LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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[Charles Hughes Terrot]
Common Sense: a Poem.
 (Edinburgh:  David Brown,  1819)
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH



Neque enim concludere versum
Dixeris esse satis, neque si quis scribat uti nos
Sermoni propria, putes hunc esse Poetam.







Poets, in the present age, frequently employ a preface to prove that there is method in their madness. The Preface contains the theory, and the Poem the illustration of their ars Poetica. Now, in this point of view, a preface is in the present case unnecessary; for I have no theory to promulgate or defend: I conceive that the discovery of a new source of pleasure is more hopeless than the discovery of a North-West Passage; and I shall look upon success as desperate, when I find it necessary to prove that the reader ought to be pleased.


Poetical enthusiasts will not admit the following pages to be poetry at all. Whether good or bad, they are however what is usually called satirical poetry. I have read with some care, and with much pleasure, the poets of this class, from Horace down to Gifford; and therefore I cannot be quite ignorant of the qualities which ensure the success of a satire. Whether any of those qualities are to be found in “Common Sense,” remains to be determined. Unless I had thought so, I would not have published it: but the vanity of self-love has deceived many; and I shall feel little vexation, and no wonder, if experience proves that it has deceived me.

There are, indeed, means of insuring a temporary success, of which I have not availed myself: I have not dragged forward the persons or characters of individuals—I have retailed no slanderous anecdotes—I have spoken of poets
simply as poets, and have, in this respect, treated them with more delicacy than some of them are accustomed to use towards themselves.

In the Second Part, I have attempted a very important subject; a subject on which every writer, who has a fixed opinion, is sure to give offence to some of the numerous parties who arrogate to themselves the exclusive possession of evangelical truth. If, therefore, I should be charged with bigotry or levity, I shall take it merely as a matter of course, and as arising rather from the nature of the subject, than from the manner in which I have treated it.

If, lastly, any shall suppose, that, under the shelter of an incognito, I have used liberties which I durst not have taken in my own name, I answer, that I may undeceive them sooner than they expect; and that they would not have been much the wiser, had the name of one, so utterly unknown, appeared on the title-page of the present publication.


I commend, then, my essay to the public, with hopes not very sanguine, and with fears not very acute. Poetry never has been, and never will be, my profession: and when an amateur fails in a public performance, a little ridicule is all that he has to fear.


I have no genius. Though I make no doubt,
Sage reader, thou would’st soon have found this out:
I tell thee, lest thou waste thy precious time
In seeking here for aught but sense and rhyme—
Plain common sense; but no ecstatic feats,
And rhymes at least as good as Mister Keates’*.
Time was when bards were few: then might you see
In Button’s room the whole fraternity;
But now, like Egypt’s frogs, on every hand
They spread and croak and darken all the land:
* Mr. John Keates, the muse’s child of promise, is a rising poet of the Cockney School; who, if he had but an ear for rhyme, a little knowledge of grammar, and sufficient intellect to distinguish sense from nonsense, might perhaps do very well.
Go where you will, there’s not a bardless spot,
From the King’s chamber to the peasant’s cot;
All rave in rhyme—a strange incongruous sight,
Male, Female, Soldier, Peer, and Parson write*.
Poetic visions flashing on his eyes,
No more for briefs the briefless lawyer sighs;
The Moralist deserts effect and cause,
Writes sonnets and enacts poetic laws;
Careless of sabre, saddle, and bridoon,
Verse, verse alone, delights the bold dragoon—
Inspired they write, nor seek for fame or bread:
They write, they print,—and sometimes they are read.
* Parnassus is infested by poachers, and in spite of the exertions made by the Reviewers, who may be considered as the gamekeepers in this case, the evil is still increasing. One noble Lord, indeed, when warned off the ground, proved very satisfactorily that he had a license; and, moreover, broke the keeper’s head for speaking insolently to him. A brother Baron, Lord Thurlow, has not been so fortunate. I say no more of him, for it is really unpleasant to be obliged to couple great names with little deeds—to contemplate a Thurlow rendering himself, or a Chatham rendering his country, ridiculous. The very respectable moralist alluded to in the text, is Dr. Thomas Brown, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh. The specific dragoon is Lieutenant Quillinan.
Once dulness reigned, but Pope, with mighty hand,
Wielded his scourge, and waked the slumbering land;
Once namby pamby odes were all the go,
One ceaseless chime of weak fictitious woe;
Till Gifford rose, the maudlin muse’s dread,
And broke the lyre about the minstrel’s head.
But now the poet takes a higher flight,
Not simply dull, but crazy,—mad outright.
First of the band, see Erin’s hope* advance,
With native bulls, and politics from France.
He speaks: Attend,—through clouds and mist he soars,
The frail decanters trembling as he roars;
Trope murdering trope, his vague ideas flit,
Till claret makes the medley pass for wit;
He curses kings, and Viscount Castlereagh,
Tithes, vetos, and the “Immortal Memory;”
* Erin’s hope. This Irish child of promise is Counsellor or Orator Phillips, more notorious for his speeches than his poetry. In prose he is decidedly mad, in verse only silly: In prose he libels, in verse he canonizes every character that comes in his way. I have taken the poetical license of transposing the counsellor’s deeds. He was, in fact, a poet before he was an orator.
Till, soothed by three times three, he deigns to smile,
And tunes his harp to chaunt the Emerald Isle.
O then how sweetly o’er the astonished throng
Floats the soft tide of eulogy and song—
Kings, Patriots, Poets, mingle in the dance,
With Curran’s speeches and with Borhoime’s lance;
A greater still succeeds his mighty brother,
And each seems goodlier, greater, than another.
But see the jolly full moon shineth bright—
Spring tides, and Bertram’s* frenzy, own her might.
Hark, how he swears! and every fit between,
Woos in strange guise his yielding Imogene;—
She faints, he storms, till fond and friendly grown,
He cuts her husband’s throat, and then his own.
We can bear much—but hardly brook such stuff,
Though backed, indeed, by many a high-born puff.
