Tag Archives: elegy

Elizabeth Tollet, “In Memory of the Countess of Winchelsea”

ELIZABETH TOLLET

In Memory of the Countess of Winchelsea”

 —Effugiunt avidos carmina sola rogos.  Ovid.

Sad Cypress and the Muses Tree
Shall shade Ardelia’s sacred Urn:
These with her Fame and Fate agree,
And ever live, and ever mourn.

While ev’ry Muse with vocal Breath                                           5
In moving Strains recites her Praise:
And there assumes the Cypress Wreath,
And on her Tomb resigns the Bays.

What Pow’r shall aid the Virgin Choir
To make her Worth and Virtue known?                          10
Who shall the Sculptor’s Art inspire
To write them on the lasting Stone?

The honour’d Streams of ancient Blood,
And Titles, are by Fortune giv’n:
But to be virtuous, wise, and good,                                        15
Derives a kindred Claim from Heav’n.

Virtue, and Wit in Courts admir’d,
The shining Pattern shall diffuse:
Nor, tho’ to private Life retir’d,
Are lost, but flourish with her Muse.                               20

Of those the Sister-Nine shall sing,
Yet with their Voice their Verse shall pass:
And Time shall sure Destruction bring
To wounded Stone, or molten Brass.

Tho’ Titles grace the stately Tomb,                                           25
Vain Monument of mortal Pride!
The Ruins of the mould’ring Dome
Its undistinguish’d Heap shall hide.

Wit, which outlasts the firmest Stone,
Shall, Phoenix-like, its life prolong;                                    30
No Verse can speak her but her own,
The Spleen must be her fun’ral Song.

NOTES:

Title Countess of Winchelsea The poet Anne Finch (1661-1720); she gained her title in 1712 when her husband, Heneage Finch, became the 5th Earl of Winchilsea.

Epigraph Effugiunt avidos carmina sola rogos “Only songs escape the greedy funeral pyres.” From Ovid’s “Elegy on the death of Tibullus,” Amores iii.9.

1 Cypress In ancient Greece, the cypress tree was associated with sorrow, and was often planted near graves to ward off evil spirits; Muses Tree The laurel tree, associated in ancient Greece with Apollo and the muses.

2 Ardelia Literary name or pseudonym used by Anne Finch; Sacred Urn Used to hold ashes.

21 Sister-Nine The nine muses. Goddesses of science, literature, and art.

27 mouldering Dome That is, the decaying tomb, or monument, that marks Finch’s grave.

30 Phoenix Mythological bird with the ability to resurrect. After the phoenix dies in a self-made fire, it is reborn and rises from its own ashes.

32 The Spleen An ode written by Anne Finch, first published in 1701.

 Source: Poems on Several Occasions. With Anne Boleyn to King Henry VIII. An Epistle (London, 1755), pp. 49-50. [Google Books]

 Edited by Talia Uribe

 

Anne Ross, “To the memory of a Young Lady, who died in the eleventh year of her age”

[ANNE ROSS]

“To the memory of a Young LADY, who died in the eleventh year of her age”

All ye who mourn
The loss of friends that’s dear,
The mournful scene that is exhibit here,
Bids envy cease, and pity drop a tear.

To you, whose hearts can feel when others mourn,
This is address’d, it soon may be your turn;
Their case to day, to-morrow may be your’s,
The clearest sun oft sets in clouds and showers.

A tender mother reared a darling child,                                                   5
Joy of her friends, and all the country’s pride;
Her person graceful, her complexion fair,
An antient Baronet’s apparent heir.

Her comely face display’d a lively bloom,
Which promis’d health, and many years to come;                               10
T’ inform her mind, and make her wise as fair,
Was still her honour’d mother’s constant care.

For her, to Heav’n, she still address’d her prayer,
That it might always keep her in its care;
That she, in ev’ry stage of life, might shine,                                            15
And see her race, a long and prosp’rous line.

