As its title implies, Samuel Rogers's seminal poem derives from Mark Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination (1744). While there is an argument, Rogers, much more than Akenside, is content to drift with the easy flow of associations and images — in this resembling Thomas Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy (1747). Unlike these sources, The Pleasures of Memory is written in elegant couplets. The lineaments of the Il Penseroso are also visible, as in the concluding "resolve." The second part contains an inset narrative describing an eerie House of Memory; while it is written in the mode of sensibility, the impress of Spenser is also subtly present in the use of emblematic narrative description.
While the original publication was anonymous and the first edition consisted of only 250 copies, The Pleasures of Memory quickly made its author a household name. The poem was frequently reprinted throughout the nineteenth century, and generated a long sequence of imitations, notably Thomas Campbell's equally famous Pleasures of Hope (1799), with which Rogers's poem was often reprinted. The volume was printed with an array of notes and illustrations at the back, as would become the norm in this series; it was in a fifth edition by August of 1793.
Critical Review: "The flame of genius which pervaded, and so brightly glowed in the Ode to Superstition, demanded our applause, which we shall not withhold from the present poem, though exhibiting less splendid marks of poetical inspiration; more argumentative and metaphysical. We must likewise make some deductions on account of a few passages not so carefully written as they might have been" NS 4 (April 1792) 398.
William Enfield: "If the author of this poem be thought happy in the choice of a copious and fertile theme, which has yet, by no means, been exhausted, he is equally so in the manner in which he has treated it. Correctness of thought, delicacy of sentiment, variety of imagery, and harmony of versification, are the characters which distinguish this beautiful poem, in a degree that cannot fail to ensure its success.... This power of the mind he conceives to be called into action in two ways; either by the presence of sensible objects, or by an internal operation of the mind. The former is the subject of the first part, the latter of the second" Monthly Review NS 8 (June 1792) 121-22.
European Magazine: "The perusal of this beautiful Poem will afford the highest delight to every reader of taste; the affections of his heart will be warmed by the delicacy of sentiment and pathetic descriptions; his fancy will be pleased by the fine and variegated imagery; and his judgment will be improved by the correctness of thought and uniformity of design with which the work abounds" 22 (October 1792) 267-68.
Analytical Review: "This little elegant poem runs in an harmonious even tenour, and though neither the fiery stream of passion, nor the electric sparks of fancy burn along the lines; yet a mellow tasteful tint shed over it, renders many of the sentiments interesting, and the whole soothing" 12 (Appendix, 1792) 515.
Samuel Parr to Samuel Rogers: "The topics are, indeed, chosen most pertinently and even happily. The imagery is rich and varied, the versification is near perfection — and so near that I must entreat you with a little revisal and a little effort to make it quite perfect. Your Muse is so gay without levity, and so serious without gloominess, that she would have tamed the surly genius of Johnson himself. She holds, and has a right to hold, converse with the spirits of Shenstone and Goldsmith and Gray. Believe me, dear sir, when I tell you that my mind, jaded as it has been even to indifference and insensibility upon the common objects of poetry when treated of by common minds, was roused and refreshed by the uncommon excellencies of your most charming poem" 14 June 1796; P. W. Clayden, The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 220-21.
George Dyer: "Rogers, the ingenious author of the Pleasures of Memory, is a banker, as was his father: the poem is printed in an elegant and expensive form; and having passed through eight editions, must be supposed to possess no small portion of the public favour, and no inconsiderable merit" The Poet's Fate (1797) 4-5n.
Lord Byron to Francis Hodgson: "Coleridge has attacked the Pleasures of Hope, and all other pleasures whatsoever. Mr. Rogers was present, and heard himself indirectly 'rowed' by the lecturer. We are going in a party to hear the new Art of Poetry by this reformed schismatic, and were I one of these poetical luminaries, or of sufficient consequence to be noticed by the man of lectures, I should not hear him without an answer" 8 December 1811; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 2:83.
Lord Byron to Thomas Moore: "I have been reading Memory again, the other day, and Hope together, and retain all my preference of the former. His elegance is really wonderful — there is no such thing as a vulgar line in his book" 5 September 1813; Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1904) 2:260.
Thomas Moore: "It is not uninteresting, even as a matter of speculation, to observe the fortune of a poem which, like the Pleasures of Memory, appeared at the commencement of this literary revolution, without paying court to the revolutionary tastes, or seeking distinction by resistance to them. It borrowed no aid either from prejudice or innovation. It neither copied the fashion of the age which was passing away, nor offered any homage to the rising novelties. It resembles, only in measure, the poems of the eighteenth century, which were written in heroic rhyme. Neither the brilliant sententiousness of Pope, nor the frequent languor and negligence perhaps inseparable from the exquisite nature of Goldsmith, could be traced in a poem, from which taste and labour equally banished mannerism and inequality. It was patronized by no sect or faction. It was neither imposed on the public by any literary cabal, nor forced into notice by the noisy anger of conspicuous enemies. Yet, destitute as it was of every foreign help, it acquired a popularity originally very great; and which has not only continued amidst extraordinary fluctuation of general taste, but increased amidst a succession of formidable competitors, No production, so popular, was probably ever so little censured by criticism. It was approved by the critics, as much as read and applauded by the people; and thus seemed to combine the applause of Contemporaries with the suffrage of the representatives of Posterity" in review of Rogers, Poems; Edinburgh Review 22 (October 1813) 38-39.
Preface to Poems on the Pleasures: "The Pleasures of Memory has indications of being written with more caution and labour than any of the sister poems. Its topics and images seem to have been selected with much care and some timidity, although always with judgment and in accordance with true taste. Its versification is so smooth and equable, that it is almost monotonous. It has, in fact, been polished to attenuation. This extreme guardedness has rendered this agreeable poem inferior to the others in the range of its thoughts and in the freedom of its diction; but it has apparently the highest mechanical finish of them all" (1841) 12.
William Howitt: "Amongst the very earliest literary pleasures which I can remember, was that of reading, and that time after time, his Pleasures of Memory: and the reading of this poem is now, after nearly half a century, not only one of my pleasures of memory, but on reperusal is equally fresh, equally true to nature, and equally attractive by the soundness and the beauty of its sentiments.... In the Pleasures of Memory we are forcibly reminded of Goldsmith and the Deserted Village. We feel how deeply the genius of that exquisite writer had affected the mind of Rogers in his youth. There is a striking similarity of style, of imagery, and of subject" Homes and Haunts of the British Poets (1847) 2:369, 371.
