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The Anthem Anthology of Victorian Sonnets

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A comprehensive collection consisting of over three thousand Victorian sonnets written by Victorian poets between 1836 and the early years of twentieth century.


This publication provides - for the first time since the late 1800s - a comprehensive anthology of sonnets written by Victorian poets. Covering both canonical and largely forgotten poets, the coverage ranges from single sonnets to complete sonnet sequences. Rather than restricting itself to a small number of sonnets from a limited list of poets, as in general Victorian poetry anthologies, this five-volume set includes a representative selection of sonnets for each individual poet in order to display the diversity and innovation brought to the sonnet form by Victorian poets. More than one hundred poets and over three thousand sonnets are included.


The anthology fills an important gap in the field of Victorian anthologies by making available a large number of examples of a poetic form that was one of the most important in nineteenth-century poetry. The sonnets are ordered chronologically by date of publication. This enables the reader to trace developments over a period of seventy years, during which a fundamental re-appraisal of the sonnet, in both structural and thematic forms, occurred.


VOLUME I - List of Poets, Volumes 1-5; Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Suggested Further Reading; Changing Times; Textual Notes 1836-1850; Sonnets 1836-1850; Sources and Indexes; VOLUME II - List of Poets, Volumes 1-5; Textual Notes 1851-1869; Sonnets 1851-1869; Sources and Indexes; VOLUME III - List of Poets, Volumes 1-5; Textual Notes 1870-1876; Sonnets 1870-1876; Sources and Indexes; VOLUME IV - List of Poets, Volumes 1-5; Textual Notes 1877-1888; Sonnets 1877-1888; Sources and Indexes; VOLUME V - List of Poets, Volumes 1-5; Textual Notes 1889 and Beyond; Sonnets 1889-1923; Sources and Indexes

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The Anthem Anthology
of Victorian SonnetsThe Anthem Anthology
of Victorian Sonnets
Volume I: 1836 –1850
Edited and with an Introduction by
Michael J. AllenAnthem Press
An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company
www.anthempress.com
This edition fi rst published in UK and USA 2011
by ANTHEM PRESS
75-76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK
or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK
and
244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Introduction, editorial matter and selection © 2011 Michael J. Allen
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means
(electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise),
without the prior written permission of both the copyright
owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
The anthem anthology of Victorian sonnets / edited and with an introduction by Michael J. Allen.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-84331-848-4 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Sonnets, English. 2. English poetry –19th century. 3. English poetry –20th century.
I. Allen, Michael J.
PR1195.S5A58 2011
821.04208–dc22
2010050444
ISBN-13: 978 1 84331 848 4 (Hbk)
ISBN-10: 1 84331 848 2 (Hbk)
Also available as an eBook.To my mother who could still recite poems learnt in her childhood despite
the debilitation of dementia. And to my wife, Angela, who gets on with
the important things in life while I beaver away in my study. The Sonnet’s Voice (A Metrical Lesson by the Seashore)
Yon silvery billows breaking on the beach
Fall back in foam beneath the star-shine clear,
The while my rhymes are murmuring in your ear
A restless lore like that the billows teach;
For on these sonnet-waves my soul would reach
From its own depths, and rest within you, dear,
As, through the billowy voices yearning here,
Great nature strives to fi nd a human speech.
A sonnet is a wave of melody:
From heaving waters of the impassion’d soul
A billow of tidal music one and whole
Flows in the “octave;” then returning free,
Its ebbing surges in the “sestet” roll
Back to the deeps of Life’s tumultuous sea.
Theodore Watts-DuntonContents
Volume I (1836–1850)
List of Poets and Years xiiiVolumes xv
Preface xvii
Acknowledgements xix
Introduction xxi
Suggested Further Reading xlv
Changing Times xlix
Textual Notes 1836–1850 1
1836
Alfred Tennyson 3
1837
Josiah Conder 6
Alfred Tennyson 11
1838
Richard Monckton Milnes 13
John Saunders 15
Martin Tupper 17
Isaac Williams 23
Emmeline Wortley 44
1839
Arthur Hugh Clough 50
Henry Ellison 50
John Hanmer 51
Martin Tupper 54
Emmeline Wortley 65
1840
Frederick William Faber 70
John Hanmer 73
Richard Monckton Milnes 76
Caroline Norton 76
William Wordsworth 79x Contents
1841
Henry Alford 81
John Clare 87
Thomas Miller 89
1842
John Clare 90
Aubrey de Vere 92
John Critchley Prince 109
William Wordsworth 110
1843
Aubrey de Vere 130
1844
Elizabeth Barrett [Browning] 131
John Clare 135
Henry Ellison 136
Frances Kemble 146
Richard Monckton Milnes 151
Coventry Patmore 152
1845
Henry Alford 153
Martin Tupper 155
William Wordsworth 157
1846
William Barnes 161
Robert Stephen Hawker 167
1847
Christina Rossetti 168
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 171
Isaac Williams 172
1848
Ebenezer Elliott 206
Dora Greenwell 225
Christina Rossetti 227
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 228
1849
Matthew Arnold 229
Arthur Hugh Clough 229Contents xi
Christina Rossetti 235
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 238
1850
William Allingham 243
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 244
Robert Leighton 263
Christina Rossetti 266
Dante Gabriel Rossetti 268
Martin Tupper 271
Sources – Volume I 281
Index of Poets and Sonnet Titles – Volume I 283
Index of Poets and Sonnet First Lines – Volume I 291
Index of Sonnet Titles – Volume I 307
Index of Sonnet First Lines – Volume I 315Poets and the Years in which their Sonnets
Appear in the Anthology
Acton, Philip – 1875, 1889 Eliot, George – 1874
Alford, Henry – 1841, 1845 Elliott, Ebenezer – 1848
Allingham, William – 1850, 1854, 1855, Ellison, Henry – 1839, 1844
1865, 1883, 1884, 1889
Anderson, Alexander – 1873, 1875, 1879 Faber, Frederick William – 1840
Arnold, Matthew – 1849, 1852, 1867 Fane, Julian – 1852
Askham, John – 1863, 1866, 1875 Fane, Violet – 1876, 1889, 1896, 1900
Austin, Alfred – 1872, 1882, 1885, 1891, Field, Michael – 1892, 1908
1897, 1908
Garnett, Richard – 1859
Barlow, George – 1871, 1873, 1875, 1878, Gosse, Edmund – 1870, 1873, 1879, 1885,
1880, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1901, 1904, 1894, 1909
1908 Gray, David – 1862
Barnes, William – 1846 Gray, John – 1893, 1896
Bevington, Louisa – 1882 Greenwell, Dora – 1848, 1861
Blind, Mathilde – 1881, 1889, 1893, 1895
Blunt, Wilfred Scawen – 1875, 1881, 1889 Hake, Thomas – 1890
Bridges, Robert – 1876 Hanmer, John – 1839, 1840
Browning, Elizabeth [Barrett] – 1844, 1850 Hardy, Thomas – 1866, 1867, 1901, 1909,
Bro Robert – 1870, 1883, 1884, 1917
1885 Hawker, Robert Stephen – 1846
Buchanan, Robert – 1870 Henley, William Ernest – 1875, 1888,
1899
Clare, John – 1841, 1842, 1844, 1861 Hickey, Emily – 1881, 1889, 1891, 1896
Clarke, Herbert E. – 1879, 1882, 1895, 1896 Hopkins, Gerard Manley – 1877, 1879,
Clough, Arthur Hugh – 1839, 1849, 1869 1880, 1882, 1885, 1889
Coleridge, Hartley – 1851
Collins, Mortimer – 1855, 1860 Inchbold, John – 1876
Conder, Josiah – 1837
Craik, Dinah – 1859 Kemble, Frances – 1844, 1859, 1866
Knox, Lucy – 1872, 1884
Dalby, John Watson – 1866
De Vere, Aubrey – 1842, 1843, 1855, 1861, L. M. S. – 1857
1893 Lang, Andrew – 1872, 1880, 1888, 1894
Dixon, Richard Watson – 1861, 1864 Lee-Hamilton, Eugene – 1882, 1884, 1888,
Dobell, Sydney and Smith, 1894, 1899, 1908
Alexander – 1855 Lefroy, Edward Cracroft – 1883, 1884
Dobson, Austin – 1885 Leighton, Robert – 1850
Dowden, Edward – 1876 Levy, Amy – 1881, 1889
Dowson, Ernest – 1896, 1899 Lindsay, Caroline – 1890, 1894, 1896xiv List of Poets and Years
Marston, Philip Bourke – 1871, 1875, 1883, Rossetti, Dante Gabriel – 1847, 1848, 1849,
1891, 1892 1850, 1855, 1859, 1860, 1861, 1869, 1870,
Massey, Gerald – 1855 1871, 1881
Meredith, George – 1851, 1862, 1867, 1870,
1883, 1885, 1888, 1889, 1896, 1898, 1899 Saunders, John – 1838
Meynell, Alice – 1875, 1893, 1923 Scott, William Bell – 1854, 1875, 1882
Miller, Thomas – 1841 Sharp, William – 1884
Milnes, Richard Monckton – 1838, 1840, Stockall, Harriett – 1879
1844 Swinburne, Algernon Charles – 1859, 1866,
Minchin, James Innes – 1858 1871, 1875, 1878, 1880, 1882, 1884, 1894,
Monkhouse, William Cosmo – 1865, 1890, 1904
1901 Symonds, John Addington – 1878, 1880,
Mulholland, Rosa – 1886 1882, 1884
Symons, Arthur – 1889, 1892, 1895
Naden, Constance – 1881, 1887
Nesbit, Edith – 1886, 1888, 1892, 1898 Tennyson, Alfred – 1836, 1837, 1851, 1876,
Nicholson, John – 1892, 1896 1877, 1885, 1892
Norton, Caroline – 1840 Todhunter, John – 1876, 1881
Trench, Richard Chenevix – 1855, 1856
Patmore, Coventry – 1844 Tupper, Martin – 1838, 1839, 1845, 1850,
Payne, John – 1871, 1872, 1880, 1903, 1904, 1854, 1855, 1860
1908, 1909, 1920 Turner, Charles – 1864, 1868, 1873, 1880
Pfeiffer, Emily – 1876, 1878, 1880, 1882, Tynan, Katharine – 1885, 1887
1886, 1889
Plarr, Victor – 1896 Waddington, James – 1862
Prince, John Critchley – 1842, 1856, 1861 W Samuel – 1884
Probyn, May – 1881 Watson, Rosamund Marriott – 1889,
1891
Raffalovich, Mark – 1885, 1886, 1895 Watson, William – 1880, 1890, 1894, 1895,
Rawnsley, Hardwicke Drummond – 1877, 1896, 1897, 1904, 1909, 1913, 1917
1881, 1887, 1893, 1894, 1899, 1900 Watts-Dunton, Theodore – 1898
Robinson, Agnes Mary – 1878, 1881, 1886, Webster, Augusta – 1895
1888, 1893, 1923 Wilde, Oscar – 1881
Roscoe, William Caldwell – 1860 Williams, Isaac – 1838, 1847
Rossetti, Christina – 1847, 1848, 1849, Wordsworth, William – 1840, 1842,
1850, 1853, 1855, 1856, 1862, 1866, 1869, 1845
1870, 1875, 1881, 1882, 1890, 1893, 1896 Wortley, Emmeline – 1838, 1839Poets and the Volumes in which their
Sonnets Appear in the Anthology
Acton, Philip – III, V Garnett, Richard – II
Alford, Henry – I Gosse, Edmund – III, IV, V
Allingham, William – I, II, IV, V Gray, David – II
Anderson, Alexander – III, IV Gray, John – V
Arnold, Matthew – I, II Greenwell, Dora – I, II
Askham, John – II, III
Austin, Alfred – III, IV, V Hake, Thomas – V
Hanmer, John – I
Barlow, George – III, IV, V Hardy, Thomas – II, V
Barnes, William – I Hawker, Robert Stephen – I
Bevington, Louisa – IV Henley, William Ernest – III, IV, V
Blind, Mathilde – IV, V Hickey, Emily – IV, V
Blunt, Wilfred Scawen – III, IV, V Hopkins, Gerard Manley – IV, V
Bridges, Robert – III
Browning, Elizabeth [Barrett] – I Inchbold, John – III
Bro Robert – III, IV
Buchanan,t – III Kemble, Frances – I, II
Knox, Lucy – III, IV
Clare, John – I, II
Clarke, Herbert E. – IV, V L. M. S. – II
Clough, Arthur Hugh – I, II Lang, Andrew – III, IV, V
Coleridge, Hartley – II Lee-Hamilton, Eugene – IV, V
Collins, Mortimer – II Lefroy, Edward Cracroft – IV
Conder, Josiah – I Leighton, Robert – I
Craik, Dinah – II Levy, Amy – IV, V
Lindsay, Caroline – V
Dalby, John Watson – II
De Vere, Aubrey – I, II, V Marston, Philip Bourke – III, IV, V
Dixon, Richard Watson – II Massey, Gerald – II
Dobell, Sydney and Smith, Alexander – II Meredith, George – II, III, IV, V
Dobson, Austin – IV Meynell, Alice – III, V
Dowden, Edward – III Miller, Thomas – I
Dowson, Ernest – V Milnes, Richard Monckton – I
Minchin, James Innes – II
Eliot, George – III Monkhouse, William
Elliott, Ebenezer – I Cosmo – II, V
Ellison, Henry – I Mulholland, Rosa – IV
Faber, Frederick William – I Naden, Constance – IV
Fane, Julian – II Nesbit, Edith – IV, V
Fane, Violet – III, V Nicholson, John – V
Field, Michael – V Norton, Caroline – Ixvi List of Poets and Volumes
Patmore, Coventry – I Symonds, John Addington – IV
Payne, John – III, IV, V Symons, Arthur – V
Pfeiffer, Emily – III, IV, V
Plarr, Victor – V Tennyson, Alfred – I, II, III, IV, V
Prince, John Critchley – I, II Todhunter, John – III, IV
Probyn, May – IV Trench, Richard Chenevix – II
Tupper, Martin – I, II
Raffalovich, Mark – IV, V Turner, Charles – II, III, IV
Rawnsley, Hardwicke Tynan, Katharine – IV
Drummond – IV, V
Robinson, Agnes Mary – IV, V Waddington, James – II
Roscoe, William Caldwell – II W Samuel – IV
Rossetti, Christina – I, II, III, IV, V Watson, Rosamund Marriott – V Dante Gabriel – I, II, III, IV Watson, William – IV, V
Watts-Dunton, Theodore – V
Saunders, John – I Webster, Augusta – V
Scott, William Bell – II, III, IV Wilde, Oscar – IV
Sharp, William – IV Williams, Isaac – I
Stockall, Harriett – IV Wordsworth, William – I
Swinburne, Algernon Charles – II, III, IV, V Wortley, Emmeline – IPreface
One of the aims of this anthology is to stimulate interest in and further study of the sonnets
written by Victorian poets. It is the first anthology of sonnets devoted to Victorian poets since
the nineteenth century, although some recent general sonnet anthologies have included a
number of such sonnets. The focus of the anthology is British poets and the intention has
been to choose a representative selection of sonnets by each of the poets included.
There are different ways of structuring any anthology with each having pluses and
minuses. The chronological structure of this anthology is designed to reinforce that it is the
sonnet, the poetic form per se, that is of primary consideration, not the poet. By viewing the
sonnets in this way it can be seen how this poetic form developed over a period of seventy
years, in both content and structural terms. Simply looking at Alfred Tennyson’s sonnets that
begin Volume I with those of Gerard Manley Hopkins that begin Volume IV, for example,
is an illustration of this point. Another aspect of the chronological ordering is that sonnets
of different poets published or written at the same time can be viewed alongside each other.
This means, for example, that Christina Rossetti’s early sonnets can be viewed alongside
those of her brother, Dante Gabriel. Within a specific year of publication the poets are shown
alphabetically.
Where possible the first published text of a sonnet in book form has been chosen and used
without modification. This shows the sonnets as they were seen by their first readers. When,
however, it is known that a sonnet was written at a much earlier period than date of publication,
the date of composition has been adopted. A ten-year rule of thumb has been applied in most
cases. If a sonnet is known to have been written at least ten years before publication then date of
composition is chosen. It is the appearance in book form that is the major determinant of year
of appearance in this anthology. Sonnets were sometimes published first in journals, newspapers
or magazines before appearing in book form. Generally, this date is not the selected one.
I have not thought it useful to stick with a rigid definition of Victorian and only cover
the years 1837-1901. This anthology deliberately begins with some of Alfred Tennyson’s
youthful sonnets written in 1836. Tennyson was the great poet of his age who dominated the
Victorian poetic landscape much as William Wordsworth had done in the early decades of
the century. He wrote very few sonnets in his mature years, but quite a number as a young,
aspiring poet. Whilst these cover a variety of subjects, a number also illustrate how, even in
Tennyson’s mind, the sonnet was closely tied to the traditional themes of love and courtship.
The period covered by the anthology has been extended beyond 1901 as a number of
significant Victorian sonneteers continued to write sonnets beyond this date. Poets who had
not published sonnets before the end of the century are excluded.
The anthology has been structured into five volumes. Volume I covers the years between
the youthful Tennyson and the publication of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s well-known
sequence, ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’. Sonnets published in the years 1851–1869 form
Volume II, a time that was not prolific in terms of sonnet production but which nevertheless
heralded a number of significant changes. Volume III begins in 1870, a year that saw the
publication of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first version of ‘The House of Life’, a sequence
that was a major influence on contemporary poets. The following years witnessed a major
upsurge in the production of sonnets and sonnet sequences. Volume IV opens with sonnets xviii Preface
by Gerard Manley Hopkins. There is no special significance to the choice of 1877 in sonnet
history. Hopkins, for example, had written sonnets prior to this date. However, 1877 was the
date of writing in which the unmistakeable uniqueness of Hopkins can be discerned. It also
provides a fascinating contrast with Tennyson’s efforts of 1836. Volume IV concludes with
two of the most interesting and innovative sonnet sequences published by the Victorians,
William Ernest Henley’s ‘In Hospital’, and Eugene Lee-Hamilton’s Imaginary Sonnets.
Volume V concludes the anthology, and encompasses some sonnets published in the twentieth
century by poets who were active sonneteers in the nineteenth.
The aim has been to choose a wide variety of sonnets by each poet and to cover as many
poets as possible. Poets have been chosen to ensure a representative mixture based on gender,
fame, nationality, class, etc. For obvious reasons of space and time only British poets have been
selected. Both single sonnets and sonnet sequences have been chosen. Anthologies usually
select a small number of sonnets from a sequence. This is not the case here. The majority of
sequences are reproduced in their entirety, giving the reader an opportunity to see many of
them in this form for the first time. In the case of William Ernest Henley’s ‘In Hospital’ and
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The House of Life’, two versions of the complete sequences are
included. Henley’s 1875 and 1888 versions are very different and it is interesting to see how
the poet added different verse forms in the later version for greater realistic impact. Rossetti’s
1870 version of his sequence was always acknowledged as ‘work-in-progress’; it has, however,
an important historical role in showing the development of Rossetti’s ideas that became so
influential on his contemporaries.
The sonnet was a hotly-debated topic in literary circles in Victorian times. This anthology
includes a number of prose commentaries on sonnet theories published by poets. The debate
on the legitimacy, or otherwise, of a specific poem as a sonnet or not means that some
sonnets that are included in this anthology might not be classed as such by the purists.
Titles of single sonnets and sonnet sequences are shown in italic; titles of individual
sonnets within a sequence are given in plain type.
If this anthology rekindles interest and enjoyment in the Victorian sonnet to a wider
reading public then it will have served its purpose. If it leads to further study and research
into poets now mainly forgotten then the endeavour will have been worthwhile.Acknowledgements
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the staff of the Central Resources Library in Hatfield.
Without their dedication and effort over many years in tracing numerous interlibrary loans
this anthology would not have been possible. I have also benefited enormously from the
wealth of material held by the British Library and the help of their staff.
This anthology is one outcome of the research on the Victorian sonnet that I began a
number of years ago at Anglia Ruskin University. Thanks are due to my Director of Studies,
Dr. Rick Allen, and also to Professor Rebecca Stott.
Acknowledgement is made to ‘The Literary Estate of Arthur Symons’ for kind permission
to reproduce a number of sonnets by the poet. Six of the sonnets by John Clare are reproduced
with permission of Curtis Brown Group Ltd, London on behalf of Eric Robinson © Eric
Robinson 1984. These are ‘I love to see the summer beaming forth’, ‘The silver mist more
lowly swims’, ‘The flag top quivers in the breeze’, ‘The Yellowhammer’, ‘The Crow’, and
‘I am’.
Every effort has been made to trace holders of copyright material. The editor would be
grateful to hear from any such holders who have not been contacted. Introduction
1. History and Critical Reception
In 1839, the painter William Mulready exhibited The Sonnet, a painting which depicts ‘a
1young woman reading the sonnet of her hopeful yet bashful lover’. Even though the sonnet
had enjoyed, in the previous few decades, a popularity and increase in level of publication
that had not been seen since Elizabethan times, the subject and style of the painting are
indicative of a still prevalent preconception of the merit and subject matter of the sonnet
2at the beginning of Victoria’s reign. As studies by critics such as Raymond Havens ,
3 4 5 George Sanderlin , Jennifer Wagner , Joseph Phelan and others have shown, such a view
underestimated the breadth of subjects that were being treated in sonnets. The revival of the
sonnet had begun at the end of the eighteenth century, continued under the leadership of
William Wordsworth, and was given a further reinvigoration by the Victorians, its popularity
in the late nineteenth-century reaching a zenith not seen for over three hundred years.
This anthology shows the evolving nature of the sonnet, both thematically and formally,
in the decades after 1840, especially as shown in the sonnets of poets who have now largely
disappeared from the literary scene but who were considered influential sonneteers in their
own time. The sonnet sequence, in particular, was nurtured and brought into vogue by
Victorian poets. This anthology includes numerous examples of complete sonnet sequences
enabling the reader to see how central such a form came to mean in the poetic canon of
the middle and late nineteenth century. Its development in the writings of poets as diverse
as John Nicholson, John Payne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Addington Symonds, plus
many others, provides a fascinating insight into the evolution of a poetic form that became
uniquely Victorian.
Many writers who have dealt with the history and development of the sonnet are at pains
to identify the genres that influenced its evolution, the derivation of the word sonnet, and
which of the early Italian poets can be credited with its invention. Articles abound which
deliberate on whether the sonnet’s precursors can be traced back to Greek epigrams, Arabian
writers, or Provencal troubadours; whether it was related to early poetic forms such as the
canzone, balata, strambotto; and whether it was Giacomo da Lentino (1188–1240), Fra Guittone
d’Arezzo (1230–94), Dante Alighieri (1285–1321), Francesco Petrarca (1304–74), or some
other Italian poet, who should be given credit for its invention. Many of these issues are
now clouded in the uncertainties of history and different commentators favour different
interpretations.
1. Heleniak, Kathyrn Moore. William Mulready. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980, p. 132.
2. Havens, Raymond D. The Infl uence of Milton on English Poetry. New York: Harvard University Press,
1922.
3. Sanderlin, George. ‘The Sonnet in English Literature, 1800–1850.’ Diss. John Hopkins University,
1938.
4. Wagner, Jennifer. A Moment’s Monument: Revisionary Poetics and the Nineteenth-Century English Sonnet.
London: Associated University Presses, 1996.
5. Phelan, Joseph. The Nineteenth-Century Sonnet. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.xxii Introduction
The word ‘sonnet’ was first used in English by Lord Morley in c. 1540 in the Preface
to his translation, Tryumphs of Frances Petrarke: ‘triumphs all to the laude of hys Ladye
Laura, by whom he made many a swete sonnet’. The first sonnets in English were
written by Thomas Wyatt in the late 1520s and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey in the
1530s. Wyatt’s sonnets were translations of Petrarch’s sonnets. He generally adhered to
the Italian form of octave, abbaabba, but favoured variations in the sestet, particularly
the use of cddcee. Surrey, on the other hand, deviated from the Petrarchan model of
octave/sestet, favouring three quatrains followed by a couplet, the form that was to be
established as the English or Shakespearean model. Some of both Wyatt’s and Surrey’s
sonnets were published in 1557 in the anthology, Songes and Sonnettes, that became better
known as Tottel’s Miscellany. This new poetic form quickly established itself as a favourite
with the leading poets of the day, including Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and William
Shakespeare. Literally thousands were written, many of them in the form of sonnet
cycles. William Going notes: ‘the most prolific decade of the sonnet sequence was that
6from 1591 to 1599’.
With the exception of a barren period in the hundred years or so after John Milton,
the sonnet has remained a staple of English poetic life. The sonnet’s revival in the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is illustrated in the anthology, A Century of
7 Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival, 1750–1850,by Paula Feldman and Daniel Robinson.
That there was a steady increase in sonnet publication during these years has been
shown by Sanderlin and Havens. Sanderlin estimates the number of sonnets published in
books to be one thousand four hundred for 1800–1812 and two thousand and sixteen
for 1813–1827. These figures show a steady, but unspectacular, increase from the one
thousand and fifty sonnets that Havens identified for the period 1790–1800. Sanderlin
concludes his review of the sonnet between 1800 and 1850: ‘for the first time, it was
accepted, studied, and highly esteemed, as one of the most valuable of English poetic
8forms’.
The Victorians maintained this interest in the sonnet, and the last decades of the nineteenth
century were the most prolific in terms of sonnet production since the Elizabethans, especially
its use in sequences. Going has quantified the number of sonnet sequences in the eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries. He notes: ‘There are only eleven sequences listed between 1700 and
91800, and over two hundred and fifty between 1800 and 1900’. Going also acknowledged
that his figures were likely to be an under-estimate and that future research would almost
certainly uncover more sequences. Analysis of his figures shows that the sequences published
after 1840 accounted for over four thousand sonnets while those published between 1781
and 1839 contained fewer than one thousand. It is reasonable to assume that the number
of individual sonnets published, as opposed to those that appeared in sequences, followed a
similar trend.
6. Going, William T. Scanty Plot of Ground: Studies in the Victorian Sonnet. The Hague: Mouton, 1976, p. 15.
7. Feldman, Paula R., and Daniel Robinson, eds. A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival,
1750–1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
8. Sanderlin, p. 230.
9. Going, p. 15.Introduction xxiii
Although poets such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Brydges were voluminous
in their sonnet productions before 1840, the output of individual sonneteers in the
post1840 period was greater than their immediate predecessors. George Barlow, Wilfred Scawen
Blunt, Aubrey de Vere, Philip Bourke Marston, John Payne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John
Addington Symonds, for example, each published in excess of three hundred sonnets. Many
other poets wrote in excess of one hundred.
The Victorians were proud of their sonnet achievements, ranking their poets alongside
the best sonneteers in the English language, and believed that they had made unique
contributions to the development of the form. They were also aware of its wider importance
in English literary history. These views were particularly reflected in the increasing number
of sonnet anthologies that were published in the last decades of the nineteenth century,
and in the essays extolling the virtues of the Victorian sonnet that often accompanied such
publications. Samuel Waddington writes:
It were hardly to be expected that the work of one generation should, both as regards
number and execution, rival that of all its predecessors, but it is for the reader to judge
10 for himself whether such is not almost the case in the present instance.
Hall Caine argues passionately that the English sonnet is not a ‘bastard’ or derived form of
the pure Italian, but one that is indigenous and ideally suited to the English language. His
nationalistic aims are apparent when he writes that ‘Milton’s sonnets, like Shakespeare’s, are
11 essentially English in all that constitutes their fundamental character’. He goes on to argue that
the contemporary sonnet is English in its nature but different from Milton and Shakespeare:
And now in our time the English sonnet has taken a new direction, acquired an
enlarged signifi cance, a broader mission. . . . The characteristic excellence of the
contemporary type is distinct from [that of Milton and Shakespeare]. Its merit and
promise of enduring popularity consist in its being grounded in a fi xed law of nature.
The natural phenomenon it reproduces is the familiar one of the fl ow and ebb of the
12 sea.
So the late nineteenth-century sonnet is aligned by Victorian anthologists with the
national character and is claimed to be as permanent as a law of nature. The anthologists
also emphasise how much of the finest poetry of the nineteenth century is embodied
within the sonnet. Not only do these anthologies trumpet the vitality and originality
of the nineteenth-century sonnet but William Sharp, for example, presents two of its
contributors as among the greatest sonneteers of the language: ‘Shakespeare, Milton,
Wordsworth, Mrs. Browning, Rossetti. Italy itself cannot present a finer body of poetry in
13 the mould of this form’ ,a view endorsed by Arthur Quiller-Couch: ‘Shakespeare, Milton,
Wordsworth, Keats, Rossetti, Mrs. Browning – these are confessedly the great sonneteers
10. Waddington, Samuel, ed. English Sonnets by Living Writers. London: George Bell and Sons, 1881,
p. vii.
11. Caine, T. Hall, ed. Sonnets of Three Centuries: A Selection. London: Elliot Stock, 1882, p. xvi.
12. Ibid, pp. xx-xxi.
13. Sharp, William, ed. Sonnets of This Century. With a Critical Introduction on the Sonnet. London: Walter
Scott, 1886, p. lvii.xxiv Introduction
14 of our language’. In 1898, the Reverend Matthew Russell, in a dedicatory sonnet to his
anthology, Sonnets on the Sonnet, wrote:
All ages have their poets, and our day
Can bravely hold its own ’gainst any other
15 In this poetic form that poets cherish.
These anthologies were one means by which the Victorians redefined the sonnet landscape
and established a new sonnet canon, one that included many late nineteenth-century sonnets.
The emphasis in most of these anthologies is on sonnets by English poets and, in the case
of Waddington and Sharp, on poets writing in the nineteenth century. This is a far cry from
16 17the anthologies by George Henderson (1803) and Capel Lofft (1814) , both of which
contained numerous examples of sonnets that originated outside of England and few by
living poets.
Other factors were at work in stimulating interest in the sonnet in the second half of
the century. Wordsworth did not die until 1850 and was still publishing new sonnets in the
1840s. As he was the acknowledged master of the sonnet, it could be argued that some of
his contemporaries were reluctant to use a form that he had made his own. This could be
one reason why the new generation of poets in the 1830s/1840s, such as Matthew Arnold,
Robert Browning, Arthur Hugh Clough and Alfred Tennyson, did not write sonnets in
substantial numbers. The influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in stimulating other poets
to write sonnets was pronounced from 1870 onwards. Although he had published a small
number of sonnets in 1850 in The Germ, it was his second volume, Poems (1870), which had
a major impact in reviving interest in the form, especially the sequence, The House of Life,
the first version of which appeared in this publication. John Holmes refers to the ‘Sons of
Gabriel’, poets such as Wilfred Scawen Blunt, Philip Marston, John Payne, and others, who
were influenced by this poem:
That Rossetti’s particular reinvention of the sonnet sequence along effectively
Petrarchan lines struck a chord with the poets and the public of his time is amply
borne out by the sheer number of sonnet sequences written and published in the
18 decades after 1870 which bear the stamp of The House of Life.
Pride in the achievements of the English sonneteers took on a nationalistic flavour. The
country’s confidence that Britain ruled the world was high after events such as the Great
Exhibition of 1851 and continued in the following decades. The sonnet was an example of a
poetic form that had evolved in England to an eminence not seen before. Victorian writers
also engaged in considerable debate on the sonnet, its history, structure and development.
14. Quiller-Couch, A. T., ed. English Sonnets. London: Chapman and Hall, 1935, p. xv.
15. Russell, Matthew, ed. Sonnets on the Sonnet: An Anthology. London: Longmans, Green and Co.,
1898.
16. Henderson, George, ed. Petrarca: A Selection of Sonnets from Various Authors. London: C&R Baldwin,
1803.
17. Lofft, Capel, ed. Laura: or, An Anthology of Sonnets, (On the Petrarchan Model), and Elegaic Quatorzains.
5 vols. London: B. and R. Crosby and Co., 1814.
18. Holmes, John. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Late Victorian Sonnet Sequence: Sexuality, Belief and the
Self. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, p. 3.Introduction xxv
19 Arline Golden asserts: ‘Sonnet theory began with the Victorians’. The debate took on a
flavour that suited the mood of the times. According to Natalie Houston:
For nineteenth-century readers, the sonnet related poetic texts to literary and national
history. Arguments over the sonnet’s defi nition at least implicitly, and often
explicitly, referred to England’s literary history and cultural heritage, as encapsulated
20 in the national signifi ers attached to the different major rhyme schemes.
As the century progressed, there was increasing emphasis given to the importance of science
and the search for fundamental laws governing both natural and human phenomena. Did
such laws exist for the creative arts? If they did in poetry, then surely they would be found
in the sonnet. In formulating his ebb and flow model of the sonnet, Theodore Watts-Dunton
justified this on the basis of analogy with the natural law of the ebb and flow of the tides.
Sonnet writing and reading were related to those characteristics often cited by
commentators on the nineteenth century as essential for the development of the individual
and society; namely, hard work, perseverance and thrift. Anthology editors, critics, and
poets themselves, stressed the labour involved in creating a sonnet, in compressing
language into a compact and restricted form. Similarly, emphasis was placed on the need
for the reader to work hard in disentangling the meaning of such a compressed form.
Self-restraint, retreat into the self and keeping control of one’s personal thoughts were
characteristics of many Victorians, who, by so doing, effectively don masks to hide the
true self from the outside world. Like the dramatic monologue, the sonnet was another
mask. Its long history and tradition enabled the poet to call upon certain assumptions on
the part of the reader, thereby hiding his/her true feelings. Such Victorian characteristics
had a moral overtone for they enabled an individual to keep a well-focused mind and
lead an outwardly exemplary life. Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help, for example, extolling such
virtues, was published in 1859. These virtues were a support for a disciplined individual
and a check against looseness, both in terms of poet and reader. Jennifer Wagner sees this
as fitting the Victorian temper:
What this attention to formal restraint and formal choice shades into . . . is a concern
with literary morality, of which form is the moral measure. The argument is that the
poet who is content with the sonnet is more disciplined, not only intellectually but
21 also morally.
In a similar vein, the Victorian fascination with present time, the recording of moments,
events and happenings, can be seen in the increased demand for biographies and travel tales,
and in the demand, largely met by newspapers, for news on overseas events and sensational
stories on the home-front. It was given added impetus with the development of photography.
The sonnet was a poetic form entirely suited to recording moments in history as they
happened, and in providing biographical information. Its focus on a single thought, idea or
emotion meant that the sonnet could be considered the poetic equivalent of a photograph
19. Golden, Arline. ‘Victorian Renascence: The Revival of the Amatory Sonnet Sequence, 1850–1900.’
Genre. 7 (1974): pp. 133–147.
20. Houston, Natalie M. ‘Capturing the Moment: A Cultural History of the Victorian Sonnet.’ Diss.
Duke University, 1998, pp. 24–25.
21. Wagner, p. 118.xxvi Introduction
or snap-shot, and the sonnet sequence with story-telling and biographies. This was part of
the broader cultural context of a fascination with time.
As the nineteenth century progressed, poetry faced strong competition from the novel
and other forms of publication. One way to compete was to write a poetic novel whose
stanzas were short, which may account, in part, for the resurrection of the sonnet sequence.
In a converse fashion, many people had less time to read as life became more hectic and
demanding. Houston notes that the brevity of the sonnet meant that it did not take much
time to read: ‘The sonnet’s obvious and abbreviated form facilitated specific reading practices
22 suited to the pace of nineteenth-century print culture’. This also applies to those who
wrote sonnets, many of whom were not professional poets but had other jobs in order to
earn their living.
This increased focus on the sonnet inevitably had to wane at some point. Patrick Crutwell
writes:
The outline of the sonnet’s history in English has followed, more clearly perhaps than
that of any other form, a recurring pattern of vogue and neglect: the former, intense
23 and indiscriminate, leading inevitably to the latter.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the sonnet had, for many, outlived its usefulness
and leading poets such as A. E. Housman and W. B. Yeats distanced themselves from it. Of
this reaction, Crutwell’s opinion is: ‘What was happening was essentially the same as had
happened about the year 1600: over-production, and over-close association with modes of
24feeling that were becoming discredited, were causing the thing itself to be discredited’ , a
view that is in accord with that of Quiller-Couch: ‘It went out of vogue largely through
25a surfeit of inferior stuff’. In their introductory essay on the twentieth-century sonnet,
26Gertrude White and Joan Rosen are clearly of the opinion that the characteristic mode of
Victorian thinking tainted the sonnet and poets had to find new ways of writing:
Gone are the abstractions, the huge, cloudy generalities loved by the Victorians. Gone
with them is the solemnity, the reverence, the self-importance, the stilted manner, the
27 pompousness that lurks in the wings of the nineteenth century’.
This decline in popularity of the sonnet at the end of the nineteenth century is given added
impetus when one considers the general tendency by many twentieth-century critics to
react negatively towards the Victorian period generally. Houston’s contention is that sonnets
are a product of their times much more than other poetic forms and need to be read in this
historicist way, and this was a factor in the hastening of their neglect:
The isolation of poems from their historical context in post-Victorian literary criticism
(exemplifi ed most obviously by the New Critics), made Victorian sonnets
increasingly unreadable, not simply because of their moral or sentimental content, as
22. Houston, p. 20.
23. Crutwell, Patrick. The English Sonnet. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1966, p. 52.
24. Ibid, pp. 51–52.
25. Quiller-Couch, p. xxiv.
26. White, Gertrude M., and Joan G. Rosen, eds. A Moment’s Monument: The Development of the Sonnet.
New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1972.
27. Ibid, p. 160.Introduction xxvii
some disparaging critics would claim, but because the form itself was used to capture
28 specifi c moments of perception and belief’.
Twentieth-century critical literature reflects this decline in interest in the Victorian sonnet
29but not in the sonnet itself. In The Sonnet in England and America: A Bibliography of Criticism ,
Herbert Donow lists secondary publications up to mid-1981. The section covering the
Renaissance period contains over three thousand entries with more than fifty per cent of these
dealing with Shakespeare’s sonnets. In contrast, the section on eighteenth- and
nineteenthcentury sonnets contains less than nine hundred entries. Donow lists only one twentieth-y anthology of English sonnets specifically devoted to any part of the Victorian period,
this being Edmund Blunden’s coverage of 1750–1850, while noting twenty-one anthologies
covering the sonnet in the Renaissance. Donow lists only eleven publications that cover the
sonnet and the Victorian period, and of these only three were published in the first half of the
twentieth century, an indication of how quickly the Victorian sonnet as a genre disappeared
from the critical horizon.
Other than anthologies and general reviews, Donow’s bibliography is structured by poet.
Of the five hundred and sixty-five entries covering twenty poets who could be classified
as Victorian, five poets – Matthew Arnold, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Gerard Manley
Hopkins, George Meredith and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – account for over ninety per cent.
Hopkins dominates, mainly because he is considered modernist rather than Victorian. Even
for these five poets, however, the twentieth century was late in awakening to the importance
of their sonnets. Interest in Rossetti’s sonnets, as measured by the entries in Donow, begins
primarily after 1960, with that of Hopkins somewhat earlier.
Closer analysis of the entries in Donow for Barrett Browning, Meredith and Rossetti
reveal the focus of sonnet criticism is narrowed even further since they are dominated by
the three sequences, ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ (1850), ‘Modern Love’ (1862), and ‘The
House of Life’ (1881). The vast majority of Victorian sonneteers are largely ignored. The
pre1980 critical approach is strongly biased towards the sonnets of canonical poets and further
narrowed by an emphasis on a limited number of key sequences. One aim of this anthology is
to raise awareness of poets who were considered to be significant sonneteers by the Victorian
public and literary establishment and put their sonnets in the context of their time and
alongside the output of major poets. Were they mere imitators of more famous poets or did
they provide significant contributions in their own rights? The lack of recognition of such
poets is obvious when comparing the entries identified by Donow with poets who were
included in late nineteenth-century sonnet anthologies. For example, of twenty-nine poets
who are each included in the anthologies by Sharp, Waddington and Caine, only six – Arnold,
Meredith, Alice Meynell, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Alfred Tennyson –
have entries in Donow. White and Rosen are dismissive of many Victorian sonneteers. They
write: ‘the minor poets of the later nineteenth century were expressing the anxieties of the
age in sonnets that were – however skilful – conventional in form, diction, and image and
30 often all but indistinguishable in manner’. This anthology challenges such a generalisation
28. Houston, pp. 111–112.
29. Donow, Herbert S. The Sonnet in England and America: A Bibliography of Criticism. Westport:
Greenwood Press, 1982.