Her aunt and mother saw, with glad surprise,
Inherent virtues near perfection rise:
Their hopes were rais’d, their expectations high;
But soon, alas! their expectations fly.                                                       20

How fleeting are our pleasures, here below?
A stream of joy, now turns a tide of woe.

From bloom of health, this darling child is seiz’d,
Laid on her bed and pain’d with sore disease;
If human aid could cure, that aid was giv’n;                                           25
But who can alter the decree of Heav’n.

How calm and patient in distress she lay;
In all her trouble never ceas’d to pray:
Th’ afflicted mother sends her sighs to Heav’n,
Restore my child, and all I wish is giv’n.                                                   30

If this request’s deny’d, O! help me still,
To be resign’d unto thy heavenly will;
Heav’n, oft in mercy, does our wish deny,
Our surest hope is fix’d above the sky.

The child was quite resign’d; to die was gain,                                           35
Her prayer was not for life, but ease from pain:
Her prayer was not unheard, her wish was given;
Her blessed Saviour takes her home to heaven.

In youth and innocence, the child she dies,
And angels waft her spirit to the skies.                                                     40

NOTES:

Epigraph Unable to trace; possibly provided by the author.

5 reared “To raise a person” (OED).

8 antient “The spelling of ‘ancient’ from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century; it refers to the titles of office or position formerly occupied” (OED).

16 race A poetical term that refers to “a set of children or descendants” (OED).

24 sore “Violent with pain” (Johnson).

40 waft “To carry through the air” (Johnson).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Glasgow, 1791), pp. 36-38. [Google Books]

Edited by Ka Wing Tsang

Sarah Dixon, “On the Death of My Dear Brother…”

[SARAH DIXON]

“On the DEATH of My Dear BROTHER, Late of University College, OXFORD. Who Dy’d Young.”

Mournful the Night! with utmost Horror spread;
Which told my trembling Soul, that thine was fled.
To Sense ’twas dreadful, Nature cou’d not bear
So great a Breach, nor the sad Tidings hear,
Without the Symptoms of a wild Despair.                                           5
’Twas then I lost, a Brother and a Friend!
What poinant Grief, must such a Stroke attend?
Tho’ as prophetick of so short a Date,
His Soul was disciplin’d, to meet his Fate,
Yet my Distress no Mitigation finds;                                                      10
That Blessing is reserv’d for stronger Minds:
Minds like his own, who can extend their View;
Sit loose to every transient Good below,
Rise to aetherial Joys, and the bright Track pursue.
Wond’rous young Man! thou early blooming Good,                            15
Snatch’d hence, e’re half thy Virtue’s understood.
In useful Learning, what swift Progress made!
How soon the tender Parents Care repaid.
His toward Genius did with Ease attain,
What some by long Fatigue have sought in vain;                                20
Strict were his Morals, his Address polite!
Wit, Judgment, and Humanity, unite
To make his Loss esteem’d, as infinite.
Ah! faint Description, of a Worth so great;
This a short Sketch, th’ Original compleat.                                            25
Like some Noviciate, I attempt to show,
Those Lines a Master Hand wants Skill to do:
Who can paint Souls? or trace to Realms of Light,
Spirits prepar’d, to reach that glorious Height.
’Twas Heav’n, not Death, that ravish’d him away,                                30
For such Perfection never can decay.

NOTES:

Title On the DEATH of my Dear BROTHER A reference to James Dixon Jr. (1673-1700), brother of Sarah Dixon whose death inspired the poem (Kennedy, Poetic Sisters, 129).

7 poinant Poignant; “painfully sharp to the physical or mental feelings” (OED).

8 prophetick Prophetic; “of the nature of a prophecy or prediction” (OED).

10 Mitigation “Compassion, mercy, or favour” (OED).

14 aetherial Ethereal; “Of or relating to heaven, God, or the gods; heavenly, celestial” (OED).

26 Noviciate “A beginner, a novice; a person who is new to something” (OED).

Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Canterbury, 1740), pp. 169-170. [Google Books]

Edited by Lee Hammel

James Graeme, “Rona: An Elegiac Ballad”

JAMES GRAEME

“RONA: An Elegiac Ballad”

 “The noise of war is on the breeze,
And can Hidallan stay?
My soul is in the strife of shields—”
He spoke, and burst away.