Abraham Hayward: "the most cursory reader will light upon many passages of great elegance of expression, impaired by unmeaning antithesis and incessant alliteration, and seldom relieved by originality of thought or novelty of metaphor. The commencement, and indeed almost everything rural or pastoral in the poem, is too redolent of Goldsmith; and in minute description, Rogers provokes compromising comparisons with Crabbe; but he has never been excelled in the art of blending fancy and feeling with historic incident and philosophical reflection" Edinburgh Review 103 (July 1856) 43.
Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Samuel Rogers, born in 1760, published an Ode to Superstition, in 1787; Pleasures of Memory, in 1792; Epistle to a Friend, in 1798; Vision of Columbus, and Jacqueline, in 1814; Human Life, in 1819; and Italy, in 1822. It is by his Pleasures of Memory, that Rogers will best be remembered as a poet of great taste and skill, — the workmanship being better than the materials, as in Ovid's Palace of the Sun" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:220n.
Joseph Devey: "It has appeared a marvel to some that Rogers, having produced the Pleasures of Memory at the outset of his career, did not produce something greater to fulfil the rich promise he thus gave of a splendid maturity. But, I think, the wonder ought, to be, not that he failed to produce anything greater, but that he ever produced anything so good.... The whole of his talent consists in recalling, by vivid touches, all those sunnier scenes of existence in which the heart is most interested, and over which Fancy loves most to brood. Summoned by his magic pencil, the most charming recollections of the poet troop in palpable array before us, and the mind recurs to them as to a series of pictures interwoven with its own sensations, the fidelity of which has all the stamp of truth. But this talent was not capable of much expansion or variation, its range was limited; it could not be said to grow. And hence Rogers' genius was like the acacia, which bears a profusion of blossom but no fruit" A Comparative View of Modern English Poets (1873) 146-47.
Henry Taylor: "The Pleasures of Memory is an excellent specimen of what Wordsworth calls 'the accomplishment of verse'; and it was well worthy to attract attention and admiration at the time when it appeared; for at that time poetry, with few exceptions, was to be distinguished from prose by versification and little else. The Pleasures of Memory is an essay in verse, not wanting in tender sentiment and just reflection, expressed, gracefully no doubt, but with a formal and elaborate grace, and in studiously pointed and carefully poised diction, such as the heroic couplet had been trained to assume since the days of Pope. In 1793 very different days were approaching — days in which poetry was to break its chains, and formality to be thrown to the winds" The English Poets, ed. Thomas Humphry Ward (1880) 4:89.
P. W. Clayden: "From this time, therefore, he was known and wherever he went was acknowledged as the popular poet of The Pleasures of Memory. In 1794 a sixth and a seventh edition, each of a thousand copies, were published. In 1797 appeared the eighth edition, also of a thousand; a ninth in 1798, and a tenth and eleventh in 1799. In 1801 a twelfth edition was called for, and the number printed was raised to fifteen hundred, in addition to which a hundred copies were printed on large paper; in 1802 the thirteenth edition, also of fifteen hundred, was issued. On the fourteenth edition being called for in 1803 the number printed was raised to two thousand; in 1806 the fifteenth edition was printed, also of two thousand. The sale continued at much the same rate, and the edition of 1816, already mentioned, was the nineteenth. Omitting the sales of the first four editions, of which no clear record is preserved, but which consisted of very small numbers, and including the large paper copies, of which a hundred were printed in 1801 and two hundred and fifty in 1810, the total issue of the work — from the publication of the fifth edition in 1793 to the nineteenth in 1816 — was 22,350 copies. This was one of the greatest literary successes of the time" The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 216-17.
Oliver Elton: "Rogers was a connoisseur who took to verse-making, and wrote with patient though somewhat ineffectual care. The Pleasures of Memory took him many years to make, and yet it is only a recital of pleasant things remembered, and has no unity. It is abstract, as its title shows; a weakness shared by Akenside and Campbell; for Imagination, Memory, Hope, and their 'pleasures,' cannot give backbone to a poem" Survey of English Literature 1780-1830 (1912) 65.
A. D. Harvey: "Rogers's poem suggested at least the title for Thomas Dermody's brief essay in Spenserians, The Pleasures of Poetry, and it gave Merry the idea of trying to cash in with The Pains of Memory. Rogers also of course inspired Campbell's Pleasures of Hope and the whole host of other Pleasures which appeared in the early nineteenth century" English Poetry in a Changing Society (1980) 61.
Analysis of the First Part: "The Poem begins with the description of an obscure village, and of the pleasing melancholy which it excites on being revisited after a long absence. This mixed sensation is an effect of the Memory. From an effect we naturally ascend to the cause; and the subject proposed is then unfolded with an investigation of the nature and leading principles of this faculty.
"It is evident that there is a continual succession of ideas in the mind, and that they introduce each other with a certain degree of regularity. Their complexion depends greatly on the different perceptions of pleasure and pain which we receive through the medium of sense; and, in return, they have a considerable influence on the animal economy.
"They are sometimes excited by sensible objects, and sometimes by an internal operation of the mind. Of the former species is most probably the memory of brutes; and its many sources of pleasure to them, as well as to us, are considered in the first part. The latter is the most perfect degree of memory, and forms the subject of the second.
"When ideas have any relation whatever, they are attractive of each other in the mind; and the perception of any object naturally leads to the idea of another, which was connected with it either in time or place, or which can be compared or contrasted with it. Hence arises our attachment to inanimate objects; hence also, in some degree, the love of our country, and the emotion with which we contemplate the celebrated scenes of antiquity. Hence a picture directs our thoughts to the original: and, as cold and darkness suggest forcibly the ideas of heat and light, he, who feels the infirmities of age, dwells most on whatever reminds him of the vigour and vivacity of his youth.
"The associating principle, as here employed, is no less conducive to virtue than to happiness; and, as such, it frequently discovers itself in the most tumultuous scenes of life. It addresses our finer feelings, and gives exercise to every mild and generous propensity.
