1796
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To the Snow-Drop.

Monthly Magazine 1 (March 1796) 134.

Rev. John Bidlake


Five stanzas, in the blank-verse measure of Collins's Ode to Evening, signed "Rev. John Bidlake, of Plymouth." The Snow-Drop becomes an emblem of mortality as the poem digresses from the early flower to the sad history of Flavia who, evidently not so pure as Collins's "chaste Eve," fell victim to "the rude unpitying breath | Of Malice." John Bidlake seems to have been particularly drawn to the vegetable creation; see the remarkable garden descriptions in his Spenserian poem, The Country Parson, published the following year.

In his autobiographical memoir, Benjamin Robert Haydon depicts Bidlake, his schoolmaster at Plymouth, as a warmhearted, bumbling dilettante given to amateur painting and landscape excursions.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "John Bidlake, 1755-1814, born at Plymouth, educated at Christ Church, Oxford, and head-master of the Grammar School at Plymouth. He published a number of sermons, poems &c., 1787-1813" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:187.



Child of the wintry hour! ah! doom'd to trust
Thy tender beauties to inclement skies!
First off'ring of the year,
And harbinger of Spring!
Cradl'd in friendly greens, how pensive droops
Thy nodding head! while in thy bashful eye,
As mournful of thy fate,
Hangs sad a pearly tear.

Companion of Adversity! like thee,
To dangers rough consign'd, the new-dropt lamb,
With unstain'd fleece and soft,
Presses thy verdant bank.
Alas! in this bad world, nor Innocence
Secures from biting Slander's pois'nous tooth,
Nor Gentleness itself,
Her virgin sister meek.

The temper mild, that knows not how to frown,
Nor of harsh rule the sceptre how to wield,
Is form'd to sink before
The boist'rous Passions rage.
Alas! like thee, poor injur'd Flavia bloom'd,
The sweetest bud of unsuspicious youth!
Alas! like thee, all purity,
Like thee, to storms consign'd.

But ah! she felt the rude unpitying breath
Of Malice, keener than the wintry winds;
And shrunk beneath the blast
That never, never spares.
Poor early victim of its pow'r, she sunk
Pitied, believ'd, and mourn'd, alas! to late;
Chill'd by the icy touch
And early foot of Death.

Oft' as thy chaste, thy unassuming face
Shall deck the morning of the nascent year,
This wounded breast shall heave
With pangs of cureless grief:
When painful Mem'ry tells how soon she fell,
And hapless pass'd, like thee, fair spotless flow'r!
Her little life, forlorn,
Amid the wilds of fate.

[p. 134]