1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Last Night: a Poem.

European Magazine 16 (October 1789) 295-96.

Edwin


A Della Cruscan fairy-vision in ten irregular Spenserians (ababB, with an interpolated incantation in octosyllabic couplets) signed "Edwin." The poem is subtitled "written in a State of Ill Health, and Addressed to Laura on her Birth-Day." The signature is taken from the character in Beattie's The Minstrel, where the fairies appear in Book I. But here the fairy passages seem about equally indebted to Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope. The dream-vision in Il Penseroso is thus reworked in a most conceitedly faux-antique manner: the spirit "flapp'd his wings, | His silken wings upon my eyes, | Which moisten'd well in Pity's springs, | Perching upon my lips, he flutt'ring dries, | Fann'd by my bosom's zephyr gale of waken'd sighs" p. 295. Perhaps the Spenserian stanza used here is to be regarded as diminished to fairy proportions. Compare, on this theme, Coleridge's "Lines in the Manner of Spenser" in Poems (1796).

The poet was at this period a regular contributor to the European Magazine.



Blest point of time — to those who sigh,
When ceasing pangs do die away;
When sleep sweet-stealing seals the eye,
And Lethe's Naiads 'round your pillow play,
Till Nature, 'fore exhausted, wakes refresh'd to day!

Then Fancy draws her airy forms,
And pictures scenes with mimic skill:
Or should she sink in Somnus' arms,
A whisp'ring Genius oft her place doth fill,
And breathe forth fairy tales of bliss or woe-wrought ill.

The Daemon Pain had ceas'd to fling
With angry hand his fretful dart;
The God of Sleep began to wing
His opiate arrow to my half-eas'd heart,
When thus a Genius sooth'd away its ev'ry smart:

"Soft and peaceful be thy rest,
Sweet complacence smooth thy breast;
Gentle Slumber, Pain's defence,
Shed her balmy influence:
And like easy be thy hours,
When the sun shall gild yon tow'rs,
For Aurora's new-born ray
Decks thy Laura's natal day.
Fairy elves now trip the lawn,
And will trip it till the dawn,
Flitting 'round, to magic spell,
Velvet-tufted asphodel;
From whose leaves they sip the dew
To the health of lovers true,
Hymning Laura's name with glee,
Maid 'of thy idolatry.'"

So sang the Sprite: — then flapp'd his wings,
His silken wings upon my eyes,
Which moisten'd well in Pity's springs,
Perching upon my lips, he flutt'ring dries,
Fann'd by my bosom's zephyr gale of waken'd sighs.

As from the surface of the deep
On waves sublime the wrecks arise,
And bodies ride fast-lock'd in sleep;
So on the rising swells of heaving sighs
Float these soft words — such as my melted soul supplies.

"Ah! gentle Genius, what tho' elves
Do flit around the daffodil,
And with the dew regale themselves;
Say, doth the Fairy Queen so sweetly will,
That Laura's life shall peaceful be and free from ill?

"Oh! may some fav'rite Sprite by day
Lead her where Pleasure's riv'let flows;
And guardian Sylphs from flow'rs in May,
The sleepy poppy — the dew-dropping rose,
Sweet philtres draw, which shed by night may bring repose."

With smiling mien that hope bespoke,
On sigh-fann'd wings the Genius flew,
Leaving my Fancy's fire awake,
Which lit with Truth th' ideal scenes she drew,
And kindled into fiction what was coldly true.

Somnus his opiate dart now drew,
When lo! the morn full gladsome seem'd,
The vaulted Sky spread brightest blue—
The rising Sun with heighten'd lustre beam'd,
From whose full orb then meridian splendour stream'd.

More deep — more fresh was nature's hue,
More blithe the woodland's harmony;
All seem'd to say the Sprite sang true—
E'en I from pangs by magic charm was free—
No pain but one I felt — the pain of loving Thee!

[pp. 295-96]