"Not confined to man, it extends through all animated nature; and its effects are peculiarly striking in the domestic tribes" pp. iii-iv.
Analysis of the Second Part: "The Memory has hitherto acted only in subservience to the senses, and so far man is not eminently distinguished from other animals: but, with respect to man, she has a higher province; and is often busily employed, when excited by no external cause whatever. She preserves, for his use, the treasures of art and science, history and philosophy. She colours all the prospects of life: for 'we can only anticipate the future, by concluding what is possible from what is past.'
"On her agency depends every effusion of the Fancy, who with the boldest effort can only compound or transpose, augment or diminish the materials which she has collected and retained.
"When the first emotions of despair have subsided and sorrow has softened into melancholy, she amuses with a retrospect of innocent pleasures, and inspires that noble confidence which results from the consciousness of having acted well.
"When sleep has suspended the organs of sense from their office, she not only supplies the mind with images, but assists in their combination. And even in madness itself, when the soul is resigned over to the tyranny of a distempered imagination, she revives past perceptions, and awakens that train of thought which was formerly most familiar.
"Nor are we pleased only with a review of the brighter passages of life; events, the most distressing in their immediate consequences, are often cherished in remembrance with a degree of enthusiasm.
"But the world and its occupations give a mechanical impulse to the passions, which is not very favourable to the indulgence of this feeling. It is in a calm and well-regulated mind that the Memory is most perfect; and solitude is her best sphere of action.
"With this sentiment is introduced a Tale, illustrative of her influence in solitude, sickness, and sorrow. And the subject having now been considered, so far as it relates to man and the animal world, the Poem concludes with a conjecture, that superior beings are bless'd with a nobler exercise of this faculty" pp. 29-30.
Twilight's soft dews steal o'er the village-green,
With magic tints to harmonize the scene.
Hush'd is the hum that thro' the hamlet broke,
When round the ruins of their ancient oak
The peasants flock'd to hear the minstrel play,
And games and carols closed the busy day.
Her wheel at rest, the matron thrills no more
With treasured tales, and legendary lore.
All, all are fled; nor mirth nor music flows
To chase the dreams of innocent repose.
All, all are fled; yet still I linger here!
What secret charms this silent spot endear?
Mark yon old Mansion, frowning thro' the trees,
Whose hollow turret wooes the whistling breeze.
That casement, arch'd with ivy's brownest shade,
First to these eyes the light of heav'n conveyed.
The mouldering gateway strews the grass-grown court,
Once the calm scene of many a simple sport;
When all things pleas'd, for life itself was new,
And the heart promis'd what the fancy drew.
See, thro' the fractur'd pediment reveal'd,
Where moss inlays the rudely-sculptur'd shield,
The martin's old, hereditary nest.
Long may the ruin spare its hallow'd guest!
As jars the hinge, what sullen echoes call!
Oh haste, unfold the hospitable hall!
That hall, where once, in antiquated state,
The chair of justice held the grave debate.
Now stain'd with dews, with cobwebs darkly hung,
Oft has its roof with peals of rapture rung;
When round yon ample board, in due degree,
We sweeten'd every meal with social glee.
The heart's light laugh pursued the circling jest;
And all was sunshine in each little breast.
'Twas here we chas'd the slipper by the sound;
And turn'd the blindfold hero round and round.
'Twas here, at eve, we form'd our fairy ring;
And Fancy flutter'd on her wildest wing.
Giants and genii chain'd each wondering ear,
And orphan-woes drew Nature's ready tear.
Oft with the babes we wander'd in the wood,
Or view'd the forest-feats of Robin Hood:
Oft, fancy-led, at midnight's fearful hour,
With startling step we scaled the lonely tow'r;
O'er infant innocence to hang and weep,
Murder'd by ruffian hands, when smiling in its sleep.
Ye Household Deities! whose guardian eye
Mark'd each pure thought, ere register'd on high;
Still, still ye walk the consecrated ground,
And breathe the soul of Inspiration round.
As o'er the dusky furniture I bend,
Each chair awakes the feelings of a friend.
The storied arras, source of fond delight,
With old achievement charms the wilder'd sight;
And still, with Heraldry's rich hues imprest,
On the dim window glows the pictur'd crest.
The screen unfolds its many-colour'd chart.
The clock still points its moral to the heart.
That faithful monitor, 'twas heav'n to hear!
When soft it spoke a promis'd pleasure near:
And has its sober hand, its simple chime,
Forgot to trace the feather'd feet of Time?
That massive beam, with curious carvings wrought,
Whence the caged linnet sooth'd my pensive thought;
Those muskets cas'd with venerable rust;
Those once-lov'd forms, still breathing thro' their dust,
Still from the frame, in mould gigantic cast,
Starting to life — all whisper of the past!
As thro' the garden's desert paths I rove,
What fond illusions swarm in every grove!
How oft, when purple evening ting'd the west,
We watch'd the emmet to her grainy nest;
Welcom'd the wild-bee home on weary wing,
Laden with sweets, the choicest of the spring!
How oft inscrib'd, with Friendship's votive rhyme,
The bark now silver'd by the touch of Time;
Soar'd in the swing, half pleas'd and half afraid,
Thro' sister elms that wav'd their summer-shade;
Or strew'd with crumbs yon root-inwoven seat,
To lure the redbreast from his lone retreat!
Childhood's lov'd group revisits every scene,
The tangled wood-walk and the tufted green!
Indulgent MEMORY wakes, and lo! they live!
Cloth'd with far softer hues than Light can give.
Thou first, best friend that Heav'n assigns below
To sooth and sweeten all the cares we know;
Whose glad suggestions still each vain alarm,
When nature fades and life forgets to charm;
Thee would the Muse invoke! — to thee belong
The sage's precept, and the poet's song.
What soften'd views thy magic glass reveals,
When o'er the landscape Time's meek twilight steals!
As when in ocean sinks the orb of day,
Long on the wave reflected lustres play;
Thy temper'd gleams of happiness resign'd
Glance on the darken'd mirror of the mind.
The School's lone porch, with reverend mosses grey,
Just tells the pensive pilgrim where it lay.
