Frederic Seebohm.

Henley, a poem online

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Although prefaces, like many other good old
customs, are nearly now exploded, some pre-
fatory observations to the following production,
which is dignified with the title of a Poem, but
to which that of a simple sketch might be far
more appropriately applied, are absolutely in-

I am sufficiently aware that this fruit of re-
tirement, hastily thrown together, and with a
view to immediate publication, can possess but
few claims to public attention, but, in a work
abounding in localities, and containing matter
interesting only to those who are familiar with
the scenes described, what excellence can be


expected ? The simplicity of our earlier pastoral
writers many may attempt, but few can properly
attain ; and in a production of this description,
the utmost caution is necessary to prevent sim-
plicity degenerating into vulgarity.

We all know that to constitute a poem,
plot, imagery, general interest, and dignity, and
energy of style must contribute their several
properties. In this it would puzzle the most dis-
cerning to discover any of these essential qua-
lifications. Why then, it will be inquired, have
you published ? — I can only shrug my shoulders
and reply with true Gallic sang froid, " Ma foiy
je ne sais guere pourquoi moi-memey

How shall I disarm the critic ? If I submit
that no one can possibly have a more humble
opinion of the production than myself shall I be
believed ? If I urge that it was proposed to me
to compose the poem, and that the first half I

feltj the latter I merely wrote^ will any leniency
be extended ? Surely however some credit will
be given me for sincerity, and humility, and
modesty, and all those very amiable attributes
which are required in a young Poet, when it is
perceived that I shelter myself beneath the wing
of Anonymy ; and that I do not throw down that
gauntlet of defiance a name, as though I should
say, " Here I stand hke a rock of adamant in-
trenched in my own vast merit, and impervious
to all the attacks of the Critic tribe, who would
seek in vain to sting,— or to annihilate my fame."

And yet, good Reader, my name if revealed
would excite a certain degree of curiosity, if not
of interest — not, be it understood, Avith any
reference to the work here submitted, but from
the singular circumstance of my being the third
Author of the same name now before the Public,
and, — what renders the coincidence yet more
striking,— we are all, if I mistake not, of the

same profession. Here then is a sort of enigma
for your solution — Divine it if you can, but pray
respect ray secret.

It will be perceived that in the episodical
story introduced of Miss Blandy, I have ad-
hered almost literally to the facts detailed in the
account given of that unhappy victim of villainy
and avarice. In short, I have only deviated from
the original, inasmuch as I have attributed her
crime to the influence of insanity. — In this I
have not merely availed myself of the licence
of the Poet, but have founded the assumption
on many circumstances of conduct during the
period of her confinement at Oxford, subsequently
to her condemnation, and up to the very moment
of execution.

I am prepared to hear that my description
of the town is lame and tame to a degree, but
alas ! a votary of Bacchus might as well expect


to extract wine from a public fountain, as a vo-
tary of Apollo to catch one spark of inspiration
from noisy markets, which would confound the
builders of Babel, did they exist in these " dege-
nerate days ;" and gloomy streets whence Me-
lancholy herself would wing her flight in despair.
I will honestly confess that my poor Muse toiled
long and painfully before she could struggle
through them ; and more than once, shrunk
in utter dismay from the vegetable hosts she
was called on to marshal, strongly intimating
by her repugnance, that it was exceedingly bad
taste on my part to devote her to so menial an
office ; and I have no doubt that my Readers
will say the same.

Yet, again I repeat — and for the credit of
my own taste and judgment I seek to convey the
impression — that no one can possibly entertain
a more humble opinion of this production than
myself, for, teeming with localities as it does;,


I am fully aware that it can only interest those
to whom these scenes are familiar, and that,
principally because, however rough in its color-
ings, the picture will not be found deficient in
fidelity of description. And with this candid
exposition of my own sentiments on the subject,
I take ray leave.


Henley, October 1st, 1827.


I SING of Nature — ye harmonious nine

To aid my pleasing task your strength combine :

Lend graceful boldness to my willing Muse,

And bid it what reject, and what refuse.

Not Byron's vig'rous nerve my strain requires, .

But Goldsmith's gentler and more simple fires : —

Thrice favor'd Bard — sweet painter of those scenes

Where rural calm to rural beauty leans.

Thine art descriptive to my numbers lend.

And let thy Spirit on my muse descend.

Low in a vale, by wood crown'd heights o'erhung.
Where fir, and larchj and beech are careless' flung.
With silver Thames slow rolling at her feet.
Lies Henley — Contemplation's calm retreat.


