THE POETICAL WORKS OF HENRY KIRKE WHITE.
WITH A MEMOIR BY SIR HARRIS NICOLAS.
TO PETER SMITH, ESQ. THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED IN TESTIMONY OF ESTEEM AND FRIENDSHIP.
Memoir of Henry Kirke White
Clifton Grove Time Childhood; Part I Part II The Christiad Lines written on a Survey of the Heavens Lines supposed to be spoken by a Lover at the Grave of his Mistress My Study Description of a Summer's Eve Lines—"Go to the raging sea, and say, 'Be still!'" Written in the Prospect of Death Verses—"When pride and envy, and the scorn" Fragment—"Oh! thou most fatal of Pandora's train" "Loud rage the winds without.—The wintry cloud" To a Friend in Distress Christmas Day Nelsoni Mors Epigram on Robert Bloomfield Elegy occasioned by the Death of Mr. Gill, who was drowned in the River Trent, while bathing Inscription for a Monument to the Memory of Cowper "I'm pleased, and yet I'm sad" Solitude "If far from me the Fates remove" "Fanny! upon thy breast I may not lie!" Fragments—"Saw'st thou that light? exclaim'd the youth, and paused:" "The pious man" "Lo! on the eastern summit, clad in gray" "There was a little bird upon that pile;" "O pale art thou, my lamp, and faint" "O give me music—for my soul doth faint" "And must thou go, and must we part" "Ah! who can say, however fair his view," "Hush'd is the lyre—the hand that swept" "When high romance o'er every wood and stream" "Once more, and yet once more," Fragment of an Eccentric Drama To a Friend Lines on reading the Poems of Warton Fragment—"The western gale," Commencement of a Poem on Despair The Eve of Death Thanatos Athanatos Music On being confined to School one pleasant Morning in Spring To Contemplation My own Character Lines written in Wilford Churchyard Verses—"Thou base repiner at another's joy," Lines—"Yes, my stray steps have wander'd, wander'd far" The Prostitute
To my Lyre To an early Primrose Ode addressed to H. Fuseli, Esq. R. A. To the Earl of Carlisle, K. G. To Contemplation To the Genius of Romance To Midnight To Thought Genius Fragment of an Ode to the Moon To the Muse To Love On Whit-Monday To the Wind, at Midnight To the Harvest Moon To the Herb Rosemary To the Morning On Disappointment On the Death of Dermody the Poet
To the River Trent Sonnet—"Give me a cottage on some Cambrian wild," Sonnet supposed to have been addressed by a Female Lunatic to a Lady Sonnet supposed to be written by the unhappy Poet Dermody in a Storm The Winter Traveller Sonnet—"Ye whose aspirings court the muse of lays," Recantatory, in Reply to the foregoing elegant Admonition On hearing the Sounds of an Aolian Harp Sonnet—"What art thou, Mighty One! and where thy seat?" To Capel Lofft, Esq. To the Moon Written at the Grave of a Friend To Misfortune Sonnet—"As thus oppress'd with many a heavy care," To April Sonnet—"Ye unseen spirits, whose wild melodies," To a Taper To my Mother Sonnet—"Yes, 't will be over soon. This sickly dream" To Consumption Sonnet—"Thy judgments, Lord, are just;" Sonnet—"When I sit musing on the chequer'd part" Sonnet—"Sweet to the gay of heart is Summer's smile" Sonnet—"Quick o'er the wintry waste dart fiery shafts"
BALLADS, SONGS, AND HYMNS.
Gondoline A Ballad—"Be hush'd, be hush'd, ye bitter winds," The Lullaby of a Female Convict to her Child, the Night previous to Execution The Savoyard's Return A Pastoral Song Melody—"Yes, once more that dying strain" Additional Stanza to a Song by Waller The Wandering Boy Canzonet—"Maiden! wrap thy mantle round thee'" Song—"Softly, softly blow, ye breezes," The Shipwrecked Solitary's Song to the Night The Wonderful Juggler Hymn—"Awake, sweet harp of Judah, wake" A Hymn for Family Worship The Star of Bethlehem Hymn—"O Lord, my God, in mercy turn"
Eulogy on Henry Kirke White, by Lord Byron Sonnet on Henry Kirke White, by Capel Lofft Sonnet occasioned by the Second of H. K. White, by the same Written in the Homer of Mr. H. K. White, by the same To the Memory of H. K. White, by the Rev. W. B. Collyer, A.M. Sonnet to H. K. White, on his Poems, by Arthur Owen, Esq. Sonnet, on seeing another written to H. K. White, by the same Reflections on Reading the Life of the late H. K. White, by William Holloway On the Death of Henry Kirke White, by T. Park Lines on the Death of Henry Kirke White, by the Rev. J. Plumptre To Henry Kirke White, by H. Welker Verses occasioned by the Death of H. K. White, by Josiah Conder On Reading H. K. White's Poem on Solitude, by the same Ode on the late Henry Kirke White, by Juvenis Sonnet in Memory of Henry Kirke White, by J. G. Lines on the Death of Henry Kirke White Sonnet to H. K. White, on his Poems, by G. L. C. To the Memory of Henry Kirke White, by a Lady Stanzas supposed to have been written at the Grave of Henry Kirke White, by a Lady
MEMOIR OF HENRY KIRKE WHITE.
BY SIR HARRIS NICOLAS.
Thine, Henry, is a deathless name on earth, Thine amaranthine wreaths, new pluck'd in Heaven! By what aspiring child of mortal birth Could more be ask'd, to whom might more be given TOWNSEND.
It has been said that the contrasts of light and shade are as necessary to biography as to painting, and that the character which is radiant with genius and virtue requires to be relieved by more common and opposite qualities. Though this may be true as a principle, there are many exceptions; and the life of Henry Kirke White, whose merits were unalloyed by a single vice, is one of the most memorable. The history of his short and melancholy career, by Mr. Southey, is extremely popular; and when it is remembered that its author is one of the most distinguished of living writers, that as a biographer he is unrivalled, and that he had access to all the materials which exist, it would be as vain to expect from the present Memoir any new facts, as it would be absurd to hope that it will be more worthy of attention than the imperishable monument which his generous friend has erected to his memory.
There is, however, nothing inconsistent with this admission, in presuming that a Life of the Poet might be written almost as interesting as the one alluded to, and without the writer assuming to himself any unusual sagacity. As Mr. Southey's narrative is prefixed to a collection of all Kirke White's remains, in prose as well as in verse, his letters are inserted as part of his works, instead of extracts from them being introduced into the Memoir. This volume will, on the contrary, be confined to his Poems; and such parts of his letters as describe his situation and feelings at particular periods will be introduced into the account of his life. Indeed, so frequent are the allusions to himself in those letters as well as in his poems, that he may be almost considered an autobiographer; and the writer who substitutes his own cold and lifeless sketch for the glowing and animated portrait which these memorials of genius afford, must either be deficient in skill, or be under the dominion of overweening vanity.
Few who have risen to eminence were, on the paternal side at least, of humbler origin than Henry Kirke White. His father, John White, was a butcher at Nottingham; but his mother, who bore the illustrious name of Neville, is said to have belonged to a respectable family in Staffordshire. He was born at Nottingham on the 21st of March, 1785; and in his earliest years indications were observed of the genius for which he was afterwards distinguished. In his poem "Childhood," he has graphically described the little school where, between the age of three and five, he
"enter'd, though with toil and pain, The low vestibule of learning's fane."
The venerable dame by whom he was
"inured to alphabetic toils,"
and whose worth he gratefully commemorates, had the discernment to perceive her charge's talents, and even foretold his future celebrity:
"And, as she gave my diligence its praise, Talk'd of the honour of my future days."
If he did not deceive himself, it was at this period that his imagination became susceptible of poetic associations. Speaking of the eagerness with which he left the usual sports of children to listen to tales of imaginary woe, and of the effect which they produced, he says,
"Beloved moment! then 't was first I caught The first foundation of romantic thought; Then first I shed bold Fancy's thrilling tear, Then first that Poesy charm'd mine infant ear. Soon stored with much of legendary lore, The sports of childhood charm'd my soul no more; Far from the scene of gaiety and noise, Far, far from turbulent and empty joys, I hied me to the thick o'erarching shade, And there, on mossy carpet, listless laid; While at my feet the rippling runnel ran, The days of wild romance antique I'd scan; Soar on the wings of fancy through the air, To realms of light, and pierce the radiance there."
The peculiar disposition of his mind, having thus early displayed itself, every day added to its force. Study and abstraction were his greatest pleasures, and a love of reading became his predominant passion. "I could fancy," said his eldest sister, "I see him in his little chair with a large book upon his knee, and my mother calling, 'Henry, my love, come to dinner,' which was repeated so often without being regarded, that she was obliged to change the tone of her voice before she could rouse him."
At the age of six he was placed under the care of the Rev. John Blanchard, who kept the best school in Nottingham, where he learnt writing, arithmetic, and French; and he continued there for several years. During that time two facts are related of him which prove the precocity of his talents. When about seven, he was accustomed to go secretly into his father's kitchen and teach the servant to read and write; and he composed a tale of a Swiss emigrant, which he gave her, being too diffident to show it to his mother. In his eleventh year he wrote a separate theme for each of the twelve or fourteen boys in his class; and the excellence of the various pieces obtained his master's applause.
Henry was destined for his father's trade, and the efforts of his mother to change that intention were for some time fruitless. Even while he was at school, one day in every week, and his leisure hours on the others, were employed in carrying meat to his father's customers; but a dispute between his father and his master having caused him to be removed from school, one of the ushers, from malice or ignorance, told his mother that it was impossible to make her son do any thing. The person who reported so unfavourably of his abilities, little knew that he had then given ample evidence of his talents, in some poetical satires which his treatment at school had provoked, but which he afterwards destroyed.
Soon after he quitted Mr. Blanchard's school he was intrusted to Mr. Shipley, who discovered his pupil's abilities, and relieved his friends' uneasiness on the subject. His earliest production that has been preserved was written in his thirteenth year, "On being confined to School one pleasant Morning in Spring," in which a schoolboy's love of liberty, and his envy of the freedom of a neighbouring wren, are expressed with plaintive simplicity.