Mute is the bell that rung at peep of dawn,
Quick'ning my truant-feet across the lawn;
Unheard the shout that rent the noontide air,
When the slow dial gave a pause to care.
Up springs, at every step, to claim a tear,
Some little friendship form'd and cherish'd here!
And not the lightest leaf, but trembling teems
With golden visions, and romantic dreams!
Down by yon hazel copse, at evening, blaz'd
The Gipsy's faggot — there we stood and gaz'd;
Gaz'd on her sun-burnt face with silent awe,
Her tatter'd mantle, and her hood of straw;
Her moving lips, her caldron brimming o'er;
The drowsy brood that on her back she bore;
Imps, in the barn with mousing owlet bred,
From rifled roost at nightly revel fed;
Whose dark eyes flash'd thro' locks of blackest shade,
When in the breeze the distant watch-dog bay'd:
And heroes fled the Sibyl's mutter'd call,
Whose elfin prowess scal'd the orchard-wall.
As o'er my palm the silver-piece she drew,
And traced the line of life with searching view,
How throbb'd my fluttering pulse with hopes and fears,
To learn the colour of my future years!
Ah, then, what honest triumph flush'd my breast!
This truth once known — To bless is to be blest!
We led the bending beggar on his way;
(Bare were his feet, his tresses silver-grey)
Sooth'd the keen pangs his aged spirit felt,
And on his tale with mute attention dwelt.
As in his scrip we dropp'd our little store,
And wept aloud to think it was no more;
He breathed his prayer, "Long may such goodness live!"
'Twas all he gave, 'twas all he had to give.
But hark! thro' those old firs, with sullen swell,
The church-clock strikes! ye tender scenes, farewell!
It calls me hence, beneath their shade, to trace
The few fond lines that Time may soon efface.
On yon gray stone, that fronts the chancel-door,
Worn smooth by busy feet now seen no more,
Each eve we shot the marble thro' the ring,
When the heart danc'd, and life was in its spring,
Alas! unconscious of the kindred earth,
That faintly echoed to the voice of mirth.
The glow-worm loves her emerald-light to shed
Where now the sexton rests his hoary head.
Oft, as he turn'd the greensward with his spade,
He lectur'd every youth that round him play'd;
And, calmly pointing where his fathers lay,
Rous'd him to rival each, the hero of his day.
Hush, ye fond flutterings, hush! while here alone
I search the records of each mouldering stone.
Guides of my life! Instructors of my youth!
Who first unveiled the hallow'd form of Truth;
Whose every word enlighten'd and endear'd;
In age belov'd, in poverty rever'd;
In Friendship's silent register ye live,
Nor ask the vain memorial Art can give.
But when the sons of peace and pleasure sleep,
When only Sorrow wakes, and wakes to weep,
What spells entrance my visionary mind,
With sighs so sweet, with transports so refin'd?
Ethereal Power! whose smile, at noon of night
Recals the far-fled spirit of delight,
Instils that musing melancholy mood
Which charms the wise, and elevates the good;
Blest MEMORY, hail! Oh, grant my grateful verse,
To sing thy triumphs, and thy gifts rehearse;
Pierce the dark clouds that round thy empire roll,
And trace its airy precincts in the soul.
Lull'd in the countless chambers of the brain,
Our thoughts are link'd by many a hidden chain.
Awake but one, and lo, what myriads rise!
Each stamps its image as the other flies!
Each, as the various avenues of sense
Delight or sorrow to the soul dispense,
Brightens or fades; yet all, with magic art,
Control the latent fibres of the heart.
As studious Prospero's mysterious spell
Conven'd the subject-spirits to his cell;
Each, at thy call, advances or retires,
As judgment dictates or the scene inspires.
Each thrills the seat of sense, that sacred source,
Whence the fine nerves direct their mazy course,
And thro' the frame invisibly convey
The subtle, quick vibrations as they play.
Survey the globe, each ruder realm explore;
From Reason's faintest ray to Newton soar.
What different spheres to human bliss assign'd!
What slow gradations in the scale of mind!
Yet mark in each these mystic wonders wrought;
Oh mark the sleepless energies of thought!
Th' adventurous boy, that asks his little share,
And hies from home, with many a gossip's prayer,
Turns on the neighbouring hill, once more to see
The dear abode of peace and privacy;
And as he turns, the thatch among the trees,
The smoke's blue wreaths ascending with the breeze,
The village-common spotted white with sheep,
The churchyard yews round which his fathers sleep;
All rouse Reflection's sadly-pleasing train,
And oft he looks and weeps, and looks again.
So, when the daring sons of Science drew
The mild TUPIA'S firm yet fond adieu
To all his soul best lov'd, such tears he shed,
While each soft scene of summer beauty fled:
Long o'er the wave a wistful look he cast,
Long watch'd the streaming signal from the mast;
Till twilight's dewy tints deceiv'd his eye,
And fairy forests fring'd the evening-sky.
So Scotia's Queen, as slowly dawn'd the day,
Rose on her couch and gaz'd her soul away.
Her eyes had bless'd the beacon's glimmering height,
That faintly tipt the feathery surge with light;
But now the morn with orient hues pourtray'd
Each castled cliff, and brown monastic shade:
All touch'd the talisman's resistless spring,
And lo, what busy tribes were instant on the wing!
As kindred objects kindred thoughts excite,
These, with magnetic virtue, soon unite.
And hence this spot gives back the joys of youth,
Warm as the life, and with the mirror's truth.
Hence home-felt pleasure prompts the Patriot's sigh;
This makes him wish to live, and "dare to die."
For this FOSCARI, whose relentless fate
Venice should blush to hear the Muse relate,
When exile wore his blooming years away,
To sorrow's long soliloquies a prey,
When reason, justice, vainly urg'd his cause,
For this he rous'd her sanguinary laws;
Glad to return, tho' Hope could grant no more,
And chains and torture hail'd him to the shore.
And hence the charm historic scenes impart;
Hence Tiber awes, and Avon melts the heart.
Aerial forms, in Tempe's classic vale
Glance thro' the gloom and whisper in the gale;
In wild Vaucluse with love and LAURA dwell,
And watch and weep in ELOISA'S cell.