30. White and Rosen, p. 98.xxviii Introduction
and shows that many of the less well-known poets were, in fact, more innovative, in both
content and form, than previously acknowledged.
An exception to the general trend of ignoring the achievement of the Victorian sonneteers
was William Going. His book, The Scanty Plot of Ground (1976), was the first published in
the twentieth century to review the sonnet from the beginning to the end of the Victorian
period. His perspective, however, is limited to the sonnet sequence and his detailed analysis
of specific sequences is primarily reserved for the well known poets such as the Rossettis, the
Brownings, Meredith and the Tennysons. Going’s introductory chapter provides an historical
overview of the sonnet sequence, placing the contribution of Victorian poets into context
with their predecessors and introducing the sequences of many of the less well-known
sonneteers of the period. Very usefully, Going provides a chronological listing of all known
sonnet sequences from 1781 to 1900.
The above trend in sonnet criticism has not changed substantially since Donow’s
bibliography. Critical interest in the sonnet is still primarily dominated by the sonnets
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly those of Shakespeare, Milton and
Donne. Wordsworth, whose published work straddles both the Romantic and Victorian
periods, remains a centre of sonnet criticism. The emphasis on the Victorian sonnet largely
continues to rest on canonical poets such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Gerard Manley
Hopkins. However, a number of new trends in the criticism of the Victorian sonnet are
discernible. Feminist and psychoanalytical critical writings from the 1970s onwards have
led to a resurgence of interest in Christina Rossetti and her sonnets, particularly the
sequences ‘Monna Innominata’ (1881) and ‘Later Life’ (1881). The sonnets of less
wellknown women poets such as Mathilde Blind and Augusta Webster have been studied by
31 32 Florence Boos (2004) and Natalie Houston (2003). Houston is not simply interested
in rediscovering unknown writers and sonnets. Neither does she want to perpetuate the
enlargement of the poetic canon by concentrating on the poet. Instead, she wants to
understand why specific poems were written in a specific form and the cultural context
in which they were written. Choosing sonnets by Mathilde Blind, Michael Field and
Rosamund Watson, Houston sets out:
[To] explore an alternative approach to writing literary history that maintains a double
focus: on what kinds of writing ‘count as literature’ and why; and on the relation of
33 that cultural value to the politics of gender.
Houston examines the extensive sonnet discourse via anthologies and critical essays that
redefined the sonnet canon in terms of national and literary history thereby perpetuating the
image of the genre and encouraging its writing and readership. She selects unfamiliar sonnet
sequences for detailed analysis. Houston contends that in his sequence, ‘In the Shadows’ (1862),
31. Boos, Florence Saunders. ‘Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Poetic Daughters: Fin-de-Siecle Women Poets
and the Sonnet.’ In Outsiders Looking In: The Rossetti’s Then and Now. Ed. David Clifford and Lawrence
Roussillon. London: Anthem, 2004, pp. 253–81.
32. Houston, Natalie M. ‘Towards a New History: Fin-de-Siecle Women Poets and the Sonnet.’
In Essays and Studies 2003: Victorian Women Poets. Ed. Alison Chapman. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003,
pp. 145–64.
33. Ibid, p. 146.Introduction xxix
David Gray deliberately used ‘the documentary and revelatory functions of the sonnet to
create an image of himself that would conform to existing cultural tropes of the dying young
34 poet based on Keats’s life’. Her critique of Sydney Dobell and Alexander Smith’s sequence
on the Crimean War, ‘Sonnets on the War’ (1855), is that it was an example of how poets
used the sonnet because of its association with recording events in a manner analogous to
photography. Both sequences are included in this anthology.
In her study of Emily Pfeiffer’s poetry, Kathleen Hickok interestingly suggests that one
reason why Pfeiffer has fallen out of fashion is as a result of the sonnet’s decline in the
twentieth century and Pfeiffer’s association with the form:
I also think the sonnet as a form has fallen out of favour, being considered too easy to
write, too numerous in the nineteenth century, and increasingly too formal for
twentieth-century tastes. Since Pfeiffer’s reputation was, rightly or wrongly, attached
35 to her sonnets, this shift may have infl uenced the longevity of her critical reputation.
This is a comment that could equally apply to many of the poets included in this anthology.
In addition to feminist studies, recent ekphrastic research has revived interest in the
relationship between poetry and painting in the Victorian period. Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
for example, along with a number of his contemporaries, was both a painter and a poet.
Most of Rossetti’s poems that comment on paintings, either by himself or other artists, are
sonnets. A number of recent studies have explored Rossetti’s contribution to ekphrasis. As
this anthology demonstrates, many other Victorian poets used the sonnet to comment on
paintings and sculptures.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Wordsworth were acknowledged by anthologists and
critics of the period as the foremost sonneteers of the nineteenth century. The influence of
each of these poets on their contemporaries has been the subject of recent studies. Jennifer
Wagner traces the impact of Wordsworth’s mode of sonnet throughout the nineteenth
and early twentieth century through detailed analysis of poems by Keats, Shelley, Rossetti,
Hopkins and Frost. Her declared purpose:
[Is] to demonstrate that what became a general obsession with the form throughout
the nineteenth century is the record of these poets’ engagement with the problems of
subjectivity, with the relationship of poetic form to temporality, and with the
36 infi ltration of aestheticist idealism into the literary ideology.
For Wagner, most pre-Wordsworthian sonnets are ‘revisionary’, moving from ‘premise to
conclusion’. According to Wagner, Wordsworth, largely influenced by Milton, developed a
new mode of the sonnet, one that was unitary, and enabled a shift towards ‘a revelatory
function for the sonnet . . . and the emphasis . . . not so much on the brevity and constraint
37 of the form as on its potential for expansiveness’. John Holmes takes a related, but narrower,
approach in exploring the influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s first version of ‘The House
34. Houston, 1998, p. 5.
35. Hickok, Kathleen. ‘Why is this Woman Still Missing? Emily Pfeiffer, Victorian Poet.’ In Women’s
Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian. Eds. Isobel Armstrong and Virginia Blain. London: The Centre for
English Studies, University of London, 1999, pp. 373–89.
36. Wagner, p. 12.
37. Wagner, p. 14.xxx Introduction
of Life’ (1870). He explores the impact of this sequence on sequences published in the
following decades. For Holmes, these sequences:
[Were] characterised, individually and collectively, by attempts to develop a poetry of
selfhood. Their preoccupations – religious belief and doubt, sexuality and
genderrelations, national allegiance and the imperial mission – were those of late Victorian
38 identity.
Holmes contends that Rossetti’s concept of ‘inclusiveness’ in his 1870 sequence is the catalyst
for a reappraisal of the potential of the sonnet sequence. He provides in-depth analyses of
the links between Rossetti’s sequence and those of a wide spectrum of other poets, crossing
a variety of thematic boundaries and showing how beliefs on subjects such as religion, sex,
gender and nationhood are intertwined.
In 1996, Jennifer Wagner wrote: ‘a fuller account of the general nature, significance, and
situation of the sonnet as a phenomenon of nineteenth-century literary history has not
appeared’. Joseph Phelan’s, The Nineteenth-Century Sonnet (2005), is the first book to address
this deficiency and appraise the sonnet across the whole century, seeing a continuation
of the Victorians from the Romantics, rather than an abrupt transition. The continued
influence of Wordsworth and Milton throughout the century is acknowledged, one that
is characterised by the tension between liberty and constraint. He argues that the sonnet’s
formal structure is constrained but, as Wordsworth showed, its flexibility enabled it to expand
and become revelatory. Phelan explores other tensions evidenced, for example, by attempts
at remasculinisation of the sonnet by Wordsworth and others from its feminisation by late
eighteenth-century women sonneteers, and by the tendency of female poets such as Christina
Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Augusta Webster to use the sonnet to subvert
male gender expectations. This engagement of the sonnet with cultural issues that were
central to Victorian society is at the heart of Phelan’s investigation. His assessment is that the
transformation of the sonnet throughout the century is indicative of society at large:
It [the sonnet] begins the nineteenth century as the bearer of what Raymond Williams
calls ‘emergent’ cultural values, those of Victorianism, carries these values through to
dominance, and then becomes the site both of these values in their ‘residual’ form and
39 of the new ‘emergent’ values of aestheticism, decadence and proto-modernism.
Phelan also makes reference to the extent of formal experimentation of the sonnet undertaken
by the Victorians, especially late in the century, although this is not a major theme within
his book.
Other than the works by Phelan and Holmes, most minor poets of the period have fared
very poorly in having their sonnets brought forward for critical appraisal. Charles Turner,
William Ernest Henley and Eugene Lee-Hamilton have been the subject of a small number
of articles and/or anthologies. General Victorian poetry anthologies have included a few
examples of less well-known poets. It should also be noted that even for the well-known
Victorian poets, many of their sonnets are largely ignored in critical writings. Studies on the
sonnets of George Meredith, for example, have mainly focused on the sequence ‘Modern
Love’, there being little recognition that in other sonnets he expounds large elements of his
38. Holmes, p. vii.
39. Phelan, p. 8.Introduction xxxi
philosophy on life, its creation, development and evolutionary progress. Algernon Charles
Swinburne is another example. His poetic output included over one hundred and sixty
sonnets yet there is little critical attention to these in studies of his poetry. This anthology
includes many such sonnets.
Finally, whilst there are numerous studies that comment in detail on the degree to
which Hopkins undertook formal experiments in terms of line length and number, there
is little recognition of the extent to which other Victorian poets sought to vary the formal
boundaries of the traditional sonnet. Often this experimentation was carried out by poets
whose sonnets have all but disappeared from the poetic landscape. Examples include John
Payne, Agnes Mary Robinson and William Watson whose formal experiments have been
ignored. Certainly, there are sonnets by such writers which no longer look like sonnets and
which provide a stark contrast with those written earlier in the century.
2. Content and the Sonnet
One of the objectives of this anthology is to show the breadth of subject matter covered by
sonnets in the Victorian period. Stereotyping the sonnet as a poetic form that was restricted
in its subject coverage, for example, to the topics of love and nature, a view prevalent in
Elizabethan and Romantic times, was blown-apart by the Victorians who used the form
to cover many themes that were once considered to be beyond its scope. This stereotypical
view of the sonnet was already out of date in the decades before the 1840s. Robert Southey’s
sonnet sequence, ‘Poems on the Slave Trade’ (1797), is one example, and Wordsworth wrote
many sonnets on subjects outside those normally associated with the sonnet. However,
Victorian poets stretched the boundaries much further, one result of which is that the sonnet
became a vehicle for highlighting many of the concerns and interests of the Victorians across
a wide spectrum of societal issues, some of which still resonate in modern Britain. A few
examples will suffice.
In ‘Sonnets upon the Punishment of Death’ (1842), Wordsworth argues for the retention
of the death penalty on the grounds that it will ‘give timely warning and deter’, help the
condemned to repent, and prevent a relapse that may lead to further crimes. George Barlow,
on the other hand, supports the abolition of capital punishment. In the sonnet ‘Capital
Punishment’ (1884), he argues that society should ‘Put by that accursed cord,/ And hack to
pieces that black gallows-tree’. He also makes the point in ‘William Gouldstone’ (1884) that
some murderers may be insane at the time of committing their crime and therefore do not
warrant the vengeance meted out by society.
Although increased leisure and holidays for many Victorians was a welcome development,
there were also negative consequences. In ‘New Skegness’ (1887), Hardwicke Rawnsley
bewails the changes that commercialisation and holiday-makers were bringing to quaint
sea-side villages: ‘While that sea-monster millipede, the pier,/ Puts out from shore to please
a giddy throng’. In ‘Holiday Makers on Good Friday (1881)’, he points out that increasing
secularisation is another unwelcome development of such changes:
But we, released from double gaol to-day,
Prison of toil and fetters of self-will,
We pass the Cross, forgetting all its pain;xxxii Introduction
As if Christ died to win us holiday,
With boisterous shout the saddened vale we fi ll,
And crucify the Crucifi ed again.
The less glamorous aspects of Victorian society are subjects of some sonnets. Arthur Symons
‘The Opium-Smoker’ (1889), David Gray’s ‘O Precious Morphia! I sanctify’ (1862) and
Eugene Lee-Hamilton’s ‘Sydney Wharton to a Dose of Haschich’ (1888) deal with the
issue of drugs. Drunkenness and its consequences are a theme in Robert Leighton’s ‘The
Drunkard’s Sonnet’ (1850) and Charles Turner’s ‘The Drunkard’s Last Market’ (1868). In
‘West London’ (1867), Matthew Arnold reminds us that there are people who have to beg
to provide for their daily bread. Louisa Bevington’s ‘One More Bruised Heart’ (1882) has
child abuse as a subject, and Symons’s ‘At Seventeen’ (1895) hints at the sexual exploitation
of young girls.
Death was an ever-present reality for many Victorians. David Gray’s sequence ‘In the
Shadows’ (1862), charts his decline towards death as consumption takes hold. It is a moving
portrayal of death since the poet was only in his early twenties. Eugene Lee-Hamilton
experienced the tragic loss of his young daughter, a loss which hastened his own death. His
memories of his daughter are movingly recorded in the sequence ‘Mimma Bella’ (1908).
Philip Marston suffered the death of his mother, fiancée, two sisters and his brother-in-law,
all within the space of a few years. It is little wonder that death features prominently in his
sonnets. William Ernest Henley spent a number of his youthful years in hospital undergoing
painful surgery which could have killed him at any time. His sequence, ‘In Hospital’ (1888),
is a vivid portrayal of this experience.
Other sonnets record tragic events, a stark reminder, if any were needed, how quickly and
unexpectedly life can end. Harriett Stockall’s, ‘Drowned’ (1879), deals with the collision of
two boats and the fateful consequences as the revellers are thrown into the water:
Night’s awful calm was broken by the cry
Of many voices quivering through the air,
And upward to the silent, starlit sky,
Rose countless shrieks of passionate despair.
Strong groans brake forth from hearts with anguish
riven,
And drowning eyes were lifted up to heaven!
Henley’s ‘Casualty’ (1888) is the result of an industrial accident: ‘He had fallen from
an engine,/ And been dragged along the metals’. Rawnsley tells us of the tragedy of
‘“Little Jonny”’ (1877) when ‘The cruel engine snatched his arms away’, and of the
abandoned children in ‘The Children’s Hospital’ (1877) who ‘Gravely they sit, anticipate
no joys,/ They know not who shall see to-morrow’s sun!’ Rawnsley’s ‘Life Through
Death’ (1893) records a colliery explosion in the North of England, and he pays tribute
to the bravery of ‘Life-boat Heroes’ (1893) who risk their lives every time they set sail.
Symons reminds us in ‘The Abandoned’ (1889) that the only release for many destitute
people is suicide:
Longing for sleep, the sleep that comes with death,
She fell, she felt the water, and forgot
All, save the drowning agony of breath.Introduction xxxiii
Edmund Gosse writes about his own death in ‘Euthanasia’ (1879), hoping that at the end
his life ‘will calmly burn away’. This preoccupation with death is one of the reasons why
the Victorians were so prolific in the use of the sonnet for paying tribute to the dead and
recording their memories for posterity. Nearly every poet wrote such tributes, the sonnet
being an ideal vehicle for recording and memorialising the qualities of those who had died.
While most of these tribute sonnets praised the individuals concerned this was not always
the case. George Barlow, for example, was very critical of Wordsworth and his sonnets. In
‘The Poet-Queen’ (1871) he claims that ‘poetry needs/ Not only a heart that breathes,
but one that bleeds’, making the same claim about Wordsworth in ‘Wordsworth’s Sonnets’
(1871): [Wordsworth] had not been pained/ Enough to write a real Sonnet though’. Barlow
is even more stinging in his criticism in ‘Suggested by Wordsworth’s Sonnet “On His
Marriage Day”’:
Good heavens, Sir! to dawdle and delay,
Chanting the praises of each hill and dell,
And maundering over aspect of the skies,
With a fair woman standing by your side—
Many early nineteenth-century beliefs, such as the historicity of the Bible, the creation of
the world by God, and the origins of the universe were questioned and radically redefined
as the century progressed. Religious controversy went hand-in-hand with scientific progress
and Victoria’s reign was permeated throughout by debates and differences, schisms and the
new creeds. Poets used the sonnet to explore many facets of these complicated issues. Josiah
Conder’s ‘The Choir and The Oratory’ (1837), and Isaac Williams’ ‘The Cathedral’ (1838)
and ‘The Altar’ (1847), are typical of the many sonnets and sequences written that showed
profound belief in the opinions and doctrines of the Established Church. Such sequences
were very prevalent in the 1830s/1840s. To such poets, and others of their contemporaries like
Henry Alford, William Wordsworth, Richard Trench and Hartley Coleridge, it was axiomatic
that the world was an expression of God’s love for mankind, and that belief and reverence in
God was the single most important aspect of a Christian’s life. The Church of England was
the vehicle through which such beliefs and reverence were channelled. Many of these poets
do not try and defend Christianity; they see no need for this, its truthfulness is self-evident.
One of the threats to the Established Church was the rise of Catholicism and Martin Tupper,
in particular, wrote many anti-Catholic sonnets. Typical is his warning in ‘Church Dividings’
(1860) about the need to be wary of the increasing influence of Catholics and the threat they
pose to the country:
O Freedom’s very heart, her hearth, and home,
England! resist with vigour as of old
This pestilent miasma bred at Rome,
This inward cancer to the Church and State
Into thy vitals creeping quick and cold:
The Papacy was often maligned, both on religious and political grounds. Algernon Charles
Swinburne berates Pius IX as ‘Judas the Second’ in the sequence ‘Diræ’ (1875), while William
Bell Scott in ‘Outside the Temple’ (1875) calls the Pope ‘A blind, self-styled Infallible, old
man’ who ‘Coaxes ‘God’s mother’ with a monument!’ The language of these, and other,
sonnets is indicative of the venom felt by many towards Catholicism.xxxiv Introduction
Religious beliefs are the cause of much personal anguish for sonneteers such as Christina
Rossetti. Her later sonnets are deeply religious and reveal real suffering about tolerating life
on earth when one’s desire and focus is on the life beyond. In ‘Why?’ (1881), for example, she
asks: ‘Lord, if I love Thee and Thou lovest me,/ Why need I any more these toilsome days’.
The world is full of temptations and sin, mankind is weak and only with the help of God
will individuals gain their desire to enter heaven. In ‘O Lord, I am ashamed to seek Thy Face’
(1893), Rossetti pleads:
Set me above the waterfl oods, above
Devil and shifting world and fl eshly sense,
Thy Mercy’s all-amazing monument.
Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Watson Dixon record similar inner conflicts in their
search for God. In ‘Give me the darkest corner of a cloud’ (1861), Dixon echoes Hopkins’s
later sonnets of desolation.
Beliefs other than Christianity flourished in Victorian times. John Payne views Christianity,
in whatever guise, as the problem. In ‘New Lamps for Old’ (1920), he refers to Christianity
as being outdated:
THE lamp, that Christ two thousand years ago
Kindled with borrowed oil from many a source,
Long since expended hath its last of force:
The vase is void; the oil hath ceased to fl ow.
For Payne, the solution was to be found in the teachings of Buddha:
His scriptures were the forest and the fen:
From the dead fl ower he learnt and the spent night
The lesson of the eternal nothingness,
How what is best is ceasing from the light
And putting off life’s raiment of duresse,
And taught it to the weary race of men.
(Sarvarthasiddha-Buddha, III, 1904)
Robert Buchanan, on the other hand, developed his own personal fusion of Christianity and
Celtic mysticism, recording it in The Book of Orm (1870). Although he did not believe in a
Christian God, Buchanan borrowed heavily from its images and language. Interesting aspects
of his creed include the view that God needs man as much as man needs God, and that all
men will be saved: ‘All things that live are deathless – I and ye./ The Father could not slay
us if he would’ (XXIII).
Others, such as George Meredith, also developed personal systems of belief that were
farremoved from the conventions of Christianity. In terms of sonnets, Meredith is best known
for his sequence ‘Modern Love’ (1862). However, he wrote more than forty other sonnets.
Taken together, these expound a view that amount to a philosophy of life. The fundamental
building block of this philosophy is that man is created by Earth; she is our mother, and all
life is attributable to her. In ‘Earth’s Secret’ (1883), Meredith says that she ‘gives the milk’.
Without her, humans are rootless: ‘at a thought of life apart from her,/ Solidity and vision
lose their state’. Evolution, a subject also dealt with by Emily Pfeiffer, is the basis through
which life develops, and only the strongest and most adaptable survive. Mother Earth will Introduction xxxv
do her utmost to guide man in the right direction but nothing is guaranteed and history
is strewn with examples of civilisations and nations that have withered (‘The Discipline of
Wisdom’, 1883). Meredith’s sonnets of the 1880s contain the core elements of his philosophy.
John Addington Symonds is another poet who uses the sonnet to define and explore a
personal set of beliefs.
Not everyone thought that man’s position in the scheme of the universe was as important
as many Christians and other religionists believed. Science was changing the way that people
thought about themselves. This view of the relative unimportance of the human race is
tackled by Herbert Clarke in ‘A Star’s Message’ (1879):
Ye men, ye mortals on your tiny ball,—
Your lump of clay that spins in silent space,—
Think ye that if your little world did fall,
One star in heaven would miss it from its place?
Live while ye may! Soon, whatsoe’er ye do,
The great gods will forget your world and you.
Similarly, Constance Naden uses the sonnet to explore the beginnings of the universe in
‘The Nebular Theory’ (1887):
In the beginning was a formless mist
Of atoms isolate, void of life; none wist
Aught of its neighbour atom, nor any mirth,
Nor woe, save its own vibrant pang of dearth;
Until a cosmic motion breathed and hissed
And blazed through the black silence;
Poets were not afraid to tackle controversial religious subjects. The Virgin Mary was one
such subject. In a series of sonnets on the Virgin Mary, George Barlow questions Mary’s
sexual desires and her relationship with Joseph. In the concluding sonnet of the series, ‘The
Inscription’ (1871), Mary looks down from heaven onto earth:
And underneath an image of her life
High in a temple on a gorgeous throne
Enshrinèd, she, with murmuring gentle tone,
Having erased the fi rst with golden knife,
In a new inscription made her will be known
Not—“Mary Virgin”—“Mary Joseph’s Wife.”
As noted above, death is a common theme of many sonnets. Victorian beliefs on what
happened after death were as varied, and intimately tied up with, the numerous religious
viewpoints that existed. For some, all aspects of birth and death were a mystery; for others
there was certainty that death did not end life, whilst others held the equal conviction that
death ended all forms of living. Arthur Hugh Clough and William Bell Scott can be classed
amongst the agnostics, in that for them death is a mystery and what happens afterwards is
unknown. Such thinking can be traced in their respective sequences ‘Seven Sonnets on the
Thought of Death’ (1869) and ‘Outside the Temple’ (1875). John Addington Symonds covers
similar ground in ‘Sonnets on the Thought of Death’ (1878). Eugene Lee-Hamilton, on the
other hand, had no such doubts about life after death; it simply did not exist. This belief is
closely allied with his atheism and belief that the course of one’s life is determined by the xxxvi Introduction
blind forces of fate. In a number of sonnets he explores these and related issues. Death holds
no fear for Lee-Hamilton: ‘extinction is so sweet’ (‘The Obol’, 1884). Man should enjoy life
and ‘then pass into the night’ (‘The Wine of Omar Khayyam’, 1894). The poet goes even
further, rejecting heaven if it exists. In ‘A Flight from Glory’ (1894), an angel asks permission
to live life on earth. God warns the angel that if his wish is granted then annihilation will be
his outcome. The angel replies that he is prepared for such an end: ‘even that dread price;/
For earthly tears are worth eternal night’.
The sonnet’s close association with love as a subject was not diminished by the Victorians.
Rather the opposite happened, the subject flourished. Some commentators on the Victorian
sonnet, for instance, refer to its crowning achievements as the reintroduction of love as a
major theme, the revival of the love sonnet sequence and its flowering into a unique genre
which is distinct from its predecessor, the Elizabethan love sonnet sequence. Many such
sequences, offering different insights into relationships, are included in this anthology. Whilst
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ (1850) is justifiably acclaimed
by critics, it is not typical of the Victorian use of the sonnet to explore love. More typical
is Frances Kemble, for example, who writes about failed relationships, often with a wife
addressing her husband’s mistress. Meredith’s ‘Modern Love’ (1862) deals with adultery and
the eventual suicide of the wife as the marriage comes to an end. Even in Christina Rossetti’s
‘Monna Innominata’ (1881), the man is eventually rejected by the woman who loves him as
she must give all her love to God.
One can see a definite shift in how women are viewed, or view themselves, as the century
progresses. Eugene Lee-Hamilton, for example, uses the dramatic monologue in his book
Imaginary Sonnets (1888), drawing a canvas which incorporates numerous instances of passions
that lead to evil, violence and death rather than to beauty and love. Women are often the
perpetrators of such tendencies. The queen in ‘Queen Eleanor to Rosamund Clifford’ likens
herself to a tigress or viper circling its prey, feeling ‘Each nail become a claw, each tooth
a fang’, as she lays her hand on Rosamund’s breast. In ‘The Duchess Salviati to Caterina
Canacci’, the Duchess decides to ask her husband’s mistress for a lock of her golden hair
before sending her servants to cut off her head. Even more chilling is the desire of Eleanor
to inflict maximum pain on her rival in ‘Eleanor Bracken to Margaret Grey’. Using voodoo
magic, Eleanor will stick pins into a waxen image of Margaret and desire that she ‘linger
out to four or five/ My gloating weeks of vengeance’. Neither is women’s hatred reserved
only for rivals. The seventeenth-century French murderess, Madame de Brinvilliers, rejects
conventional notions of happiness. It is the thrill of killing her male victims that brings real
pleasure as she watches ‘the numbness rise/ To my prey’s heart, and slowly make death creep/
Through unsuspicious veins’ (‘Madame de Brinvilliers to Her Art’).
Conventional patriarchal attitudes are challenged by women poets such as Augusta
Webster. Why should women accept male dominance and hurt she asks in ‘Mother and
Daughter’ (1895)? Why should women put up with a life of pain and tears? This after all is
the man’s view of the world:
’Tis men who say that through all hurt and
pain
The woman’s love, wife’s, mother’s, still
will hold,Introduction xxxvii
And breathes the sweeter and will more
unfold
For winds that tear it, and the sorrowful rain.
Women poets do not always put the blame squarely on the shoulders of men. Webster notes
how some mothers parade their daughters before suitable partners at dances in order to
gain them a match. And in ‘Kassandra’ and ‘Klytemnestra’ (1879), Emily Pfeiffer is critical
of women and their actions. What these and many other sonnets depict is an increasingly
complex and fragile set of relationships between men and women in which conventions of
male dominance in a patriarchal society are no longer accepted unquestioningly.
Same-sex relationships are increasingly explored via the sonnet, and it is interesting to
see how much more open they become as the century progresses. For John Addington
Symonds, homosexuality was both the tragedy and inspiration of his life. His feelings for the
male body, his search for ideal beauty and comradeship, and his passionate desires for other
men tormented him for most of his life, but were also the foundation of much of his writing.
Symonds knew that he could not be open about his desires in his poetry. In the sequence
‘Stella Maris’ (1884), he attempted to hide his homosexuality by depicting the loved one
as a female. In many other individual sonnets and sequences his guilt feelings are obvious.
‘L’Amour de L’Impossible’ (1882) is one of the most tortured sequences in his repertoire.
He says of the force behind the writing of this sequence: ‘It cannot be doubted that the
congenital aberration of the passions which I have described has been the poison of my
40 life’. Sonneteers such as Mark Raffalovich and John Nicholson, on the other hand, show
no such inhibitions. The sequences ‘The World Well Lost’ (1886) by Raffalovich and ‘Love in
Ernest’ (1892) by Nicholson, for example, are much more open in dealing with passion and
love between the man and man.
Thomas Randolph’s sixteen-line poem in rhymed couplets, ‘Upon his Picture’ (1638),
is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, ekphrastic poems in English. It is not a sonnet in
the true definition of the term although in the sixteenth and seventeenth-centuries many
poems were called sonnets that did not strictly obey the accepted definition. Over the next
one hundred and fifty years or so very few such sonnets were written. Once again in the
sphere of sonnet development it was Wordsworth who initiated the use of the sonnet for
ekphrastic purposes. During the Victorian period, however, there was an explosion of such
sonnets, especially from the 1850s onwards. The real innovator, as opposed to imitator, was
undoubtedly Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He wrote numerous sonnets over a period of three
decades exploring not only his own paintings but those of other painters. His first sonnet
for one of his own paintings was ‘Mary’s Girlhood’ (1849) and his last ‘“Found”’ (1881). As
his technique developed, Rossetti sought to unify painting and sonnet so that each would
complement the other. In ‘Proserpina’ (1881), this interdependency between painting and
text took on a physical dimension when Rossetti inscribed it, in Italian, in the top-right
hand corner of the painting.
Many other Victorian poets, some influenced by Rossetti, others acting independently,
used the sonnet to explore visual images. Alexander Anderson, Edward Dowden, Eugene
Lee-Hamilton, John Nicholson, John Payne and Emily Pfeiffer are just a few of the poets
40. Grosskurth, Phyllis, ed. The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds. London: Hutchinson, 1984, p. 190.xxxviii Introduction
whose ekphrastic sonnets are included in this anthology. Unlike earlier sonneteers such
as Wordsworth, the modern writer of ekphrastic sonnets was often more concerned with
contemporary artists rather than the Old Masters. Albert Moore, Edward Burne-Jones, J.
Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and G. F. Watts are a few examples of nineteenth-century
painters whose paintings were the subject of sonnets.
Sonnets about war and political upheavals were not the invention of the Victorians; Milton
and Wordsworth, for example, had written on such subjects. Neither were these subjects
central to the use of the sonnet by the Victorians. Compared with love, religious belief and
other themes, battles and revolutionary skirmishes were peripheral. However, the Victorians
did develop the sonnet in a number of notable ways that certainly fore-shadowed and laid
the ground for the more radical sonnets by poets such as Wilfred Owen. Wordsworth’s
sonnets in the early part of the century on the revolutions breaking out over Europe
were an intellectual response on the issues of liberty and freedom. This is not to denigrate
Wordsworth’s achievements, but his sonnets were not primarily an engagement with the
cutand-thrust of specific conflicts. This began to change as the century progressed.
One development that is clearly evident is the type of language used in some of the
Victorian poems, with Sydney Dobell and Alexander Smith’s sequence on the Crimean
War, ‘Sonnets on the War’ (1855), an early indicator of what was to come. Neither Dobell
nor Smith was a combatant, so they relied on newspaper reports for their raw material.
Death and destruction feature in a number of the individual sonnets, even though the
overwhelming sense that pervades the sequence is that England has righteousness on her
side and that only through war can peace be gained. The poets recognise the horror and
suffering of war as the surgeon
labours thro’ the red and groaning day.
The fearful moorland where the myriads lay
Moved as a moving fi eld of mangled worms.
(‘The Army Surgeon’)
The surgeon asks one of the wounded soldiers, ‘“Would’st thou keep this/ Poor branchless
trunk?”’ (‘The Wounded’). This latter quote is an example of another innovative feature of
the language in this sequence, the use of conversational phrases. This is sometimes used in
conjunction with a style that mimics a media report from the front-line:
Blaze gun to gun along the roaring steep!
Ram home—ram home! Knee-deep in living mire,
Run like cold Demons thro’ the Hell of fi re,
And feel the gulphs of fl ame! We have burned Sleep
And Night! The useless Sun is in the Deep!
Fire on! This hour shall end them, son and sire!
Fire on! The scorching city is a heap!
The bastions reel, the toppling turrets leap!
(‘Sebastopol’)
Other interesting aspects of the sequence that can also be seen in later sonnets of the period
are the focus on the fighting soldier, rather than the military leaders, and a focus on those
who are left at home, such as wives, mothers and children, the innocents that suffer in any Introduction xxxix
conflict. This is wonderfully illustrated by William Allingham’s ‘In Snow’ (1884) when he
contrasts an English mother keeping her baby warm as the snow falls outside with that
of an Afghan mother whose son has been killed in fighting the British. The sonnet has
parallels with a speech by Disraeli in the 1870s denouncing Britain’s foreign policy and bears
resemblance with modern-day events:
Remember the rights of the savage. Remember the happiness of his humble home,
remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter
41snows, is as inviolable in the eyes of Almighty God as can be your own!
While Dobell and Smith used newspaper reports as the source for their sequence, James
Innes Minchin was more closely involved in the events surrounding the Indian Mutiny
of 1857–8, since he was living there at the time. ‘Sonnets on the Indian Rebellion’ (1858)
seems to have been largely forgotten in critical writings on the Victorian sonnet. Although
enthusiastically pro-British, Minchin is critical of some of the British leaders in India and
Britain for not being more responsive in sending reinforcements and leaving it to those in
India to quell the uprising. As he notes at the end of his Preface to the poem:
For the fi rst time since the possession of her vast Indian Empire, the heart of England
has been fully roused to its importance; but the crisis which seemed to peril that
dominion has been met and overcome by the great men of India alone, and it may not
seem unfi t that from India the song of triumph should be raised.
The historical events are told in a series of sonnets as they unfold in the order of their
happening. This entails Minchin having to re-visit the same scenes at different points in time,
a feat that he tackles with some success. It is an interesting sequence and one that warrants
further attention.
Although poets generally remained patriotic, there emerges in sonnets late in the century
unease at actions taken by the British government, either for being too precipitous to mount
military incursions, as Meredith does in ‘The Warning’ (1896), or for refusing to take action
as William Watson does in ‘The Purple East. A Series of Sonnets on England’s Desertion of
Armenia’ (1896). These are by no means isolated examples. With echoes of current criticism
of politicians and civil servants for failures in equipping soldiers with sufficient equipment in
Afghanistan and Iraq is the criticism by Rawnsley in ‘Death Aboard Our Transports’ (1900),
when soldiers are sent overseas with inadequate provisions:
So smilingly! then sent them to their fate
Poisoned by garbage, while their horses ate
Mildew for hay, and sickened, starved, and fell.
Swinburne is a poet who is not normally associated with the sonnet. He was, however, a
prolific sonneteer, writing them over a period of fifty years. Many of his sonnets are overtly
political, dealing with contemporary events and personages that were closely involved in
revolutionary activities. His sequence of twenty-four sonnets, ‘Diræ’ (1875), must rank as
the most vituperative sonnets ever written as he denounces Napoleon III and his associates
for their wrongs to Italy. The sequence is as much an anti-catholic/Papacy poem as a
denunciation of Napoleon III. Swinburne delights when the latter’s death is announced.
41. Wood, Anthony. Nineteenth-Century Britain: 1815–1914. London, Longmans, 1982, p. 312.xl Introduction
Let us give hearty thanks that ‘we lived to say, The dog is dead’ (XVI/II). The poet even issues
an ‘Apologia’ for the strength of his feelings and language but nevertheless justifies this on the
basis of the anger that has been stirred.
‘The World in Armour’ (1894) by William Watson notes how Europe is becoming
increasingly war-like. In a chilling echo of what was to happen in 1914 he writes:
The spectre passed, and I beheld alone
The Europe of the present, as she stands,
Powerless from terror of her own vast power,
’Neath novel stars, beside a brink unknown;
And round her the sad Kings, with sleepless
hands,
Piling the fagots, hour by doomful hour.
Finally, even everyday sports such as football, cricket, tennis and horse-racing are the
subject of sonnets. Edward Cracroft Lefroy in ‘A Cricket-Bowler’ (1884) writes that ‘The
flung ball takes one madding tortuous bound,/ And the mid-stump three somersaults in air’.
‘Jones at the Tournament’ (1892) is John Nicholson’s playful, Betjemanesque-style sonnet
that begins:
DRAWN against Robinson? O, what a spree!—
I say, you fellows, isn’t this a go?
I’ll simply eat the beggar up, you know,—
You can just put your bottom coin on me!
It’s rough on poor old Robinson! you’ll see
He’ll never take my service, he’s that slow;
Perhaps he’ll let me have a ‘w. o.,’—
I’d chuck it up at once if I were he!
There were very few subjects in contemporary Victorian life that did not feature in
sonnets.
3. The Form of the Sonnet
Writing about Victorian poetry in general, Richard Cronin says:
Victorian poetry . . . employs every established verse form in the language and
exploits every established poetic subgenre, while refi ning upon some, such as the
dramatic monologue, the verse drama and the pastoral elegy, in ways previously
42unimagined.
The sonnet could be added to Cronin’s list of subgenres.
There was intense debate by the Victorians on what constituted a sonnet. Questions
such as whether a fourteen-line poem should be called a quatorzain or sonnet, and whether
there were both legitimate and illegitimate sonnets, generally centred on the ‘correctness’
42. Cronin, Richard, Alison Chapman and Antony H. Harrison, eds. A Companion to Victorian Poetry.
Oxford: Blackwell, 2002, p. viii.Introduction xli
or otherwise of the rhyme scheme. The purists defended their position that only certain
rhyme schemes could be considered legitimate and hence called sonnets. In practice most
poets ignored these theoretical debates but yet maintained a high degree of conformity with
some aspects of the Italian or Petrarchan rhyme scheme. Although it is easy to find numerous
examples of irregular rhyme schemes in Victorian sonnets, these are generally the exception
rather than the rule. Often it is the less well-known poets who show flexibility in their
variance from the established rhyme schemes.
Christina Rossetti is a good example of a poet who showed general adherence to tradition in
the use of rhymes, but was prepared to deviate from the norms when this suited her. Of the nearly
two hundred sonnets that appeared in print before 1900, over eighty per cent have the abbaabba
Petrarchan octave. Of the remainder, twenty-four have only two rhymes in the octave which
means that ninety-five per cent of Rossetti’s sonnets use only two rhve. In this
regard, she clearly follows the Italian sonnet model. Rossetti’s sestet rhymes are also primarily
in the Italian mould. In total, Rossetti used fifty different rhyme schemes; however, thirty-five
of these were only used once, nearly half of these appearing in the two sequences ‘Monna
Innominata’ and ‘Later Life’. Six sonnets (1, 3, 9, 17, 20 and 22) in ‘Later Life’ do not use the
abbaabba octave, a surprisingly high proportion, considering the overall regularity of her octaves.
A closer analysis reveals that each of these sonnets occurs at a crucial point in the sequence.
Sonnet 9 is also one of three examples in ‘Later Life’ of the unusual feature of a repetition of
rhymes across octave and sestet. The other two sonnets are 8 and 25. This subtle use of variation
of rhyme schemes within single sonnets is complemented by that of rhyme similarities between
sonnets. At a simple level, fifteen of the twenty-eight sonnets share a complete octave/sestet
rhyme pattern with at least one other sonnet. Finally, Rossetti makes use of a technique that
Marshall calls ‘mirror rhyme’ in which ‘the verse line begins (or nearly begins) and ends with the
43 same rhyme, often identical’. Sonnet I provides an example. Variation and repetition of rhyme
are one means by which Rossetti holds the unity of the sequence together.
Typographical layout of sonnets became more varied as the century progressed. Poets such
as Caroline Lindsay, John Payne, William Watson and Augusta Webster used line indentation,
enjambment, blank lines and other features to make the sonnet look as unlike a sonnet as
possible. Many would not recognise Austin Dobson’s ‘A Sonnet in Dialogue’ (1885) as a
sonnet unless it had the word in the title. The octave of sonnet IV of John Payne’s ‘A Song
before the Gates of Death’ (1872) is laid out as:
Curse we the gods and die! Give me the lyre.
Now, Zeus, fl ing thunders from thine armories!
And Helios, rain down sunbolts from thy skies!
We die and fear ye not, and all your ire,
Impotent as the fl aming of a fi re
Against the dead. There is no hope for us,
Save of a sinking sweet and slumberous
Into the arms of rest.
Pile up the pyre!
43. Marshall, Linda E. ‘“Abstruse the problems!”: Unity and Divisions in Christina Rossetti’s Later Life:
A Double Sonnet of Sonnets.’ Victorian Poetry. 32.3–4 (1994): pp. 299–314.xlii Introduction
Another example of distortion in the layout of a sonnet are the lines from Caroline Lindsay’s
‘Suggested by Mr. Watts’ Picture of Love and Death’ (1890):
Death’s dreaded presence—ay, but Death
draws near,
And large and grey the towering outline
grows,
Whose face is veil’d and hid; and yet
Love knows
Full well, too well, alas! that Death is
here.