In years ilie first of all her native shirr,

This ancient town to notice may aspire ;

For, though all spotless now the silver stream.

And smooth the fields which with rich harvests teem.

When Revolution erst her wings unfurl'd.

And from his thorny throne the Stuart hurl'd.

The crystal surface of that rolling flood

Rejected streams pollute with human blood ;

And still, imbedded in those fields, remain — 1

The rotted bones of many a warrior slain.

But not to deeds of blood, for idle fame.

Does Henley urge the sad historic claim.

Fain would she wipe from off her simple page

The fearful record of destructive rage.

And o'er that fatal epoch draw a veil

When Faction triumph'd, and Revenge grew pale.

Let the fierce Swiss, with generous ardor fill'd.
Boast the pure streams his Fathers erst distilled ;
Or, in the gloomy regions of the north,
l£t Scots proclaim the deeds of Wallace forth.
The hardy mountaineer can breathe no rest —
The fiercest passions animate his breast.


And, led by very barrenness of soil,
iliiSame his soul, and fit him for the broil.
But they who till the vallies most incline
In peaceful arts and industry to shine.
No glory, Henley, canst thou e'er derive,
From wars which in thy spotted page survive ;
Content, and Peace, to Plenty near allied.
These form thy boast — these are thy simple pride.

Yet art thou not without thy claim to those

Who, in that era, to distinction rose ;

And, heeding Mercy 'mid the fierce turmoil.

Ennobled talent and their native soil.

Such Bulstrode was, and Lenthal yet more great ; — 2

Both rais'd to highest offices of State :

Their acts of mercy let the shades attest

Of Strafford — Goring — long consign'd to rest.

The former fell, for Whitelock could not save.

But Lenthal turn'd the latter from his grave :

Their natures gentle, generous, and bland.

Each bore the impress of his native land,

Far happier and more tranquil days are thine.
Thou favor'd haunt of Solitude divine ;
No horn to horse resounds along thy ways,
Except what coach guards bellow for relays :
No blood offends the sight, or dripping gore.
Save that of victims at some butcher's door :
Nor cry for quarter ever shrieks its din
Save at the Lion, or Commercial Inn.

Yet not thy streets, where dulness holds her reiyn.
But woodland landscapes claim my op'ning strain :
These, in rich fulness, meet the roving sight.
And yield, to Nature's votary, delight :
Where is the man, who, seated 'neath some yew.
Can mark unmov'd the panoramic view-
Embrace the scene with half averted eye.
Nor feel the tide of life flow calmer by-?

Fair is the prospect which these heights command
Where now the willing pen obeys my hand ;-^
Luxuriant fields, with hedges interspers'd, .

Aud bhadowing trees along the foreground burst.

While, on the margin of the flowing title.
The poplar rears its head in graceful pride ;
The town next rises in more dusky hue.
And swells in sloping fulness on the view :
The Gothic church, least sombre of the whole.
At once its pride, its beauty, and its soul.
Beyond the town the distant uplands wear
The same rich proofs of Nature's fostering care :
Here fields and woods above each other rise
In fast succession 'till they reach the skies.

Far on the right the same rich views extend ;
Nor less kind Nature does the left befriend :
On either hand the fairest sites appear
Crown'd with the produce of the fruitful year.
Dense woods, at gentle distances dispos'd.
Relieve the sameness of the lands inclos'd,
And, with the undulating landscape, tend
The sweet effects of light and shade to blend.
Low at the base of each inclining plain
The eye looks not for limpid waves in vain ; .
Fair Thames, that winds with gentle sweep around.
Through various vistas of the scene is found j

And, like rich gems which sparkle most at uighi.
Appears like crystal in the sombre light.

In short, which ever way the eye may bead,
Where'er the glance inquiring may descend.
Some pleasing prospect bounds the raptur'd gaze,
And leads the soul through fancy's flowery maze :
Seats, pastures, flocks, and woods bedeck the plain.
While numerous islets break the river's chain.
And every view at every hour, conveys
Fresh food for wonder, and fresh food for praise.

Ye crowds who, sick with London dust, prepare
To take your usual dose of country air.
And, with the close of Pasta's thrilling strain.
Deem all things dead 'till spring return again.
When Almacks and the opera shall claim
The joint support of gentle and of dame.
Bid your postillions roll the whirling wheel
Where Oxford, Bucks, and Berks their bounds reveal —
For there lies Henley — if the heart be right-
Its loveliness will yield unmix'd delight.

