LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Works of Charles and Mary Lamb. VI-VII. Letters
Appendix I

Contents vol. VI
Letters: 1796
Letters: 1797
Letters: 1798
Letters: 1799
Letters: 1800
Letters: 1801
Letters: 1802
Letters: 1803
Letters: 1804
Letters: 1805
Letters: 1806
Letters: 1807
Letters: 1808
Letters: 1809
Letters: 1810
Letters: 1811
Letters: 1812
Letters: 1814
Letters: 1815
Letters: 1816
Letters: 1817
Letters: 1818
Letters: 1819
Letters: 1820
Letters: 1821
Contents vol. VII
Letters: 1821
Letters: 1822
Letters: 1823
Letters: 1824
Letters: 1825
Letters: 1826
Letters: 1827
Letters: 1828
Letters: 1829
Letters: 1830
Letters: 1831
Letters: 1832
Letters: 1833
Letters: 1834
‣ Appendix I
Appendix II
Appendix III
List of Letters
Creative Commons License

Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Produced by CATH


Text of the Quarto, 1796
(See Letter 19, page 75)

Strophe I
Spirit, who sweepest the wild Harp of Time,
It is most hard with an untroubled Ear
Thy dark inwoven Harmonies to hear!
Yet, mine eye fixt on Heaven’s unchanged clime,
Long had I listen’d, free from mortal fear,
With inward stillness and a bowed mind:
When lo I far onwards waving on the wind
I saw the skirts of the Departing Year!
Starting from my silent sadness
Then with no unholy madness,
Ere yet the entered cloud forbade my sight,
I rais’d th’ impetuous song, and solemnized his flight.
Strophe II
Hither from the recent Tomb;
From the Prison’s direr gloom;
From Poverty’s heart-wasting languish:
From Distemper’s midnight anguish;
Or where his two bright torches blending
Love illumines Manhood’s maze;
Or where o’er cradled Infants bending
Hope has fix’d her wishful gaze:
Hither, in perplexed dance,
Ye Woes, and young-eyed Joys, advance!
By Time’s wild harp, and by the Hand
Whose indefatigable Sweep
Forbids its fateful strings to sleep,
I bid you haste, a mixt tumultuous band!
From every private bower,
And each domestic hearth,
Haste for one solemn hour;
And with a loud and yet a louder voice
O’er the sore travail of the common earth
Weep and rejoice!
Seiz’d in sore travail and portentous birth
(Her eye-balls flashing a pernicious glare)
Sick Nature struggles! Hark—her pangs increase!
Her groans are horrible! But o! most fair
The promis’d Twins, she bears—Equality and Peace!
I mark’d Ambition in his war-array:
I heard the mailed Monarch’s troublous cry—
“Ah I whither [wherefore] does the Northern Conqueress stay?
Groans not her Chariot o’er its onward way?”
Fly, mailed Monarch, fly!
Stunn’d by Death’s “twice mortal” mace
No more on Murder’s lurid face
Th’ insatiate Hag shall glote with drunken eye!
Manes of th’ unnumbered Slain!
Ye that gasp’d on Warsaw’s plain!
Ye that erst at Ismail’s tower,
When human Ruin chok’d the streams,
Fell in Conquest’s glutted hour
Mid Women’s shrieks and Infant’s screams;
Whose shrieks, whose screams were vain to stir
Loud-laughing, red-eyed Massacre!
Spirits of th’ uncoffin’d Slain,
Sudden blasts of Triumph swelling
Oft at night, in misty train
Rush around her narrow Dwelling!
Th’ exterminating Fiend is fled—
(Foul her Life and dark her Doom!)
Mighty Army of the Dead,
Dance, like Death-fires, round her Tomb!
Then with prophetic song relate
Each some scepter’d Murderer’s fate!
When shall scepter’d Slaughter cease?
Awhile He crouch’d, O Victor France!
Beneath the light’ning of thy Lance,
With treacherous dalliance wooing Peace.
But soon up-springing from his dastard trance
The boastful, bloody Son of Pride betray’d
His hatred of the blest and blessing Maid.
One cloud, O Freedom! cross’d thy orb of Light
And sure, he deem’d, that Orb was quench’d in night:
For still does Madness roam on Guilt’s bleak dizzy height!
Antistrophe I
Departing Year! ’twas on no earthly shore
My Soul beheld thy Vision. Where, alone,
