1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Bermudian: a Poem.

The Bermudian: a Poem. By Nathaniel Tucker.

Dr. Nathaniel Tucker


An early imitation of Goldsmith's Deserted Village by an American poet. Writing from Charleston, South Carolina Nathaniel Tucker recalls the verdant paradise where he spent his childhood. In this poem Tucker develops the emigration theme that would become an important element in a busy series of American imitations of Goldsmith, of which this appears to be the first. From South Carolina he would press on to Edinburgh (1775) to study medicine; there he seems, like the poet Hugh Downman, to have been one of Thomas Blacklock's boarders. The Bermudian was printed both in London and Williamsburg Virginia, the residence of the poet's brother St. George Tucker (the prefatory letter appears only in the Williamsburg edition). It attracted the attention of Anna Seward, who sent some manuscript verses to the poet.

Dedication: "To Henry Tucker, Junior, Esq. of Bermuda. Dear Sir, The sincere Affection which has ever subsisted between us has induced me to take the Liberty of prefixing your Name to this little Poem. as it was my first Attempt in this Way, and written at an early Period of Life, it is hoped its Faults may meet with Indulgence. You will see that I am, in some Measure, indebted for its Plan to Doctor Goldsmith's Deserted Village, and that, several of the Thoughts are likewise borrowed from that pleasing Writer. Many others, which I imagined, on a late Perusal of his Poem, may appear to be so, were only suggested by a Similarity of Sentiment. If I did not think that a Performance of much less Merit than his might possibly meet with a favourable Reception, I should not have ventured to make this publick. As it is an American Production, I flatter myself with some Expectation of Partiality from the Western World. I cannot, my dear Brother, after the Example of many other Writers, boast a total Indifference with Respect to the Opinion of the Publick; and if there be any Crime in wishing for the Approbation of Men, who, like you, know how to set a proper Value on a good Heart, though its Emotions may not be described in the most classical Language, I must confess myself culpable in the highest Degree. I am, Sir, Your most affectionate Brother, N. Tucker" iii-iv.

Gentleman's Magazine: "The happy island of Bermudas, so highly extolled by Waller, under the name of The Summer Island, and since so distinguished by the pious but visionary project, formed by Dean Berkeley, of establishing a college there, has here met with a native to celebrate her praises with all the enthusiasm which the 'natale solum' usually inspires, and in numbers not unworthy a much older son of Apollo. In particular, the picturesque ideas which rise in our poet's mind in is hours of absence, on recollecting the delightful scenery of his native land, discover such marks both of genius and sensibility, that, if our limits would permit, we should gladly indulge ourselves with a large quotation; but we had rather refer our readers to the whole, wh ich will well reward the perusal of every true lover of the Muses, and shall only add the author's animated and humorous character of his school-master" 44 (July 1774) 325.

Critical Review: "The description of Bermuda which Mr. Tucker, who is a Bermudian, has given us, we have perused with much satisfaction. 'Ubi plura nitent in carmene, no ego paucis | Offendar Maculis' says Horace; and in this he wisely consulted his own interest as a reader, as well as the credit of his brother writers; for he who is resolved to be displeased at every thing which is not excellent, will find little entertainment in reading. We endeavour to adopt Horace's maxim, and are therefore entertained with Mr. Tucker's performance, notwithstanding a few blemishes which occur in some parts. If this be a juvenile production, as is hinted in a sonnet prefixed to it, we may expect pieces still more finished from the same author" 38 (July 1774) 75.

Town and Country Magazine: "Mr. Tucker has here given us a poetical description of the island of Bermudas, of which he is a native; and, as a juvenile production, is not destitute of merit" 5 (August 1774) 437.