At morn, at noon, and at the evening hour

Calm Natnre here asserts exclusive power j-

Iler garb the same, and differing but in hue

As clouds obscure or sun beams gild the View.

Behold, at early dawn, the dappled sky

All gray with mists which wanton careless by.

Ere chilly dews, sad offspring of dull night.

By gladdening rays are chas'd and put to flight :

View the dark outline of the slumbering scene

Which rises with unform'd and loveless mien,

Then mark the mighty orb whose golden flood

Of bursting glory flashes through each wood.

And, shedding light and lustre o'er the vale.

Lends warmth and softness to the morning gale :

Pourtrays each feature of the torpid whole.

And to the lifeless mass restores its soul !

See then, like things regenerate and new.

The flocks and herds shake off the dripping dew :

The drowsy birds their heavy wings display.

And chaunt their carols to the god of day.

While fields and woods, begemm'd with silver tears.

Smile welcome to the Light of countless spheres^ ;—


View thiy, yfc ciowdsj on Henley's sweet domain.
Then say if Nature in the heart may reign !

Wouldst thou, at noon, the pleasing prospect hail.

When genial sun beams fructify the dale ?

But place thee on some wooded height where shade

From clustering beech and chestnut is convey'd ;

Then, soft reclining at thy length, behold

The varied map fair Nature doth unfold*

Here the rough ploughman guides his fatted yoke ;

There falls the corn beneath the reaper's stroke ;

In fields of green the fleecy stragglers browse.

And crop the tender grass or fragrant boughs ;

"While herds of kine, at every point j disclose

The teeming udder whence abundance flows :

On every hand — above — below — .behind —

A picture fair of plenty thou may'st find ;

Nor, though green fields and harvests most prevail,

Does less the eye those frequent beauties hail.

The yellow is in various tints display'd.

The green in rich variety of shade.

If, like too luscious feasts, this banquet cloy.
Let other views thy roving thought employ ;
Down turn thine eye upon the limpid wave,
Where old Thamesis loves his limbs to lave :
There see the Angler in his tottering boat
In anxious silence o'er the surface float ;
His soul, his, sense, his every thought engagM
In cunning war with puny fiyhes wag'd.
Mark with what care he throws the quivering line;
How well his judgment and his skill combine :
Alas ! that skill or judgment such as these
A perch or pike should vanquish as they please !
But now, while full meridian sun beams throw
Too great a lustre on the depths below.
He steers the pliant skiff where friendly aid
Is borrow'd from the willow's spreading shade ;
Here, oft distm'b'd by some unwieldy team,
Which urge the pond'rous barge against the stream.
Cleaving with heavy prow the tranquil tide
'Till the scar'd waters flee to either side ;
He curses Fate and pilot in dismay
Who thus conspire to rob him of his prey :


And when some wild malicious boy affrijjfhts
With whizzing stone the fish that final' bites.
The hapless Angler, furious in his wrath.
Would fain pursue the urchin thro' his path :
But this the intervening tide prevents —
The culprit knows it — nor one whit relents —
And thus, from early morn to sober eve.
Does he alternate fret, and hope, and grieve.
Too happy if one captive pike proclaim
His high pretensions to a Sportsman's fame !

Heaves thy full heart with slow consuming pain.
Or dost thou joyless drag existence' chain i*
Go, view the jwospect at the twilight hour.
And try the aid of Meditation's power :
Then wilt thou see the woods their crests unfold
Along a spacious tract of burnish' d gold.
Which, growing paler as the eye ascends.
Its milder hues with richest purple blends :
Then o'er the seene is thrown that sweet repo?e
Which lulls to softness and subdues our woes :
The herds, recumbent, press the velvet plain.
And birds half warble forth their dying strain ;


TIk ^lviff light (lances on the ftiirror tide
Oci which fair Henley's daughters joyous glide.
While but the rower's slow and measur'd sound
Breaks on the soothing cahn which reigns around :
The swans, disporting on the fresh'ning wave.
Their circling crests and opening pinions lave ;
Or, bending graceful, catch the passing weed
Which yields them nurture with its moisten'd seed.
Then, as in mockery of angling sport.
The bounding fishes to the banks resort ;
Their golden sides, and silver fins upturn.
And dive below, or light the surface spurn.

Thus then at morn, at noon, and evening gray
A varied picture do these vales display ;
But most the mind contemplative will dwell.
When midnight shadows mantle o'er each dell.
, How oft have I, while Henley's sons have press'd
The couch of slumber in incipient rest.
Their senses wandering in delusion frail.
Mid scenes less beauteous than their native vale ;
How oft have I, with rapturous feeling, stood
And all the features of the outline view'd !


