1804 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to the Genius of Romance.

The Remains of Henry Kirke White, of Nottingham, late of St. Johns's College, Cambridge; with an Account of his Life, by Robert Southey. 2 Vols.

Henry Kirke White


A fragment in octosyllabic couplets taken from Henry Kirke White's papers and posthumously published by Robert Southey in 1807. White was a great admirer of Thomas Warton as well as Spenser, and like Warton wrote sonnets and odes in octosyllabic couplets. Thomas Dermody's "enthusiast" poems may be an influence as well (White wrote an elegy on the death of Dermody). Southey includes the poem in a section entitled "Poems written during, or shortly after, the publication of Clifton Grove," i.e., 1803.

Satirist: "His poems display great prematurity of talent, great observation, and great sensibility; but they prove what his biographer does not seem to have suspected, that he possessed very little elegance of expression, or purity of taste. His forte seems to have been the simple and the tender; he is seldom beautiful, and never rises to sublimity; his style of poetry is professedly that of Mr. Southey and his brethren, and his verses abound, therefore, with quaintness and affectation" 2 (March 1808) 65.

C. H. Timperley: "His Life and Remains, published by Mr. Southey, form one of the most affecting and interesting productions which has, for many years, been given to the public" Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:824n.

Rufus W. Griswold: "Few writers of verses have been more over-rated than Henry Kirke White, and it is a shame that, while there has never appeared in this country [America] a single edition of the poetical writings of Landon, Kenyon, Milnes, Miss Barrett, and others of similar merit, there have been more impressions of White than there have been of Milton, or Pope, or Coleridge.... I doubt whether if he had lived to the maturest age he would have produced any thing in poetry above elegant mediocrity" Poets and Poetry of England (1844) quoted in Allibone, Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 3:2686.



Oh! thou who in my early youth,
When Fancy wore the garb of truth,
Wert wont to win my infant feet
To some retired, deep-fabled seat,
Where, by the brooklet's secret tide,
The midnight ghost was known to glide;
Or lay me in some lonely glade,
In native Sherwood's forest shade,
Where Robin Hood, the outlaw bold,
Was wont his sylvan courts to hold;
And there, as musing deep I lay,
Would steal my little soul away,
And all my pictures represent,
Of siege and solemn tournament;
Or bear me to the magic scene,
Where, clad in greaves and gabardine,
The warrior knight of chivalry,
Made many a fierce enchanter flee;
And bore the high-born dame away,
Long held the fell magician's prey.
Or oft would tell the shuddering tale
Of murders, and of goblins pale,
Haunting the guilty baron's side
(Whose floors with secret blood were died,)
Which o'er the vaulted corridore,
On stormy nights was heard to roar,
By old domestic, waken'd wide
By the angry winds that chide.
Or else the mystic tale would tell
Of Greensleeve, or of Blue-Beard fell.
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[2:79-80]