Voiceless and stern, before the Cloudy Throne
Aye Memory sits; there, garmented with gore,
With many an unimaginable groan
Thou storiedst thy sad Hours! Silence ensued:
Deep Silence o’er th’ etherial Multitude,
Whose purple Locks with snow-white Glories shone.
Then, his eye wild ardors glancing,
From the choired Gods advancing,
The Spirit of the Earth made reverence meet
And stood up beautiful before the Cloudy Seat!
Antistrophe II
On every Harp, on every Tongue
While the mute Enchantment hung;
Like Midnight from a thundercloud,
Spake the sudden Spirit loud—
“Thou in stormy blackness throning
“Love and uncreated Light,
“By the Earth’s unsolac’d groaning
“Seize thy terrors, Arm of Might!
“By Belgium’s corse-impeded flood!
“By Vendee steaming Brother’s blood I
“By Peace with proffer’d insult scar’d,
“Masked hate, and envying scorn!
“By Tears of Havoc yet unborn;
“And Hunger’s bosom to the frost-winds bar’d!
“But chief by Afric’s wrongs
“Strange, horrible, and foul!
“By what deep Guilt belongs
“To the deaf Synod, ‘full of gifts and lies!’
“By Wealth’s insensate Laugh! By Torture’s Howl!
“Avenger, rise!
“To the deaf Synod, ‘full of gifts and lies!’
“For ever shall the bloody Island scowl?
“For aye unbroken, shall her cruel Bow
“Shoot Famine’s arrows o’er thy ravag’d World?
“Hark! how wide Nature joins her groans below—
“Rise, God of Nature, rise! Why sleep thy Bolts unhurl’d?”
Epode II
The Voice had ceas’d, the Phantoms fled,
Yet still I gasp’d and reel’d with dread.
And even when the dream of night
Renews the vision to my sight,
Cold sweat-damps gather on my limbs,
My Ears throb hot, my eye-balls start,
My Brain with horrid tumult swims,
Wild is the Tempest of my Heart;
And my thick and struggling breath
Imitates the toil of Death!
No uglier agony confounds
The Soldier on the war-field spread,
When all foredone with toil and wounds
Death-like he dozes among heaps of Dead!
(The strife is o’er, the day-light fled,
And the Night-wind clamours hoarse;
See! the startful Wretch’s head
Lies pillow’d on a Brother’s Corse!)
O doom’d to fall, enslav’d and vile,
O Albion! O my mother Isle!
Thy valleys, fair as Eden’s bowers,
Glitter green with sunny showers;
Thy grassy Upland’s gentle Swells
Echo to the Bleat of Flocks;
(Those grassy Hills, those glitt’ring Dells
Proudly ramparted with rocks)
And Ocean ’mid his uproar wild
Speaks safely to his Island-child.
Hence for many a fearless age
Has social Quiet lov’d thy shore;
Nor ever sworded Foeman’s rage
Or sack’d thy towers, or stain’d thy fields with gore.
Disclaim’d of Heaven! mad Av’rice at thy side,
At coward distance, yet with kindling pride—
Safe ’mid thy herds and corn-fields thou hast stood,
And join’d the yell of Famine and of Blood.
All nations curse thee: and with eager wond’ring
Shall hear Destruction like a vulture, scream!
Strange-eyed Destruction, who with many a dream
Of central flames thro’ nether seas upthund’ring
Soothes her fierce solitude, yet (as she lies
Stretch’d on the marge of some fire-flashing fount
In the black chamber of a sulphur’d mount,)
If ever to her lidless dragon eyes,
O Albion! thy predestin’d ruins rise,
The Fiend-hag on her perilous couch doth leap,
Mutt’ring distemper’d triumph in her charmed sleep.
Away, my soul, away!
In vain, in vain, the birds of warning sing—
And hark! I hear the famin’d brood of prey
Flap their lank pennons on the groaning wind!
Away, my Soul, away!
I unpartaking of the evil thing,
With daily prayer, and daily toil
Soliciting my scant and blameless soil,
Have wail’d my country with a loud lament.
Now I recenter my immortal mind
In the long sabbath of high self-content;
Cleans’d from the fleshly Passions that bedim
God’s Image, Sister of the Seraphim.
From A Collection Of Emblems, 1635
(See Letter 35, page 124)