Death tramples on the roses; Death comes
in,
Though Love, with outstretch’d arms and
wings outspread,
An example of both structural and language irregularity can be seen in the sestet of John
Nicholson’s ‘The Last Mood of Lady Macbeth’ (1892):
Hush,—hush! who shrieks for mercy? . . . Nay, be calm!
Aha! ’twas fancy. . . . Hark! I hear the bell,—
One—two! . . . My brain, my brain! . . . The dawn?
’tis well. . . .
This blood again? . . . O, for sleep’s blessed balm. . . .
The sky grows red!—out, damnèd crimson palm!
Blood! blood!—O God, it drags me down to hell!
Variation in the number of lines within a sonnet was commonplace from Elizabethan
times, and continued to be so in Victorian compositions. In addition to varying line lengths,
Gerard Manley Hopkins is well-known for variations in line numbers with his curtal and
caudated sonnets. However, he was not the only poet to vary line ns. George Meredith’s
‘Modern Love’ (1862) consists of sixteen-line sonnets; John Payne’s ‘Sundown’ (1872), is a
sequence of three sonnets of sixteen lines and five sonnets of fourteen lines. Wilfred Scawen
Blunt wrote many sonnets which exceeded the standard number of lines.
The use of both sonnets and other stanza forms as part of the same poem has a long history
with Sydney’s ‘Astrophel and Stella’ (1580) being an early example. Although Wordsworth
mixed his sonnets with poems in other verse forms when arranging his poems for publication
many of these should be considered as separate entities rather than a single poem. The Victorian
period provides examples of a return to the earlier practice of mixing sonnet and non-sonnet
stanzas within the same poem. Perhaps the most innovative and bold stylistic mixing is
Henley’s ‘In Hospital’ (1888). It consists of twelve sonnets, seven stanzas in free verse, and others
containing different numbers of unrhymed tetrameter quatrains. Henley’s brief comment
on using unrhymed rhythms within his poem was that he had ‘tried to quintessentialize, as
(I believe) one can scarce do in rhyme, my memories of the Old Edinburgh Infirmary’. Henley
retained the sonnet to characterise and portray specific individuals such as the surgeon, nurse
and his visitors, but he felt that the agonising and confused state of his mind, both before and
after the operation, and his painful recovery, needed looser, more flexible verse forms.
Even though Dante Gabriel Rossetti coined the phrase sonnet-sequence to describe ‘The
House of Life’ (1881), he did not define it. William Going defines a sequence as ‘three or more Introduction xliii
sonnets arranged by the author or his ‘official’ editor under a single title and/or planned to be
44 read chronologically’. The revival of the sonnet sequence by the Victorians was noted earlier
and is undoubtedly one of their achievements. A related trend can also be discerned as the
century progresses in the emergence of poets who wrote their sonnets primarily as sequences.
Early-period poets such as Hartley Coleridge, Aubrey de Vere and Charles Turner wrote very
few sonnet sequences. In the late decades of the century, however, poets such as Alexander
Anderson, Wilfred Scawen Blunt, Edward Dowden, John Payne and John Addington Symonds
wrote sonnets that are primarily found in sequences. Symonds takes this trend one step further
in his book, Animi Figura, by writing it as a sequence of sequences. In his Preface he argues
that in traditional sequences individual sonnets are self-contained with each one adding to
the meaning of those that have gone before but not in any way dependent on them. He then
states that if the bipartite structure of a single sonnet lends itself to dialectic argument then why
should this not be extended towards individual sonnets within a sequence and from sequence
to sequence? Thus, rather than meaning being built in a cumulative manner, each sonnet within
a sequence can ebb and flow with different meanings, and this technique can be extended
across sequences. He writes that it ‘follows that in the conduct of a lengthy argument sonnet
may succeed sonnet, propounding and disputing themes which need for their development the
thesis and antithesis of logical discussion’.
Other poets used different structuring devices within their sequences. Christina Rossetti’s
use of rhyme in ‘Later Life’ has been commented upon. Using fourteen sonnets for a sequence
is another device. This micro/macro structural equivalence between a single sonnet and a
sequence was used by John Payne, Christina Rossetti, John Addington Symonds and William
Wordsworth, amongst others. ‘Later Life’ was sub-titled by Christina Rossetti as ‘A Double
Sonnet of Sonnets’. The structure of this sequence has divided critics, with some arguing for a
single macro-sonnet, others seeing two fourteen-sonnet sequences, and others arguing for a lack
of overall structure. What ‘Later Life’ has in common with another Rossetti sequence, ‘Monna
Innominata’ (1881), is that the argument does not move forward in a strict lineal progression,
it waxes and wanes as different facets of the discourse are brought out for discussion. Augusta
Webster’s ‘Mother and Daughter’ (1895), as well as being as tight and compressed in language
as anything that Hopkins wrote, also uses the device of moving forward and backward in time.
And set against the past and present for both mother and daughter is the looming spectre
of the future when the mother will grow old and the daughter reaches adulthood. Finally,
mention should be made of Emily Pfeiffer’s ‘In Ear of Cluny Water’ (1886), which she calls ‘A
Symphony of Sonnets’. The structural groupings of sonnets I-III, IV, V-VII and VII-X can be
viewed analogously with a four-part symphonic composition.
Arguing that the Italian model should not be considered as the definitive form of the
sonnet, Wilfred Scawen Blunt in the Preface to his publication, A New Pilgrimage and Other
Poems (1889), gives his own definition of what constitutes a true sonnet and then provides an
example of what he calls ‘A Perfect Sonnet’:
After all, the sonnet’s “intellectual measure” is the truly important matter. On this the
author holds briefl y that the sonnet, to be a good one, should contain one conspicuous
thought, and only one; that the fi rst line should foreshadow this, as a musical overture
does an opera; that the octave should supply variations on the suggested theme,
44. Going, p. 157.xliv Introduction
images, metaphors, developments; that the third quartett should fi ll in and complete
the outline, and fi nally, that the couplet should point the moral. He gives the
following as a metrical description of his idea of a perfect English sonnet:—
A Perfect Sonnet
Oh, for a perfect sonnet of all time!
Wild music, heralding immortal hopes,
Strikes the bold prelude. To it from each clime,
Like tropic birds on some green island slopes,
Thoughts answering come, high metaphors, brave
tropes,
In ordered measure and majestic rhyme.
And, presently, all hearts, of kings and popes,
And peoples, throb to this new theme sublime.
Anon ’tis reason speaks. A note of death
Strengthens the symphony yet fraught with pain,
And men seek meanings with abated breath,
Vexing their souls,—till lo, once more, the strain
Breaks through triumphant, and Love’s master voice
Thrills the last phrase and bids all joy rejoice.Suggested Further Reading
Anthologies
Bender, Robert M, and Charles L. Squier, eds. The Sonnet: An Anthology. A Comprehensive
Selection of British and American Sonnets from the Renaissance to the Present. New York:
Washington Square Press, 1987.
Betjeman, John, and Charles Tennyson, eds. A Hundred Sonnets: Charles Tennyson Turner.
London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1960.
Blunden, Edmund, and Bernard Mellor, eds. Wayside Sonnets: 1750–1850. Hong Kong: Hong
Kong University Press, 1971.
Caine, T. Hall, ed. Sonnets of Three Centuries: A Selection. London: Elliot Stock, 1882.
Feldman, Paula R., and Daniel Robinson, eds. A Century of Sonnets: The Romantic-Era Revival,
1750–1850. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Fuller, John, ed. The Oxford Book of Sonnets. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Hollander, John, ed. Sonnets From Dante to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Jackson, MacDonald P, ed. Selected Poems of Eugene Lee-Hamilton (1845–1907) – A Victorian
Craftsman Rediscovered. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.
Kallich, Martin, Jack C. Gray, and Robert M. Rodney, eds. A Book of the Sonnet: Poems and
Criticism. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1973.
Main, David M, ed. A Treasury of English Sonnets. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1880.
Miles, Alfred H., ed. The Poets and Poetry of the Century. 10 vols. London: Hutchinson &
Co., 1898.
Petersen, Houston, ed. The Book of Sonnet Sequences. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1930.
Quiller-Couch, A. T., ed. English Sonnets. London: Chapman and Hall, 1935.
Russell, Matthew, ed. Sonnets on the Sonnet: An Anthology. London: Longmans, Green and
Co., 1898.
Sharp, William, ed. Sonnets of This Century. With a Critical Introduction on the Sonnet. London:
Walter Scott, 1886.
Waddington, Samuel, ed. A Century of Sonnets. London: George Bell and Sons, 1889.
W Samuel, ed. English Sonnets by Living Writers. London: 1881.
www.sonnets.org/victoria.htm This anthology contains many of the sonnets included in
Sharp’s 1886 anthology as well as additional ones.
Criticism
Agajanian, S.S. ‘The Victorian Sonnet of Love: A Study in Aesthetic Morphology’. Diss. New
York U., 1963.
Allen, M. J. ‘The Victorian Sonnet: Antecedents, Form and Function’. Diss. Anglia Ruskin
University, 2006.
Billone, Amy Christine. Little Songs. Women, Silence and the Nineteenth-Century Sonnet.
Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2007.xlvi Suggested Further Reading
Burwick, Frederick. ‘Wordsworth and the Sonnet Revival’. Colloquium Helveticum. 25 (1997):
119–42.
Chapman, Alison. ‘Sonnet and Sonnet Sequence’. In A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Ed.
Richard Cronin, Alison Chapman and Antony H. Harrison. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.
99–114.
Clark, Bruce. ‘The English Sonnet Sequence, 1850–1900: A Study of Fourteen Sequences’.
Diss. Utah University, 1951.
Cook, Wister Jean. ‘The Sonnets of Christina Rossetti: A Comparative Prosodic Analysis’.
Diss. Auburn University, 1971.
Crutwell, Patrick. The English Sonnet. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1966.
Donow, Herbert S. The Sonnet in England and America: A Bibliography of Criticism. Westport:
Greenwood Press, 1982.
Ebbatson, J. R. ‘The Lonely Garden: The Sonnets of Charles Tennyson Turner’. Victorian
Poetry. 15 (1977): 307–19.
Fuller, John. The Sonnet. London: Methuen, 1972.
Gervais, Claude. ‘The Victorian Love-Sonnet Sequence’. Diss. University of Toronto, 1970.
Going, William T. Scanty Plot of Ground: Studies in the Victorian Sonnet. The Hague: Mouton,
1976.
Golden, Arline. ‘Victorian Renascence: The Revival of the Amatory Sonnet Sequence,
1850–1900’. Genre. 7 (1974): 133–47.
Havens, Raymond D. The Infl uence of Milton on English Poetry. New York: Harvard University
Press, 1922. Reissued Russell & Russell, 1961.
Holmes, John. Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the Late Victorian Sonnet Sequence: Sexuality, Belief and
the Self. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005.
Houston, Natalie M. ‘Capturing the Moment: A Cultural History of the Victorian Sonnet’.
Diss. Duke University, 1998.
Houston, Natalie M. ‘Reading the Victorian Souvenir: Sonnets and Photographs of the
Crimean War’. Yale Journal of Criticism. 14.2 (2001): 353–83.
Houston, ‘Towards a New History: Fin-de-Siecle Women Poets and the Sonnet’.
In Essays and Studies 2003: Victorian Women Poets. Ed. Alison Chapman. Cambridge: D.S.
Brewer, 2003. 145–64.
Houston, Natalie M. ‘Valuable by Design: Material Features and Cultural Value in
NineteenthCentury Sonnet Anthologies’. Victorian Poetry. 37.2 (1999): 243–50.
Johnson, Lee M. ‘Wordsworth and the Sonnet’. Anglistica. XIX (1973). Copenhagen:
Rosenkilde and Bagger.
Oppenheimer, Paul. The Birth of the Modern Mind: Self, Consciousness, and the Invention of the
Sonnet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Phelan, Joseph. The Nineteenth-Century Sonnet. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Regan, Stephen. ‘The Victorian Sonnet, from George Meredith to Gerard Manley Hopkins’.
Yearbook of English Studies. 36.2 (2006): 17–34.
Sanderlin, George. ‘The Influence of Milton and Wordsworth on the Early Victorian Sonnet’.
English Literary History. 5 (1938): 225–51.
Sanderlin, George. ‘The Sonnet in English History, 1800-1850’. Diss. John Hopkins University,
1938.Suggested Further Reading xlvii
Spiller, Michael R.G. The Development of the Sonnet: An Introduction. London: Routledge,
1992.
Wagner, Jennifer A. A Moment’s Monument: Revisionary Poetics and the Nineteenth-Century
English Sonnet. London: Associated University Presses, 1996.
White, Gertrude M., and Joan G. Rosen, eds. A Moment’s Monument: The Development of the
Sonnet. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972.Changing Times
1836–1876
There are a myriad of books, articles and Internet sites that provide a potted history of early
and mid-Victorian Britain, or chronological listings of important dates and events. There is
no disputing the paradigmatic shifts brought about by forces including population growth,
industrialisation, urbanisation, political reform, wealth redistribution and realignment of the
class structure. By the 1850s Britain was the undisputed leader in world trade. As the 1870s
approached Britain’s dominance was under challenge from both Germany and the USA.
Economic and agricultural depressions were cyclical events that had significant impacts
throughout the period. Information on these macro-level events can be found in many
sources and it is not the intention of this short review to reiterate what can be found
elsewhere. What is undeniable is that Britain was a different country in the mid-1870s than
it had been forty years earlier. Most facets of life, politics, art and society had changed. This
short review aims simply to pick out a very small number of these changes, some of which
would probably have been seen as inconsequential at the time but would have a longer term
impact. A number were first felt overseas before their importation into Britain.
Communications and the media, as recognised today, had many of their beginnings in
the period under review. Developments in printing technology such as the introduction
of rotary and web-printing processes, new ways of mass-producing paper from
woodpulp, and even government intervention by the repeal of the taxes on newspapers, all had a
profound effect on what was printed and in what quantities. Numerous magazines that are
familiar today first appeared in this period – Punch (1841), The Economist (1843), Scientific
American (1845), Nature (1869), for example. And similar developments were happening in
the newspaper industry, including the News of the World (1843), Daily Telegraph (1855) and
the Evening Standard (1860), amongst others. Some newspapers moved from being weeklies
to daily publications. Circulation levels increased dramatically. Book publishing underwent
similar changes and in the late 1860s paperback publishing was first introduced in Germany.
Although literacy levels were still fairly low more people had greater and easier access to
what was appearing in print.
Nor was it only the printed word that was undergoing change. The seeds were being
sown that would eventually lead to a future primarily made up of non-paper communication
of information on an international basis. The Morse code was invented, telegraph lines
appeared, and underwater telegraph cables were laid between Britain and France (1851) and
then across the Atlantic. The first message to be exchanged by transatlantic cable was between
Queen Victoria and President Buchanan in 1858. Alexander Graham Bell also made his first
experimental telephone call in 1876. Pitman had pioneered his shorthand system in the late
1830s and by the mid-1870s Remington QWERTY-based typewriters were on sale in the
USA. Photography blossomed throughout this period following Daguerre’s patent for an
early form of camera in 1839. The commercial production of celluloid began in the early
1870s and was destined to have a major impact on cinematography. Mention must be made
of George Boole’s publication, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on which are Founded the l Changing Times
Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities (1854). Boole’s description of his new theories
of logic and reasoning and his introduction of the binary algebraic system would form the
basis for the development of the computer industry.
Whilst the means of conveying information to people were changing dramatically so
was the means of conveying people and goods. Transport underwent a profound shift. At
the beginning of Victoria’s reign, horses, stage-coaches and wooden-built ships were the
primary modes of transport. There was a nascent railway system but this was in its infancy. In
1840 there were just over 1,300 miles of railway track in Britain. Many tracks, however, had
been laid in an uncoordinated manner with little attempt at interconnection between them.
By the mid-1870s this was completely transformed. The railways were by then a national
network. All the major London termini had opened beginning with Euston (1837) and
ending with Liverpool Street (1874). A standard railway gauge, introduced in 1846, spurred
the development of a connected railway system across the entire country. The world’s first
underground railway was opened in 1862 between Paddington and Farringdon Street,
and the expansion of the underground system initiated. Technological and manufacturing
developments in the production of iron and related materials went hand-in-hand with
increased production quantities to meet the insatiable demand by the transport and other
industries. The first major train disaster in Britain occurred at Abergale, Wales, in 1868, killing
thirty-three people when a mail and passenger train collided with cargo trucks, two of which
were loaded with barrels of paraffin.
Britain’s supremacy of the oceans, both commercially and militarily, was cemented during
this period. No longer did ships need to be powered by sail nor restricted primarily to being
built of wood. The ‘Great Western’ and the ‘Sirius’ became the first steamships to cross the
Atlantic (1838), and only five years later Brunel launched an iron-hulled steamship, the
‘Great Britain’, that would become the first such ship to cross to the USA. In 1858, Brunel
also launched the ‘Great Eastern’ which would remain the largest ship in service during
the nineteenth century and capable of carrying four thousand passengers. Developments
in shipping capability for the Royal Navy entered a new sphere with the launch of ‘HMS
Warrior’ in 1860, an ocean-going, iron-hulled and armoured battleship.
Personal travel, other than by horse or similar means, began to be transformed, although it
would be many decades later before such changes would become an everyday reality.
Forerunners of the bicycle, such as the velocipede and penny-farthing, underwent continuous
development and 1874 saw the appearance of the first chain-driven bicycle with two
mediumsized wheels of equal diameter. Speed limits were introduced in Britain in 1865, two miles
per hour in towns and four miles per hour in the countryside. Traffic lights appeared in
Westminster in 1868 and by the 1860s Tomas Cook were offering travel holidays in Britain,
Europe and the USA. The foundations were also being laid for the future development of
what was to become the motor car industry, including the production of petroleum in the
USA, the beginnings of a new source of energy. The world was beginning to become a more
interconnected entity, a trend that would continue to develop over the ensuing years and was
accelerated by Britain’s colonial and imperial expansion.
Many organisations that are familiar today had their origins during this period. Examples
include the YMCA, Barnado’s, the Halle Orchestra, British Red Cross, Trades Union
Congress, the Co-op and Sainsbury’s. Buildings that are now familiar landmarks were built Changing Times li
during these years, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, National Portrait Gallery,
Royal Albert Hall and many others.
As one looks at the early and mid-Victorian years it is fascinating to note the numerous
gadgets, services and goods that first made their appearance. Many may not have made an
impact for years to come, yet they were indicative of the rapid pace of development that was
affecting all walks of life. Many had their origins overseas but would filter into British life in
the ensuing years. In terms of food, for example, the first fish and chip shop was opened in
London in 1864 and its popularity rapidly spread. Fish could now be kept fresh on trawlers
for long periods of time as a result of the availability of ice in large quantities. Modern-day
food favourites such as Bovril, milk chocolate, tinned baked beans and tomato ketchup began
life in the later part of the period. The availability of tins made of thinner metal for storing
foods led to the invention of the tin opener. Henry Tate discovered a means for cutting sugar
loaves into pieces suitable for domestic use and James Dewar developed the thermos flask.
The popularity of cigarettes began to increase after soldiers returned from the Crimean
War and the first British cigarette factory opened in 1865. Gadgets as different as the Yale
lock, chemical fire extinguishers, barbed wire and knitting machines were either patented
or produced. Levi Strauss introduced its jeans, and BVD, which became synonymous with
men’s underwear, was founded in New York in 1876. Even the first rubber condom was
produced in 1855, one of the many applications that resulted from the patenting of the rubber
vulcanisation process by Charles Goodyear in 1844. Recommendations by Rowland Hill in
1837 on the reform of the postal system included replacing the system of charging for postage
on the basis of distance and number of sheets with a uniform rate based on weight in which
the sender pays in advance. This led to the introduction of adhesive postage stamps in 1840.
This list could be added to endlessly. There is no doubt that by the mid-1870s, Britain was at
the centre of a set of profound changes that had an impact on every facet of everyday living.
1877–1901
The pace of change in communications and transport outlined above did not lessen in
the closing decades of the nineteenth century. If anything, the changes were even more
momentous. In the field of communications, three men – Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas
Edison and Guglielmo Marconi – were dominant. The pace of development in telephony
was staggering after Bell’s patent in 1876 and its take-up very rapid. Initially, telephone
switchboard operators were responsible for knowing how to contact a subscriber but it
was not long before telephone numbers were assigned to individuals. By 1880, a British
telephone directory, with two hundred and fifty-five names, was issued. Coin-operated
telephones and the telephone dialler also appeared before the end of the century. Thomas
Edison was involved in many aspects of communications and was instrumental in bringing
the phonograph and motion pictures to the world amongst many other achievements. Short
films were publicly screened in the late 1890s. Marconi was a pioneer of wireless telegraphy
and in the year of Victoria’s death transmitted signals across the Atlantic for the first time.
With the invention of the cathode ray tube in 1897, the foundations were in place that
would lead to the development of television within thirty years.lii Changing Times
The expansion of railway travel continued and was given a massive boost by the adoption
of Greenwich Mean Time in 1880 which enabled railway schedules across the country to be
standardised. The Orient Express began operation in 1883, Europe’s initial transcontinental
train. An attempt at building a Channel Tunnel was abandoned in 1880. Ship building was
not left behind either. In 1881, the British Cunard Company’s ‘Servia’ was not only the first
ocean liner built of steel but was also the first one to be equipped with electric lights. This
development was so novel that passengers had to be shown how to switch them on and off.
By the end of the century steam-turbine propelled ships were reaching speeds previously
unimaginable, more than half of Britain’s merchant ships were powered by steam, and the
‘Argonaut’ became the first submarine to operate in open waters.
The most far-reaching developments in transport, however, were taking place in the
fledgling automobile and aviation industries. The foundations for future forms of travel
that would dominate the following century were being laid. Developments in the internal
combustion engine were critical in furthering the concept of personal motorised travel. The
first motor cars had gone on sale in the late 1880s, Britain’s first petrol-driven omnibuses
went into service in 1900, and a year later mass production of the Oldsmobile had begun in
Detroit. By the turn of the century Daimler, Renault, Fiat, Audi, Opel and Leyland Motors
had all been founded. In terms of aviation, a Zeppelin was launched in Germany in 1900 and
by 1901 the Wright Brothers had flown a distance of 122 metres in a glider. Transport had
come a long way in the seventy years that Victoria reigned.
Mention of companies such as Cunard, Daimler and Renault is indicative of the way
that the business landscape was undergoing profound change, primarily responding to the
rapid pace of technical, scientific and engineering inventions and discoveries. Large industrial
conglomerates that looked at an entire country, not just localised regions, were coming into
existence. These companies would eventually see the world as their market. The names of many
of the companies that would dominate twentieth-century trade were established during the
1880s and 1890s. To name but a few – William Grant & Sons, American Tobacco, Wrigley’s,
Quaker Oats, Marks and Spencer, Philips, GEC and Imperial Tobacco. In 1896, Herman
Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company that would later become IBM.
In addition to company names, brand names, many of them well-known to this day, also
appeared. Food and drink brand names, in particular, flourished in this period. Examples
include William Horlick who produced his first ‘malted milk’ product in 1883, Hovis (1887),
Del Monte (1891), the use by Heinz of ‘57 Varieties’ as an advertising slogan (1892), Maxwell
House coffee (1893), cornflakes introduced by Kellogg’s (1898), HP sauce (1899), Pepsi Cola
(1898) and Coca Cola. The latter illustrates how quickly inventions were developed into
commercial products and then marketed beyond the country of origin. Dr John Pemberton
invented Coca Cola in 1886. It quickly went on sale in the USA and by 1900 it was on sale
in Britain.
Britain was no longer self-sufficient in terms of food production and relied heavily on
overseas imports. Technological innovations in shipping and refrigeration meant that meat
and other products could be transported over greater distances to meet market demand.
Argentina began to trade meat with Europe in the late 1870s and by 1880 a shipment of four
hundred Australian beef and mutton carcasses arrived in Britain.
The nineteenth century had become a hothouse of scientific research and many
fundamental discoveries became the basis of practical applications that would have major Changing Times liii
impact on people’s lives. One such discovery was that of electricity in which Michael
Faraday was a pioneer. Electricity’s use as a new form of energy was quickly exploited by
entrepreneurs. In the last decades of the nineteenth century electricity began to be used
to power street lamps, Singer begins to sell electric sewing machines, electric ovens for
domestic use are developed, the electric fan appears, the electric toaster is invented, and an
electric vacuum cleaner is even demonstrated at Buckingham Palace.
Despite the positive changes noted above, conditions for many in late Victorian Britain
were still grim. Life expectancy was not high. Mortality rates, especially among the young,
were high, diseases and epidemics were commonplace and hospitals were regarded as places
to avoid rather than centres of beneficial treatment. Nevertheless, great strides were made
in medical research throughout the century and as with communications and transport the
foundations were laid for improvements that would bear fruit for future generations. Within
specialist fields such as bacteriology and virology, ground-breaking discoveries were made
that would eventually help to combat diseases that were prevalent in these times. The bacteria
responsible for typhoid fever, pneumonia and tuberculosis, amongst others, were identified.
The cause of malaria was traced to the mosquito. Louis Pasteur developed his germ theory of
disease and showed that chickens infected with weakened cholera bacteria became immune
to the usual form of the disease. This was a key finding in the development of vaccines to
combat cholera and other diseases. In 1885, Pasteur administered the first anti-rabies vaccine
to a schoolboy bitten by a rabid dog. A vaccine against anthrax had been developed a few
years earlier. Viruses were discovered in 1892.
Many other areas of medicine were the subject of intense research. Anaesthetics had
been pioneered in the earlier decades of Victoria’s reign with the use of chloroform, ether
and nitrous oxide. However, it was not until the 1880s that the first local anaesthetic, using
cocaine, was used. The embryonic pharmaceutical industry was given a boost by the synthesis
of aspirin in 1893. The discovery of X-rays by Becquerel in 1896 would have profound
implications for future medical treatment and the beginnings of helping patients with mental
health problems were being formulated by Freud in psychoanalysis. Alois Alzheimer also
described the disease that was named after him in the year of Victoria’s death.
Great efforts had been made in mid-century to improve sanitary conditions with the
introduction by Parliament of new drainage systems. One effect of such improvements was
to help control the spread of disease. Personal hygiene improvements also became a focus.
Although he did not invent the flush toilet, the London plumber Thomas Crapper was a
keen advocate of sanitary plumbing. In the 1880s he supplied and fitted thirty lavatories with
cedarwood seats and enclosures at Sandringham House, the country seat of Prince Edward.
Disposal of bodies after death was an issue that carried much importance for the Victorians.
Public cemeteries were largely founded in the nineteenth century, and the advocates of
efficient and healthy disposal of bodies after death won their way with the first official
cremation taking place in 1885.
Businessmen and inventors alike were keen to protect themselves and make financial
gain from their efforts. The protection of inventions, whether of the technical or artistic
kind, became the subject of much debate. It is not surprising then that the International
Convention of Patents and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic
Works came into existence in 1884 and 1886 respectively.Textual Notes 1836–1850
Tennyson to Elizabeth Barrett Browning
In his book, The Early Victorians 1832–1851, Professor J. F. C. Harrison writes that ‘the early
1Victorian era was essentially a religious one’. He then expands on this: ‘When we say,
then, that the early Victorian period was a religious age we do not mean that everyone
went to church (though a large proportion of the population in fact did so) but that
2 Protestant evangelicalism was a basic ingredient in the dominant ideology’. Many of the
sonnets written during this period certainly bear out that there is some validity in Professor
Harrison’s analysis. Sonnets and sonnet sequences abound that are not only religious in
nature but staunchly defend the traditions and beliefs of the established Protestant church.
Isaac Williams is one of the most visible sonneteers in this respect. Many of the sonnets by
contemporaries such as Henry Alford, Aubrey de Vere and Martin Tupper, whilst ostensibly
dealing with other subjects, convey a strong religious message at their core. It is interesting
to note that there are hardly any sonnets that challenge this religious perspective. Even the
1844 sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett [Browning], whilst recording her deep personal anguish
at the death of her brother Bro and other family members in the preceding few years, chart
a realisation that through Christ’s love and suffering, one can submit to the pains of life on
earth and find salvation in heaven. One anonymous reviewer of Poems (1844) wrote, ‘Her
philosophy is the only one that in this day is entitled to the name – a religious one.’
During this period, however, there emerge a number of publications that, in very different
ways, challenged the foundations on which the essence of Christianity was based. Such
publications include Charles Lyell’s Elements of Zoology (1838), Ludwig Feuerbach’s The Essence
of Christianity (1841) and Robert Chambers’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844).
David Friedrich Strauss’s Das Leben Jesu, first published in the mid-1830s, was translated by
George Eliot in 1846, although published without her name. This questioning of the basis
of Christianity was largely absent from the sonnets of the period. The poem, however, that
epitomises a poet’s inward struggle to reconcile such conflicting views is Alfred Tennyson’s
‘In Memoriam’ (1850) and there are undoubtedly strong parallels between this poem and
the sonnet. For one, the basic unit of ‘In Memoriam’ is a quatrain rhyming abba. In addition,
critics have noted the similarity in poetic form between a sonnet sequence and Tennyson’s
poem with J. Pyre, for example, noting:
The lyric sequence [of ‘In Memoriam’] has much the character of a sequence of
sonnets. . . . In the construction of the individual poems out of the stanza which he
had adopted Tennyson was able to get something analogous to the effect of the sonnet
3and yet different from it.
1. Harrison, J. F. C. The Early Victorians: 1832 –1851. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1973, p. 122.
2. Ibid, p. 133.
3. Pyre, J. F. A. The Formation of Tennyson’s Style: A Study, Primarily of the Versifi cation of the Early Poems.
Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1921, pp. 184–5.2 Textual Notes 1836 –1850
By 1850 the poetic landscape had changed. Wordsworth died that year and Tennyson had
established his reputation as the standard bearer for poetry with Poems (1842), The Princess
(1847) and ‘In Memoriam’ (1850). Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, Arthur Hugh Clough
and others had also entered the poetic fray, although none of them would write significant
numbers of sonnets.
Sonnets were written on a multitude of subjects such as personal feelings and reflections,
landscapes, nature, paintings, sculptures, buildings, foreign countries, people and cities.
Tennyson’s youthful love sonnets of 1836/7 are typical of this period. What is noticeably
absent, however, is the lack of engagement with the problems emanating from major social
developments such as industrialisation and urbanisation. This is in stark contrast with the
novel whose emergence as a major literary force was confirmed by writers including Charles
Dickens with his savage indictment of different facets of modern life in works such as
Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Dombey and Son, and David Copperfi eld. Elizabeth Gaskell’s
Mary Barton, her initial foray into the industrialised North, was published in 1848. Similar
comments can be made about the social agitation aroused by the Chartists and related
developments, and the revolutionary upheavals which swept Europe late in the period and
threatened to be repeated in Great Britain. With a few notable exceptions such topics were
kept off the sonnet agenda.
Female sonneteers were not particularly visible in the early part of Victoria’s reign.
However, the most famous sonnet sequence of this period is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s
‘Sonnets from the Portuguese’ which appeared in 1850, the same year as Tennyson’s ‘In
Memoriam’. Although traditionally associated with love and courtship, the sonnet was not
over-used for such purposes in the years under discussion. Neither was Browning’s sequence
typical of sonnets written on this subject. The joy and happiness of the love between man
and woman, as reflected by Browning, was rejected by sonneteers later in the century. More
akin to these later developments are the love sonnets of Frances Kemble in Poems (1844). In
these sonnets, the relationship has failed and the woman is largely left on her own, a situation
which happened in Kemble’s real life. It is interesting to compare Kemble and Browning’s
treatment of love with that of novels written around the same time by the Bronte sisters in
Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The T enant of Wildfell Hall.
Finally, mention should be made of the sonnets by Christina Rossetti and her brother
Dante Gabriel. Their first youthful sonnets were written in the closing years of the 1840s.
Whilst many of these did not appear in print at the time these two poets were destined to
have a major impact on the sonnet as the century progressed. Particularly noteworthy are
the early ekphrastic sonnets of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These sonnets were radically different
than earlier sonnets on paintings by poets such as Wordsworth and de Vere.1836
Alfred Tennyson (1809 –1892)
[See also 1837, 1851, 1876, 1877, 1885 and 1892]
Three Sonnets to a Coquette
I
CARESS’D or chidden by the slender hand,
And singing airy trifl es this or that,
Light Hope at Beauty’s call would perch and stand,
And run thro’ every change of sharp and fl at;
And Fancy came and at her pillow sat,
When Sleep had bound her in his rosy band,
And chased away the still-recurring gnat,
And woke her with a lay from fairy land.
But now they live with Beauty less and less,
For Hope is other Hope and wanders far,
Nor cares to lisp in love’s delicious creeds;
And Fancy watches in the wilderness,
Poor Fancy sadder than a single star,
That sets at twilight in a land of reeds.
II
THE form, the form alone is eloquent!
A nobler yearning never broke her rest
Than but to dance and sing, be gaily drest,
And win all eyes with all accomplishment:
Yet in the whirling dances as we went,
My fancy made me for a moment blest
To fi nd my heart so near the beauteous breast
That once had power to rob it of content.
A moment came the tenderness of tears,
The phantom of a wish that once could move,
A ghost of passion that no smiles restore—
For ah! the slight coquette, she cannot love,
And if you kiss’d her feet a thousand years,
She still would take the praise, and care no more.4 1836
III
WAN Sculptor, weepest thou to take the cast
Of those dead lineaments that near thee lie?
O sorrowest thou, pale Painter, for the past,
In painting some dead friend from memory?
Weep on: beyond his object Love can last:
His object lives: more cause to weep have I:
My tears, no tears of love, are fl owing fast,
No tears of love, but tears that Love can die.
I pledge her not in any cheerful cup,
Nor care to sit beside her where she sits—
Ah pity—hint it not in human tones,
But breathe it into earth and close it up
With secret death for ever, in the pits
Which some green Christmas crams with weary bones.
(Probably written 1836; published 1865)
To Rosa, 1836
I
Sole rose of beauty, loveliness complete,
If those few words were bitter or unjust,
Yet is thy gentle nature so discreet
That they will pass thee like an idle gust.
Henceforward, fancy shall not force distrust,
But all my blood in time to thine shall beat,
Henceforth I lay my pride within the dust
And my whole heart is vassal at thy feet.
Blow, summer rose, thy beauty makes me shamed
That I could blame thee! Heavens dewdrop pure
Bathe, with my tears, thy maiden blossom sweet:
Blow, summer rose, nor fall; and, oh, be sure
That if I had not loved, I had not blamed;
For my whole heart is vassal at thy feet.
II
By all my grief for that which I did say,
By all the life of love that never dies,
By all that Paradise for which we pray
And all the Paradise that round thee lies,Alfred T ennyson (1809 –1892) 5
By thoughts of thee that like the Heavens rise,
Star after star, within me, day by day,
And night by night, in musing on thine eyes,
Which look me through when thou art far away,
By that Madonna grace of parted hair
And dewy sister eyelids drooping chaste,
By each dear foot, so light on fi eld, or fl oor,
By thy full form and slender moulded waist,
And that all perfect smile of thine, I swear
That these rash lips shall blame thee, Rose, no more.
(Written 1836; published 1900)
The Bridesmaid
O BRIDESMAID, ere the happy knot was tied,
Thine eyes so wept that they could hardly see;
Thy sister smiled and said, ‘No tears for me!
A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.’
And then, the couple standing side by side,
Love lighted down between them full of glee,
And over his left shoulder laughed at thee,
‘O happy bridesmaid, make a lovely bride.’
And all at once a pleasant truth I learn’d,
For while the tender service made thee weep,
I loved thee for the tear thou couldst not hide,
And prest thy hand, and knew the press return’d,
And thought, ‘My life is sick of single sleep:
O happy bridesmaid, make a happy bride!’
(Written 1836-7; published 1872)1837
Josiah Conder (1789 –1855)
The Monthly Prayer-Meeting for Missions
COME to the house of prayer. It is the night
When, by a compact sweeter than command,
Their mutual prayers, throughout this happy land,
The scattered family of Christ unite.
Nor here alone observed the simple rite,
In western climes prolonged, by many a band
In busy town, lone wild, or coral strand;—
Where’er the Gospel shines, a beacon light.
Taught by one Spirit, all their prayers agree.
This night, the self-exiled for Christ can dare
Dwell on dear friends he ne’er again may see:
The thought is balm, that on their hearts they bear
His name while blending thus in harmony
The vows of faith. Come to the house of prayer.
The Cross
I
“God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” “Be ye reconciled to God.”—2 Cor. v. 19, 20.
MYSTERIOUS ambassage! Be reconciled,
Man, to thy Maker: to thy God return,
Poor, ruined wanderer, nor thy Saviour spurn,
Who woos thy stubborn heart in terms so mild.
Yield to his love, and be again a child.
Humbly accept what thou couldst never earn.
Look to THE CROSS, and there thy guilt discern;
And in that fountain wash thy soul defi led.
Only believe and love.—Distasteful creed!
More harsh than harshest lore of Stoic school,
Carthusian penance, or Franciscan rule,
To man’s proud heart; and terms that far exceed
His reach, until he knows himself a fool,
Accepts the boon, and fi nds it grace indeed.Josiah Conder (1789 –1855) 7
II
“Not this man, but Barabbas.”—John xviii. 40.
“NOT this man, but Barabbas.” Dreadful choice!
Yet, such is man, and such is man’s free-will;
Ever to proffered good preferring ill!
That shameful cry was fallen Nature’s voice.
The world will love its own; and men rejoice
In the bold chief and lawless hero still,
And mock the saint; and persecute and kill
Those whose pure life their darkened sense annoys.
Whom does the sinner serve, his yoke accurst
Preferring to the Saviour’s service mild?
Father of lies, a murderer from the fi rst,—
So is the tyrant he has chosen styled;
The best of Lords deserting for the worst!
O Grace that can transform the rebel to a child!
III
“Behold your King!”—John xix. 14.
“To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”—Luke xxiii. 43.
“BEHOLD your King!” Look, ye to whom He gave
Your sight: and ye whose ears he opened, hear!
Ye healed ones, His royal train, draw near,
And whom his voice remanded from the grave.
What! are all silent, while his murderers rave
Against the Prince of Life?—struck dumb with fear,
Or guiltier shame? And this the brutal jeer:
“Others He saved; Himself He cannot save.”
Infi nite love! He cannot:—’tis the price
Of man’s redemption. Yet, Almighty power
Beams from His Cross; and while the fl ames devour
The fl esh of that self-offered Sacrifi ce,
The conscious Godhead speaks:—“This very hour
Thou shalt be with thy Lord in Paradise.”
IV
“Woman, behold thy Son!”. . . . “Behold thy Mother!”—John xix. 26, 27.
NOT the contempt of the blind Pharisee,
The mockery of the sensual and the proud;
Not the perverseness of the fi ckle crowd,
Nor the rude soldier’s heartless ribaldry;—8 1837
Not these the bitterest anguish caused to Thee,
Most loving Lord! But, to be disavowed
By coward fear with imprecations loud,
By all deserted,—this was agony.
O Love Divine, that did not then withdraw,
Dying for treacherous friends and murderous foes!
Mindful of others only, ’mid the throes
Of torturing death! For from the cross he saw
That weeping groupe, and spake: “Thou faithful one,
Behold thy Mother—Mother, lo! thy Son!”
V
“And the Scripture was fulfi lled which saith: And He was numbered with the
transgressors.”—Mark xv. 28.
“For He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us.”—2 Cor. v. 21.
O JUSTICE! where art thou? Is this thy law?
That One who never sinned in word or deed
Should be adjudged as guilty, and should bleed
Upon a murderer’s cross? How couldst thou draw
On Him thy sword, whose life was without fl aw,
Or suffer Death his warrant to exceed,
Where sin was not, sin’s penalty and meed
Infl icting, while the heavens astonished saw?
“My sword was drawn, my arm was raised to smite
To endless pain, the guilty; but the blow
Mercy so turned aside, and made it light
Upon that Spotless Innocence: ’twas She
Who caused that Victim’s sacred blood to fl ow,
Unbarred the gates of Death, and set his captives free.”
VI
“And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me?”—Matt. xxvii. 46.