Lewis Leary: "He wrote to St. George in Williamsburg about plans for the publication of a volume which he would call The Bermudian. He urged his younger brother to distribute subscription papers among friends in Virginia, and told him that Thomas Tudor Tucker would see to the publication of the volume in Edinburgh, or even London. Proceeds from the sale of the two editions, one in Virginia and one abroad, would certainly bring in enough, he thought, to allow him to pursue his education. After those were published, he thought he might venture a second volume which he tentatively planned to call The Hermit. Then, if his writings should be well received, he might 'turn author and live in a garret' happily for the rest of his life" Complete Unpublished Poems (1973) 8.

The poem opens with a description of Bermuda's attractive climate, and a lament that Bermuda's sons "At honest labour's call, with fruitless pains, | Are far dispers'd o'er Britain's wide domains"; among these is the poet, "A wand'ring exile from my native shore p. 3. He recalls a series of domestic scenes, among them an account of his schoolmaster, imitated from Goldsmith: "Skilful he was, and dabbled in the law, | Bonds, notes, petitions — any thing cou'd draw: | 'Twas even whisper'd, and 'tis strictly true, | He claim'd acquaintance with the Muses too" p. 8. A graveyard recalls memories of the unfortunate Atticus, and the gentle Candidus. The sight of an empty house recalls the memory of the unfortunate Ardella. He then describes his own house where "With many a joke my brothers wou'd assail, | Or chear my sisters with the comic tale; | While both fond parents pleas'd, the group survey'd, | Attentive heard, and smil'd at all they said" p. 13. The poem concludes with a recollection of his departure from Bermuda: "For ever blotted be the fatal day | That tore me from their circling arms away, | When the tall ship, regardless of my pain, | Call'd me reluctant to the sounding main" p. 15.



BERMUDA, parent of my early days,
To thee belong my tributary lays;
In thy blest clime, secur'd from instant harms,
A tender mother press'd me in her arms,
Lull'd me to rest with many a ditty rare,
And look'd and smil'd upon her infant care.
She taught my lisping accents how to flow,
And bade the virtues in my bosom glow.

Hail Nature's darling spot! enchanted isle!
Where vernal blooms in sweet succession smile;
Where, cherish'd by the fost'ring sea-born gale,
Appears the tall palmetto of the vale;
The rich banana, tenant of the shade,
With leaf broad-spreading to the breeze display'd,
The memorable tree, of aspect bold,
That grac'd thy plains, O Lebanus, of old;
The fragrant lime, the lemon at his side,
And golden orange, fair Hesperia's pride.
While genial Summer, who, approaching fast,
Claims to disperse the short-liv'd wint'ry blast,
O'er the green hill, and cedar-bearing plain,
Boasts undisturb'd a long-protracted reign.

Here blushing Health, descending from above,
The daughter fair of cloud-compelling Jove,
Pleas'd with the scene all naturally gay,
And importun'd by Temperance to stay,
In pity to the weary peasant's toil,
With blessings crown'd the wave-surrounded soil.

Too happy land! if in the search around
The source of opulence cou'd here be found,
And thy worn offspring, ev'ry care resign'd,
His dwelling peaceful, and serene his mind,
With independence bless'd, could sit him down
In age secure from niggard Fortune's frown!
But early torn reluctant from their home,
Amidst the tempest's roar condemn'd to roam,
Thy scatter'd sons, a race of giant form,
Whose souls at peril mock, and brave the storm,
At honest labour's call, with fruitless pains,
Are far dispers'd o'er Britain's wide domains.

Eternal blessings with profusion smile,
And crown with lasting bliss my parent isle!
Blest be the narrow field, the little cot,
And blest the lab'ring swain's contented lot!
For thee may Commerce to the southern gale
Successfully expand her swelling sail,
And from Peruvian mines the slave for thee,
With treasures load the wave-dividing tree!
With joy returning, each endeavour sped,
No more compell'd to roam for scanty bread,
All heart-corroding cares at length supprest,
Each want supply'd and ev'ry wish possest;
May thy lost children, to their friends restor'd,
Taste every blessing Fortune can afford.
While I, whose birth more inauspicious far,
Confess'd the reign of some malignant star,
Whose name, alas! from fair Enjoyment's date
Stands far remov'd upon the roll of Fate,
With weary step, each distant realm explore,
A wand'ring exile from my native shore.