Oh ! what more loveFy than to mark the rise
Of the pale moon, at full, along the skies
When slow emerging, like a crystal shield.
Above the distant heights she stands reveal'd ;
How sweet to see her soften 'd rays illume
The broad expanse late wrapt in deepest gloom.
And throw o'er hill, and rivulet, and glade,
A flood of silver, with a softer shade !
How oft have I, on many a night serene,
Enjoy'd and lingered o'er the beauteous scene,
'Till my full soul has swell'd with holy awe
To God, the Source of Nature's form and law !

Oft, mid the deathlike calm which dwells around.
The rat amphibious on the wave is found :
Its course so light, as slow it skims the tide.
The eye must follow ere the ear decide.
But when the yielding rushes bend the head
To hide the midnight prowler in their bed.
The air is hush'd, and o'er the night again
Sad Silence holds her melancholy reign :
Then, while all Nature slumbers in repose.
And the full orb a paler lustre throws.


Oilier, anil more intrusive sounds invade
The soothing- stillness of the spangled glade ;
These, swelling high, the rippling noise convey
Of some swift vessel dashing ""mid the spray.
And as the eye, inquiring, turns its glance
Where now the still increasing sounds advance.
The glassy bosom of ihe troubled tide
Is seen in foaming furrows to divide.
And roving swans, by guardian swans pursu'd.
Urge their swift course along the parting flood :
The sheets of liquid light in part conceal
The milk white beauties which the shades reveal.
So that the curl, and hissing sound extreme
Alone direct the eye along the stream ;
But when the flying birds the bridge regain
Which forms the barrier Hwixt each rival train.
They proudly turn, and in the deepen'd shade.
Leave all their whiteness and their grace display M
The haughty male with crest and wing upraov'd-^
E'en such the bird the amorous Leda lov'd —
Then peace and silence once again prevail.
And not a murmur whispers o'er the vale : —


Thus have I frequent pass'd the waning oight,
The lonely witness of my calm (lelio;ht !

Amid these scenes, where Beauty holds her reign.

Look we for human loveliness in vain ?

Had Nature, in some wanton freak, design'd

To be to Henley's fair alone unkind.

The body then had languish'd for a soul : —

But now perfection crowns the charming whole.

Her blood is pure and lovely as her air.

Her sons are peaceful, and her daughters fair :

The latter firm in virtue's stubborn hold

As the ice-belts which Jura's waist enfold !

At eve, when summer suns obliquely speed

Their genial rays along the smiling mead.

And sweet voluptuousness of languor throws

O'er the rich map the mantle of repose.

Then may the eye discern a beauteous train

Whose light and bounding footsteps press the plain.

As by the river's brink, they careless move

To some fond spot the scene of early love ;

While joyous sports, and laughter gay declare

The heart at peace — the bosom without care.

Some, to the ilglit, the sloping height ascend.
Or trace the paths which near the stream extend ;
View the sweet prospect which Park Place unveilg^
And bound their ramble by the Wargrave vales.
The eye next rests upon a joyous crew *

Who, on the left their favorite path pursue.
And, passing Fawley's fair and ancient halls.
Reach Medmenham's old and once monastic walls. — 3
Some too, in skiffs, the tranquil scene survey.
And grasp the oar, or with the waters play.
These, as they glide through foaming locks, appear
Like fairy nymphs enchanted by some seer :
The bubbling lock — the cauldron which he fills
With various herbs his magic art distils :
They, in the words o^er Dante's Hell, inclin'd
To say " who enters here leaves hope behind" —

Those with light step, and sportive as the fawn.
Scarce curl the surface of the silken lawn :
These seek the covert of the friendly shade.
And read the sorrows of some love-sick maid i
Some with the ready pencil gay design
The charming outline of the scene divme ;


While others loiter ou the river's brink.
And watch the pebbles as they slowly sink :
These with white hands the swan's full beauties press,-
The swan proud swelling ^neath the soft caress :
While those, more youthful of the group, extend
The hoarded biscuit to secure a friend ;
Thus, in light disport, glide the happy hours.
Till night's deep gloom along the valley lours ;
Then, while kind zephyrs beauteous forms reveal.
Which floating garments would in vain conceal.
The Naiad bands, inclin'd no more to roam.
Seek the lov'd shelter of each peaceful home.

