1804
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Content. Addressed to a Lady.

Poems, by the late John Nesbitt White.

John Nesbitt White


The second of a pair of imitations of Milton's L'Allegro by John Nesbitt White, a juvenile poet who died the following year at the age of sixteen. The poems would have been undertaken as school exercises. Most of the allegorical odes published in this memorial volume are on the Greek model, showing (as here) the influence of William Collins at Chiswick School. White was born in India, and evidently would have enjoyed a considerable fortune had he lived. His poems were posthumously published in 1806.



Meek nature's child, auspicious maid,
With thee to roam the silent glade;
Through flow'ry paths of pleasure stray,
While balmy health adorns the way,
Were better far than tinsell'd toys,
Ambition's vain delusive joys;
Where envy's venom'd shafts prepare
To heap the busy shrine of care,
And ruin, and destruction lies
Conceal'd beneath the dazzling prize.
Oh thou whose soft resistless pow'r
Can sooth misfortune's gloomy hour,
To whom propitious fates decreed
A brighter far, a nobler mead;
When morn his purple wreath renews
With fragrance moist and pearly dews,
Or evening comes in sober grey
To Philomela's parting lay,
Let me thy solemn accents hear,
Soft whisper'd to th' enraptur'd ear,
Whether my wand'ring footsteps stray
Through groves impervious to the day;
Or where the flow'ry fields disclose
The varied beauties of the rose;
Or by the hill, the stream along,
Re-echoing with the shepherd's song.
In spring, in summer's ardent rage,
Or autumn mellowing into age,
Or when collected winter shows
A dreary barren waste of snows,
Guide me to thy sequester'd cell
Wherein the modest virtues dwell;
And in thy philosophic train
Sweet innocence appears to reign;
To live in hope, in pleasure free,
And I will yield my heart to thee.

[pp. 72-73]