“The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”—John xiv. 30.
“WHY, O my God, hast Thou forsaken me?”
Mysterious groanings of the Lamb of God!
Oh whence arose that plaint? As though the rod
Of penal Justice then might seem to be
Raised against Heaven’s Incarnate Purity!
Alone He bore our guilt’s o’erwhelming load,
And realized its doom. Hell’s dark abode
Lay open: He that yawning gulf could see.Josiah Conder (1789 –1855) 9
And this world’s Prince came in that darkened hour,
To try with desperate malice once again
Temptation’s utmost force, ’mid torturing pain,
Upon the Blessed Spoiler of his power;
But found in Him no guilt, no fl aw, no stain.
That Cross his malice foils; that death subverts his reign.
VII
“Jesus. . . .that the Scripture might be fulfi lled, saith: I thirst.” John xix. 28.
HE who had changed the water into wine,
Exclaims, “I thirst.” What cup of nectar sweet,
Tendered by duteous zeal, were offering meet
To Him, the Fount of Life, the Living Vine?
Saviour of Men, what cupbearers were Thine!
They raised a sponge with vinegar replete:—
Did the rude soldiers thus in mockery treat
The Crucifi ed, or with humane design?
He had refused the medicated cup.
Meekly He now the proffered draught receives;
For so it was foretold. Thus draining up
The cup that might not pass from Him, He leaves
No drop of wrath. But, of the wine He gives,
Who thirsts may drink; and whoso drinketh, lives.
VIII
“It is fi nished.”—John xix. 30.
’TIS fi nished;—every circumstance fulfi lled;
The confl ict o’er; the sacrifi ce complete.
So He laid down His life, and went to meet
Death in his own domain:—not till He willed,
Yielding His breath; self-offered, but not killed.
That voice of power, it spoke of Hell’s defeat;
It rent the veil before the mercy-seat;
Through the dark regions of the dead it thrilled:—
Earth trembled; and the solid rocks were rent;
The Grave its Victor, its Invader, knew.
No need of costly balms, with fond intent
That which saw no corruption to imbue.
Go, seal the stone, and all approach prevent.—
He burst the bands of death, and Heaven’s gate open
threw.10 1837
IX
“Truly, this was the Son of God.”—Matt. xxvii. 54.
“INNOCENT blood I basely have betrayed,”
Exclaimed the wretched Traitor, conscience-stung,
As on the temple’s marble court he fl ung
The accursed silver by the murderers paid.
“I fi nd no fault in him,” the Roman said:
“What evil hath he done?” But still among
The tutored faction, “Crucify him!” rung.”
So Pilate called for water; and he laid
On them the crime, as with washed hands he stood,
Proclaiming, “I am guiltless of His blood.”
And, as HE hung beneath the darkened sun,
The trembling soldier owned the murderous deed:—
A threefold witness—thus they all agreed:—
“Truly this was the Christ, the Righteous One.”
X
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctifi ed.” Heb. x. 14.
WITH blood, but not his own, the awful sign
At once of sin’s desert and guilt’s remission,
The Jew besought the clemency Divine,
The hope of mercy blending with contrition.
Sin must have death: its holy requisition
The Law may not relax. The opening tomb
Expects its prey; mere respite, life’s condition;
Nor can the body shun its penal doom.
Yet there is mercy: wherefore else delay
To punish? Why the victim and the rite?
But can the type and symbol take away
The guilt, and for a broken law requite?
THE CROSS unfolds the mystery. Jesus died:
The sinner lives: the Law is satisfi ed.
XI
WITH blood, but not his own, the Jew drew near
The Mercy-seat, and Heaven received his prayer.
Yet was his hope obscured by doubt and fear:
“If Thou shouldst mark transgression, who might
dareAlfred T ennyson (1809 –1892) 11
To stand before Thee?” Mercy loves to spare
And pardon; but stern Justice has a voice,
That cries, “Our God is holy, nor can bear
Uncleanness in the people of His choice.”
But now, One Offering, ne’er to be renewed,
Hath made our peace for ever. This now gives
Free access to the Throne of Heavenly Grace.
No more base fear and dark disquietude.
He who was slain, the Accepted Victim, lives,
And intercedes before the Father’s face.
XII
“Being justifi ed by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Rom. v. 1.
THE peace of God! Oh boon beyond all price!
A blood-besprinkled conscience; never known
By those who fondly dream they can atone
For sins untold, by aught of man’s device;
By costly rites or bloody sacrifi ce,
Long pilgrimage, lean fast, or vigils lone,
The torturing scourge, or hermit’s couch of stone.
ONE CROSS alone can lead to Paradise.
The servile rites of ignorance and fear,
Reluctant worship of a heart estranged,
That leave the stubborn nature still unchanged,
Change not his law, nor turn aside his rod.
But to the Mercy-seat thro’ Christ draw near,
And, justifi ed by faith, thou shalt have peace with God.
Alfred Tennyson (1809 –1892)
[See also 1836, 1851, 1876, 1877, 1885 and 1892]
‘To thee, with whom my best affections dwell’
To thee,y best affections dwell,
That I was harsh to thee, let no one know;
It were, O Heaven! a stranger tale to tell
Than if the vine had borne the bitter sloe:
Tho’ I was harsh, my nature is not so:
A momentary cloud upon me fell:12 1837
My coldness was mistimed like summer-snow;
Cold words I spoke, yet loved thee warm and well.
Was I so harsh? Ah, dear, it could not be.
Seem’d I so cold? What madness moved my blood
To make me thus belie my constant heart
That watch’t with love thine earliest infancy,
Slow-ripening to the grace of womanhood,
Thro’ every change that made thee what thou art.
(Written 1837–8; published 1897)1838
Richard Monckton Milnes (1809-1885)
[See also 1840 and 1844]
‘I love the Forest;—I could dwell among’
I LOVE the Forest;—I could dwell among
That silent people, till my thoughts up-grew
In nobly-ordered form, as to my view
Rose the succession of that lofty throng:—
The mellow footstep on a ground of leaves
Formed by the slow decay of nume’rous years,—
The couch of moss, whose growth alone appears,
Beneath the fi r’s inhospitable eaves,—
The chirp and fl utter of some single bird,—
The rustle in the brake,—what precious store
Of joys have these on Poets’ hearts conferred?
And then at times to send one’s own voice out,
In the full frolic of one startling shout,
Only to feel the after-stillness more!
Feelings Excited by Some Military Manœuvres at Verona
WHAT is the lesson I have brought away,
After the moment’s palpitating glee?
What has this pomp of men, this strong array
Of thousands and ten thousands been to me?
Did I fi nd nothing but the vision gay,
The mere phenomenon that all could see?
Did I feel nothing but the brute display
Of Power,—the show of centred energy?
Trembling and humbled, I was taught how hard
It is for our strait minds at once to scan
The might of banded numbers, and regard
The individual soul, the living Man;
To use mechanic multitudes, and yet
Our common human feelings not forget!14 1838
To Giovanni Bellini
Suggested by the Fact of that Painter’s having had in His Room a Grecian statue of Venus as a Study
THOU didst not slight with vain and partial scorn
The inspirations of our nature’s youth,
Knowing that Beauty, wheresoe’er ’tis born,
Must ever be the foster-child of Truth.
Nor didst thou lower the Mother of the Lord
To the mere Goddess of a Pagan bower,
But with such grace as Christians have adored
Those sense-delighting charms that didst empower;
And would that they who followed thee, and gave
To famous Venice yet another fame,
To be the Painter’s home, had done the same,
Nor made their Art the imitative slave
Of those dead forms, as if the Christian span
Embraced no living Poetry for man.
Roman Ruins
HOW could Rome live so long, and now be dead?
How came this waste and wilderness of stones?
How shows the orbèd monster, so long fed
On martyr blood, his bare and crumbling bones?
Did the strong faith, that built eight hundred years
Of world-dominion on a robber’s name,
Once animate this corse, and fervent seers
Augur it endless life and shadeless fame?
Stranger! if thou a docile heart dost bring
Within thee, bear a timely precept hence;
That Power, mere Power, is but a barren thing,
Even when it seems most like omnipotence;
The forms must pass,—and past, they leave behind
Little to please, and nought to bless mankind.John Saunders (Dates unknown) 15
John Saunders (Dates unknown)
An English Village
DEAR English village! grassy nest of peace,
Where bird-like singeth still the human heart,
Never, oh! never, may thy sweet fame cease,
Thy artless children from thy vale depart;
Long may they there laugh out in harvest glee;
Down the green slopes among the clover laugh;
Thy ruddy maids still carol jocundly;
Thy sons the horn round winter hearth-stones quaff;
Unto the simple church, in simple guise,
Still decently repair as sabbaths come,
Where in rude harmony their woes rise
To God, to fi t them for their heavenly home.—
Oh! sick and weary of the world’s vain strife,
How glad were I to lead a village life!
Three Sonnets to K. S.
I
AS one who wanders in a stranger place,
That some pure lovely spirit erst hath haunted,
And pauseth often in his dreamy pace,
By that pervading, mystic spell enchanted,
I tread these alien streets—and yet not so,
They were thy home—so alien no more;
And pause a thousand times, as to and fro
I seek in senseless stones some gathered store
Of memories of thee—and oft my eye,
By Fancy cheated, seeth warm and clear
Thy gentle semblance, which, approached too high,
Leaves me to murmur—“No, she is not here.”
Enchantress! loose the ties wherewith thou’st bound me,
Or bind them, oh! much tighter yet around me.16 1838
II
I DREAMT last night that I was voyaging
Over the waters of a gloomy sea,
Which some strong foe unseen chafed constantly,
Pleased with its hoarse indignant murmuring;
And, as I gazed, came forth the gentle Moon,
And seemed to sorrow o’er the troubled wave,
For, bending downwards, one sweet kiss she gave
That changed its midnight to a radiant noon.
What tongue might then the Sea’s deep transports tell,
As on the foe it smiled, the while its voice
Like some proud strain of music did rejoice?
—But there I woke. Ah! then I knew full well
Myself the sea, still battling with my fate,
And thou the gentle Moon, my own sweet Kate!
III
MY own true wife—I look into thine eyes,
Watching the lights that o’er the azure play,
Until the palpable fades all away,
And lo! two gleaming stars before me rise,
Fast mingling into one; wherein I see
(For, touched by Love, the passionate spirit’s gaze
Pierces all distance, and invests the haze
With hues that glorify its fantasy,)—
Thy soul’s fair world, through which she shines serene,
With bright creations peopled, such as oft
By moonlight dancing on the green sward soft,
Leave their light footprints, but no more are seen;
Within whose depths—ah! homeward Fancy fl ies,
And folds its failing wing—mute-gazing in thine eyes.
Two Sonnets to M. H.
TWO early wishes with my boyhood grew,
Knit in my being, strengthening with my frame,
Colouring all things with a golden hue;
They were even dearer than the hope-won fame
That gave the unlettered, scorned, and friendless boy
A charméd life, with which he passed along,
In the deep silence of his haughty joy,
Unhurt through vice, and ignorance, and wrong.
Ah! that was sweet! yet still my heart complained,Martin T upper (1810–1889) 17
Yearning for those fond wishes of its love,
A gentle mistress and a faithful friend—
The one, an angel brought me from above;
And thou,—oh! dearer far than any brother,
Look in thine own true soul to fi nd the other.
II
SWIFT may thy vessel o’er the Atlantic fl y,
In peace and safety to the’ appointed spot,
Where Hope sits smiling in the western sky,
Old worlds, old troubles, for a time, forgot.
A new world there awaits thee, not alone
Of soil to tread on, or of skies to see,
(Grandeur, and beauty, here may be thine own,)
No—nor of vigorous humanity.
It is within the new world thou shalt fi nd:
Upon thine heart the fl owers shall grow once more,
Love, self-respect, contentedness of mind,
And all life’s perfume, loveliness, restore.
Old ties may then prevail, ah! shall they not?
Or must true friends still be by truest friends forgot?
Martin Tupper (1810–1889)
[See also 1839, 1845, 1850, 1854, 1855 and 1860]
Sonnet to My Book, “Proverbial Philosophy;” Before Publication
MY soul’s own son, dear image of my mind,
I would not without blessing send thee forth
Into the bleak wide world, whose voice unkind
Perchance will mock at thee as nothing worth;
For the cold critic’s jealous eye may fi nd
In all thy purposed good little but ill,
May taunt thy simple garb as quaintly wrought,
And praise thee for no more than the small
skill
Of masquing as thine own another’s thought:
What then?—count envious sneers as less than
nought:
Fair is thine aim, and having done thy best,
Lo, thus I bless thee; yea, thou shalt be blest!18 1838
A Debt of Love
THOU, more than all endeared to this glad heart
By gentle smiles, and patience under pain,
I bless my God, and thee, for all thou art,
My crowning joy, my richest earthly gain!
To thee is due this tributary strain
For all the well-observed kind offi ces
That spring spontaneous from a heart, imbued
With the sweet wish of living but to please;
Due for thy liberal hand, thy frugal mind,
Thy pitying eye, thy voice for ever kind,
For tenderness, truth, confi dence,—all these:
My heaven-blest vine, that hast thy tendrils
twin’d
Round one who loves thee, though his strain be
rude,
Accept thy best reward,—thy husband’s gratitude.
To Little Ellin
MY precious babe, my guileless little girl,—
The soft sweet beauty of thy cherub face
Is smiling on me, radiant as a pearl
With young intelligence, and infant grace:
And must the wintry breath of life efface
Thy purity, fair snow-drop of the spring?
Must evil taint thee,—must the world enthrall
Thine innocent mind, poor harmless little thing?
Ah, yes! thou too must taste the cup of woe,
Thy heart must learn to grieve, as others do,
Thy soul must feel life’s many-pointed sting:
But fear not, darling child, for well I know
Whatever cares may meet thee, ills befall,
Thy God,—thy father’s God,—shall lead thee safe
through all.
On the Birth of Little Mary
LO, Thou hast crowned me with another blessing,
Into my lot hast dropt one mercy more;—
All good, all kind, all wise in Thee possessing,
My cup, O bounteous Giver, runneth o’er,Martin T upper (1810–1889) 19
And still thy princely hand doth without ceasing
pour:
For the sweet fruit of undecaying love
Clusters in beauty round my cottage door.
And this new little one, like Noah’s dove,
Comes to mine ark with peace, and plenty for
my store.
O happy home, O bright and cheerful hearth!
Look round with me, my lover, friend, and wife,
On these fair faces we have lit with life,
And in perfect blessing of their birth,
Help me to live our thanks for so much heaven
on earth.
The Happy Home
O NAME for comfort, refuge, hope, and peace,
O spot by gratitude and memory blest!
Where as in brighter worlds “the wicked cease
From troubling, and the weary are at rest,”
And unfl edg’d loves and graces have their nest;
How brightly here the various virtues shine,
And nothing said or done is seen amiss;
While sweet affections every heart entwine,
And differing tastes and talents all unite,
Like hues prismatic blending into white,
In charity to man, and love divine:
Thou little kingdom of serene delight,
Heaven’s nursery and foretaste! O what bliss
Where earth to wearied men can give a home
like this.
The Wretched Home
SCENE of disunion, bickering, and strife,
What curse has made thy native blessings die?
Why do these broils embitter daily life,
And cold self-interest form the strongest tie?
Hate, ill conceal’d, is fl ashing from the eye,
And mutter’d vengeance curls the pallid lip;
What should be harmony is all at jar;—
Doubt and reserve love’s timid blossom’s nip,20 1838
And weaken nature’s bonds to ropes of sand;
While dull indifference takes the icy hand
(Oh chilling touch!)—of constrained fellowship:
What secret demon has such discord fann’d?
What ill committed stirs this penal war,—
Or what omitted good?—Alas! that such things
are.
Poetry
TO touch the heart, and make its pulses thrill,
To raise and purify the grovelling soul,
To warm with generous heat the selfi sh will,
To conquer passion with a mild controul,
And the whole man with nobler thoughts to fi ll,
These are thine aims, O pure unearthly power,e thine infl uences; and therefore those
Whose wings are clogged with evil, are thy foes,
And therefore these, who have thee for their
dower,
The widowed spirits with no portion here,
Eat angels’ food, the manna thou dost shower:
For thine are pleasures, deep, and tried, and true,
Whether to read, or write, or think, or hear,
By the gross million spurn’d, and fed on by the
few.
Prose
THAT the fi ne edge of intellect is dulled
And mortal ken with cloudy fi lms obscure,
And the numb’d heart so deep in stupor lulled
That virtue’s self is weak its love to lure,
But pride and lust keep all the gates secure,
This is thy fall, O man; and therefore those
Whose aims are earthly, like pedestrian prose,
The selfi sh, useful, money-making plan,
Cold language of the desk, or quibbling bar,
Where in hard matter sinks ideal man:
Still, worldly teacher, be it from me far
Thy darkness to confound with yon bright bandMartin T upper (1810–1889) 21
Poetic all, though not so named by men,
Who have swayed royally the mighty pen,
And now as kings in prose on fame’s clear sum-
mit stand.
Country
MOST tranquil, innocent, and happy life,
Full of the holy joy chaste nature yields,
Redeem’d from care, and sin, and the hot strife
That rings around the smok’d unwholesome dome
Where mighty Mammon his black sceptre
wields,—
Here let me rest in humble cottage home,
Here let me labour in the enamell’d fi elds:
How pleasant in these ancient woods to roam
With kind-eyed friend, or kindly-teaching book;
Or the fresh gallop on the dew-dropt heath,
Or at fair eventide with feathered hook
To strike the swift trout in the shallow brook,
Or in the bower to twine the jasmin wreath,
Or at the earliest blush of summer morn
To trim the bed, or turn the new-mown hay,
Or pick the perfum’d hop, or reap the golden corn!
So should my peaceful life all smoothly glide
away.
Town
ENOUGH of lanes, and trees, and vallies green,
Enough of briary wood, and hot chalk-down,
I hate the startling quiet of the scene,
And long to hear the gay glad hum of town:
My garden be the garden of the Graces,
Flow’rs full of smiles, with fashion for their queen,
My pleasant fi elds be crowds of joyous faces,
The brilliant rout, the concert, and the ball,—
These be my joys in endless carnival!
For I do loathe that sickening solitude,
That childish hunting-up of fl ies and weeds,
Or worse, the company of rustics rude,22 1838
Whose only hopes are bound in clods and seeds:
Out on it! let me live in town delight,
And for your tedious country-mornings bright
Give me gay London with its noon and night.
Ancient
MY sympathies are all with times of old,
I cannot live with things of yesterday,
Upstart, and fl ippant, foolish, weak, and gay,
But spirits cast in a severer mould,
Of solid worth, like elemental gold:
I love to wander o’er the shadowy past,
Dreaming of dynasties long swept away,
And seem to fi nd myself almost the last
Of a time-honoured race, decaying fast:
For I can dote upon the rare antique,
Conjuring up what story it might tell,
The bronze, or bead, or coin, or quaint relique;
And in a desert could delight to dwell
Among vast ruins,—Tadmor’s stately halls,
Old Egypt’s giant fanes, or Babel’s mouldering
walls.
Modern
BEHOLD, I stand upon a speck of earth
To work the works allotted me,—and die,
Glad among toils to snatch a little mirth,
And, when I must, unmurmuring down to lie
In the same soil that gave me food and birth:
For all that went before me, what care I?
The past, the future,—these are but a dream;
I want the tangible good of present worth,
And heed not wisps of light that dance and gleam
Over the marshes of the foolish past:
We are a race the best, because the last,
Improving all, and happier day by day
To think our chosen lot hath not been cast
In those old puerile times, discreetly swept away.Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 23
Isaac Williams (1802–1865)
[See also 1847]
The Deaf and Dumb Boy
’Neath yon straw cot below the sheltering wood,
Where the slant sun-beam sleeps so placidly,
Is one whose tongue and ear nature doth tie,
With her to walk in sweetest solitude;
And oft a fi nger, in his pensive mood,
Is on the chord of his soul’s harmony,
Waking meek thankfulness, when none are nigh,
Save spirits that are aye around the good.
To him nor sings the summer nightingale,
Nor thrush her wintry matin; but yon vale
Ne’er wakes to morn, nor sounds of evening cease,
But he with upturn’d eye, and thoughts that move
Lowliness inexpressive, and keep love,
Holds commune with bright hope, and spirits of peace.
The Brook
Meek Brook, that from the haunts of men dost creep,
Still ever and anon loving to steal
To thine own sweet retirement, and reveal
Unseen thy gentle bosom, calm and deep,
Unto the azure Heavens, that fairer sleep
Beneath thy tranquil mirror. ’Neath thy bower
Ministering freshness to the little fl ower,
And roots of grateful willow, taught to steep
In thy sweet stream its summer canopy;
Many regard thee not, but turn from thee
To where the meeting waves rage beauteously,
Where down wild steeps some silvery Naiad runs,
Or watery Bacchanal sports in sylvan suns;
Thou calm and deep art ever moving by.24 1838
The Same
Art stilly moving by the unseen vale,
To thy bright ocean! Spirit calm and clear,
Thankful thy cross in tranquil love to bear:
Meek soul, thy deeds are not upon the gale,
Or tongues of men, that with thine own shall fail,
But written in Heav’n’s adamant. Still fear
And walk with lowliness; nor think that here
Lost are thy tears, which doors of Heav’n assail,
To fall in dews of blessing. Not for loss
Thou tend’st the lamp within; for it shall be
A light around thee thro’ the caves of death.
And at thy side, when thou layest down thy cross,
Shall thy good Angel stand, with suppliant wreath,
Faith’s golden fruits and deeds of charity.
The Brothers
My brother! one long-cherish’d thought hath been
At my heart’s fountain, that we might have trod,
Link’d in one destiny, along life’s road,
E’en as in heart; sweet fellowship! but ’tween
Our shadowings and their ends doth intervene
One that doth love us, shaping all for good.
His hand around me in my solitude
In syllables of mercy, have I seen
Visibly character’d. I read and bless
The high behest with heart-felt thankfulness.
My brother! there is that which sweet to me
Whispereth, if I attain that heavenly shore,
That I shall be with thee, nor seas no more,
Nor mountains part us everlastingly.
The Same
And since that I have arm’d my heart to yield
All that my heart held dear; methinks that He,
Who is the spirit’s golden panoply,
With a strange heedlessness my soul hath steel’dIsaac Williams (1802–1865) 25
To ought of earth’s betiding. Heaven’s blue fi eld
Shines, the birds sing as they were wont to me
In my heart’s holiday; but this world’s glee,
The crosses and the gladdenings it may wield,
They are to me, as to some cabin boy,
Who yearns for home, the wild winds that on high,
’Mid clamorous shrouds sing their deep melody;
Alike, so that I tack me to the gale;
Still onward to the haven I would be,
And breath of the Eternal fi ll the sail.
Absence
On the dark trees the glancing moonlight lies,
A Cross is gleaming in the silver calm,
Shedding o’er hearts found meet a holier balm.
Night’s viewless piper, in the casement plies
His busy task, into wild melodies,
Moulding the air, now like the whispering palm,
Moved by the wind, now mounting to a Psalm
Of solemn and strange sound the music dies.
And thou that holy Cross shalt see again,
And hear those melodies made through the ears
Of silence. What is this that makes me sad?
My brother, thoughts of thee should make me glad,
Not sorrowful—I know not how—but when
I think of thee my eye is wet with tears.
Discontented Thoughts
GIVE me not what I ask, but what is good,
Merciful Saviour, unto Thee I look,
Oh, teach me these repining thoughts to brook.
I know I were not happier, tho’ endued
With all on which my unbridled longings brood;
For joy to me hath ever been a gale,
Which, like some demon fi lling the glad sail,
Wanton’d awhile on summer seas, and woo’d
To tempt o’er hidden shoals. Make me Thine own,
And take me: of myself I am afraid,26 1838
Oh, take me from myself; oh, take away
Whate’er of self is in me, and, I pray,
Give me on what my spirit may be stay’d,
And that I know full well is but Thyself alone.
The Fellow-Labourers
My little mole, two callings have we two,
One master: where old earth is hardest bound,
And shrub stretching his limbs with much ado,
There art thou, with thy mattock, and thy hoe,
And many fi nger’d shovel; yet no sound
Speaks of thy whereabout, not heard nor found
Save in thy mountain monuments; kind to you,
Should we be, fellow-labourers of the ground.
My little miner with the velvet coat,
We are ’mid things we deem not, didst e’er note
Blue sky, and fl ower, and fi eld, or the sweet throat
Of birds around thee? to our work again,
Round us too tents are spread unseen by men,
And companies too bright for human ken.
The Baptism
How strange and sweet the wakening of the Spring
From Winter’s mantling cowl, with ice-drops hung
And darkness; or, from couch of Twilight’s sprung,
Morn putting on her wild apparelling!
How strange and sweet the unfolding of thy wing,
Ethereal stranger, when around thee fl ung
The mystery of being, wild and young,
Thro’ swaddling of Hope’s dark imagining,
Thou break’st thine icy fetters, and to sense
Awakening, day by day, from dawning eye
Lookest around thee. ’Tis a dark rough sea,
But there is One hath made a bark for thee,
And sitteth at the helm, to guide thee hence,
Unto a shore where all is innocence.Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 27
To a Lost Child
Can we still love thee on this poor, bad earth,
And love thou bear’st to us decay in Heav’n?
It cannot be: when once the sky was riv’n,
And One from thence in our sad world had birth,
His was a love, which, in the very dearth
Of all celestial gentleness, was driv’n
By angry blasts, that His dear life was giv’n
To sweeten our bad air, till in His worth
Our vileness was forgotten; and He chose
Innocent children such as thee to be
Most like Himself, whose angels might behold
Nearest His face in Heav’n; then while for thee
We pine on this bad earth, and love still hold,
Surely thy love in Heav’n thou dost not lose.
Bereavement
And blest are they—although the heart new riv’n
By the keen stroke of suffering, unreliev’d,
Turns to its wonted stay, and is bereav’d,—
Yet blest are they below, to whom ’tis given,
The dearest pledge which they from Heaven receiv’d,
Fresh in baptismal drops, to yield to Heaven,
Ere soil’d by thoughts of crime, or sin deceiv’d,
Or knowing evil. Thus to be forgiv’n,
And die, this is the best we know on earth:
It is not death to toil in failing breath
And go away; but in this world beneath,
To wander on from sin to sin, in dearth
Of all true peace, still travelling from our birth,
Further from God and Heav’n—this, this is death.
The Crucifi xion
Still dost Thou, day and night, silent abide,
Hanging upon the tree; and there in vain,
Pleading Thy bleeding hands and wounded side,
With upturn’d eye of agony, while pain
Rendeth each tender heart-string. Yet remain28 1838
Pride in my heart and foolishness, preside
O’er me at morn, with me at even-tide
Sinking to rest. Oh, o’er my spirit reign,
Teach me each day to bear my cross with Thee;
And when Night’s curtains close, be ever near.
Be Thou my pilot through Night’s cloudy sea!
Be thou the silent chariot’s charioteer!
And when I sink upon the couch of death,
May I within Thine arms resign my breath!
The Glow-Worm
Oft as I contemplate the glorious skies,
Studded so thick with many a crystal spar,
And each a mighty world that shines afar,
Struck with deep awe my spirit in me dies:
For what am I in the All-seeing eyes,
In which of worlds and men such myriads are?
But now, as I behold that living star
Lighting the o’er-hanging hedge wherein it lies,
I feel that ne’er a poet’s boldest fl ight
Hath furnish’d Angel wings with glowing rays
So bright and lustrous as that emerald blaze;
Thus I, though but a creeping worm of night,
May have within me my Creator’s light,
On which the highest Angel stops to gaze.
The Recovery
I saw one, who had been in wanderings drear
From Reason’s light, which hid her chastening glow
Behind a cloud; but she, returning now,
Lit up an aspect as the noon-day clear,
E’en such as holy Ken or Herbert dear;
One scarce could see, but secretly to bless,
So was he bowed in lowly placidness:
“Sweet,” said he, “to the weary mariner
“To see the shore; and haply battle o’er
“Sweet to the soldier: sweet when all doth seemIsaac Williams (1802–1865) 29
“Saddening, I know, to fi nd it but a dream.
“But sweeter must it be, when all is o’er,
“As fi rst the soul awakens to the gleam,
“Which tells her she is safe and on the happy
“shore.”
The True Friend
Shall we the mother love, who bore to earth,
And cherish’d our unheeding infancy;
And love not Thee, by whose sore agony
We have been born unto a better birth?
Shall we the father love, whom our rude will
Hath grieved so often, yet doth love us still?
Shall we the sister love, who evermore,
Still present e’en in absence, watcheth o’er
Our weariness; loved friend, or brother dear;
And all of good and lovely dwelling here;
And love not Thee, from whom all to our need,
In parent, sister, friend, or brotherhood,
And all that is good or lovely doth proceed,
Faint emanations from the only Good?
The False Light
Have heed thou take no meteor’s lantern wild
For light of the calm Moon, serenely pure,
In th’ image of the Eternal; this is sure,
That leads to Death’s grim cavern, Fancy’s child,
And there ’twill take the Comet’s shape to gild
The door of desolation. Hour to hour,
From out the bleeding tree, th’ all-saving Power
Hath call’d, unheard, unheeded; pleading mild
From day to day from out the bleeding tree,
And looking Heav’n-ward in His agony,
From year to year: but in Death’s twilight porch,
Imagination lit her fever’d torch,
And wings of light gleam’d on long-cherish’d pride,
Then he with triumph look’d to Him that died! 30 1838
The Complaint
The fragrant fl ower, bright insect, and sweet bird,
And beasts, and trees, and brooks, with happy voice,
Speak of Thy love, and all around are heard.
But when that we would make Thee all our choice,
And joining universal Nature’s joys,
Would magnify with them our common Lord,
For all the gifts He doth to us afford;
Yet pride and selfi shness, with jarring noise,
Will mar the holiest accents we can raise.
Were I a fl ower, with pure and blameless breath,
I might give back Thy praises at my death;
Were I a bird, Thy bounties I might sing;
But now, whatever offering I would bring,
The thoughts of self come in to taint Thy praise.
The Divine Presence
Yes, He is here, as in Heav’n’s highest throne,
But darkly we perceive. The wandering beast,
The wild bird fi nds its unhous’d, unsown feast,
And knoweth not the Giver. Man hath known,
But knowing often thank’d not. He all one
About us dwells, Fountain of joy and rest.
And all that worketh in the good man’s breast
Is but the struggle more and more to own
And feel that Presence, dimly here allow’d,
E’en to the eye of Heav’n-cleans’d purity:
So dense the mist this mortal heart doth shroud.
And what but the withdrawing of the cloud
Is death, when, lo, that Presence ever nigh,
And in the heart of hearts the Eternal’s eye!
The Church’s Lament for Neglected Fast-Days
What is it nought to you, ye that pass by,
Where ’mid these caves of sorrow all forlorn,
Over my murder’d Lord I sit and mourn!
For it was I that wounded Him, ’twas I,Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 31
Not those who fl ed Him, or stood mocking nigh;
And ye—see where His bleeding brow is torn,
And these pale hands, ne’er lifted, till this morn,
Save in a prayer or blessing. Here descry
Not death, but last night’s sorrow! It was He
Gave all ye have, He made the evening star,
The fl ower, in amber palace set the sun;
But in the bosom of Blessedness afar,
He could not leave us, but came down, and see—
Ah! is it nought to you, ye that pass on?
Thoughts of Death
The objects we have lov’d are quite gone by,
The infi nite reality comes on,
Nothing remains but that which I have done;
Things in my being wrought internally,
And second nature, every dearest tie,
Loved faces, and loved scenes, youth’s friendships,
gone
Everlastingly; there remains but one,
And he must be encounter’d presently,
And that is Death. This is the truth of things,
As he, who to his present spirit brings
The boundless Hereafter, must confess.
I would not wind me in strain’d thoughtfulness
Too high, but ever thus the truth would see,
Most deeply, rightly, and most tranquilly.
The Cloisters: Ecclesiastical Sonnets
I. The Liturgy
Ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall fi nd rest.
A PATH of peace amid the tangled grove,
A moon-lit way of sweet security—
Bright holy days that form a galaxy
To make a road to Heav’n—strains from above
Whereon the spheres of duty kindlier move,
Drinking pure light and heav’n-born harmony—32 1838
Such is the path of thy calm Liturgy,
Ancient of mothers, in parental love
Daily unwinding from thine annual maze
Treasures that wax not old, whence still may grow
Fresh adoration. On thy face (of thee
Praying to be more worthy) as we gaze
Thy soul comes forth in beauty, and thy brow
So calm, is full of holiest Deity.
II. Forms
The care of discipline is love.
Love, from whatever earthly cave he springs,
(That spell of something heavenly dwelling round
Home, friend, or grave endear’d,) when he hath
found
Meet entrance, he will shake his odorous wings,
And throw a charm o’er thousand meaner things,
O’er whatsoe’er at fi rst he entrance found
Into the soul; in ties associate bound
He lives, and o’er them his own radiance fl ings.
Then why should not a holier Peace and Mirth
Love those mute forms, which cherished fi rst their
birth
And brac’d them for the withering blasts of earth?
The gladsome soul that her devotion plies,
Bound in the wreath of ancient Liturgies,
Why should she not her chain beyond all freedom
prize?
III. The Collect for the Day
They will go from strength to strength.
And let me, loving still of thee to learn,
Thy weekly Collect on my spirit wear,
That so my steps may turn to practice clear,
And ’scape those ways where feverish fancies burn;
So may thy Sunday thoughts at every turn
Meet us, like healthful founts in Elim green*,
Casting a freshness o’er the week. This scene
Of outward things, as still the wheels return,
Leads sternly to decay: thou ever true,Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 33
As on the grave and withering age we gain,
Thy tale of better things dost still renew,
Like tune that pleas’d our childhood’s pensive ear,
Still as we older grow ’tis doubly dear,
Aye wakening echoes new, and deep and deeper strain.
* Exodus xv. 27.
IV. Prayer
They shall be satisfi ed with the pleasures of thy house, even of thy holy temple.
Hidden, exhaustless treasury, heav’n-taught Prayer,
Armoury of unseen aids—watchword and spell
At which blest Angels pitch their tent and dwell
About us—glass to bring the bright Heav’ns near—
Sea of eternal beauty—wondrous stair
By patriarch seen—key leading to a cell
Where better worlds are hidden—secret well
Where Love with golden chalice may repair,
And slake his thirst, nursing with fragrant dews
Heav’n’s lilies fair, and rose on wild-wood spray,
Calm thought and high resolve! strange instrument,
Wherewith from spheres serene Music is sent
Into the mind, throwing o’er all fresh hues,
And mystic colourings—yet we cannot pray!
V . The Complaint
Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle, or who shall rest on thy holy hill?
We cannot pray, strange mystery! here is known
No wearying—no deceivings of sick Hope,
No aching limb, or brow, wherewith to cope—
No pallid after-thoughts—and of the boon
No half-surmis’d upbraiding—no cold frown
Bidding us come again—no lengthening slope
Tiring the eye from far. These portals ope
To dwellings lucid as th’ autumnal moon,
But we along the world’s slow sluggish strand
Are fostering vanity, which joint by joint
Climbs, like Nile’s reed, into a tufted crown,
And woos each wind that waves its golden down,
All hollow, soon a barbed shaft ’twill point,
Or staff, to pierce light heart or trusting hand.34 1838
VI. Sunday
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Sweet day, let not the clouds of earthly Care
Come over thy calm brightness, let Reproof
And pale Remorse and Sadness stand aloof,
Let nought of worldly strife, or ruder air,
Ruffl e, or rend the mantle thou dost wear!
The robe thou wear’st is all celestial woof,
Come from the grave with Jesus. Heav’n’s blue
roof
Seems nearer earth, and all earth hath of fair
Is fairer. On thy calm and glassy fl oor
We sit in commune sweet, thy riches blest
Recounting, and forget that we are poor.
Let us be bright to meet thee, Angel guest,
With contemplations of enduring rest,
And with thee listen at the heavenly door.
VII. Village Psalmody
All my fresh springs shall be in thee.
And is it not thy praise, Church of our love,
That thou, unto each little rural nook
Of quiet, hast soft golden plumage shook
From off the wing of thine own David’s dove,
And turn’d the melodies, that nearest prove
To the heart of man, into a sacred book,
Key to the soul’s best avenues, a brook
That steals into Religion’s secret grove?
If those straw roofs and ivied cots among
There play a gleam of song, ’tis no wild fi re,
But sparks, tho’ scatter’d, from a heav’n-strung lyre.
Thus, when the cloud of music moved along
Fills the melodious dome, blest sounds inspire
Each cloistral nook, vocal with sacred song.
VIII. The Ancient Village
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard.
Let me still love thee in thy quietude
Sweet sylvan village! and thou, aged rook,
Who sitt’st sole sentinel in ivied nook,
Survivor of thy noisy brotherhood!Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 35
And I with thee, in thine own pensive mood,
Could linger, till the lights of ages fall
Around us, like moonbeams on tap’stried hall,
And saintly forms come forth, and virgins good,
Who gave their days to Heav’n. From that lone
pile
Avaunt, rude change, thy disenchanting wand,
And let the holy Cross linger awhile!
Ah, feather’d Chronicler, would that from thee,
Thou could’st forefend Art’s all-transforming hand,
And guard thy hoary haunts of sweet Antiquity.
IX. The Modern Cathedral
Ye have said, it is vain to serve God; and what profi t is it that we have kept his ordinances?
Without—the world’s unceasing noises rise,
Turmoil, disquietude, and busy fears.
Within—there are the sounds of other years,
Thoughts full of Prayer, and solemn harmonies,
Which imitate on earth the peaceful skies,
And canonized Regret, which backward bears
Her longing aspect, moving thoughtful tears.
Such blest abodes, in Heav’n’s all-pitying eyes,
Might yet be eloquent for a nation’s good;
But where is now the kneeling multitude?
The silver-tongued spruce verger passes by
Hurrying his group, the proud and curious eye
Of connoisseur—the loiterer’s sauntering mood:
Sad picture of lost Faith and evil nigh!
X. The Daily Service
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
And are we then alone on holy ground,
Most gracious Father? Are we then alone,
Because the world regards not, and is gone?
Where are the solemn dead which lie around,
Are they not with us? Are thy courts not crown’d
With spiritual hosts about? and the sweet tone
Still lingers round thine altars. Are they fl own,
Bearing no more to see their God disowned?
Has the great Michael left us, mighty arm,
Gabriel, our fortitude, and the blest charm
Of Raphael’s healing name? In my heart’s fear36 1838
I heard a voice, “Be still, and lowly bend;
While two or three remain, thy Lord is here,
And where His presence is, His hosts attend.”
XI. Foreign Breviaries
They that worship Him shall worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Dear Church, our island’s sacred sojourner,
A richer dress thy Southern sisters own,
And some would deem too bright their fl owing
zone
For sacred walls. I love thee, nor would stir
Thy simple note, severe in character,
By use made lovelier, for the lofty tone
Of hymn, response, and touching antiphone,
Lest we lose homelier truth. The chorister
That sings the summer nights, so soft and strong,
To music modulating his sweet throat,
Labours with richness of his varied note,
Yet lifts not unto Heaven a holier song,
Than our home bird that, on some leafl ess thorn,
Hymns his plain chaunt each wintry eve and morn.
XII. The Church in Scotland
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall
be a light unto me.
More pure the gale where the wild thistle rears
His mountain banner on his stony tower,
Than odorous breath of cultivated bower;
More true to nature o’er its armed spears
The mountain rose its lonely chalice bears,
Than many-folding cups of cherish’d fl ower;
And, traversing those wilds with silvery shower,
E’en Winter’s moon more clear and free appears!
Such is thy sister of the northern hills,
Less honour’d, not less holy; bow’d with ills,
But not o’ercast; pure branch of the true vine,
Drinking her nurture from the barren rock,
Of pitiless elements she braves the shock,
And hath less earthly beauty—more divine.Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 37
XIII. The Church in Wales
Why hast Thou broken down her hedges, that all they that go by pluck off her grapes?
Alas, Menevia! what of thee remains,
Primeval saintly Church? from Towy’s fl ood
To Conway springs an ever teeming brood
Of novelty, to claim thy true domains;
Religious Freedom, worse than Romish chains!
As in the stool where some huge oak once stood
Some mountain bird now hides his sylvan food;
And lo! the ancient stock with wonder gains
A doubtful new and motley progeny,
Springing in mockery from her aged root,
With coral berries wild and show of fruit.