About this time a slight improvement took place in his situation. His mother, to whom he was indebted for all the happiness of his childhood, opened a day school, and, as it abstracted her from the groveling cares of a butcher's shop, his home was made much more comfortable; and, instead of being confined to his father's business, he was placed in a stocking loom, with the view of bringing him up to the trade of a hosier, the poverty of his family still precluding the hope of a profession.
It may easily be believed that this occupation ill agreed with the aspirations of his mind. From his mother he had few secrets, and in her ear he breathed his disgust and unhappiness. "He could not bear," he said, "the idea of spending some years of his life in shining and folding up stockings;" he wanted "something to occupy his brain, and he should be wretched if he continued longer at this trade, or indeed in any thing, except one of the learned professions." For a year these remonstrances were ineffectual; but no persuasions, even when urged with maternal tenderness, could reconcile him to his lot. He sought for consolation with the Muses, and wrote an "Address to Contemplation," in which he describes his feelings:
"Why along The dusky track of commerce should I toil, When, with an easy competence content, I can alone be happy; where, with thee, I may enjoy the loveliness of Nature, And loose the wings of fancy! Thus alone Can I partake of happiness on earth; And to be happy here is man's chief end, For to be happy he must needs be good."
There are few obstacles that perseverance will not overcome; and penury and a parent's obstinacy were both surmounted by Kirke White's importunity. Finding it useless to chain him longer to the hosier's loom, he was placed in the office of Messrs. Coldham and Enfield, Town Clerk and attorneys of Nottingham, some time in May, 1799, when he was in his fifteenth year; but as a premium could not be given with him, it was agreed that he should serve two years before he was articled. A few months after he entered upon his new employment, he began a correspondence with his brother, Mr. Neville White, who was then a medical student in London; and in a letter, dated in September, 1799, he thus spoke of his situation and prospects:
"It is now nearly four months since I entered into Mr. Coldham's office; and it is with pleasure I can assure you, that I never yet found any thing disagreeable, but, on the contrary, every thing I do seems a pleasure to me, and for a very obvious reason,—it is a business which I like—a business which I chose before all others; and I have two good-tempered, easy masters, but who will, nevertheless, see that their business is done in a neat and proper manner."—"A man that understands the law is sure to have business; and in case I have no thoughts, in case, that is, that I do not aspire to hold the honourable place of a barrister, I shall feel sure of gaining a genteel livelihood at the business to which I am articled."
At the suggestion of his employers, he devoted the greater part of his leisure to Latin; and, though he was but slightly assisted, he was able in ten months to read Horace with tolerable facility, and had made some progress in Greek. Having but little time for these pursuits, he accustomed himself to decline the Greek nouns and verbs during his walks to and from the office, and he thereby acquired a habit of studying while walking, that never deserted him. The account which Mr. Southey has given of his application, and of the success that attended it, is astonishing. Though living with his family, he nearly estranged himself from their society. At meals, and during the evenings, a book was constantly in his hands; and as he refused to sup with them, to prevent any loss of time, his meal was sent to him in his little apartment. Law, Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, chemistry, astronomy, electricity, drawing, music, and mechanics, by turns engaged his attention; and though his acquirements in some of those studies were very superficial, his proficiency in many of them was far from contemptible. His papers on law evince so much industry, that had that subject alone occupied his leisure hours, his diligence would have been commendable. He was a tolerable Italian scholar, and in the classics he afterwards attained reputation; but of the sciences and of Spanish and Portuguese, his knowledge was not, it may be inferred, very great. His ear for music was good, and his passionate attachment to it is placed beyond a doubt by his verses on its effects:
"With her in pensive mood I long to roam At midnight's hour, or evening's calm decline, And thoughtful o'er the falling streamlet's foam, In calm Seclusion's hermit-walks recline:"
But he checked his ardour, lest it might interfere with more essential studies: and his musical attainments were limited to playing pleasingly on the piano, composing the bass to the air at the same time.
Ambition was one of the most powerful feelings of his nature, and it is rare indeed, when it is not the companion of great talents. It developed itself first in spurning trade; and no sooner did he find himself likely to become an attorney, than he aspired to the bar. But his earliest and strongest passion was for literary distinction; and he was scarcely removed from the trammels of school, before he sought admission into a literary society, in his native town. His extreme youth rendered him objectionable; but, after repeated refusals, he at last succeeded. In the association there were six professors, and being, on the first vacancy, appointed to the chair of literature, he soon justified the choice. Taking "genius" as his theme, he addressed the assembly in an extemporaneous lecture of two hours and three-quarters duration, with so much success, that the audience unanimously voted him their thanks, declaring that "the society had never heard a better lecture delivered from the chair which he so much honoured." To judge properly of this circumstance, it would be necessary to know of whom the society was composed; but with so flattering a testimony to his abilities, the sanguine boy naturally placed a high estimate on them.
The establishment of a Magazine called the Monthly Preceptor, which proposed prize themes for young persons, afforded Kirke White an opportunity of trying his literary powers. In a letter written in June, 1800, to his brother, speaking of that work he says, "I am noticed as worthy of commendation, and as affording an encouraging prospect of future excellence. You will laugh. I have also turned poet, and have translated an Ode of Horace into English verse." His productions gained him several of the prizes; and he soon afterwards became a contributor to the Monthly Mirror, his compositions in which attracted the attention of Mr. Hill, the proprietor of the work, and of Mr. Capel Lofft, a gentleman who distinguished himself by his patronage of Bloomfield.
Though on entering an attorney's office the bar was the object of his hopes, a constitutional deafness soon convinced him that he was not adapted for the duties of an advocate; and his thoughts, from conscientious motives, became directed to the Church.
When about fifteen, his mind was agitated by doubt and anxiety on the most important of all subjects; and the chaos of opinions which extensive and miscellaneous reading so often produces on ardent and imaginative temperaments, is well described in his little poem entitled, "My own Character," wherein he represents himself as a prey to the most opposite impressions, and as being in a miserable state of incertitude:
"First I premise it's my honest conviction, That my breast is the chaos of all contradiction, Religious—deistic—now loyal and warm, Then a dagger-drawn democrat hot for reform; * * * * * Now moody and sad, now unthinking and gay, To all points of the compass I veer in a day."
In this sketch there is evidently much truth; and it affords a striking idea of a plastic and active mind, on which every thing makes an impression, where one idea follows another in such rapid succession, that the former is not so entirely removed, but that some remains of it are amalgamated with its successor. A youth whose intellect is thus tossed in a whirlpool of conflicting speculations, resembles a goodly ship newly launched, which, until properly steadied by ballast, reels from side to side, the sport of every undulation of the waters.
About this time young White's religious feelings were strongly affected by the conversion of his friend, Mr. Almond, whose opinions were previously as unsettled as his own. To escape the raillery with which he expected White would assail him on learning the change in his sentiments, Almond avoided his society; and when his friend offered to defend his opinions, if Henry would allow the divine originality of the Bible, he exclaimed, "Good God! you surely regard me in a worse light than I deserve." The discussion that followed, and the perusal of Scott's "Force of Truth," which Almond placed in his hands, induced him to direct his attention seriously to the subject; but an affecting incident soon afterwards showed how deeply he was then influenced by religious considerations. On the evening before Mr. Almond left Nottingham for Cambridge, he was requested by White to accompany him to his apartment. The moment they entered, Henry burst into tears, declaring that his anguish of mind was insupportable; and he entreated Almond to kneel and pray for him. Their tears and supplications were cordially mingled, and when they were about to separate, White said, "What must I do? You are the only friend to whom I can apply in this agonizing state, and you are about to leave me. My literary associates are all inclined to deism. I have no one with whom I can communicate."
It is instructive to learn to what circumstance such a person as Kirke White was indebted for the knowledge "which causes not to err." This information occurs in a letter from him to a Mr. Booth, in August, 1801; and it also fixes the date of the happy change that influenced every thought and every action of his future life, which gave the energy of virtue to his exertions, soothed the asperities of a temper naturally impetuous and irritable, and enabled him, at a period when manhood is full of hope and promise, to view the approaches of death with the calmness of a philosopher, and the resignation of a saint.
After thanking Mr. Booth for the present of Jones's work on the Trinity, he thus describes his religious impressions previous to its perusal, and the effect it produced:
"Religious polemics, indeed, have seldom formed a part of my studies; though whenever I happened accidentally to turn my thoughts to the subject of the Protestant doctrine of the Godhead, and compared it with Arian and Socinian, many doubts interfered, and I even began to think that the more nicely the subject was investigated, the more perplexed it would appear, and was on the point of forming a resolution to go to heaven in my own way, without meddling or involving myself in the inextricable labyrinth of controversial dispute, when I received and perused this excellent treatise, which finally cleared up the mists which my ignorance had conjured around me, and clearly pointed out the real truth."
From the moment he became convinced of the truths of Christianity, all the enthusiasm of his nature was kindled. The ministry only, was deemed worthy of his ambition; and he devoted his thoughts to the sacred office with a zeal that justified a hope of the richest fruits. In a letter to his friend, Mr. Almond, in November, 1803, he says,
"My dear friend, I cannot adequately express what I owe to you on the score of religion. I told Mr. Robinson you were the first instrument of my being brought to think deeply on religious subjects; and I feel more and more every day, that if it had not been for you, I might, most probably, have been now buried in apathy and unconcern. Though I am in a great measure blessed,—I mean blessed with faith, now pretty steadfast, and heavy convictions, I am far from being happy. My sins have been of a dark hue, and manifold: I have made Fame my God, and Ambition my shrine. I have placed all my hopes on the things of this world. I have knelt to Dagon; I have worshipped the evil creations of my own proud heart, and God had well nigh turned his countenance from me in wrath; perhaps one step further, and he might have shut me for ever from his rest. I now turn my eyes to Jesus, my Saviour, my atonement, with hope and confidence: he will not repulse the imploring penitent; his arms are open to all, they are open even to me; and in return for such a mercy, what can I do less than dedicate my whole life to his service? My thoughts would fain recur at intervals to my former delights; but I am now on my guard to restrain and keep them in. I know now where they ought to concentre, and with the blessing of God, they shall there all tend.
