1794
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Self-Exiled Minstrel.

Poems on Several Occasions. By Mrs. Darwall (formerly Miss Whateley) in Two Volumes.

Mary Darwall


A lover's complaint in ten irregular Spenserians (ababB). The unusual rhyme pattern is Spenserian version of a ballad stanza. The minstrel, a humble youth, is granted preferment by a Scottish lord, but has the misfortune to fall in love with his beautiful daughter: "My cheek grew wan, my trembling hand no more | Cou'd trill the note, no more my bosom glow'd | At tale of ancient Bard, or friendly lore: | Deep throbb'd the sigh, the tear incessant flow'd, | And tasteless grew each gift all-bounteous heav'n bestow'd" 2:49-50. In the end, he is compelled to take to the road.

William Enfield: "The character of these pleasing little volumes may be expressed in a few words. Without any uncommon flights of genius and fancy, the author expresses natural sentiments, chiefly of the tender kind, in smooth and easy verse. If the reader's feelings should not be fired into rapture by 'words that burn,' they will be agreeably soothed into sympathy by the harmonious strains of a gentle muse. The soft beauties of nature, and the tender sentiments of the heart, are the writer's favourite themes; and the poetical strings which accord with these she touches very agreeably.... Except a pretty dramatic pastoral, entitled Valentine's Day, these pieces are all short and detached, in the form of epistles, odes, sonnets, songs, and elegies. A few sonnets in the style of elegant simplicity, written by two young friends of the author, are added at the close of the second volumes" Monthly Review NS 18 (September 1795) 95-96.



Where CLYDE'S clear stream descends from ERRICK hills
MACGOWAN'S time-worn honour'd castle stands;
Whose gothic grandeur each beholder fills
With pleasing awe; and from surrounding lands
Its owner's ancient right of fealty demands.

There Phoebus smil'd upon my humble birth,
And taught my hand to touch the tuneful reed,
Inspir'd my soul with harmony; — whilst mirth
Sat blinking in my eyne; — the flocks to feed
Was all my youthful joy, my master's praise my meed.

His favor took me from my fleecy care,
And bade me with my wild notes wake the morn;
In his high hall th' heart-stirring song prepare,
In concert with the flute and loud-tun'd horn,
And bade on evening gales the cheerful strains be borne.

How blest my lot! — till twenty summers roll'd
Smoothly away, and brought on manhood's prime;
When cares unknown before, and griefs untold,
O'erwhelm'd my soul, and made me rue the time,
When first I tun'd my pipe to OSSIAN'S lays sublime.

For oh! MACGOWAN'S daughter, Scotland's boast,
Each day with added graces fir'd my breast;
Of all her high-born dames the fav'rite toast,
(And as the fairest, so was she the best,)
Robb'd all days of peace, my nights of balmy rest.

My cheek grew wan, my trembling hand no more
Cou'd trill the note, no more my bosom glow'd
At tale of ancient Bard, or friendly lore:
Deep throbb'd the sigh, the tear incessant flow'd,
And tasteless grew each gift all-bounteous heav'n bestow'd.

At length a noble youth, struck with her charms,
In lordly state MACGOWAN'S castle sought;
In person elegant, renown'd in arms,
In all that wins the fair's affections taught,
His heart with ev'ry grace and manly virtue fraught.

Tho' hope had ne'er found entrance in my breast,
The sight of DOUGLAS doubled ev'ry pain;
Each day, each night afflictions sorer press'd;
To hide, or to disclose my grief were vain;
Despair weigh'd down my soul, and madness fir'd my brain.

When thro' the woods the wild winds whistled loud,
When rustling leaves in storms around me flew,
Red lightn'nings glar'd from ev'ry murky cloud,
And horror on each once-lov'd object threw,—
At dead of night I bade my honor'd home adieu.

Far, far I wander'd hopelss and forlorn,
O'er many a desert drear, and forest wild,
Oppress'd with poverty, fatigue and scorn,
For who, alas! with manners gently mild,
Softens the ruthless sorrows of misfortune's child?

Not long I ween this weary life can last;
Some friendly cot may open to my woes,
Screen my poor death-chill'd limbs from the keen blast;
Its pitying tenant may my eye-lids close,
And under the cold sod my long long griefs repose.

[2:47-52]