And, here and there between, the ancestral shoot
Is seen, to emulate their pliancy,
Bowing to each wind as it passes by.
XIV. The Church in Wales
Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes.
Ancient Menevia, I must still love thee,
Nor yet is silent thy Cathedral song,
Though nought to echo back her solemn tongue,
Save the true emblems of Heav’n’s constancy,
The unchanging mountains and unchanging Sea,
Which to each other thy deep tones prolong,
And both bear on to Heav’n. What though,
among
Thine innocent nuptial feasts and household glee,
Thy harp is silenced in Religion’s name,
And discipline become a word of blame,
Mother of love and nurse of cheerful thought,
While holiest liturgies are set at nought,
To enshrine the feverish dreams of human will,
Ancient Menevia, I must love thee still.
XV. The Church in Wales
Turn thee again, thou Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, behold, and visit this vine.
For thou didst take me up unto thy breast,
Pitying my lost and helpless infancy,
And didst engraft me in the living tree.
Still breathe fresh thoughts from thy Plinlimmon’s
crest,38 1838
Hedg’d by thy language, (in thy mountain-nest,
Indented oft with blue o’er arching sea,)
That so the airs of foul disloyalty,
Reach thee but faintly from our sad unrest,
Which, like Avernian steams, to Heav’n’s deep roof
Daily ascend, and gathering there aloof,
Hang in tempestuous clouds. If thou would’st still
Have thy good Angel guard thee free from blame,
Rend not Christ’s robe at thine irreverent will,
But wrap it round thee, lest they see thy shame.
XVI. Political Changes
I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
Strange—the o’erwhelming tide that beareth on
The soul of Nations—mighty, though unseen,
And wielding mighty destinies; not e’en
Huge Ocean, on his bed with thunders strewn,
Rocking from pole to pole to the pale Moon,
More constant in mutation; ’mid the scene
We stretch our sounding canvass, nor aught ween
Our whereabouts, save where the past hath gone!
It was the Everlasting that pass’d by,
We saw not, but in cloud o’er cloud array’d,
Ocean o’er ocean roll’d ineffably,
Onward, like tide-born billows, He doth heave
Men’s spirits, each upon his own bark staid.
We to behold His Glory’s skirts had leave.
XVII. The Sure Covenant
For this is as the waters of Noah unto me; for as I have sworn the waters shall no more go over the
earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee.
Let the storms ply their deep and threat’ning bass,
The Bow of Promise shall the shades illume,
Brightly descried in Faith’s eternal glass,
E’en like an Angel’s many-coloured plume
Waving in tempest. Pledge that in her bloom,
Nature, emerging from the stormy mass,
Will keep her time and order. Let them pass
The wicked and their plottings: ’mid the gloom,
The Church surveys her Covenant sign, and smiles.
And ’neath her solemn rainbow’s dripping arch,Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 39
A mystic wing spread o’er her daring march,
She goes forth, on her heavenly work the whiles,
Though weeping, sure that one in joy shall bring,
Her and her sheaves at Harvest Moon to sing.
XVIII. Prayer for the Parliament
God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you.
Yet Peace be in these walls! Upon them rest
The Royal Martyr’s mantle from the skies*,
Though little they Heav’n’s sweet protection prize!
And haply so our prayers to our own breast
Unanswer’d may return, yet not unblest,
If thus our soul learn patience, and arise,
Good CHARLES, to thy diviner charities!
Albeit, oft with heavy thoughts opprest,
We see in them but clouds from our sick land,
And the dread sword unsheath’d in God’s right
hand.
Thus set we the soul’s anchor, if it be
Right in the All-seeing eyes, then be it so,
May the vex’d Church learn her true panoply,
And lift above the clouds her tranquil brow.
* This Prayer was appointed by the command of Charles the First.
XIX. Prayer for the King
Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long.
If the meek-hearted to the earth is heir,
Refresh’d in multitude of peace divine,
And length of days, by what best discipline,
Shall we best drink of that celestial air?
By what calm ways of holy Wisdom share
The eternal sweetness of her Angel eyne,
Who leans on high from the meek Saviour’s shrine?
The path of life will shew—the path of Pray’r.
There fi lial duty fi rst shall lead thee by
The house of Pride, then manhood’s Loyalty
Take thee in hand, her spirit to infuse.
Pray thou with them, imbibe their heav’nly hues,
And they will lead thee to that Palace Hall,
Where God is King and Father, all in all.40 1838
XX. Consolations of Baptism
O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.
Brightly the morn of our New Birth arose
From the Baptismal Fount, in awful trance
Unveiling half her glorious countenance,
We turn’d to our dreams, wooing Earth’s woes,
And slumber’d. Haply now ere Ev’ning’s close
We wake, and o’er us see a pitying glance,
The heavenly morn gone by, day in advance,
And far away the towers of our repose.
We doubt the title soil’d by sinful stain,
And of our birthright ask some sign again,
Such is distrust, of Sin the penalty!
Oh! rather, when thy knees sink on the plain,
Rise, and look back on that Egyptian sea,
And doubt no more the arm that set thee free.
XXI. The City of God
Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou City of God.
Throughout the older word, story and rite—
Throughout the new, skirting all clouds with
gold—
Through rise and fall and destinies manifold
Of pagan empires—through the dreams and night
Of nature, and the darkness and the light,
Still young in hope, in disappointment old—
Through mists which fall’n humanity enfold,
Into the vast and viewless infi nite,
Rises the Eternal City of our God,
Her towers the morn with disenchanting rod
Dimly and darkly labours to disclose,
Lifting the outskirts of the o’er-mantling gloom;
Bright shapes come forth, arch, pinnacle and
dome,
In Heav’n is hid its height and deep repose.
XXII. New Ways
Then is the offence of the Cross ceased.
Now each new Creed will ready welcome move,
That bids not in the secret soul to bear
The Cross with Thee, in silence and in fear,
And Duty’s silvery trappings yoked with Love.Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 41
O sternly kind Severity, to prove
The children of the promise, year by year,
And that unearthly bosom calm and clear,
Meet mirror to enshrine the Eternal Dove.
Yet this is hard—this holy: turn thine eyes
Inward, and thou shalt fi nd the broad new way,
Like the foul Stygian deep, where hideous things
Stable in darkness, and but fold their wings
Deeming it light—be thine to fear and pray,
And feed on that life-giving Sacrifi ce!
XXIII. The Crucifi x
That I may know Him, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made comfortable unto His death
Though by such thorns as on Thy brow abide,
Thine would Thy servant be—thorns from the
weed
Of sorrow, whereof Adam sowed the seed;
Thine by the spear that pierced Thy tender side,
Compunctuous throes, which drink the heart’s deep
tide;
Thine by the nails, which made Thy pure hands
bleed,—
Nails of stern discipline, rough arts that breed
Keen penitential yearnings, or the pride
Of the rude scoffi ng world; by whate’er chain
May quell rebellion, or of soul or eye,
Whatever penance schools of shame, or pain,ver scourge may strike, and not in vain,
So bind me to Thy Cross, that I may die
Daily, the fl eeting years that I remain.
XXIV . The Holy Altar
The glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate, whose prospect is toward the East.
Unto the East we turn, to which belong
More than the heart divines, or eye descries;
There is the Altar which our life supplies.
The voice is silent, lest it should do wrong
To things which are too high for mortal tongue.
The Heav’ns are looking on with wondering eyes,
Shall men unheeding to the temple throng
Where God is present? Watchful evermore,
Let calm Obeisance at thine Altar wait,42 1838
And lowly-bowing Reverence keep the door
Of our dull hearts; that there we may be brought
To the society of holy thought,
Revering God, to man compassionate.
XXV. The Ancient Church
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
Unto the East we turn—from the cold bourn
Of our dull western cave Faith’s pensive mood
Sets there her tranced eyelid, gathering food
Of solemn thoughts which make her less forlorn,
And back to Apostolic men is borne.
There, from her evening and dim solitude,
She joins the companies of the wise and good,
Who walk upon the Gospel’s glorious morn,
Their dwarf dimensions of mortality
Seeming to grow upon the golden sky,
Beyond the cold shade of imperious Rome.
Ambrose and Basil, either Gregory,
Clement and Cyril, Cyprian’s earthly home,
And the free lips of glowing Chrysostom.
XXVI. The Holy Land
His windows being open in his chamber towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees and prayed.
Unto the East we turn—like some bright stair
Let down from Heav’n, the land where Angels
still
Linger at Chinnereth’s lake or Tabor’s hill.
Here Jesus sat, there stood, here kneel’d in prayer;
Here was His cradle, there His sepulchre.
E’en now appears the bleeding spectacle
Upheld to the wide world: the cup of ill
Is drain’d, with hands outstretch’d, bleeding and
bare,
He doth in death His innocent head recline,
Turn’d to the West. Descending from his height,
The sun beheld, and veil’d him from the sight.
Thither, while from the serpent’s wound we pine,
To Thee, remembering that baptismal sign,
We turn, and drink anew thy healing might.Isaac Williams (1802–1865) 43
XXVII. Lost Eden
When they return unto Thee, in the land of their enemies, and pray unto thee toward their land which
thou gavest unto their fathers, then hear thou their supplication in Heaven.
Unto the East we turn, in thoughtful gaze,
Like longing exiles to their ancient home,
Mindful of our lost Eden. Thence may come
Genial ambrosial airs around the ways
Of daily life, and fragrant thoughts that raise
Home-sympathies: so may we cease to roam,
Seeking some resting-place before the tomb,
To which on wandering wings devotion strays.
But true to our high birth-right, and to Him
Who leads us by the fl aming Cherubim,
Death’s gate, our pilgrim spirits may arise
O’er earth’s affections; and mid worldlings rude,
Walk loosely in their holier solitude,
And breathe the air of their lost Paradise.
XXVIII. The Coming of Christ
As the lightning cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West, so shall also the coming of
the Son of man be.
Unto the East we turn, with watchful eyes,
Where opens the white haze of silvery lawn,
And the still trees stand in the streak of dawn,
Until the Sun of Righteousness shall rise,
And far behind shall open all the skies,
And golden clouds of Angels be withdrawn
Around His presence. Then there shall be gone,
Fleeing before His face in dread surprise,
The Heav’n and Earth and the affrighted Sea,
And the tribunal shall be set on high,
And we the fi ery trial must abide.
Like nightly travellers to the kindling sky,
Awake or sleeping to yon eastern side
We turn, and know not when the time shall be.44 1838
Emmeline Wortley (1806–1855)
[See also 1839]
‘Proportioned to my Hopes have largely been’
PROPORTIONED to my Hopes have largely been
Ever my Disappointments—for on Earth
Fruit of abortive Promise, dead in birth,
Doth evermore abound—and all its scene
Is strewed with wrecks and fragments—if we lean
Too fondly on the Staff of Hope our mirth
Will soon be changed to mourning, and the worth
The wonder of Creation’s face serene,
With all its witchery shall pass swift away,
And we shall late and long and much repent,
Till we resign this tenement of clay,
And pass through darkness by a fearful rent,
Made by Death’s phantom-fi ngers—when we pay
The unremitted debt and fall like arrows spent.
‘Oh! Sleep! thou never com’st to me without’
OH! Sleep! thou never com’st to me without
A glorious pomp of dreams to swell thy state,
Another Life thou art—another Fate—
A most dear refuge from the cloudy rout
Of cares and fears, and thoughts of strife and doubt,
That blight my waking hours, let bright joys wait
Upon me now—Oh! honey Sleep create
A new World for me—sweetly shed about
Thy precious dew’s revivifying shower,
And I another Being shall become;
No more shall Hope deceive or Memory lower,
No more shall I be slave to wrath and gloom,
No more shall poisonous Nightshade dim my bower,
Nor keen frosts crush, each joy’s new budding bloom!Emmeline Wortley (1806–1855) 45
‘Beautiful Spring, thy young ambrosial breath’
BEAUTIFUL Spring, thy young ambrosial breath
Now dwells caressingly upon the air,
While many a fl oweret new unfoldeth fair,
And all the grey and gloomy hues of Death
Which Winter scattered in his rugged wrath,
Are charmed away by thee!—thy witcheries rare
Bring opiates for our sorrow and our care;
Thou sheddest hopes like rose-leaves on our path,
Thine every smile, and whisper can enchant
A grief or an anxiety away!
How dost thou to our restless wishes grant
Novelty more than new—each opening day
That doth thy reign extend—doth sweetly pant
With kindlings of a fresh delight, Oh! keep thy sway!
‘Deep is the shadow round my pathway spread’
DEEP is the shadow round my pathway spread!
Oh! that a myriad thoughts would come to o’erfl ow
One settled Feeling in my heart—and show
The Beauty of the Universe instead
Of this despair—’tis as the shrouded dead
To dwell within the world yet nought to know
Of all the glories that around us glow,
The wonders of the wealth on all sides shed!
I gaze on blank, bleak Sorrow till all’s o’er,
Whose shadowy face a deadly beauty has—
Oh! that myriad, myriad thoughts, and more,
Would come to crush—(vain, fruitless hope! Alas!)—
One Single Settled Feeling in the heart’s core!—
But Pleasure passes!—Pain too yet shall pass!
‘Love! thy most true and strong interpreters’
LOVE! thy most true and strong interpreters,
That breathe thine eloquence unanswerably,
These are the blush—the tear—the unbosomed sigh—
The look, that feeling makes so deeply hers!—46 1838
These are thine emblems too!—great Love, that stirs
So sweetly in young hearts, is born to die
None can tell wherefore—not himself knows why,
But so it is, experience still avers—
Perchance ’tis well! this world were all too fair
Could lasting love within its sphere be found;
He brings a current of immortal air
Wafted by his enchanted wings around
Where’er he is—sweet dreams of Heaven are there—
But they should soar and spurn each earthly bound!
The Island of Capri
ISLAND of Beauty! rising like a throne
From out these lovely waters calm and blue,
The sunset now burns o’er thee, and doth strew
Thy heights with rich and ruddy beams—each one!—
Jove, from his great Olympus—starry-strown,
Might gaze down envious on thee—(for thy hue
Is most celestial) covetous of the due
Of his proud rival Neptune—reigning lone.
For, Isle of Beauty! thou thyself dost seem
A little rosy Heaven of Love and Light,
And round thee, robed in tints triumphal, beam
Such seas of sapphire glory—kindling bright—
Such shores of pride, with prodigal charms, that teem—
A galaxy of Heavens seems opening on the sight!
Sonnet to the Same
I LOOK on thee for long, and never tire—
Sea-crowning Island! thou’rt so proudly fair,
Amidst the azure tides outshining there,
A landmark where so much is to admire!
Where rests the eye content—all things respire
Love, peace, delight around—and banish care!
How gleams’t thou now thro’ this white dazzling air,
Bright as some little World of Light—of fi re!
Thou’rt seen like one Star in a Heaven of calm,
For thy sweet Sister-Islands are afar—Emmeline Wortley (1806–1855) 47
And the eye dwells on thee—gives thee the palm!—
We ask what the elements that frame thee are,
(Still drinking Fancy’s cup of nectarous balm)
For sure of earth thou’rt not—but rarer mould, Sea-Star!
‘I had passed through the ample plains, where Nature wears’
I HAD passed through the ample plains, where Nature wears
An aspect most monotonous—to be
More charmed, when from one steep acclivity,
Proud Genoa, with her crown of towers, and tiers
Of palaced dwellings, was descried—she rears
Her brow of royal Beauty gloriously
O’er the blue Ocean—whose bright waves and free
Glass back that beauty, which thus more appears!
All had seemed bare and wintry to my sight
Till that glad moment! Winter seemed to fl ee
From that bright Ocean, clad in purple light,
With its yet bluer lovelier canopy.
Broad on my gaze, from that triumphal height,
The sunny South, at once, burst, with her sunny Sea!
‘Great, World of Nature and of Human Life!’
GREAT, World of Nature and of Human Life!
A two-fold World, indeed!—one uniform
And most harmonious!—and a self-lashed Storm
The other!—preying on increase of strife,
With every growth, of every discord rife!
Where shapes of shadowy terror ever swarm!
Where Passion’s Sun strokes—shine to scorch, not
warm,
And Destiny digs Heart-deep with edged knife,
And Selfi shness and Malice darkly plot
Together, and a hideous council call
To effect their deadly ends, repenting not
Till each is as the Enemy of all!
Nature! thy world seems glorious—without blot,
Compared with that where still, Hate’s serpent-demons
crawl!48 1838
‘’Twas in the night I journeyed—moonlight—snow—’
’TWAS in the night I journeyed—moonlight—snow—
And silence were around!—that scene so still
Seemed the hushed heart with awe-touched peace to fi ll!
The hidden vallies shrouded lay below
In gloom impenetrable, while the brow—
The uplifted brow of every soaring hill
Shone out distinctly, clearly visible—
Crowned with a diadem of sheeny snow!
It was as though on every mountain’s height
A beacon of white fi re all keen and clear
Was kindled by that pure Moon fair and bright,
Who as a silvery Sun did then appear—
Making one beauty of the slumberer—Night!
While those white beaconed hills did their lit foreheads
rear.
‘Earth’s dreams away, like troubled vapours, roll’
EARTH’S dreams away, like troubled vapours, roll,
From this full solemn hour, in life’s wild race
I pause, to commune with stern Death, and trace
His features in my fancy—and controul
Thought’s feverish workings. Heart! hear Hope’s
last knoll;
Thou lone church-yard, dark, dedicated place,
Where, with a thousand shadows we embrace,
One shadow long shall rest upon my soul!
To purify, and solemnize, and raise;
Nay, e’en to enlighten with its mystic gloom:
For we walk darkly in life’s blinding blaze;
That Heavenly Shadow deeply shall become
More precious far than light to my fi xed gaze—
Lengthening from the other side of yon awaiting tomb!Emmeline Wortley (1806–1855) 49
‘We live, in sooth, a threefold life below’
WE live, in sooth, a threefold life below;
Past, Present, Future claim us for their own,
And all their fetters are around us thrown.
Memory and Hope, while life’s mixed currents fl ow,
Open their Scenes before us, and we know
Their infl uence ever—neither sways alone;
But both united!—all our paths are strown
With their fair treasures, still of various show.
Least of all live we in the Present’s hour.
We shun it, as ’twere Life’s unkindliest clime;
Yet Present! thou alone rul’st strong in power:
The Past is but a mournful ghost sublime;
The Future—promise! Ye are life’s threefold dower,—
Past, Present, Future—Trinity of Time!
‘Nature! where’er thou art we there may fi nd’
NATURE! where’er thou art we there may fi nd
Food for the thought most healthful, and partake
Of pleasure all but heavenly—and e’en slake
That thirst for Knowledge which devours the mind.
Alas! how often prove we deaf and blind—
To thee, dear mother-monitress!—then wake
Too late!—to ourselves some wretched idol make,
That shall betray us when Hope proves unkind!—
Thou with munifi cence’ profusion so
Dost bless us oft; but men, unthankful men,
Poor sordid niggards to themselves, thus throw
Away thy gifts and blessings—grove and glen
The while re-echoing to the sighs that fl ow
From the unwise heart—again and oft again!1839
Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)
[See also 1849 and 1869]
The Shady Lane
WHENCE comest thou? shady lane, and why and how?
Thou, where with idle heart, ten years ago,
I wandered, and with childhood’s paces slow
So long unthought of, and remembered now!
Again in vision clear thy pathwayed side
I tread, and view thy orchard plots again
With yellow fruitage hung,—and glimmering grain
Standing or shocked through the thick hedge espied.
This hot still noon of August brings the sight;
This quelling silence as of eve or night,
Wherein Earth (feeling as a mother may
After her travail’s latest bitterest throes)
Looks up, so seemeth it, one half repose,
One half in effort, straining, suffering still.
(Written 1839; published 1869)
Henry Ellison (1811–1880)
[See also 1844]
Hopes, from the Spread of Phrenology
PHRENOLOGY! lay thy broad hand upon
The forehead of the coming Time, and say
What now is working at the brain—which way
The mighty thoughts, that will transform anon
The face of earth, are tending—mark’st thou, on
That so capacious brow, no new display,
No fresh developments, no signs, which may
To thy prophetic eye make clearly known
What shape the coming age will take? there isJohn Hanmer (1808–1881) 51
An hum of mighty changes! Hope takes cheer:
And Expectation stands on tiptoe; ’tis
A time of promise: prophecies we hear
Of man reclaimed by Nature to her sphere,
And mutual knowledge causing mutual bliss!
First Love
BLESSED be the hour when fi rst I gazed on thee!
Eve’s hour of holy rest, and that one star
Which led thy steps to where I stood; what are
Years to such moments? as to the young tree
The breath of spring, so they to us! yea, the
Pure breath of being;—and, oh, how that far
Calm star beamed down, with not one cloud to mar
Its beauty! as God gazed through it to see
The glory of his works! yea, ’twas thine eye,
Oh God! and it looked on approvingly!
The stars they are thine eyes, yea, every one:
Thou lookest forth from all things; and when I
Gazed on thee, Love, and felt but love alone,
God looked on thee thro’ my eyes as his own!
John Hanmer (1808–1881)
[See also 1840]
From a Picture, by Nicolo Poussin
THERE were two Satyrs ’neath a trailing vine,
And one his pipe did touch melodiously;
But old Silenus on a twisted line
Of branches swung, keeping in jeopardy
The sweet song and the music all divine:
Grey was his beard, how otherwise should’t be
With an old warrior who doth mind the day
When Bacchus thundered over Asia;
Purple his visage, of autumnal hue,
And well he knoweth all the gifts of wine:
Wine that the fair nymph Nysa loveth too;52 1839
And from her chalice, on the green hill’s side,
Pours to the hairy cloven-footed crew,
That with their dances wake the echoes wide.
Cassandra
WHEN from the dinted shores of Ilium
Sped Agamemnon in his bark away,
Pale rose Cassandra, and the things to come
Chanted with fateful rhyme, crying, “Oh stay
My bearer from this desecrated land
That was my father’s, henceforth now to be
A tale that shall to centuries expand,
So much it passeth all in misery,
Thou art the last that beareth love to me
Whom Phœbus loved,” and with her lofty eyes
She looked up to the clouded sun, “I see
Thy blood-stained fl oor, the household perjuries
In Argos.” Proudly smiled the king of men,
But Clytemnestra plotted darkly then.
A View in Holland
THE tide comes up the black and gusty river,
Slowly against it makes a boat its way,
In the rough gale the bending sedges shiver,
The dripping piles fl ing back the shattered spray;
There is a church, but none who come to pray,
For ’tis a week-day, and made fast the door,
But onward by a willow-sheltered bay
Hangs forth a sign, more tempting to the boor;
Wild sing the breezes from the northern sea
Flustering the topsails on the coast’s low line,
Wildly sings Hans within the lattice, he
Is fl ustered too, but ’tis with brantewein:
See on the sands a wandering group appear,
Mynherr Verkoop the pedlar, and his gear.John Hanmer (1808–1881) 53
Melancholy
THERE sat a maiden ’neath a regal tower
Girt with a forest of great oaks and pines,
It seemed a lodge of some high conquerour
In the old days, and round it creeping vines
Grew wildly, that no more men drank of now,
And in the topmost arch there was a bell
That with the wind did vibrate, vague and low
Sped o’er the hills its modulated swell,
Palely she sat, and at her side were things
Of strange device to measure earth and stars,
And a small quiet genius, with his wings
Upfolded, and his eyes still fi xed on hers.
Men uttered not her queenly name, but she
Had graved it in the dust, “Melancolie.”
The Origin of Music
“And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ.”—
Gen. c. 4.
THE generations of the race of Cain,
Children and sire have vanished from the earth,
Yet do the arts they multiplied remain,
Though the wide heavens were opened and the rain
Whelmed with its fl ood the world’s sin-wasted birth;
Oh ’twas not in the revelling house of mirth
Deep music, that thy earliest strains were born,
But in the wandering dwellings and forlorn
Of those blood-haunted fugitives—then fi rst
Did sorrow fi nd a loving utterance there,
And hope from thronging sounds divinely burst,
And thoughts rush forth that speech did never dare,
E’en their dread father less supremely curst
Seemed, in such accents mingling with their prayer.54 1839
Martin Tupper (1810 –1889)
[See also 1838, 1845, 1850, 1854, 1855 and 1860]
from A Modern Pyramid: To Commemorate A Septuagint of Worthies
Abraham
HAIL, friend of God, the paragon of faith!
Simply to trust, unanswering to obey,
This was thy strength; and happy sons are they
Father, who follow thee thro’ life and death,
Ready at His mysterious command
The heart’s most choice affectionate hopes to slay
With more than martyr’s suicidal hand,
Their sole suffi cing cause,—Jehovah saith,—
Their only murmured prayer,—His will be done:
Ev’n so, thy god-like spirit did not spare
Thy cherished own, thy promised only son,
Trusting that He, whose word was never vain,
Could raise to life the victim offered there,
And to the father give his child again.
Moses
HOW should I greet thee, God’s ambassador,
Great shepherd of the people,—how proclaim
In worthiest song thy more than human fame
Meek bard yet princely, vengeful conqueror,
Leader, and lawgiver?—thy hallowed name
E’en now with fears the captive bosom fi lls,
Though the dear love of thy grand Antitype
In glad assurance thro’ that bosom thrills:
Alas, thy faithless tribes, for judgment ripe,
Chose Ebal and the curse; didst thou not heed
When these thy children dared the dreadful deed
Whereat high noon was blind,—nor bless the grace,
That shall that stain from crime’s dark record wipe,
And love once more the long-rejected race?
Solon
TO know thyself,—a knowledge beyond price,
Which some of this world’s wisest cannot learn,
To search the heart, and keenly there discern
Even among its fl owers of ParadiseMartin T upper (1810 –1889) 55
The watchful subtle snake of cherished vice
And thus aware, to fl y it,—nor to fan
Those guilty sparks that else shall scorch and burn
Thine innocence,—this is thy wisdom, Man:
This, had no messenger of grace aloud
Proclaimed it for thy weal, of yonder sage
Separate in glory from that white-robed crowd,
Thou long hadst learnt: Solon, from age to age
One short full phrase a noble proof supplies
That thou wert wise as good, and good as wise.
Sappho
THE poisonous tooth of time, O shepherdess,
Hath killed thy thousand vines; a few scarr’d
shoots
Alone are green above the withered roots,
And thence we cherish an admiring guess
Of what the rich ripe vintage should have been:
Poor muse, they do thee wrong; they have not
seen
Those records lost of truth and tenderness,
They have not read thy heart—but harm thee still
Where, as unknown, their charity should bless,
Tainting thy memory with whispered ill:
Yet are those snatches of thy musical songs
Full of warm nature, and impassioned truth,
Love, beauty, sweetness, and eternal youth:
Sappho,—we praise thee rather for thy wrongs.
Confucius
—FOR thou art worthy, Seric Socrates,
Of the bright robe, and that fair coronet,
Meed of true goodness, on thy forehead set,
Worthy to walk in equal bliss with these
Thy peers, in Hades’ dreamy valley met;
For thine were pure and patriot services
High worth, and generous love of doing good,
Gilding the darkness of a barbarous clime
That paid thee wages of ingratitude,
After the Balaam cunning of a foe
Had drown’d thine efforts in adulterous crime
For righteous weal exchanging sinful woe:
Witness, ye spirits of the good and wise,
None recks of greatness till the great man dies.56 1839
Socrates
SELF-KNOWING, therefore humbled to the dust,
Self-curbing, therefore in a sensual age
Pure, patriotic, mild, religious, just,
Self-taught, yet moderate,—Athenian sage,
Albeit but faintly the recording page
Samples the precious harvest of thy brain,
Where Plato’s self, thine intellectual son,
And the scarr’d hand of gallant Xenophon
Have gathered up the fragments that remain
Of thy large speech, with wondrous wisdom fraught,
From those rich morsels we may guess the feast,
And note the Pisgah-summit of thy thought
Bright with true trust, that God hath never ceased
To care for all creative love hath wrought.
Plato
ANOTHER godlike son, O glorious land
Athens, glad mother of a mighty line,
In foremost rank of thine immortal band
Wise, great, and good, unchallenged takes his stand
Plato the master, Plato the divine:
For that, unveil’d before his favoured eyes
Truth’s everlasting dawn serenely rose
Glimmering from the windows of the skies,
And gold-bedropping, like the sun on streams,
The river of his rich poetic prose;
Yet clouded much by fancy’s misty dreams,
That eloquence an alpine torrent fl ows,
And thy strong mind, dim with ideal schemes,
Stands a stone mountain crown’d with melting snows.
Aristotle
IF aught of sterling wit, or natural worth,
The heights of thought, or depths of various lore
That to the mind’s own fountain gushing forth
Added its wealth as from an ocean store,
If these be honour, be that honour thine,
O human wonder, Intellect divine,
That spake of all things wisely,—taught aright
By nature’s voice, and reason’s inner sun,—
Still can we love thy not all human light
And hail thy wisdom, heathen Solomon:Martin T upper (1810 –1889) 57
Another praise be thine, O Stagyrite,
For that the world’s great winner, in thy school
His all of power, with all of knowledge, won,
Learning from thee to conquer and to rule.
Virgil
AS, for yourselves,—O birds, no nest ye build,
No fl eecy coats, O nibbling fl ocks, ye wear,
With sweets for you, O bees, no hive is fi ll’d,
O steers, no self-enriching yoke ye bear;
Thus for thyself, great prince of pastoral song,
Toil’d not thy modest muse, but for all time,
Yea, to the world thy polished strains belong;
Was it then virtue in thee, or half crime
A false humility, sublimely wrong,
To try to cheat thine Epic of its fame,
For that, to thee perfection seem’d ill done,
Hurling thy laurels to the jealous fl ame?
O Mantua, thou wert rich in such a son,
Yea, had thy Virgil been thine only one.
Horace
LYRIST of every age, of every clime,
Whose eye prophetic saw thy strong-built fame
Stand a perennial monument sublime,
Not all of thee shall perish: in thy name
Live memories embalmed of richest thought,
Far fl ashing wit, and satire’s wholesome smart,
Fine speech with feeling delicately fraught,
And patriot songs that with their generous glow
Warm to the love of home the wanderer’s heart:
How varied is the chaplet on thy brow,
How wreath’d of many praises; the bright bay,
With laughing rose, and ebrious ivy twin’d,
And myrtles of staid hue, and wild fl owers gay,
Shadow the changeful phases of thy mind.
Mary the Virgin
HAIL, Mary! blessed among women, hail!
How should I pass thee by, most favoured one,
As thus I greet thee in this visioned vale
Far other than on earth, when sad and pale
Beneath the bitter cross of that dear Son58 1839
Thy woman’s heart did faint; I note thee now
Walking in praise, and on thy modest brow
The coronet that tells of glory won:
O blest art thou, but not yet full thy bliss,
Albeit where erst the sword pierc’d through thy heart
Celestial joys in thrilling raptures dart;
For He, the tender fi rstling of thy love,
The precious child thy virgin lips did kiss,
Hath still to take his triumph from above.
Bede
AROUND thy memory there lingereth still
A rare and gracious savour, reverend man,
Whose patient toil so long ago began
To sink the sacred wells on Zion-hill,
Whence issued ancle-deep truth’s earliest rill,
That deepening soon, in copious torrents ran
From thee their sometime patriarch, until
They reach us fathomless, a mighty sea:
O simple priest, pious, and just, and true,
Religious, learned,—thousand thanks are due
From England, and her children unto thee:
Thou, like thy master, bowing His meek head,
Didst view thy perfect work of piety,
And die rejoicing it was fi nishéd.
Haroon Alraschid
VISIONS of Oriental pomp around
Teem on my sight; a grand ideal scene
Where upon Tigris Bagdat sits as queen
Rises in dreamy splendour from the ground;
I hear the clashing cymbals, and the sound
Of brazen horns, and loud monotonous drums
From turban’d thousands in their war array
About Alraschid, as the conqueror comes
From perjured Greece, triumphant in the fray:
Best lord, and wisest judge, that ever sate
In the black mantle of the Caliphate,
When we recall thy race and thee, Haroon,
We note thee still the fi rst, most good, most great,
Among those lesser stars the crescent moon.Martin T upper (1810 –1889) 59
Alfred
ALL hail, our own, our ancient peerless boast!
From thee thy Britain loves her all to date
Proud of a king, so wise, so good, so great,
Who pour’d the liberties we value most
The sacred rights we chiefl y venerate
In rich abundance round our sea-girt coast:
Where is thy tomb among us? where the spot
Ennobled by some record of thy worth,
True Father of thy country?—have we lost
All love of thee? hath England then forgot
Her patriot-prince, her lawgiver, her sage,
Who taught her, nourish’d her, and sent her forth
Rejoicing on her way, from age to age
Queen of the seas, and Empress of the earth?
Tell
O LIBERTY, sweet angel much maligned,
How have the sons of licence wrong’d thy name,—
What crimes, what follies of unhallowed aim
Have they not cast upon thee, too resigned
Meek martyr, and their lawless works of shame
With thine own wreath of grand achievement twined!
Not thus, yon gallant mountain-patriot,
Fair Switzerland, the darling of thy fame,
Caught to his outraged heart the rescued child,
And, just avenger, spared not, wavered not,
But with dread patience dared the noble deed,
On which glad Liberty approving smil’d;
For when she saw the savage Austrian bleed
She knew her own Swiss home, her own Swiss
children freed.
Columbus
THY soul was nerved with more than mortal force,
Bold mariner upon a chartless sea,
With none to second, none to solace thee,
Alone, who daredst keep thy resolute course
Thro’ the broad waste of waters, drear and dark,
Mid wrathful skies, and howling winds, and worse
The prayer, the taunt, the threat, the muttered curse
Of all thy brethren in that fragile bark:
For on thy brow, throbbing with hopes immense,60 1839
Had just ambition set his royal mark,
Enriching thee with noble confi dence
That having once thy venturous sails unfurl’d
No danger should defeat thy recompense
The god-like gift to man of half a world.
Raffaelle
HO!—thou that hither com’st, in gorgeous stole
Of many-coloured silk,—and round thy head
The rainbow hues of fancy richly shed,—
And eyes that in ecstatic transport roll,—
And looks that speak the triumph of the soul,—
Hail, young creative spirit! from whose mind
Teeming tumultuously with thoughts and things,
(The fl itting notion with strong power combin’d
Of fi xing all those grand imaginings,)
An intellectual world of wonder springs:
Raffaelle, thine all too perishable art
Fades from the time-stain’d walls; but not so fade
Our memories of thy skill;—those laurels start
Afresh for ever: walk thou in their shade.
Luther
COULDST thou look down upon us from they rest,
Where’er thy spirit hath its glorious home,
And note that persecuting horn of Rome
Waxing in subtle pow’r and pride unblest,
How would thy zeal fl ame out, thou second Paul:
Thy spurious children, who should still protest
Against a church apostate and impure
Now bid her prosper, and insanely call
The pampering of priestcraft, liberal!
Liberal,—to help in forging more secure
Chains for the conscience, fetters for the mind;
Liberal,—to quench our light in utter dark!
But prophecy hath told it: search and fi nd:
Curséd is he that shall receive the mark.
Jane Grey
SO young, so fair, so simple, so deceived!—
For all thy learning could not teach thee guile,
Nor warn thee from that base domestic wile
Which coil’d thee like a serpent, and bereavedMartin T upper (1810 –1889) 61
Thy heart of life, of loyal praise thy name,
Posterity is just; and from the blame
Of stealing for thyself another’s crown
And playing false in hot ambition’s game
Declares thee innocent: that little week
Of splendour forced and fear’d, so soon laid down,
Cost thee most bitter wages;—yet most sweet,
If prison-haunting wisdom bade thee seek
This heav’nly crown, for thy fair brow so meet,
This higher majesty my song would greet.
Shakspeare
WHO shall appraise Potosi’s hidden mines,
Or measure Oronooko’s gushing springs,
Or in a balance weigh the Apennines,
Fathom the deep, or span the polar rings?—
And who can sum thy wealth, exhaustless mind,
Or scale the heights of its imaginings
Where giant thoughts with beauteous fancies twin’d,
Stand wondrous, as the heaven-kissing hills?
Thy theme is Man: the universal heart
In sympathy with thee dissolves or thrills,
While the strong spells of nature leagued with art
Bind the world captive in a magic chain:
Thy peer is not yet born; our hope is vain,—
We may not look upon thy like again.
Harvey
THE life which is the blood: O heedless men,
How often unbelieving have ye heard
The side-dropp’d hints, that strew the written Word:
The fountain-heart, that pours the stream of life;
The circling wheel that sends it back agen
By vessels manifold; ye might have learned
From the fool’s scorn, a guide that never err’d,
Without the clumsier aid of scalpel-knife,
These truths for ages, had ye but discerned
The book of God with natural wisdom rife:
Still, Harvey, be thy patient genius praised,
The shrewdness of thy well-digested plan,
Whose hand the strangely-woven curtain raised
That veil the mysteries of life from man.62 1839
Milton
O LIGHT, denied to him, that thou art mine!
O blessed Sun, that I can joy in thee!
To praise the Love,—alas so lost on me,—
How gladly should I pour the hymn divine:
Yet all unlike this glorious blind old man
Mine inward eyes with no such radiance shine;
How seldom in that better sun I bask
How fainly would I, yet how faintly can:
Great Giver, might I unpresumptuous ask
Into my heart thy love its light to pour,
Take all instead thy righteous mercy wilt;
Not so, for Thou art God: give this, give more,
The richest glory to the poorest guilt,
So with thy Milton shall my soul adore.
Izaak Walton
BY guiltless guile the spotted trout to snare,
In idlesse all unblamed to while away
With contemplation sweet the sunny day,
To stroll in morning’s dewy freshness where
The stream invited, and grey-mantled sky,
And so with buoyant fl oat, or mimic fl y,
To win the sinless triumphs of thine art,—
These were thy simple pastimes, kind old man,
These are thy fame: yet would I praise thee more
For the rich treasure of a childlike heart
That longs to compass all the good it can,
Tender and self-forgetful, gushing o’er
With cheerful thoughts and generous feelings when
Loving thou yearnest on thy fellow-men.
Isaac Newton
WHEN craft and ignorance with envious tongue
At that lone Florentine their malice hurl’d,
On thee his robe the parting prophet fl ung
And hail’d thy dawn to glorify the world
Like the young moon the clouds of night among
Modest, and solitary, shedding forth
O’er the broad universe truth’s holy light:
Yet ev’n against the meekness of thy worth
Detraction’s withering breath, and jealous spite
Shed, not all impotent, their cankering blight,Martin T upper (1810 –1889) 63
For care sat with thee at thy silent hearth,
O gentle child of wisdom, whose keen eye
Dissolv’d the sunbeam, pierc’d the depths of earth,
And read the unwritten charters of the sky.
Czar Peter
TURN, wondrous shade of an immortal man,
And give my welcome favourable heed,
While my mute soul considers each bright deed
That gems thy crown, imperial artizan,
Whose patriot labour thy rude country freed
From Scythian darkness; for to thee, great prince,
Despite a Jezebel-sister’s curséd plan
Of luring thee to pleasure’s guilty ways,
Justly belongs the honourable praise
Of waking a barbarian world of slaves
To fame and power, that have not faded since:
Nobly the bronze colossus tells thy worth,
For he that blesses, helps, improves, and saves,
Is the true hero of this strife-torn earth.
Handel
AWAKE, my glory, and the world’s delight!
Bring hither tabret, harp, and lute, and lyre,
And greet him with the whole angelic quire,
For Handel now from earth has wing’d his fl ight
A holy bard in chariot of fi re,
To mingle with your band in garments bright.
Oh, with what harmony to hymn aright
Thy canzonet of praise, monarch of song,
So that its music may enchant the mind,
Like some sweet air, that might to thee belong,
Where holiness with melody combin’d,
Majestic thought in thrilling sound express’d,
Cheat of their sorrows thine indebted kind,
And soothe our souls with harpings of the Blest!
Wesley
HENCE, ye profane: and thou, mine honest muse,
Banish the silly blush from thy false cheek,—
With liberal voice to Wesley’s glory speak,
The holy man whom God was pleased to choose
His instrument; from one so good, so meek,64 1839
High honour to withhold, or to refuse
Were folly, if not sin; we hail thee then
Glad bearer of good tidings unto men,
Zealous and noble, worthy of the phrase
In which thy Lord, and our’s, hath greeted thee,
Well done, thou faithful servant, thine be praise!
