1795
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode on Truth.

Poetical Sketches, by Ann Batten Cristall.

Ann Batten Cristall


Seven irregular Spenserians (ababcC) "addressed to George Dyer": "That lyre, which sweetly turn'd its polish'd strain, | And sung of Pity, Liberty, and Peace, | The Muses shall invite to strike again, | And may their virtuous votaries still encrease!" p. 187. The sober sentiments and chaste diction of this poem, the last in the volume, suggest that it may have been intended as a kind of palinode. Robert Southey met Ann Batten Cristall at George Dyer's; she seems to have traveled in liberal circles.

Preface: "The seeds scattered in my mind were casual; the productions spontaneous and involuntary. I can only say that what I have written is genuine, and that I am but little indebted either to ancient or modern poets. With the ancient poets, indeed, my acquaintance has been but small, and only obtained through the medium of translations. Whatever superiority those may enjoy who can boast an acquaintance with these great masters, and however ambitious they may be to copy those originals, yet I cannot help observing, that we have many instances of modern poets who have succeeded without treading too closely in their steps. Of this, the truly poetic energy of ROBERT BURNS, and the simple elegance of some of GEORGE DYER'S poems, afford remarkable instances; the latter, though a professed admirer of those writers, appears to have guarded against a servile imitation of them" p. vi.

British Critic: "There is a great deal of genuine poetical spirit in these compositions, and they will be read with great satisfaction by all but the fastidious Critic, who refuses to pardon, even in writers without experience, a seeming inattention to rhyme and the structure of verse. In this respect there are some irregularities in Miss Cristall's performance but there is much genius, and warmth of imagination. It is our fortune to meet with so little good poetry, that we are glad to take every opportunity of placing before our readers the dawn of what may ripen into future excellence" 5 (April 1795) 423.

Critical Review: "We recommend this ingenious young lady to the patronage of the public, being convinced, that she is the poetess of nature, and that she will amply repay the attention of her readers. Her Sketches do not all possess equal merit; but they all possess something that will please. Her regular pieces are harmonious and sprightly; where they are sentimental, they are judicious. As to her faults, they are few, when compared with her beauties; and are of that kind, which time and more experience will easily correct" Critical Review NS 13 (March 1795) 292.

Analytical Review: "The small volume of poems here offered to the public are not written exactly according to the rules of art. the writer has not had it in her power to enrich either her fancy, or her vocabulary, from the treasures of antiquity. She has not been much indebted for imagery, or phraseology, to modern poets; she has not confined herself strictly to the established laws of english versification: we must add, that she has not always been so careful as might have been wished, to choose perfect rhimes, or to avoid prosaic diction. Nevertheless she has written many pieces, which discover no inconsiderable portion of poetical feeling and energy: her descriptions of nature are often such, as could not have been produced without a lively fancy; and sometimes her verse gratifies the ear with a continued flow of melody. In those pieces, in which the verse is irregular, and of which the principal business is to describe natural objects, or to express emotions and passions, miss C. has succeeded best" 21 (1795) 282-83.



Where Fancy paints with Nature's simplest hues,
And music's soul-entrancing concords join,
There shall my numbers hail the modest Muse,
As fervently she pours the generous line!
While noblest thoughts mine ardent soul inspire
To catch a glimpse of Truth, and glow with Nature's fire.

O Truth! pure virtue's uncorrupted source!
How long shall art refract thy glorious rays,
Or prejudice repel thy genuine force,
Till mortal eyes can scarce endure the blaze?
How impious thus to quit the heavenly light
For folly's idle glare, and tapers of the night!

Ye, in whose bosoms passion holds its sway,
Whom wild ambition prompts to raise a name;
Who, wandering far from Nature's sober way,
Would rush impetuous to the mount of Fame;
Know, while the steep with eager steps ye climb,
That, Truth must give you strength, Truth only is sublime.

Whether ye mingle with th' ecstatic throng
Who thrill with skillful touch the sounding wire;
Or dare the loftiest flights of heavenly song;
Or to the painter's noble art aspire;
Whate'er the path, whatever means be tried,
Nature and Truth your steps must always guide.

Yet art thou hid, fair Truth, from human eyes,
Existing pure, yet ne'er unsullied found.
O! clear those clouds which still infest our skies,
Dissolve those specious shows which still confound;
Burst every limit which obstructs thy ray,
And to the moral eye unfold a cloudless day.

Thou, whom fraternal love and freedom fire,
Whose wide benevolence unbounded flows,
Whose unaffected Muse those truths inspire
Which prove that Nature in thy bosom glows;
Through thee has Truth shot forth her potent beam,
And simple Nature's praise resounded in thy theme.

That lyre, which sweetly turn'd its polish'd strain,
And sung of Pity, Liberty, and Peace,
The Muses shall invite to strike again,
And may their virtuous votaries still encrease!
Still Truth, through thee, shall dart her purest rays,
And simple Nature woo thy modest, plaintive lays.

[pp. 185-87]