1824
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Genius.

The Minerva or Literary, Entertaining, and Scientific Journal 2 (7 February 1824) 352.

Frances Wright


The radical socialist Frances Wright weighs the pains and pleasures of genius in four Byronic Spenserians published in a New York literary journal "From the Original MS." At the time the poem appeared in The Minerva, the Scottish-born Wright was in France, preparing to depart for New York with Lafayette, whose successful tour would generate poems published in periodicals up and down the United States. In 1829 Miss Wright set up an institution in New York dedicated to the Goddess of Reason which aroused considerable constrovery and provoked several angry poems in American periodicals.

The manuscript from which "To Genius" was taken, "Thoughts of a Recluse; with other Poems," had been described in The Minerva several months earlier: "Although this volume, transmitted by Miss Wright from Paris, has been announced as in the press, we regret to state, that the want of encouragement for poetry, in general, is considered so great as not to warrant its publication. The gentleman, to whom the MS. was sent, has politely permitted us to peruse it, and to take some notice of it in the Minerva, if we thought it possessed sufficient merit.... The occasional pieces are of different merit. Some of them are, indeed, exquisite, while others are of inferior order. For quotations we have no room at present; and as reference would be useless to a volume which is not before the public, we shall select some of those pieces to which we give a preference, and publish them occasionally" 2 (19 July 1823) 116. Quite a few short lyrics were published over the ensuing year.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Frances Wright, an English lady, briefly noticed on p. 476 as D'Arusmont, Madame Frances, visited the United States in 1818-20 and 1825, and died at Cincinnati, December 2, 1852, aged 57" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 3:2859.



Yes! it is quench'd — the spark of heavenly fire,
That Genius kindled in my infant mind:
Fled is my fancy: damp'd the fond desire
Of fame immortal; — all my dreams resign'd.
All, all are gone: yet turn I ne'er behind
Like pilgrim wending from his native land?
Shall I in other path such beauties find,
As spring beneath imagination's hand,
As bloom on wild enthusiasm's visionary strand?

Celestial Genius! dangerous gift of Heaven!
How many a heart and mind hast thou o'erthrown!
Broken the first, the last to frenzy driven,
Or jarr'd of both for aye the even tone!
Once, once I thought such fate would be my own,
And only look'd to find an early grave;
To die, as I had liv'd — my powers unknown;
Content, so reason might her empire save,
Unseen to sink beneath oblivion's rayless wave.

But oh! with all thy pains, thou hast a charm
That nought may match within this vale below;
E'en for the pangs thou giv'st, thou hast a balm,
And renderest sweet the bitterness of wo.
Thy breath ethereal — thy kindling glow—
Thy visions bright — thy raptures, wild and high;
He that hath felt — Oh! would he e'er forego?
No! — in thy glistening tear thy bursting sigh,
Though fraught with wo, there is a thrill of ecstasy!

And art thou flown, thou high celestial power?
For ever flown? — Ah! turn thee yet again!
Ah! yet be with me in the lonely hour,
Yet stoop to guide my wilder'd fancy's rein!
Turn thee once more, and wake thy ancient strain;
No joys that earth can yield I love like thine:
Nay, more than earth's best joys I love thy pain.
And could I say, I would thy smile resign?
No, while this bosom beats, oh still great gift be mine!

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