1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Written on the near Prospect of a Place, after many Years Absence from it.

European Magazine 14 (September 1788) 224.

Anonymous


The poet returning to old his old haunts is tormented by memories; unable to take pleasure in the sight, he is appealing to Oblivion to extend her enchantments when Fancy comes to his rescue as he remembers "The sport that wak'd with youth the grove, | Or frolick'd on the green, | When, whilom, all the warmth was love, | And all the feeling keen." Raymond Dexter Havens includes this irregular lyric in his catalogue of imitations of Milton's Il Penseroso. The resemblance is not obvious, though the title suggests that the poem might be considered a variation on Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1747). It is not signed.



Down, busy Memory, down—
Others with pleasure in their looks
See the fresh meads and silver brooks,
And hail the happy town.
Me with a cruel strength
You force, O tyrant, thro' the length
Of many a scene, and many an image dear;
You from my bosom's depth demand the sigh,
Demand, the tribute of the gliding tear,
And hold the landscape to an aching eye.

Ah! rather, where no sorrows weep,
With thee, Oblivion, let me sleep,
In fast enchantment bound;
Where, thro' th' impenetrable night,
No gleam can reach the trembling sight,
The ear no accent wound;
Where through the pathless wild no track remains,
But thy own Lethe creeps, and sullen silence reigns.

Yet tho' remembrance scorns to bless,
And leaves me, O Forgetfulness,
To court thy leaden sway;
A gentler, a diviner maid,
Prepar'd to lend her lenient aid,
Recalls me to the realms of day.
For she — the friend of pensive minds—
The friend of every Muse;
The nymph that scatters sorrows to the winds,
That dips her mantle in the rainbow's hues;
That borrows for her crest Aurora's star;
She (while the gayest zephyrs waft her car),
She comes — fair FANCY comes — diffus'd around,
The violets sweetly breathe, and sweet is music's sound.

And now the rapid tide is felt
Of spirits that recal
The play that erst with childhood dwelt,
In bower or in hall:

The sport that wak'd with youth the grove,
Or frolick'd on the green,
When, whilom, all the warmth was love,
And all the feeling keen:

The glee when sprightly Friendship's glow
Gave relish to the bowl,
And mirth at high convivial flow
Was banquet to the soul.

The prospect now its charms regains;
For midst the flash of joy,
In spite a moment of his pains,
The Greybeard is the Boy.

[p. 224]