William Lisle Bowles

Fourteen Sonnets, Elegiac and Descriptive.
Written During a Tour.

Bath and London, 1789.

Electronic text transcribed and prepared by Michael Gamer, University of Pennsylvania.


"Sonnet I. Written at Tinemouth, Northumberland, after a Tempestuous Voyage."
"Sonnet II. Written at Bamborough Castle."
"Sonnet III."
"Sonnet IV. To the River Wenbeck"
"Sonnet V. To the River Tweed."
"Sonnet VI."
"Sonnet VII. At a Village in Scotland."
"Sonnet VIII. To the River Itchin, near Winton."
"Sonnet IX."
"Sonnet X. On Dover Cliffs."
"Sonnet XI. Written at Ostend."
"Sonnet XII. Written at a Convent."
"Sonnet XIII."
"Sonnet XIV. On a Distant View of England"


The following Sonnets, (or whatever they may be called) were found in a Traveller's Memorandum-Book. They were selected from amongst many others, chiefly of the same kind. The Editor has ventured to lay a few of them before the Publick, as he hopes there may be some Readers to whom they may not be entirely unacceptable.

"Sonnet I. Written at Tinemouth, Northumberland, after a Tempestuous Voyage."

As slow I climb the cliff's ascending side,
    Much musing on the track of terror past
    When o'er the dark wave rode the howling blast
Pleas'd I look back, and view the tranquil tide,
    That laves the pebbled shore; and now the beam
Of evening smiles on the grey battlement,
And yon forsaken tow'r, that time has rent.
    The lifted oar far off with silver gleam
Is touch'd and the hush'd billows seem to sleep.
    Sooth'd by the scene, ev'n thus on sorrow's breast
    A kindred stillness steals and bids her rest;
Whilst the weak winds that sigh along the deep,
    The ear, like lullabies of pity, meet,
    Singing the saddest notes of farewell sweet.

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"Sonnet II. Written at Bamborough Castle*."

Ye holy tow'rs, that crown the azure deep,
    Still may ye shade the wave-worn rock sublime,
    Though, hurrying silent by, relentless Time 
Assail you, and the winter Whirlwind's sweep!
    For far from blazing Grandeur's crouded halls,
Here Charity hath fix'd her chosen seat,
Oft listening tearful when the wild winds beat,
    With hollow bodings, round your ancient walls;
And Pity's self, at the dark stormy hour
    Of Midnight, when the Moon is hid on high,
Keeps her lone watch upon the topmost tow'r,
    And turns her ear to each expiring cry;
Blest if her aid some fainting wretch might save,
And snatch him speechless from the whelming wave.

*Bamborough Castle in Northumberland, where there is the most liberal provision established for mariners shipwrecked on the coast.

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"Sonnet III."

O Thou, whose stern command and precepts pure
    (Tho' agony in every vein should start,
    And slowly drain the blood-drops from the heart)
Have bade the patient spirit still endure;
    Thou, who to sorrow hast a beauty lent,
On the dark brow, with resolution clad,
Illumining the dreary traces sad,
    Like the cold taper on a monument;
O firm Philosophy! display the tide
    Of human misery, and oft relate
    How silent sinking in the storms of fate,
The brave and good have bow'd their head and died.
    So taught by Thee, some solace I may find,
    Remembering the sorrows of mankind.

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"Sonnet IV. To the River Wenbeck."

As slowly wanders thy forsaken stream,
    WENBECK! the mossy-scatter'd rocks among,
    In fancy's ear still making plaintive song
To the dark woods above: ah! sure I seem
    To meet some friendly Genius in the gloom,
And in each breeze a pitying voice I hear
    Like sorrow's sighs upon misfortune's tomb.
Ah! soothing are your quiet scenes--the tear
    Of him who passes weary on his way
Shall thank you, as he turns to bid adieu:
    Onward a cheerless pilgrim he may stray,
Yet oft as musing memory shall review
    The scenes that cheer'd his path with fairer ray,
Delightful haunts, he will remember you.

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"Sonnet V. To the River Tweed."

O Tweed! a stranger, that with wand'ring feet
    O'er hill and dale has journey'd many a mile,
    (If so his weary thoughts he might beguile)
Delighted turns thy beauteous scenes to greet.
    The waving branches that romantick bend
O'er they tall banks, a soothing charm bestow;
The murmurs of thy wand'ring wave below
    Seem to his ear the pity of a friend.
Delightful stream! tho' now along thy shore,
    When spring returns in all her wonted pride,
The shepherd's distant pipe is heard no more,
    Yet here with pensive peace could I abide,
Far from the stormy world's tumultuous roar,
    To muse upon they banks at eventide.

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"Sonnet VI."

Evening, as slow thy placid shades descend,
    Veiling with gentlest hush the landscape still,
    The lonely battlement, and farthest hill
And wood; I think of those that have no friend;
    Who now perhaps, by melancholy led,
From the broad blaze of day, where pleasure flaunts,
Retiring, wander 'mid thy lonely haunts
    Unseen; and mark the tints that o'er thy bed
Hang lovely, oft to musing fancy's eye
    Presenting fairy vales, where the tir'd mind
    Might rest, beyond the murmurs of mankind,
Nor hear the hourly moans of misery.
    Ah! beauteous views, that hope's fair gleams the while,
    Should smile like you, and perish as they smile!