To think,—the cloisters thy pure feet have trod
Mine have trod too; grace grant it,—ev’n to me,
That like a Wesley I may walk with God.
Johnson
STERN moralist, whose potent intellect
Flooded the world with all the Nile of truth,
Slave to no master, prisoner of no sect,
Albeit disease, and want, and harsh neglect
Were long the bitter portion of thy youth,
Thine Atlas mind stood fi rm beneath the weight,
Preaching the noble homily to men
That poverty hath uses real and great,
In quickening thought, urging the sluggish pen,
Claiming due labours of the listless brow,
Forcing its fl owers of wit, and fruits of sense,
And for man’s wonder, bidding grandly fl ow
The deluge of a Johnson’s eloquence,
Like thundering Niagára, strong and slow.
Washington
HOW might a Briton bless thee without blame,—
Yet how deny thy worth his honest praise?—
Great, virtuous, modest, whose unspotted name
Is stamp’d in gold upon the rolls of fame,
Whose brow is circled by her brightest bays,—
Part of thy glory still let England claim,
Her foe she pardons, while she loves her son:
Into what times, what regions shall we roam
To fi nd thy peer,—Leonidas in fi ght,
Pure Cincinnatus, meek retiring home,
Fabius the wise, or Cato the upright?—
Nature hath cull’d the best of Greece and Rome,
And moulding all their virtues into one,
Gave to her infant world a Washington.Emmeline Wortley (1806 –1855) 65
Nelson
WELL hast thou done thy duty, gallant son;
What truer fame can greet a mortal’s ear
Than duty’s task heroically done?—
So are they hail’d, who better crowns have won:
Thou, to the patriot’s soul so justly dear,
O let us blot thy failings with a tear,
And read alone the record of thy worth;
Man without pride, or hate, or fraud, or fear,
Who banish’d discord, and gave peace to earth,
Thine was the generous heart, though gentle, brave
The will to bless, the godlike power to save:
What nobler pæan can the poet raise?
A glorious life, an honourable grave,
Trafalgar, and Aboukir, be thy praise!
Emmeline Wortley (1806 –1855)
[See also 1838]
Shores of the Danube
BY these proud Danube shores, of yore was heard
The bray of trumpet and the beat of drum;
For here did marshalled hostile armies come!
Here the fi erce war-horse had his mettle stirred,
And pawing, ploughed the ground; here loud the word
Was given to charge—to strike; but now no hum
Of multitudes is heard—the air is dumb;
By the road-side a few tired serfs ungird
Themselves for rest—with their hot morning’s work
Weary, though still ’tis morning!—for their day
Soon openeth!—Morn to their sealed eyes grows
murk:
Near stands an ancient cross that seems to say,
“My might did tame the crescents of the Turk;
In me trust alway!—till the Earth melt away!”66 1839
On Venice
VENICE!—the sea that fl ows thro’ thy fair streets
Should surely be a weeping sea of tears,
Mourning thy funeral Beauty’s faded years,
And all that sadly there the grieved eye meets!
My Heart, thy charms full sorrowfully greets,
Too sad thy splendour to my Soul appears!—
And yet thy melancholy more endears—
More wins to thee!—whose tale loud fame repeats!
Where are thy monarch-nobles of the old days?
Where thy Sea-Cæsars?—Doges of proud name!—
Where thy vast victories, past all count or praise?
Played for between Oblivion pale and Fame!
In thee a Queen-like Phantom meets our gaze;
Thine is the Ruin!—be all Earth’s—the Shame!
‘Sweet Heaven is far—and so art thou—mine own!’
SWEET Heaven is far—and so art thou—mine own!
And Earth and Sorrow are too near me still!—
Wherefore my days are dedicate to ill,
And I am ever mournful and alone!
Ah! Heaven and thou are far!—No hope hath shone
Of late for me!—this silent heart to thrill
And lorn I droop, whom chilling terrors fi ll
For ever!—So I make my ceaseless moan!
Wearily—wearily I bend and bow,
With many a sigh suppressed and hidden tear,
To Sorrow’s power—my ruthless tyrant now.
Still day by day my sufferings more appear:
Ah! Heaven—sweet Heaven—’tis coldly far;—and
thou!—
And Earth, and Grief, and Death, are all too near!
‘Come to my Soul, long-banished thoughts again’
COME to my Soul, long-banished thoughts again;
Come thoughts, that breathe of hope and joy,
once more!
And all the freshness of my Soul restore.Emmeline Wortley (1806 –1855) 67
I cut, at length, Grief’s cold and cankering chain;
Too long my spirit under Sorrow’s reign
Hath borne to bow; now all I most abhor
Will I defy and scorn!—’tis done—’tis o’er!—
Long on a couch of iron I have lain!—
Now will I call back my sweet dreams of old;
Win them and wear them—and forget, at last,
That life is changeful, and that love is cold.
I will pluck roses that shall, covering, cast
Their roseate shadows o’er the gloomy mould
Heaped o’er mine earlier hopes, that faded fast!
‘There is a Music in my mind to-night’
THERE is a Music in my mind to-night—
A visitation of sweet thoughts—and rare!—
I know not whence, but feel them springing there,
Aëry and delicate, as Wind or Light—
That music in my mind of magic might—
This light cast down, on every thought, so fair—
This stirring sweetness, like to moving air.—
Can this be love?—the immortal and the bright!—
’Tis surely love! for nought beside can be
So strange and yet so sweet, so soft yet strong.
’Tis love, the crown of all, crowned mystery!—
My thoughts are gathering to a starry throng,
And scattering forth their brightness far and free—
Yet Love that Sun, shines, dazzling, these among!
On Leaving England
BRIGHT Sun of morning! shine on earth and sea!—
In all the glowing mystery of thy might,
’Tis England waning in thy world of light!—
Let Her go down in Thy great rising free!—
Let Her thus fade away triumphantly—
From her adoring children’s aching sight!—
In splendours of new promise ever bright,
My Country!—still a glorious object be!—
Still be a glorious object to the last,
Long as thou’rt seen—in triumph be beheld!—68 1839
Our eyes on thee unwearyingly we cast!
Shine on!—shine on!—in majesty unquelled,
Shine in the Present, Future, and the Past,—
Smile—shine!—these parting tears by proud thoughts
be dispelled!
To the Queen
BE all bright blessings heaped, and richly stored
For thee!—fair Maiden-Majesty!—who now,
With every grace endowed that wins Love’s vow,
Rul’st our Imperial England!—our adored!—
(On which with thee be endless blessings poured!)
Lo!—that most Queenly—yet Seraphic brow!—
The youthful and the beautiful art thou!
The Destinies, that o’er all empires lord,
Were surely melted by thy smile serene,
Melted and softened into tenderness;
Mild Ministers and dear Allies they lean,
And do thy gentle bidding—we address
Such prayers to Heaven for thee—beloved Queen!—
As for our Souls we breathe—when urging Heaven
to bless!
‘Would, from the o’erfl owings of Youth’s honeyed Urn’
WOULD, from the o’erfl owings of Youth’s honeyed
Urn,
That we might hoard one precious drop and pure,
The gnawing anguish of vain thirst to cure—
Or, at the least, to make less fi erce—when burn
All the after-fevers in our Hearts—that mourn
For things that ne’er again shall charm—allure;
For earthly good is made not to endure;
And earthly hopes, once lost, shall scarce return!
Ah! from that Urn one sweet drop could we
hoard,
To soothe the fi ery pangs of our distress,
When all we lose is bitterly deplored!Emmeline Wortley (1806 –1855) 69
But for one pure and precious drop to bless,
To soothe, to charm us—(in our deep hearts
stored)—
With something like our own lost happiness!
‘Forget me!—but remember all my love!’
FORGET me!—but remember all my love!—
Ev’n as a high and holy thing apart;
Treasure it ever in thy conscious Heart,
All other Memories—as all Hopes above!—
Thy faithlessness I will not then reprove;
That tribute from thee shall allay the smart
Of wounded Love, whose trebly-poisoned dart
Smote me and smites!—bound in those fetters
move!—
Be chained to that deep Recollection still!—
Cherish that keen remembrance, and be sure
No Heart can with a like devotion thrill!
Forget me!—but that love which must endure,
That feeling which doth all my being fi ll—
Forget thou not!—it is too high—too pure!1840
Frederick William Faber (1814–1863)
The Iconoclast
WHENCE comes this sinking heart, these failing
powers?
Something hath touched my thoughts: they have
no life,
And stir, like sickly things, in idle strife,
And madness haunts me all these midnight hours.
Friend! thou hast done it: thou hast broken down
All mine old images, and didst uncrown
The glorious things that reigned within my heart,
Because thou art more glorious. Hear me, then:—
If ever thou dost love me less, thou art
A curse, a blight, a marvel among men!
The spirit thou wert proud to call thine own,
Still round thy thoughts, a broken wreck, shall
cling
And sit, upbraiding thee, a crownless king
In the poor ruined heart that thou wouldst leave
so lone.
Absence from Oxford
CITY of God, my best and truest home!
When from thy holy places I depart
By far-off hills and river banks to roam,
I bear thy name about upon my heart.
City of glorious towers! whene’er I feel
The world’s rude coldness o’er my spirit steal,
Then dost thou rise to view; thine elmy groves
Vocal with hymns of praise, thine old grey halls,
Where the wan sun of autumn sweetest falls,
Yon hill-side wood the nightingale so loves,
Thy rivers twain, of gentle foot, that pass,
Fed from a hundred willow-girdled wells,Frederick William Faber (1814–1863) 71
Through the rich meadowlands of long green
grass,
To the loud tunes of all thy convent-bells!
Cambridge
AH me! were ever river-banks so fair,
Gardens so fi t for nightingales as these?
Were ever haunts so meet for summer breeze,
Or pensive walk in evening’s golden air?
Was ever town so rich in court and tower
To woo and win stray moonlight every hour?
One thing thou lackest much: the wild wind
swells,
The feast-days come, and yet night silent falls
On the poor listening stream and patient halls;
Thou art a voiceless place,—thou hast no bells.
Yea, but for thy mute shrines, thou wert a town
That might grey Oxford’s vocal towers disdain,
Where Isis fl ows and Cherwell ripples down,
Timing their several voices to the strain!
Sonnet-Writing
To F. W. F.
YOUNG men should not write sonnets, if they dream
Some day to reach the bright bare seats of fame:
To such, sweet thoughts and mighty feelings seem
As though, like foreign things, they rarely came.
Eager as men, when haply they have heard
Of some new songster, some gay-feathered bird,
That hath o’er blue seas strayed in hope to fi nd
In our thin foliage here a summer home—
Fain would they catch the bright things in their
mind,
And cage them into sonnets as they come.
No; they should serve their wants most sparingly,
Till the ripe time of song, when young thoughts
fail,72 1840
Then their sad sonnets, like old bards, might be
Merry as youth, and yet grey-haired and hale.
Aged Cities
I HAVE known cities with the strong-armed Rhine
Clasping their mouldered quays in lordly sweep;
And lingered where the Maine’s low waters shine
Through Tyrian Frankfort; and been fain to weep
’Mid the green cliffs where pale Mosella laves
That Roman sepulchre, imperial Trèves.
Ghent boasts her street, and Brùges her moon-
light square;
And holy Mechlin, Rome of Flanders, stands,
Like a queen-mother, on her spacious lands;
And Antwerp shoots her glowing spire in air.
Yet have I seen no place, by inland brook,
Hill-top, or plain, or trim arcaded bowers,
That carries age so nobly in its look,
As Oxford with the sun upon her towers.
Admonition
I KNOW thee not, bright friend! but that thy looks
Do draw me to thee, with thy boyhood rushing,
As a sweet fever, through thy veins, and gushing
From thy clear eyes in merry falls, like brooks
Leaping, clear crystal things, from their stone
fountains,
And waking echoes in the noonday mountains.
This is no place for thee; be warned in time.—
Thou must go haunt some free and breezy knoll,
Ere this grey city come with spell sublime,
Freezing her heartless state into thy soul.
Thou hast been surely cradled out of doors,
And the great forms that nursed thee are the
truest;
And, though these courts were Heaven’s own
azure fl oors,
Yet days are coldest where the skies are bluest.John Hanmer (1808 –1881) 73
Old-Fashioned Houses
For a Lady Fond of Old Furniture
SWEET are old Courts with dates above the doors,
And yew-trees clipped in shapes, and cedar walks,
And lawns whereon a quiet peacock stalks,
And leaden casements, and black shining fl oors,
And arm-chairs carved like good cathedral stalls,
And huge French clocks, and bedsteads most
inviting,
And stiff old ladies hung upon the walls,
Famed in the days of English Memoir-writing:—
Places whose very look kind thoughts might draw
E’en to Anne Stuart or William of Nassau.
Sweeter than Tudor-stricken shrines are they,
With pleasant grounds and rivers lingering by,—
Quaint homes, that shed a pure, domestic ray
O’er the dull time of English history.
John Hanmer (1808 –1881)
[See also 1839]
England
ARISE up, England, from the smoky cloud
That covers thee; the din of whirling wheels:
Not the pale spinner, prematurely bowed
By his hot toil, alone the infl uence feels
Of all this deep necessity for gain:
Gain still; but deem not only by the strain
Of engines on the sea and on the shore,
Glory, that was thy birthright, to retain.
Oh thou that knewest not a conqueror,
Unchecked desires have multiplied in thee,
Till with their bat-wings they shut out the sun:
So in the dusk thou goest moodily,
With a bent head, as one who gropes for ore,
Heedless of living streams that round him run.74 1840
To the Chartists
WITH doubtful purpose, through the doubtful night,
Your spearheads glimmering in the misty moon,
Why gather ye; and with wild lyric tune
Call up the wondering cocks before the light?
Oh what confl icting sense of wrongs or right
Marshalled ye thus; and in the star-led noon
Of sleep bade forth? Hers is a better boon,
Dear countrymen, than that for which ye fi ght.
Think ye to utter, as the Sybil doth,
Rugged, and strange, but pèrdurable things;
The world’s ordainèd counsel with mad mouth?
Now heavy-laden Time wild stories brings
Of Nostradamus; and the world is drowth,
Gaping for clouds—but Truth keeps the old springs.
Winter
TO the short days, and the great vault of shade,
The whitener of the hills, we come—alas,
There is no colour in the faded grass,
Save the thick frost on its hoar stems arrayed.
Cold is it, as a melancholy maid,
The latest of the seasons now doth pass,
With a dead garland, in her icy glass
Setting its spikes about her crispèd braid.
The streams shall breathe, along the orchards laid,
In the soft spring-time; and the frozen mass
Melt from the snow-drift; fl owerets where it was
Shoot up—the cuckoo shall delight the glade;
But to new glooms through some obscure crevasse*
She will have past—that melancholy maid.
* “It ’gan out crepe at some crevasse.” CHAUCER’s House of Fame.
The Spider
IF any of the Arachnean race,
Fat and well-fi lled be near, let him beware
Of thee, old Spider; with such stealthy pace
That travellest through the frore autumnal air:John Hanmer (1808 –1881) 75
So fi erce a hunger drives thee from thy lair,
To feed like Ugolino on thy kind;
Rapine is all before thee; and behind
Thy broken web—that on its fi lm doth bear
Thick drops of cold uncomfortable dew,
Like those which on the dying leaves are spread.
The fl ies creep doors and window corners through;
Gaunt are thy sides—no more by tree or shed,
Can they that pensile citadel renew,
In which thy gluttonous youth so full was fed.
Art
AS o’er the sea’s deep world-sustaining breast,
Climbing the steep horizon, onward bear
The thought-wing’d ships; and each his track more fair
Believes, for ’tis his own, than all the rest;
Which not the less doth fade as ’tis imprest;
And the great waters, and cloud-traversed air,
With their enduring might, are only there;
And space of days unmeasured, East, and West:
Dread realms of Art, illimitable as ocean,
So fares man’s spirit o’er your region waves;
Proudly, and lonely, with a choral motion;
Sunshine he courts, but tempests too he braves;
Seeking the port, where, for their heart’s devotion,
Fame lights her star over such seamen’s graves.
The Ballot
LEST in each vein thenceforth a poison fl ow,
Making thee one pale mass of quickening ill,
Rife with new monsters ’neath the Moon, until
In some prodigious night a Cæsar grow;
England, abjure the voice, that loud, or low,
With subtle change as if ’twere natural, still
Urges “The Ballot” on thy feverish will;
Thy rights of old were never conquered so:
But men in whom Plantagenet’s red blood
Ran bright, or Tudor’s, on their cousin kings
Looked sternly, and for popular rights upstood.76 1840
Time changes all—if it hath changed these things,
Oh see not yet, within a box of wood,
A place for Peace to fold her famous wings.
Richard Monckton Milnes (1809 –1885)
[See also 1838 and 1844]
On T urner’s Picture
Of the Téméraire Man-of-War, Towed into Port by a Steamer
for the Purpose of Being Broken Up
SEE how that small concentrate fi ery force
Is grappling with the glory of the main,
That follows, like some grave heroic corse,
Dragged by a suttler from the heap of slain.
Thy solemn presence brings us more than pain—
Something which Fancy moulds into remorse,
That We, who of thine honour hold the gain,
Should from its dignity thy form divorce.
Yet will we read in thy high-vaunting Name,
How Britain did what France could only dare,
And, while the sunset gilds the darke’ning air,
We will fi ll up thy shadowy lines with fame,
And, tomb or temple, hail thee still the same,
Home of great thoughts, memorial Téméraire!
Caroline Norton (1808 –1877)
On Seeing the Bust of the Young Princess de Montfort
(In the studio of Bartolini, at Florence)
SWEET marble! didst thou merely represent,
In lieu of her on whom our glances rest,
Some common loveliness,—we were content,
As with a modell’d beauty, well express’d;
But, by the very skill which makes thee seem
So like HER bright and intellectual face,Caroline Norton (1808 –1877) 77
The heart is led unsatisfi ed to dream;
For sculpture cannot give the breathing grace,
The light which plays beneath that shadowy brow,
Like sunshine on the fountains of the south,—
The blush which tints that cheek with roseate glow,—
The smile which hovers round that angel-mouth:
No! such the form o’er which Pygmalion sigh’d—
Too fair to be complete while SOUL was still denied!
The Fornarina
AND bless’d was she thou lovedst, for whose sake
Thy wit did veil in fanciful disguise
The answer which thou wert compell’d to make
To Rome’s High Priest, and call’d her then “Thine
Eyes;”*
Tho’ of her life obscure there is no trace,
Save where its thread with THY bright history twines,—
Tho’ all we know of her be that sweet face
Whose nameless beauty from thy canvass shines,—
Dependent still upon her Raphael’s fame,
And but recorded by her low degree,
As one who had in life no higher claim
Than to be painted and be loved by thee;—
Yet would I be forgot, as she is now,
Once to have press’d my lips on that seraphic brow!
* Leo X., visiting Raphael in his studio, and seeing there the Fornarina, asked who and what she was?
the painter replied, “Sono i miei occhi.”
‘Because I know that there is that in me’
BECAUSE I know that there is that in me
Of which thou shouldst be proud, and not ashamed,—
Because I feel one made thy choice should be
Not even by fools and slanderers rashly blamed,—
Because I fear, howe’er thy soul may strive
Against the weakness of that inward pain,
The falsehoods which my enemies contrive
Not always seek to wound thine ear in vain,—78 1840
Therefore I sometimes weep, when I should smile,
At all the vain frivolity and sin
Which those who know me not (yet me revile)—
My would-be judges—cast my actions in;
But else their malice hath nor sting nor smart—
For I appeal from them, Beloved, to thine own heart!
‘Like an enfranchised bird, who wildly springs’
LIKE an enfranchised bird, who wildly springs,
With a keen sparkle in his glancing eye
And a strong effort in his quivering wings,
Up to the blue vault of the happy sky,—
So my enamour’d heart, so long thine own,
At length from Love’s imprisonment set free,
Goes forth into the open world alone,
Glad and exulting in its liberty:
But like that helpless bird, (confi ned so long,
His weary wings have lost all power to soar,)
Who soon forgets to trill his joyous song,
And, feebly fl uttering, sinks to earth once more,—
So, from its former bonds released in vain,
My heart still feels the weight of that remember’d chain.
To My Books
SILENT companions of the lonely hour,
Friends, who can never alter or forsake,
Who for inconstant roving have no power,
And all neglect, perforce, must calmly take,—
Let me return to YOU; this turmoil ending
Which worldly cares have in my spirit wrought,
And, o’er your old familiar pages bending,
Refresh my mind with many a tranquil thought:
Till, haply meeting there, from time to time,
Fancies, the audible echo of my own,
’Twill be like hearing in a foreign clime
My native language spoke in friendly tone,
And with a sort of welcome I shall dwell
On these, my unripe musings, told so well.William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 79
The Weaver
LITTLE they think, the giddy and the vain,
Wandering at pleasure ’neath the shady trees,
While the light glossy silk or rustling train
Shines in the sun or fl utters in the breeze,
How the sick weaver plies the incessant loom,
Crossing in silence the perplexing thread,
Pent in the confi nes of one narrow room,
Where droops complainingly his cheerless head:—
Little they think with what dull anxious eyes,
Nor by what nerveless, thin, and trembling hands,
The devious mingling of those various dyes
Were wrought to answer Luxury’s commands:
But the day cometh when the tired shall rest,—
Where weary Lazarus leans his head on Abraham’s breast!
William Wordsworth (1770 –1850)
[See also 1842 and 1845]
On a Portrait of I. F., Painted by Margaret Gillies
We gaze—nor grieve to think that we must die,
But that the precious love this friend hath sown
Within our hearts, the love whose fl ower hath blown
Bright as if heaven were ever in its eye,
Will pass so soon from human memory;
And not by strangers to our blood alone,
But by our best descendents be unknown,
Unthought of—this may surely claim a sigh.
Yet, blessed Art, we yield not to dejection;
Thou against Time so feelingly dost strive:
Where’er, preserved in this most true refl ection,
An image of her soul is kept alive,
Some lingering fragrance of the pure affection,
Whose fl ower with us will vanish, must survive.
(Written 1840; published 1851)80 1840
To I. F.
The star which comes at close of day to shine
More heavenly bright than when it leads the morn,
Is Friendship’s emblem, whether the forlorn
She visiteth, or, shedding light benign
Through shades that solemnise Life’s calm decline,
Doth make the happy happier. This have we
Learnt, Isabel, from thy society,
Which now we too unwillingly resign
Though for brief absence. But farewell! the page
Glimmers before my sight through thankful tears,
Such as start forth, not seldom, to approve
Our truth, when we, old yet unchill’d by age,
Call thee, though known but for a few fl eet years,
The heart-affi anced sister of our love!
(Written 1840; published 1851)1841
Henry Alford (1810 –1871)
[See also 1845]
‘Each morn the same sun rises on our day’
EACH mory,
Measuring with every year his usual round;
The merry bells that for our birthdays sound,
And those that knoll us to our homes of clay,
Speak ever with one voice; the skies obey
Spring whispering soft, and summer blossom-crowned,
And autumn fl ush, and winter icy-bound:
Down Life’s smooth channel Ages sleep their way.
The babe that, smiling in her slumber, lies
Lapt in thy breast, hath been there oft before;
This day, this room, hath all been acted o’er;
And even the thought not fi rst in me doth rise;—
Time measures but the course of human will;
’Tis we that move, while Providence is still.
‘There is a bright space in yon rolling cloud’
THERE is a bron rolling cloud
Betokening the presence of the moon;—
Into the pure sky she will travel soon,
In clearest beauty, free from envious shroud.
Even so to thee, my soul’s sweet partner, bowed
With pain severe, the light of hope was shewn;
And thou art now in æther of thine own,
A clear blue space, with perfect calm endowed;
And this young babe, a treasure newly found,
Like some fair star attendant at thy side,
Shall journey on, through ease and peril tried:
To him, whose being in your own is bound,
For blest example and high solace given,—
Heaven at life’s end, and life itself a heaven.82 1841
To the Yellow Cistus
FLOWER, that with thy silken tapestry
Of fl exible petals interwove with green,
Clothest the mountain-walls of this calm scene;
We, a love-led poetic company,
Pronounce thee happy; if happiness it be
In every cleft the bright grey rocks between
To plant thy seemly gems, and reign the queen
Of pathside-blossoms over wood and lea.
Live, and of those poor fools who idly moan
Thy fragile lifetime’s shortness, reck not aught;
Thou diest not, when thy ripe blooms are strown
On the damp earth, or by the tempest caught;
Thou hast a future life to them unknown—
In the eternity of human thought.
St. Robert’s Cave, Knaresborough*
WE gazed intent upon the murderous cave;
Too fair a place, methinks, for deeds of blood.
Above, the rocks, dappled with pendent wood,
Rose sheltering: and below with rippling wave
The crystal Nidd fl owed by. The wondrous tale
That from of old had turned our young cheeks pale,
Came crowding on the present; yonder stood
The guilt-worn student, skilled without avail
In ancient lore; and yonder seemed to lie
The melancholy corse, year after year
Sending to Heaven its silent vengeance-cry,
Till Aram’s hour was come, and He, whose ear
Was open, tracked the murderer where he fl ed,
And wrath’s right-aiming stroke descended on his head.
* The scene of the murder of Daniel Clarke by Eugene Aram.
Written at York on the Day of the Coronation of Victoria, June 28, 1838
SHINE out, thou Sun, and let the minster-towers
Pour forth their solemn music, and the crowd
Utter their oft-repeated shouts and loud;
Let little children bless the gladsome hoursHenry Alford (1810 –1871) 83
Of this auspicious day; for there are powers
Undreamt of by the selfi sh and the proud,
That work when Avarice in the dust is bowed,
And mean Utility. The summer fl owers
That toil not neither spin, the deep-blue sky,
The ever-twinkling waves that gird our land,
Have taught ye to rejoice: therefore pass by,
Ye coloured pageants;—shout, each girl and boy:—
Ill fare the heart that doth not feel the joy!
Summit of Skiddaw, July 7, 1838
AT length here stand we, wrapt as in the cloud
In which light dwelt before the sun was born,
When the great fi at issued, in the morn
Of this fair world; alone and in a shroud
Of dazzling mist, while the wind, whistling loud,
Buffets thy streaming locks:—result forlorn
For us who up yon steep our way have worn,
Elate with hope, and of our daring proud.
Yet though no stretch of glorious prospect range
Beneath our vision,—neither Scottish coast
Nor ocean-island, nor the future boast
Of far-off hills descried,—I would not change
For aught on earth this solitary hour
Of Nature’s grandest and most sacred power.
Descent of the Same
GLORY on glory greets our wondering sight
As we wind down these slopes; mountain and plain
Robed in rich sunshine, and the distant main
Lacing the sky with silver; and yon height,
So lately left in clouds, distinct and bright.
Anon the mist enwraps us; then again
Burst into view lakes, pastures, fi elds of grain,
And rocky passes, with their torrents white.
So on the head, perchance, and highest bent
Of thine endeavour, Heaven may stint the dower
Of rich reward long hoped; but thine ascent84 1841
Was full of pleasures,—and the teaching hour
Of disappointment hath a kindly voice,
That moves the spirit inly to rejoice.
Wymeswold, April 1837
DEAR streamlet, tripping down thy devious course,
Or lulled in smoothest pools of sombre hue,
Or breaking over stones with murmurs hoarse,
To thee one grateful strain is surely due
From me, the poet of thy native wolds,
Now that the sky is golden in the west,
And distant fl ocks are bleating from their folds,
And the pale eve-star lifts her sparkling crest.
Would it were thus with thee, when summer suns
Shed their strong heats, and over fi eld and hill
Swims the faint air, and all the cattle shuns
The brighter slopes; but then thy scanty rill
Has dwindled to a thread, and, creeping through
The tangled herbage, shelters from the view.
Brussels
THE peaceful moon sheds downward from the sky
Upon the sleeping city her soft light;
Lines of storm-laden vapour heavily
From the low north advance upon the night;
The minster-towers are seen in vision bright
In front, distinct with fretted tracery;
And long glades stretch beneath this giddy height,
Dappled with shadows dark of tower and tree.
Such wert thou, Brussels, when I gazed on thee;
Thou, at whose name the circumstance of war
Rose to my youthful fancy; now no more
A sound to move to tears; to memory
Henceforth, as ever unto freedom, dear,
In virtue of this night so soft and clear.Henry Alford (1810 –1871) 85
Waterloo
THEY stood upon these plains, and side by side
Did battle for the world, too long enthralled
To the universal tyrant; one was called,
And one was left to cross the homeward tide;
Both in their glory, as in arms, allied:
But the loud voice of fame is hushed asleep,
Their sires are gone, no more their widows weep,
Their orphan sons forget them in their pride.
Yet deem not that they sold their lives for nought:
Who, that hath springing in his breast the fount
Of self-devoting love, the cost would count,
So might he in those favoured ranks have fought,
Increasing by his single strength’s amount
That blessed victory for freedom wrought?
My Ancestors
UNKNOWN it is to me, who handed down
From sire to son mine humble family;
Whether they dwelt in low obscurity,
Or by achievements purchased high renown:
Whether with princely or baronial crown
Their brows were bound, or martyr-wreath of fl ame:
No glories mark the track through which my name
Hath come: I only know it as mine own.
Yet am I one of no mean parentage:
The poorest line of Christian ancestry
Might serve upon the world’s unbounded stage
To act God’s dealings: all mankind might see
More truth than now they know, were this my line
Of distant sires their evidence to join.
On My Stone Inkstand
LOUD ranged the tumult: Ocean far and near
Seethed with wild anger, up the sloping sand
Driving the shreds of foam; while, half in fear,
We battled with the tempest, on the strand86 1841
Scarcely upheld; or, clinging arm on arm,
In wedge compact:—now would we venture brave
Into the trench of the retreating wave;
Now shoreward fl ee, with not all-feigned alarm.
A challenge did my gentle sister speak:
“Yon pebble fetch, ’mongst those that furthest roll,
Pierced on one face with an unsightly hole!”
Beneath a crested wave, that curled to break,
I grasped the prize, not scathless; and since then
That stone hath held the stuff that feeds my truant pen.
‘We want but little: in the morning tide’
WE want but little: in the morning-tide,
Bread to renew our energies; at noon,
Cool shade, to quiet evening yielding soon;
And then a ramble by the hedgerow side,
Or what our cottage-embers can provide
Of social comfort; and at night, the boon
Of peaceful slumber, when the gleamy moon
Up the lone heavens in starry state doth ride.
All that is more than these, into our life
By accident of place or station brought,
Feeds not the silent growth of ripening thought,
Wisdom best learned apart from throngs and strife,
In the broad fi elds, the sky’s unvalued wealth,
And seasons gliding past us in their stealth.
‘The inward pleasure of our human soul’
THE inward pleasure of our human soul
Oweth no homage to the tyrant Will:
Whether the roving spirit take its fi ll
Of strange delight, watching the far waves roll
And break upon the shore,—or by the bowl
Of some moss-lined fountain cool and still,
Or by the music of a tinkling rill,
Wander in maze of thought, without control:
Nor can the chains of ill-assured belief
Fetter the strivings of the deathless mind;
Nor dull prescription bound the throes of grief;John Clare (1793 –1864) 87
Spirits, in action nor degree confi ned,
Range the vast system:—whither, then, should I
But to sweet Nature for my wisdom fl y?
John Clare (1793 –1864)
[See also 1842, 1844 and 1861]
The four sonnets below are taken from their fi rst publication in The English Journal, No. 20, Saturday,
May 15, 1841.
‘Maid of Walkherd, meet again’
MAID of Walkherd, meet again,
By the wilding in the glen;
By the oak against the door,
Where we often met before.
By thy bosom’s heaving snow,
By thy fondness none shall know;
Maid of Walkherd, meet again,
By the wilding in the glen.
By thy hand of slender make,
By thy love I’ll ne’er forsake,
By thy heart I’ll ne’er betray,
Let me kiss thy fears away!
I will live and love thee ever,
Leave thee and forsake thee never!
Though far in other lands to be,
Yet never far from love and thee.
A Walk in the Forest*
I LOVE the Forest and its airy bounds,
†Where friendly CAMPBELL takes his daily rounds;
I love the break neck hills, that headlong go,
And leave me high, and half the world below;
I love to see the Beach Hill mounting high,
The brook without a bridge, and nearly dry.
There’s Bucket’s Hill, a place of furze and clouds,
Which evening in a golden blaze enshrouds:88 1841
I hear the cows go home with tinkling bell,
And see the woodman in the forest dwell,
Whose dog runs eager where the rabbit’s gone;
He eats the grass, then kicks and hurries on;
Then scrapes for hoarded bone, and tries to play,
And barks at larger dogs and runs away.
* Epping, in which High Beach is situated.
† The only son of the author of “The Pleasure of Hope,” who has been some years at Dr. ALLEN’S.
T o Wordsworth
WORDSWORTH I love; his books are like the fi elds,
Not fi lled with fl owers, but works of human kind;
The pleasant weed a fragrant pleasure yields,
The briar and broomwood shaken by the wind,
The thorn and bramble o’er the water shoot
A fi ner fl ower than gardens e’er give birth,
The aged huntsman grubbing up the root—
I love them all as tenants of the earth:
Where genius is, there often die the seeds;
What critics throw away I love the more;
I love to stoop and look among the weeds,
To fi nd a fl ower I never knew before;
WORDSWORTH go on—a greater poet be,
Merit will live, though parties disagree!
The Water Lilies
THE Water Lilies, white and yellow fl owers,
How beautiful they are upon the lake!
I’ve stood and looked upon the place for hours,
And thought how fi ne a garden they would make.
The pleasant leaves upon the water fl oat;
The dragon-fl y would come and stay for hours,
And when the water pushed the pleasure boat,
Would fi nd a safer place among the fl owers:
They lay like Pleasure in a quiet place,
Close where the moor-hen loved her nest to make,—
They lay like beauty with a smiling face,Thomas Miller (1807–1874) 89
And I have called them “Ladies of the Lake!”
I’ve brought the longest pole and stood for hours,
And tried for years, before I got those fl owers!
Thomas Miller (1807–1874)
To a Lady with a Basket
THESE osiers by a murmuring river grew,
That leaped and laughed in sunshine all the day:
The homeless winds with their green leaves did play,
And on their silky palms the gem-like dew
Hung like the silvery stars in night’s deep blue;
And birds sailed o’er them when the day grew gray,
And light waves kissed their stems, then rolled away,
Singing a pleasant tune as on they fl ew.
Despise them not, for ’twas a poet’s hand
Gave them that simple form which they now wear:
Better could he weave thoughts in accents bland,
And by such power the heart in triumph bear;
But he is a mere shell on ocean’s sand,
Which Triton-lip hath not yet sounded clear.
On Reading Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
A DREAMY land, John Bunyan, that of thine,
Now summer-bright, then dark, and wondrous wild,
Its gloom and grandeur charmed me when a child;
And even now these sober eyes of mine,
Oft see the armour of the archers shine,
Where Beelzebub his castle-walls up-piled:
Over thy pages I have wept and smiled,
Unconscious then the story was divine.
Marvellous old man! while leaning on thy gun,
Keeping a watch in England’s civil wars,
Thou oft wouldst gaze upon the sinking sun,
Or map thy pilgrim’s course amid the stars:
Cromwell may have heard thee murmuring like a river,
“Making thy book,”—a book to live for ever.1842
John Clare (1793 –1864)
[See also 1841, 1844 and 1861]
The six sonnets below cannot be ascribed to a specifi c year but are known from the ‘Knights Transcripts’
to have been written in Northampton Asylum between 1842 and 1864.
‘I love to see the summer beaming forth’
I lovth
And white wool rock clouds sailing to the north
I love to see the wild fl owers come again
And Mare blobs stain with gold the meadow drain
And water lilies whiten on the fl ood
Where reed clumps rustle like a wind shook wood
Where from her hiding place the Moor Hen pushes
And seeks her fl ag nest fl oating in bull rushes
I like the willow leaning half way o’er
The clear deep lake to stand upon its shore
I love the hay grass when the fl ower head swings
To summer winds and insects happy wings
That sport about the meadow the bright day
And see bright beetles in the clear lake play
‘The silver mist more lowly swims’
The silver mist more lowly swims
And each green bosomed valley dims
And o’er the neighbouring meadow lies
Like half seen visions by dim eyes
Green trees look grey, bright waters black
The lated crow has lost her track
And fl ies by guess her journey home
She fl ops along and cannot see
Her peaceful nest on odlin tree
The lark drops down and cannot meet
The taller black grown clumps of wheat
The mists that rise from heat of day
Fades fi eld and meadow all awayJohn Clare (1793 –1864) 91
‘The fl ag top quivers in the breeze’
The fl ag top quivers in the breeze,
That sighs among the willow trees:
In gentle waves the river heaves,
That sways like boats the lily leaves:
The bent grass trembles, as with cold;
And crow fl owers nod their cups of gold,
Till every dew-drop in them found,
Is gently shook upon the ground.
Each wild weed, by the river side,
In different motions dignifi ed,
Bows to the wind, quakes to the breeze,
And charms sweet summers harmonies.
The very nettle quakes away,
To glad the summers happy day.
The Y ellowhammer
When shall I see the white thorn leaves agen
And Yellowhammers gath’ring the dry bents
By the Dyke side on stilly moor or fen
Feathered wi love and natures good intents
Rude is the nest this Architect invents
Rural the place wi cart ruts by dyke side
Dead grass, horse hair and downy headed bents
Tied to dead thistles she doth well provide
Close to a hill o’ ants where cowslips bloom
And shed o’er meadows far their sweet perfume
In early Spring when winds blow chilly cold
The yellow hammer trailing grass will come
To fi x a place and choose an early home
With yellow breast and head of solid gold
The Crow
How peaceable it seems for lonely men
To see a crow fl y in the thin blue sky
Over the woods and fealds, o’er level fen
It speaks of villages, or cottage nigh92 1842
Behind the neighbouring woods—when march winds high
Tear off the branches of the huge old oak
I love to see these chimney sweeps sail by
And hear them o’er the knarled forest croak
Then sosh askew from the hid woodmans stroke
That in the woods their daily labours ply
I love the sooty crow nor would provoke
Its march day exercises of croaking joy
I love to see it sailing to and fro
While fi elds, and woods and waters spread below
‘I am’
I feel I am;—I only know I am,
And plod upon the earth, as dull and void:
Earth’s prison chilled my body with its dram
Of dullness, and my soaring thoughts destroyed,
I fl ed to solitudes from passions dream,
But strife persued—I only know, I am,
I was a being created in the race
Of men disdaining bounds of place and time:—
A spirit that could travel o’er the space
Of earth and heaven,—like a thought sublime,
Tracing creation, like my maker, free,—
A soul unshackled—like eternity,
Spurning earth’s vain and soul debasing thrall
But now I only know I am,—that’s all.
Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902)
[See also 1843, 1855, 1861 and 1893]
Prayer
1
AND what is prayer? not with bold grasp to
seize
God’s gifts, as suitors clamouring for a share;
Not cold, set phrases, loud doxologies,Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 93
Of Wealth or Wisdom, patronizing prayer;
Not cant, that hurls with sanctimonious air
Fanatic comminations; not bent knees,
Bowed necks, joined palms, brows crossed with
pious care;
(Harmless but feeble ceremonies these!)
Not such is prayer. God’s shrine is in our hearts:
From them the prostrate spirit silently
Proffers its adoration; meditates
The Gospel word; for pardon supplicates;
Fears, yet confi des; from duty not departs;
Feels faith on earth, hope in eternity!
2
THEN what is prayer? Peruse that Gospel
word:
Mark, learn, examine; it shall teach thee well.
That Word “which was with God, and was God,
Lord
Of life, the light of men!” in parable
Familiarly expounded; oracle
Pronouncing weal or woe; in precepts heard
With tears by the awakened infi del;
In those meek orisons, whose pure accord
The human with the divine nature blends
So subt’ly that at once we recognise
Man’s best emotions and the will of God.
With these sure guides, so studied that our ends
Be truth, not argument, our hearts shall rise
To heaven, in rightful worship, understood.
3
BUT God Himself hath taught us how to pray;
In that most comprehensive form, by all
The hosts of Christendom revered. Each day,
“Glory to God in heaven!” devotional
The Catholic prayer begins. From earth’s low
ball
The echoing song resounds through the array
Of angel choirs and harps seraphical,
Hymning that reign which shall not pass away!
