Felpham: An Epistle To Henrietta Of Lavant.

A poem by William Hayley


Hail Felpham! Hail! in youth my favorite scene!
First in my heart of villages marine!
To me thy waves confirm'd my truest wealth,
My only parent's renovated health,
Whose love maternal, and whose sweet discourse
Gave to my feelings all their cordial force:
Hence mindful, how her tender spirit blest
Thy salutary air, and balmy rest;
Thee, as profuse of recollections sweet,
Fit for a pensive veteran's calm retreat,
I chose, as provident for sure decay,
A nest for age in life's declining day!
Reserving Eartham for a darling son,
Confiding in our threads of life unspun:
Blind to futurity!--O blindness, given
As mercy's boon to man from pitying Heaven!
Man could not live, if his prophetic eyes
View'd all afflictions, ere they will arise.
Think, gentle friend, who saw'st, in chearful hour
Thy poet planning a sequestered tower,
And gayly rearing, in affection's pride,
His little villa by the ocean's side;
Encircled then by friendly artists, three,
Full of sweet fancy, and of social glee,
Think what sensations must have pierc'd his breast
Had a prophetic voice this truth exprest:
O'er thy new fabric ere six year's have fled
Lonely thou'lt mourn all these dear inmates dead.
The unrelenting grave absorb'd them all,
And in the shade of this domestic wall,
Which, as it rose re-echoed to their voice,
And heard them in gay presages rejoice
Of future studies, works of special note!
That each, to deck these precincts, would devote.
Here robb'd of them, their leader, and their friend,
Of their kind visions feels the mournful end,
Afflicted, and alone!--Yet not alone!
Their hovering spirits make this scene their own.
O sweet prerogative of love sublime!
Which so can soften destiny, and time,
That grief-worn hearts, by Fancy's charm revive!
The lost are present! the deceas'd alive!
Yes! ye dear buried inmates of my mind!
Your converse still within these walls I find;
In hours of study, and in hours of rest,
You still to me my purest thoughts suggest:
My heart's propensities you cherish still
To Heaven thanksgiving! and to earth good-will!
In you I still behold affection's smile,
Which can all troubles of the heart beguile;
I hear your kind approvance of my zeal,
When, anxious all your merits to reveal,
Having consign'd your bones to sacred earth,
My mind aspir'd to memorize your worth.
Grateful employment of the feeling soul!
That, in despite of sorrow's dark controul
Keeps the pure form of deathless virtue bright
By just commemoration's soothing light!
For such employment thou wast aptly made,
Thou dear sequester'd cell! in whose calm shade
Thy lonely bard might suit his plaintive strain,
To solemn music from the murmuring main!
Belov'd marine retreat! I oft recall
The night, I first repos'd within thy wall:
A night devoted, at a friend's desire,
To touch the chords of a sepulchral lyre!
Touch'd not in vain!--The faithful tribute brought
To cureless grief the lenitive, she sought;
And Lushington, thro' tearful anguish, smil'd
On truth's memorial of her darling child.
Little I thought, when eager to bestow
The heart's pure offering on parental woe,
How soon my filial pride, and friend most dear,
Would claim the "meed of a melodious tear."
Dear sacred shades of Cowper! and my Son!
Who, in my fond affection, liv'd as one!
Congenial inmates! on whose loss I found
The sweetest light of life in darkness drown'd!
Oft have ye witness'd, while, in this calm cell,
Ye watch'd the lonely bard, ye lov'd so well,
Oft have ye witness'd, how his struggling mind
Labour'd affliction's fetters to unbind,
Ere his o'er-burthen'd faculties could cope
With that ambitious task of tender hope,
To render justice to you both; and frame
Memorials worthy of each honour'd name:
A debt the heart must feel! & truth, and nature claim!
Your smile, dear visionary guests of night!
O'er my nocturnal hours breath'd new delight;
Made me exult in labour, plann'd for you!
Its progress from your inspiration grew:
The toil was sweet, that your approvance cheer'd;
For what your love inspir'd, that love endear'd.
Nor unregarded by the fair, and great,
Was your recluse in this sequester'd state;
When I began, by just records, to prove
How Cowper merited our country's love;
The loveliest regent of poetic taste;
First of the fair; with all attractions grac'd!
Friend of the muses! and herself a muse!
Her bright eyes dimm'd with sorrow's sacred dews,
The high-born beauty, in whose lot combin'd
All--that could charm and grieve a feeling mind,
Shar'd with me, in my cell, some pensive hours;
Herself most eloquent on Cowper's powers,
Urg'd to his willing Eulogist his claim
To public gratitude, and purest fame.
The memoir, as by gradual toil it grows,
Endears the tranquil scene, in which it rose;
And sheds, since public favor blest the page,
