Part 1 out of 5
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THE POETICAL WORKS OF
HENRY KIRKE WHITE.
WITH A MEMOIR
BY SIR HARRIS NICOLAS.
PETER SMITH, ESQ.
IN TESTIMONY OF ESTEEM AND FRIENDSHIP.
Memoir of Henry Kirke White
Childhood; Part I
Lines written on a Survey of the Heavens
Lines supposed to be spoken by a Lover at the Grave of his
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
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"
"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
"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
On being confined to School one pleasant Morning in Spring
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"
To my Lyre
To an early Primrose
Ode addressed to H. Fuseli, Esq. R. A.
To the Earl of Carlisle, K. G.
To the Genius of Romance
Fragment of an Ode to the Moon
To the Muse
To the Wind, at Midnight
To the Harvest Moon
To the Herb Rosemary
To the Morning
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
Sonnet supposed to be written by the unhappy Poet Dermody in a
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 Ĉolian 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
Sonnet--"As thus oppress'd with many a heavy care,"
Sonnet--"Ye unseen spirits, whose wild melodies,"
To a Taper
To my Mother
Sonnet--"Yes, 't will be over soon. This sickly dream"
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.
A Ballad--"Be hush'd, be hush'd, ye bitter winds,"
The Lullaby of a Female Convict to her Child, the Night previous
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
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
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
"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
"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:
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
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
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,
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
[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.