* Many of my readers have, I dare say, forgotten that there ever was such a tragedy as Bertram; and many more never knew there existed one under the title of Fredolfo. As to the former, it was more than mad—it was delirious. We may hope, from the utter oblivion into which it has so rapidly sunk, that the public will never again be insulted by such an exhibition.
Alas, for Byron!—Satire’s self must own
His song has something of a lofty tone:
But ’tis an empty sound. If vice be low,
Hateful, and mean, then Byron’s verse is so.
Not all his genius saves him from the curse
Of plunging deeper still from bad to worse;
With frantic speed, he runs the road to ruin,
And damns his name for ever by Don Juan*.
He wants variety; nor does his plan
Admit the idea of an honest man:
One character alone can he afford
To Harold, Conrad, Lara, or my Lord;
* What Lord Byron especially wants, is the notion of moral sublimity, as connected with virtue. His heroes are ruffians; and his poetry, with all its beauty, is essentially such as would harmonize with the obscene revelry of banditti. His degradation has been progressive, from Parasina through Beppo down to Don Juan. And now, I trust, that those who assume the office of directing the public taste and feeling, will not satisfy themselves, as they have hitherto done, with gently pitying the noble misanthrope—but let him know that the great body of his countrymen detest and despise his impiety, his selfishness, and his sensuality. Mr. Leigh Hunt understood the matter better than the Reviewers, when he dedicated Rimini to his “dear Byron,”—there was a moral fitness in the thing.
Each half a madman, mischievous and sour,
Supremely wretched each, and each a Giaour*.
Some fumigate my Lord with praises sweet,
Some lick the very dust beneath his feet.
Jeffrey, with Christian charity so meek,
Kisses the hand that smote him on the cheek.
Gifford’s retainers, Tory, Pittite, Rat,
All join to soothe the surly democrat.
Hunt calls him dear; and Hunt’s determined foe,
Great Z., esteems him greater than Rousseau†.
I too admire†but not through thick and thin,
Nor think him such a bard as ne’er hath been:
Nor do I deem this crazy wandering boy,
Whose life is all a dream, his harp a toy,
* I need hardly state, that a Giaour is an Infidel.
† I find it is not great Z. but an enigmatical critic in the Edinburgh Review, who instituted the comparison between Rousseau and Lord Byron; and yet Z. and the anonymous critic, may be one and the same person. There is a peculiar sort of drunken sublimity in the different productions, which leads me to suspect this.
Fit to be named with those to whom belong
The praise of sense, of virtue, and of song—
With him, the true-born Britain, who of yore,
Like Byron, visited the Hesperian shore;
And shewed himself, to wondering Italy,
All that a high-souled Englishman should be.
He held high converse with the good and wise,
Sought their applause, and more than gained the prize;
Till starting quickly, at his country’s call,
He gave himself to her, and left them all.
Such was John Milton—and, my Lord, I fear,
The Scrivener’s son was nobler than the peer*.

* I do not wish this to be understood as implying a general approbation of Milton’s political conduct and writings. So far I praise him, that he was deeply interested in the honour and fate of his country. He was a republican, but no democrat. As to his object in travelling, Antonio Francini says of him—
Fabro quasi divino,
Sol virtu rintracciando il tuo pensiere,
Vide in ogni confino
Chi de nobil valor calca it sentiere;
L’ottimo dal melior dopo scegliea,
Per fabricur d’ogni virtu l’idea.

All readers know, that northern critics take
Great freedoms with the Poets of the Lake,
And have enacted canons, clear and full,
About what they are pleased to call a School.
It may be so; but I could never see
In what these strange eccentric bards agree.
Poor Coleridge! his is no affected rant,
He lives on opium, and he studies Kant;
Not over clear at first, what mortal brain
Opium and Kant together could sustain?
He sung, O Cristabelle, in all his glory,
Thy “singularly wild and beauteous story;”
While on the subject of Milton, I may quote a passage from his reasons of Church Government, applicable enough to certain poets of the present day. After describing, in noble language, the proper object, nature, and use of poetry, be says, “What a benefit this would be to our youth and gentry, may be guessed by what we know of the corruption and bane which they suck in daily from the writings and interludes of ignorant and libidinous poetasters; who, having scarce ever heard of that which is the main consistence of a true poem, the choice of such persons as they ought to introduce, and what is moral and decent for each one, do for the most part lap up vitious principles in sweet pills to be swallowed down, and make the taste of virtuous documents harsh and sour.”
Which what it means, and what it is about,
No commentator ever has made out:
He had the night-mare, dreamed of Kubla-Khan,
Then plunged into the Metropolitan:
He mounted next the tub, and long and loud
Poured his lay sermons o’er the astonished crowd:
And last, when opium’s frantic transport fails,
And Kant thy gentler influence prevails,
Through the wide town advertisements are spread—
The poet lectures at a crown a-head.
What shall I say of Wordsworth*? that I praise
The pure and spotless tenor of his lays:
* Few poets have been more reviewed, or less read, than Wordsworth. He has a few idolaters, to whom he is ό ποιητης; (while the common run of readers and critics will scarcely allow him to be a poet at all. I hold with the million. Mr. Wordsworth has given us his notions of poetry in certain philosophical prefaces, which have very much the air of translations from the German. Among other canons, he observes, “the reader cannot be too often reminded that poetry is passion.” As an illustration of this, the reader may take—
“The Vicar did not hear the words: and now
Pointing towards the cottage, he entreated
That Leonard would partake his humble fare;
The other thanked him with a fervent voice,
But added, that the evening being fine
He would pursue his journey.”
Is not this passion? Are not these thoughts that breathe, and words that burn?
But that his rhymes are bad, his sense obscure,
His diction childish, and his fancy poor:
That if he be a poet, well I wot
Milton and Shakespeare, Pope and Gray were not:
If verse be just the talk of common men,
Dealt out by line, and measured eight or ten:
If knights and heroes, kings and gods, be toys,
Compared with duffle cloaks, and Ideot boys—
Thou shalt be read, when Homer is forgotten,
And the great Goth* in dust and worms is rotting;
Then shalt thou live the joy of babes and men—
But, gentle Wordsworth, hope it not till then.
