James Templeman.

Gilbert; an amatory rural poem in eight cantos online

. (page 1 of 14)
Online LibraryJames TemplemanGilbert; an amatory rural poem in eight cantos → online text (page 1 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook













Love will still be lord of all.




(Successors to H. 2>. Symonds}



C. WliiUingliam, Printer, Goswell Street, London.


Dedication . iii

Introduction v

To the Author of Gilbert, an Acrostic xxxiii

Introductory Verses xxxiv

Canto 1 1

II 13

III 24

IV 33

V 40

VI... 46

VII 54

VIII , 65

The Story of Ancient Pluto 77

Canto I ib.

n 81

III 87

The God's Revenge 91

Canto I ib.

II 98

Alphouso; or, The Winter Hermit 102













May 4, 1809.




ij CANNOT preface this edition of Gilbert^.

Detter, than by presenting my readers witli

the liberal remarks of some literary Friends

concerning it. They, indeed, have treated

the POEM very handsomely, far beyond its

real merits. To their good-nature only, I

iiiiust owe the mention of beauties I am still

^t a loss to discover ; but the faults alluded

ItOj, it has been my endeavour to amend.

f /

/ I now beg leave to present my several
acknowledgments to the gentlemen who
[favoured me with their advice ; particularly
/the immortal author of the lay of the
LAST MINSTREL. His letter I hold as nn
invaluable treasure ; the words of which are
deeply impressed on my memory.


Feb. 15, 1809.

a 2


To :mr. C-


I YCSTERDAY rcccivcd the enclosed
shoots by favour of jMv. Ridgway, and snatch a
moment from very close and laborious duty, to
sivc you, ;is desired, my opinion of their contents.
T!ie title of " Gilbkut, an amatory poem,"
did not prepossess me in the authors favour ; it
seemed he were treating on a subject unlikely to
afford much novelty, and I becan to peruse his
work vnth cool indifference. I was, however,
soon undeceived, aad felt tlie fullest conviction,
tliat wc ouiiht not to give way, too rashly, to ill-
founded prejudices ; nor condemn the merits of a
book before we well understand for why.

The Poem of Gilbert displays a considerable
share of invention. It is a pleasing picture, that
must have cost the author much time and study :
the characters are well delineated, and the rural
scenery admirably diversified.

I am awaie, that many illiberal critics will con-
sider it a fault, in this writers having chosen his
personages from the lower class of mankind,
thinking that the common dialect of such sort of
people is, in general, too mean to be worthy of
note. An unskilful poet must have sunk under
such a disadvantage, unable to attach any circum-
stances meet to excite our curiosity : but, in the
present undertaking, the difTiculty is overcome
by a forcible combination of striking images,
which bear on the mind with irresistible strength ;
not only to keep the attention fixed, but form, as


it were, a fruitful \me, of which Gilbert is the
stem. And, if the criterion of real genius is
decided to consist in oi iginrility, we have it here
in a most eminent degree. This author's aim is to
paint Nature in her humblest capacity, and he has
fairly won the laurel from all modem competition.
Aristotle very rightly observes, that ability
to invent, is, itself, the sonl of poetry. An in-
ditferent per.^on may write smooth verses, which,
by the helpful aid of classical learning, may be
correct in eveiy respect ; but yet, if they are
destitute of that animative zest, which alone will
crown uunumbevcd faults with imuiovtality, they
must sink into oblivion : it ever remains with tlie
inventive powers to raise poetry into estimation ;
and if an autiior is in possession of a gift so divine,
it enables him to overcome every other difficulty.

" * Nor the lesrn'd exercise of schools,
Nor the slifif pedantry of rules,

Awake in splendid fame,
Tifore high than where those rules can reach,
FfoiTi Nature's book, which angels leach

To bards who catch the flaiue.'*

Throughout Gilbert the above invaluable pro-
perty shines with a lustre truly sublime. It is oc-
casionally interspersed with pertinent reflections,
that evince a knowledge of mankind, which cannot
be acquired from books. These are scattered
with judgment, and increase our interest in the
work itself.

I intend some remarks, by way of critique,
on this novel perforejance, to explore a few of its
many beauties, and dwell a little on the excellent

* See p. XXXV.