It merits not your Anger, nor my Blame,
That, thus I have inscrib’d this Epigram:
For, they who know me, know, that, Bookes thus large,
And, fraught with Emblems, do augment the Charge
Too much above my Fortunes, to afford
A Gift so costly, for an Aierie-word;
And, I have prov’d, your Begging-Qualitie,
So forward, to oppresse my Modestie;
That, for my future ease, it seemeth fit,
To take some Order, for preventing it.
And, peradventure, other Authors may,
Find Cause to thanke me for’t, another day.
These many years, it hath your Custom bin,
That, when in my possession, you have seene
A Volume, of mine owne, you did no more,
But, Aske and Take; As if you thought my store
Encreast, without my Cost; And, that, by Giving,
(Both Paines and Charges too) I got my living;
Or, that, I find the Paper and the Printing,
As easie to me, as the Bookes Inventing.
If, of my Studies, no esteeme you have,
You, then abuse the Courtesies you crave;
And, are Unthankfull. If you prize them ought,
Why should my Labour, not enough be thought,
Unlesse, I adde Expences to my paines?
The Stationer, affoords for little Gaines,
The Bookes you crave: And, He, as well as I
Might give away, what you repine to buy:
For, what hee Gives, doth onely Mony Cost,
In mine, both Mony, Time, and Wit is lost.
What I shall Give, and what I have bestow’d
On Friends, to whom, I Love, or Service ow’d,
I grudge not; And, I thinke it is from them,
Sufficient, that such Gifts they do esteeme:
Yea, and, it is a Favour too, when they
Will take these Trifles, my large Dues to pay;
(Or, Aske them at my hands, when I forget,
That, I am to their Love, so much in debt.)
But, this inferres not, that, I should bestow
The like on all men, who, my Name do know;
Or, have the Face to aske: For, then, I might,
Of Wit and Mony, soone be begger’d, quite.
So much, already, hath beene Beg’d away,
(For which, I neither had, nor looke for pay)
As being valu’d at the common Rate,
Had rais’d, Five hundred Crownes, in my Estate.
Which, (if I may confesse it) signifies,
That, I was farre more Liberall, than Wise.
But, for the time to come, resolv’d I am,
That, till without denyall (or just blame)
I may of those, who Cloth and Clothes do make,
(As oft as I shall need them) Aske, and Take;
You shall no more befoole me. Therfore, Pray
Be Answer’d; And, henceforward, keepe away.
From Poems, 1800
(See Letter 83, page 215)

Yet, Muse of Shakspeare,1 whither wouldst thou fly,
With hurried step, and dove-like trembling eye?
Thou, as from heav’n, that couldst each grace dispense,
Fancy’s rich stream, and all the stores of sense;
Give to each virtue face and form divine,
Make dulness feel, and vulgar souls refine,

1 It is not meant to say, that even Shakspeare followed invariably a correct and chastized taste, or that he never purchased public applause by offering incense at the shrine of public taste. Voltaire, in his Essays on Dramatic Poetry, has carried the matter too far; but in many respects his reflections are unquestionably just. In delineating human characters and passions, and in the display of the sublimer excellencies of poetry, Shakspeare was unrivalled.
There he our fancy of itself bereaving,
Did make us marble with too much conceiving.
Milton’s Sonnet To Shakspeare.

Wake all the passions into restless life,
Now calm to softness, and now rouze to strife?
Sick of misjudging, that no sense can hit,
Scar’d by the jargon of unmeaning wit,
The senseless splendour of the tawdry stage,1
The loud long plaudits of a trifling age,
Where dost thou wander? Exil’d in disgrace,
Find’st thou in foreign realms some happier place?2
Or dost thou still though banish’d from the town,
In Britain love to linger, though unknown?
Light Hymen’s torch through ev’ry blooming grove,3
And tinge each flow’ret with the blush of love?
Sing winter, summer-sweets, the vernal air,
Or the soft Sofa, to delight the fair?4
Laugh, e’en at kings, and mock each prudish rule,
The merry motley priest of ridicule?5
With modest pencil paint the vernal scene,
The rustic lovers, and the village green?
Bid Mem’ry, magic child, resume his toy,
And Hope’s fond vot’ry seize the distant joy?6

1 Pomp and splendour a poor substitute for genius.

2 The dramatic muse seems of late years to have taken her residence in Germany. Schiller, Kotzebue, and Goethé, possess great merit both for passion and sentiment, and the English nation have done them justice. One or two principles which the French and English critics had too implicitly followed from Aristotle, are indeed not adopted, but have been, I hope, successfully, counteracted by these writers; yet are these dramatists characterised by a wildness bordering on extravagance, attendant on a state of half-civilization. Schiller and Kotzebue, amid some faults, possess great excellencies.

