A descriptive ode, not signed, in the manner of Goldsmith's Deserted Village. Brydges's "Poetical Fragment" is something of a cento of eighteenth century poetry, but chiefly imitates Samuel Rogers's Pleasures of Memory as a "pains of memory" poem. The poet, the editor of Censura Literaria, was a notoriously unhappy man who was preoccupied with the past as a bibliographer, novelist, and genealogist. While his poem is composed in couplets rather than quatrains, it takes its themes from Gray's Eton College Ode and Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, consisting of a gothic description of the locale and the melancholy reflections it provokes. Compare Robert Southey's "The Retrospect" in Poems (1795).
The poet was born in 1762 at Wootton Court in Kent, the son of Edward Brydges.
The "Poetical Fragment" opens with a description of the empty house: "No sound of human habitant is here. | The angry spirits of the wind alone | Shriek thro' thy rooms and 'mid thy turrets groan; | While the poor villager, who wont to stay, | And near this spot to linger on his way, | Now passes fearful on, nor looks around" p. 80. The poet enters by a creaking door, and the empty rooms remind him of the companions of his youth, men and women, who are imagined as far removed, engaged in the busy affairs of the hour; "But happy they, who, in the quiet grave, | The world's relentless storms no more must brave" p. 82. There follows a character of the mansion's late benevolent master, and an invocation of the dead alluding to Gray's Elegy: "Ye holy spirits of my buried sires, | Still e'en in death survive your wonted fires? | Still hovering round your once lov'd earthly walks, | Is it your voice that in the breezes talks?" p. 84. Like Gray's poem, the fragment concludes with an anticipation of the poet's death: "Sure 'tis the signal that ye come at last | To calm my breast, and soothe my sorrows past: | For long Misfortune's baleful hand has spread | Her iron tortures round my luckless head" p. 84.
Ah! poor deserted solitary dome!
Thou wast, tho' now so dreary, once my home!
From these lov'd windows was I wont to mark
The swain at noontide cross the chearful park;
And oft as pensive eve began to draw
O'er the sweet scene her shadowy veil, I saw
The weary woodman thro' the twilight pace,
His hearth's domestic circle to embrace!
Unnoticed now his mournful path he treads;
No casual ray thy gloomy window sheds;
From thy chill halls no clouds of smoke appear:
No sound of human habitant is here.
The angry spirits of the wind alone
Shriek thro' thy rooms and 'mid thy turrets groan;
While the poor villager, who wont to stay,
And near this spot to linger on his way,
Now passes fearful on, nor looks around,
Starts at each bough; and quakes at every sound.
With trembling footsteps I approach thy gates;
The massy door upon the hinges grates;
Hark! as it opens, what an hollow groan
'Cross the dark hall and down the aisles is thrown!
Still as each lov'd apartment I explore,
The ghosts glide by of joys that are no more;
Cold tremors seize my frame, and to my heart
Despair's chill shafts in clouds of sorrow dart!
O where are all the crew, whose social powers
Speeded beneath these roofs my youthful hours:
Some near yon fane, beneath the turfy mound,
From worldly cares have early quiet found
Wide o'er the globe dispersed the rest are seen;
Vast lands extend, deep oceans roll between.
Some in the burning suns of Asia toil
To win deceitful Fortune's gaudy smile;
Some in the battle's perils spend their breath,
And grasp at honour in the arms of death;
On Egypt's sandy plains, or 'mid the crew
Of mad rebellion still their course pursue;
Some to the gentler arts of peace apply,
Or with the gown's or senate's labours vie;
Watch with the moon thro' midnight's tranquil hour,
Learning's exhaustless volumes to explore;
Or paint bright Fancy's shadowy shapes which throng
Before the raptured sight, in living song,
While fondly as the fairy structure grows
With hope of endless fame the bosom glows.
But where are they, whose softer forms display'd
Beauty in all the charms of youth array'd?
Which first the breast with love's emotion fill'd,
And with new joys the dove-winged moments thrill'd.
Here glimmered first, amid a thousand wiles,
Thro' the deep blush, affection's purple smiles,
In murmurs died the voices melting tone,
And the heart throbb'd with softness yet unknown.