MORAL it lioltls out to the reader. Tiie fable is
-imply as follows :

Gilbert, by profession a carrier, falls in love
with Jenny, living at the toll-gate, through
MJiicli he goes, occasionally, with his tilted cart.
i\ot bring able to break his mind properly to the
maiden, coldness and reserve on her part ensues,
which Gilbert misinterprets, wrongly, into slight.
At length he is led to wander abroad in the open
coimtrj , and strolls about unsettled in his mind,
and heavily oppressed with grief. He saves the
life of a worthy gentleman, at whose house he finds
the object of his sincere attachment. His mistake
is cleared up, and the poem thereupon concludes.

From the foregoing statement, it is evident, it
must have required up small share of genius to
supply tlie lack of materials in so banen a subject:
hut, what is still more surprising, all the materials
are of the richest quality, and easily brought to
spring up from tlie very subject itself.

How sweetly, but yet with what force, does the
poet strike upon his theme proposed ! It is a fine
transition, when he touches on the clang of war,
and gives the very report and echo of the ex-
ploding engines : —

' While dreadful gans loud roar.

Vent fire and smoke, and shake the rattling shore ;'

To say immediately after,

• I sing of Nature, and a Lover's pains ;

Woods, rivers, rocks, and fields, excite uay humbler strains.'

It is the swell of a full organ dying away to the
soft and delicate tones of a melodious harp ; and,


as it came unexpectedly, it .";ave mc the greater
delight. I was no longer alive to any trivial faults,
or verbal errors — J perused the whole, throughout,
with the highest degree of satisfaction.

The labourer, working on the highway, expresses
his plaint in the bitterest style : indignant at his
poverty, which he attributes to his wife and chil-
(li-en, he regrets the old enjoyments of his youtJi-
ful days, envying Gilbert the single life which
leaves him at liberty to go where he pleases. We
hardly can bestow on him any pitj , of which he
seems utterly unworthy. The reply Gilbert
makes discovers a happy contrast of sentiment.

NelVs sad story, told by t!ic shepherd, exliibits
images of another cast. 1"he moral is striking,
but the tale itself has a contrary effect to what
was expected. Here follows a fine display of


The opening of the second Canto is enriched
with images of a prime quality. The woodman at
work in the dingle gives a nice shade to the co-
lours. Gilbert felling the tree, its crash in tailing,
the sa}t draining from the trunk, and the youth
tying the faggots, are among the unnumbered
beauties of the Poem.

The woodman's cottage is a familiar picture ; it
is, nevertheless, described under circumstances
which render it uncommonly interesting. The
CONVERSATION at supper-time, and the harmless
mirth of the rustics, in which is introduced the
shepherd playing the bladder and stringy are re-
bert finds here a little relief from his sorrows.

Snsaiis story, related by \\\q farmefs boy, is in


the patlietic style. It is charmingly told, and ex-
cites a (leijree of pity at her untimely fate. Gilbert
in the hay-loft proves hiniself worthy of his friend's
confidence ; through which, and his ability to resist
temptation, he paves the way for his future hap-
piness. The SCENERY of the farm-yard, the
occupation of the farmer, and the solicitude ex-
pressed for Gilbert by the young boy, are the
best conceived things I ever met ^vith. I find a
neat allegorical apostrophe to Cleanliness : I
;!hall insert it here.

* Fair Cleanliness, sweet scented, lovely maid !

How blessM the cottage where thou art display'd !

Good IKalth delights to follow close thy train,

And Poverty attempts to frown in vain :

When thou midst want set'sl out thy charms divine,

Still are we led to fancy plenty thine ;

Thy magic touch gives things more value still ;

And where thou dwell'st, the more content we feel.'

Canto V. verse 175.

Gilbert's adventure with the king of the gip-
sies, and his undertaking to carry a letter for his
friend Herbert, ultimately crown his felicity. His
meeting with his Jenny will be read with interest ;
and the good advice whicli Herbert receives on
his return home, is worthy the reader's attention.

I would willingly extend my remarks ; but for
want of talent I must be as concise as possible.

