep green isle, by silver billows laved,
Smiled on the gliding barks that faithless seas had braved.

Now land the sons of song; their golden lyres,
Yielding sweet music to the passing wind,
Seem stricken by the God whose breath inspires
The glorious frenzy in the poets mind;
The strand, the temple glittering on the height,
With bright Latona's train, now charm the ravished sight.

The rites complete, new wreaths the fane adorn,
The dew-wet flowers exhale their perfume wide,
Nigh on a neighbouring hill, as bright as morn
The God regards them with a sacred pride;
Along the shady porch the poets stand,
The crowd delighted gaze, and wave the joyful hand.

Now sounds the lyre, and every lip is mute,
Save his whom fiery inspiration thrills;
He pauses not, his bold expressions suit
Th' awakening theme that every bosom fills:
The close-chained notes in winding march pursue
The winning words that fall as soft as early dew.

He touches not the mighty Python's fall,
Nor yet, be sure, the doom of Phaeton,
Nor any warlike deed; but, shunning all
The ruder fables, fair Latona's son
Paints in his rustic weeds, what time he drove
The rich Thessalian herds, and tasted sylvan love.

There flowed the gentle river, there the God
Awoke the mournful echoes with his pipe
There up the sloping hills the shepherd trod
The winding path, and grapes all blushing ripe
Plucked while he listened to the charming lay,
Till now the golden sun had rolled his light away.

And oft Admetus with his matchless queen
Beside the silver flood have sat to hear;
While Dian lingering in the heaven was seen
Shooting her mystic splendour far and near,
Charmed by fraternal song, till twinkling dawn
Rose gray in th' eastern sky, and bade her be withdrawn.

And then Aurora, with her saffron cope
Dew-glittering, smiled upon her kindred God,
As her light-breathing steeds up heaven's high slope
Their snorting course majestically trod;
His lovely proxy pleased the God beholds,
As shepherd views his love close soft the evening folds,

While on some neighbouring rock he sits and sings,
Oft viewing her white arms and sparkling eyes;
She every straying sheep, good-humoured, brings,
And spares the sheep-dog that around her hies:
So the young Goddess scattered light through heaven,
And sought in Tempe's vale if due applause were given.

But all forgetful of his heavenly birth,
With mortals mingling oft Apollo stood,
Tasting their sweet, but short-lived, fleeting mirth,
Or sighing with them in their troubled mood:
And all men loved him, though, from change secure,
He grew not old, with them, or evils had to cure.

The rural maidens gazed upon his face
And golden locks, waved by the gentle wind;
And in their hearts deep sunk the winning grace,
Surpassing all the charms of human kind,
That played, like light, about his form divine,
Most beautiful of those who quaff th' Olympian wine.

The poet's song, the sum of all his tale,
His loves, his sports, his sleights, his wanderings told;
Until his words, o'er those who heard, prevail
So far, they deem, (what happened oft of old)
The young Ionian's form some god concealed,
With ill-suppressed power which now stood half revealed.

In truth his figure breathed peculiar awe;
Dark was his eye, and o'er his forehead hung
His locks, like those which after ages saw
Adorn the Phidian Jove; his mantle flung
Across his ivory shoulders, touched the ground,
And wide his golden lyre reflected light around.

He ceased to sing: and all the tuneful choir
The contest shunned, for who might hope to win?
The priest, approaching, crowned the victor's lyre
With ever-verdant laurel; while the din
Of wild applause from every lip arose,
Loud as the ocean's roar when fierce the tempest blows.

And now his name the crowd aloud proclaim,
That name ordained the admiring the world to rouse
To rivalry of his immortal fame;
The victor now, with full accomplished vows,
Departed pleased along the sacred strand,
And HOMER! Chios' youth, re-echoed through the land.

[pp. 28-29]