1774
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Relapse. An Idyllion.

Poems, chiefly Rural.

William Richardson


An octosyllabic lyric in the Miltonic manner. The poet resolves to shun Folly and pursue a musing Melancholy, but the recollection of his Lavinia puts a quick end to such thoughts. The Idyllion was not a regularly defined form; perhaps Richardson's intentions are suggested by the lines: "I'm free! I've broke the tyrant's chains. | Hence, far hence now let us stray | Where woods exclude the glare of day, | Where the tumbling high cascade | Rushes through the rocky glade" p. 22. In his first volume of poems, many of which were likely composed in Russia, Richardson experiments at length with Miltonic poetry. He was likely inclined this way by reading the poems of William Hamilton of Bangour.

Monthly Review: "As a critic, and as a man of taste, we think he has few rivals; and we sincerely wish that his claims were equally good as a poet, and a man of genius. His poems are replete with knowledge, and useful observations; but they have almost all of them the fault which, in his analysis, he maintains it is the character of genius to avoid, viz. describing a passion which the poet does not feel" 51 (August 1774) 94.



I'm free! no more with dance or song,
Shepherds, I join the rural throng,
For love in your assembly reigns.
I'm free! I've broke the tyrant's chains.
Hence, far hence now let us stray
Where woods exclude the glare of day,
Where the tumbling high cascade
Rushes through the rocky glade,
Where the mournful stock-dove moans,
And the groves return her groans,
And no joyful sound is near
Rudely to invade mine ear.
Sweet Meditation, nymph that loves!
To roam by twilight in the groves,
Conduct me to thy mossy cell,
Where all alone thou lovest to dwell,
Save when musing Melancholy
Shuns with thee the noise of Folly;
And ever teach me to despise
Of fleeting life the cares or joys.
Life, scene of troubles and of toils!
Unless when my Lavinia smiles.
Lavinia! how the magic name
Shoots through my soul a living flame!
Subdues me! glides into my song!—
Ah me! these gloomy groves among
I said I would securely rove
Free from the tyranny of love!
In vain! — Adieu, ye lonely streams,
Where meek-eyed Meditation dreams;
Adieu, ye close embowering shades,
For love your thickest gloom pervades.

[pp. 22-23]