O! where shall Morna’s maid repose,                                    5
‘Till heroes have their fame?
On Morna’s silent hill of hinds,
Or by its rushy stream?

But what if in the hour of blood
The lovely hero fall?                                                        10
While some dark warrior hangs his shield?
A trophy in his hall!

Leave, Slumber! leave the eye of tears,
Forsake my limbs, Repose!
Lean, love-lorn maidens! from your clouds,                      15
And aid me with your woes.

Fair was Hidallan, as the flow’r
That dyes the dusky heath;
But raise not, bards! the mournful song
Around his stone of death.                                           20

How fell the hero? In his might,
Amid his growing fame!
Not feeble was Hidallan’s foe,
His sword a meteor’s flame.

No more shall Morna’s hall rejoice,                                     25
The feast of shells be spread;
The sigh of Rona’s secret soul,
In Death’s dark house is laid.

Lour not on Rona from your cloud,
The rolling of your rest!                                                 30
Not weak, Hidallan! was my sire,
No fear disturb’d his breast.

In aged Cairbar’s lonely hall,
The strife of heroes rose;
His was Rivine’s stolen glance,                                             35
And many were his foes.

In strength he grasp’d his sword of fire,
The stoutest started back:
Not weak, Hidallan! was my sire,
Nor is his daughter weak.                                             40

Ah! whether rolls thy airy hall?
The sky its blue resumes;
Her father’s sword prepares the cloud,
On which thy Rona comes.

 NOTES:

Title Rona The characters who appear in this poem are taken from The Poems of Ossian (1760) by James Macpherson, a collection of poems Macpherson claimed to have translated from Gaelic word of mouth but were, in truth, largely poems of Macpherson’s own creation based loosely in Gaelic or Celtic myths. Rona is the only character mentioned in this poem that does not appear in Macpherson’s The Poems of Ossian. The poems do, however, mention a character named “Ronnan,” who is the male lover of Rivine mentioned in line 35 here (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

2 Hilladan The son of Lamor, one of Fingal’s heroes, whose love had been slighted by the woman Comala. He debuts in the poem “Comala” in The Poems of Ossian (David Scott Kastan, The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature, 170; James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

5 Morna Also known as Muirne—first appears in “Fragment 14″ by James Macpherson prior to the release of The Poems of Ossian; debuts in “Carthon” in The Poems of Ossian as the daughter of Cormac (King of Ireland), sister of Classammor, wife of  Comhal, mother of Fingal; “fairest of maidens” and “beloved by all” (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

5 Morna’s Maid A maid whose proper name is Moina. In “Fingal, Book One” Cuthullin refers to her as the “maid.” Moina is the daughter of Reuthamir, wife of Clessammor, and mother of Carthon (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

7 Hinds “Female deer, especially of the red deer” (OED).

13 Slumber The Gaelic goddess of sleep and dreams, Caer Ibormeith (Edain McCoy, Celtic Women’s Spirituality, 246).

26 The feast of shells “The ancient Scots, as well as the present Highlanders, drank in shells; hence it is that we so often meet, in the old poetry, with ‘chief of shells’ and ‘the hall of shells’” (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

28 Death Manannan mac Lir: a sea deity, the guardian of the Underworld, and the one responsible for ferrying souls to the afterlife (John Green, Celtic Gods and Heroes, 9).

29 Lour A gloomy or sullen look; a frown, a scowl (OED).

33 Cairbar First mentioned first in “Fingal, Book One” in The Poems of Ossian; he is the tyrannical lord of Atha and chief of the race of Fir-bolg; father of Degrena and Ullin, husband of Deugala, son of Borbar-duthul. He is slain by Moran, called the “hoary chief of shells,” and he kills Cormac, the father of Morna (James Macpherson, The Poems of Ossian).