Obedience, resignation, duly professed
Our sustenance in all things we implore;
On deeds and thoughts of charity we rest94 1842
Our hope of pardon; nor petition more
Than safeguard from all evil; and again
With dutiful Hosanna close the sacred strain.
‘Though care may sap the mind, and anguish bend’
THOUGH care ma and an-
guish bend,
And man may wither at the touch of grief,
Still may one faithful remedy befriend
His saddest hour, and bring a sure relief:
And in the book of life, however brief,
He still may fi nd some tear-dipped smiles attend;
Detect some lurking charm in every leaf:
And close it up, with pleasure, at the end.
For as the traveller of a stormy day,
When through the opening clouds the evening ray
Glimmers with dewy lustre in the west,
Hails the bright promise, so the good man’s way
Looks fairest at the fi nal hour of rest,
When Life lies down in sleep, to waken with the
Blest!
Vices of Society
FAR be from me the ballroom’s giddy rout;
The gambler’s haunt, where Avarice loves
to rule
Miser and witling, prodigal and fool;
The pageant race-ground’s noisy rabble-shout;
The jovial crew who push the bowl about;
The hunter’s wild halloo through brake and
pool;
The self-suffi cient pedant of the school;
Envy’s vile pander; Scandal’s hireling scout!
I ask but some small space whereon to think,
And conquer vain desires; where hope may
blend
The future with time past; some fl ower-sweet
To woo the Muse on; some delicious brink
By living stream, for converse with a friend;
Some solitude, to commune with my God!Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 95
The Divine Law
THE natural Law, howe’er remote, obscure
Of origin, lies patent to the eye
Of Reason; whence astute Philosophy
From shrewd induction points to issues sure:
The laws of men but for a time endure;
And vary, as their plastic frame we spy
Through shifting glasses of expediency—
The Laws of God, immaculately pure,
Unalterably fi rm, whose sanctions claim
Affi nity with naught of Earth; these laws
Have their deep root in Faith, in Hope their aim
In Mystery their birth, in Love their cause;
League Earth with Heaven; and, knowing how
to bind
Angels with Power, have care for human kind.
The Perversion of Letters
TIME was when books, sent forth without
pretence.
Elaborately wrought with studious zeal,
Were true exponents of the heart. To feel
Strongly came fi rst; then speech, pure from
offence,
Yet vigilantly fearless. Handmaid to Sense,
Wit wrought for Reason; Satire probed to heal;
And Raillery, chafed spirits to anneal:
Thus, genuine instincts to fulfi l, and thence
Good ends secure, the purpose was of all.
Men fi ght for triumph now; transforming words
To stings; and poisoning Wisdom’s fount with
gall.
Books have cloaked meanings: a light tale
affords
A mask for sour Polemicks; and the curse
Of Passion desecrates immortal verse!96 1842
Liberty of the Press
SOME laws there are too sacred for the hand
Of man to approach; recorded in the blood
Of patriots; before which, as the Rood
Of Faith, devotional we take our stand.
Time-hallowed laws! magnifi cently planned
When Freedom was the nurse of public good,
And Power paternal: laws that have withstood
All storms—unshaken bulwarks of the land!
Free will, frank speech, an undissembling mind,
Without which Freedom dies and laws are vain,
On such we found our rights, to such we cling:
In these shall Power his surest safeguard fi nd.
Tread them not down in passion, or disdain:
Make Man a reptile, he will turn and sting.
Columbus
1
THE crimson sun was sinking down to rest,
Pavilioned on the cloudy verge of heaven;
And Ocean, on her gently heaving breast,
Caught, and fl ashed back, the varying tints of
even;
When, on a fragment from the tall cliff riven,
With folded arms, and doubtful thoughts opprest,
Columbus sat; till sudden hope was given:
A ray of gladness shooting from the West.
O what a glorious vision for mankind
Then dawned above the twilight of his mind;
Thoughts shadowy still, but indistinctly grand!
There stood his Genius, face to face; and signed
(So legends tell) far seaward with her hand:
Till a new World sprang up, and bloomed beneath
her wand!
2
HE was a man whom danger could not daunt,
Nor sophistry perplex, nor pain subdue;
A stoic, reckless of the world’s vain taunt,
And steeled the path of honour to pursue:Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 97
So, when by all deserted, still he knew
How best to sooth the heartsick, or confront
Sedition; schooled with equal eye to view
The frowns of grief, and the base pangs of want.
But when he saw that promised land arise
In all its rare and bright varieties,
Lovelier than fondest Fancy ever trod;
Then softening nature melted in his eyes;
He knew his fame was full, and blessed his God:
And fell upon his face, and kissed the virgin sod!
3
BEAUTIFUL realm beyond the western main,
That hymns thee ever with resounding wave,
Thine is the glorious sun’s peculiar reign!
Fruits, fl owers, and gems, in rich mosaic pave
Thy paths: like giant altars o’er the plain
Thy mountains blaze, loud thundering, mid
the rave
Of mighty streams, that shoreward rush amain,
Like Polypheme from his Etnean cave.
Joy, joy, for Spain! a seaman’s hand confers
These glorious gifts, and half the world is hers!
But where is He? that light, whose radiance
glows
The load-star of succeeding mariners?
Behold him! crushed beneath o’ermastering
woes—
Hopeless, heart-broken, chained, abandoned to
his foes!
The Old Literature of England
THESE are the mighty footprints that report
The giant form of antique Literature.
Sinews Herculean; proportion pure;
Strength, or agility, for strife or sport;
Dexterity in fence; grace for the Court.
No meretricious jargon, to allure,
Wrote these of old; but language to endure,
The stern regards of Time. Ill ye assort
With that undying philosophic spirit,98 1842
Which breathes in these worn pages, who deride
Their scant reward of praise. They best inherit
The fame of a great era, when the pride
Of nations was, in all things loyalty,
And trust in God, and magnanimity.
The Sea-Cliffs of Kilkee
AWFULLY beautiful art thou, O sea!
Viewed from the vantage of these giant
rocks,
That vast in air lift their primeval blocks,
Skreening the sandy cove of lone Kilkee.
Cautious, with out-stretched arm, and bended
knee,
I scan the dread abyss; ’till the depth mocks
My straining eyeballs, and the eternal shocks
Of billows, rolling from infi nity
Disturb my brain. Hark! the shrill sea-bird’s
scream!
Cloud-like they sweep the long wave’s sapphire
gleam,
Ere the poised Ospray stoop in wrath from high.
Here Man, alone, is nought; Nature supreme:
Where all is simply great that meets the eye—
The precipice, the ocean, and the sky.
Nightfall
THE sun is set, the clouds are on the hill,
In leaden hue the streamlets are arrayed;
And now the damp and gloomy shadows fi ll
The depths of every valley, and distil
Unwholesome vapours through each leafy glade:
O’er the wide scene a sombre gray is laid:
The distant town and spire lie dim and still;
And a cold night wind gathers in the shade.
Feebler and feebler now all sounds subside;
All but the river’s ever murmuring tide;
All bising tempest’s sullen swell;Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 99
Or sheep-dog baying from the moorlands wide;
Or stifl ed utterance of the far church bell,
Tolling the passing hour, as Nature’s parting
knell!
Gougaun Barra
1
NOT beauty which men gaze on with a smile,
Not grace that wins, no charm of form or
hue,
Dwelt with that scene. Sternly upon my view,
And slowly—as the shrouding clouds awhile
Disclosed the beetling crag and lonely isle—
From their dim lake the ghostly mountains grew,
Lit by one slanting ray. An eagle fl ew
From out the gloomy gulf of the defi le,
Like some sad spirit from Hades. To the shore
Dark waters rolled, slow heaving, with dull moan;
The foam-fl akes, hanging from each livid stone
Like froth on deathful lips: pale mosses o’er
The shattered cell crept, as an orphan lone
Clasps his cold mother’s breast when life is gone.
2
A Place it was for superstition meet
That ruined chapel and that islet bare—
And superstition stoops full lowly there!
For thither wend the pilgrims’ weary feet;
There sinful hands repentant bosoms beat;
And kneeling mourners with dishevelled hair
Gaze, weeping, on low graves, in silent prayer;
Death linked to life in sad communion sweet.
And some hang relics on the blasted trees;
And some on fl inty path, with bleeding knees,
Crawl round the margin of the holy well:
But ah! what fears—what grief—what pangs
are these—
Which ’neath the low arch of that tomb-like cell
Prostrate yon shrouded forms immoveable!100 1842
To Other Times
O WHEN I muse below these hazel bowers,
With ear attuned to the wild babbling
stream,
Its very lapse goes by me like a dream,
Recalling distant scenes, of weeds and fl owers.
I know of old yon sweeping mountain showers;
That ivied crag some ancient friend I deem;
The birds salute me; and those breezes seem
Laden with odours of departed hours.
But ah!—these tones of early hope and pleasure,
That stole so sweetly o’er my hours of leisure,
Have not the infl uence now, they had before:
Then life was unalloyed; a growing treasure:
But now, each thought I sadly linger o’er
Tells but of broken ties, and friends that are no
more!
The Statue of Moses. From Zappi
WHAT form in everlasting marble wrought
Sits, giantlike, Art’s noblest triumph there?
Voice almost trembles on the lip, high thought
Seems throbbing on that brow of grandeur rare.
’Tis Moses!—Lo! that beard of wreathing hair,
And the twin glories from his temples shot:
Moses!—but with that yet diviner air
Upon the Mount from God’s own presence caught.
Such was he once, when the wave’s wild rebound
Hung o’er him vast; such, when the deathful
roar
Of waters closed, at the command of Heaven!
And ye—vile Crew!—once worshippers around
A worthless calf; had ye but knelt before
A shape like this, your sin almost had been for-
given! Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 101
On the Funeral of a Lady and her Son
THERE I beheld them last—nay, still be-
hold—
The mother, and her son, both on one bier,
In their small coffi ns sleeping; both so dear
To me, and mine! The heavy death-bell tolled;
And there was gathering of the young and old
Round those sad obsequies: I, in the rear,
Stept in slow grief, and deep religious fear;
Wrapping my heart in my cloak’s silent fold!
And as the earth on each dark coffi n’s lid
Fell, there were tears, O how sincere! and cries,
From the thick-crowding Poor, that rose unbid.
Ay, in far countries, there were streaming eyes,
And bosoms choked with sobs; such as suit well
A loss whose memory is indelible.
The Barons at Runnimede
WITH what an awful grace those Barons stood
In presence of the King at Runnimede!
Their silent fi nger to that righteous Deed—
O’er which, with cheek forsaken of its blood,
He hung—still pointing with stern hardihood;
And brow that spake the unuttered mandate—
“Read!”
“Sign!” He glares round—Never!—Though
thousands bleed
He will not! Hush—Low words, in solemn mood,
Are murmured—and—he signs. Great God!
were these
Progenitors of our enfeebled kind?
Whose wordy wars are waged to thwart, or please
Minions, not Kings: who stoop with grovelling
mind
To weigh the Pauper’s dole—scan right by rule—
And plunder churches to endow a school!102 1842
Queen Elizabeth
THE Lioness that stalks the forest bound
More awful in her presence and her port
Looked not than she: high in her cloudy court
The rock-throned Osprey, glancing sternly round
Through sun-lit air unshaken by a sound,
From low desires and the base world’s resort
Seemed elevated less: the Dolphin’s sport
O’er foam-fl ecked waves and sapphire depths pro-
found
Shewed not a pageant to the eye of morn
More bright. Her thoughts were in the purple
born;
Her eye was empery; she gave the nod
And all obeyed; all earthly powers with scorn
She noted: yea, the fane itself she trod
As though she were the sister of a God!
Charles the Martyr
1
SO generous a master, kind a friend,
Never beneath the stroke of treason died:
A Prince more righteous never was defi ed
By popular Rage; nor ever forced to bend
’Neath factious Hate: in him were seen to blend
Grandeur with meekness, and the regal pride
By human virtues tempered, and allied
With Christian graces. Learning to defend
The Faith, and zeal to curb the Infi del,
And constancy the issue to abide,
Were his. He stood before the Parricide
Fearless; and with a martyr spirit fell!
By impious foes beguiled, false friends betrayed,
The dying Saint for his destroyers prayed!
2
PERFECT he was not, being but a man,
And subject to temptation as a King:
Knowledge came to him from afar, a thing
Misshaped as Craft inspired, or Rumour ran.Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 103
He fell upon a time when Thought began
With Faith to wrestle; and hot youth to spring
Into the seat of age; the Serf to fl ing
His chain to earth; the Fanatic to ban
The altar, and to beard anointed Power.
Authority so scorned, prerogative
So lightly valued, and so ill defi ned,
Unhappy was the Prince who ruled that hour!
Unhappy we—unless our hearts we give
To that great warning he bequeathed man-
kind!
On the Lord’s Prayer
Introductory 1. Universal Prayer
CHILDREN of God, high privilege have we,
For whom, throughout the world, all fellow
saints
Exalt to heaven their prayers continually.
Not lonely kneel we, nor unpitied faints
Our heart; nor uncompanioned our low plaints
Ascend: a mighty chain of sympathy
Binds Christian men together, and acquaints
Their souls with love, and thoughtful charity.
O! joy! that we, who pray for all, by all
Commended are to God in daily prayer.
Yea, now, as in time past, and yet again
Through time to come, that Church, which shall
not fall,
From night to morn, breathes forth upon the air
Meek intercession for the sons of men.
Introductory 2. The Brotherhood in Christ
ALL men are brethren in God’s equal eye;
Yea, sons of God, partaking Christian grace.
How fades all outward pomp of power and place,
Glory and wealth, frail beauty’s pageantry—
Prerogatives of earth that swiftly fl y—
Before that noblest birthright of our race,
The brotherhood with Christ! Now face to face
With God we stand. In Him disparity
Of love, proportioned to man’s earthly state,104 1842
Exists not: right of eldership is none
Where all with Christ are heirs. The Low, the
Great,
The Wise, the Simple, gather round His throne
In heaven, one equal boon to supplicate:—
God’s sons confest! the Brethren of the Son!
Introductory 3. The Right Use of Prayer
THEREFORE when thou wouldst pray, or
dost thine alms,
Blow not a trump before thee: hypocrites
Do thus, vaingloriously; the common streets
Boast of their largess, echoing their psalms.
On such the laud of men, like unctuous balms,
Falls with sweet savour. Impious Counterfeits!
Prating of heaven, for earth their bosom beats!
Grasping at weeds, they lose immortal palms!
God needs not iteration nor vain cries.
That man communion with his God might share
Below, Christ gave the ordinance of prayer.
Vague ambages, and witless ecstasies,
Avail not: ere a voice to prayer be given
The heart should rise on wings of love to heaven.
‘Love to the tender; peace to those who mourn’
LOVE to the tender;n;
Hope to the hopeless, hope that does not fail,
Whose symbol is the anchor, not the sail;
Glory that spreads to Heaven’s remotest bourn,
And to its centre doth again return
Like music; health revisiting the frail;
Freedom to those who pine in dangerous pale;
Sorrows which God hath willed and Christ hath worn!
Omnipotence to be the poor man’s shield;
Light, uncreated light, to cheer the blind;
Infi nite mercy sent to heal and bind
The wounds encountered in life’s well-fought fi eld;
All these are gifts of God; nor these alone:
Himself He gives to all who make those gifts their own.Aubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 105
Felicitas at Her Martyrdom
SILENCE, ye crowds! how dare ye thus make start
An infant, feeding at its mother’s breast,
Feeding on sacred food, and sacred rest?
Vain are your cries, your pity vain. Depart!
But ye, dread masters in death’s fatal art,
Torturers! remain: and try, though shame-opprest,
Once more your skill; fulfi l the dread behest:
Her head ye shall not bow, nor shake her heart.
—The Lady’s eyes alternately were bent
On Heaven, and on her child; a grave, sweet smile
Tenderly circling her pale lips the while;
Until at last the infant was content:
Then drooped her lids, and sighing o’er his sigh,
The mother’s spirit sought its native sky.
On a Picture of the Magdalene
WEEPER perpetual, of whom men say
Not that she lived so long, “but so long wept;”
And in her fond imagination crept
(Fearful, yet fond) to those blest feet each day:
There knelt to wash them: there to wipe them lay:
There in her shining locks caught them and kept:
And hallowed thus, a tender love-adept,
Thenceforth those glittering tresses never grey!—
Fulfi lled Thy Master’s word hath been! Where’er
Thy Lord is preached art thou remembered, making
Repentance dear as Innocence, or dearer.
Thine eyes like heavens by midnight rains left clearer,
How oft we see thee thus through deserts bare,
Thy sad yet solaced way in silence taking!
Moral Application of Miracles
IF thou art blind with error like a hood
Bound o’er thine eyes: if thy distempered ears
Catch now no more the music of the spheres:
If one thou art of that great multitude106 1842
Which faints for lack of wisdom’s manna food:
If thou art dumb, and canst not say thy prayers;
Fevered with weakness, palsied with despairs,
Possessed by legioned Passion’s demon brood:
If thou with sin, as with a leprosy,
Art foul; among the tombs naked and bound—
Oh! think of Him who walked Earth’s suffering ground
Healing, and giving peace: before whose feet
The natural laws of mortal misery
Melted like frost before the vernal heat.
To —
HOW oft that haughty and far-fl ashing eye,
Have I not seen thee to the wide heavens raise,
Or on the dark earth root thy tyrannous gaze
As on a scroll with piercing scrutiny!
Great scorn it seemed and great indignity
That aught should mock thy search:—and yet that haze
Which veils the loftiest, deepest things, obeys
Be sure, the cloud-compelling Power on high.
Our life is fi nite—let the mind be so;
And therefore bound the spirit’s appetites.
Some things we cannot, some we should not know.
Wisdom there is that weakens, lore that blights—
He too that walks among the eternal lights,
Casts, as He moves, His shadow down below!
Initiative Faith
YOU ask us for a sign, misdoubting friend,
And you will then believe. A thousand eyes
To the same point fi xed in the same clear skies
Are raised at once—a thousand foreheads bend
Before one breeze, by you unfelt. Attend.
He is not humble, and he is not wise,
Who deems no star is there, that breeze denies,
Because his science cannot comprehend
How shines that light, or whence the zephyr blows,
And whether Alpine or Caucasian snowsAubrey de Vere (1814 –1902) 107
Have cast their coolness on its wings serene.
If you see nought, O! trust the eyes of those
Who read dark tablets by that light unseen:
Desire, believe, and pray: Peace comes where Faith
hath been.
The Communion of Saints
HOW many precious infl uences meet
In this frail fl ower the orphan of the year!
To her the Sun, her little span to cheer,
Sends down two momentary heralds, heat
And light, and pours his tribute at her feet:
Yea, every atom of earth’s solid sphere
Shoots forth attractions that concentrate here,
And in this lowly creature’s pulses beat.
Then wherefore fear that any human soul
Small though it be, is worthless in His sight
Whose mercy, like His Power, is infi nite?
Why doubt that God’s eternal Love can reach
At once the vital soul of all and each;
And one vast Sympathy inspire the whole?
Sorrow
COUNT each affl iction, whether light or grave,
God’s messenger sent down to thee. Do thou
With courtesy receive him: rise and bow:
And ere his shadow pass thy threshold, crave
Permission fi rst his heavenly feet to lave.
Then lay before him all thou hast. Allow
No cloud of passion to usurp thy brow,
Or mar thy hospitality, no wave
Of mortal tumult to obliterate
The soul’s marmoreal calmness. Grief should be
Like joy, majestic, equable, sedate;
Confi rming, cleansing, raising, making free;
Strong to consume small troubles; to commend
Great thoughts, grave thoughts, thoughts lasting to the end.108 1842
Frescoes by Masaccio
WELL hast thou judged that sentence “had ye Faith,
“Ye could move mountains.” In those forms I see
What God at fi rst appointed man to be;
His image crowned, triumphant over death.
Born of that Word which never perisheth,
Those Prophets here resume the empery
Of old in Eden lost. Their eye, their breath
Cancels disease, lays prone the anarchy
Of Passion’s fi ercest waves. Secret as Fate,
Like Fate’s the powers they wield are infi nite.
Their very thoughts are laws: their will is weight—
On as they move in majesty and might
The demons yield their prey, the graves their dead:
And to her centre Earth is conscious of their tread.
National Strength
WHAT is it makes a Nation truly great?
Her sons: her sons alone: not theirs, but they!
Glory and gold are vile as wind and clay
Unless the hands that grasp them consecrate.
And what is that in man by which a state
Is clad in splendour like the noontide day?
Virtue—Dominion ebbs, and Arts betray:
Virtue alone abides. But what is that
Which Virtue’s self doth rest on; that which yields her
Light for her feet, and daily, heavenly bread;
Which from demoniac pride, and madness shields her,
And storms that most assail the loftiest head?
The Christian’s humble faith, that faith which cheers
The orphan’s quivering heart and stays the widow’s
tears.John Critchley Prince (1808 –1866) 109
John Critchley Prince (1808 –1866)
[See also 1856 and 1861]
On Quitting North Wales
Farewell, proud region, where the living God
Hath built a temple for the human heart
To worship in, sincerely: I have trod—
From cloudy towns and fretful men apart—
Thine aisles of majesty: in truth thou art
A vast cathedral, where devotion springs
In feelings, not in words. Thou dost impart
Sublimest doctrines by sublimest things;
The mountains are thy priesthood,—Snowdon fl ings
A silent language from his awful face;
Prayer goeth up from streams,—the cataract sings
Incessant anthems to the Throne of Grace;
And I have lingered in thy fane to feel
The Eternal Presence o’er my spirit steal!
Written in the Castle of Carnarvon
How glorious is thy fall, rich summer’s day!
How deeply tender is thy dying hour!
Lonely I linger on this crumbling tower,
And watch with silent joy thy sweet decay.
Upon the blushing bosom of the bay
Thy last kiss trembles, and the clouds that lie
In beautiful disorder round the sky
Absorb the latest vestige of thy ray.
But now the chill of twilight doth betray
The coming of the night; yon mountain range
Hath put the garb of darkness on;—a change
Creeps o’er the deepening waters. Who may say
How many griefs, or hopes, or dreams sublime
Awake the human soul in this mysterious time!110 1842
To the Poles, after Their Subjugation
Devoted people! are ye fallen at last,
Spite of the widow’s prayer, the orphan’s wail?
What could a thousand patriot swords avail,
Where host on host poured merciless and fast?
Your strength—your hope—your freedom, too, is past!
Crushed by the ruler of a savage land,
In vain ye cried for some supporting hand,
While faithless nations meanly stood aghast:
Shame be their portion! could they hear the blast
Sent forth by harassed Liberty, nor save
Her noblest martyrs, the defeated brave,
Around whose limbs despotic chains are cast!
How could they stand the foremost of the free,
And turn unheeded from thy wrongs and thee!
William Wordsworth (1770 –1850)
[See also 1840 and 1845]
The group of poems published as Memorials of a Tour in Italy, 1837, consist of both sonnets and other
poetic forms. Only the sonnets from the group are included below.
from Memorials of a Tour in Italy, 1837
I. The Pine of Monte Mario at Rome
I SAW far off the dark top of a Pine
Look like a cloud—a slender stem the tie
That bound it to its native earth—poised high
’Mid evening hues, along the horizon line,
Striving in peace each other to outshine.
But when I learned the Tree was living there,
Saved from the sordid axe by Beaumont’s care,
Oh, what a gush of tenderness was mine!
The rescued Pine-tree, with its sky so bright
And cloud-like beauty, rich in thoughts of home,
Death-parted friends, and days too swift in fl ight,
Supplanted the whole majesty of RomeWilliam Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 111
(Then fi rst apparent from the Pincian height)
Crowned with St. Peter’s everlasting Dome.*
* Within a couple of hours of my arrival at Rome, I saw from Monte Pincio, the Pine-tree as described
in the sonnet; and, while expressing admiration at the beauty of its appearance, I was told by an
acquaintance of my fellow-traveller, who happened to join us at the moment, that a price had been
paid for it by the late Sir G. Beaumont, upon condition that the proprietor should not act upon his
known intention of cutting it down.
II. At Rome
IS this, ye Gods, the Capitolian Hill?
Yon pretty Steep in truth the fearful Rock,
Tarpeian named of yore, and keeping still
That name, a local Phantom proud to mock
The Traveller’s expectation?—Could our Will
Destroy the ideal Power within, ’twere done
Thro’ what men see and touch,—slaves wandering on,
Impelled by thirst of all but Heaven-taught skill.
Full oft, our wish obtained, deeply we sigh;
Yet not unrecompensed are they who learn,
With stronger wing, more clearly to discern
Eternal things; and, if need be, defy
Change, with a brow not insolent, though stern.
III. At Rome.—Regrets.—In Allusion to Niebuhr and Other Modern Historians
THOSE old credulities, to nature dear,
Shall they no longer bloom upon the stock
Of History, stript naked as a rock
’Mid a dry desert? What is it we hear?
The glory of Infant Rome must disappear,
Her morning splendors vanish, and their place
Know them no more. If Truth, who veiled her face
With those bright beams yet hid it not, must steer
Henceforth a humbler course perplexed and slow;
One solace yet remains for us who came
Into this world in days when story lacked
Severe research, that in our hearts we know
How, for exciting youth’s heroic fl ame,
Assent is power, belief the soul of fact.
IV. Continued
COMPLACENT Fictions were they, yet the same
Involved a history of no doubtful sense,
History that proves by inward evidence
From what a precious source of truth it came.112 1842
Ne’er could the boldest Eulogist have dared
Such deeds to paint, such characters to frame,
But for coeval sympathy prepared
To greet with instant faith their loftiest claim.
None but a noble people could have loved
Flattery in Ancient Rome’s pure-minded style:
Not in like sort the Runic Scald was moved;
He, nursed ’mid savage passions that defi le
Humanity, sang feats that well might call
For the blood-thirsty mead of Odin’s riotous Hall.
V. Plea for the Historian
FORBEAR to deem the Chronicler unwise,
Ungentle, or untouched by seemly ruth,
Who, gathering up all that Time’s envious tooth
Has spared of sound and grave realities,
Firmly rejects those dazzling fl atteries,
Dear as they are to unsuspecting Youth,
That might have drawn down Clio from the skies
Her rights to claim, and vindicate the truth.
Her faithful Servants while she walked with men
Were they who, not unmindful of her Sire
All-ruling Jove, whate’er their theme might be
Revered her Mother, sage Mnemosyne,
And, at the Muse’s will, invoked the lyre
To animate, but not mislead, the pen.*
* Quem virum–lyra—
—sumes celebrare Clio?
VI. At Rome
THEY—who have seen the noble Roman’s scorn
Break forth at thought of laying down his head,
When the blank day is over, garreted
In his ancestral palace, where, from morn
To night, the desecrated fl oors are worn
By feet of purse-proud strangers; they—who have read
In one meek smile, beneath a peasant’s shed,
How patiently the weight of wrong is borne;
They—who have heard thy lettered sages treat
Of freedom, with mind grasping the whole theme
From ancient Rome, downwards through that bright dream
Of Commonwealths, each city a starlike seat
Of rival glory; they—fallen Italy—
Nor must, nor will, nor can, despair of Thee!William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 113
VII. Near Rome, in Sight of St. Peter’s
LONG has the dew been dried on tree and lawn;
O’er man and beast a not unwelcome boon
Is shed, the languor of approaching noon;
To shady rest withdrawing or withdrawn
Mute are all creatures, as this couchant fawn,
Save insect-swarms that hum in air afl oat,
Save that the Cock is crowing, a shrill note,
Startling and shrill as that which roused the dawn.
Heard in that hour, or when, as now, the nerve
Shrinks from the voice as from a mis-timed thing,
Oft for a holy warning may it serve,
Charged with remembrance of his sudden sting,
His bitter tears, whose name the Papal Chair
And yon resplendent Church are proud to bear.
VIII. At Albano
DAYS passed—and Monte Calvo would not clear
His head from mist; and, as the wind sobbed through
Albano’s dripping Ilex avenue,
My dull forebodings in a Peasant’s ear
Found casual vent. She said, “Be of good cheer;
Our yesterday’s procession did not sue
In vain; the sky will change to sunny blue,
Thanks to our Lady’s grace.” I smiled to hear,
But not in scorn:—the Matron’s Faith may lack
The heavenly sanction needed to ensure
Its own fulfi lment; but her upward track
Stops not at this low point, nor wants the lure
Of fl owers the Virgin without fear may own,
For by her Son’s blest hand the seed was sown.
IX. ‘Near Anio’s stream, I spied a gentle Dove’
NEAR Anio’s stream,ve
Perched on an olive branch, and heard her cooing
’Mid new-born blossoms that soft airs were wooing,
While all things present told of joy and love.
But restless Fancy left that olive grove
To hail the exploratory Bird renewing
Hope for the few, who, at the world’s undoing,
On the great fl ood were spared to live and move.
O bounteous Heaven! signs true as dove and bough
Brought to the ark are coming evermore,114 1842
Even though men seek them not, but, while they plough
This sea of life without a visible shore,
Do neither promise ask nor grace implore
In what alone is ours, the vouchsafed Now.
X. From the Alban Hills, Looking Towards Rome
FORGIVE, illustrious Country! these deep sighs,
Heaved less for thy bright plains and hills bestrown
With monuments decayed or overthrown,
For all that tottering stands or prostrate lies,
Than for like scenes in moral vision shown,
Ruin perceived for keener sympathies;
Faith crushed, yet proud of weeds, her gaudy crown;
Virtues laid low, and mouldering energies.
Yet why prolong this mournful strain?—Fallen Power,
Thy fortunes, twice exalted, might provoke
Verse to glad notes prophetic of the hour
When thou, uprisen, shalt break thy double yoke,
And enter, with prompt aid from the Most High,
On the third stage of thy great destiny.
XI. Near the Lake of Thrasymene
WHEN here with Carthage Rome to confl ict came,
An earthquake, mingling with the battle’s shock,
Checked not its rage; unfelt the ground did rock,
Sword dropped not, javelin kept its deadly aim.—
Now all is sun-bright peace. Of that day’s shame,
Or glory, not a vestige seems to endure,
Save in this Rill that took from blood the name
Which yet it bears, sweet stream! as crystal pure.
So may all trace and sign of deeds aloof
From the true guidance of humanity,
Thro’ Time and Nature’s infl uence, purify
Their spirit; or, unless they for reproof
Or warning serve, thus let them all, on ground
That gave them being, vanish to a sound.
XII. Near the Same Lake
FOR action born, existing to be tried,
Powers manifold we have that intervene
To stir the heart that would too closely screen
Her peace from images to pain allied.
What wonder if at midnight, by the sideWilliam Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 115
Of Sanguinetto or broad Thrasymene,
The clang of arms is heard, and phantoms glide,
Unhappy ghosts in troops by moonlight seen;
And singly thine, O vanquished Chief! whose corse,
Unburied, lay hid under heaps of slain:
But who is He?—the Conqueror? Would he force
His way to Rome? Ah, no,—round hill and plain
Wandering, he haunts, at fancy’s strong command,
This spot—his shadowy death-cup in his hand.
XIII. At the Convent of Camaldoli
GRIEVE for the Man who hither came bereft,
And seeking consolation from above;
Nor grieve the less that skill to him was left
To paint this picture of his lady-love:
Can she, a blessed saint, the work approve?
And O, good brethren of the cowl, a thing
So fair, to which with peril he must cling,
Destroy in pity, or with care remove.
That bloom—those eyes—can they assist to bind
Thoughts that would stray from Heaven? The dream
must cease
To be; by Faith, not sight, his soul must live;
Else will the enamoured Monk too surely fi nd
How wide a space can part from inward peace
The most profound repose his cell can give.
XIV. Continued
THE world forsaken, all its busy cares
And stirring interests shunned with desperate fl ight,
All trust abandoned in the healing might
Of virtuous action; all that courage dares,
Labour accomplishes, or patience bears—
Those helps rejected, they, whose minds perceive
How subtly works man’s weakness, sighs may heave
For such a One beset with cloistral snares.
Father of Mercy! rectify his view,
If with his vows this object ill agree;
Shed over it Thy grace, and so subdue
Imperious passion in a heart set free;
That earthly love may to herself be true,
Give him a soul that cleaveth unto Thee.116 1842
XV. At the Eremite or Upper Convent of Camaldoli
WHAT aim had they, the Pair of Monks, in size
Enormous, dragged, while side by side they sate,
By panting steers up to this convent gate?
How, with empurpled cheeks and pampered eyes,
Dare they confront the lean austerities
Of Brethren who, here fi xed, on Jesu wait
In sackcloth, and God’s anger deprecate
Through all that humbles fl esh and mortifi es?
Strange contrast!—verily the world of dreams,
Where mingle, as for mockery combined,
Things in their very essences at strife,
Shows not a sight incongruous as the extremes
That everywhere, before the thoughtful mind,
Meet on the solid ground of waking life.
XVI. At Florence
UNDER the shadow of a stately Pile,
The dome of Florence, pensive and alone,
Nor giving heed to aught that passed the while,
I stood, and gazed upon a marble stone,
The laurelled Dante’s favourite seat. A throne,
In just esteem, it rivals; though no style
Be there of decoration to beguile
The mind, depressed by thought of greatness fl own.
As a true man, who long had served the lyre,
I gazed with earnestness, and dared no more.
But in his breast the mighty Poet bore
A Patriot’s heart, warm with undying fi re.
Bold with the thought, in reverence I sate down,
And, for a moment, fi lled that empty Throne.
XVII. Before the Picture of the Baptist, by Raphael, in the Gallery at Florence
THE Baptist might have been ordain’d to cry
Forth from the towers of that huge Pile, wherein
His Father served Jehovah; but how win
Due audience, how for aught but scorn defy
The obstinate pride and wanton revelry
Of the Jerusalem below, her sin
And folly, if they with united din
Drown not at once mandate and prophecy?
Therefore the Voice spake from the Desert, thence
To her, as to her opposite in peace,William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 117
Silence, and holiness, and innocence,
To her and to all Lands its warning sent,
Crying with earnestness that might not cease,
Make straight a highway for the Lord—repent!
XVIII. At Florence.—From Michael Angelo
RAPT above earth by power of one fair face,
Hers in whose sway alone my heart delights,
I mingle with the blest on those pure heights
Where Man, yet mortal, rarely fi nds a place.
With Him who made the work that work accords
So well, that by its help and through His grace
I raise my thoughts, inform my deeds and words,
Clasping her beauty in my soul’s embrace.
Thus, if from two fair eyes mine cannot turn,
I feel how in their presence doth abide
Light which to God is both the way and guide;
And, kindling at their lustre, if I burn,
My noble fi re emits the joyful ray
That through the realms of glory shines for aye.
XIX. At Florence.—From M. Angelo
ETERNAL Lord! eased of a cumbrous load,
And loosened from the world, I turn to Thee;
Shun, like a shattered bark, the storm, and fl ee
To thy protection for a safe abode.
The crown of thorns, hands pierced upon the tree,
The meek, benign, and lacerated face,
To a sincere repentance promise grace,
To the sad soul give hope of pardon free.
With justice mark not Thou, O Light divine,
My fault, nor hear it with thy scared ear;
Neither put forth that way thy arm severe;
Wash with thy blood my sins; thereto incline
More readily the more my years require
Help, and forgiveness speedy and entire.
XX. At Bologna, in Remembrance of the Late Insurrections
AH why deceive ourselves! by no mere fi t
Of sudden passion roused shall men attain
True freedom where for ages they have lain
Bound in a dark abominable pit,
With life’s best sinews more and more unknit.118 1842
Here, there, a banded few who loathe the chain
May rise to break it: effort worse than vain
For thee, O great Italian nation, split
Into those jarring fractions.—Let thy scope
Be one fi xed mind for all; thy rights approve
To thy own conscience gradually renewed;
Learn to make Time the father of wise Hope;
Then trust thy cause to the arm of Fortitude,
The light of Knowledge, and the warmth of Love.
XXI. Continued
HARD task! exclaim the undisciplined, to lean
On Patience coupled with such slow endeavour,
That long-lived servitude must last for ever.
Perish the grovelling few, who, prest between
Wrongs and the terror of redress, would wean
Millions from glorious aims. Our chains to sever
Let us break forth in tempest now or never!—
What, is there then no space for golden mean
And gradual progress?—Twilight leads to day,
And, even within the burning zones of earth,
The hastiest sunrise yields a temperate ray;
The softest breeze to fairest fl owers gives birth:
Think not that Prudence dwells in dark abodes,
She scans the future with the eye of gods.
XXII. Concluded
AS leaves are to the tree whereon they grow
And wither, every human generation
Is to the Being of a mighty nation,
Locked in our world’s embrace through weal and woe;
Thought that should teach the zealot to forego
Rash schemes, to abjure all selfi sh agitation,
And seek through noiseless pains and moderation
The unblemished good they only can bestow.
Alas! with most, who weigh futurity
Against time present, passion holds the scales:
Hence equal ignorance of both prevails,
And nations sink; or, struggling to be free,
Are doomed to fl ounder on, like wounded whales
Tossed on the bosom of a stormy sea.William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 119
XXIIII. In Lombardy
SEE, where his diffi cult way that Old Man wins
Bent by a load of Mulberry-leaves!—most hard
Appears his lot, to the small Worm’s compared,
For whom his toil with early day begins.
Acknowledging no task-master, at will
(As if her labour and her ease were twins)
She seems to work, at pleasure to lie still,
And softly sleeps within the thread she spins.
So fare they—the Man serving as her Slave.
Ere long their fates do each to each conform:
Both pass into new being,—but the Worm,
Transfi gured, sinks into a hopeless grave;
His volant Spirit will, he trusts, ascend
To bliss unbounded, glory without end.
XXIV. After Leaving Italy
FAIR Land! Thee all men greet with joy; how few,
Whose souls take pride in freedom, virtue, fame,
Part from thee without pity dyed in shame:
I could not—while from Venice we withdrew,
Led on till an Alpine strait confi ned our view
Within its depths, and to the shore we came
Of Lago Morto, dreary sight and name,
Which o’er sad thoughts a sadder colouring threw.
Italia! on the surface of thy spirit,
(Too aptly emblemed by that torpid lake)
Shall a few partial breezes only creep?—
Be its depths quickened; what thou dost inherit
Of the world’s hopes, dare to fulfi l; awake,
Mother of Heroes, from thy death-like sleep!
XXV. Continued
AS indignation mastered grief, my tongue
Spake bitter words; words that did ill agree
With those rich stores of Nature’s imagery,
And divine Art, that fast to memory clung—
Thy gifts, magnifi cent Region, ever young
In the sun’s eye, and in his sister’s sight
How beautiful! how worthy to be sung
In strains of rapture, or subdued delight!
I feign not; witness that unwelcome shock
That followed the fi rst sound of German speech,120 1842
Caught the far-winding barrier Alps among.
In that announcement, greeting seemed to mock
Parting; the casual word had power to reach
My heart, and fi lled that heart with confl ict strong.
Sonnets Upon the Punishment of Death
In Series
Suggested by the View of Lancaster Castle (On the Road from the South)
I
THIS Spot—at once unfolding sight so fair
Of sea and land, with yon grey towers that still
Rise up as if to lord it over air—
Might soothe in human breast the sense of ill,
Or charm it out of memory; yea, might fi ll
The heart with joy and gratitude to God
For all his bounties upon man bestowed:
Why bears it then the name of “Weeping Hill”?
Thousands, as toward yon old Lancastrian Towers,
A prison’s crown, along this way they past
For lingering durance or quick death with shame,
From this bare eminence thereon have cast
Their fi rst look—blinded as tears fell in showers
Shed on their chains; and hence that doleful name.
II
TENDERLY do we feel by Nature’s law
For worst offenders: though the heart will heave
With indignation, deeply moved we grieve,
In after-thought, for Him who stood in awe
Neither of God nor man, and only saw,
Lost wretch, a horrible device enthroned
On proud temptations, till the victim groaned
Under the steel his hand had dared to draw.
But O, restrain compassion, if its course,
As oft befals, prevent or turn aside
Judgments and aims and acts whose higher source
Is sympathy with the unforewarned, who died
Blameless, with them that shuddered o’er his grave,
And all who from the law fi rm safety crave.William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 121
III
THE Roman Consul doomed his sons to die
Who had betrayed their country. The stern word
Afforded (may it through all time afford)
A theme for praise and admiration high.
Upon the surface of humanity
He rested not; its depths his mind explored;
He felt; but his parental bosom’s lord
Was Duty,—Duty calmed his agony.