"My next publication of poems will be solely religious. I shall not destroy those of a different nature, which now lie before me; but they will, most probably, sleep in my desk, until, in the good time of my great Lord and Master, I shall receive my passport from this world of vanity. I am now bent on a higher errand than that of the attainment of poetical fame; poetry, in future, will be my relaxation, not my employment.—Adieu to literary ambition! 'You do not aspire to be prime minister,' said Mr. Robinson; 'you covet a far higher character—to be the humblest among those who minister to their Maker.'"
To the arguments of his friends on the impolicy of quitting a profession to which he had given so much of his time, and on the obstacles to the attainment of his wishes, he was impenetrable. His employers generously offered to cancel his articles as soon as he could show that his resources were likely to support him at the University. Friends arose as they became necessary, and more than one or two persons exerted themselves to promote his views; but his principal reliance was on the sale of a little volume of Poems, which, at the suggestion of Mr. Capel Lofft, he prepared for the press.
The history of an author's first book is always interesting, and Kirke White's was attended with unusual incidents. A novice in literature often imagines that it is important his work should be dedicated to some person of rank; and the Countess of Derby was applied to, who declined, on the ground that she never accepted a compliment of that nature. He then addressed the Duchess of Devonshire; and a letter, with the manuscript, was left at her house. The difficulty of obtaining access to her Grace proved so great, that more than one letter to his brother was written on the subject, in which he indignantly says, "I am cured of patronage hunting; as for begging patronage, I am tired to the soul of it, and shall give it up." Permission to inscribe the book to the Duchess was at length granted: the book came out in 1803; and a copy was transmitted to her, of which, however, no notice whatever was taken.
On the publication of the volume, a copy was sent to each Review, with a letter deprecatory of the severity of criticism, an act as ill judged as it was useless, since all that a young writer could properly say was to be found in the preface, in which he stated that his inducement to publish was, "the facilitation through its means of those studies which, from his earliest infancy, have been the principal objects of his ambition, and the increase of the capacity to pursue these inclinations, which may one day place him in an honourable station in the scale of society."
His feelings received a severe wound from the notice of his Poems in the Monthly Review, the writer of which, not satisfied with saying that the production did not "justify any sanguine expectations," selected four of the worst lines in support of his opinion, and showed himself insensible of the numerous beauties scattered through the various pieces. Writing to a friend soon afterwards, he thus spoke of himself; and more mental wretchedness has seldom been described:
"I am at present under afflictions and contentions of spirit, heavier than I have yet ever experienced. I think, at times, I am mad, and destitute of religion; my pride is not yet subdued: the unfavourable review (in the 'Monthly') of my unhappy work, has cut deeper than you could have thought; not in a literary point of view, but as it affects my respectability. It represents me actually as a beggar, going about gathering money to put myself at college, when my book is worthless; and this with every appearance of candour. They have been sadly misinformed respecting me: this review goes before me wherever I turn my steps; it haunts me incessantly, and I am persuaded it is an instrument in the hand of Satan to drive me to distraction. I must leave Nottingham. If the answer of the Elland Society be unfavourable, I purpose writing to the Marquis of Wellesley, to offer myself as a student at the academy he has instituted at Fort William, in Bengal, and at the proper age to take orders there. The missionaries at that place have done wonders already; and I should, I hope, be a valuable labourer in the vineyard. If the Marquis take no notice of my application, or do not accede to my proposal, I shall place myself in some other way of making a meet preparation for the holy office, either in the Calvinistic Academy, or in one of the Scotch Universities, where I shall be able to live at scarcely any expense."
The criticism just adverted to was as unfeeling as unjust; and but for the generous conduct of a distinguished living poet, whose benevolence of heart is equal to his genius, it might have entirely crushed his hopes. Disgusted at the injustice of this criticism, Mr. Southey instantly wrote to White, expressing his opinion of the merits of his book, and giving him the encouragement and advice which none was ever more ready or more able to bestow. Thus, an act of cruel folly proved in its consequences the most beneficial of the Poet's life. His spirits were invigorated by this considerate kindness, and his feelings were expressed in glowing terms:
"I dare not say all I feel respecting your opinion of my little volume. The extreme acrimony with which the Monthly Review (of all others the most important) treated me, threw me into a state of stupefaction. I regarded all that had passed as a dream, and I thought I had been deluding myself into an idea of possessing poetic genius, when, in fact, I had only the longing, without the afflatus. I mustered resolution enough, however, to write spiritedly to them: their answer, in the ensuing number, was a tacit acknowledgment that they had been somewhat too unsparing in their correction. It was a poor attempt to salve over a wound wantonly and most ungenerously inflicted. Still I was damped, because I knew the work was very respectable; and therefore could not, I concluded, give a criticism grossly deficient in equity, the more especially, as I knew of no sort of inducement to extraordinary severity. Your letter, however, has revived me, and I do again venture to hope that I may still produce something which will survive me. With regard to your advice and offers of assistance, I will not attempt, because I am unable, to thank you for them. To-morrow morning I depart for Cambridge; and I have considerable hopes that, as I do not enter into the University with any sinister or interested views, but sincerely desire to perform the duties of an affectionate and vigilant pastor, and become more useful to mankind; I therefore have hopes, I say, that I shall find means of support in the University. If I do not, I shall certainly act in pursuance of your recommendations; and shall, without hesitation, avail myself of your offers of service, and of your directions. In a short time this will be determined; and when it is, I shall take the liberty of writing to you at Keswick, to make you acquainted with the result. I have only one objection to publishing by subscription, and I confess it has weight with me; it is, that, in this step, I shall seem to be acting upon the advice so unfeelingly and contumeliously given by the Monthly Reviewers, who say what is equal to this, that had I gotten a subscription for my poems before their merit was known, I might have succeeded; provided, it seems, I had made a particular statement of my case; like a beggar who stands with his hat in one hand, and a full account of his cruel treatment on the coast of Barbary in the other, and so gives you his penny sheet for your sixpence, by way of half purchase, half charity. I have materials for another volume; but they were written principally while Clifton Grove was in the press, or soon after, and do not now at all satisfy me. Indeed, of late, I have been obliged to desist, almost entirely, from converse with the dames of Helicon. The drudgery of an attorney's office, and the necessity of preparing myself, in case I should succeed in getting to college, in what little leisure I could boast, left no room for the flights of the imagination."
As soon as there were reasonable hopes of an adequate support being obtained for him at Cambridge, he went to the village of Wilford, for a month, to recruit his health, on which intense application had made great inroads. Near this place were Clifton Woods, the subject of one of his Poems, and which had long been his favourite resort. Here he fully indulged in that love of the beauties of nature, which forms a leading trait in the Poetic character: and on this occasion he gave full reins to those reveries of the imagination, of the delight of which a Poet only is sensible. His lines on Wilford Church Yard show the melancholy tone of his mind; and those Verses, as well as his "Ode to Disappointment," of which no praise would be too extravagant, appear to have been written, on learning from his mother, before he left Wilford, that the efforts made to place him at Cambridge had failed. It was evidently to this circumstance, which for the time blighted his aspirations, that he alluded, when he says he was,
"From Hope's summit hurl'd."
His remark to his mother on this occasion evinced, nevertheless, great energy of mind. His complaints were confined to verse, for the disappointment had no other effect upon his conduct than to induce him to apply to his studies with unprecedented vigour, that, since he was to revert to the law as a profession, he might not be, as he observed, "a mediocre attorney." He read regularly from five in the morning until some time after midnight, and occasionally passed whole nights without lying down; and the entreaties, even when accompanied by the tears of his mother, that he would not thus destroy his health, did not induce him to relax his zeal.
Symptoms of consumption, the disease to which he ultimately became a victim, and which he designates, in one of his many allusions to it, as
"The most fatal of Pandora's train,"
began now to excite the anxiety of his family. Illness was, however, forgotten in the realization of the hope dearest to his heart. The exertions of his friends proved successful at a time when all expectations had vanished; and by their united efforts it was resolved that he should become a sizer of St. John's College, Cambridge, his brother Neville, his mother, and a benevolent individual, whose name is not mentioned, having agreed to contribute to support him. It appears, that if he had not succeeded in that object, he intended to have joined the society of orthodox dissenters, for which purpose he underwent an examination. Though his attainments and character proved satisfactory on that occasion, his volume of Poems rose in judgment against him, and nothing but the approbation Mr. Southey had expressed of them prevented his work from being considered a disqualification for the ministry. His feelings on the prospect of entering the Church are described with great force in his letter, dated in April, 1804.
"Most fervently do I return thanks to God for this providential opening: it has breathed new animation into me, and my breast expands with the prospect of becoming the minister of Christ where I most desired it; but where I almost feared all probability of success was nearly at an end. Indeed, I had begun to turn my thoughts to the dissenters, as people of whom I was destined, not by choice, but necessity, to become the pastor. Still, although I knew I should be happy anywhere, so that I were a profitable labourer in the vineyard, I did, by no means, feel that calm, that indescribable satisfaction which I do when I look toward that Church, which I think in the main formed on the apostolic model, and from which I am decidedly of opinion there is no positive grounds for dissent. I return thanks to God for keeping me so long in suspense, for I know it has been beneficial to my soul, and I feel a considerable trust that the way is now about to be made clear, and that my doubts and fears on this head will, in due time, be removed."
Being advised to degrade for a year, and to place himself with a private tutor, he went to the Rev. Mr. Grainger of Winteringham, in Lincolnshire, in the autumn of 1804. While under that gentleman's care he studied with such intense fervour, that fears were excited not for his health only, but for his intellect; and a second severe attack of illness was the consequence. Poetry was now laid aside, and as he himself told a friend in February, 1805,
"My poor neglected Muse has lain absolutely unnoticed by me for the last four months, during which period I have been digging in the mines of Scapula for Greek roots, and instead of drinking with eager delight the beauties of Virgil have been culling and drying his phrases for future use."—"I fear my good genius, who was wont to visit me with nightly visions in woods and brakes and by the river's marge, is now dying of a fen ague, and I shall thus probably emerge from my retreat not a hair-brained son of imagination, but a sedate black-lettered book worm, with a head like an etymologicon magnum."