With respect to England, it has long been noticed by very intelligent observers, that the dramatic taste of the present age is vitiated. Pope, who directed very powerful satire against the stage in his time, makes Dulness say in general terms,
Contending theatres our empire raise,
Alike their censure, and alike their praise.

It would be the highest arrogance in me to make such an assertion, with my slender knowledge in these matters; ready too, as I am, to admire some excellent pieces that have fallen in my way; and to affirm, that there is by no means a deficiency of poetic talent in England.

Aristotle observes, that all the parts of the Epic poet are to be found in tragedy, and, consequently, that this species of writing is, of all others, most interesting to men of talents. (Περι ωοιητικης.) And baron Kotzebue thinks the theatre the best school of instruction, both in morals and taste, even for children; and that better effects are produced by a play, than by a sermon. See his life, written by himself, just translated by Anne Plumptre.

How much then is it to be wished, that so admirable a mean of amusement and instruction might be advanced to its true point of excellence! But the principles laid down by Bishop Hurd, though calculated to advance the love of splendour, will not, I suspect, advance the True Province of the Drama.

3 Loves of the Plants, by Dr. Darwin.

4 The Task, by Cowper: written at the request of a lady. The introductory poem is entitled, The Sofa.

5 Dr. Walcot [Wolcot: Peter Pindar], whose poetry is of a farcical and humorous character.

6 The Pleasures of Memory, by Rogers; and the Pleasures of Hope, by Campbell.

Or dost thou soar, in youthful ardour strong,
And bid some female hero live in song?1
Teach fancy how through nature’s walks to stray,
And wake, to simpler theme, the lyric lay?2
Or steal from beauty’s lip th’ ambrosial kiss,
Paint the domestic grief, or social bliss?3
With patient step now tread o’er rock and hill,
Gaze on rough ocean, track the babbling rill,4
Then rapt in thought, with strong poetic eye,
Read the great movement of the mighty sky?
Or wilt thou spread the light of Leo’s age,
And smooth, as woman’s guide, Tansillo’s page?5
Till pleas’d, you make in fair translated song,
Odin descend, and rouse the fairy throng?6
Recall, employment sweet, thy youthful day,
Then wake, at Mithra’s call, the mystic lay?7
Unfold the Paradise of ancient lore,8
Or mark the shipwreck from the sounding shore?
Now love to linger in the daisied vale,
Then rise sublime in legendary tale?9
Or, faithful still to nature’s sober joy,
Smile on the labours of some Farmer’s Boy?10
Or e’en regardless of the poet’s praise,
Deck the fair magazine with blooming lays?11
Oh! sweetest muse, oh, haste thy wish’d return,
See genius droop, and bright-ey’d fancy mourn,
Recall to nature’s charms an English stage,
The guard and glory of a nobler age.

1 Joan of Arc, by Southey;—a volume of poems with an introductory sonnet to Mary Wolstonecraft, and a poem, on the praise of woman, breathes the same spirit.

2 Alludes to the character of a volume of poems, entitled Lyrical Ballads. Under this head also should be mentioned Smythe’s English Lyrics.

3 Characteristic of a volume of poems, the joint production of Coleridge, Lloyd, and Lamb.

4 Descriptive Poems, such as Leusden hill, by Thomas Crowe; and the Malvern hills, by Joseph Cottle.

5 Roscoe’s Reign of Leo de Medici is interspersed with poetry. Roscoe has also translated, The Nurse, a poem, from the Italian of Luigi Tansillo.

6 Icelandic poetry, or the Edda of Saemund, translated by Amos Cottle; and the Oberon of Wieland, by Sotheby.

7 Thomas Maurice, the author of the Indian Antiquities, is republishing his poems; the Song to Mithra is in the third volume of Indian Antiquities.

8 The Paradise of Taste, and Pictures of Poetry, by Alexander Thomson.

9 There is a tale of this character by Dr. Aikin, and the Hermit of Warkworth, by Bishop Percy. It will please the friends of taste to hear, that Cartwright’s Armine and Elvira, which has been long out of print, is now republishing.

10 The Farmer’s Boy, a poem just published, on The Seasons, by Robert Bloomfield.

11 Many of the anonymous poetical pieces thrown into magazines, possess poetical merit. Those of a young lady in the Monthly Magazine, will, I hope, in time be more generally known. Those of Rushton, of Liverpool, will also, I hope, be published by some judicious friend:—this worthy man is a bookseller, who has been afflicted with blindness from his youth.