Oft, when in shades envelop'd, Night descends,
And Darkness o'er the hemisphere extends,
When gloomy Silence hushes ev'ry sound,
And dead Tranquillity prevails around,
And the distress'd, unmindful of their woes,
In balmy sleep their heavy eye-lids close,
While no repose my weary soul can find,
Thy lov'd idea rises in my mind.
Swift at the thought, and for enjoyment keen,
Regardless of the seas that roll between,
Where o'er surrounding depths thy cliffs arise,
With rapid wing my busy fancy flies;
And, representing scenes of past delights,
A painful pleasure in my breast excites.

E'en now, transported to my native land,
Upon the summit of some hill I stand,
The cedars view, uncultur'd as they grow,
And all the varied scenery below.
Far at a distance as the eye can reach,
Extend the mazes of the winding beach:
Loud on the coast the bellowing ocean roars,
While foaming surges lash the whiten'd shores;
Stupendous rocks in wild confusion stand,
Lift their tall cliffs, and sadden all the strand.

Before Aurora gilds the eastern skies
The sun-burnt tenants of the cottage rise;
With many a yawn their drowsy comrades hail,
Rub their dim eyes, and taste the morning-gale.
Some bear the basket, plenteously supply'd
With hooks and lines, the able fisher's pride;
Others with dextrous hands the toils display,
Well skill'd to circumvent the scaly prey;
With wide-extended nets the shores they sweep,
Or man the bark, and plough the finny deep.
The happy islander, return'd at night,
Recounts the day's adventures with delight;
Astonishes the list'ning croud with tales
Of rocks avoided, and of dang'rous gales;
Of groupers who, deluded by the bait,
Shar'd many a former grouper's wretched fate;
And rock-fish, who had tugg'd the well-stretch'd line,
Oblig'd their pond'rous carcase to resign.
The little urchin, playing on the strand,
At distance kens the bark return'd to land,
He hies impatient, views the scaly store,
And bids his parent welcome to the shore.

Meanwhile the housewife decks the cleanly board
With all her homely cottage can afford;
Her little brood are seated to their wish,
And taste the blessings of the smoking dish;
Of childish stories prattle all the while,
Regarding either parent with a smile;
The finny monster's grateful taste admire,
And for it bless their providential fire.
He with delight the youthful tribe surveys,
His gladen'd eyes still brighten as they gaze;
Of earthly joys he knows no higher pitch,
And bids the prince be great, the miser rich.

Where rising Phoebus darts the morning-ray,
The verdant hills a diff'rent scene display;
Promiscuous houses in the vale are seen,
Whose decent white adorns the lively green.
The weary peasant here, reclin'd at ease,
Beneath his fig-tree courts the southern breeze;
Or, while the great, at fruitless cares, repine,
He sits the monarch of his little vine.

There scatter'd isles, whose banks the waters lave,
Grace with their herbage the pellucid wave.
The lordly bullock there, unus'd to toil,
Securely stalks the tyrant of the soil;
While tender lambkins on the margin play,
And sport and gambol 'midst the sunny day.

From early infancy inur'd to toil,
Rough as the rocks that bound his native soil,
The sturdy craftsman, with laborious hand,
Fells the tall tree, and drags it to the strand:
Resounding shores return the hammer's blows,
Beneath the stroke the gaudy pinnace grows,
Launch'd, and completely mann'd, in quest of gain,
Spreads her light sails, and tempts the wat'ry main.