To Mr. Capel Lofft, in the September following, after stating that all his time was employed in preparing himself for orders, his estimate of the necessary qualifications being, very high, he observed:
"I often, however, cast a look of fond regret to the darling occupations of my younger hours, and the tears rush into my eyes, as I fancy I see the few wild flowers of poetic genius, with which I have been blessed, withering with neglect. Poetry has been to me something more than amusement; it has been a cheering companion when I have had no other to fly to, and a delightful solace when consolation has been in some measure needful. I cannot, therefore, discard so old and faithful a friend without deep regret, especially when I reflect that, stung by my ingratitude, he may desert me for ever!"
But the old fire was, he adds, rekindled by looking over some of his pieces which Mr. Lofft wished to print; and he transmitted to that gentleman a short Poem, expressive of his sorrow at taking leave of his favourite pursuit. The following passages could only have arisen from a love of Poetry, which it was not in the power of severer studies to extinguish:
Heart-soothing Poesy! Though thou hast ceased To hover o'er the many voiced strings Of my long silent lyre, yet thou canst still Call the warm tear from its thrice hallow'd cell, And with recalled images of bliss Warm my reluctant heart. Yes, I would throw, Once more would throw, a quick and hurried hand O'er the responding chords. It hath not ceased, It cannot, will not cease; the heavenly warmth Plays round my heart, and mantles o'er my cheek; Still, though unbidden, plays. Fair Poesy! The summer and the spring, the wind and rain, Sunshine and storm, with various interchange, Have mark'd full many a day, and week, and month, Since by dark wood, or hamlet far retired, Spell-struck, with thee I loiter'd. Sorceress! I cannot burst thy bonds!
In October, 1805, Kirke White became a resident member of St. John's College, Cambridge; and such was the use he had made of his time at Winteringham, that he was distinguished for his classical knowledge. But he had dearly purchased his superiority. His constitution was much shattered when he went to Mr. Grainger, and every day brought with it new proofs that his career had nearly reached its bounds. The only chance of prolonging his life was to seek a milder climate, and to abandon study entirely. As in all great minds, Fame was, however, dearer to him than existence. He felt that every thing connected with his future prospects was at stake; and he adhered to a course of rigorous application until nature gave way. During his first term he became a candidate for one of the University scholarships; but the increased exertion he underwent was attended by results that obliged him to retire from the contest. At this moment the general college examination approached, and thinking that if he failed his hopes would be blasted for ever, he taxed his energies to the uttermost, during the fortnight which intervened, to meet the trial. His illness, however, speedily returned; and, with tears in his eyes, he informed his tutor, Mr. Catton, that he could not go into the Hall to be examined. That gentleman, whose kindness to the Poet entitles his name to respect, urged him to support himself during the six days of the examination. Powerful stimulants were administered, and he was pronounced the first man of his year. The triumph, complete and exhilarating as it was, too closely resembled that of the generous steed, who, in distancing his competitors, reaches the goal, and dies; and his own ideas of the sacrifices with which such an honour must be attended were very poetical. He said to an intimate friend, almost the last time he saw him, that were he to paint a picture of Fame crowning a distinguished under graduate after the senate house examination, he would represent her as concealing a death's head under a mask of beauty.
Soon after this event, Kirke White went to London, and on Christmas Eve he wrote to his mother from town, stating that his health had been rather affected by study, that he came to London for amusement, and that his tutor had, in the kindest manner, relieved his mind from pecuniary cares, and cheered him with the assurance that his talents would be rewarded by his College. But it is from his letters to his friend that the real state to which excitement and labour had reduced him, is to be learnt, because, to allay the fears of his relations, he represented himself to them, as being much better than he actually was:
London, Christmas, 1805.
"I wrote you a letter, which now lies in my drawer at St. John's; but in such a weak state of body, and in so desponding and comfortless a tone of mind, that I knew it would give you pain, and therefore I chose not to send it. I have indeed been ill; but thanks to God, I am recovered. My nerves were miserably shattered by over application, and the absence of all that could amuse, and the presence of many things which weighed heavy upon my spirits. When I found myself too ill to read, and too desponding to endure my own reflections, I discovered that it is really a miserable thing to be destitute of the soothing and supporting hand when nature most needs it. I wandered up and down from one man's room to another, and from one College to another, imploring society, a little conversation, and a little relief of the burden which pressed upon my spirits; and I am sorry to say, that those who, when I was cheerful and lively, sought my society with avidity, now, when I actually needed conversation, were too busy to grant it. Our College examination was then approaching, and I perceived with anguish that I had read for the university scholarship until I had barely time to get up our private subjects, and that as I was now too ill to read, all hope of getting through the examination with decent respectability was at an end. This was an additional grief. I went to our tutor, with tears in my eyes, and told him I must absent myself from the examination,—a step which would have precluded me from a station amongst the prize-men until the second year. He earnestly entreated me to run the risk. My surgeon gave me strong stimulants and supporting medicines during the examination week; and I passed, I believe, one of the most respectable examinations amongst them. As soon as ever it was over, I left Cambridge, by the advice of my surgeon and tutor, and I feel myself now pretty strong. I have given up the thought of sitting for the University scholarship, in consequence of my illness, as the course of my reading was effectually broken. In this place I have been much amused, and have been received with an attention in the literary circles which I neither expected nor deserved. But this does not affect me as it once would have done: my views are widely altered; and I hope that I shall in time learn to lay my whole heart at the foot of the cross."
Early in January following he returned to Cambridge, and imprudently resumed his old habits of study, according to the following plan: "Rise at half-past five; devotions and walk till seven; chapel and breakfast till eight; study and lectures till one; four and a half clear reading; walk, &c. and dinner, and Wollaston, and chapel to six; six to nine reading, three hours; nine to ten devotions; bed at ten." With him, however, exercise was but slight relaxation, as his intellectual faculties were kept on the stretch during his walks, and he is known to have committed to memory a whole tragedy of Euripides in this manner, and as they were not less exerted in his devotions, his mind must have been intensely occupied for twelve or fourteen hours a day, at a moment when perfect quiet and rest were indispensable. Within a very few weeks he paid a heavy penalty for his indiscretion. To his friend, Mr. Haddock, he wrote on the 17th of February, 1806:
"Do not think I am reading hard; I believe it is all over with that. I have had a recurrence of my old complaint within this last four or five days, which has half unnerved me for every thing. The state of my health is really miserable; I am well and lively in the morning, and overwhelmed with nervous horrors in the evening. I do not know how to proceed with regard to my studies:—a very slight overstretch of the mind in the daytime occasions me not only a sleepless night, but a night of gloom and horror. The systole and diastole of my heart seem to be playing at ball—the stake, my life. I can only say the game is not yet decided:—I allude to the violence of the palpitation. I am going to mount the Gog-magog hills this morning, in quest of a good night's sleep. The Gog-magog hills for my body, and the Bible for my mind, are my only medicines. I am sorry to say, that neither are quite adequate. Cui, igitur; dandum est vitio? Mihi prorsus. I hope, as the summer comes, my spirits (which have been with the swallows, a winter's journey) will come with it. When my spirits are restored, my health will be restored:—the 'fons mali' lies there. Give me serenity and equability of mind, and all will be well."
He, however, rallied again; but he seems to have been aware that his end was not far distant, for in March he told his brother that though his stay at Cambridge, in the long vacation, was important, he intended to go to Nottingham for his health, and more particularly for his mother's sake; adding, "I shall be glad to moor all my family in the harbour of religious trust, and in the calm seas of religious peace. These concerns are apt at times to escape me; but they now press much upon my heart, and I think it is my first duty to see that my family are safe in the most important of all affairs."
In April, however, he drew a pleasing picture of his future life, in which his filial and paternal tenderness are conspicuous; but he soon afterwards went to Nottingham; and in a letter to his friend Mr. Leeson, written from that town, on the 7th of April, he gave a very melancholy account of himself:
"It seems determined upon, by my mother, that I cannot be spared, since the time of my stay is so very short, and my health so very uncertain. The people here can scarcely be persuaded that any thing ails me; so well do I look; but occasional depressions, especially after any thing has occurred to occasion uneasiness, still harass me. My mind is of a very peculiar cast. I began to think too early; and the indulgence of certain trains of thought, and too free an exercise of the imagination, have superinduced a morbid kind of sensibility; which is to the mind what excessive irritability is to the body. Some circumstances occurred on my arrival at Nottingham, which gave me just cause for inquietude and anxiety; the consequences were insomnia, and a relapse into causeless dejections. It is my business now to curb these irrational and immoderate affections, and, by accustoming myself to sober thought and cool reasoning, to restrain these freaks and vagaries of the fancy, and redundancies of [Greek: melancholia]. When I am well, I cannot help entertaining a sort of contempt for the weakness of mind which marks my indispositions. Titus when well, and Titus when ill, are two distinct persons. The man, when in health, despises the man, when ill, for his weakness, and the latter envies the former for his felicity."
As his health declined his prospects seemed to brighten. He was again pronounced first at the great College examination; he was one of the three best theme writers, whose merits were so nearly equal that the examiners could not decide between them; and he was a prize-man both in the mathematical and logical or general examination, and in Latin composition. His College offered him a private tutor at its expense, and Mr. Catton obtained exhibitions for him to the value of sixty-six pounds per annum, by which he was enabled to give up the pecuniary assistance he had received from his friends. But even at this moment, when the world promised so much, his situation was truly deplorable. The highest honours of the University were supposed to be within his grasp, and the conviction that such was the general opinion, goaded him on to the most strenuous exertions when he was incapable of the slightest. This struggle between his mental and physical powers, was not, however, of long duration. In July he was seized with an attack that threatened his life, and which he thus described in a letter to Mr. Maddock:
"Last Saturday morning I rose early, and got up some rather abstruse problems in mechanics for my tutor, spent an hour with him, between eight and nine got my breakfast, and read the Greek History (at breakfast) till ten, then sat down to decipher some logarithm tables. I think I had not done any thing at them, when I lost myself. At a quarter past eleven my laundress found me bleeding in four different places in my face and head, and insensible. I got up and staggered about the room, and she, being frightened, ran away, and told my gyp to fetch a surgeon. Before he came I was sallying out with my flannel gown on, and my academical gown over it; he made me put on my coat, and then I went to Mr. Farish's: he opened a vein, and my recollection returned. My own idea was, that I had fallen out of bed, and so I told Mr. Farish at first; but I afterwards remembered that I had been to Mr. Fiske, and breakfasted. Mr. Catton has insisted on my consulting Sir Isaac Pennington, and the consequence is, that I am to go through a course of blistering, &c. which, after the bleeding, will leave me weak enough.