From The Life of Benjamin Robert Haydon, by Tom Taylor
(See Letter 228, page 509)

On December 28th the immortal dinner came off in my painting-room, with Jerusalem towering up behind us as a background. Wordsworth was in fine cue, and we had a glorious set-to,—on Homer, Shakespeare, Milton and Virgil. Lamb got exceedingly merry and exquisitely witty; and his fun in the midst of Wordsworth’s solemn intonations of oratory was like the sarcasm and wit of the fool in the intervals of Lear’s passion. He made a speech and voted me absent, and made them drink my health. “Now,” said Lamb, “you old lake poet, you rascally poet, why do you call Voltaire dull?” We all defended Wordsworth, and affirmed there was a state of mind when Voltaire would be dull. “Well,” said Lamb, “here’s Voltaire—the Messiah of the French nation, and a very proper one too.”

He then, in a strain of humour beyond description, abused me for putting Newton’s head into my picture,—“a fellow,” said he, “who believed nothing unless it was as clear as the three sides of a triangle.” And then he and Keats agreed he had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colours. It was impossible to resist him, and we all drank “Newton’s health, and confusion to mathematics.” It was delightful to see the good-humour of Wordsworth in giving in to all our frolics without affectation and laughing as heartily as the best of us.

By this time other friends joined, amongst them poor Ritchie who was going to penetrate by Fezzan to Timbuctoo. I introduced him to all as “a gentleman going to Africa.” Lamb seemed to take no notice; but all of a sudden he roared out, “Which is the gentleman we are going to lose?” We then drank the victim’s health, in which Ritchie joined.

In the morning of this delightful day, a gentleman, a perfect stranger, had called on me. He said he knew my friends, had an enthusiasm for Wordsworth and begged I would procure him the happiness of an introduction. He told me he was a comptroller of stamps, and often had correspondence with the poet. I thought it a liberty; but still, as he seemed a gentleman, I told him he might come.

When we retired to tea we found the comptroller. In introducing him to Wordsworth I forgot to say who he was. After a little time the comptroller looked down, looked up and said to Wordsworth, “Don’t you think, sir, Milton was a great genius?” Keats looked at me, Wordsworth looked at the comptroller. Lamb who was dozing by the fire turned round and said, “Pray, sir, did you say Milton was a great genius?” “No, sir; I asked Mr. Wordsworth if he were not.”
“Oh,” said Lamb, “then you are a silly fellow.” “Charles! my dear Charles!” said Wordsworth; but Lamb, perfectly innocent of the confusion he had created, was off again by the fire.

After an awful pause the comptroller said, “Don’t you think Newton a great genius?” I could not stand it any longer. Keats put his head into my books. Ritchie squeezed in a laugh. Wordsworth seemed asking himself, “Who is this?” Lamb got up, and taking a candle, said, “Sir, will you allow me to look at your phrenological development?” He then turned his back on the poor man, and at every question of the comptroller he chaunted—
“Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his breeches on.”
The man in office, finding Wordsworth did not know who he was, said in a spasmodic and half-chuckling anticipation of assured victory, “I have had the honour of some correspondence with you, Mr. Wordsworth.” “With me, sir?” said Wordsworth, “not that I remember.” “Don’t you, sir? I am a comptroller of stamps.” There was a dead silence;—the comptroller evidently thinking that was enough. While we were waiting for Wordsworth’s reply, Lamb sung out
“Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle.”
“My dear Charles!” said Wordsworth,—
“Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John,”
chaunted Lamb, and then rising, exclaimed, “Do let me have another look at that gentleman’s organs.” Keats and I hurried Lamb into the painting-room, shut the door and gave way to inextinguishable laughter.
Monkhouse followed and tried to get Lamb away. We went back, but the comptroller was irreconcilable. We soothed and smiled and asked him to supper. He stayed though his dignity was sorely affected. However, being a good-natured man, we parted all in good-humour, and no ill effects followed.

All the while, until Monkhouse succeeded, we could hear Lamb struggling in the painting-room and calling at intervals, “Who is that fellow? Allow me to see his organs once more.”

It was indeed an immortal evening. Wordsworth’s fine intonation as he quoted Milton and Virgil, Keats’ eager inspired look, Lamb’s quaint sparkle of lambent humour, so speeded the stream of conversation, that in my life I never passed a more delightful time. All our fun was within bounds. Not a word passed that an apostle might not have listened to. It was a night worthy of the Elizabethan age, and my solemn Jerusalem flashing up by the flame of the fire, with Christ hanging over us like a vision, all made up a picture which will long glow upon—
“that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude.”
Keats made
Ritchie promise he would carry his Endymion to the great desert of Sahara and fling it in the midst.

