1825
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To W. D., on early Inspiration.

Oriental Herald and Journal of General Literature 7 (November 1825) 304.

James Silk Buckingham


Four Spenserians, signed "Bion," on the vicissitudes of fancy. Inspiration is strongest in youth: "Then doth she buckle her bright armour on, | And seize the magic circle of her shield, | Painted with dreams, and forms of actions gone, | And scattering doubtful light along the field." The stanza was possibly chosen in emulation of James Beattie's The Minstrel, though poems on poetry commonly took a Spenserian form.

The same author may have contributed an essay on the "Early Life and Habits of Men of Genius," published in the Oriental Herald 2 (June 1824) 161-71. The editor of the Oriental Herald, James Silk Buckingham, may well have been "Bion."



The sons of business have appointed hours,
In which to show their various merchandise;
And whether heaven is gay or dark with showers,
The shivering shop-boy meets the passer's eyes
Opening at six; at weary eve, likewise,
The clock's obeyed; but Fancy doth not so:
Sometimes, all careless of th' inviting skies,
She dreams upon her couch, 'till Fortunes blow
Bids her awake, the world and all its scenes to know.

Then doth she buckle her bright armour on,
And seize the magic circle of her shield,
Painted with dreams, and forms of actions gone,
And scattering doubtful light along the field:
Conscious where'er she steps the world must yield,
Her moody pranks are strange at first, and wild,
Till taught by falls and blows her arms to wield
No longer like a merry heedless child,
She walks where patient Art his landmarks true has piled.

But whether she shall wake or late or soon,
Is left to Fortune, Nature hath not said;
Sometimes she walks in darkness, like the moon
When earth's dusk shadow o'er her face is spread;
But oftener still, like lamps among the dead,
Her light she lifts on high where none observe,
When, though the fiery radiance wide is shed,
The beauteous torch-bearer no end doth serve,
But gilds unheeding clay that leaves her lone to starve.

But genius sometimes lingers in the rear
Of youth, and walks, a man, upon the stage
With giant port, and footstep void of fear,
And breast close-armed against the shafts of rage;
And like a mighty wrestler does engage
With stern renown, and bear away the prize
To grace his honoured brows when feeble age
Has damped his energy, and shrunk his size,
And dimmed the rays of soul that sparkled from his eyes.

[p. 304]