Southey again is cast in other mould,
He seems a relic of the days of old:
When courtly knights wore harness that would crack
The puny sinews of a modern back;
* I allude to Roderick the Last of the Goths, by Southey—by far the first of modern epic poems. I might perhaps incur ridicule, were I to own what I think of it, as compared with the great epics of antiquity.
When grave divines, of true polemic breed,
Wrote more than their degenerate sons can read:
When Shakespeare was the Reynolds* of the day,
And Cecil held the seat of Castlereagh.
He is a poet unconfined by rule
Devised in Lakish or in Cockney† school;—
He is a poet—for his glancing eye
Takes in the forms of earth, and air, and sky:
He, still at home where’er he takes his stand,
Mid Biscay’s mountains or Arabia’s sand,
Calls by his magic art for prince or peer,
Moslem or Christian, and they all appear:
He too can paint, as well as Walter Scott,
The misty valley and the sunless grot;
* The reader must not suppose there is here any connexion intended between the names of Reynolds and Castlereagh. The Reynolds here alluded to is a harmless and prolific play-wright, of whom I have not heard for some time, but who was indefatigable in his day.
† I have to thank Z. for this happy soubriquet. The reader will find more respecting this school hereafter.
‡ Perhaps this is saying too much. Yet I hardly think the Vale of Covadonga, and the voyage of Thalaba, are much inferior to the most brilliant of
And Byron’s sullen muse could scarcely mount
Above the vengeance of the injured Count:
But who could draw Florinda sad and fair,
Her matchless love, her hope and her despair!
And who, O who, but he could have expressed
The deep remorse of Roderick’s noble breast—
His penances by day, his prayer by night,
His bearing and his war-cry in the fight?
Yes, Southey, spite of all thy childish tricks,
Thy laureate odes, and cottage politics;
Though Jeffrey quiz, and Kempferhausen* praise,
I still must read, and still must love thy lays—
Walter Scott’s descriptions. In conception of character, and in the feeling of moral sublimity, Southey is unrivalled. In history he paints well, and communicates the enthusiasm which he feels: but he is totally destitute of all political philosophy. Poets now-a-days attempt too many things—Scott alone
Omnia transformat sese in miracula rerum.
* Kempferhausen is a cloud-compelling co-laborateur with Z. who writes most incomprehensibly about the Lakes and the Lake Poets.
The Lake’s discussed, now turn we to the Town,
Where every nostrum’s boldly swallowed down.
There reigns Leigh Hunt* in literary pride,
From rural Hampstead even to Cheapside—
From Hampstead, where, amidst the “clumpy trees,”
He listens to the “heavings of the breeze;”
And sees, or seems to see, with prurient eye,
The naked nymphs descending from the sky;
Or sweeter still, beside the blazing fire,
He listens to the theme that ne’er can tire;
And hears, well-pleased, the young Endymion raise
His tuneful voice to sound the master’s praise.
But truth, alas! in courts is little known,
And busy flatterers whisper round the throne—
* Leigh Hunt is the reputed chief of the Cockney School. I had collected several specimens of this man’s trash, with which, on second thoughts, I shall not afflict the reader. Suffice it to say, that his Story of Rimini was supposed to speak too leniently of incest. And does he repel the charge with indignation? Far from it: He boasts of the tolerance of his moral code, and talks about the innocence of natural impulses. (See Preface to Foliage.) The folly of such opinions would lead one to suppose him mad, and their wickedness to suspect he is something worse.
Hear then, my graceless Sire, what people say
Who dwell beyond the bounds of Cockenaye:
They say thou art the most conceited prig
That ever swelled and bullied to look big:
They say that thou hast leathern ears, and with them
Art deaf alike to pause, and rhyme, and rythm:
They say, that Rimini was bad enough,
But nothing to the explanatory stuff;
That he who wrote such comment to such verse,
Is either downright mad, or something worse.
’Tis thus they speak—and yet they may be wrong,
For many a Cockney doats upon the song.
There’s Hazlitt*, of the intellectual touch,
Admires Leigh Hunt and Chaucer very much;
Hazlitt, the Addison of Cockney Land,
Whom all admire, though few can understand:
* In these days of quackery, Hazlitt is the greatest quack we have. Shallow as he is, he is at the same time so muddy that it is impossible to see to the bottom of him. His boldness is marvellous: he once solemnly protested that the writings of Grotius were and had been of no use to the world—as if he had read Grotius, or knew any thing whatever of the subjects on which that great man has written.
And all the Table-Round exclaim encore:
And many a prentice-bard, unknown to fame,
Prays that his powers may one day be the same.
I cannot join with those, whose sweeping rage
Allows no merit to this brazen age—
We still have bards, who with aspiring head,
Rise o’er the crazed, the dying, and the dead.
For instance, there’s old Crabbe—though some may deem
He shows small taste in choosing of a theme;
None but a bard his own true line can tell—
He chooses right who executes it well.
* The reader has already been introduced to Mr. Endymion Keates. Shelley is a young man of talents and liberal education, who has chosen to make war on all the virtues and decencies of life. He has obtained some notoriety; and it is the misfortune of the whole Cockney School that they cannot discriminate between notoriety and fame. “Digito monstrarier” is their aim; and they have obtained it; but it is the finger of scorn. The name of Field is put in to fill up the line: Hunt has addressed an epistle, or something of that sort to him. The Round Table is a series of Essays written by Hazlitt and other Cockneys, after the manner of Addison. The imitation of course failed, for Addison was a gentleman.
And Crabbe has done it well: although his verse
Be somewhat rude, ’tis pregnant, strong and terse:
And he has feeling—I who never weep,
And o’er a Werter’s woes am apt to sleep,
Even I, though somewhat rude, can feel for woe
Such as I’ve known, or such as I may know;
Even I can feel at tales of love or strife,
Stamped, as are his, with traits of real life.