Poor Ritchie went to Africa, and died, as Lamb foresaw, in 1819. Keats died in 1821, at Rome. C. Lamb is gone, joking to the last. Monkhouse is dead, and Wordsworth and I are the only two now living (1841) of that glorious party.

From Poems, 1797
(See Letter 361, page 691)

“Lo I, the man who erst the Muse did ask
Her deepest notes to swell the Patriot’s meeds,
Am now enforcst, a far unfitter task,
For cap and gown to leave my minstrel weeds;”
For yon dull noise that tinkles on the air
Bids me lay by the lyre and go to morning prayer.
Oh how I hate the sound! it is the Knell,
That still a requiem tolls to Comfort’s hour;
And loth am I, at Superstition’s bell,
To quit or Morpheus or the Muses bower:
Better to lie and dose, than gape amain,
Hearing still mumbled o’er, the same eternal strain.
Thou tedious herald of more tedious prayers,
Say hast thou ever summoned from his rest,
One being awakening to religious awe?
Or rous’d one pious transport in the breast?
Or rather, do not all reluctant creep
To linger out the hour, in listlessness or sleep?
I love the bell, that calls the poor to pray,
Chiming from village church its chearful sound
When the sun smiles on Labour’s holy day,
And all the rustic train are gathered round,
Each deftly dizen’d in his Sunday’s best,
And pleas’d to hail the day of piety and rest.
Or when, dim-shadowing o’er the face of day,
The mantling mists of even-tide rise slow,
As thro’ the forest gloom I wend my way,
The minster curfew’s sullen roar I know;
I pause and love its solemn toll to hear,
As made by distance soft, it dies upon the ear.
Nor not to me the unfrequent midnight knell
Tolls sternly harmonising; on mine ear
As the deep death-fraught sounds long lingering dwell
Sick to the heart of Love and Hope and Fear
Soul-jaundiced, I do loathe Life’s upland steep
And with strange envy muse the dead man’s dreamless sleep.
But thou, memorial of monastic gall!
What Fancy sad or lightsome hast thou given?
Thy vision-scaring sounds alone recall
The prayer that trembles on a yawn to heaven;
And this Dean’s gape, and that Dean’s nosal tone,
And Roman rites retain’d, tho’ Roman faith be flown.
From Devotional Verses, 1826
(See Letter 370, page 698)

“But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”—Deut. xxx. 14.
Say not The law divine
Is hidden from thee, or far remov’d:
That law within would shine,
If there its glorious light were sought and lov’d.
Soar not on high,
Nor ask who thence shall bring it down to earth;
That vaulted sky
Hath no such star, didst thou but know its worth.
Nor launch thy bark
In search thereof upon a shoreless sea,
Which has no ark,
No dove to bring this olive-branch to thee.
Then do not roam
In search of that which wandering cannot win;
At home! At home!
That word is plac’d, thy mouth, thy heart within.
Oh! seek it there,
Turn to its teachings with devoted will;
Watch unto prayer,
And in the power of faith this law fulfil.
From New Year’s Eve, 1828
(See Letter 445, page 788)

“And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”
Though proudly through the vaulted sky
Was borne Elisha’s sire,
And dazzling unto mortal eye
His car and steeds of fire:
To me as glorious seems the change
Accorded to thy worth;
As instantaneous and as strange
Thy exit from this earth.
Something which wakes a deeper thrill,
These few brief words unfold,
Than all description’s proudest skill
Could of that hour have told.
Fancy’s keen eye may trace the course
Elijah held on high:
The car of flame, each fiery horse,
Her visions may supply;—
But Thy transition mocks each dream
Framed by her wildest power,
Nor can her mastery supreme
Conceive thy parting hour.
Were angels, with expanded wings,
As guides and guardians given?
Or did sweet sounds from seraphs’ strings
Waft thee from earth to heaven?
’Twere vain to ask: we know but this—
Thy path from grief and time
Unto eternity and bliss,
Mysterious and sublime!
With God thou walkedst: and wast not!
And thought and fancy fail
Further than this to paint thy lot,
Or tell thy wondrous tale.
From The Final Memorials Of Charles Lamb
(See Letter 447, page 792)