35 Rivine First appears in the poem “Fragment 9” by James Macpherson prior to the release of The Poems of Ossian; also called the “fairest of maids,” daughter of Conar, sister of Connan, lover of Ronnan. At the death of her brother and her lover, she had herself buried alive beside them (James Macpherson, “Fragment 9”).

 Source: Poems on Several Occasions (Edinburgh, 1773), pp. 51-53. [Google Books]

Edited by Amanda Nelson

“Posthumus,” “The Partridges: an elegy”

“Posthumus”

 “The Partridges: an elegy. Written on the 31st of August, 1788”

 Ill-Fated birds, for whom I raise the strain,
To tell my lively sorrow for your fates;
Ye little know, ere morn shall gild the plain,
What drear destruction all your race awaits.

While innocently basking in the ray,                                                          5
That throws the lengthen’d shadows o’er the lawn,
Unconscious you behold the parting day,
Nor feel a fear to meet the morrow’s dawn.

Could man like you thus wait the ills of life,
Nor e’er anticipate misfortune’s blow,                                              10
He’d shun a complicated load of strife,
Greater than real evils can bestow.

Ev’n now the sportsman, anxious for his fame,
Prepares the tube so fatal to your race;
He pants already for the glorious game,                                                  15
And checks the lingering hours’ tardy pace.

Raptur’d he’ll hie him, at the dawn of day,
With treacherous caution tread your haunts around,
Exulting rout his poor defenceless prey,
Then bring the fluttering victims to the ground.                             20

Yes! while he gives the meditated blow,
And sees around the struggling covey bleed,
His iron heart a barbarous joy shall know,
And plume itself upon the bloody deed.

For shame! Can men who boast a polish’d mind,                                  25
And feelings too, these savage pastimes court?
In such inhuman acts a pleasure find,
And call the cruel desolation—sport?

Thousands that graze the fields must daily bleed,
Necessity compels—for man they die                                             30
But no excuse necessity can plead,
To kill those harmless tenants of the sky.

By heaven privileg’d they build the nest,
They take the common bounty nature yields,
No property with vicious force molest,                                                   35
But pick the refuse of the open fields.

Then why, if God this privilege has given,
Should we pervert great nature’s bounteous plan?
For happiness is sure the end of heaven,
As well to bird and insect as to man.                                               40

Like us they move within their narrow sphere,
Each various passion of the mind confess;
And joy and sorrow, love and hope and fear,
Alternate pain them, and alternate bless.

Yes! they can pine in grief—with rapture glow                                       45
Their little hearts, to every feeling true:
Like us conceive affection, and the blow
That kills the offspring, wounds the mother too.

Then bid your breasts for nobler pastimes burn!
Let not such cruelty your actions stain!                                           50
Humanity should teach mankind to spurn
The pleasures purchas’d by another’s pain.

 NOTES:

 Author   “POSTHUMUS” appears at the conclusion of the poem followed by “Canterbury.” “POSTHUMUS” is most likely the author’s pseudonym, while “Canterbury” is most likely where the author had lived.

 1   raise the strain Here the phrase means something like “write this poem.” Possibly also an allusion to the hymn “Come, Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain” by St. John Damascus.

 17 hie “To cause to hasten; to hasten, urge on, bring quickly” (OED).

 19 rout “Of a person: to cry out; to roar, bellow, to shout” (OED).

22 covey “A brood or hatch of partridges; a family of partridges keeping together during the first season” (OED).

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 63 (February 1788), p. 824.

 Edited by Amanda Boyer

Anonymous, “Verses, Written by a Young Lady, On the Death of her Father.

ANONYMOUS

“Verses, Written by a Young Lady, On the Death of her Father”

 How short a span of miserable life!
And short the blessings that on earth we know!
Forc’d from a tender and a loving wife,
A husband, and a father’s lost below.

No more with happiness I view the morn,                                             5
No more with joy I tread the well-known walk;
Each place to me is dreary and forlorn,
But think in every thing I hear him talk.

When on each plant I turn my wandering eye,
And on each flower I think I see his shade,                                    10
I often stop, and think my father by;
But he is gone, and left this vain parade.