He knows the human heart (which, by the way,
Is more than some Psycholigists* can say.)
He knows it well; and draws with faithful pen,
Not Corsairs, Pedlars, Waggoners,—but Men.
And then his back-grounds—how the figures glow
With all the mimic art of Gerard Dow,
* I am sorry to confess my inability to explain the meaning of this hard word. Psychology is, however, a species of metaphysical philosophy, the knowledge of which is essential to the poet; but which no poet before Wordsworth and Coleridge ever dreamed of. We may form a tolerable estimate of its value, from knowing that it is something which these possess, and which Crabbe does not possess. It is almost unnecessary to add, that a talkative Pedlar is the hero of “the Excursion;” and that “Benjamin the Waggoner,” is the title of Mr. Wordsworth’s last poem.
Each in itself a picture—while the soul
Of one great moral breathes throughout the whole.
If faultless finishing have power to please,
There’s Campbell, great in every thing but ease.
Would that, as now and then, he always durst
Trust to his genius in it wildest burst;
Nor re-distil his thoughts, with bootless pains,
Till a mere caput mortuum remains.
’Tis thus the works on which he builds his fame
Are alway sweet, indeed, but sometimes tame;
While all that’s lovely, passionate, and wild,
Breathes in the madness of O’Connor’s child:
And all his ballads, sketched with careless pen,
Live in the tongues and memories of men.
There’s Tommy Moore, whose song, couleur de rose,
Strong, clear, and luscious, as Rosolio flows*:
The cup, at first, is nectar to the taste,
But, sicken’d, soon to homelier draughts we haste.
* In this I refer principally to Lallah Rookh—the prose part of which, by the bye, is written in a style of most unoriental flippancy.
Yet for a song, (since now, his hey-day past,
He pays respect to decency at last,)
Yet for a song, where wit and feeling pour
Their mingled streams, there’s not a bard like Moore.
None with such rapid fingers, none like he
Can thread the sparkling gems of poesy:
Weave with such taste the coronal of verse,
To grace a Lady’s hair, or Patriot’s hearse.
He has some turn for satire, too, they say—
I know not much of that—perhaps he may.
Wit dwells not oft with wisdom; and, I fear,
’Tis possible to buy a joke too dear*.
Blue stockings I dislike; yet, on the whole
No Turk,—I hold that woman has a soul,
Which, under proper culture, may produce
Both flower and fruit, for ornament or use.
* The Two-penny Post Bag, the Fudge Family, &c. are attributed to Mr. Moore. It is also reported that the author of the first of these, met with the chastisement which he might have expected, and which he very justly deserved. They are no friends to liberty, who use it as a cloke to maliciousness; nor is it easy to see what avowable political object can be served, by rendering the person of the Sovereign ridiculous.
’Tis not my purpose here, to talk of those
Matrons, or maidens, who excel in prose—
How More and Edgeworth lavishly dispense,
One true religion, and both sterling sense—
Verse is my theme; and there are very few
Ladies who write it well;—I know but two.
First stands Johanna Baillie: She may stand
Among the first-class poets of the land,
And claim her place among those sons of light,
Not as a courtesy, but her’s by right.
’Twere vain to question why and where so long
For centuries slept the Muse of Tragic Song?
Or why, reviving from her death-like rest,
She made her mansion in a woman’s breast?
Reasoning on points like this is useless stuff—
We have a tragic poet, that’s enough:
A tragic poet of true English breed,
Whom even after Fletcher we can read
She teems with thought; and yet I own her phrase,
Harsh and involved, deserves not equal praise;
What were her merits, if she only brought
Fit power of words to match her power of thought?
And next—behind indeed—but next, I’d place
Felicia Hemans*, second in the race:
I wonder the Reviews, who make such stir
Oft about rubbish, never mention her?
They might have said, I think, from mere good breeding,
Mistress Felicia’s works are worth the reading.
’Twas well I thought of the Reviews†, for they
Must furnish the remainder of my lay.
* Mrs. Hemans is a lady (a young lady, I believe,) of very considerable merit. Her imagination is vigorous, her language copious and elegant, her information extensive. I have no means of ascertaining the extent of her fame, but she certainly deserves well of the republic of letters. While on the subject of female poets, I may remind my readers of a Miss Porden, who some years ago wrote a curious, but very powerful poem, called the Veils. I hope she has not been discouraged. Her model was a bad one, and her subject was unintelligible to the great majority of poetical readers;—these errors might be easily corrected.
† I beg pardon for speaking of the Reviews in the dual number. The Edinburgh and Quarterly are, in fact, the only ones I see; and they are generally allowed to stand considerably above any of their brethren.
I own I dearly like a new Review,
Whether its livery be drab or blue:
Books now are made so long, I have no time
To read the tenth of either prose or rhyme:
Books now are sold so dear, that had I twice
The time to spare, I could not reach the price—
And therefore ’tis to the Reviews I owe
Nine-tenths of all the little that I know.
I speak of those inaccessible cates,
Fine quarto travels, with fine coloured plates;
Where tottering icebergs ’mid the current glide,
Or black dragoons on dromedaries ride.
And what, for instance, but by the Review,
Should I have known of amiable Loo-choo?
Loo-choo, where, peaceful as the Isle of Palms,
None know the use of money or of arms:
I buy them not, but Barrow tells me all
From Marco Polo down to Captain Hall;
I buy them not—but my six shillings pay,
And sip the cream of twenty in a day.
Reviews are useful in another light,
We need a whipper-in to keep all right.
By we, I mean we poets, who are apt,
In self-conceit or self-formed system wrapped,
If fools, to shame our craft; if wits, to waste
The powers God gave, and spoil the public taste.
Thus Jeffrey did his duty, when he tore
The tinsel from the harlot muse of Moore;
Thus will he do his duty, should he nerve
His arm, to pay what Byron’s crimes deserve.