Our gentle Charles has pass’d away
From Earth’s short bondage free,
And left to us its leaden day
And mist-enshrouded sea.
Here, by the restless ocean’s side,
Sweet hours of hope have flown,
When first the triumph of its tide
Seem’d omen of our own.
That eager joy the sea-breeze gave,
When first it raised his hair,
Sunk with each day’s retiring wave,
Beyond the reach of prayer.
The sun-blink that through drizzling mist,
To flickering hope akin,
Lone waves with feeble fondness kiss’d,
No smile as faint can win;
Yet not in vain, with radiance weak,
The heavenly stranger gleams—
Not of the world it lights to speak,
But that from whence it streams.
That world our patient sufferer sought,
Serene with pitying eyes,
As if his mounting Spirit caught
The wisdom of the skies.
With boundless love it look’d abroad
For one bright moment given;
Shone with a loveliness that aw’d,
And quiver’d into Heaven.
A year made slow by care and toil
Has paced its weary round,
Since Death enrich’d with kindred spoil
The snow-clad, frost-ribb’d ground.
Then Lamb, with whose endearing name
Our boy we proudly graced,
Shrank from the warmth of sweeter fame
Than mightier Bards embraced.
Still ’twas a mournful joy to think
Our darling might supply
For years to us, a living link,
To name that cannot die.
And though such fancy gleam no more
On earthly sorrow’s night,
Truth’s nobler torch unveils the shore
Which lends to both its light.
The nurseling there that hand may take,
None ever grasp’d in vain,
And smiles of well-known sweetness wake,
Without their tinge of pain.
Though, ’twixt the Child and child-like Bard,
Late seemed distinction wide,
They now may trace in Heaven’s regard,
How near they were allied.
Within the infant’s ample brow
Blythe fancies lay unfurl’d,
Which, all uncrush’d, may open now,
To charm a sinless world.
Though the soft spirit of those eyes
Might ne’er with Lamb’s compete—
Ne’er sparkle with a wit as wise,
Or melt in tears, as sweet;
That calm and unforgotten look
A kindred love reveals,
With his who never friend forsook,
Or hurt a thing that feels.
In thought profound, in wildest glee,
In sorrows dark and strange,
The soul of Lamb’s bright infancy
Endured no spot or change.
From traits of each our love receives
For comfort, nobler scope;
While light, which child-like genius leaves,
Confirms the infant’s hope;
And in that hope with sweetness fraught
Be aching hearts beguiled,
To blend in one delightful thought
The Poet and the Child!
From Hone’s Year Book
(See Letter 512, page 878)
’Tis a sad sighe
To see the year dying;
When autumn’s last wind
Sets the yellow wood sighing;
Sighing, oh sighing!
When such a time cometh,
I do retire
Into an old room,
Beside a bright fire;
Oh! pile a bright fire!
And there I sit
Reading old things
Of knights and ladies,
While the wind sings:
Oh! drearily sings!
I never look out,
Nor attend to the blast;
For, all to be seen,
Is the leaves falling fast:
Falling, falling!
But, close at the hearth,
Like a cricket, sit I;
Reading of summer
And chivalry:
Gallant chivalry!
Then, with an old friend,
I talk of our youth;
How ’twas gladsome, but often
Foolish, forsooth,
But gladsome, gladsome.
Or, to get merry,
We sing an old rhyme
That made the wood ring again
In summer time:
Sweet summer time!
Then take we to smoking,
Silent and snug:
Nought passes between us,
Save a brown jug;
Sometimes! sometimes!
And sometimes a tear
Will rise in each eye,
Seeing the two old friends,
So merrily;
So merrily!
And ere to bed
Go we, go we,
Down by the ashes
We kneel on the knee;
Praying, praying!
Thus then live I,
Till, breaking the gloom
Of winter, the bold sun
Is with me in the room!
Shining, shining!
Then the clouds part,
Swallows soaring between:
The spring is awake,
And the meadows are green,—
I jump up like mad;
Break the old pipe in twain;
And away to the meadows,
The meadows again!
(See Letter 512, page 878)
A Birth-day Meditation, during a solitary winter walk of seven miles, between a village in Derbyshire and Sheffield, when the ground was covered with snow, the sky serene, and the morning air intensely pure.
Once in the flight of ages past,
There lived a man:—and WHO was HE?
—Mortal! howe’er thy lot be cast,
That man resembled Thee.
Unknown the region of his birth,
The land in which he died unknown:
His name has perish’d from the earth;
This truth survives alone:—
That joy and grief, and hope and fear,
Alternate triumph’d in his breast;
His bliss and woe,—a smile, a tear!—
Oblivion hides the rest.
The bounding pulse, the languid limb,
The changing spirits’ rise and fall;
We know that these were felt by him,
For these are felt by all.
He suffer’d,—but his pangs are o’er;
Enjoy’d,—but his delights are fled;
Had friends,—his friends are now no more;
And foes,—his foes are dead.
He loved,—but whom he loved, the grave
Hath lost in its unconscious womb:
O, she was fair!—but nought could save
Her beauty from the tomb.
He saw whatever thou hast seen;
Encounter’d all that troubles thee:
He was—whatever thou hast been;
He is—what thou shalt be.
The rolling seasons, day and night,
Sun, moon, and stars, the earth and main,
Erewhile his portion, life and light,
To him exist in vain.
The clouds and sunbeams, o’er his eye
That once their shades and glory threw,
Have left in yonder silent sky
No vestige where they flew.
The annals of the human race,
Their ruins, since the world began,
Of HIM afford no other trace
November 4, 1805.
(written over a Flask of Sherris)
From English Songs
(See Letter 527, page 893)

