1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Fortunate Islands.

Oriental Herald and Colonial Review 3 (September 1824) 59-60.

James Silk Buckingham


Seven Spenserian stanzas signed "Bion." Sertorious, the Roman captain of a battered galley, learns of the Fortunate Islands where "all around the landscape lies like heaven, | Blue mountains, amber streams, and nymphs that rove | Unclad through sunny glades, or meadows even, | Plucking the ruddy fruit which Nature's hand has given" p. 60. In the event, his hopes and desires are aroused for naught. The Oriental Herald published monthly lists of passengers shipping out and returning from India and China.



Struggling with storms and fate the Roman stood
Upon his galley's deck, and viewed the sea
Far westward stretching its impetuous flood—
Full sad he looked, and thought on Italy!
Hid in that vasty ocean there might be
Some isle, he thought, where on earth's gentle breast,
The world forgot and its vain pageantry,
The troubled soul might taste of golden rest,
Through soft Elysian scenes free wandering like the blest.

His shattered fleet far tossing on the wave,
His care-worn crews with lightning-flashing eye,
Yet unsubdued by toil, and fiercely brave
Prepared with him to dare the fight, or fly
To distant lands beneath some unknown sky:
And, as they meditate, across the deep
Swift as an arrow moving they descry
A little bark, round which the surges leap,
As wild hounds bay a fawn that strong enchantments keep

From their fell jaws: th' imperial galley now
The bark draws near, and waits some friendly sign;
Sertorius, standing on the brazen prow,
Beckons them welcome, and th' assisting line
Secures their bark, which they with joy resign,
To mingle with their wondering countrymen:
Then follow friendly greetings, and the wine
Of rich Hesperia tells them once again
What golden shores they touch, what purple hills they ken.

Then comes their tale: how in the distant sea
Lie happy isles unvexed by angry Jove;
Along their cliffs the shepherd wanders free,
While perfumed gales the silver billows move
Like music in the haunts the Syrens love;
And all around the landscape lies like heaven,
Blue mountains, amber streams, and nymphs that rove
Unclad through sunny glades, or meadows even,
Plucking the ruddy fruit which Nature's hand has given.

There rage no storms, nor hail nor snows descend,
But spring eternal smiles, and crowns the plain
With flowers and spreading trees, whose branches bend
With golden autumn's spoil, and yellow grain
Aye tempt the sickle of the reaper train,
Who chant their rustic songs midst labour light,
Nor know the approach of sickness or of pain;
But when the Fates to quit the scene invite,
Sink to the peaceful tomb, and welcome endless night.

This, and much more, th' experienced warrior heard,
And sighed for peace upon that happy shore,
Where no bold demagogue false prayers preferred
To heaven; where war was never heard to roar
Her thunders, or, with hands distained in gore,
O'erturn proud cities in the soiling dust:
Wafting his train the willing ocean o'er,
There might he hope to live serene and just,
Giving the spear and shield to time's devouring rust.

False dreams! — amongst his gallant troop were found,
Who sought nor peace nor happiness, but gold!
These threw his noble project to the ground,
And flew to combat in a tyrant's hold.
Incensed he followed, and a hundred fold
On their own heads repaid their treachery;
But deep he felt, 'tis fate that gives the mould
To human acts, in vain imagined free,
Aye moving in the track where fortune bids them be!

[pp. 59-60]