1817
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Idwal: Introductory Stanzas.

Idwal, and other Portions of a Poem; to which is added, Gryphiadaea, carmen venatorium. By P. Bayley, Esq.

Peter Bayley


Ten Spenserians. In his prefatory verses Peter Bayley offers his poem as a fragment of a larger epic on Welsh themes, and states his ambitions: "Yet fearless mount! for from a noble theme | Thy numbers flow: and safely may aspire | To win from just and loyal hearts esteem, | And truth and virtuous love some faults may well redeem." He dedicates his poem to a person whose name he will suppress until the poem is completed and finds approval.

Preface: "The poem from which the following fragments are taken, is founded on events which occured about the time of the second invasion of Wales by Henry II. in what may not improperly be styled the golden age of Welsh poetry. It has been too much the custom to mention the Cambrians as a barbarous people. At the time spoken of they had, to say nothing of their music, a body of poetry; which is more than their scoffing oppressors could boast of for centuries after. The bravest of the Cambrian warriors of that age rank among the most illustrious of their nation's Poets. Still many of the works of Hywel ab Owain Gwynedd, of Owain Cyveiliog, of Cynddelw, and of Gwalchamai are extant; and a selection from them, if I live to execute my intentions, may one day appear in an English dress.... The first of the subsequent portions is an Episode, connected with the main action of the poem. The character of Idwal, and the scenery amid which the events of the Episode pass, are detailed, for the purpose of varying a poem founded on military events, and from which the contrast obtained by much admixture of female character is excluded by circumstances. The first Canto of 'The Hostages' was written in the space of twenty five days, during an illness which confined me to my bed. The second Canto was written in considerably less time. This may account for many marks of slovenly execution, which I shall not attempt to excuse. A time for correction may be found, when the entire poem is completed" viii-x.

Gentleman's Magazine: "No doubt, there were men of heroic bravery among the Britons, but a society of farmers and labourers can never cope with regular armies; and though Idwal might make a good subject for a novel, if accompanied with sufficient incident, it is still not the proper subject for an Epic Poem. It has no general interest; not the Historical fame requisite. The subject, even of an Ode, in the mind of Gray, was always great in itself. His Ode, the Bard, is, in point of England. We do not speak thus to condemn Mr. Bailey. The subject alone led us to these remarks" 89 (March 1819) 239.

Literary Gazette: "His Preface, we conceive, is one of the weakest, by way of preparation for what we are to expect, that ever was penned. He boasts of the short time in which most of his fragments were written, acknowledges that he is conscious of their errors, promises to correct them hereafter, and lays them, all crude as they are, before the public. Nothing can well be conceived ore indecent and unjustifiable; it even approaches to arrogance. It seems to say, that there is enough of merit to carry the performance through, in despite of all its blemishes, and it is paying a compliment to the reader's good-nature at the expense of his pocket, or his understanding" (10 May 1817) 243.

European Magazine: "The first portion, entitled 'Idwal,' is, in general, highly poetical, both in the tale itself, and in the manner it is told. In some instances, the hero bears, perhaps, too close a resemblance to Beattie's Edwin: and it occurred to us, in reading, that his tragic fate would have excited more interest, and created more effect, had it not been intimated so frequently previous, thus preparing the reader for a denouement which he is all along told is inevitable" 72 (July 1817) 54.



Go forth, adventurous portions of my song!
Snatch'd from a cadence of connected strain,
That, yet imperfect, hastens on, ere long
Its destin'd form and harmony to gain.
Proceed ye links! tho' sever'd from the chain
That best their moral with high deeds may bind.
Pluck'd from your just dependence on the train
Of fair proportion to my lay assign'd,
Ye yet may show the strain that rests unsung behind.

His eye the Hunter turning to the clouds,
Knows at a glance the towering Eagle's flight,
Ere the swift course of rolling volumes shrouds
At once the lofty soarer from his sight:
The woodman knows the Owl, at fall of night
Seen for a moment sailing down some glen:
Nor, closely thro' embowering leaves unite
To shade her flitting, can the little wren
Deceive in twilight groves the homeward School-boy's ken.

Let but one cluster from the vine distil
Its luscious tears, its raciness is scann'd:
A little water, from the bubbling rill,
Scoop'd in the hasty hollow of the hand,
Resolves at once the traveller's demand,
If pure the well to which his thirst applies.
Whate'er in Nature soft, or fair, or grand,
Calls on the soul with it to sympathise,
At once effects its end: one glance will oft suffice.

So in the world of intellect, one beam
Pour'd from the source divine of mental day,
Makes glad the gifted souls; and like the stream
Of light and warmth that flows with morning's ray,
Sheds bright and cheering influence on its way.
Thrice happy they, who, fated to dispense
The finest fire that animates our clay,
See from the sparks of their own minds commence
And spread far round the glow of pure intelligence.

Thrice happy they, the few, that o'er the throng
Of names that perish, wing their glorious flight,
Explore the avenues of deathless song,
And live for ever in resplendent light,
Mocking decay, and envious time's despight.
The many 'mid the flood of ages fail,
Borne down for ever in oblivion's night:
But these above the tide in ether sail,
And nations yet unborn shall bid their triumph hail.

Mount, my adventurous descant! tho' thy strain
Rise not to join the harpings of the Lyre
Sacred alone to that immortal train,
The unapproached Lords of song, that fire
The souls of all that listen to their quire—
Yet fearless mount! for from a noble theme
Thy numbers flow: and safely may aspire
To win from just and loyal hearts esteem,
And truth and virtuous love some faults may well redeem.

And THOU, UNNAMED! and ever so to be
Unless my song achieve its lofty aim,
Safe in thy shade my true devotion see:
No strain of mine of doubtful note shall shame
The sanction of thy tutelary name.
Clear from the perils of my flight peruse
Unseen my course: but should the breath of fame
Play sweetly with the hymnings of my muse
What dearer name than thine for honour can I chuse?

What smile, approving, in my heart can raise
A purer glow of joy than flows from thine?
What voice like thine will sweetly sound in praise,
Should that dear meed of happy song be mine?
Nor thou my homage, offer'd thus, decline;
Since thy own feelings animate my strain:
To splendid crimes due guerdon I assign;
As thou, I view false Glory with disdain;
Nor shall ambition's praise my honest numbers stain.

Thou art not one that mocks the studious oil
Burnt o'er the labours of the wakeful night;
Thy soul despises not the Poet's toil
That imps his wing for honourable flight:
Not in the bowers of bacchanal delight,
Not in the myrtle shades of amorous joy
Thou leavest him pausing: but to realms of light
Up-pointing, bidst him spurn each idle toy,
And but on noblest themes man's noblest powers employ.

Then from the tissue of my lay receive
These portions, while the shuttle swiftly flies
The latest margin of my web to weave;
And let thy voice my labours authorise:
So the wrought characters before thine eyes
Shall call back Justice, whose revolting wing
Leaves man forlorn, turn'd upward to the skies;
And, as the varied threads of song I fling,
Faith, Honour, thine own Truth, beneath my hand shall spring.

[pp. xv-xx]