"I am, however, very well, except as regards the doctors, and yesterday I drove into the country to Saffron Walden, in a gig. My tongue is in a bad condition, from a bite which I gave it either in my fall, or in the moments of convulsion. My nose has also come badly off. I believe I fell against my reading desk. My other wounds are only rubs and scratches on the carpet. I am ordered to remit my studies for a while, by the common advice both of doctors and tutors. Dr. Pennington hopes to prevent any recurrence of the fit. He thinks it looks towards epilepsy, of the horrors of which malady I have a very full and precise idea; and I only pray that God will spare me as respects my faculties, however else it may seem good to him to afflict me. Were I my own master, I know how I should act; but I am tied here by bands which I cannot burst. I know that change of place is needful; but I must not indulge in the idea. The college must not pay my tutor for nothing. Dr. Pennington and Mr. Farish attribute the attack to a too continued tension of the faculties. As I am much alone now, I never get quite off study, and I think incessantly. I know nature will not endure this. They both proposed my going home, but Mr. * * did not hint at it, although much concerned; and, indeed, I know home would be a bad place for me in my present situation. I look round for a resting place, and I find none. Yet there is one, which I have long too, too much disregarded, and thither I must now betake myself. There are many situations worse than mine, and I have no business to complain. If these afflictions should draw the bonds tighter which hold me to my Redeemer, it will be well. You may be assured that you have here a plain statement of my case in its true colours without any palliation. I am now well again, and have only to fear a relapse, which I shall do all I can to prevent, by a relaxation in study. I have now written too much.
"I am, very sincerely yours,
"H. K. WHITE.
"P. S. I charge you, as you value my peace, not to let my friends hear, either directly or indirectly of my illness."
A few weeks afterwards he again directed his mother's hopes to a tranquil retreat for his family in his parsonage, but said nothing of his illness; and he told Mr. Haddock, in September,
"I am perfectly well again, and have experienced no recurrence of the fit: my spirits, too, are better, and I read very moderately. I hope that God will be pleased to spare his rebellious child; this stroke has brought me nearer to Him; whom indeed have I for my comforter but Him? I am still reading, but with moderation, as I have been during the whole vacation, whatever you may persist in thinking. My heart turns with more fondness towards the consolations of religion than it did, and in some degree I have found consolation."
But notwithstanding these flattering expressions, he appears to have felt that he had but a short time to live; and it was probably about this period that he wrote his lines on the "Prospect of Death," perhaps one of the most beautiful and affecting compositions in our language:
"On my bed, in wakeful restlessness, I turn me wearisome; while all around, All, all, save me, sink in forgetfulness; I only wake to watch the sickly taper Which lights me to my tomb.—Yes, 'tis the hand Of Death I feel press heavy on my vitals, Slow sapping the warm current of existence My moments now are few—the sand of life Ebbs fastly to its finish. Yet a little, And the last fleeting particle will fall, Silent, unseen, unnoticed, unlamented. Come then, sad Thought, and let us meditate While meditate we may. * * * * * I hoped I should not leave The earth without a vestige; Fate decrees It shall be otherwise, and I submit. Henceforth, O world, no more of thy desires! No more of Hope! the wanton vagrant Hope; I abjure all. Now other cares engross me, And my tired soul, with emulative haste, Looks to its God, and prunes its wings for Heaven."
On the 22nd of September he wrote to Mr. Charlesworth, and his letter indicates the possession of higher spirits and more sanguine hopes, than almost any other in his correspondence. About the end of that month he went to London, on a visit to his brother Neville, but returned to College within a few weeks, in a state that precluded all chance of prolonging his existence; but still he did not cease to hope, or rather sought to delude his brother into the belief that he should recover; for in a letter addressed to him, which was found in his pocket after his decease, dated Saturday, 11th of October, he says,
"I am safely arrived, and in College, but my illness has increased upon me much. The cough continues, and is attended with a good deal of fever. I am under the care of Mr. Parish, and entertain very little apprehension about the cough; but my over-exertions in town have reduced me to a state of much debility; and, until the cough be gone, I cannot be permitted to take any strengthening medicines. This places me in an awkward predicament; but I think I perceive a degree of expectoration this morning, which will soon relieve me, and then I shall mend apace. Under these circumstances I must not expect to see you here at present; when I am a little recovered, it will be a pleasant relaxation to me. Our lectures began on Friday, but I do not attend them until I am better. I have not written to my mother, nor shall I while I remain unwell. You will tell her, as a reason, that our lectures began on Friday. I know she will be uneasy if she do not hear from me, and still more so, if I tell her I am ill.
"I cannot write more at present than that I am
"Your truly affectionate Brother,
"H. K. WHITE."
A friend acquainted his brother with his situation, who hastened to him; but when he arrived he was delirious, and though reason returned for a few moments, as if to bless him with the consciousness that the same fond relative, to whose attachment he owed so much, was present at his last hour, he sunk into a stupor, and on Sunday, the 19th of October, 1806, he breathed his last.
Thus died, in his twenty-second year, Henry Kirke White, whose genius and virtues justified the brightest hopes, and whose fitness for Heaven does not bring the consolation for his untimely fate which perhaps it ought. It is impossible to refrain from anticipating what his talents might have produced, had his existence been extended; and though it is extremely doubtful if he were capable of worldly happiness, there is a selfishness in our nature which makes us grieve when those who are likely to increase our intellectual pleasures are hurried to the grave.
In whatever light the character of this unhappy youth be contemplated, it is full of instruction. His talents were unusually precocious, and their variety was as astonishing as their extent. Besides the Poetical pieces in this volume, and his scholastic attainments, his ability was manifested in various other ways. His style was remarkable for its clearness and elegance, and his correspondence and prose pieces show extensive information. To great genius and capacity, he united the rarest and more important gifts of sound judgment and common sense. It is usually the misfortune of genius to invest ordinary objects with a meretricious colouring, that perverts their forms and purposes, to make its possessor imagine that it exempts him from attending to those strict rules of moral conduct to which others are bound to adhere, and to render him neglectful of the sacred assurance that "to whom much is given from him will much be required." Nature, in Kirke White's case, appears, on the contrary, to have determined that she would, in one instance at least, prove that high intellectual attainments are strictly compatible with every social and moral virtue. At a very early period of his life, religion became the predominant feeling of his mind, and she imparted her sober and chastened effects to all his thoughts and actions. The cherished object of every member of his family, he repaid their affection by the most anxious solicitude for their welfare, offering his advice on spiritual affairs with impressive earnestness, and indicating, in every letter of his voluminous correspondence, the greatest consideration for their feelings and happiness. For the last six years he deemed himself marked out for the service of his Maker, not like the member of a convent, whose duties consist only in prayer, but in the exercise of that philanthropy and practical benevolence which ought to adorn every parish priest. To qualify himself properly for the holy office, he subjected his mind to the severest discipline; and his letters display a rational piety, and an enlightened view of religious obligations, that confer much greater honour upon his name, than his Poetical pieces, whether as proofs of talent, or of the qualities of his heart.
Such was Henry Kirke White as he appeared to others; but there are minuter traits of character which no observer can catch, and which the possessor must himself delineate. Though early impressed with melancholy, it was not of a misanthropic nature; and while despair and disappointment were preying on his heart, he was all sweetness and docility to others. A consciousness of the possession of abilities, and of being capable of better things than those which he seemed destined to perform, gives to some of his productions the appearance of discontent, and of having overrated his pretensions. He was, like many youthful Poets, too fond of complaining of fortune, of supposing himself neglected, and of comparing his humble lot with those situations for which he believed himself qualified; but these were the lucubrations of his earliest years, before he found friends to foster his talents. So far, indeed, from having reason to lament the indifference of others to his merits, his life affords one of the most striking examples in the history of genius, that talents when united to moral worth, will be rewarded by honours and fame, that obscure birth is no impediment to advancement, and that a person of the humblest origin may, by his own exertions, become, in the great arena of learning, an object of envy even to those of the highest rank. It is due to him, whose good sense was so remarkable, to point out the time in his career to which the passages in question refer; and to add that his correspondence, after he entered the University, expressed nothing but satisfaction with his lot, and a desire to justify the kindness and expectations of his patrons. Still, Kirke White was unhappy; and, since no other cause then existed for his mental wretchedness, it must be ascribed to a morbid temperament, induced partly by ill health, and partly by constitutional infirmity. The uncertainty of his early prospects, and the fear of ridicule if he expressed his feelings, rendered him reserved, and made him confine his thoughts to his own bosom, for he says,
"When all was new, and life was in its spring, I lived an unloved solitary thing; E'en then I learn'd to bury deep from day The piercing cares that wore my youth away;"
and in a letter to Mr. Maddock, in September, 1804, he thus spoke of himself:
"Perhaps it may be that I am not formed for friendship, that I expect more than can ever be found. Time will tutor me; I am a singular being under a common outside: I am a profound dissembler of my inward feelings, and necessity has taught me the art. I am long before I can unbosom to a friend, yet, I think, I am sincere in my friendship: you must not attribute this to any suspiciousness of nature, but must consider that I lived seventeen years my own confidant, my own friend, full of projects and strange thoughts, and confiding them to no one. I am habitually reserved, and habitually cautious in letting it be seen that I hide any thing."