But as to politics—their worth is less
Than the thin folios of the daily press:
Courier and Times, however they may grudge,
Are forced to give the facts on which they judge;
While the Reviews, by stubborn facts oppressed,
Remember or forget what suits them best.
Both are mere pleaders, who, to serve their cause,
Would drop an incident, or strain the laws;
Blackguard a witness, and declare he lied*,
Because his story helped the other side.
Now this is paltry, and since such their tricks,
I look to neither for my politics.
I like, indeed, to chat in easy way,
Of all that men in power may do or say;
And with one quiet, but free-thinking friend,
Talk of the news, and pray that times may mend;
Wish well to ministers—but wish, withal,
Their gifts and talents were not quite so small.
We are no Tories—though we scarce would claim
Of Whig the great but prostituted name:
* In this respect, the Quarterly is most to blame. If a man speaks favourably of Buonaparte, modern France, or America, he is sure of the lie-direct. Sir Robert Wilson, Warden, and O’Meara, have all reasonable grounds of complaint. Their charge against Birkbeck was totally indefensible. As to Lady Morgan, she is fair game, and deserves no quarter. In a late novel, Florence Macarthy, she represents people of rank in Ireland as speaking half in bad English, and half in worse French; and she actually quotes Paley’s Evidences as a law-book.
We never thought that maniac France was free,
Nor danced around the Tree of Liberty:
We saw, though names were changed, the self-same thing,
In Consul, Emperor, Director, King;
And whether they were one, or three, or five,
We saw Old Tyranny was still alive.
We could not brook the servile strain of those
Who thought ’twas worse than madness to oppose;
In this, at least, we held with Mister Pitt,
And thought ’twas worse than madness to submit:
And so, disdaining compromise and fears,
Paid five per cent., and joined the Volunteers.
When all looked dark, and humbled Austria gave
His child, the name of Emperor to save;
* Not ten, gentle reader, but five, as it was in Mr. Pitt’s time. We did indeed begin to grumble when it was doubled; and the blow was the more severe as coming from the economists. Et tu Brute, was the sorrowful exclamation of many a Whig.
When not our lavish subsidies could buy
One trembling, heartless, treacherous ally*,
We held by those who fought it to the last,
Nor feared to nail the colours to the mast.
When Spain awoke, we chuckled much to see
How little Fate would bend to Prophecy:
Though the veiled Prophets of the North were clear
We could not keep our ground another year;
Though Whitbread, echoing still the dreary cry,
Bade us, in tragic phrase, despair and die;
We marked brave Arthur, still with caution bend
Each varying circumstance to suit his end;
* I am not sure whether ministers and their adherents see any difference between the coalition which overthrew Buonaparte, and those which had before failed so lamentably. At the commencement of the war, the people of all the nations bordering on France, with the exception of England and Spain, were revolutionary. They believed that in opposing France, they were rivetting their own chains; and, of course, their resistance was feeble. And so wretched were the governments under which they suffered, that until they felt the yoke of France, they imagined that any change must be for the better. The Usurper went on smoothly while he had only Kings to deal with—
Sed periit postquam cerdonibus esse timendus
Cœperat, hoc nocuit Lamiarum cæde madenti.
Outwit and beat, and scatter as in sport,
The matchless legates of the Imperial Court;
Bring back the days of Cressy, and advance
His red-cross banner to the winds of France.
When the intruder and his perjured crew
Tried their last stake, and lost at Waterloo—
We felt, as true Whigs felt of old when they
Rejoiced for Blenheim or for Malplaquet;
We joined the loud huzza, when bells rung loud,
And strong ale flowed in torrents to the crowd;
When young and old with one delight were mad,
And none except the Pseudo-Whigs were sad*.
So far ’twas well—nor is there much to blame
In the last act, and settling, of the game:
* Pseudo Whigs are people who, while they make a great stir about liberty, are worse than indifferent to the honour of their country. The old Whigs were thorough Anti-gallicans. In 1772 they would have brought le Grand Monarque as low as l’Empereur has been brought, if had they not been baffled by the Tories. The same game would have been played over again, mutatls mutandis, had not the Prince luckily forgot his predilections.
The Saxon sought his fate; and Denmark chose,
From first to last, the part of England’s foes;
And though the Congress has been much abused,
Conquest has rights, and they were gently used.
But oh, the tragic farce that then ensued,
By Sidmouth half, and half by Watson brewed;
That sleeveless plot, made up of rags and jags,
Petitions, speeches, pike-heads, and green bags.
It was not well—although the tale was shocking
Of three lead bullets in a worsted stocking—
To let the bulwark of our freedom serve
As sacrifice to Sidmouth’s trembling nerve.
All was soon blown—such tales of blood and fury
Might gull the House, but not a London Jury*.
But here some grave Aristocrat may say,
“You think the Luddites then should have their way;
* Far be it from me to suppose there is more wisdom or more honesty in a London Jury than in the House of Commons. The House, (or rather its Committee) saw only the evidence as prepared by Ministers—the Jury saw both the evidence and the witnesses.
That Spa-Field’s rows are mighty pleasant things,
And mobs the only wholesome check on kings:
You hail perhaps Sir Charles*, and cry long live
The unrepresented’s Representative:
You mourn for Cobbet’s exile, and admire
The Bristol patriot, Henry Hunt Esquire;
Nay, even yourself in freedom’s cause may bawl
To Stockport weavers, or a Common Hall.”
Not I, indeed—my Whiggism’s very far
From these low apings of a civil war.
I reverence the laws; and would defend,
(Though Hunt revile, or Addington suspend)
Against the rush of wild democracy,
Against a Minister, if need should be:
I reverence them all, on either hand,
That guard the peace or freedom of the land;
Those that protect the poorest wretch that lives,
And those that fence the Crown’s prerogatives.
* Sir C. Wolseley, Legislatorial Attorney for Birmingham, I think.
I’d like to see, amidst this howling storm,
Some symptoms of a radical reform:
Not that concocted in the Merlin’s den*—
Not a reform of boroughs, but of men—
A deep reform of head, and heart, and life,
In all the sons of turbulence and strife;
The public spirit purged of all that’s rotten—
The Orator transported, or forgotten.
