1829
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Impromptu: written after reading The Loves of the Poets.

La Belle Assemblee S3 10 (December 1829) 269-70.

Mrs. Cornwell Baron Wilson


Six irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "Mrs. Cornwell Baron Wilson, Woburn Place, Russell Square, October, 1829." The poem salutes Anna Brownell Jameson, the as-yet anonymous author of The Loves of the Poets, a two-volume collection of biographical sketches of the real or imaginary mistresses celebrated by European poets, among them Edmund Spenser's Rosalind. Mrs. Wilson picks up on what was surely a chief appeal of the work for many readers, imagining one's self the object of a poet's affection: "Worthy thyself to be a poet's love, | And realize on earth his heaven-lit dream, | Oh! gentle lady! thou thyself dost prove | A living subject for poetic theme!" p. 270. The Loves of the Poets made Mrs. Jameson famous; it was followed up by a volume on Shakespeare's heroines, though in later years Jameson was best-known as an art critic.

Margaret Harries Wilson, the house poet at La Belle Assemblee, had since her marriage always published under her husband's name. The poetry column was a very slight affair, the staple of La Belle Assemblee being fashion plates and biographies of famous or fashionable women. In the 1820s, however, the periodical had also run a long monthly series devoted to biography and criticism of contemporary writers, and each number included book reviews.



Lady! I feel that praise so poor as mine
Can add no lustre to thy well-earn'd fame;
Yet fain would I one wreath of song entwine,
And "garland with sweet verse" thy gentle name!
To whom both bard and minstrel's lay is dear,
Whose graceful hands have rais'd a trophy o'er their bier.

I trace thy glowing page! the gentle theme,
Rehears'd by thee, becomes most eloquent!
It lives before me, like a beauteous dream
To which thy pen a magic spell hath lent!
A graceful shadow of departed years,
Blent with the rainbow's hues, thy charmed page appears.

Well hast thou gather'd in that classic page
Each gem that time had scatter'd; and hast bound,
In one bright wreath, the bard of ev'ry age,
Whoever, with the poet's bays were crown'd!
And from oblivion's wave hast snatch'd away
Full many a "child of song," fast sinking to decay!

Worthy thyself to be a "poet's love,"
And realize on earth his heaven-lit dream,
Oh! gentle lady! thou thyself dost prove
A living subject for poetic theme!
A vision air, to wake the minstrel's song,
Since unto thee must all that poets prize belong.

Wit, sense, and elegance! and feeling deep,
A heart by sentiment and taste refin'd,
Within whose gentle casket, safe may sleep
Love's very self; but chasten'd and confin'd!
Ere yet one soil of earth hath touch'd his wing,
Such love as Klopstock felt, and did not blush to sing!

But ah! some hand less feeble far than mine
Should weave for THEE the poet's wreath of praise!
Where sleep our modern bards, that none entwine,
To crown thy brows, the myrtle and the bays?
I blush to think a WOMAN'S hand must bring
Unto a sister's shrine this simple offering!

[pp. 269-70]