'Twas ever thus. As now at VIRGIL'S tomb
We bless the shade, and bid the verdure bloom;
So TULLY paus'd, amid the wrecks of Time,
On the rude stone to trace the truth sublime;
When at his feet, in honour'd dust disclos'd,
Th' immortal Sage of Syracuse repos'd.
And as he long in sweet delusion hung,
Where once a PLATO taught, a PINDAR sung;
Who now but meets him musing, when he roves
His ruin'd Tusculan's romantic groves?
In Rome's great forum, who but hears him roll
His moral thunders o'er the subject soul?
And hence that calm delight the portrait gives:
We gaze on every feature till it lives!
Still the fond lover sees the absent maid;
And the lost friend still lingers in his shade!
Say why the pensive widow loves to weep,
When on her knee she rocks her babe to sleep:
Tremblingly still, she lifts his veil to trace
The father's features in his infant face.
The hoary grandsire smiles the hour away,
Won by the charm of Innocence at play;
He bends to meet each artless burst of joy,
Forgets his age, and acts again the boy.
What tho' the iron school of War erase
Each milder virtue and each softer grace;
What tho' the fiend's torpedo-touch arrest
Each gentler, finer impulse of the breast;
Still shall this active principle preside,
And wake the tear to Pity's self denied.
The intrepid Swiss, who guards a foreign shore,
Condemn'd to climb his mountain-cliffs no more,
If chance he hear that song so sweetly wild,
His heart would spring to hear it, when a child;
That song, as simple as the joys he knew,
When in the shepherd-dance he blithely flew;
Melts at the long-lost scenes that round him rise,
And sinks a martyr to repentant sighs.
Ask not if courts or camps dissolve the charm;
Say why VESPASIAN lov'd his Sabine farm;
Why great NAVARRE, when France and freedom bled,
Sought the lone limits of a forest-shed.
When DIOCLETIAN'S self-corrected mind
Th' imperial fasces of a world resign'd,
Say why we trace the labours of his spade
In calm Salona's philosophic shade.
Say, when contentious CHARLES renounc'd a throne,
To muse with monks unletter'd and unknown,
What from his soul the parting tribute drew?
What claim'd the sorrows of a last adieu?
The still retreats that sooth'd his tranquil breast
Ere grandeur dazzled, and its cares oppress'd.
Undamp'd by time, the generous Instinct glows,
Far as Angola's sands, as Zembla's snows;
Glows in the tiger's den, the serpent's nest,
On every form of varied life imprest.
The social tribes its choicest influence hail:—
And when the drum beats briskly in the gale,
The war-worn courser charges at the sound,
And with young vigour wheels the pasture round.
Oft has the aged tenant of the vale
Lean'd on his staff to lengthen out the tale;
Oft have his lips the grateful tribute breath'd,
From sire to son with pious zeal bequeath'd.
When o'er the blasted heath the day declin'd,
And on the scath'd oak warr'd the winter wind;
When not a distant taper's twinkling ray
Gleam'd o'er the furze to light him on his way;
When not a sheep-bell sooth'd his listening ear,
And the big rain-drops told the tempest near;
Then did his horse the homeward track descry,
The track that shunn'd his sad, enquiring eye;
And win each wavering purpose to relent,
With warmth so mild, so gently violent,
That his charm'd hand the careless rein resign'd,
And doubts and terrors vanish'd from his mind.
Recall the traveller, whose alter'd form
Has borne the buffet of the mountain-storm;
And who will first his fond impatience meet?
His faithful dog's already at his feet!
Yes, tho' the porter spurn him from the door,
Tho' all, that knew him, know his face no more,
His faithful dog shall tell his joy to each,
With that mute eloquence which passes speech.
And see, the master but returns to die!
Yet who shall bid the watchful servant fly?
The blasts of heav'n, the drenching dews of earth,
The wanton insults of unfeeling mirth,
These, when to guard Misfortune's sacred grave,
Will firm Fidelity exult to brave.
Led by what chart, transports the timid dove
The wreaths of conquest, or the vows of love?
Say, thro' the clouds what compass points her flight?
Monarchs have gaz'd, and nations blest the sight.
Pile rocks on rocks, bid woods and mountains rise,
Eclipse her native shades, her native skies;—
'Tis vain! thro' Ether's pathless wilds she goes,
And lights at last where all her cares repose.
Sweet bird! thy truth shall Harlem's walls attest,
And unborn ages consecrate thy nest.
When, with the silent energy of grief,
With looks that ask'd, yet dar'd not hope relief,
Want with her babes round generous Valour clung,
To wring the slow surrender from his tongue,
'Twas thine to animate her closing eye;
Alas! 'twas thine perchance the first to die,
Crush'd by her meagre hand, when welcom'd from the sky.
Hark! the bee winds her small but mellow horn,
Blithe to salute the sunny smile of morn.
O'er thymy downs she bends her busy course,
And many a stream allures her to its source.
'Tis noon, 'tis night. That eye so finely wrought,
Beyond the search of sense, the soar of thought,
Now vainly asks the scenes she left behind;
Its orb so full, its vision so confin'd!
Who guides the patient pilgrim to her cell?
Who bids her soul with conscious triumph swell?
With conscious truth, retrace the mazy clue
Of summer-scents, that charm'd her as she flew?
Hail MEMORY, hail! thy universal reign
Guards the least link of Being's glorious chain.
Sweet MEMORY, wafted by thy gentle gale,
Oft up the stream of Time I turn my sail,
To view the fairy-haunts of long-lost hours,
Blest with far greener shades, far fresher flowers.
Ages and climes remote to Thee impart
What charms in Genius, and refines in Art;
Thee, in whose hands the keys of Science dwell,
The pensive portress of her holy cell;
Whose constant vigils chase the chilling damp
Oblivion steals upon her vestal-lamp.
The friends of Reason, and the guides of Youth,
Whose language breath'd the eloquence of Truth;
Whose life, beyond preceptive wisdom, taught
The great in conduct, and the pure in thought;
These still exist, by Thee to Fame consign'd,
Still speak and act, the models of mankind.
From Thee gay Hope her airy colouring draws;
And Fancy's flights are subject to thy laws.
From Thee that bosom-spring of rapture flows,
Which only Virtue, tranquil Virtue, knows.
