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WOULD I HAD WIST.
BY MRS. HOWITT.
« Beware of would I had wist ! ”
ANATOMIR OP MELANCHOLY
All ye that list to learned clerks be warned by what I say,
There was a merchant of the main had thirty ships and three, And all came sailing into port well laden as could be ; And he had silks, perfumes, and pearls, and wealth a golden store, Beyond the wealth of merchantmen, and yet he wanted more ; He sent his vessels out again, his thirty ships and three, But some were ta’en, and some were wrecked, and some sunk in the sea : He lost his wealth, he lost his wits, and he sung evermore, And aye his song was, night and day, 'would I had wist before!
My father knew a gentleman, with lands and golden fee,
There was a lovely lady sate within a sweet bower's shade,
His lands, his wealth, his noble halls, and liveried serving train,
NO, I. ROBERT FRANKLIN.
Ne sutor ultra crepidam, is now the almost unanimous apostrophe of the public, on the appearance of any new book whose principal recommendations to its patronage are founded on the disadvantages under which it has been produced. There is so much admirable writing, in prose and verse, in these prolific days, that readers will no longer allow the untoward circumstances under which a volume may have been composed, to propitiate their favour for the author. It must possess intrinsic merits or it will stand but little chance of success : for the times are past when circumstances purely
adventitious might have been the means of ushering it into notice. A few years ago, the case was widely different; and a rhyming tinker or cobler, was regarded as a prodigy; and ilattered, caressed and pampered to a most extravagant degree. We would not be understood to allude, for one moment, to poor Bloomfield, whose claim to public patronage was founded on real genius, and who, as far as we are aware, never received more encouragement that he was fairly entitled to as an author; but the remark will be found to apply to many others who preceded, or were contemporary with him; although to enumerate them, as they have at length returned to their original obscurity, would be a task at once unkind and invidious. Modern readers will not consent to hazard the loss of their time in perusing a book merely because they are told (what is reasonable enough), that it is a very extraordinary production, considering the limited education and habits of life of the author. If its merits are below a certain standard, no palliative that may be urged in its favour, will avail it in securing for it the indulgence it may require. The age of learned pigs is well-nigh over; and if a new volume of poems now makes its appearance, the question is not did the author compose it over his anvil or his lapstone; but does it contain any thing calculated to repay the idler for the trouble of its perusal?
The success of Clare (many of whose conceptions would do honour to a poet of any sphere in society), has lately led many persons in humble life to prefer their claims to the popularity which he appears to have attained with so much ease; and hence a series of poems, by weavers, croppers, coblers, tinkers, soldiers, ploughmen, and even washerwomen, with all, and more than all the assumption, and not one tithe of the talent of their rustic prototype. Among the works which have successively presented themselves to our notice during the last two or three years, there are, however, a few, (we say nothing of Balfour's admirable sketches, nor the poetry of J. F. Pennie, because, although persons in humble life, their evident superiority of education and taste, raise them far above other writers of the same grade in society), to whom our remarks are not intended to apply without very considerable qualifications ; nay to the one whom we are now about to introduce to the acquaintance of our readers, we are by no means sure that they will be found to apply at all.
Robert Frankin, the author of the · Miller's Muse'* was, as we gain from the preface to his interesting little volume, a few years ago, a journeyman
* The Miller's Muse, Rural Poems. By ROBERT FRANKLIN, Hull, J. Wilson, 1825.
but has of late been so far favoured by fortune, as to become (to employ his own homely, but expressive language), 'the possessor of the very place, which, when a boy, he was unwillingly compelled to leave in tears. In short, he is now a master miller, at Ferriby Sluice, Lincolnshire. The solicitations of his friends,' who had seen and approved many little poems from his pen, printed in a respectable provincial newspaper, (the Hull Advertiser, we believe), whose proprietor, Mr. Wilson, has interested himself very kindly in his behalf, induced him to undertake the present publication; and although he puts in his claim to indulgence on the score of his situation in life,' and of a limited education,' he stands in far less need of it than very many writers of verse of infinitely more lofty pretensions. There is something pleasing, and even touching in the following paragraph from his preface :
Should any objection be made to the title of the book, (several of the poems having been written during my state of servitude) I can assure the reader, if I may be thus allowed to express myself, that I have been a miller at heart all my life,—that my forefathers were millers for ages past,—and I was brought up at the post mill at Barrow, till the age of fourteen, where l acquired a knowledge of the business, which, perhaps, in more mature years, I might never have so effectually obtained; but having no father to protect me, and my grandmother, of course, leaning somewhat more to the inclinations of her own children than to those of her grandchild, I was obliged to leave the place, and went to live with the Rev. Edward Henry Hesleden, Vicar of Barrow.
Those who do not rejoice with us that the worthy Robert Franklin has at length obtained the object of his fervent aspirations, can scarcely have their hearts in the right place. Every man to his taste,' says the proverb. Some poets look for their reward in the smiles of their dulcineas; others in the admiration of the world; whilst not a few are silly enough to trust to posterity for the liquidation of their claims; but our honest miller has acted with greater prudence; he has limited his hopes to more reasonable bounds, and has, consequently, not been disappointed. How many are there who might have saved themselves a host of heart-corroding vexations, had they been equally moderate in their expectations. But it is time to leave the miller for his muse.
The poems of which Franklin's little volume is composed, are for the most part devoted to subjects either of a ' rural' character, or connected with the domestic affections; and it is only when he attempts to soar into a loftier and more ethereal atmosphere, that he ceases to be, to a certain extent, successful. His style appears to have been founded, in no small degree, upon that of Goldsmith, as will be seen by the following simple but beautiful verses, forming a portion of the leading poem in the book :
MY NATIVE VILLAGE.
Dear native village, hail! the seat of mirth; Joy of my youth, and witness of my birth; Though long a stranger to thy peaceful charms, Though long a wanderer from thy sheltering arms, Though far from thee my wasting years decline, Once more receive me, for I'm truly thine ;Once more thy rural beauties let me see, And with a lover's fondness gaze on thee. For oh! how welcome every scene appears, That charmed the childish mind in earliest
years. Yon straggling elms that skirt the rising hill, The scattered hamlets, and the aged mill;
The church-the bells, by distance sweeter made,
Of various pleasures, ever left behind. The poetical reader will here trace some trifling imitations both of Rogers and Bloomfield; but not enough to detract from the praise due to the author. On such subjects persons of feeling and refinement must write in a great measure alike. There is only a certain number of chords in the human heart, and therefore is it that it is difficult to evince any marked originality in treating on subjects connected with the domestic affections. Of a different but not less pleasing character is the following little poem. We have, however, omitted one stanza, the blemishes of which would spoil the effect of the remaining three.