Of life, that transitory, fleeting thing,
To happier realms of everlasting joy:
He’s couch’d beneath th’ Almighty’s heavenly wing,                            15
And bless’d with happiness nothing can destroy.

NOTES:

 7 forlorn “Pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely” (OED).

13 transitory “Not permanent” (OED).

15 Almighty God, the Creator.

12 Printer’s error, period added to this line.

Source: The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 59 (Supplement, 1789), p. 1206.

Edited by Sierra Bagstad

Richard Jago, “The Blackbirds”

RICHARD  JAGO

“The Blackbirds”

The sun had chas’d the mountain snow,
And kindly loos’d the frozen soil,
The melting streams began to flow,
And ploughmen urg’d their annual toil.

‘Twas then, amid the vocal throng                                    5
Whom nature wakes to mirth and love,
A blackbird rais’d his am’rous song,
And thus it echo’d through the grove.

O fairest of the feather’d train!
For whom I sing, for whom I burn,                               10
Attend with pity to my strain,
And grant my love a kind return.

For see the wintry storms are flown,
And gently Zephyrs fan the air;
Let us the genial influence own,                                         15
Let us the vernal pastime share.

The raven plumes his jetty wing
To please his croaking paramour;
The larks responsive ditties sing,
And tell their passion as they soar.                               20

But trust me, love, the raven’s wing
Is not to be compar’d with mine;
Nor can the lark so sweetly sing
As I, who strength with sweetness join.

O! let me all thy steps attend!                                              25
I’ll point new treasures to thy sight;
Whether the grove thy wish befriend,
Or hedge-rows green, or meadows bright.

I’ll shew my love the clearest rill
Whose streams among the pebbles stray:                   30
These will we sip, and sip our fill,
Or on the flow’ry margin play.

I’ll lead her to the thickest brake,
Impervious to the school-boy’s eye;
For her the plaister’d nest I’ll make,                                    35
And on her downy pinions lie.

When, prompted by a mother’s care,
Her warmth shall form th’ imprison’d young;
The pleasing task I’ll gladly share,
Or cheer her labors with my song.                                 40

To bring her food I’ll range the fields,
And cull the best of every kind;
Whatever nature’s bounty yields,
And love’s assiduous care can find.

And when my lovely mate would stray                               45
To taste the summer sweets at large,
I’ll wait at home the live-long day,
And tend with care our little charge.

Then prove with me the sweets of love,
With me divide the cares of life;                                      50
No bush shall boast in all the grove
So fond a mate, so blest a wife.

He ceas’d his song. The melting dame
With soft indulgence heard the strain;
She felt, she own’d a mutual flame,                                     55
And hasted to relieve his pain.

He led her to the nuptial bower,
And nestled closely to her side;
The fondest bridegroom of that hour,
And she, the most delighted bride.                                 60

Next morn he wak’d her with a song,
“Behold, he said, the new-born day!
The lark his matin peal has rung,
Arise, my love, and come away.”

Together through the fields they stray’d,                            65
And to the murm’ring riv’let’s side;
Renew’d their vows, and hopp’d and play’d,
With honest joy and decent pride.

When oh! with grief the Muse relates
The mournful sequel of my tale;                                     70
Sent by an order from the fates,
A gunner met them in the vale.

Alarm’d the lover cry’d, My dear,
Haste, haste away, from danger fly;
Here, gunner, point thy thunder here;                                75
O spare my love, and let me die.

At him the gunner took his aim;
His aim, alas! was all too true:
O! had he chose some other game!
Or shot—as he was wont to do!                                      80

Divided pair! forgive the wrong,
While I with tears your fate rehearse;
I’ll join the widow’s plaintive song,
And save the lover in my verse.

NOTES:

7 blackbird Common Eurasian thrush, noted for its melodious song (OED).

14 Zephyr The west wind.

29 shews Period spelling of “show.” A rill is a small stream.

33 brake A thick stand of bushes or briars.

35 plaistr’d Period spelling of plastered.