* The Merlin’s Den, or Cave, as I believe it is called, is a pot-house in Spa-Fields, where the Committee met to prepare the business of the day.


Verse has its charms; and even the jangling strife
Of politics gives energy to life:
But as we grow in years, at length we find
They are but childish playthings to the mind.
There is a time when we must part from these,
Business fatigues, and pleasures cease to please;
While he, of passion or of gain the slave,
Must wish he had a hope beyond the grave.
And this I hold for truth, that man should try
To live as one who knows that he must die;
And learn to die, as one who knows that death
Is something more than yielding up the breath;
More than the close of nature’s feverish strife—
An awful entrance on another life.
Would’st thou then learn how man may safest go
Along this vale of weariness and woe?
Ask of the Preacher*—Seek yon low-roofed door,
Where in close crowds the impatient hearers pour;
Where the grave Elder sits and twirls his thumbs,
Till the bell ceases, and the Preacher comes;
And ruddy maids, with wistful envy look
On others’ velvet hat, or gilded book.
Now list, and thou shalt hear the very chime
Of the good cause, and of the good old time,
When discipline and system, hand in hand,
Ruled faith and practice through the favoured land;
Before the Patron’s word was all in all,
And Presentees still waited for the call.
* In delineating different styles of preaching, I certainly have had in view particular preachers who used those styles. I have however avoided every thing that might tend to particularize individuals. If therefore resemblances should be found or imagined, I hereby disclaim them.
It is the system—Listen—for no fool
Is this, nor trifler of the modern school:
Not like poor Blair’s the banquet he affords,
A scrap of ethics in a froth of words;
But from the plenteous store which he unlocks,
Flow the pure streams of Calvin and of Knox.
Through the five points, with cautious step he treads,
Divides and subdivides his hydra heads:
He gives Necessity a Christian name,
(Names matter little when the thing’s the same,)
Till half his hearers are convinced that we,
Do what we will, do just what was to be*.
Now art thou edified? and dost thou know
The narrow path in which man ought to go?
And dost thou feel, thy melting soul within,
More love for Heaven, and deeper hate for sin?
* I am far from saying that there is any necessary connexion between Calvinism and Antinomianism. I only assert, as matter of fact, that among the lower classes of Calvinists, moral offences are often passed over very slightly, under the notion that they are ordained.
I fancy not—and so the case is plain,
This is no place for us, and we must try again.
Now to yon lofty temple let us haste,
The very Parthenon of civic taste:
It must be worth the while; for see the approaches
Are filled with pampered steeds and gilded coaches.
Hark to the well-drilled quire—unlike the twang
That through yon vulgar crowd promiscuous rang.
Squeeze in—squeeze in—and let us, if we can,
Hear doctrine suited to a gentleman.
Now check thy tongue, the preacher’s at his text,
Bend all thy soul, and hear what cometh next:
“Think not the ways of righteousness are hard,
Virtue, sweet virtue, is its own reward:
Think not the human soul to ill inclined,
View the pure softness of the infant mind:
Behold how generous unsuspecting youth
Loves the fair forms of honour and of truth:
And look within—have ye not understood
The gentle luxury of doing good?
And knowing this, can ye, I say, but start
At those who say, man has a corrupt heart?
Flee bad example—follow nature still,
They do blaspheme who say she leads to ill.
Avoid extremes—sin lies in them alone,
And be to all your moderation known:
Be pure, be kind, for piety is such;
But, brethren, be not righteous over-much.”
Well, this will surely do: for this is clear,
And leaves no room for doubting or for fear.
This! why, I knew all this; and, more, of old
Read it in Greek, but only better told—
And though it were great Plato’s self that spoke,
I would maintain the thing is all a joke.
Nature! why look on Tom and Jack at play—
The urchins were but breeched the other day—
Jack has a toy which Tom desires to gain,
And therefore takes it—Fired with rage and pain,
Jack claims his right; and so the little dears
Rattle their fists about each other’s ears.
And this is nature! Why one must be blind
As ignorance, to think her just or kind.
I tell thee, if I followed nature’s call,
I should be hanged ere Christmas—that is all*.
But all are not like these—perhaps you say
The Evangelicals have hit the way;
They give us system, practice, faith, and all
In life and doctrine followers of Paul.
There’s little in a name, and party binds
Together struggling souls of divers kinds:
Scandal indeed is busy still with those
Who the lax morals of the world oppose;
And vice is always glad to find a flaw
In characters of which it stands in awe.
I scorn these idle tales, nor will I hate
The virtue that I scarce can imitate:
* The reader may suppose I have a very bad opinion of myself. Not at all. I think in the same way of him and of every body. Let me ask him, what conduct he would expect from a man who was restrained neither by the law of God, nor the law of the land, nor the law of honour. The conduct of such a man would be an example of the unbiassed tendencies of nature.
But on the other hand, I still must hold,
That all that glitters is not sterling gold.
Are there not some, who, while they can declaim
Against the world, have still their own bye-game;
Find time, amidst their labours, to cajole
A wealthy widow anxious for her soul;
Lead to the altar the converted fair,
And sport, like Huntingdon, a coach and pair*?
Are there not some, who, in these latter years,
Smit with the love of meetings and hear! hears!
Range o’er the island on some fair pretence,
And leave their flocks in charge to Providence†?
† I am at a loss to conceive, how clergymen holding benefices in the South, can spare so much time for attending public meetings at the very extremities of
Are there not some, beneath whose doctrine lurks
A strange indifference both to faith and works?
They preach the eternal union—lay no stress
On justice, charity, and holiness;
Till the flock, following the deceitful bell,
Runs to the very pit where Baring fell*.
These are no guides for me—although the crowd
Dwells on their names with praises deep and loud;
And holds it almost blasphemy to say,
The road they lead is not the narrow way.
Are all then wrong?—and when the spirit’s tried,
Must all of every class be set aside?