Near yonder hill, above the stagnant pool,
My stern preceptor taught his little school:
Dextrous t' apply the scientific rod,
The little truants shudder'd at his nod;
When-e'er he came, they all submissive bow'd,
All scann'd their tasks industriously loud;
And, fearful to excite the master's rage,
With trembling hands produc'd the blotted page.
Skilful he was, and dabbled in the law,
Bonds, notes, petitions — any thing cou'd draw:
'Twas even whisper'd, and 'tis strictly true,
He claim'd acquaintance with the Muses too,
And, by the goddesses inspir'd, at times,
His lofty genius mounted into rhymes.
Great bard! what numbers can thy praise rehearse,
Who turn'd Qui mihi into English verse;
Taught the smug epigram with art to glide,
And e'en at lines of heav'nly Maro try'd?
Tho' many an epitaph of thine was known
To grace the cold commemorating stone,
Thy own remains, in some neglected spot,
Now lie unsung, unheeded, and forgot!

Far to the south, above the wat'ry roar,
Where the blue Ocean rolls against the shore,
And the tall cliffs and sloping mountain's side
O'erlook the deep, and stop the coming tide,
Of ancient date, and calling for repair,
Is seen the parish-church, the house of pray'r.
No stately columns there superbly rise,
No tow'ring steeple greets the distant skies,
No pompous domes magnificence impart,
Strike the pleas'd eye, or show the master's art.
To mark the silent mansions of the dead,
No obelisk of marble rears its head,
No finely-decorated tomb is shown,
No sculptur'd monument of Parian stone.
But the rude native quarry, as it lies,
A far more coarse remembrancer supplies,
Which the dejected son, reduc'd to mourn
His much-lov'd parent, from his bosom torn,
The last sad honours to his ashes paid,
Sighing, erects to the departed shade.

Touch'd with the theme, by pow'rful Fancy led
To more remote apartments of the dead,
I see sad ATTICUS, in silent gloom,
Indignant quit the solitary tomb,
His ancient, well-remember'd form renew,
And pass before me slowly in review.
The happy thought, the mirth-exciting joke,
The turn satirical, the pointed stroke,
The vein of humour, the remark so dry,
The witty sally, and the keen reply,
Around the social table form'd to shine,
Without a rival, ATTICUS, were thine.

Talents like these, (for they have seldom fail'd),
While bus'ness flagg'd, and indolence prevail'd,
And sullen Prudence, frowning, stood aloof,
Entic'd the jovial circle to thy roof;
And for life's eve, thy glory in the wane,
Prepar'd a fund of indigence and pain.

Thrice happy thou! if to discretion led
By the much-valued part'ner of thy bed,
Thou hadst been taught more lasting bliss to prize,
And learn'd from her example to be wise!
But she, such ills unable to withstand,
When deadly, pale Disease, with tyrant hand,
Thy cruel destiny relentless wrote,
Thy visage sadden'd, and thy dwelling smote;
For thy unhappy lot with grief opprest,
Before thee sunk to everlasting rest.
Her duteous offspring, (who, no longer near,
Expos'd unshelter'd to the storm's career,
His native shore unable to regain,
Reluctant plough'd the bleak Atlantic main),
O'erwhelm'd with sorrow, at his late return,
With tears bedew'd her consecrated urn.

Tho' at a distance from my searching eye,
Amidst surrounding woods, thy dwelling lie;
Tho' envious Time or weaning Absence strive
Thy cherish'd image from my breast to drive;
Yet near my heart (for they shall strive in vain)
His wonted place shall CANDIDUS retain.
If manly sense, if an extensive mind,
Unsway'd by prejudice, and unconfin'd;
A judgement happy to decide with skill,
But mild and open to conviction still;
A voice in polish'd numbers taught to roll,
Whose accents waft the music of the soul;
An honest heart, a temper that can learn
To love mankind, and to be lov'd in turn;
If sentiments humane, combin'd with these,
May challenge merit, and expect to please,
Of gentle manners, affable and free,
The praise, O CANDIDUS, is due to thee.

