1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Paradise of the Poets — A Vision.

The Portico 4 (July-August 1817) 132-36.

E.


A dream vision, in the manner of Collins, signed "E." The subject of the poem is that poetical character, and rather in the manner of Collins's poem by that title, the living bards compete for an eternal crown. The poet is singularly unsuccessful at emulating Collins on the subject of emulation, though the competitors, being living poets, are of some interest: Thomas Moore, Walter Scott, Thomas Campbell, and Byron. The Portico was a Baltimore publication.

The Dreamer has retired to a twilight bower of bliss, when the sound of strange music is heard: "No earthly voices sure could raise, | Such tones as melted on my ear, | They sang the poet's deathless praise, | And all the joys that wait him here" The Dreamer behold the Genius of the Paradise of Poets, to whose throne approaches a "bark of airy form." From the boat emerges a company of poets, who approach a lyre placed near the throne of the Genius: "He who should wake its sweetest sound, | And strike its trembling chords the best, | Should with the glittering wreath be crown'd | And near the throne, forever rest." Moore, Scott, and Campbell perform, but Byron carries away the prize. The Dreamer awakes with "a throb of joy."



It was that hour when parting light
Still lingers in the west awhile,
As if to give approaching night
Her latest, but her loveliest smile.
The breeze that gently kissed each flower,
Had stol'n the perfume of its sigh,
Silence scarce breathed around my bower,
When dewy slumber closed mine eye—
Tho' bright had been each flow'ry vale,
On which my waking thoughts had dwelt,
The fragrance that now filled the gale,
Was more than mortal sense had felt.
The region that now smiled around
Shone like the bowers of fairy-land;
The brilliant flowers that decked the ground
Bloomed as beneath enchantment's wand.
The cloudless sky looked blue and calm,
Upon a clear lake's tranquil breast,
So pure the air, it breath'd like balm,
And lulled each anxious care to rest.

There was a blower where roses blushed,
With many a leafy branch o'er spread,
Cooled by a little rill that gushed,
And murmured o'er its marble bed.
A mossy couch with flow'rets crowned,
Seemed decked to greet some coming guest,
Soft airy musick floated round,
Like strains that wait upon the blest.
And cherub forms were hov'ring near,
Heaving light wreaths of many a flower,
Each sweet that waits upon the year,
Blossomed around this lovely bower.
So hid with flowers was the chain,
That bound me to this scene of bliss,
That worldly pleasures had been vain,
If offered in a spot like this.

But hark! some bard has touched the strings
Of harp that minstrel hands inspire,
Some voice in touching accents sings
The theme that wakes the poet's fire.
My soul has caught the measure wild,
My steps are led by musick's power,
To view a scene which fancy's child,
Might picture in her dreaming hour—
The mountains that upreared their heads,
Were tinged with evening's golden light,
Like smile which parting virtue sheds
Just ere it sink to death and night—
The hills, the groves, the streams, were such,
As nature forms in wayward mood,
Then gives Romance's magick touch,
To hallow scenes so wild and rude.

But as I gaz'd, there sounded nigh,
A strain with heavenly tones so filled,
As hushed the breezes to a sigh,
And former notes of sweetness stilled.
No earthly voices sure could raise,
Such tones as melted on my ear,
They sang the poet's deathless praise,
And all the joys that wait him here.

Anxious I turned, to view from whence
Arose such sounds of pure delight,
But scarcely could my dazzled sense
Endure a scene so glittering bright.
High on a fair and starry throne,
The Genius of this land was placed,
A wreath where dewy flowers shone,
Her forehead's snowy whiteness graced.
The crown she held was doomed to shine,
Upon the happy poet's brow
Whose voice could breathe strains as divine,
As those which now around her flow.

Whilst thus by fancy's powerful spell,
Each feeling of my heart was led,
Hark! strains of distant musick swell,
And sweetly o'er the waters spread.
As nearer on the list'ning ear,
The wild plaintive measure softly stole,
A bark of airy form drew near
And wonder seiz'd my admiring soul.
Like silver clouds that gently glide,
Through sky of purest azure hue,
So on the lake's transparent tide,
On wings of light the vessel flew.
The sail each balmy breeze that caught,
Shone as the sun its radiance threw,
Like web by fairy fingers wrought,
And gemmed with morning's early dew.
The awning o'er the deck that spread,
Was formed of roses clustering sweet,
And not a ray the sun could shed,
To pierce that quiet, cool, retreat.

But now the bark has reached the shore,
And from its deck descends a train,
Whose bright and beaming faces wore
A joy unmixed with earthly stain.
Towards the throne they bend their feet,
Where stood a lyre of magick tone,
Whose thrilling numbers murmured sweet,
When touched by poet's hand alone—
He who should wake its sweetest sound,
And strike its trembling chords the best,
Should with the glittering wreath be crown'd
And near the throne, forever rest.

Eager to gain so bright a prize,
Onward they haste with anxious glow,
And whilst his skill each poet tries,
The voices round him cease to flow,
The chords tho' touched by skilful hands,
Though many a note of sweetness swelled,
Still higher strains this realm demands,
Still was the glittering crown withheld.

And now a poet seized the lyre,
And o'er the chords his fingers threw—
His eye beamed with poetick fire,
His voice distilled like evening dew.
He sang his bleeding country's wrongs,
In strains might wake the patriot's glow,
Then breathed her wild and plaintive songs,
And soothed the heart in feeling's flow.

The next one told of former days,
And many an ancient legend sang,
And whilst the witching tale he plays,
Applauding voices round him rang.
The place he chose for fiction's scene,
Was given so clear to fancy's view,
That hill and valley, smiled as green
As ever painter's pencil drew.

The Genius waved her hand and rose,
She bid him hasten to those shades
Where he might taste in blest repose,
A Paradise that never fades.
For he who pictured scenes so well,
In colours of so rich a dye,
Deserved in that bright land to dwell,
So fit to charm the poet's eye.

Alone he went not — For as sweet
Another bard had breathed his song,
Equal the share of Praise they meet,
And equal joys to both belong.

And can no being then be found,
Whose brow that glittering crown shall wear,
Can there by no strains of sweeter sound
Than those which lately warbled here?
Oh! little did I know, how high,
A poet's genius dares to soar,
For now, the song that floated by,
Exceeded all I heard before.
Scarce did I dare to breathe or sigh,
Lest I should lose the faintest trill,
And as the notes at distance die
On my wrapt soul they linger still.
The heavenly choir was mute as death,
Not even zephyr's wing awoke,
And not a sigh or faintest breath
The spell of deep enchantment broke.

A murmur now dispelled the trance,
The Genius rose with beaming eyes,
She bid th' immortal bard advance,
And wear a crown that never dies.
Ne'er had the heavenly list'ners heard,
Such tones as breathed around them now,
No longer was the gift deferred,
But sparkled now on Byron's brow.

The throb of joy that heaved my breast,
Dispelled this fair but transient dream,
The sun had sunken in the west,
And clouds obscured the moon's soft beam.
So in youth's short, but blissful day,
We dream of regions fair and bright,
But soon the vision fades away,
We wake, and all around, is night!

[pp. 132-36]