Dear Lamb! I drink to thee,—to thee
Married to sweet Liberty!
What, old friend, and art thou freed
From the bondage of the pen?
Free from care and toil indeed?
Free to wander amongst men
When and howsoe’er thou wilt?
All thy drops of labour spilt,
On those huge and figured pages,
Which will sleep unclasp’d for ages,
Little knowing who did wield
The quill that traversed their white field?
Come,—another mighty health!
Thou hast earn’d thy sum of wealth,—
Countless ease,—immortal leisure,—
Days and nights of boundless pleasure,
Checquer’d by no dreams of pain,
Such as hangs on clerk-like brain
Like a night-mare, and doth press
The happy soul from happiness.
Oh! happy thou,—whose all of time
(Day and eve, and morning prime)
Is fill’d with talk on pleasant themes,—
Or visions quaint, which come in dreams
Such as panther’d Bacchus rules,
When his rod is on “the schools,”
Mixing wisdom with their wine;—
Or, perhaps, thy wit so fine
Strayeth in some elder book,
Whereon our modern Solons look
With severe ungifted eyes,
Wondering what thou seest to prize.
Happy thou, whose skill can take
Pleasure at each turn, and slake
Thy thirst by every fountain’s brink,
Where less wise men would pause to shrink:
Sometimes, ’mid stately avenues
With Cowley thou, or Marvel’s muse,
Dost walk; or Gray, by Eton’s towers;
Or Pope, in Hampton’s chesnut bowers;
Or Walton, by his loved Lea stream:
Or dost thou with our Milton dream,
Of Eden and the Apocalypse,
And hear the words from his great lips?
Speak,—in what grove or hazel shade,
For “musing meditation made,”
Dost wander?—or on Penshurst Lawn,
Where Sidney’s fame had time to dawn
And die, ere yet the hate of Men
Could envy at his perfect pen?
Or, dost thou, in some London street,
(With voices fill’d and thronging feet,)
Loiter, with mien ’twixt grave and gay?—
Or take along some pathway sweet,
Thy calm suburban way?
Happy beyond that man of Ross,
Whom mere content could ne’er engross,
Art thou,—with hope, health, “learned leisure;”
Friends, books, thy thoughts, an endless pleasure!
—Yet—yet,—(for when was pleasure made
Sunshine all without a shade?)
Thou, perhaps, as now thou rovest
Through the busy scenes thou lovest,
With an Idler’s careless look,
Turning some moth-pierced book,
Feel’st a sharp and sudden woe
For visions vanished long ago!
And then thou think’st how time has fled
Over thy unsilvered head,
Snatching many a fellow mind
Away, and leaving—what?—behind!
Nought, alas I save joy and pain
Mingled ever, like a strain
Of music where the discords vie
With the truer harmony.
So, perhaps, with thee the vein
Is sullied ever,—so the chain
Of habits and affections old,
Like a weight of solid gold,
Presseth on thy gentle breast,
Till sorrow rob thee of thy rest.
Ay: so’t must be!—Ev’n I, (whose lot
The fairy Love so long forgot,)
Seated beside this Sherris wine,
And near to books and shapes divine,
Which poets, and the painters past
Have wrought in lines that aye shall last,—
Ev’n I, with Shakspeare’s self beside me,
And one whose tender talk can guide me
Through fears, and pains, and troublous themes,
Whose smile doth fall upon my dreams
Like sunshine on a stormy sea,—
Want something—when I think of thee!