And some, we know, when they by wilful act
A single human life have wrongly taken,
Pass sentence on themselves, confess the fact,
And, to atone for it, with soul unshaken
Kneel at the feet of Justice, and, for faith
Broken with all mankind, solicit death.
IV
IS Death, when evil against good has fought
With such fell mastery that a man may dare
By deeds the blackest purpose to lay bare?
Is Death, for one to that condition brought,
For him, or any one, the thing that ought
To be most dreaded? Lawgivers, beware,
Lest, capital pains remitting till ye spare
The murderer, ye, by sanction to that thought
Seemingly given, debase the general mind;
Tempt the vague will tried standards to disown,
Nor only palpable restraints unbind,
But upon Honour’s head disturb the crown,
Whose absolute rule permits not to withstand
In the weak love of life his least command.
V
NOT to the object specially designed,
Howe’er momentous in itself it be,
Good to promote or curb depravity,
Is the wise Legislator’s view confi ned.
His Spirit, when most severe, is oft most kind;
As all Authority in earth depends
On Love and Fear, their several powers he blends,
Copying with awe the one Paternal mind.
Uncaught by processes in show humane,
He feels how far the act would derogate122 1842
From even the humblest functions of the State;
If she, self-shorn of Majesty, ordain
That never more shall hang upon her breath
The last alternative of Life or Death.
VI
YE brood of Conscience—Spectres! that frequent
The bad Man’s restless walk, and haunt his bed—
Fiends in your aspect, yet benefi cent
In act, as hovering Angels when they spread
Their wings to guard the unconscious Innocent—
Slow be the Statutes of the land to share
A laxity that could not but impair
Your power to punish crime, and so prevent.
And ye, Beliefs! coiled serpent-like about
The adage on all tongues, “Murder will out,”
How shall your ancient warnings work for good
In the full might they hitherto have shown,
If for deliberate shedder of man’s blood
Survive not Judgment that requires his own?
VII
BEFORE the world had past her time of youth
While polity and discipline were weak,
The precept eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,
Came forth—a light, though but as of day-break,
Strong as could then be borne. A Master meek
Proscribed the spirit fostered by that rule,
Patience his law, long-suffering his school,
And love the end, which all through peace must seek.
But lamentably do they err who strain
His mandates, given rash impulse to controul
And keep vindictive thirsting from the soul,
So far that, if consistent in their scheme,
They must forbid the State to infl ict a pain,
Making of social order a mere dream.
VIII
FIT retribution, by the moral code
Determined, lies beyond the State’s embrace,
Yet, as she may, for each peculiar case
She plants well-measured terrors in the roadWilliam Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 123
Of wrongful acts. Downward it is and broad,
And, the main fear once doomed to banishment
Far oftener then, bad ushering worse event,
Blood would be spilt that in his dark abode
Crime might lie better hid. And, should the change
Take from the horror due to a foul deed,
Pursuit and evidence so far must fail,
And, guilt escaping, passion then might plead
In angry spirits for her old free range,
And the “wild justice of revenge” prevail.
IX
THOUGH to give timely warning and deter
Is one great aim of penalty, extend
Thy mental vision further and ascend
Far higher, else full surely thou shalt err.
What is a State? The wise behold in her
A creature born of time, that keeps one eye
Fixed on the statutes of Eternity,
To which her judgments reverently defer.
Speaking through Law’s dispassionate voice the State
Endues her conscience with external life
And being, to preclude or quell the strife
Of individual will, to elevate
The grovelling mind, the erring to recal,
And fortify the moral sense of all.
X
OUR bodily life, some plead, that life the shrine
Of an immortal spirit, is a gift
So sacred, so informed with light divine,
That no tribunal, though most wise to sift
Deed and intent, should turn the Being adrift
Into that world where penitential tear
May not avail, nor prayer have for God’s ear
A voice—that world whose veil no hand can lift
For earthly sight. “Eternity and Time”
They urge, “have interwoven claims and rights
Not to be jeopardised through foulest crime:
The sentence rule by mercy’s heaven-born lights.”
Even so; but measuring not by fi nite sense
Infi nite Power, perfect Intelligence.124 1842
XI
AH, think how one compelled for life to abide
Locked in a dungeon needs must eat the heart
Out of his own humanity, and part
With every hope that mutual cares provide;
And, should a less unnatural doom confi de
In life-long exile on a savage coast,
Soon the relapsing penitent may boast
Of yet more heinous guilt, with fi ercer pride.
Hence thoughtful Mercy, Mercy sage and pure,
Sanctions the forfeiture that Law demands,
Leaving the fi nal issue in His hands
Whose goodness knows no change, whose love is sure,
Who sees, foresees; who cannot judge amiss,
And wafts at will the contrite soul to bliss.
XII
SEE the Condemned alone within his cell
And prostrate at some moment when remorse
Stings to the quick, and, with resistless force,
Assaults the pride she strove in vain to quell.
Then mark him, him who could so long rebel,
The crime confessed, a kneeling Penitent
Before the Altar, where the Sacrament
Softens his heart, till from his eyes outwell
Tears of salvation. Welcome death! while Heaven
Does in this change exceedingly rejoice;
While yet the solemn heed the State hath given
Helps him to meet the last Tribunal’s voice
In faith, which fresh offences, were he cast
On old temptations, might for ever blast.
XIII. Conclusion
YES, though He well may tremble at the sound
Of his own voice, who from the judgment-seat
Sends the pale Convict to his last retreat
In death; though Listeners shudder all around,
They know the dread requital’s source profound;
Nor is, they feel, its wisdom obsolete—
(Would that it were!) the sacrifi ce unmeet
For Christian Faith. But hopeful signs abound;
The social rights of man breathe purer air;William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 125
Religion deepens her preventive care;
Then, moved by needless fear of past abuse,
Strike not from Law’s fi rm hand that awful rod,
But leave it thence to drop for lack of use,
Oh, speed the blessed hour, Almighty God!
XIV. Apology
THE formal World relaxes her cold chain
For One who speaks in numbers; ampler scope
His utterance fi nds; and, conscious of the gain,
Imagination works with bolder hope
The cause of grateful reason to sustain;
And, serving Truth, the heart more strongly beats
Against all barriers which his labour meets
In lofty place, or humble Life’s domain.
Enough;—before us lay a painful road,
And guidance have I sought in duteous love
From Wisdom’s heavenly Father. Hence hath fl owed
Patience, with trust that, whatsoe’er the way
Each takes in this high matter, all may move
Cheered with the prospect of a brighter day.
The Widow on Windermere Side
I
HOW beautiful, when up a lofty height
Honour ascends among the humblest poor,
And feeling sinks as deep! See there the door
Of One, a Widow, left beneath a weight
Of blameless debt. On evil Fortune’s spite
She wasted no complaint, but strove to make
A just repayment, both for conscience-sake
And that herself and hers should stand upright
In the world’s eye. Her work when daylight failed
Paused not, and through the depth of night she kept
Such earnest vigils, that belief prevailed
With some, the noble Creature never slept;
But, one by one, the hand of death assailed
Her children from her inmost heart bewept.126 1842
II
The Mother mourned, nor ceased her tears to fl ow,
Till a winter’s noon-day placed her buried Son
Before her eyes, last child of many gone—
His raiment of angelic white, and lo!
His very feet bright as the dazzling snow
Which they are touching; yea far brighter, even
As that which comes, or seems to come, from heaven,
Surpasses aught these elements can show.
Much she rejoiced, trusting that from that hour
Whate’er befel she could not grieve or pine;
But the Transfi gured, in and out of season,
Appeared, and spiritual presence gained a power
Over material forms that mastered reason.
Oh, gracious Heaven, in pity make her thine!
III
But why that prayer? as if to her could come
No good but by the way that leads to bliss
Through Death,—so judging we should judge amiss.
Since reason failed want is her threatened doom,
Yet frequent transports mitigate the gloom:
Nor of those maniacs is she one that kiss
The air or laugh upon a precipice;
No, passing through strange sufferings toward the tomb,
She smiles as if a martyr’s crown were won:
Oft, when light breaks through clouds or waving trees,
With outspread arms and fallen upon her knees
The Mother hails in her descending Son
An Angel, and in earthly ecstacies
Her own angelic glory seems begun.
‘A Poet!—He hath put his heart to school’
A POET!—He hath put his heart to school,
Nor dares to move unpropped upon the staff
Which Art hath lodged within his hand—must laugh
By precept only, and shed tears by rule.
Thy Art be Nature; the live current quaff,
And let the groveller sip his stagnant pool,
In fear that else, when Critics grave and coolWilliam Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 127
Have killed him, Scorn should write his epitaph.
How does the Meadow-fl ower its bloom unfold?
Because the lovely little fl ower is free
Down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold;
And so the grandeur of the Forest-tree
Comes not by casting in a formal mould,
But from its own divine vitality.
On a Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, upon the Field of Waterloo, by Haydon
BY Art’s bold privilege Warrior and War-horse stand
On ground yet strewn with their last battle’s wreck;
Let the Steed glory while his Master’s hand
Lies fi xed for ages on his conscious neck;
But by the Chieftain’s look, though at his side
Hangs that day’s treasured sword, how fi rm a check
Is given to triumph and all human pride!
Yon trophied Mound shrinks to a shadowy speck
In his calm presence! Him the mighty deed
Elates not, brought far nearer the grave’s rest,
As shows that time-worn face, for he such seed
Has sown as yields, we trust, the fruit of fame
In Heaven; hence no one blushes for thy name,
Conqueror, ’mid some sad thoughts, divinely blest!
‘Men of the Western World! in Fate’s dark book’
MEN of the Western World! in Fate’s dark book
Whence these opprobrious leaves of dire portent?
Think ye your British Ancestors forsook
Their native Land, for outrage provident;
From unsubmissive necks the bridle shook
To give, in their Descendants, freer vent
And wider range to passions turbulent,
To mutual tyranny a deadlier look?
Nay, said a voice, soft as the south wind’s breath,
Dive through the stormy surface of the fl ood
To the great current fl owing underneath;
Explore the countless springs of silent good;
So shall the truth be better understood,
And thy grieved Spirit brighten strong in faith.128 1842
‘Lo! where she stands fi xed in a saint-like trance’
LO! where she stands fi xed in a saint-like trance,
One upward hand, as if she needed rest
From rapture, lying softly on her breast!
Nor wants her eyeball an ethereal glance;
But not the less—nay more—that countenance,
While thus illumined, tells of painful strife
For a sick heart made weary of this life
By love, long crossed with adverse circumstance.
—Would she were now as when she hoped to pass
At God’s appointed hour to them who tread
Heaven’s sapphire pavement, yet breathed well content,
Well pleased, her foot should print earth’s common grass,
Lived thankful for day’s light, for daily bread,
For health, and time in obvious duty spent.
To a Painter
ALL praise the Likeness by thy skill portrayed;
But ’tis a fruitless task to paint for me,
Who, yielding not to changes Time has made,
By the habitual light of memory see
Eyes unbedimmed, see bloom that cannot fade,
And smiles that from their birthplace ne’er shall fl ee
Into the land where ghosts and phantoms be;
And, seeing this, own nothing in its stead.
Couldst thou go back into far-distant years,
Or share with me, fond thought! that inward eye,
Then, and then only, Painter! could thy Art
The visual powers of Nature satisfy,
Which hold, whate’er to common sight appears,
Their sovereign empire in faithful heart.
On the Same Subject
THOUGH I beheld at fi rst with blank surprise
This Work, I now have gazed on it so long
I see its truth with unreluctant eyes;
O, my Belovèd! I have done thee wrong,William Wordsworth (1770 –1850) 129
Conscious of blessedness, but, whence it sprung,
Ever too heedless, as I now perceive:
Morn into noon did pass, noon into eve,
And the old day was welcome as the young,
As welcome, and as beautiful—in sooth
More beautiful, as being a thing more holy:
Thanks to thy virtues, to the eternal youth
Of all thy goodness, never melancholy;
To thy large heart and humble mind, that cast
Into one vision, future, present, past.1843
Aubrey de Vere (1814–1902)
[See also 1842, 1855, 1861 and 1893]
To an Infant
FAMILIAR Spirit! that so graciously
Dost take whatever fortune may befall;
Trusting thy fragile form to the arms of all,
And never counting it indignity
To be caressed upon the humblest knee;
Thou, having yet no words, aloud dost call
Upon our hearts: the fever and the gall
Of our dark bosoms are reproved in thee.
From selfi sh fears and lawless wishes free,
Thou hast no painful feeling of thy weakness;
From shafts malign and pride’s base agony
Protected by the pillows of thy meekness—
Thou hast thy little loves which do not grieve thee,
Unquiet make thee, or unhappy leave thee.
‘Nations, their mission o’er, their offi ce done’
NATIONS,, their offi ce done,
Are forcibly drawn downwards: and that tide
Which raised them, homeward summoned doth subside.
What man by art can stay the sinking sun,
Or Spring departing when her goal is won?
States too are transient! longer none may bide
When once, its lesson taught or place supplied,
That steadying weight by it sustained is gone.
Be wise then, States! Whate’er the course ye hold,
Strive that your furthest aim subservient be
To the virtuous progress of Humanity.
Woe to that greatness which commercial gold
Alone creates, or seals. Such leaves no trace,
Sinking—and lighter things fl oat up into its place.1844
Elizabeth Barrett [Browning] (1806 –1861)
[See also 1850]
The Soul’s Expression
WITH stammering lips and insuffi cient sound,
I strive and struggle to deliver right
That music of my nature, day and night
With dream and thought and feeling, interwound;
And inly answering all the senses round
With octaves of a mystic depth and height,
Which step out grandly to the infi nite
From the dark edges of the sensual ground!
This song of soul I struggle to outbear
Through portals of the sense, sublime and whole,
And utter all myself into the air:
But if I did it,—as the thunder-roll
Breaks its own cloud,—my fl esh would perish there,
Before that dread apocalypse of soul.
On a Portrait of Wordsworth, by R. B. Haydon
WORDSWORTH upon Helvellyn! Let the cloud
Ebb audibly along the mountain-wind,
Then break against the rock, and show behind
The lowland valleys fl oating up to crowd
The sense with beauty. He, with forehead bowed
And humble-lidded eyes, as one inclined
Before the sovran thought of his own mind,
And very meek with inspirations proud,—
Takes here his rightful place as poet-priest
By the high altar, singing prayer and prayer
To the higher Heavens! A noble vision free,
Our Haydon’s hand hath fl ung out from the mist!
No portrait this, with Academic air—
This is the poet and his poetry.132 1844
Past and Future
MY future will not copy fair my past
On any leaf but Heaven’s. Be fully done,
Supernal Will! I would not fain be one
Who, satisfying thirst and breaking fast
Upon the fulness of the heart, at last
Saith no grace after meat. My wine hath run
Indeed out of my cup, and there is none
To gather up the bread of my repast
Scattered and trampled! Yet I fi nd some good
In earth’s green herbs, and streams that bubble up
Clear from the darkling ground,—content until
I sit with angels before better food.
Dear Christ! when thy new vintage fi lls my cup,
This hand shall shake no more, nor that wine spill.
Substitution
WHEN some beloved voice that was to you
Both sound and sweetness, faileth suddenly,
And silence against which you dare not cry,
Aches round you like a strong disease and new—
What hope? what help? what music will undo
That silence to your sense? Not friendship’s sigh—
Not reason’s subtle count! Not melody
Of viols, nor of pipes that Faunus blew—
Not songs of poets, nor of nightingales,
Whose hearts leap upward through the cypress trees
To the clear moon; nor yet the spheric laws
Self-chanted,—nor the angels’ sweet All hails,
Met in the smile of God. Nay, none of these.
Speak THOU, availing Christ!—and fi ll this pause.
Work
WHAT are we set on earth for? Say, to toil—
Nor seek to leave thy tending of the vines,
For all the heat o’ the day, till it declines,
And Death’s mild curfew shall from work assoil.
God did anoint thee with his odorous oil,
To wrestle, not to reign; and He assignsElizabeth Barrett [Browning] (1806 –1861) 133
All thy tears over, like pure crystallines,
For younger fellow-workers of the soil
To wear for amulets. So others shall
Take patience, labour, to their heart and hands,
From thy hands, and thy heart, and thy brave cheer,
And God’s grace fructify through thee to all.
The least fl ower, with a brimming cup, may stand,
And share its dew-drop with another near.
The Look
THE Saviour looked on Peter. Ay, no word—
No gesture of reproach! The Heavens serene,
Though heavy with armed justice, did not lean
Their thunders that way! The forsaken Lord
Looked only, on the traitor. None record
What that look was; none guess: for those who have seen
Wronged lovers loving through a death-pang keen,
Or pale-cheeked martyrs smiling to a sword,
Have missed Jehovah at the judgment-call!
And Peter, from the height of blasphemy—
“I never knew this man”—did quail and fall,
As knowing straight THAT God,—and turned free,
And went out speechless from the face of all,
And fi lled the silence, weeping bitterly.
The Meaning of the Look
I THINK that look of Christ might seem to say—
“Thou Peter! art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my heart upon,
For all God’s charge, to His high angels, may
Guard my foot better? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me ’neath the morning-sun,—
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray?—
The cock crows coldly.—Go, and manifest
A late contrition, but no bootless fear!
For when thy deathly need is bitterest,
Thou shalt not be denied, as I am here—
My voice, to God and angels, shall attest,—
Because I KNOW this man, let him be clear.”134 1844
Work and Contemplation
THE woman singeth at her spinning-wheel
A pleasant chant, ballad or barcarolle;
She thinketh of her song, upon the whole,
Far more than of her fl ax; and yet the reel
Is full, and artfully her fi ngers feel
With quick adjustment, provident controul,
The lines, too subtly twisted to unroll,
Out to a perfect thread. I hence appeal
To the dear Christian Church—that we may do
Our Father’s business in these temples mirk,
Thus, swift and stedfast; thus, intent and strong;
While, thus, apart from toil, our souls pursue
Some high, calm, spheric tune, and prove our work
The better for the sweetness of our song.
Cheerfulness Taught by Reason
I THINK we are too ready with complaint
In this fair world of God’s. Had we no hope
Indeed beyond the zenith and the slope
Of yon grey blank of sky, we might be faint
To muse upon eternity’s constraint
Round our aspirant souls. But since the scope
Must widen early, is it well to droop,
For a few days consumed in loss and taint?
O pusillanimous Heart, be comforted,—
And, like a cheerful traveller, take the road—
Singing beside the hedge. What if the bread
Be bitter in thine inn, and thou unshod
To meet the fl ints?—At least it may be said,
“Because the way is short, I thank thee, God!”
Exaggeration
WE overstate the ills of life, and take
Imagination, given us to bring down
The choirs of singing angels overshone
By God’s clear glory,—down our earth to rake
The dismal snows instead; fl ake following fl ake,
To cover all the corn. We walk uponJohn Clare (1793 –1864) 135
The shadow of hills across a level thrown,
And pant like climbers. Near the alderbreak
We sigh so loud, the nightingale within
Refuses to sing loud, as else she would.
O brothers! let us leave the shame and sin
Of taking vainly, in a plaintive mood,
The holy name of GRIEF!—holy herein,
That, by the grief of ONE, came all our good.
Insuffi ciency
WHEN I attain to utter forth in verse
Some inward thought, my soul throbs audibly
Along my pulses, yearning to be free
And something farther, fuller, higher, rehearse,
To the individual, true, and the universe,
In consummation of right harmony!
But, like a dreary wind against a tree,
We are blown against for ever by the curse
Which breathes through nature. Oh, the world is weak—
The effl uence of each is false to all;
And what we best conceive, we fail to speak.
Wait, soul, until thine ashen garments fall!
And then resume thy broken strains, and seek
Fit peroration, without let or thrall.
John Clare (1793 –1864)
[See also 1841, 1842 and 1861]
The text of the sonnet below is taken from its fi rst publication in Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Thursday,
August 29, 1844.
The Nightingale
This is the month* the nightingale, clod-brown,
Is heard among the woodland’s shading boughs;
This is the month, when in the vale, grass grown,
The maiden hears, at eve, her lover’s vows.
What time the blue mist round her patient cows
Dim rises from the grass, and half conceals
Their dappled hides, I hear the nightingale,136 1844
That from the little blackthorn, springing steals
To the old hazel hedge that skirts the vale,
And still unseen, sings sweet. The ploughman feels
The thrilling music as he goes along,
And imitates and listens, while the fi elds
Lose all their paths in dusk;—to lead him wrong,
Still sings the nightingale her sweet melodious song.
* Written in June last.
Henry Ellison (1811–1880)
[See also 1839]
Many of Ellison’s sonnets, including some below, were fi rst published in 1833 in Mad Moments, or First
Verse Attempts by a Born Natural. This was privately printed in Malta. As such, many of his sonnets did
not come to the attention of British readers until the publication of The Poetry of Real Life in 1844. This
publication has been used as the source for the sonnets below.
Error
Oh, there is no such thing as error, no!
Nor falsehood, in the working and the frame
Of Nature—nothing oversteps its aim,
Nor yet falls short of it: nor couldst thou show
A misplaced streak upon the daisy, tho’
Thou took’st a microscope to fi nd the same!
Nothing pretends to be (the more Man’s shame)
What ’twas not meant, nor is it ever so—
God hath not erred in aught, nor has He made
One falsehood in his works so infi nite.
’Tis Man who mystifi es the broad daylight
Of Truth, and dresses things in masquerade;
And calls them by false names, the hypocrite!
That he may sin, and yet seem to go right.
Religion
’Tis not the bending of the knee—the prayer
By rote rehearsed, and, soon as said, forgot;
’Tis not to pray in one particular spot,
And think profane and void all said elsewhere.Henry Ellison (1811–1880) 137
It is the kneeling of the heart, as ’t were:
The homage of the inmost thought, which not
The majesty alone of kings, begot
Of fear, could cause, nor therewithal compare.
The good man hath his temple in his soul,
And God to him is everywhere, but most
In that same soul, there never dimned or lost:
He prays too everywhere: for this great Whole
Is one vast temple, to such as believe,
Where they “communion” always may receive!
To Certain Conventional Critics
For a new poet ye can not make room,
Because, at once, he falls not in his place,
Nor bears your critic-rein, nor jogs your pace,
Like an old roadster, hackneyed to his doom!
But neigheth like a steed that from the womb
Hath borne no shackles, galled with no vile trace,
Nor yet bestridden by a rider base,
That takes his way forthright, let what will come!
The Muses’ Pegasus, he scorns the rein,
Nor any but her hand divine permits:
Which soothes him, or enkindles him again,
With its least touch. Wings too he has, as fi ts
His calling, and the heights he must attain,
Above the reach of your low-fl ighted wits!
Aye, ye would shut him out, because his song
Is strange, and hath new gifts of tongue: because
Its mighty volume bears down and o’erawes
Your weaker hearing, with a speech too strong;
Like Ocean’s voice, pent up and suffering wrong
In the cramped shell, with many a break and pause:
And yet (though ye yourselves know not the cause)
Confounding ye, and bearing ye along!
Our Shakspear made him elbow-room, and Greece
Pushed, with the “Unities,” aside, to gain
A stage, where his large soul could move at ease.
And, though your heart be narrow as your brain,
The world hath room, howe’er the Muse increase,
As heaven for all the stars it should contain!138 1844
On the Effects of Machinery
Were all these means and rich appliances
Meant merely to enable Man to make
More money, not for the diviner sake
Of his immortal Being, that, through these,
It might enlarge with spiritual increase!
Then could I wish that ye might ever wake
And watch, and Mammon’s wages only take,
And make but gold, who for it mar your peace—
These things were meant to give Man’s soul more time
To look about it, and unto the heights
Of spiritual Being oftener climb—
To bring within the reach of all delights
Confi ned yet to the few, and give sublime
Direction to the Spirit’s daily fl ights!
God, the Greatest Poet
God is the greatest poet, and, like all
True poets, maketh weekday poesy—
He paints the clouds of heaven gorgeously,
As if to paint them were his only call:
Yet ’tis their use makes them poetical!
Their use great as their beauty to the eye,
Needful to earth as lovely to the sky;
And so through all His labours, great or small!
He seeks not vain display, but blendeth Use
With Beauty, in a twofold loveliness:
That thus one thing in many ways may bless,
Serve many ends—so, after Him, the Muse:
Who teaches Truth divine, but in the dress
Of Fancy, that she wider may diffuse!
On the Death of an Old Dog
Thou honest servant, friend, of many years,
Thy loss doth that of worldly goods transcend—
I loved thee: and we love not to no end
Or use, nor twine our human hopes and fearsHenry Ellison (1811–1880) 139
Round the least thing in vain, nor shed vain tears
Even for thee—for so my heart doth send
A recognition after thee, old friend,
Due to thy love, and of mine the arrears!
Thou hast departed, and thy clear, frank eye,
Void of suspicion as of guile, no more
Looks up into my face inquiringly—
Yet that in thee which loved, as it before
Thy time existed, will eternally,
For Love ’s of God, whatever shape it bore!
The Very Rich
The richest are but stewards for the rest,
When on themselves they take the management
And trouble of their wealth: by them but spent,
Enjoyed by others, with more peace and zest;
Free from the cares which the possessor’s breast
Annoy: the envy and the discontent:
The litigation, and the distrained rent,
The waste, remediless though manifest.
And, when they on themselves take not the care
Of their own wealth, a greater care it grows;
For they are robbed by parasites, and bear
Their treasure in distrust, with gilded woes
Bemocked at heart—so have they far less share
Than he who little has, but its use knows!
The Duke of Devonshire, at cost immense,
Maintains his princely gardens for the use
Of his head-gardener: who doth amuse
Himself therein, and, at the Duke’s expense,
Joys to the full, each day, his every sense;
The true possessor of all that he views:
Who calls it his, with princely revenues
Of more than gold, of high intelligence,
Of beauty and of pleasure! without cost
All his: nay, he is paid for having what
Unto the Duke himself is almost lost!
Such compensations has Man’s inward lot,
And richest those who énjoy, not have, most;
So outward difference of rank weighs not!140 1844
Time-Servers
Who lives upon opinion, lives but by
The breath of others’ mouths, not by his own—
His very soul, by which Man lives alone,
Is pawned, and hourly gives itself the lie—
He dares not lift his hand, or laugh, or cry,
Save upon precedent—yet such I’ve known,
Who tune their shallow pipes to every tone,
Playing all stops with like facility—
’Twere worse than death such borrowed air to draw;
In their own nostrils such men’s breath must smell—
’Tis rank: for it must fi rst have passed the maw
Of commonest opinion, ere they (faugh!)
Will breathe it, whose souls are the vehicle
Of that at which a beggar’s gorge would swell!
On Doing No Injury
Wrong thou no living being, though but by
The least ill thought; for, though sure that it ne’er
Can be discovered, yet there is, I fear,
Still one to whom it must, unfailingly,
Be known: thyself! and thus the injury
Is done to thee! and this will become clear,
Wilt thou but think what Man should hold most dear,
His soul, and all else for it! now, if thy
Own self-respect be lessened, by a thought
Or act of thine, hast thou not thereby done
Thyself a lasting injury, which nought
Can make good to thee? thou hast in thine own
Eyes lessened thyself: the worst ill! and one
Which none, but thou thyself, could e’er have wrought!
On Hearing Some One Speak with Indifference of a Poor Child
“’Tis but a common child!”—thou’rt wrong, my friend!
’Tis an uncared-for outcast—but of Man,
Not nature: she casts none off thus—and can
You to a prejudice so foolish lend
An added weight, and help thus to suspendHenry Ellison (1811–1880) 141
It like a yoke about his neck? a ban:
A stern necessity: which fi rst began
In words, but in a pow’r like Fate doth end!
There is naught common—Nature hath made naught
So common, but ’t may easily be wrought
Up unto some undreamt-of aptitude,
With but a little love, a little thought!
Yea! into something, too, uncommon good
And beautiful! God’s own similitude!
On the Thames, Near Hampton-Court
Here glides the Thames ’twixt meadows still and green,
Unconscious of the turmoil and the fret
Which, further on, his prouder path beset—
Here Nature reigns, an undisputed queen,
Art dares not trespass on her still demesne;
Or, if she does, ’tis as an anchoret,
The world and the world’s ways so to forget,
And grieving that such follies should have been—
The hills, with cloud-like undulations, make
Th’ horizon vague, while the stream, far away,
Lingers, as loth our sight yet to forsake—
Not yet doth Commerce in thy broad lap play,
Thy foster-child, old Thames, nor strive to break
His leading-strings, and higher fl ights essáy.
On Machinery
Ye Poets, who from steam and railroad shrink,
And, with poetic maledictions, ban
All that falls not at once into your plan,
Ye have mista’en your calling, if ye think
That Art and Science have not power to sink
Fresh shafts into the Muses’ mine, nor can
Lay open new Castalian founts to Man,
Whence greatest Poets will be proud to drink!
Nought e’er on earth shall Poesy’s high place
Usurp, but e’en to Matter her embrace
Divine should spiritual offspring bear—
Then here, between them, with all heavenly grace,
The banns of holy wedlock I declare,
Whom God hath joined let none asunder tear!142 1844
On the Roughness of My Verse
My Muse is harsh, they say—ay, so ’t may be
Perhaps: how could it well be otherwise,
When every morn she hears a People’s cries
For bread? and Nature itself scarce seems free
From the wide taint of human misery!
She cannot pick her phrases, and be nice,
When toiling Virtue stands rebuked by Vice,
And Nations starve to keep up pedigree!
She’s not the silken Muse of drawing-rooms—
’Mid life’s stern, bitter truths, she walks the streets,
The idle hammer, and the empty looms,
By which sits lank Despair, and Hunger cheats,
Gnawing his rivelled knuckles: ’mid the seats
Of Commerce, which bad laws now make its tombs!
How to Seek Truth
Before a daisy in the grass I bend
My head in awe: I could not pluck it thence
Without a feeling of deep reverence,
As something God has made for a wise end!
My whole mind it requires to comprehend
The least work of Divine Intelligence,
My whole heart, with all feelings deep, intense,
Expression to its loveliness to lend!
But not so is it with the works of Man—
On these I boldly lay my hand, on creeds
And dogmas, for these come within my span—
Therefore with these articulate blasts I fan
The chaff of Custom from Truth’s genuine seeds,
Like the great wind, that where it listeth speeds!
On Lighting My First Fire at Home, after a Cheerless Journey
O genial fl ame, thou gatherest around
Thy household smile the light of other days;
This room, (erewhile so vacant) in thy blaze
(As these inanimate objects here had found
Remitted being, and about me wound
With arms of love) draws round me, to displace,Henry Ellison (1811–1880) 143
With Home’s most homesome, dear, memorial face,
The stranger-aspect which from all things frown’d—
Welcome my old arm-chair: stretch out thine arms,
Old friend, and take me to thyself again;
Thou hast borne with me in mine hour of pain:
There art thou still, ’mid all life’s hurts and harms,
Haven of rest—the throne, on which I reign
O’er Man’s best empire, Home, with all its charms!
Authority and Infl uence
Authority says unto one man, do
This, and he does it: to another, go,
And straight he goes—yet ’tis but outward show,
Not heartfelt—for an action has no true
Signifi cance, save we perform it through
An inward prompting: save volition fl ow
Spontaneous as a stream, and round it grow
The fl owers of Love, whence its sweet source it drew!
But Infl uence takes us gently by the hand,
And round our hearts twines close as does the rose
Round home’s dear porch, with daily presence bland—
She is obeyed, and yet doth not command—
For she the fl owers of duty only shows,
Whose thorns wound but the rash who press too close!
On Mozart, Who Lived in Neglect, and Died in Poverty
O Genius, waiting in the courts of kings
With menials, who oft higher wages get,
As if thou, and not they, incur’dst the debt:
As if thy works sublime were but playthings
T’ amuse an idle hour, and the strings,
On which thou dost all harmony beget,
And to the music of Creation set,
Were but a common fi ddler’s offerings!
Alas for thee: thou, who should’st eat the bread
Of Immortality, when thus constrained
To pick the crumbs that fall where fools have fed!
Thou, who wert made to utter things ordained,
To whom the world doth listen—whom, when dead,
It worships, though when living it disdained!144 1844
On Going a Short Distance out of London, in the Spring
Far am I from all voice of citied life:
No sound thereof comes here; or, if it does,
’Tis like the ocean’s, hushed and murmurous
In distance—all the petty care and strife,
The jar of sin and suffering, so rife
In peopled deserts, like an incubus
Upon the breast of social man, are thus
Awhile forgot; and, like a loving wife,
Who takes her truant husband back again,
Though he hath lately played the libertine,
Me to her holy breast doth Nature strain,
With the old love, in its fi rst force divine!
And round me all her new-grown fl owers doth twine,
Like loveknots, the more sweetly to constrain!
To the Chartists, Upon Their Suppressing Public Meetings
Ye fools, who clamour for the “Charter” so,
And yet, in seeking it, defeat the end
Ye yourselves have in view—why would ye bend
The necks of others to your yoke? to show
How little ye true freedom love or know?
If such as ye were destined to ascend
Her social heights, your vision might extend
Beyond these views of party, and thence throw
A glance upon the great map of mankind;
Learning that Freedom is in reach of those
Alone, who, claiming free use of their mind,
The channels of Opinion never close:
Which with a thousand different courses wind,
And mix in Thought’s great sea, from whence they rose!
Contentment, in What it Lies
How many lovely things have I desired,
Which I could not have had, though I had all
The wealth of earth and power imperial!
The fair maid for my wife, the all-admired,Henry Ellison (1811–1880) 145
Who trod the earth as if it was inspired
By her sweet footing, and grew musical!
The voice of power, the poet’s pen, to call
Forth feeling, like a fountain, when required!
And yet how little did I truly need
Of all! but ’round me, wiser now, I draw
A circle, beyond which I never tread—
My heart! and there, of all I ever saw
Or heard of Beautiful, I keep indeed
The best part, and the rest nor miss nor heed!
How God Thinks
This world’s the mind of God—throughout all space
He lives, and thinks, and operates—there’s nought,
From greatest unto least, but is a thought
Of His: from the least fl ower, in its grace
And beauty, to the sun in his bright place!
Those orbs, with which all heaven above is fraught,
Are by an act of mere volition brought
Forth into being—each with radiant face,
As if it smiled again to be so bright,
And some with stars around them like a zone!
He thinks not as men do: mere thoughts alone,
Without effect; he thinks, and, as I write
The word, lo! worlds into their place have grown,
New satellites to render back his light.
Children’s Questions
A shrewd child’s questions are, in their quaint way,
Hardest to answer—they come to the “Why”
At once, and will not take, for a reply,
Vague explanations which but lead astray—
They break through all the cobweb-like array
Of words and technicalities, whereby
We darken e’en the windows of the sky,
And dim the very light of God’s free day!
But they those lovely windows would fl ing wide,
And, like the fl owers, turn still to the light,
Which through them streams, from morn till eventide!146 1844
Nature’s the only book which they delight
To pore upon: with things, not words, which hide
And gloss them over, joying heart and sight!
Utility
Thou ask’st me, of what use is all this care
For one poor fl ower, which will bloom and die,
And nothing leave behind it when gone by!
O Friend, thou tak’st a mean view of what are
The ends of life, and little too dost bear
In mind the uses of Humanity:
For which all else hath its utility,
Useful but as with this great end they square!
Through this one fl ower, fl eeting as it is,
I gain the feeling of the Beautiful;
And whosoever hath not gainëd this,
Hath missed one end of Life: and doth annul
One fairest page in Nature’s book, and miss
Its meaning, and but half Life’s fl owers cull!
Frances Kemble (1809 –1893)
[See also 1859 and 1866]
‘’Twas but a dream! and oh! what are they all’
’TWAS but a dream! and oh! what are they all,
All the fond visions hope’s bright fi nger traces,
All the fond visions time’s dark wing effaces,
But very dreams! but morning buds, that fall
Withered and blighted, long before the night:
Strewing the paths they should have made more
bright,
With mournful wreaths, whose light hath past away,
That can return to life and beauty never,
And yet, of whom it was but yesterday,
We deemed they’d bloom as fresh and fair for
ever.Frances Kemble (1809 –1893) 147
Oh then, when hopes, that to thy heart are dearest,
Over the future shed their sunniest beam,
When round thy path their bright wings hover nearest,
Trust not too fondly!—for ’tis but a dream!
‘Away, away! bear me away, away’
AWAY, away! bear me away, away,
Into the boundless void, thou mighty wind!
That rushest on thy midnight way,
And leav’st this weary world, far, far behind!
Away, away! bear me away, away,
To the wide strandless deep,
Ye headlong waters! whose mad eddies leap
From the pollution of your bed of clay,
Away, away! bear me away, away,
Into the fountains of eternal light,
Ye rosy clouds! that to my longing sight,
Seem melting in the sun’s devouring ray!
Away, away! oh, for some mighty blast,
To sweep this loathsome life into the past!
‘I would I knew the lady of thy heart!’
I WOULD I knew the lady of thy heart!
She whom thou lov’st perchance, as I love thee.
She unto whom thy thoughts and wishes fl ee;
Those thoughts, in which, alas! I bear no part.
Oh, I have sat and sighed, thinking how fair,
How passing beautiful, thy love must be;
Of mind how high, of modesty how rare;
And then I’ve wept, I’ve wept in agony!
Oh, that I might but once behold those eyes,
That to thy enamour’d gaze alone seem fair;
Once hear that voice, whose music still replies
To the fond vows thy passionate accents swear:
Oh, that I might but know the truth and die,
Nor live in this long dream of misery!148 1844
‘Whence should they come, lady! those happy days’
To a Lady who wrote under my likeness as Juliet, “Lieti Giorni e felice.”
WHENCE should they come, lady! those happy days
That thy fair hand and gentle heart invoke
Upon my head? Alas! such do not rise
On any, of the many, who with sighs
Bear through this journey-land of wo, life’s yoke.
The light of such lives not in thine own lays;
Such were not hers, that girl, so fond, so fair,
Beneath whose image thou hast traced thy pray’r.
Evil, and few, upon this darksome earth,
Must be the days of all of mortal birth;
Then why not mine? Sweet lady! wish again,
Not more of joy to me, but less of pain;
Calm slumber, when life’s troubled hours are past,
And with thy friendship cheer them while they last.
‘Not in our dreams, not even in our dreams’
Suggested by Sir Thomas Lawrence observing that we never dream of ourselves
younger than we are.
NOT in our dreams, not even in our dreams,
May we return to that sweet land of youth,
That home of hope, of innocence, and truth,
Which as we further roam but fairer seems.
In that dim shadowy world, where the soul strays
When she has laid her mortal charge to rest,
We oft behold far future hours and days,
But ne’er live o’er the past, the happiest.
How oft will fancy’s wild imaginings
Bear us in sleep to times and worlds unseen,
But ah! not e’en unfettered fancy’s wings
Can lead us back to aught that we have been,
Or waft us to that smiling, sunny shore,
Which e’en in slumber we may tread no more.Frances Kemble (1809 –1893) 149
‘Whene’er I recollect the happy time’
WHENE’ER I recollect the happy time
When you and I held converse dear together,
There come a thousand thoughts of sunny weather,
Of early blossoms, and the fresh year’s prime;
Your memory lives for ever in my mind
With all the fragrant beauties of the spring,
With od’rous lime and silver hawthorn twin’d,
And many a noonday woodland wandering.
There’s not a thought of you, but brings along
Some sunny dream of river, fi eld and sky;
’Tis wafted on the blackbird’s sunset song,
Or some wild snatch of ancient melody.
And as I date it still, our love arose
’Twixt the last violet and the earliest rose.
‘Lady, whom my beloved loves so well!’
LADY, whom my beloved loves so well!
When on his clasping arm thy head reclineth,
When on thy lips his ardent kisses dwell,
And the bright fl ood of burning light, that shineth
In his dark eyes, is poured into thine;
When thou shalt lie enfolded to his heart,
In all the trusting helplessness of love;
If in such joy sorrow can fi nd a part,
Oh, give one sigh unto a doom like mine!
Which I would have thee pity, but not prove.
One cold, calm, careless, wintry look, that fell
Haply by chance on me, is all that he
E’er gave my love; round that, my wild thoughts
dwell
In one eternal pang of memory.
Woman’s Love
A MAIDEN meek, with solemn, steadfast eyes,
Full of eternal constancy and faith,
And smiling lips, thro’ whose soft portal sighs
Truth’s holy voice, with ev’ry balmy breath,
So journeys she along life’s crowded way,