Not so—I spoke of some, and those a few;
Many, I trust, are Scriptural and true.
the kingdom. Surely their own parishes must stiffer by it. The offices of an itinerant missionary, and a beneficed clergyman, were once reckoned incompatible. I should think that the duties of the two offices must still be so.
* This paragraph hints at high matter, which I cannot condense into a note. Suffice it to say, that Antinomianism is putting on a bolder face than it has assumed for many years; and that the theology of some who have not seceded, wears a very equivocal aspect.
Many, called Fanatics, are deeply read,
And while they’re warm at heart, are cool of head:
Many of those who trust in Christ alone,
Have holiness, not merits, of their own;
Work as if works were all, yet, humble too,
Give the whole praise to him to whom ’tis due.
Just once a year—when summer-days are long,
When town is empty, and the moors are throng—
Just once a year, I break the chains that bind
For nine long months my body and my mind,
And fly, with eager pleasure, to unbend
In the mild converse of one humble friend.
He was not humble twenty years ago,
When side by side we struggled friend and foe;
When side by side we took our first degrees,
The boast of Johnians he, and I of Caius:
Then, as he lay upon his truckle bed,
Imaginary mitres graced his head;
Or French Savans in flattering vision came,
To hail the owner of his mighty name.
How would he then have scorned the fate that now
Sheds such contentment on his placid brow;
How turned with loathing from his humble lot,
In that lone vale forgetting and forgot.
And yet he loves it now—for all his care,
And all the objects of his love, are there:
His is yon white-washed house with trees before,
And his the babes that play around the door;
His is the church, whose high but ruined tower,
Is decked with ivy, and each brighter flower;
And his the flock, who come from vale and hill,
On Sabbath-days that house of prayer to fill.
The Dilly stops: and there expectant stand
The Vicar and his wife with open hand,
And looks of cordial love, that seem to say,
We’re glad you’ve come, and hope you mean to stay.
The evening scarce suffices is to hear
On either side the happenings of the year—
How Jack my godson, to his Sire’s surprise,
Has gained at Winchester the Latin prize;
How the rude Squire has ceased to drink and swear,
And comes to church, and kneels when he is there:
How well the Sunday school succeeds, and how
The girls all curtsey, and the boys all bow:
How rarely ’tis the Gamekeeper can tell
He found a poacher skulking on the fell:
How drinking bouts and boxing matches cease,
And some old saints have died in faith and peace*.
So pass the evening hours;—and, pleased to hear,
The toils and triumphs of a friend so dear,
I go to rest; but promise to attend
Next morn the parish-progress of my friend.
First, for the task with social meal and prayer,
Our bodies and our spirits we prepare;
Then through the garden-plot, while still the dew
Gives every leaf a greener, brighter hue;
* This may not seem a very favourable account, to those who look for awakenings and revivals. But since the tree is known by its fruits, my friend the Vicar used to maintain, that a change of conduct was no bad proof of a change of heart.
And by the church-yard elms we take our way,
Beneath whose shadow lie the tomb-stones grey.
There stands, of transept and of nave bereft,
One narrow aisle, the little that is left,
And there the Vicar pauses still to tell,
From what high glory Hartley Abbey fell;
How she in ancient times her Abbots sent,
With all a Bishop’s pomp, to Parliament;
And spread her cloister’d palaces around
A hundred acres of that holy ground,
Till conscientious Henry’s holy zeal
Reformed the corrupt church with fire and steel.—
I ne’er could catch this antiquarian rage,
But you may read the whole in Dugdale’s page.
’Tis but a step across the village green,
Where the geese paddle in the pools between:
We lift the latch—and there before our eyes,
Bed-rid and blind the Widow Thompson lies.
That short five minutes walk across the green,
Sufficed my friend to tell what she had been:
Loving and loved she entered upon life,
A village beauty and a farmer’s wife;
And children sprung around, that left no fears
Of kindly succour in declining years.
All promised fair:—but then her husband gave
His name the credit of a friend to save;
And when the bill was due, that friend had flown,
And left his bail to meet the storm alone:
Markets were dull, and harvest months were wet,
And so poor farmer Thompson died in debt.
Then though her children bloomed in manly pride,
Consumption came, and one by one they died—
All—all were gone: and she was left behind
To mourn and suffer—poor, decrepid, blind.
She knew the very step of him, whose voice
Had taught her ’mid her sorrows to rejoice:
And those wan features, as he took her hand,
Showed joy that woridlings cannot understand—
A trust in him who has the power to save—
A hope that fearless looks beyond the grave.
Then held she converse of her hopes and, fears,
Befitting Christians in a vale of tears.
Not her’s the cant of those, whose vulgar slang
Is Greek to all who are not of the gang;
Not her’s the lights by pride and passion bred
From the deep quagmires of a muddy head:
Not her’s the fool-born jest and stiffled sigh
With which Philosophers prepare to die—
Her talk was lofty—yet ’twas humble too;
How much she had to hope, how much to do—
How little she had done, how much remained
To do, before the victory were gained—
To run, to fight, to wrestle, to endure,
To make her calling and election sure.
She spoke with gratitude of trials past,
And calmly dared anticipate the last;
She, when by care o’erwhelmed, by doubts distressed,
Looked to the cross for peace, to Heaven for rest;
And confidence in him who cannot lie,
Had made her patience strong, her courage high.
“Well,” said I, dashing off a single tear,
“’Tis surely good for us to have been here:
Such lively faith, such patient hope to see,
Does more than tomes of Dutch divinity—
Not for the world these visits would I miss,
If all your sick-list cases be like this.”
“Like this! I would they were; but those who go
To search the lairs of poverty and woe,
Must nerve their hearts, and be prepared to find
The body’s pain embittered by the mind;
Or see the reckless sinner, that can die
Without a hope, and yet without a sigh:
Or hoping all in works of human pride,
As if no Saviour died, nor need have died.”
With that he stopped; for we had reached the door
Of an old lonely cottage on the moor:
There o’er the embers crouched a feeble pair,
With sallow cheeks, and thin, yet matted hair.