Thus in this Paradise of peace and love.
Does many an Eve in blooming freshness move ;
Since not for beauty look we here in vain.
But marvel rather that so few are plain.

Flow'd the young blood, in Henley's olden time,
With that chaste warmth which shrinketh, now from

crime ?
Did passion never, like hot lava reign,
And glow tumultuous through each swelling vein ?


t)icl never sense, with vig'ious impulse, move
To acts wliich Heaven and which man reprove P
Alas ! the record of her page will tell
That one thns madden'd, lov'd, and guilty fell.
Who hath not heard of Blandy's fatal fame ; — 4
Deplor'd her fate, and sorrow'd o'er her shame !

Within these ancient walls, in peaceful pride.
An aged pair beheld their winters glide :
One only child they had, and passing fair —
At once their hope, their solace, and their care.
Their doting love the parents well convey'd ;
Their daughter's graces all their care repaid :
Her heart seem'd virtuous and her feelings mild.
For love insidious had not yet beguil'd :
Her parents' joy — the theme of every tongue —
The maiden's praise by every voice was sung.
While loud report, which gathers as it warms,
Proclaim'd her fortune equal to her charms.
The old man heard — nor, hearing, once denied
The specious falsehood, flattering to his pride.
But weakly lent the sanction of his name
To stamp as truth what owed its birth to fame.


Accwsed wealth ! what evils dost thou bring !
What crimes from thy possession frequent spring 1*
Alas ! how little did this wretched man
Foresee the horrors he himself began :
Had virtuous truth his aged bosom fir'd
A Father, by a daughter's hand, had not expir'd :
But Heaven oft, with retributive care.
Makes man the agent of his own despair !

Decreed by Fate, a wily stranger came —
And saw the maid, and bold confess'd his flame :
His birth was noble, graceful too his mien ;
His manners specious, and his speech serene ;
The brilliant costume of the camp he wore.
And all bore impress of the Scottish shore.

The good old man the welcome greeting gave.
Nor once suspected whom all fancied brave :
He saw his child, his only child, ador'd —
And straight received the stranger at his board :
With glowing heart, and by his smiles deceiv'd,
The maid, confiding, all his vows believ'd j


As now, within the mansion of her Sire,
She heard her Lover loud proclaim his fire.
His fire ! say does the tiger love the hind ?
Are wolves and lambkins in one fold combin'd ?
Loves the foul serpent, which, with magic gaze.
Lures the lost warbler to its deadly maze P
The tiger, wolf, and serpent thirst for blood —
Man thirsts for wealth — nor knows a greater good ;-
These quaff the crimson tide to feed their own;
Man slays for wealth to sate his lusts alone.

No siege, disast'rous. Virtue here sustains.
For passion liv'd not in the monster's veins ;
His mind was vicious, but his heart was cold :
He lov'd not woman, for his god was gold :
The person charm'd him not — the hand alone
Could yield the wealth he fain would call his own.

One serious barrier to his suit remain'd.

Which much the maiden and her parents pain'd ;

Upon his natal soil, a wife betray'd,

Mourn'd the sad havoc which his wiles had made :


Who loves but gold, no moral tie can biutl—
A pretext e'er for crime will villains find :
The rite religious he now sought to prove
A mimic farce to veil illicit love :
And thus, to serve his views, her fame aspers'd
Who in her ties with him alone was curs'd.

What will the tender maiden not believe
When specious self-love labours to deceive ?
Already now the wretched Blandy bore
The seeds of passion in her bosom's core ;
She lov'd the man — nay pitied too his fate — r
Condemn'd the object of their mutual hate :
And deeni'd that arts delusive she had tried
To fill the station of her Cranston's bride.
Not less the Mother than her child he mov'd— r
The former all a parent's fondness prov'd —
She saw the Stranger — sprung from noble line—
The outward polish with much wit cl)mbine.
And none she thought so fit to wed her child
As one of lineage high, and manners mild.


Not so the Sire — his weak but virtuous heart
From Honor's rugged line would ne'er depart.
The specious reasonings of the eager Scot
The old man heard — yet he received them not —
Should Justice sanction, and the laws decide
Such marriage null 'twixt Cranston and his bride :-
Then, though reluctant, would his voice approve —
'Till then, no pray'rs should his decision move :^-
The anxious Soldier to the Courts appeal'd —
The Courts the justice of the contract seal'd ;
When turn'd the Father's care toward his child
Whom Love delusive had too well beguil'd.

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Online LibraryFrederic SeebohmHenley, a poem → online text (page 1 of 4)