1785
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy on an infant Nephew.

Gentleman's Magazine 55 (July 1785) 557-58.

Rev. John Newell Puddicombe


25 irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "J. N. Puddicombe, Dulwich College." In this striking elegy the poet comforts the family by dwelling on the infant's life after death: "Replete with fragrance, crown'd with Eden's bloom, | How gaily did the tender flower arise! | But fairer now, it scatters new perfume, | Expands and blossoms in congenial skies: | Transplanted safe to a far holier clime, | Ne'er shall its vivid foliage feel the rage of Time!" Puddicombe was one of the moral original poetic voices of the 1780s, and was described as "mad" by at least one of his contemporaries. In retrospect, he seems rather ahead of his time: the diction and sentiments of this poem seem distinctly nineteenth-century in their aestheticism (the second stanza in particular).



'Tis done! the painful conflict is no more!
See where out-stretch'd the beauteous cherub lies;
Pale is that cheek where vigour bloom'd before,
Eternal darkness sits upon his eyes.
Where are thy frowns, O Death! thy horrors where!
How winning are thy looks! how amiable thy air!

Thus some young lily, that began to raise
Its silver pyramid, and scent the groves,
Cropt by the reaper's cruel scythe, displays
A languid beauty which ev'n death improves;
Though prostrate on the plain its honours fade,
Still it regales the smell, and beautifies the glade.

Thou pensive Muse, whose cheek's expiring bloom
In fair suffusion ceaseless tears o'erflow,
Come, with thy cypress wreaths adorn his tomb,
Pathetic mistress of the strain of woe;
Let the sweet tones of thy theorbo mourn,
And with melodious tears bedew his clay-cold urn.

See, Melancholy with dishevell'd hair,
Disorder'd vest, and attitude of grief,
To the rude winds lays her chill'd bosom bare,
And bars connubial fondness from relief;
Slowly she moves from her sepulchral gloom,
And smites her livid breast, and rends her sable plume.

Fly then, the debt of sympathy to pay;
Pluck Sorrow's shaft from the pierc'd bleeding breast,
Tinge with celestial Comfort's orient ray
The joyless shades surrounding the distrest,
Build Truth's imperial mausoleum high,
On just Affection's shrine offering the pious sigh.

Insensate Fate, regardless of our prayer,
Veil'd in Cimmerian night our smiling morn,
How bright a day did it presage, how fair!
Death, viewing our fond schemes of bliss with scorn,
A dart from the full quiver at his side
Snatch'd, the pierc'd victim sunk — he languish'd, and he died.

Short was his sojourn here — just sent to raise
Our towering hopes, then leave us to deplore
Their airy fabric fall'n! the meteor blaze
Dazzled a moment, and was seen no more!
Thus (transient pomp) nocturnal visions glare
In dreaming Fancy's eye, then mingle with the air.

Such was the smile, so charming, so serene,
Which still in life o'er his lov'd features play'd;
The same his looks, the same his gentle mien,
Though in Death's icy arms forever laid!
Still the driv'n snow yields to that spotless skin,
Fit emblem of the soul that lately lodg'd within.

But, lo! divested of its cumbrous clay,
Angels escort th' immortal spirit's flight,
Where stars and sun e'er sent their piercing ray,
To realms of bliss, and worlds of endless light.
Why then, since milder Reason whispers peace,
Must Nature still prevail, and her soft griefs increase?

Now rais'd to heights of extasy divine,
Our plaintive accents with regret he hears,
Thinks us unkind thus seeming to repine
At his blest change, and wonders at our tears.
When ages without number disappear,
His joys are but begun, his heaven no change shall fear!

Invested with a coronet of light,
In amaranthine groves, and fragrant bow'rs,
He quaffs nectareous currents rolling bright
From jasper rocks through never-fading flow'rs;
While from Heaven's Organ bursts the peal sublime,
And fills with Jubilee the fair delicious clime!

Thrice happy infant! what a doom is thine!
Far worthier of our envy than our tears!
Destin'd so soon thy burthen to resign!
So soon translated to thy native spheres,
Where, all transform'd, a pure etherial mind,
Thou minglest with the blest, an angel with his kind!

Oh! while around the Throne of Light he moves,
Conducted by some guardian Seraph's hand,
With lutes, whose strain the bliss of heaven improves,
Regal'd and welcom'd by th' angelic band,
Exult, parental Love; nor here below
Bend weeping o'er his urn, and feed upon thy woe.

'Twere impious to lament his glorious lot:
Is it no bliss to be remov'd on high,
Where every human sorrow is forgot,
Above the starry regions of the sky?
Where torrents of immortal pleasure roll,
Joy rushing upon joy, unconscious of controul!

The vast delights of the divine abodes
What emphasis of language can pourtray!
See! round th' Eternal, in adoring odes,
Angels with angels join'd, their zeal display;
Immortal palms high-waving in their hands,
With voice sublimely tun'd the glittering cohort stands!

From the convulsive pang forever free,
The victim of acute disease no more,
From all the miseries of mortality
Releas'd forever, on the heavenly shore
He rests secure, and triumphs o'er the storm
Which with such rage on earth assail'd his feeble form!

Let this lov'd thought exert its soothing sway,
Through the torn heart infusing balm divine,
While we commit to its congenial clay
His mortal part, and dust to dust consign.
Your wings o'er the cold relics ever dear,
Bright Cherubim, expand, and guard his mournful bier!

Nor long the captive of all-conquering Death
That pallid mouldering body shall remain;
Quick-rous'd by the last trumpet's awful breath,
All vigorous, it shall break its yielding chain,
And, bursting the dark caverns of the tomb,
Arise divinely fair, flush'd with celestial bloom!

Hark! how his infant voice in hymns of praise
Now joins triumphant the seraphic choir,
Grand Halleluiahs and sonorous lays
Flowing, melodious, from each heavenly lyre!
Loud, and more loud, swells the majestic sound,
While from th' empyreal arch the lofty strains rebound.

But though meek Duty cries, "forbear to mourn,
Is he not blest?" yet the spontaneous tear
Of erring Fondness wishes his return,
And would detain him a frail prisoner here,
Where visionary forms of bliss decoy,
Deep seas of lasting care swallowing one transient joy!

Replete with fragrance, crown'd with Eden's bloom,
How gaily did the tender flower arise!
But fairer now, it scatters new perfume,
Expands and blossoms in congenial skies:
Transplanted safe to a far holier clime,
Ne'er shall its vivid foliage feel the rage of Time!

Still, as eternity pursues its round,
It odours shall increase, its charms improve;
Its blossoms no corrosive worm shall wound
In the blest realms of purity and love:
There shall it blow, still flourishing and fair,
There no rude blasting storm shall its bright bloom impair!

Orb'd in a lucid cloud, from yonder skies,
See, blest Religion comes, with aspect bland!
Before her smile the gloom of Sorrow flies,
Serene she speaks, waving her graceful hand.
Straight lightsome vistas lengthen, on our ears
Celestial music bursts, and Heaven itself appears!

From her soft lips consoling language flows,
She bids us with submissive reverence bear
The sad vicissitudes and numerous woes
That wait each pilgrim in this vale of care;
Tells us the skies reluctantly reprove,
And what correction seems is but parental love.

Come then, sweet Patience, placid Cherub, shed
That sovereign cordial which can grief compose,
Just breathe the requiem o'er the guiltless dead,
And meekly the last solemn office close;
Warm with seraphic hopes Affliction's breast,
Each rebel murmur sooth'd, each fruitless sigh suppress'd.

[pp. 557-58]