Clay was the flooring, and the walls were clay.
And in the window rags obscured the day:
’Twas old and filthy all—the very air
Felt dull, and loaded with miasma there.
In one dark corner stood a crazy bed,
With half a broken tester over head:
There lay their only son, and he had been
The first in many a bold and bloody scene:
Untaught in youth, he led a wandering life,
Till caught by scarlet coat, and drum and fife,
He sold the liberty he held so dear,
And quitted home and friends without a tear.
For six campaigns, he followed in the train
Of victory, through Portugal and Spain.
But cold, and midnight bivouacks, impaired
The frame that ball and bayonet had spared;
And he, with wasted limbs and aching head,
Lay dying there upon that crazy bed.
This was distressing—yet there might have been
A light reflected from the future scene:
But there was none; for when my friend began
His colloquy with that poor dying man,
And talked of Christ, of judgment, and of sin,
I saw at once the work was to begin.
To every truth, a careless ear was lent,
And every pause received a faint assent—
He knew that he had sinned, like all the rest,
But God was good, and so he hoped the best.
This was the sum of his religion, this
His penitence for sin, his hope of bliss.
I saw a tear stand in the Vicar’s eye—
He would not thus the prodigal should die;
And his lips quivered in a silent prayer,
That grace might yet prevail, and justice spare.
“Yes—God is merciful,” he said, “as they
Shall find, who seek him in the appointed way.
What but his mercy has secured thy life
In tainted climates, in the battle’s strife?
What but his mercy tells thee now, by me,
That Jesus died for sinners like to thee?
And yet that mercy reaches only those
Who do repent that they have been his foes.
Bethink thee, then, of what thy life has been,
Recal the deeds of many a sinful scene
Were there not oaths and curses to defy
The unwilling vengeance of the Lord most High?
God only knows the heart;—but sure a life
Of lawless wanderings, revelry and strife,
(Bethink thee, Oh bethink thee, while there’s time,)
Requires repentance deep as was the crime.
’Tis true, that pardon by Christ’s death was bought,
For all who humbly seek; but bast thou sought?
O, seek it now! while yet the hand of God
In mercy wields the salutary rod:
Repent, while justice yet consents to spare;
Pray in Christ’s name, and God will hear the prayer.”
Yet more he would have said; but then there came
A cough that shook the sufferer’s weakened frame;
And choaking phlegm, that would not quit its hold,
And on his brow the clammy drops stood cold.
We waited till that agony was past,
And trembled, for we thought it was the last:
But when exhausted with the strife, he lay
Quiet and faint—we turned to come away.
The school stood near—and this, the Vicar cried,
If we may use such language, is my pride:
This, when I came to Hartley, was a place
Of refuge for each wandering motley race;
Here the quack doctor raised his stage, and sold,
For pence, the medicines worth their weight in gold:
Here buskined heroes starved amid their pride,
Till pity gave what justice had denied;
And some indulgent farmer’s cart was found
To help the party forward on their round.
Here, too, a sample of those wandering lights,
A Methodist held forth on Sunday nights;
A thin tall youth, with black unbending hair,
In preaching great, they said, and great in prayer:
He was not useless—and I liked the lad,
Whose zeal, though whimsical, was far from mad.
Well, some good yeomen clubbed with me to buy
The barn, though grumbling that the price was high:
And a few well-spent pounds have given the place
A worthier purpose, and a neater face.
We had no school before: Our dunces lay
Lounging and basking all the summer day;
And those who felt some energy within,
From boyish mischief grew to bolder sin.
With that we entered: And the school was much
Like other schools; you’ve seen a hundred such;
But the good Vicar came not there to stare,
Or indolently laud the Master’s care;
He heard a stammering class half read, half spell,
And praised the blushing boy who did it well;
Gave a kind hint to those who were perplex’d,
Asked a few questions, and explained a text.
Such was my walk with one, who freely gave
Time, talents, prayers, his humble flock to save.
I need not here of his discourses tell—
He preached not long, but earnestly and well;
Was sometimes eloquent, though not at all
To be compared with Chalmers or with Hall;
Gave every truth its proper weight and place,
And put good works in unison with grace.
- - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - -
I love the Church*—though I would scarcely fight
For the divinum of a Bishop’s right
I love the Church—but neither fear nor hate†
The plans of those who choose to separate:
I love the Church—and wish that all who feel
For her and her’s a still more ardent zeal,
Would take a hint, their feelings to express,
By doing more for her, and talking less.
* I hope none will be so captious, as to find fault with me for using the single word Church, when I mean to designate the Church of England. I speak as an Englishman, who, when he talks of the King, the Constitution, the Church, means to be understood as speaking of the King, the Constitution, the Church of England, without at all denying the existence or legitimacy of other kings, constitutions, or churches.
† I conceive it is very possible to oppose, vigorously and conscientiously, that which I neither fear nor hate.
Were I a Bishop—(though I do not hope
For that high honour, more than to be Pope,)
I’d act from conscience; and lest I should stray,
Burnet or Burgess should direct my way.
Were I a Parish-Clergyman, my friend
At Hartley, model and advice should lend*
Like him, I would not, when the Sabbath’s sun
Was set, suppose my weekly task was done;
* Some of my readers may perhaps prefer going for instruction to the Religio Clerici, (See Religio Clerici, or the Churchman’s Second Epistle) Besides other minor objections, I would remark, that the witty Clerk’s religion seems entirely composed of negatives. He does not support the Bible Society, nor the Missionary Society, nor, for any thing I see, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. He does not preach or pray extempore. He does not frighten people on their death-beds, nor does he approve of saying two graces before dinner. Now, a clergyman may abstain from all these enormities—nay, he may duly execute certain positive functions—he may “marry, christen, church, and publish bans;” and, after all, be a very useless creature.
I would not, cold of heart, and easily tired,
Demand how little work the law required:
But every day I’d try to do my best,
And labour now, and look to Heaven for rest.

Printed by Balfour and Clarke,
Edinburgh, 1819.