None knew better than himself that the aspirations and feelings of which genius is the parent are often found to be inconsistent with felicity:
"Oh! hear the plaint by thy sad favourite made, His melancholy moan, He tells of scorn, he tells of broken vows, Of sleepless nights, of anguish-ridden days, Pangs that his sensibility uprouse To curse his being and his thirst for praise. Thou gavest to him with treble force to feel The sting of keen neglect, the rich man's scorn; And what o'er all does in his soul preside Predominant, and tempers him to steel, His high indignant pride."
Nor was he unconscious that the toils necessary to secure literary distinction, when endured by a shattered frame, are in the highest degree severe. How much truth and feeling are there in the Lines which he wrote after spending a whole night in study, an hour when religious impressions force themselves with irresistible weight on the exhausted mind:
"Oh! when reflecting on these truths sublime, How insignificant do all the joys, The gaudes, and honours of the world appear! How vain ambition!—Why has my wakeful lamp Out watch'd the slow-paced night?—Why on the page, The schoolman's labour'd page, have I employ'd The hours devoted by the world to rest, And needful to recruit exhausted nature? Say, can the voice of narrow Fame repay The loss of health? or can the hope of glory Lend a new throb unto my languid heart, Cool, even now, my feverish aching brow, Relume the fires of this deep sunken eye, Or paint new colours on this pallid cheek?"
What a picture of mental suffering does the following passage present, and how impressive does it become when the fate of the author is remembered:
"These feverish dews that on my temples hang, This quivering lip, these eyes of dying flame; These, the dread signs of many a secret pang— These are the meed of him who pants for Fame!"
Like so many other ardent students, the night was his favourite time for reading; and, dangerous as the habit is to health, what student will not agree in his descriptions of the pleasures that attend it?
"The night's my own, they cannot steal my night! When evening lights her folding star on high, I live and breathe; and, in the sacred hours Of quiet and repose, my spirit flies, Free as the morning, o'er the realms of space, And mounts the skies, and imps her wing for heaven."
Kirke White's poetry is popular, because it describes feelings, passions, and associations, which all have felt, and with which all can sympathize. It is by no means rich in metaphor, nor does it evince great powers of imagination; but it is pathetic, plaintive, and agreeable; and emanating directly from his own heart, it appeals irresistibly to that of his reader. His meaning is always clear, and the force and vigour of his expressions are remarkable. In estimating his poetical powers, however, it should be remembered, that nearly all his Poems were written before he was nineteen; and that they are, in truth, but the germs of future excellence, and ought not to be criticized as if they were the fruits of an intellect on which time and education had bestowed their advantages. It is, however, in his prose works, and especially in his correspondence, that the versatility of his talents, his acquirements, his piety, and his moral excellence are most conspicuous.
A question arises with respect to him which, in the history of a young Poet, is always interesting, but which Mr. Southey has not touched. Abundance of proof exists in his writings of the susceptibility of his heart; but it is not stated that he ever formed an attachment. In many of his pieces he speaks with tenderness of a female whom he calls Fanny; and in one of them, from which it appears that she was dead, he expresses his regard in no equivocal manner; but there are other grounds for concluding that his happiness was affected by disappointed affection. To his friend Mr. Maddock, in July, 1804, he observed:
"I shall never, never marry. It cannot, must not be. As to affections, mine are already engaged as much as they ever will be, and this is one reason why I believe my life will be a life of celibacy. I love too ardently to make love innocent, and therefore I say farewell to it."
With this passage one of his Sonnets singularly agrees:
When I sit musing on the chequer'd past (A term much darken'd with untimely woes), My thoughts revert to her, for whom still flows The tear, though half disowned; and binding fast Pride's stubborn cheat to my too yielding heart, I say to her, she robb'd me of my rest, When that was all my wealth. 'T is true my breast Received from her this wearying, lingering smart; Yet, ah! I cannot bid her form depart; Though wrong'd, I love her—yet in anger love, For she was most unworthy. Then I prove Vindictive joy: and on my stern front gleams, Throned in dark clouds, inflexible.... The native pride of my much injured heart.
Was the subject of this Sonnet wholly imaginary, or was there some unfortunate story which, for sufficient reasons, his biographers have suppressed? It is true, that in his letters, written at a much later period, he speaks of marriage in a manner not to be reconciled with the idea that he was then suffering from recollections of that description; but he may, in the interval of two years, have partially recovered from his loss.
Kirke White was buried in the Church of All Saints, Cambridge, but no monument was erected to him until a liberal minded American, Mr. Francis Boott, of Boston, placed a tablet to his memory, with a medallion, by Chantrey, with the following inscription, by Professor Smyth, one of his numerous friends:
"Warm'd with fond hope and learning's sacred flame, To Granta's bowers the youthful Poet came; Unconquer'd powers the immortal mind display'd, But worn with anxious thought, the frame decay'd: Pale o'er his lamp, and in his cell retired, The martyr student faded and expired. Oh! genius, taste, and piety sincere, Too early lost 'midst studies too severe! Foremost to mourn, was generous Southey seen, He told the tale, and show'd what White had been, Nor told in vain. For o'er the Atlantic wave A wanderer came, and sought the Poet's grave; On yon low stone he saw his lonely name, And raised this fond memorial to his fame."
To Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire, the following trifling effusions of a very youthful Muse are, by permission, dedicated by her Grace's much obliged and grateful Servant,
HENRY KIRKE WHITE
The following attempts in Verse are laid before the Public with extreme diffidence. The Author is very conscious that the juvenile efforts of a youth, who has not received the polish of Academical discipline, and who has been but sparingly blessed with opportunities for the prosecution of scholastic pursuits, must necessarily be defective in the accuracy and finished elegance which mark the works of the man who has passed his life in the retirement of his study, furnishing his mind with images, and at the same time attaining the power of disposing those images to the best advantage.
The unpremeditated effusions of a Boy, from his thirteenth year, employed, not in the acquisition of literary information, but in the more active business of life, must not be expected to exhibit any considerable portion of the correctness of a Virgil, or the vigorous compression of a Horace. Men are not, I believe, frequently known to bestow much, labour on their amusements; and these poems were, most of them, written merely to beguile a leisure hour, or to fill up the languid intervals of studies of a severer nature.
[Greek: Pas to oicheios ergon agapao], "Every one loves his own work," says Stagyrite; but it was no overweening affection of this kind which induced this publication. Had the author relied on his own judgment only, these Poems would not, in all probability, ever have seen the light.
Perhaps it may be asked of him, what are his motives for this publication? He answers—simply these: The facilitation, through its means, of those studies which, from his earliest infancy, have been the principal objects of his ambition; and the increase of the capacity to pursue those inclinations which may one day place him in an honourable station in the scale of society.
The principal Poem in this little collection (Clifton Grove) is, he fears, deficient in numbers and harmonious coherency of parts. It is, however, merely to be regarded as a description of a nocturnal ramble in that charming retreat, accompanied with such reflections as the scene naturally suggested. It was written twelve months ago, when the Author was in his sixteenth year:—The Miscellanies are some of them the productions of a very early age.—Of the Odes, that "To an early Primrose" was written at thirteen—the others are of a later date.—The Sonnets are chiefly irregular; they have, perhaps, no other claim to that specific denomination, than that they consist only of fourteen lines.
Such are the Poems towards which I entreat the lenity of the Public. The Critic will doubtless find in them much to condemn; he may likewise possibly discover something to commend. Let him scan my faults with an indulgent eye, and in the work of that correction which I invite, let him remember he is holding the iron Mace of Criticism over the flimsy superstructure of a youth of seventeen; and, remembering that, may he forbear from crushing, by too much rigour, the painted butterfly whose transient colours may otherwise be capable of affording a moment's innocent amusement.
H. K. WHITE.
Lo! in the west, fast fades the lingering light, And day's last vestige takes its silent flight. No more is heard the woodman's measured stroke, Which with the dawn from yonder dingle broke; No more, hoarse clamouring o'er the uplifted head, The crows assembling seek their wind-rock'd bed; Still'd is the village hum—the woodland sounds Have ceased to echo o'er the dewy grounds, And general silence reigns, save when below The murmuring Trent is scarcely heard to flow; And save when, swung by 'nighted rustic late, Oft, on its hinge, rebounds the jarring gate; Or when the sheep-bell, in the distant vale, Breathes its wild music on the downy gale.
Now, when the rustic wears the social smile, Released from day and its attendant toil, And draws his household round their evening fire, And tells the ofttold tales that never tire; Or, where the town's blue turrets dimly rise, And manufacture taints the ambient skies, The pale mechanic leaves the labouring loom, The air-pent hold, the pestilential room, And rushes out, impatient to begin The stated course of customary sin: Now, now my solitary way I bend Where solemn groves in awful state impend: And cliffs, that boldly rise above the plain, Bespeak, bless'd Clifton! thy sublime domain. Here lonely wandering o'er the sylvan bower, I come to pass the meditative hour; To bid awhile the strife of passion cease, And woo the calms of solitude and peace. And oh! thou sacred Power, who rear'st on high Thy leafy throne where wavy poplars sigh! Genius of woodland shades! whose mild control Steals with resistless witchery to the soul, Come with thy wonted ardour, and inspire My glowing bosom with thy hallow'd fire. And thou, too, Fancy, from thy starry sphere, Where to the hymning orbs thou lend'st thine ear, Do thou descend, and bless my ravish'd sight, Veil'd in soft visions of serene delight. At thy command the gale that passes by Bears in its whispers mystic harmony. Thou wavest thy wand, and lo! what forms appear! On the dark cloud what giant shapes career! The ghosts of Ossian skim the misty vale, And hosts of sylphids on the moonbeams sail. This gloomy alcove darkling to the sight, Where meeting trees create eternal night; Save, when from yonder stream the sunny ray, Reflected, gives a dubious gleam of day; Recalls, endearing to my alter'd mind, Times, when beneath the boxen hedge reclined, I watch'd the lapwing to her clamorous brood; Or lured the robin to its scatter'd food; Or woke with song the woodland echo wild, And at each gay response delighted smiled. How oft, when childhood threw its golden ray Of gay romance o'er every happy day, Here, would I run, a visionary boy, When the hoarse tempest shook the vaulted sky, And, fancy-led, beheld the Almighty's form Sternly careering on the eddying storm; And heard, while awe congeal'd my inmost soul, His voice terrific in the thunders roll. With secret joy I view'd with vivid glare The vollied lightnings cleave the sullen air; And, as the warring winds around reviled, With awful pleasure big,—I heard and smiled. Beloved remembrance!—Memory which endears This silent spot to my advancing years, Here dwells eternal peace, eternal rest, In shades like these to live is to be bless'd. While happiness evades the busy crowd, In rural coverts loves the maid to shroud. And thou too, Inspiration, whose wild flame Shoots with electric swiftness through the frame, Thou here dost love to sit with upturn'd eye, And listen to the stream that murmurs by, The woods that wave, the gray owl's silken flight, The mellow music of the listening night. Congenial calms more welcome to my breast Than maddening joy in dazzling lustre dress'd, To Heaven my prayers, my daily prayers I raise, That ye may bless my unambitious days, Withdrawn, remote, from all the haunts of strife, May trace with me the lowly vale of life, And when her banner Death shall o'er me wave, May keep your peaceful vigils on my grave. Now as I rove, where wide the prospect grows, A livelier light upon my vision flows. No more above the embracing branches meet, No more the river gurgles at my feet, But seen deep down the cliff's impending side, Through hanging woods, now gleams its silver tide. Dim is my upland path,—across the green Fantastic shadows fling, yet oft between The chequer'd glooms the moon her chaste ray sheds, Where knots of bluebells droop their graceful heads. And beds of violets, blooming 'mid the trees, Load with waste fragrance the nocturnal breeze.