No more frequented by the festive bands,
Behold yon solitary mansion stands.
There fair ARDELLA tripp'd along the vale,
Her auburn tresses floating in the gale,
Sweet as the fav'rite offspring of the May,
Serenely mild, and innocently gay:
ARDELLA, once so chearful and so blest,
Now, by Misfortune's iron hand, opprest.
Methinks I see the solitary maid
Pensive beneath the spreading cedar's shade,
No soothing friend, no voice of comfort near,
Heave the big sigh, and shed the silent tear.
"Awake to consolation, nor repine,
Because the sorrows of to-day are thine:
In air let sublunary cares be hurl'd,
And look exulting to a better world;
Triumphant virtue there shall bear the sway,
And lift thee far above the solar ray."

Beneath my bending eye, serenely neat,
Appears my ever-blest paternal seat.
Far in the front the level lawn extends,
The zephyrs play, the nodding cypress bends;
A little hillock stands on either side,
O'erspread with evergreens, the garden's pride.
Promiscuous here appears the blushing rose,
The guava flourishes, the myrtle grows,
Upon the surface earth-born woodbines creep,
O'er the green beds the painted 'sturtians peep,
Their arms aloft triumphant lilacs bear,
And jessamines perfume the ambient air.
The whole is from an eminence display'd,
Where the brown olive lends his pensive shade.
When zephyrs there the noon-tide heat asswage,
Oft have I turn'd the meditative page,
And calmly read the ling'ring hours away,
Securely shelter'd from the blaze of day.
At eve refresh'd, I trode the mazy walk,
And bade the minutes pass in chearful talk,
With many a joke my brothers wou'd assail,
Or chear my sisters with the comic tale;
While both fond parents pleas'd, the group survey'd,
Attentive heard, and smil'd at all they said.

Thrice happy seat! here once were centred all
That bind my heart to this terrestrial ball;
The sight of these each gloomy thought destroys,
And ties my soul to sublunary joys!

Ye pow'rs supreme, who rule the spangled sky,
On whose protection firmly they rely,
Grant them each bliss the fertile mind can form,
And lift them high above Misfortune's storm!

But hark! I see them to the green repair,
To taste the sweets of the refreshing air;
Descend, my soul, on airy pinions light,
The circle join, and feast thy gladden'd sight.

Hail ever-honour'd authors of my birth,
The poor's assistants, and the friends of worth!
My best of brothers, hail! companion dear,
Unshaken friend and partner of my care!
My sisters too! transported let me gaze,
And bless the sweetners of my former days!
A long lost wand'rer to your arms receive,
Soothe all his sorrows, and his cares relieve.

How incomplete is each terrestrial joy,
Where disappointments all our hopes destroy!
Two other sons shou'd in the circle stand!
For these, alas! I search a distant land;
Lament them gone, an honour to their race,
And with a sigh behold their vacant place.

Tho' CAROLINA, skill'd in social lore,
With open arms receiv'd me to her shore;
Altho' her sons, an hospitable band,
Have hail'd me welcome to their fertile land,
And, giving all the friendly heart can give,
Bade their remembrance in my bosom live;
Tho' (thanks to all my guardian powers!) there
I found a brother and a friend sincere;
Still, for 'tis natural, affection's tide
Flows where my honour'd parents yet reside.

For ever blotted be the fatal day
That tore me from their circling arms away,
When the tall ship, regardless of my pain,
Call'd me reluctant to the sounding main;
Aloft her swelling sails triumphant bore,
And left them pensive on the winding shore!

My aged parent's awful voice I hear,
The solemn sound still vibrates in my ear.
"Adieu, my son! with winds propitious go,
Obtain what knowledge travel can bestow;
Thy neighbour's friend, an enemy to strife,
Uprightly tread the mazy path of life;
Let honour's rules thy ev'ry act controul,
Nor suffer vice to bend thy stubborn soul.
Shou'd sovereign Gold, the tyrant of mankind,
Attempt from justice to divert thy mind;
Exulting still prefer the frugal crust,
And spurn, with high contempt, the guilty dust.
Let all the frowns of Fortune be defy'd,
Virtue thy friend, and Providence thy guide!"

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