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"Sonnet VII. At a Village in Scotland."

O North! as thy romantick vales I leave,
    And bid farewell to each retiring hill,
    Where thoughtful fancy seems to linger still,
Tracing the broad bright landscape; much I grieve
    That mingled with the toiling croud, no more
I shall return, your varied views to mark,
    Of rocks winding wild, and mountains hoar,
Or castle gleaming on the distant steep.
    Yet not the less I pray your charms may last,
    And many a soften'd image of the past
Pensive combine; and bid remembrance keep
    To cheer me with the thought of pleasure flown,
    When I am wand'ring on my way alone.

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"Sonnet VIII. To the River Itchin, near Winton."

Itchin, when I behold thy banks again,
    Thy crumbling margin, and thy silver breast,
    On which the self-same tints still seem to rest,
Why feels my heart the shiv'ring sense of pain?
    Is it, that many a summer's day has past
Since, in life's morn, I carol'd on thy side?
Is it, that oft, since then, my heart has sigh'd,
    As Youth, and Hope's delusive gleams, flew fast?
Is it that those, who circled on thy shore,
Companions of my youth, now meet now more?
    Whate'er the cause, upon thy banks I bend
Sorrowing, yet feel such solace at my heart,
    As at the meeting of some long-lost friend,
    From whom, in happier hours, we wept to part.

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"Sonnet IX."

O Poverty! though from thy haggard eye,
    Thy cheerless mien, of every charm bereft,
    Thy brow, that hope's last traces long have left,
Vain Fortune's feeble sons with terror fly;
    Thy rugged paths with pleasure I attend;--
For Fancy, that with fairest dreams can bless;
And Patience, in the Pall of Wretchedness,
    Sad-smiling, as the ruthless storms descend;
And Piety, forgiving every wrong,
    And meek Content, whose griefs no more rebel;
And Genius, warbling sweet her saddest song;
    And Pity, list'ning to the poor man's knell,
Long banish'd from the world's insulting throng;
    With Thee, and loveliest Melancholy, dwell.

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"Sonnet X. On Dover Cliffs."

On these white cliffs, that calm above the flood
    Rear their o'er-shadowing heads, and at their feet
    Scarce hear the surge that has for ages beat,
Sure many a lonely wanderer has stood;
    And, whilst the lifted murmur met his ear,
And o'er the distant billows the still Eve
    Sail'd slow, has thought of all his heart must leave
To-morrow---of the friends he lov'd most dear,---
    Of social scenes, from which he wept to part:---
But if, like me, he knew how fruitless all
    The thoughts, that would full fain the past recall,
Soon would he quell the risings of his heart,
    And brave the wild winds and unhearing tide,
    The World his country, and his GOD his guide.

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"Sonnet XI. Written at Ostend."

How sweet the tuneful bells' responsive peal!
    As when, at opening morn, the fragrant breeze
    Breathes on the trembling sense of wan disease,
So piercing to my heart their force I feel!
    And hark! with lessening cadence now they fall,
And now, along the white and level tide,
They fling their melancholy music wide,
    Bidding me many a tender thought recall
Of summer-days, and those delightful years,
    When by my native streams, in life's fair prime,
    The mournful magic of their mingling chime
First wak'd my wond'ring childhood into tears!
    But seeming now, when all those days are o'er,
    The sounds of joy, once heard, and heard no more.

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"Sonnet XII. Written at a Convent."

If chance some pensive stranger, hither led,
    His bosom glowing from majestic views,
    The gorgeous dome, or the proud landscape's hues,
Should ask who sleeps beneath this lowly bed---
    'Tis poor MATILDA! To the cloister'd scene,
A mourner, beauteous and unknown, she came,
To shed her tears unseen; and quench the flame
    Of fruitless love: yet was her look serene
As the pale midnight on the moon-light isle---
    Her voice was soft, which e'en a charm could lend,
    Like that which spoke of a departed friend,
And a meek sadness sat upon her smile!
    Now here remov'd from ev'ry human ill,
    Her woes are buried, and her heart is still.

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"Sonnet XIII."

O Time! who know'st a lenient hand to lay
    Softest on sorrow's wound, and slowly thence,
    (Lulling to sad repose the weary sense)
Stealest the long-forgotten pang away;
    On Thee I rest my only hope at last,
And think, when thou hast dried the bitter tear
That flows in vain o'er all my soul held dear,
    I may look back on many a sorrow past,
And meet life's peaceful evening with a smile---
    As some poor bird, at day's departing hour,
    Sings in the sunbeam, of the transient shower
Forgetful, tho' its wings are wet the while:---
    Yet ah! how much must that poor heart endure,
    Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!

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"Sonnet XIV. On a Distant View of England."

Ah! from my eyes the tears unbidden start,
    Albion! as now thy cliffs (that bright appear
    Far o'er the wave, and their proud summits rear
To meet the beams of morn) my beating heart,
    With eager hope, and filial transport hails!
Scenes of my youth, reviving gales ye bring.
As when, ere while, the tuneful morn of spring
    Joyous awoke amid your blooming vales,
And fill'd with fragrance every breathing plain;---
    Fled are those hours, and all the joys they gave,
    Yet still I sigh, and count each rising wave,
That bears me nearer to your shores again;
    If haply, 'mid the woods and vales so fair,
    Stranger to Peace! I yet may meet her there.


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