It is universally allowed, that " Nature is partial
in bestowing her gifts." We behold, at times, an
individual, by some dignifying inherent quality,
rise above the herd of mankind ; or, to use the lan-
guage of a celebrated tourist, " Great minds have
assisted themselves in their emancipation from oh-


Scurity in a most astonishing manner ; and, to the
etenial honour of that dehcious intuition, that hea-
venly inspiration, that sometliing so infinitely be-
yond science and the schools, whenever this nucleus
has burst its confines, it has never failed to spread
unusual splendour, and attract superior admiration."
The truth of which is exemplified, by our looking
into the laboured effusions of autliors. We per-
ceive many abound with flashes of genuine wit,
and others, with all the helps that learning can
bestow, dull and insipid ; but we cannot apply
the latter case, justly, to the Author of Gilbert.
He seems well endowed Avith a lively imagination,
and is at no loss to keep up the meiits of his per-
sonages. His INVENTION gains in strength, the
more we read ; until, at last, it forms itself, as it
were, into a vast mirror, dravdng every tiling
aroui.d within its own proper focus.

He is no mean poet ; and it adds not a little to
his merit, tliat he has chosen his heroes from among
the lower orders of mankind. It is likely he will
meet with some readers ever ready to find fault ;
but to the admirers of real genius, and lovers of
poetic hai-mony, the Poem of Gilbert will be a
standing dish.

It would require a Capel Lofft to discriminate,
fully, its several beauties. I have pointed out a
few of them, and must leave it to greater abilities
than mine to finish what I have indifferently begun.
At the same time, I am far from saying it has no
blemishes ; but they * are chiefly of a verbal na-

* Since ray writing the above I liave examined over tlie
emendrttery ^ulpruvemeHts, and in «o case can apply the same


tare, and trivial to tliose who read more for amuse-
1110 nt than to discover errors.

In the tbllov*ing Hncs I perceive a mistake in
llie grammatical construction, which rather ob-
'icures the sense :

« Jyoud dic.iry groans his breaking heart ixsfie.'

Canto I. verse C'.'>.


' Say, at Jhy home, more happy still to be.
Dwells ibc gootl wife, source of felicity ;
With chililren yoiuig thy v^ ishes gratified,
And giitcil blessings crown tby fireside?'

Canto ir. vers.- 13t).

In the undeiueath quotation, the word * cruel"
has a vei-y bad effect ; it throws too great a stress
on the first foot, or syllable.

' Alas ! what agns of madness vex my brain !
My blood no longer burns in ev'ry vein :
My senses fled, an outcast lorn I die,
Far from the glance of her (iisdainfnl eye :
Yet, CTiiel Jane ! one Idndly tear bestow ;
Drop bnt one tear in pity to iny woe.'

Canto I. veise fi^l.

I have taken the liberty, as it will appear, to mal^e
a trifling alteration in the third verse. I think it
an improvement. There are not many lines
throughout the whole piece that v\ill properly ad-

Remarkx to the pre ent Edition : these fauUs appear to have
been carefully corrected by the Author. I conceive it will be
found, ?s a poetical work, only equalled by its remarkable
'haipnesv. enabling every reader to become a piirchnser.

S. P.


Init of it. I believe fewer errors ever escaped
any author iii a labour of such extent.

As I am now touching on the more discordant
Paits, I subjoin a letter*, written by a person
Avho appears better able to condemn, tlian to treat
with candour, the light imperfections of an author.
I have little occasion to observe to the intelligent
reader, that, although it seems to have been written
with all tlie malevolence of a mere critic, it is, ne-
vertlieless, too futile in its substance to obtain

" If poeti-y," says an able writer, " possesses a
certain zest and vigour, it will float, one day or
other, in spite of ten thousand faults ; and if it is
not, as sailors term it, sea-worthy, it will sink to
rights, though caulked by all the critical carpenters
in Europe." But it is my opinion that Gilbert
will bear a verbal compaiison with even the last

* " To Mr. G E.

" Dear Sir,

•' At your request I have perused the sheets wbich
accompany this letter, and shall give you my opiuion of their
contents. There cannot be two opinions, indeed, about the
matter. The Poem comes with the dignity of an Epic, and is
divided, not onlj' into Cantos, but into Books too. It is the
attempt, at composition in verse, of a farmer's son, who has
gotten his education at a Sunday school, and read Eloomfield,
and nothing else. If, however, the Author had a Capel Eoffr
to revise, aud in many instances to rewrite, bis verses, and
tlie project were not somewhat deficient in novelty, he might
perhaps have attained as much success as the Author of tbe
Farmer's Boy : but a second Eloomfield is like a second
Young Roscius. As il is, his verses are the most incorrect and
tasteless things that ever passed the compositor's stick ; and if
ever the Author of Gilbert malces a blaze in the world, his book
must be his fuel. B— — n F-



edition of the Farmers Boy ; admitted too, that
the oue was revised by a Capel Lofft, and the
other tlie unlettered efFusions of a farmer's son.
The critic, however, errs ; for the author is not
Indeed a tanners son, but only a young merchant,
well known in the commercial world ; who studies
POETRY more with a view to relax the fatigues of
a counting-house, than in any expectation to de-
rive pecuniary emolument from it. But the cha-
racter of a writer does not depend so much on
what he may happen to be, as on the merits of hi«

