1801
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gilimer.

Poems by the Rev. William Lisle Bowles. Vol. II.

Rev. William Lisle Bowles


A Pindaric ode, part of the series inspired by Gray's The Bard. The speaker is Gelimer, the last Vandal king of Africa, who was defeated by the Roman general Belisarius in 533. He prophesies hard times for his conqueror: ""With haggard beard, and bleeding eyes, | The conqueror of Afric lies— | Where now his glory's crested helm? | Where now his marshall'd legions thronging bright, | His steeds, his trumpets, clanging to the fight, | That spread dismay through Persia's bleeding realm?" p. 77. In the event, Gelimer was led captive to Constantinople and given an estate in Galacia.

Author's note: "Gilimer was the last of the Vandal kings of Africa, conquered by Belisarius; he retired to the heights of Pappua, when his army was entirely beaten. — His answer to the message sent to him there by Belisarius is well known. He desired the conqueror to send him a Loaf of Bread, a Sponge, and a Lute: this request was thus explained — that the king had not tasted any baked bread since his arrival on that mountain, and earnestly longed to eat a morsel of it before he died; the sponge he wanted to allay a tumour that was fallen upon one of his eyes; and the lute, on which he had learned to lay, was to assist him in setting some elegiac verses he had composed on the subject of his misfortunes" p. 74.

British Critic: "The lovers of poetry will see with great pleasure a second volume by Mr. Bowles, whose first has been received with such extensive approbation. They will peruse this second volume, if they agree with us in judgment and feeling, with a considerable increase of satisfaction.... The smaller Poems, particularly the Hymen to Woden, and Gilmer, are in their kind uncommonly good; and the whole volume indeed is such as places Mr. Bowles on an eminence very exalted among the poets of his country" 18 (August 1801) 141, 151.



"Hence, soldier, to thy plumed chief;
Tell him that Afric's king,
Broken by years, and bow'd with grief,
Asks but a lute, that he may sing
His sorrows to the moon; or (if he weep)
A sponge, which he in tears may steep;
And let his pity spare a little bread!"

Such, GILIMER, was thy last pray'r
To him, who o'er thy realm his gay host led,
When thou forlorn, and frozen with despair,
Did'st sit on Pappua's heights alone,
Mourning thy fortune lost, thy crown, thy kingdom gone.

When 'twas still night, and on the mountain vast
The moon her tranquil glimmer cast,
From tent to tent, remotely spread around,
He heard the murm'ring army's hostile sound,
And swell'd from his sad lute a solemn tone,
Whilst the lone vallies echo'd — "All is gone!"

The sun from darkness rose,
Illumining the landscape wide,
The tents, the far-off ships, and the pale morning tide:
Now the prophetick song indignant flows—

"Thine, Roman, is the victory—
Roman, the wide world is thine—
In every clime thy eagles fly,
And the gay squadron's length'ning line,
That flashes far and near,
Its flouting banners as in scorn displays,—
Trump answers trump, to war-horse war-horse neighs.

"I sink forsaken here—
This rugged rock my empire, and this seat
Of solitude, my glory's last retreat!
Yet boast not thou,
Soldier, the laurels on thy victor brow;
They shall wither, and thy fate,
Leave thee, like me, despairing, desolate!

"With haggard beard, and bleeding eyes,
The conqueror of Afric lies—
Where now his glory's crested helm?
Where now his marshall'd legions thronging bright,
His steeds, his trumpets, clanging to the fight,
That spread dismay through Persia's bleeding realm?

"Now see him poorly led,
Begging in age his scanty bread!
Proud victor, do our fates agree?
Dost thou now REMEMBER ME—
Me, of every hope bereft;
Me, to scorn and ruin left?
So may despair thy last lone hours attend!—
That thou too, in thy turn, may'st know,
How doubly sharp the woe—
When from fortune's summit hurl'd,
We gaze around on all the world,
And find in all the world NO FRIEND!"

[pp. 75-78]