When Joy's bright sun has shed his evening-ray,
And Hope's delusive meteors cease to play;
When clouds on clouds the smiling prospect close,
Still thro' the gloom thy star serenely glows:
Like yon fair orb, she gilds the brow of night
With the mild magic of reflected light.
The beauteous maid, who bids the world adieu,
Oft of that world will snatch a fond review;
Oft at the shrine neglect her beads, to trace
Some social scene, some dear familiar face;
Forgot, when first a father's stern controul
Chas'd the gay visions of her opening soul:
And ere, with iron tongue, the vesper-bell
Bursts thro' the cypress-walk, the convent-cell,
Oft will her warm and wayward heart revive,
To love and joy still tremblingly alive;
The whisper'd vow, the chaste caress prolong,
Weave the light dance, and swell the choral song;
With rapt ear drink th' enchanting serenade;
And, as it melts along the moonlight-glade,
To each soft note return as soft a sigh,
And bless the youth that bids her slumbers fly.
But not till Time has calm'd the ruffled breast,
Are these fond dreams of happiness confest.
Not till the rushing winds forget to rave,
Is heav'n's sweet smile reflected on the wave.
From Guinea's coast pursue the lessening sail,
And catch the sounds that sadden every gale.
Tell, if thou canst, the sum of sorrows there;
Mark the fixt gaze, the wild and frenzied glare,
The racks of thought, and freezings of despair!
But pause not then — beyond the western wave,
Go, see the captive barter'd as a slave!
Crush'd till his high heroic spirit bleeds,
And from his nerveless frame indignantly recedes.
Yet here, ev'n here, with pleasures long resign'd,
Lo! MEMORY bursts the twilight of the mind:
Her dear delusions sooth his sinking soul,
When the rude scourge assumes its base controul;
And o'er Futurity's blank page diffuse
The full reflection of their vivid hues.
'Tis but to die, and then, to weep no more,
Then will he wake on Congo's distant shore;
Beneath his plantain's ancient shade renew
The simple transports that with freedom flew;
Catch the cool breeze that musky Evening blows,
And quaff the palm's rich nectar as it glows;
The oral tale of elder time rehearse,
And chant the rude traditionary verse;
With those, the lov'd companions of his youth,
When life was luxury, and friendship truth.
Ah! why should Virtue fear the frowns of Fate?
Hers what no wealth can win, no power create!
A little world of clear and cloudless day,
Nor wreck'd by storms, nor moulder'd by decay;
A world, with MEMORY'S ceaseless sun-shine blest,
The home of Happiness, an honest breast.
But most we mark the wonders of her reign,
When Sleep has locked the senses in her chain.
When sober Judgment has his throne resign'd,
She smiles away the chaos of the mind;
And as warm Fancy's bright Elysium glows,
From Her each image springs, each colour flows.
She is the sacred guest! the immortal friend!
Oft seen o'er sleeping Innocence to bend,
In that dead hour of night to Silence giv'n,
Whispering seraphic visions of her heav'n.
When the blithe son of Savoy, journeying round
With humble wares and pipe of merry sound,
From his green vale and shelter'd cabin hies,
And scales the Alps to visit foreign skies;
Tho' far below the forked lightnings play,
And at his feet the thunder dies away;
Oft, in the saddle rudely rock'd to sleep,
While his mule browses on the dizzy steep,
With MEMORY'S aid, he sits at home, and sees
His children sport beneath their native trees,
And bends to hear their cherub-voices call,
O'er the loud fury of the torrent's fall.
But can her smile with gloomy Madness dwell?
Say, can she chase the horrors of his cell?
Each fiery flight on Frenzy's wing restrain,
And mould the coinage of the fever'd brain?
Pass but that grate, which scarce a gleam supplies,
There in the dust the wreck of Genius lies!
He whose arresting hand sublimely wrought
Each bold conception in the sphere of thought;
Who from the quarried mass, like PHIDIAS, drew
Forms ever fair, creations ever new!
But, as he fondly snatched the wreath of Fame,
The spectre Poverty unnerv'd his frame.
Cold was her grasp, a withering scowl she wore;
And Hope's soft energies were felt no more.
Yet still how sweet the soothings of his art!
From the rude wall what bright ideas start!
Ev'n now he claims the amaranthine wreath,
With scenes that glow, with images that breathe!
And whence these scenes, these images, declare,
Whence but from Her who triumphs o'er despair?
Awake, arise! with grateful fervour fraught,
Go, spring the mine of elevating thought.
He who, thro' Nature's various walk, surveys
The good and fair her faultless line pourtrays;
Whose mind, profan'd by no unhallow'd guest,
Culls from the crowd the purest and the best;
May range, at will, bright Fancy's golden clime,
Or, musing, mount where Science sits sublime,
Or wake the spirit of departed Time.
Who acts thus wisely, mark the moral muse,
A blooming Eden in his life reviews!
So richly cultur'd every native grace,
Its scanty limits he forgets to trace:
But the fond fool, when evening shades the sky,
Turns but to start, and gazes but to sigh!
The weary waste, that lengthen'd as he ran,
Fades to a blank, and dwindles to a span!
Ah who can tell the triumphs of the mind,
By truth illumined and by taste refin'd?
When age has quench'd the eye and clos'd the ear,
Still nerv'd for action in her native sphere,
Oft will she rise — with searching glance pursue
Some long-lov'd image vanish'd from her view;
Dart thro' the deep recesses of the Past,
O'er dusky forms in chains of slumber cast;
With giant-grasp fling back the folds of night,
And snatch the faithless fugitive to light.
So thro' the grove th' impatient mother flies,
Each sunless glade, each secret pathway tries;
Till the thin leaves the truant-boy disclose,
Long on the wood-moss stretch'd in sweet repose.
Nor yet to pleasing objects are confin'd
The silent feasts of the reflecting mind.
Danger and death a dread delight inspire;
And the bald veteran glows with wonted fire,
When, richly bronz'd by many a summer-sun,
He counts his scars, and tells what deeds were done.
Go, with old Thames, view Chelsea's glorious pile,
And ask the shatter'd hero, whence his smile?
Go, view the splendid domes of Greenwich, go;
And own what raptures from Reflection flow.