Say, why does Man, while to his opening sight Each shrub presents a source of chaste delight, And Nature bids for him her treasures flow, And gives to him alone his bliss to know, Why does he pant for Vice's deadly charms? Why clasp the syren Pleasure to his arms? And suck deep draughts of her voluptuous breath, Though fraught with ruin, infamy, and death? Could he who thus to vile enjoyment clings Know what calm joy from purer sources springs; Could he but feel how sweet, how free from strife, The harmless pleasures of a harmless life, No more his soul would pant for joys impure, The deadly chalice would no more allure, But the sweet potion he was wont to sip Would turn to poison on his conscious lip.
Fair Nature! thee, in all thy varied charms, Fain would I clasp for ever in my arms! Thine are the sweets which never, never sate, Thine still remain through all the storms of fate. Though not for me, 't was Heaven's divine command To roll in acres of paternal land, Yet still my lot is bless'd, while I enjoy Thine opening beauties with a lover's eye.
Happy is he, who, though the cup of bliss Has ever shunn'd him when he thought to kiss, Who, still in abject poverty or pain, Can count with pleasure what small joys remain: Though were his sight convey'd from zone to zone, He would not find one spot of ground his own, Yet as he looks around, he cries with glee, These bounding prospects all were made for me: For me yon waving fields their burden bear, For me yon labourer guides the shining share, While happy I in idle ease recline, And mark the glorious visions as they shine. This is the charm, by sages often told, Converting all it touches into gold. Content can soothe where'er by fortune placed, Can rear a garden in the desert waste.
How lovely, from this hill's superior height, Spreads the wide view before my straining sight! O'er many a varied mile of lengthening ground, E'en to the blue-ridged hill's remotest bound, My ken is borne; while o'er my head serene The silver moon illumes the misty scene: Now shining clear, now darkening in the glade, In all the soft varieties of shade.
Behind me, lo! the peaceful hamlet lies, The drowsy god has seal'd the cotter's eyes. No more, where late the social faggot blazed, The vacant peal resounds, by little raised, But locked in silence, o'er Arion's star The slumbering Night rolls on her velvet car: The church bell tolls, deep sounding down the glade, The solemn hour for walking spectres made; The simple ploughboy, wakening with the sound, Listens aghast, and turns him startled round, Then stops his ears, and strives to close his eyes, Lest at the sound some grisly ghost should rise. Now ceased the long, the monitory toll, Returning silence stagnates in the soul; Save when, disturbed by dreams, with wild affright, The deep mouth'd mastiff bays the troubled night: Or where the village alehouse crowns the vale, The creaking signpost whistles to the gale. A little onward let me bend my way, Where the moss'd seat invites the traveller's stay. That spot, oh! yet it is the very same; That hawthorn gives it shade, and gave it name: There yet the primrose opes its earliest bloom, There yet the violet sheds its first perfume, And in the branch that rears above the rest The robin unmolested builds its nest. 'T was here, when hope, presiding o'er my breast, In vivid colours every prospect dress'd: 'T was here, reclining, I indulged her dreams, And lost the hour in visionary schemes. Here, as I press once more the ancient seat, Why, bland deceiver! not renew the cheat! Say, can a few short years this change achieve, That thy illusions can no more deceive! Time's sombrous tints have every view o'erspread, And thou too, gay seducer, art thou fled?
Though vain thy promise, and the suit severe, Yet thou couldst guile Misfortune of her tear, And oft thy smiles across life's gloomy way Could throw a gleam of transitory day. How gay, in youth, the flattering future seems; How sweet is manhood in the infant's dreams; The dire mistake too soon is brought to light. And all is buried in redoubled night. Yet some can rise superior to the pain, And in their breasts the charmer Hope retain; While others, dead to feeling, can survey, Unmoved, their fairest prospects fade away: But yet a few there be,—too soon o'ercast! Who shrink unhappy from the adverse blast, And woo the first bright gleam, which breaks the gloom, To gild the silent slumbers of the tomb. So in these shades the early primrose blows, Too soon deceived by suns and melting snows: So falls untimely on the desert waste, Its blossoms withering in the northern blast.
Now pass'd whate'er the upland heights display, Down the steep cliff I wind my devious way; Oft rousing, as the rustling path I beat, The timid hare from its accustom'd seat. And oh! how sweet this walk o'erhung with wood, That winds the margin of the solemn flood! What rural objects steal upon the sight! What rising views prolong the calm delight!
The brooklet branching from the silver Trent, The whispering birch by every zephyr bent, The woody island, and the naked mead, The lowly hut half hid in groves of reed, The rural wicket, and the rural stile, And frequent interspersed, the woodman's pile. Above, below, where'er I turn my eyes, Rocks, waters, woods, in grand succession rise. High up the cliff the varied groves ascend, And mournful larches o'er the wave impend. Around, what sounds, what magic sounds arise, What glimmering scenes salute my ravish'd eyes! Soft sleep the waters on their pebbly bed, The woods wave gently o'er my drooping head. And, swelling slow, comes wafted on the wind, Lorn Progne's note from distant copse behind. Still every rising sound of calm delight Stamps but the fearful silence of the night, Save when is heard between each dreary rest, Discordant from her solitary nest, The owl, dull screaming to the wandering moon; Now riding, cloud-wrapp'd, near her highest noon: Or when the wild duck, southering, hither rides, And plunges, sullen in the sounding tides.
How oft, in this sequester'd spot, when youth Gave to each tale the holy force of truth, Have I long linger'd, while the milkmaid sung The tragic legend, till the woodland rung! That tale, so sad! which, still to memory dear, From its sweet source can call the sacred tear, And (lull'd to rest stern Reason's harsh control) Steal its soft magic to the passive soul. These hallow'd shades,—these trees that woo the wind, Recall its faintest features to my mind. A hundred passing years, with march sublime, Have swept beneath the silent wing of time, Since, in yon hamlet's solitary shade, Reclusely dwelt the far famed Clifton Maid, The beauteous Margaret; for her each swain Confess'd in private his peculiar pain, In secret sigh'd, a victim to despair, Nor dared to hope to win the peerless fair. No more the Shepherd on the blooming mead Attuned to gaiety his artless reed, No more entwined the pansied wreath, to deck His favourite wether's unpolluted neck, But listless, by yon bubbling stream reclined, He mix'd his sobbings with the passing wind, Bemoan'd his hapless love; or, boldly bent, Far from these smiling fields a rover went, O'er distant lands, in search of ease, to roam, A self-will'd exile from his native home.
Yet not to all the maid express'd disdain; Her Bateman loved, nor loved the youth in vain. Full oft, low whispering o'er these arching boughs, The echoing vault responded to their vows, As here deep hidden from the glare of day, Enamour'd oft, they took their secret way.
Yon bosky dingle, still the rustics name; 'T was there the blushing maid confessed her flame. Down yon green lane they oft were seen to hie, When evening slumber'd on the western sky. That blasted yew, that mouldering walnut bare. Each bears mementos of the fated pair.
One eve, when Autumn loaded every breeze With the fallen honours of the mourning trees, The maiden waited at the accustom'd bower. And waited long beyond the appointed hour, Yet Bateman came not;—o'er the woodland drear, Howling portentous did the winds career; And bleak and dismal on the leafless woods The fitful rains rush'd down in sullen floods; The night was dark; as, now and then, the gale Paused for a moment—Margaret listen'd pale; But through the covert to her anxious ear No rustling footstep spoke her lover near. Strange fears now fill'd her breast,—she knew not why, She sigh'd, and Bateman's name was in each sigh. She hears a noise,—'t is he,—he comes at last,— Alas! 't was but the gale which hurried past: But now she hears a quickening footstep sound, Lightly it comes, and nearer does it bound; 'T is Bateman's self,—he springs into her arms, 'T is he that clasps, and chides her vain alarms. "Yet why this silence?—I have waited long, And the cold storm has yell'd the trees among.
And now thou'rt here my fears are fled—yet speak, Why does the salt tear moisten on thy cheek? Say, what is wrong?" Now through a parting cloud The pale moon peer'd from her tempestuous shroud, And Bateman's face was seen; 't was deadly white, And sorrow seem'd to sicken in his sight. "Oh, speak! my love!" again the maid conjured, "Why is thy heart in sullen woe immured?" He raised his head, and thrice essay'd to tell, Thrice from his lips the unfinished accents fell; When thus at last reluctantly he broke His boding silence, and the maid bespoke: "Grieve not, my love, but ere the morn advance I on these fields must cast my parting glance; For three long years, by cruel fate's command, I go to languish in a foreign land. Oh, Margaret! omens dire have met my view, Say, when far distant, wilt thou bear me true? Should honours tempt thee, and should riches fee, Wouldst thou forget thine ardent vows to me, And on the silken couch of wealth reclined, Banish thy faithful Bateman from thy mind?"