A soothing lustre on my letter'd age.
The dues of faithful memory fondly paid
To him, devotion's bard! dear sacred shade!
Then my paternal hand was prompt to raise
To that blest pupil, who had shar'd his praise
A similar record of tender truth;
The genuine portraiture of studious youth--
Task of such pleasing pain, as pierc'd the heart
Of Daedalus, the sire of antient art!
When, in fond zeal, his busy hand begun
To mould the story of his hapless son,
But falter'd, while, o'erwhelm'd in mournful thought,
He work'd, and wept upon the work, he wrought.
Ah peerless youth! whose highly-gifted hand
Could all varieties of skill command,
Ere illness undermin'd thy powers to use
The Sculptor's chizzel, and the Painter's hues!
Had thy ascending talents, unenchain'd,
Of studious life the promis'd zenith gain'd,
Confederate arts would then have joy'd to see
Their English Michael Angelo in thee.
But never be it by true love forgot,
Thou hast a higher, and a happier lot!
The prime of blessings, in a world like this,
Is early transit to the realms of bliss:
Thence thy pure spirit oft will charm to rest
Those pangs of fond regret, that pierce my breast,
When recollection mournfully surveys
Unfinish'd products of thy studious days.
Ah what a host of filial fair designs:
Where, springing from the heart, the fancy shines,
Thy enterprising mind had here bestow'd,
To honour Felpham as thy sire's abode!
All to thy mental eyes were present here;
The scene, we join'd to deck, all yet endear,
Tho' hardly embrios of plastic grace,
Many yet want their features, and their place.
These vacant circlets, that still court mine eye,
Can I survey, without a bursting sigh,
When fond remembrance tells me that from these
Thy filial hand, tho' robb'd of strength and ease,
Yet inly conscious of ingenious power,
Resolv'd, in labour's first reviving hour,
To fashion portraits claiming just regard,
The Tuscan sculptor! and the Grecian bard!
Whom 'twas thy hope in marble to create
As honour'd guardians of thy poet's gate;
There is no spot within this Villa's bound,
E'en to the Turret's topmost airy round,
Which thy kind fancy, that no ills could check.
With sweet ideal projects fail'd to deck:
Eager to fix around, below, above,
Proofs of thy skill, and monuments of love!
Thy gay activity how passing sweet,
Ere this arising structure was complete!
When 'twas our joy its scaffolds to ascend,
And mark how bright its varied views extend;
To search how far the glass-assisted eye
May scenes of splendor, and of peace, descry!
The first, where, blazing in the gorgeous west,
The sun delights on Vecta's hills to rest,
And gild those fleets, that, when they cease to roam;
Come fraught with glory to her favorite home;
The second, where, in softer northern light,
Eartham, lov'd little hill, allures the sight,
And towering woods, that crown the loftier Nore,
Salute our seamen, as they near the shore!
Ye scenes, that live in memory's regard.
Whose quiet beauty charm'd your pensive bard!
In hopes his eye might long delight to trace,
Tho' distant, visible, your rural grace;
In hopes of tender love, not idle pride!
He rear'd his turret by the ocean's side,
Lofty, tho' little! that his sight might still
Enjoy sweet intercourse with Eartham-hill;
Where, while his heart with pure ambition glow'd,
The filial artist plann'd his own abode;
And by a telegraph, his skill design'd,
Endearing mark of his inventive mind,
He meant to hold, as mutual wants require,
Constant communion with his absent sire:
Fair purpose! furnishing much kind employ,
And oft a subject of ideal joy
To hearts, forbid by mercy to foresee,
How soon the heaven-taught youth, by heaven's decree
Must leave the favorite hill, that charm'd his eyes,
In early transit to serener skies!
Angel! yet visible to mental sight!
Still let me, pensive in my Turret's height,
Whose view of heaven unbroken, unconfin'd
Fixes the lifted eye and fills the mind;
Let love, ascending from earth's dark abyss,
Still commune with thee in thy scene of bliss!
Sole meditation on thy heavenly worth.
Transcending all the social joys of earth;
To purest fancy giving boundless scope,
Turns worldly trouble to celestial hope.
My stedfast friend! unchang'd by chance and time!
Pure in the wane of life, as in its prime;

Dear Henrietta, to whom justice pays
Her cordial tribute in these local lays;
'Tis the prime privilege of souls like thine,
To feast on heavenly thoughts in life's decline.
Faith to thy veteran bard exults to bring
Her living water from the Christian spring;
Hence the sweet vision, soft as evening's ray,
Shedding enchantment o'er the close of day:
Hence the persuasion, which all time endears,
That our true friendship, firm thro' changeful years,
In scenes exempt from clouds of pain and strife,
Has sure expectancy of endless life.

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