Hail, noblest structures imag'd in the wave!
A nation's grateful tribute to the brave.
Hail, blest retreats from war and shipwreck, hail!
That oft arrest the wondering stranger's sail.
Long have ye heard the narratives of age,
The battle's havoc and the tempest's rage;
Long have ye known Reflection's genial ray
Gild the calm close of Valour's various day.
Time's sombrous touches soon correct the piece,
Mellow each tint, and bid each discord cease:
A softer tone of light pervades the whole,
And steals a pensive languor o'er the soul.
Hast thou thro' Eden's wild-wood vales pursued
Each mountain-scene, majestically rude;
To mark the sweet simplicity of life,
Far from the din of Folly's idle strife:
Nor, with Attention's lifted eye, rever'd
That modest stone which pious PEMBROKE rear'd;
Which still records, beyond the pencil's power,
The silent sorrows of a parting hour;
Still to the musing pilgrim points the place,
Her sainted spirit most delights to trace?
Thus, with the manly glow of honest pride,
O'er his dead son the gallant ORMOND sighed.
Thus, thro' the gloom of SHENSTONE'S fairy grove,
MARIA'S urn still breathes the voice of love.
As the stern grandeur of a Gothic tower
Awes us less deeply in its morning hour,
As when the shades of Time serenely fall
On every broken arch and ivied wall;
The tender images we love to trace,
Steal from each year "a melancholy grace!"
And as the sparks of social love expand,
As the heart opens in a foreign land;
And with a brother's warmth, a brother's smile,
The stranger greets each native of his isle;
So scenes of life, when present and confest,
Stamp but their bolder features on the breast;
Yet not an image, when remotely view'd,
However trivial, and however rude,
But wins the heart, and wakes the social sigh,
With every claim of close affinity!
But these pure joys the world can never know;
In gentler climes their silver currents flow.
Oft at the silent shadowy close of day,
When the hush'd grove has sung its parting lay;
When pensive Twilight, in her dusky car,
Comes slowly on to meet the evening-star;
Above, below, aerial murmurs swell,
From hanging wood, brown heath, and bushy dell!
A thousand nameless rills, that shun the light,
Stealing soft music on the ear of night.
So oft the finer movements of the soul,
That shun the sphere of Pleasure's gay controul,
In the still shades of calm Seclusion rise,
And breathe their sweet, seraphic harmonies!
Once, and domestic annals tell the time,
(Preserved in Cumbria's rude romantic clime)
When Nature smil'd, and o'er the landscape threw
Her richest fragrance, and her brightest hue,
A blithe and blooming Forester explor'd
Those loftier scenes SALVATOR'S soul ador'd;
The rocky pass half hung with shaggy wood,
And the cleft oak flung boldly o'er the flood;
Eager to bid the mountain-echoes wake,
And shoot the wild-fowl of the silver lake.
High on exulting wing the heath-cock rose,
And blew his shrill blast o'er perennial snows;
Ere the rapt youth, recoiling from the roar,
Gaz'd on the tumbling tide of dread Lodoar;
And thro' the rifted cliffs, that scal'd the sky,
Derwent's clear mirror charm'd his dazzled eye.
Each osier isle, inverted on the wave,
Thro' morn's grey mist its melting colours gave:
And, o'er the cygnet's haunt, the mantling grove
Its emerald arch with wild luxuriance wove.
Light as the breeze that brush'd the orient dew,
From rock to rock the young adventurer flew;
And day's last sunshine slept along the shore,
When, lo! an ambush'd path the smile of welcome wore.
Imbowering shrubs with verdure veil'd the sky,
And on the musk-rose shed a deeper dye;
Save when a bright and momentary gleam
Glanc'd from the white foam of some shelter'd stream.
O'er the still lake the bell of evening tolled,
And on the moor the shepherd penn'd his fold;
And on the green hill's side the meteor play'd;
When, hark! a voice sung sweetly thro' the shade.
It ceased — yet still in FLORIO'S fancy sung,
Still on each note his captive spirit hung;
Till o'er the mead a cool, sequester'd grot
From its rich roof a sparry lustre shot.
A crystal water cross'd the pebbled floor,
And on the front these simple lines it bore.
Hence away, nor dare intrude!
In this secret, shadowy cell
Musing MEMORY loves to dwell,
With her sister Solitude.
Far from the busy world she flies,
To taste that peace the world denies.
Entranc'd she sits; from youth to age,
Reviewing Life's eventful page;
And noting, ere they fade away,
The little lines of yesterday.
FLORIO had gained a rude and rocky seat,
When lo, the Genius of this still retreat!
Fair was her form — but who can hope to trace
The pensive softness of her angel-face?
Can VIRGIL'S verse, can RAPHAEL'S touch impart
Those finer features of the feeling heart,
Those tend'rer tints that shun the careless eye
And in the world's contagious climate die?
She left the cave, nor mark'd the stranger there;
Her pastoral beauty and her artless air
Had breath'd a soft enchantment o'er his soul!
In every nerve he felt her blest controul!
What pure and white-wing'd agents of the sky,
Who rule the springs of sacred sympathy,
Inform congenial spirits when they meet?
Sweet is their office, as their natures sweet!
FLORIO, with fearful joy, pursued the maid,
Till thro' a vista's moonlight-chequer'd shade,
Where the bat circled, and the rooks repos'd,
(Their wars suspended, and their counsels clos'd)
An antique mansion burst in solemn state,
A rich vine clustering round the Gothic gate.
Nor paus'd he here. The master of the scene
Mark'd his light step imprint the dewy green;
And, slow-advancing, hail'd him as his guest,
Won by the honest warmth his looks express'd.
He wore the rustic manners of a 'Squire;
Age had not quench'd one spark of manly fire;
But giant Gout had bound him in her chain,
And his heart panted for the chase in vain.
Yet here Remembrance, sweetly-soothing power!
Wing'd with delight Confinement's lingering hour.
The fox's brush still emulous to wear,
He scour'd the county in his elbow-chair;
And, with view-halloo, rous'd the dreaming hound,
That rung, by starts, his deep-ton'd music round.