"Oh! why," replies the maid, "my faith thus prove, Canst thou! ah, canst thou, then suspect my love? Hear me, just God! if from my traitorous heart My Bateman's fond remembrance e'er shall part, If, when he hail again his native shore, He finds his Margaret true to him no more, May fiends of hell, and every power of dread, Conjoin'd then drag me from my perjured bed, And hurl me headlong down these awful steeps, To find deserved death in yonder deeps!" Thus spake the maid, and from her finger drew A golden ring, and broke it quick in two; One half she in her lovely bosom hides, The other, trembling, to her love confides. "This bind the vow," she said, "this mystic charm No future recantation can disarm, The right vindictive does the fates involve, No tears can move it, no regrets dissolve."
She ceased. The death-bird gave a dismal cry, The river moan'd, the wild gale whistled by, And once again the lady of the night Behind a heavy cloud withdrew her light. Trembling she view'd these portents with dismay; But gently Bateman kiss'd her fears away: Yet still he felt conceal'd a secret smart, Still melancholy bodings fill'd his heart.
When to the distant land the youth was sped, A lonely life the moody maiden led. Still would she trace each dear, each well known walk, Still by the moonlight to her love would talk, And fancy, as she paced among the trees, She heard his whispers in the dying breeze.
Thus two years glided on in silent grief; The third her bosom own'd the kind relief: Absence had cool'd her love—the impoverish'd flame Was dwindling fast, when lo! the tempter came; He offered wealth, and all the joys of life, And the weak maid became another's wife! Six guilty months had mark'd the false one's crime, When Bateman hail'd once more his native clime. Sure of her constancy, elate he came, The lovely partner of his soul to claim; Light was his heart, as up the well known way He bent his steps—and all his thoughts were gay. Oh! who can paint his agonizing throes, When on his ear the fatal news arose! Chill'd with amazement,—senseless with the blow, He stood a marble monument of woe; Till call'd to all the horrors of despair, He smote his brow, and tore his horrent hair; Then rush'd impetuous from the dreadful spot, And sought those scenes (by memory ne'er forgot), Those scenes, the witness of their growing flame, And now like witnesses of Margaret's shame. 'T was night—he sought the river's lonely shore, And traced again their former wanderings o'er. Now on the bank in silent grief he stood, And gazed intently on the stealing flood, Death in his mein and madness in his eye, He watch'd the waters as they murmur'd by; Bade the base murderess triumph o'er his grave— Prepared to plunge into the whelming wave.
Yet still he stood irresolutely bent, Religion sternly stay'd his rash intent. He knelt.—Cool play'd upon his cheek the wind, And fann'd the fever of his maddening mind, The willows waved, the stream it sweetly swept, The paly moonbeam on its surface slept, And all was peace;—he felt the general calm O'er his rack'd bosom shed a genial balm: When casting far behind his streaming eye, He saw the Grove,—in fancy saw her lie, His Margaret, lull'd in Germain's arms to rest, And all the demon rose within his breast. Convulsive now, he clench'd his trembling hand, Cast his dark eye once more upon the land, Then, at one spring he spurn'd the yielding bank, And in the calm deceitful current sank.
Sad, on the solitude of night, the sound, As in the stream he plunged, was heard around: Then all was still—the wave was rough no more, The river swept as sweetly as before; The willows waved, the moonbeams shone serene, And peace returning brooded o'er the scene.
Now, see upon the perjured fair one hang Remorse's glooms and never ceasing pang. Full well she knew, repentant now too late, She soon must bow beneath the stroke of fate. But, for the babe she bore beneath her breast, The offended God prolong'd her life unbless'd. But fast the fleeting moments roll'd away, And near and nearer drew the dreaded day; That day foredoom'd to give her child the light, And hurl its mother to the shades of night. The hour arrived, and from the wretched wife The guiltless baby struggled into life.— As night drew on, around her bed a band Of friends and kindred kindly took their stand; In holy prayer they pass'd the creeping time, Intent to expiate her awful crime. Their prayers were fruitless.—As the midnight came A heavy sleep oppress'd each weary frame. In vain they strove against the o'erwhelming load, Some power unseen their drowsy lids bestrode. They slept till in the blushing eastern sky The blooming Morning oped her dewy eye; Then wakening wide they sought the ravish'd bed, But lo! the hapless Margaret was fled; And never more the weeping train were doom'd To view the false one, in the deeps intomb'd.
The neighbouring rustics told that in the night They heard such screams as froze them with affright; And many an infant, at its mother's breast, Started dismay'd, from its unthinking rest. And even now, upon the heath forlorn, They show the path down which the fair was borne, By the fell demons, to the yawning wave, Her own, and murder'd lover's, mutual grave.
Such is the tale, so sad, to memory dear, Which oft in youth has charm'd my listening ear, That tale, which bade me find redoubled sweets In the drear silence of these dark retreats; And even now, with melancholy power, Adds a new pleasure to the lonely hour. 'Mid all the charms by magic Nature given To this wild spot, this sublunary heaven, With double joy enthusiast Fancy leans On the attendant legend of the scenes. This sheds a fairy lustre on the floods, And breathes a mellower gloom upon the woods; This, as the distant cataract swells around, Gives a romantic cadence to the sound; This, and the deepening glen, the alley green, The silver stream, with sedgy tufts between, The massy rock, the wood-encompass'd leas, The broom-clad islands, and the nodding trees, The lengthening vista, and the present gloom, The verdant pathway breathing waste perfume: These are thy charms, the joys which these impart Bind thee, bless'd Clifton! close around my heart.
Dear Native Grove! where'er my devious track, To thee will Memory lead the wanderer back. Whether in Arno's polish'd vales I stray, Or where "Oswego's" swamps obstruct the day; Or wander lone, where, wildering and wide, The tumbling torrent laves St. Gothard's side; Or by old Tejo's classic margent muse, Or stand entranced with Pyrenean views; Still, still to thee, where'er my footsteps roam, My heart shall point, and lead the wanderer home. When Splendour offers, and when Fame incites, I'll pause, and think of all thy dear delights, Reject the boon, and, wearied with the change, Renounce the wish which first induced to range; Turn to these scenes, these well known scenes once more, Trace once again old Trent's romantic shore, And tired with worlds, and all their busy ways, Here waste the little remnant of my days. But if the Fates should this last wish deny, And doom me on some foreign shore to die; Oh! should it please the world's supernal King, That weltering waves my funeral dirge shall sing; Or that my corse should, on some desert strand, Lie stretch'd beneath the Simoom's blasting hand; Still, though unwept I find a stranger tomb, My sprite shall wander through this favourite gloom, Ride on the wind that sweeps the leafless grove, Sigh on the wood-blast of the dark alcove, Sit a lorn spectre on yon well known grave, And mix its moanings with the desert wave.
 The constellation Delphinus. For authority for this appelation, see Ovid's Fasti, B. xi. 113.
 This part of the Trent is commonly called "The Clifton Deeps."
 Germain is the traditionary name of her husband.
Genius of musings, who, the midnight hour Wasting in woods or haunted forests wild, Dost watch Orion in his arctic tower, Thy dark eye fix'd as in some holy trance; Or when the vollied lightnings cleave the air, And Ruin gaunt bestrides the winged storm, Sitt'st in some lonely watchtower, where thy lamp, Faint blazing, strikes the fisher's eye from far, And, 'mid the howl of elements, unmoved, Dost ponder on the awful scene, and trace The vast effect to its superior source,— Spirit, attend my lowly benison! For now I strike to themes of import high The solitary lyre; and, borne by thee Above this narrow cell, I celebrate The mysteries of Time!
Him who, august, Was e'er these worlds were fashion'd,—ere the sun Sprang from the east, or Lucifer display'd His glowing cresset in the arch of morn, Or Vesper gilded the serener eve. Yea, He had been for an eternity! Had swept unvarying from eternity The harp of desolation—ere his tones, At God's command, assumed a milder strain, And startled on his watch, in the vast deep, Chaos's sluggish sentry, and evoked From the dark void the smiling universe.
Chain'd to the groveling frailties of the flesh, Mere mortal man, unpurged from earthly dross, Cannot survey, with fix'd and steady eye, The dim uncertain gulf, which now the muse, Adventurous, would explore; but dizzy grown, He topples down the abyss.—If he would scan The fearful chasm, and catch a transient glimpse Of its unfathomable depths, that so His mind may turn with double joy to God, His only certainty and resting place; He must put off awhile this mortal vest, And learn to follow, without giddiness, To heights where all is vision, and surprise, And vague conjecture.—He must waste by night The studious taper, far from all resort Of crowds and folly, in some still retreat; High on the beetling promontory's crest, Or in the caves of the vast wilderness, Where, compass'd round with Nature's wildest shapes, He may be driven to centre all his thoughts In the great Architect, who lives confess'd In rocks, and seas, and solitary wastes.
So has divine Philosophy, with voice Mild as the murmurs of the moonlight wave, Tutor'd the heart of him, who now awakes, Touching the chords of solemn minstrelsy, His faint, neglected song—intent to snatch Some vagrant blossom from the dangerous steep Of poesy, a bloom of such a hue, So sober, as may not unseemly suit With Truth's severer brow; and one withal So hardy as shall brave the passing wind Of many winters,—rearing its meek head In loveliness, when he who gathered it Is number'd with the generations gone. Yet not to me hath God's good providence Given studious leisure, or unbroken thought, Such as he owns,—a meditative man; Who from the blush of morn to quiet eve Ponders, or turns the page of wisdom o'er, Far from the busy crowd's tumultuous din: From noise and wrangling far, and undisturb'd With Mirth's unholy shouts. For me the day Hath duties which require the vigorous hand Of steadfast application, but which leave No deep improving trace upon the mind. But be the day another's;—let it pass! The night's my own!—They cannot steal my night! When evening lights her folding star on high, I live and breathe; and in the sacred hours Of quiet and repose my spirit flies, Free as the morning, o'er the realms of space. And mounts the skies, and imps her wing for Heaven.