I now hasten to close my account, with little
more than some critical remarks concerning
Gilbert, written by a gentleman whose senti-
ments agree more favourably with mine. They
contain, besides, an explanation of the moral it
is intended should be conveyed. Speaking of the
Poem, he says :

" I have read it over and over again ; and per-
haps there are not many lines but what I have now
by heart, easy to quote on occasion ; the result of
wliich is, tliat no book I ever met with has af-
forded me more rational pleasure, or so much
amusement -, nor do I recollect any author whom
I have studied more, though I read a great many.
But what most excites my surprise, is the poet's
ingenuity. — He has fonned a handsome stoiy in
> erse, of a subject which no one else has ever at-
tempted in like manner. This is not to be won-
dered at. It is a scanty field, where few but the
author of Gilbert would venture to glean.

" The native simpHcity of Gilbert often ex-
• ites my smiles, attempered vnth pitv". I can


hardly forbear my compassion, even when it oc-
curs to mind that he is at last made happy.

*' The situation of the man repairing the roads
I cannot well enter into, never having myself ex-
perienced domestic unhappiness. I admire the cha-
racter of the Woodman. It shows that content-
ment and industry are the truest sources of rural
FELICITY — the surest guardians against profligacy
and vice.

" Nell and Susan are incidents which cannot
be too widely circulated : they hold out a most
doleful but tme picture of the sorrows of female
seduction, and the utter ruin of those, who place
their implicit confidence in the false oaths of a
designing lover.

" Joyce is a heedless young woman violently
bent on the gratification of an illicit passion ; but
young women, like Joyce, may learn from Gilbert,
of there having been more than one Joseph in the
world, and that no temptation whatever can bring
a traly -virtuous mind to swei-ve from the paths of
RECTITUDE and HONOUR. Had Gilbert complied
with her evil wishes, possibly her kindness might
have tempted him to remain in her father's family,
and thus, not only prevent his saving the life of a
fellow-creature, but deprive him of the accidentzd
circumstance of finding his Jane, and the conse-
quent happy issue of their meeting.

" From a summary statement of tlie several
characters in this interesting poem, particularly in
the case of Nell, Susan, and Gilbert, we may draw
this salutary and excellent moral, that sooner or
later virtue will be its own reward, and
VICE carry with itself its own punishment,


'' In fine, if Bloomfield has received so much
applause, who had so wide a scope with his popular
subject ;

' Ihc fields bis sludy, Nature was his book ;'

how much more is due to the author of Gilbert,
wlio has reared his own superstnicture, without
any liall quote them here.

Gray, in his Elegy, expresses, that

' i'ull many a flower is born ti. blush ut>?eea>
And waste its sweetness in the desert air.'

Compare these in Gilbert :

' Rank nettles, thyme, wood-betony, henbane,
Here waMe their virtue and liieir strength in vain.'

^ Canto II. vcric Zb,


And in Bloomfield :

' Just where (he parting boughs' liijht shadows play.'

F 's Boy.

* Along the grouiul the boughs' dark semblance plays.'
Gilbert, Canto I. verse IH.

In the latter there appears somewhat of an imita-
tion ; yet, on a closer survey, one turns out to be
a very imperfect, and the otlier a true delineation.
The whimsical idea of ' light shadows,' reminds
me of a learned Irish gentleman, who, having ar-
rived from the coast of Africa, ingeniously con-
fessed, he admired the young female blacks ; for,
said he, they are very fair to look upon ! It is the
misfortime of the Farmer's Boy, that whenever he
happens on a good thought, he is almost (pertain
to spoil it, either by some obscurity in his ex-
pression, or by his distorting the image. The line
ought to stand thus :

' Just where the boughs' light airy shadows play.'