Long by the paddock's humble pale confin'd,
His aged hunters cours'd the viewless wind:
And each, with glowing energy pourtray'd,
The far-fam'd triumphs of the field display'd;
Usurp'd the canvas of the crowded hall,
And chas'd a line of heroes from the wall.
There slept the horn each jocund echo knew,
And many a smile, and many a story drew!
High o'er the hearth his forest-trophies hung,
And their fantastic branches wildly flung.
How would he dwell on the vast antlers there!
This dash'd the wave, that fann'd the mountain-air.
Each, as it frown'd, unwritten records bore
Of gallant feats and festivals of yore.
But why the tale prolong? — His only child,
His darling JULIA, on the stranger smil'd.
Her little arts a fretful sire to please,
Her gentle gaiety and native ease,
Had won his soul — but ah! few days has pass'd,
Ere his fond visions prov'd too sweet to last.
When Evening ting'd the lake's ethereal blue,
And her deep shades irregularly threw;
Their shifting sail dropp'd gently from the cove,
Down by St. Herbert's consecrated grove;
Whence erst the chanted hymn, the taper'd rite,
Amus'd the fisher's solitary night;
And still the mitred window, richly wreath'd,
A sacred calm thro' the brown foliage breath'd.
The wild deer, starting thro' the silent glade,
With fearful gaze their various course survey'd.
High hung in air the hoary goat reclin'd,
His streaming beard the sport of every wind;
And, while the coot her jet-wing lov'd to lave,
Rock'd on the bosom of the sleepless wave;
The eagle rush'd from Skiddaw's purple crest,
A cloud still brooding o'er her giant-nest.
And now the moon had dimm'd, with dewy ray
The few fine flushes of departing day.
O'er the wide water's deep serene she hung,
And her broad lights on every mountain flung;
When lo! a sudden blast the vessel blew,
And to the surge consign'd the little crew.
All, all escaped — but ere the lover bore
His faint and faded JULIA to the shore,
Her sense had fled! — Exhausted by the storm,
A fatal trance hung o'er her pallid form;
Her closing eye a trembling lustre fir'd;
'Twas life's last spark — it flutter'd and expir'd!
The father strew'd his white hairs in the wind,
Call'd on his child — nor linger'd long behind:
And FLORIO liv'd to see the willow wave,
With many an evening whisper, o'er their grave.
Yes, FLORIO liv'd — and still of each possest,
The father cherish'd, and the maid caress'd!
For ever would the fond enthusiast rove,
With JULIA'S spirit, thro' the shadowy grove;
Gaze with delight on every scene she plann'd,
Kiss every floweret planted by her hand.
Ah! still he traced her steps along the glade,
When hazy hues and glimmering lights betray'd
Half-viewless forms; still listen'd as the breeze
Heav'd its deep sobs among the aged trees;
And at each pause her melting accents caught,
In sweet delirium of romantic thought!
Dear was the grot that shunn'd the blaze of day;
She gave its spars to shoot a trembling ray.
The spring, that bubbled from its inmost cell,
Murmur'd of JULIA'S virtues as it fell;
And o'er the dripping moss, the fretted stone,
In FLORIO'S ear breath'd language not its own.
Her charm around th' enchantress MEMORY threw,
A charm that sooths the mind, and sweetens too!
But is Her magic only felt below?
Say, thro' what brighter realms she bids it flow;
To what pure beings, in a nobler sphere,
She yields delight but faintly imag'd here:
All that till now their rapt researches knew,
Not called in slow succession to review;
But, as a landscape meets the eye of day,
At once presented to their glad survey!
Each scene of bliss reveal'd, since chaos fled,
And dawning light its dazzling glories spread;
Each chain of wonders that sublimely glow'd,
Since first Creation's choral anthem flow'd;
Each ready flight, at Mercy's smile divine,
To distant worlds that undiscover'd shine;
Full on her tablet flings its living rays,
And all combin'd with blest effulgence blaze.
There thy bright train, immortal Friendship, soar;
No more to part, to mingle tears no more!
And, as the softening hand of Time endears
The joys and sorrows of our infant-years,
So there the soul, released from human strife,
Smiles at the little cares and ills of life;
Its lights and shades, its sunshine and its showers;
As at a dream that charm'd her vacant hours!
Oft may the spirits of the dead descend
To watch the silent slumbers of a friend;
To hover round his evening-walk unseen,
And hold sweet converse on the dusky green;
To hail the spot where first their friendship grew,
And heav'n and nature open'd to their view!
Oft, when he trims his cheerful hearth, and sees
A smiling circle emulous to please;
There may these gentle guests delight to dwell,
And bless the scene they lov'd in life so well!
Oh thou! with whom my heart was wont to share
From Reason's dawn each pleasure and each care;
With whom, alas! I fondly hoped to know
The humble walks of happiness below;
If thy blest nature now unites above
An angel's pity with a brother's love,
Still o'er my life preserve thy mild controul,
Correct my views, and elevate my soul;
Grant me thy peace and purity of mind,
Devout yet cheerful, active yet resign'd;
Grant me, like thee, whose heart knew no disguise,
Whose blameless wishes never aim'd to rise,
To meet the changes Time and Chance present,
With modest dignity and calm content.
When thy last breath, ere Nature sank to rest,
Thy meek submission to thy God express'd;
When thy last look, ere thought and feeling fled,
A mingled gleam of hope and triumph shed;
What to thy soul its glad assurance gave,
Its hope in death, its triumph o'er the grave?
The sweet Remembrance of unblemish'd youth,
Th' inspiring voice of Innocence and Truth!
Hail, MEMORY, hail! in thy exhaustless mine
From age to age unnumber'd treasures shine!
Thought and her shadowy brood thy call obey,
And Place and Time are subject to thy sway!
Thy pleasures most we feel, when most alone;
The only pleasures we can call our own.
Lighter than air, Hope's summer-visions die,
If but a fleeting cloud obscure the sky;
If but a beam of sober Reason play,
Lo, Fancy's fairy frost-work melts away!
But can the wiles of Art, the grasp of Power
Snatch the rich relics of a well-spent hour?
These, when the trembling spirit wings her flight,
Pour round her path a stream of living light;
And gild those pure and perfect realms of rest,
Where Virtue triumphs, and her sons are blest!