On yonder lawn in yonder tangled shade
Till twilight stole upon our joys we played;
Danced on the green, or with affected race
Pursued thro' winding walks the wanton chase;
Or sat on banks of flowers, and told some tale
Where hapless lovers o'er their fate bewail;
Or bad soft echo from her mossy seat
The floating music of their songs repeat!
Ye dear companions of my boyish days,
Fair idols of my vows and of my lays,
O whither are ye gone? what varied fate
Has heaven decreed your riper years to wait?
The bloom of youth no longer paint; your cheeks;
In your soft eyes gay hope no longer speaks;
Bright as the hyacinthine rays of Morn
Your checks no more the auburn locks adorn.
Some in the distant shades of privacy
With watchful looks a mother's care supply;
Some in the realms of fashion feed their pride,
Wafted on dissipation's vapoury tide:
And some alas! ere yet the silver hair
And tottering footsteps warn'd them to prepare,
Of life's vain course have closed the fickle race,
And sudden sunk in chilling death's embrace.
But happy they, who, in the quiet grave,
The world's relentless storms no more must brave;
For here no more had childhood's pure delights
Bless'd their sweet days, and hover'd o'er their nights.
Here cruel fate had early closed the door,
That opens to the voice of joy no more;
And still, wheree'er the wretched exiles strayed,
Black Care had gloom'd their steps, and Fraud betray'd;
And Envy scowl'd upon their fairest deeds,
And Calumny, that cursed fiend who feed;
With most delight on those, who most aspire
To win pure fame by virtue's holiest fire,
Had damp'd the ardor of the generous breast,
And glory's kindling visions had supprest.—
The grave contains them now: beneath a heap,
Of mouldering turf in silent rest they sleep,
Till the dread day when sounds the trump of fate,
And all with trembling hope their doom must wait.
O ye deep shadowy walks; ye forest-dells,
Where solitude with inmost mystery dwells!
Again I hail you! From the leaf strown earth
Visions of happy infancy spring forth
At every step I tread; and to my heart
A momentary ray of joy impart:
But ah! how soon, with present ills combin'd,
The dreadful contrast strikes the wounded mind
The clock that sent its undulating sounds
With deep-ton'd stroke thro' all your distant bounds
From yonder lofty tower, is silent now;
Silent the horn, that on yon airy brow,
Blew its shrill notes thro' all your calm retreats,
And rouz'd the Nymphs and Dryads from their seats;
And call'd sweet Echo, bidding her prolong
Thro' hill and grove and vale the chearful song:
Still is the breath of him who wak'd the horn;
The master's tongue, who did these scenes adorn,
Is silent in the dust; no more his voice
Bids the deep coverts of your woods rejoice;
No more the rustics' grateful breasts he chears,
Nor wipes from Poverty her bitter tears;
No more around him draws the eager cry
Of prattling childhood, to attract his eye,
From whence the rays of love and kindness fly;
No more his lips pronounce the awful tone
Of wisdom, and instruct the bad to moan
Their guilty course; and virtue still to bear
The load of life with fortitude and prayer.
Beneath the pavement of yon humble fane
Low in the earth his mouldering bones remain.
Mem'ry shall o'er the spot her vigils keep,
And Friendship and Affection long shall weep;
And he, who now attempts, in simple lays,
His honour'd fame so weakly to emblaze,
Shall never cease, till life its current stays,
To love, to speak, to view with idol eyes,
His merits kindling as they upward rise
O what a sudden gloom invests the heaven!
Black clouds across the fair expanse are driven
No sound is heard; save where a casual breeze
Shakes off the rustling leaves from faded trees.
Hark! what a gust was that! a fearful moan
Along the dark'ning forest seems to groan.
Ye holy spirits of my buried sires,
Still e'en in death survive your wonted fires?
Still hovering round your once lov'd earthly walks,
Is it your voice that in the breezes talks?
To him who sighs o'er all your glories gone,
Who weeps your scatter'd grove your ruin'd lawn
Who views with bursting heart your falling towers,
And fills with loud lament your ravag'd bowers;
To him, perchance your guardian cares extend;
O'er him perchance with favouring voice ye bend!
O hear me, sainted beings of the air,
One sign, ye smile upon my efforts, spare!
That gust again! louder it seem'd to move,
Rushing across the center of the grove!
Sure 'tis the signal that ye come at last
To calm my breast, and soothe my sorrows past:
For long Misfortune's baleful hand has spread
Her iron tortures round my luckless head.