36 pinions The terminal segment of a bird’s wing, bearing the primary flight feathers (OED).

57 bower A term for abode or cottage.

63 matin peal “Matin” is French for spring; “peal” is the ringing of a bell.

66 riv’let Rivulet, a small river or stream.

Source: Bell’s classical arrangement of fugitive poetry. Vol. viii. (London, 1789) pp. 103-106 [ECCO]

Edited by Phillip Barron

Reverend John Langhorne, The Tears of Music. A Poem, to the Memory of Mr. Handel

REVEREND JOHN LANGHORNE
The Tears of Music. A Poem, to the Memory of Mr. Handel

SPIRITS of Music, and ye Powers of Song,
That wak’d to painful Melody the Lyre
Of young JESSIDES, when, on GILBOA’s Mount,
He wept o’er bleeding Friendship; ye that mourn’d,
While Freedom drooping o’er EUPHRATES’ Stream                                  5
Her pensive Harp on the pale Osier hung,
Begin once more the Sorrow-soothing Lay.
Ah! where shall now the Muse fit Numbers find?
What Accents pure to greet thy tuneful Shade?
Sweet Harmonist! ’Twas thine, the tender Fall                                          10
Of Pity’s plaintive Lay; for thee the Stream
Of silver-winding Music sweeter play’d,
And purer flow’d for Thee, ―all silent now
Those Airs that, breathing o’er the Breast of THAMES,
Led amorous ECHO down the long, long Vale,                                         15
Delighted; studious from thy sweeter Strain
To melodize her own; when the sad Hour
She mourns in Anguish o’er the golden Breast
Of young NARCISSUS. From their Amber Urns,
Parting their green Locks streaming in the Sun,                                       20
The NAIADS rose and smil’d: Nor since the Day,
When first by Music, and by Freedom led
From Grecian ACIDALE; nor since the Day,
When last from ARNO’s weeping Fount they came,
To smooth the Ringlets of SABRINA’s Hair,                                               25
Heard They like Minstrelsy—Fountains and Shades
Of TWIT’NAM, and of WINDSOR fam’d in Song!
Ye Mounts of CLERMONT, and ye Bowers of HAM!
That heard the fine Strain vibrate thro’ your Groves,
Ah! where were then your long-lov’d Muses fled,                                     30
When HANDEL breath’d no more?—and Thou, sweet Queen,
That nightly wrapt thy MILTON’s hallow’d Ear
In the soft Ecstasies of LYDIAN Airs,
And since attun’d to HANDEL’s high-wound Lyre
The Lay by Thee suggested; could’st not Thou                                        35
Soothe with thy sweet Song the grim Fury’s Breast?
Ah! no: from Thee too, heav’d the helpless Sigh,
Thy fair Eyes floating in a mournful Tear,
When MILTON died, and HANDEL breath’d no more.
COLD-HEARTED Death! his wanly-glaring Eye                                          40
Nor Virtue’s Smile attracts, nor Fame’s loud Trump
Can pierce his Iron Ear, for ever barr’d
To gentle Sounds: the golden Voice of Song,
That charms the gloomy Partner of his Birth,
That soothes Despair and Pain, He hears no more,                                 45
Than rude Winds, blust’ring from the CAMBRIAN Cliffs,
The Traveller’s feeble Lay. To court fair Fame,
To toil with slow Steps up the Star-crown’d Hill,
Where Science, leaning on her sculptur’d Urn,
Looks conscious on the secret-working Hand                                           50
Of Nature; on the Wings of Genius borne,
To soar above the beaten Walks of Life,
Is, like the Paintings of an Evening Cloud,
Th’ Amusement of an Hour. Night, gloomy Night
Spreads her black Wings, and all the Vision dies.                                     55
ERE long, the Heart, that heaves this Sigh to Thee,
Shall beat no more! ere long, on this fond Lay
Which mourns at HANDEL’s Tomb, insulting Time
Shall strew his cankering Rust. Thy Strain, perchance,
Thy sacred Strain shall the hoar Warrior spare;                                       60
For Sounds like thine, at Nature’s early Birth,
Arous’d Him slumbering on the dead Profound
Of dusky Chaos; by the golden Harps
Of choral Angels summon’d to his Race:
And Sounds like thine, when Nature is no more,                                     65
Shall call him weary from the lengthen’d Toils
Of twice Ten Thousand Years.—O would his Hand
Yet spare some Portion of this vital Flame,
The trembling Muse that now faint Effort makes
On young and artless Wing, should bear thy Praise                                70
Sublime, above the mortal Bounds of Earth,
With heavenly Fires relume her feeble Ray,
And learn of Seraphs how to sing to Thee.