We could not, then, mistake its meaning. Again :

' Where the kite, brooding, unmolested flies.'

F ^s Boy.

' Where, unmolested, brood the birds of prey.'

Gilbert, Canto VIII. verse 18-

I took the above for an imitation also : but was
glad to discover, that the lines convey two very
distinct idtas. The latter is a true picture, taken
from natuie ; and the former, a mere jingle of
words. It labours to tell us, that the kite, mimo-


lestetl, //■« brooding : a sudden flash, that would
seem a novelty in the travels of the renowned


These are the only collisions throughout the
v.iiole Poem.


hm. lOM, I8O9.

To Mr. C N.


Your favour, sent to me on Tliursday
week, came duly to hand, along with the cele-
brated poem of Gilbert ; I say, indeed, celebrated,
because we have admired him, even in his worst
clothes (the first edition foolscap). The improve-
ments which the author has since made are very
deserving of praise. It is a work likely to do
him much credit. But with regard to the copy of

the letter from a JiMr. B n F d, are you

correct ? I have sent it back with my remarks
thereon. You say he writes for the Reviews ;
which, however strange it seems, is not improbable.
T have frequently met with criticisms not the most
correct tilings in the literaiy world. His letter
shows but little of the scholar, as you will per-
ceive by some verbal inaccuracies which I have
taken the pains to mark out ; and, on that head,
he must be ill qualified, indeed, to judge of the
merits or the faults of Gilbei't. It requires little
of logic to discover the weakness of ais other ar-
guments, applied in the present case ; for, if an
author cannot be successful because wiotlier has.


there would soon be a speedy end to every effort
of human genius : emulation wouki become ex-
tinct ; and we should be loft to pore for ever over
the same thing. His style is ridiculous — a second
Bloomfield, must be still a Bloomfield, it is all
one figure ; therefore, he says, a writer cannot
succeed because he has succeeded — veiy sensible
tnily, to come from the pen of a learned en tic.
As to -wlvat Anonymous relates of this author having
copied from Bloomfield, it is impossible ! No
writer, especially of poetry, could, I am confident,
derive any help or satisfaction in so doing : which
I shall now endeavour to explain ; not only to
vindicate a favourite bard, but to snatch a little of
the misplaced Mreath from the brow of the F — r's
Boy : a leaf or two, surely, should belong to

It has been with me an invariable rule, never
to trust the opinion of any one person concerning
themcrHs of a book. I had rather think for myself;
and, according to the amusement or instruction
I find, I elevate the author in my own estimation.
A poet who undertakes to copy nature, should
first make himself well acquainted with the mean-
ing and order of words ; for, without this, it is not
likely he can express his ideas in that purity of
style so essential to a good writer. Do we not.
Justly, find fault with the false colouring of a pic-
tui-e if the objects appear distorted ? And in poetry,
as well as in painting, due care should be held to
represent the images accurately. Were the Farmei's
Boy once stripped of his gaudy trappings, (the
preface, &c.) and the reader not afraid to trust to
his own discernment, keeping in view as much of


the author's design as he may be able to collect,
lie >vill sooJi discover the most contradictory ble-
mishes, ignorant mistakes, and tautologies, that
ever escaped any \\Titer whatever ; saying nothing
of tlie light hops and skips, like a grasshopper,
over the wide field of nature.

I have neither time nor inclination, at present,
to enter fully into an elaborate discussion of a
Mibject so tiilling. I shall be as brief as possible.
The blunders of this author conunence with his
i'ltlc-pagc, and end only with his hook. With respect
to the title-page, I -uppose it is meant to give a
summaiy statement of the work. Thomson ju-
diciously divides his poem into four distinct parts ;
Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter ; but why
the occupation of a farmer's boy is divided into the
four seasons of the year, is hard to unriddle.

In speaking of Giles, the poet introduces hira as
cue inured to hard labour :

' Labour his portion,

llis life was, constiint, cheerful servitude :♦

Yet, in the next liue save one, it follows,

' The fields his study, nature was his book :'

which conveys an idea totally irreconcileable to
the fomier assertion ; since the study of nature,
in her full vainety, we must all allow , is ever in,
compatible with a life of actual drudgery: besides,
while speakuag of the farmer, he adds :

• Unceasing industry he kept in view ;

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryJames TemplemanGilbert; an amatory rural poem in eight cantos → online text (page 1 of 14)