I FEEL, I feel the sacred Impulse—hark!
Wak’d from according Lyres the sweet Strains flow                                 75
In Symphony divine; from Air to Air
The trembling Numbers fly: swift bursts away
The Flow of Joy; now swells the Flight of Praise.
Springs the shrill Trump aloft; the toiling Chords
Melodious labour thro’ the flying Maze;                                                    80
And the deep Base his strong Sounds rolls away,
Majestically sweet—Yet, HANDEL, raise,
Yet wake to higher Strains thy sacred Lyre:
The Name of Ages, the Supreme of Things,
The great MESSIAH asks it; He whose Hand                                             85
Led into Form yon everlasting Orbs,
The Harmony of Nature—He whose Hand
Stretch’d o’er the wilds of Space this beauteous Ball,
Whose Spirit breathes thro’ all his smiling Works
Music and Love—yet HANDEL raise the Strain.                                        90
Hark! what angelic Sounds, what Voice divine
Breathes thro’ the ravisht Air! My rapt Ear feels
The Harmony of Heaven. Hail sacred Choir!
Immortal Spirits, hail! If haply those
That erst in favour’d PALESTINE proclaim’d                                              95
Glory and Peace: her Angel-haunted Groves,
Her piny Mountain, and her golden Vales
Re-echo’d Peace—But, Oh! Suspend the Strain—
The swelling Joy’s too much for mortal Bounds!
’Tis Transport even to Pain. Oh, lead me then,                                        100
Convey me to the sad, the mournful Scene,
Where trembling Nature saw her GOD expire.
Flow, stupid Tears! and veil the conscious Eye
That yet presumes to gaze—
Flow, stupid Tears! in vain—ye too confess                                             105
That HE alone unequal’d Sorrow bore.

BUT, hark! what pleasing Sounds invite mine Ear,
So venerably sweet? ‘Tis SION’s Lute.
Behold her Hero! from his valiant Brow
Looks JUDAH’s Lyon, on his Thigh the Sword                                         110
Of vanquished APOLLONIUS—The shrill Trump
Thro’ BETHORON proclaims th’ approaching Fight.
I see the brave Youth lead his little Band,
With Toil and Hunger faint; yet from his Arm
The rapid SYRIAN flies. Thus HENRY once,                                              115
The British HENRY, with his way-worn Troop,
Subdued the Pride of France—now louder blows
The martial Clangor, lo NICANOR’s Hoft!
With threat’ning Turrets crown’d, slowly advance
The ponderous Elephants.—                                                                    120
The blazing Sun, from many a golden Shield
Reflected, gleams afar. Judean Chief!
How shall thy Force, thy little Force sustain
The dreadful Shock!
The Hero comes— ’Tis boundless Mirth and Song                                  125
And Dance and Triumph, every laboring String,
And Voice, and breathing Shell in Concert strain
To swell the Raptures of tumultuous Joy.
O Master of the Passions and the Soul,
Seraphic HANDEL! how shall Words describe                                          130
Thy Music’s countless Graces, nameless Powers!

When He of GAZA, blind, and sunk in Chains,
On female Treachery looks greatly down,
How the breast burns indignant! In thy strain,
When sweet-voic’d Piety resigns to Heaven,                                            135
Glows not each Bosom with the Flame of Virtue?
O’ER JEPTHA’s votive Maid when the soft Lute
Sounds the slow Symphony of Funeral Grief,
What youthful Breast but melts with tender Pity!
What Parent bleeds not with a Parents woe!                                           140

O, longer than this worthless Lay can live!
While Fame and Music sooth the human Ear;
Be this thy Praise: to lead the polish’d Mind
To Virtue’s noblest Heights; to light the Flame
Of British Freedom, rouse the generous Thought,                                  145
Refine the Passions, and exalt the Soul
To love, to Heaven, to Harmony and Thee.

NOTES:

Title George Frederick Handel  Baroque composer, 1685-1759. He died in London, England.

3 GILBOA’s Mount  Mountain in Northern Israel. In “The Book of Samuel” of the Bible, Mount Gilboa is the location where the Philistines killed Saul and his son Jonathon. Handel composed Saul, an English Libretto, in 1738 (Cudworth, Charles. Handel. 1972. p. 28.).

5 EUPHRATES  This river appears in Handel’s Opera Belshazzar (opera.stanford.edu).

6 Osier  “A small Eurasian willow” (OED).

14 Those Airs…THAMES  The Water-Music (Author’s note). “Handel’s matchless delicacy as an orchestrator…makes him alert to the beauties of varied sonority and echo effects in the resonant clarity of a summer evening on the river [Thames]” (Keates, Jonathan. Handel: The Man and his Music. 1985. p. 77).

15-19 ECHO…NARCISSUS  From Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

21 NAIADS  Water nymphs.

22 Grecian ACIDALE  A fountain in Greece, referred to in Spenser’s “The Faerie Queene” (Hamilton, AC. The Spenser Encyclopedia. 1990. Google Books p. 4.).

24-25 ARNO’s weeping Fount…SABRINA’s Hair  An allusion to John Milton’s “Comus”. Arno is a river, and Sabrina, a nymph. In 1737, Handel “reworked Milton’s Comus for an opera, Sabrina” (Lang, Paul Henry. George Frideric Handel. 1966. p. 317.).

27 TWIT’NAM…WINDSOR  Alexander Pope’s house and his poem “Windsor Forest”.

28 CLERMONT  A mansion built in the eighteenth century in Surrey, England.

28 HAM  A suburb of London, on the banks of the Thames.

33 LYDIAN  A musical scale.

34 And since attun’d…  “L’Allegro” and “Il Penseroso”, set to Music by Mr. HANDEL (Author’s note).

36 sweet Song…  See MILTON’s “Lycidas” (Author’s note).

41 Trump  Trumpet (OED).

46 CAMBRIAN  Welsh.

73 Relume  To relight, rekindle (OED).

85 MESSIAH  Handel’s English oratorio, composed in 1741.

108 Sion’s  Zion.

109 her Hero  Judas Maccabeus (Author’s note). Handel composed an oratorio by the same name in 1746 (Keates 160).

110-112 JUDAH’s…BETHORAN  “The governor of Samaria, Apollonius, now assembled a large number of Gentiles into an army…to attack the people of Israel. When Judah learned of Apollonius’s movements, he went out to meet this army and defeated them, killing Apollonius…Among the spoils, Judah found Apollonius’s own sword, which he took and used in battle for the rest of his life.” (The Inclusive Bible. 2007. Google Books. p. 571.) This battle took place in Bethoran.

116 Henry  Henry V, King of England from 1413-1422, defeated the French in the fifteenth century.

118 NICANOR  A governor of Judea.

125 The Hero comes…  Chorus of Youths, in Judas Maccabeus (Author’s note).

132 When He of Gaza…  See the Oratorio of Samson (Author’s note).

137 JEPTHA  From Bible Judg. 11. Handel composed his last oratorio, Jephtha, in 1751 (Cudworth 49).

SOURCE:
Langhorne, John. The Tears of Music. A Poem, To the Memory of Mr. Handel. With an Ode to the River Eden. London: Printed for R. Griffiths, in the Strand. MDCCLX. Print. Folio from Sutro Library of the California State Library, San Francisco.

Edited by Gerald Barr