TO THE Honourable H—E W—E[ed.]
[ed.], ON READING The CASTLE of OTRANTO.
Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797), poet, novelist, and Whig politician, was the author of the "first Gothic novel" The Castle of Otranto
, first published in 1764.
1 To praise thee, Walpole, asks a pen divine,
2 And common sense to me is hardly given,
3 Bianca's Pen now owns the daring line,
4 And who expects her muse should drop from Heaven. [Page 88]
5 My fluttering tongue, light, ever veering round,
6 On Wisdom's narrow point has never fix'd;
7 I dearly love to hear the ceaseless sound,
8 Where Noise and Nonsense are completely mix'd.
9 The empty tattle, true to female rules,
10 In which thy happier talents ne'er appear,
11 Is mine, nor mine alone, for mimic fools,
12 Who boast thy sex, Bianca's foibles wear.
13 Supreme in prate shall woman ever sit,
14 While Wisdom smiles to hear the senseless squall;
15 Nature, who gave me tongue, deny'd me wit,
16 Folly I worship, and she claims me all[Page 89]
17 The drowsy eye, half-closing to the lid,
18 Stares on Otranto's walls; grim terrors rise,
19 The horrid helmet strikes my soul unbid,
20 And with thy Conrad, lo! Bianca dies.
21 Funereal plumes now wave; Alphonso's ghost
22 Frowns o'er my shoulder; silence aids the scene,
23 The taper's flame, in fancy'd blueness lost,
24 Pale spectres shews, to Manfred only seen.
25 Ah! Manfred! thine are bitter draughts of woe,
26 Strong gusts of passion hurl thee on thy fate;
27 Tho' eager to elude, thou meet'st the blow,
28 And for Ricardo Manfred weeps in state. [Page 90]
29 By all the joys which treasur'd virtues yield,
30 I feel thy agonies in Walpole's line;
31 Love, pride, revenge, by turns maintain the field,
32 And hourly tortures rend my heart for thine.
33 Hail, magic pen, that strongly paint'st the soul,
34 Where fell Ambition holds his wildest roar,
35 The whirlwind rages to the distant pole,
36 And virtue, stranded, pleads her cause no more.
37 Where's Manfred's refuge? Walpole, tell me where?
38 Thy pen to great St. Nicholas points the eye;
39 E'en Manfred calls to guard Alphonso's heir,
40 Tho' conscious shame oft gives his tongue the lie. [Page 91]
41 Matilda! ah, how soft thy yielding mind,
42 When hard obedience cleaves thy timid heart!
43 How nobly strong, when love and virtue join'd
44 To melt thy soul and take a lover's part!
45 Ah, rigid duties, which two souls divide!
46 Whose iron talons rend the panting breast!
47 Pluck the dear image from the widow'd side,
48 Where Love had lull'd its every care to rest.
49 Hypolita! fond, passive to excess,
50 Her low submission suits not souls like mine;
51 Bianca might have lov'd her Manfred less,
52 Not offer'd less at great Religion's shrine. [Page 92]
53 Implicit Faith, all hail! Imperial man
54 Exacts submission; reason we resign;
55 Against our senses we adopt the plan
56 Which Reverence, Fear, and Folly think divine.
57 But be it so, Bianca ne'er shall prate,
58 Nor Isabella's equal powers reveal;
59 You Manfreds boast your power, and prize your state;
60 We ladies our omnipotence conceal.
61 But, Oh! then strange-inventing Walpole, guide,
62 Ah! guide me thro' thy subterranean isles,
63 Ope the trap-door where all thy powers reside,
64 And mimic Fancy real woe beguiles. [Page 93]
65 The kind inventress dries the streaming tear,
66 The deep-resounding groan shall faintly die,
67 The sigh shall sicken ere it meet the air,
68 And Sorrow's dismal troop affrighted fly.
69 Thy jawless skeleton of Joppa's wood
70 Stares in my face, and frights my mental eye;
71 Not stiffen'd worse the love-sick Frederic stood,
72 When the dim spectre shriek'd the dismal cry.
73 But whilst the Hermit does my soul affright,
74 Love dies — Lo! in yon corner down he kneels;
75 I shudder, see the taper sinks in night,
76 He rises, and his fleshless form reveals. [Page 94]
77 Hide me, thou parent Earth! see low I fall,
78 My sins now meet me in the fainting hour;
79 Say, do thy Manes for Heaven's vengeance call,
80 Or can I free thee from an angry power?
81 Stella! if Walpole's spectres thus can scare,
82 Then near that great Magician's walls ne'er tread,
83 He'll surely conjure many a spirit there,
84 Till, fear-struck, thou art number'd with the dead.
85 Oh! with this noble Sorcerer ne'er converse;
86 Fly, Stella, quickly from the magic storm;
87 Or, soon he'll close thee in some high-plum'd hearse,
88 Then raise another Angel in thy form. [Page 95]
89 Trust not his art, for should he stop thy breath,
90 And good Alphonso's ghost unbidden rise;
91 He'd vanish, leave thee in the jaws of death,
92 And quite forget to close thy aching eyes.
93 But is Bianca safe in this slow vale?
94 For should his Goblins stretch their dusky wing,
95 Would they not bruise me for the saucy tale,
96 Would they not pinch me for the truths I sing?
97 Yet whisper not I've call'd him names, I fear
98 His Ariel would my hapless sprite torment,
99 He'd cramp my bones, and all my sinews tear,
100 Should Stella blab the secret I'd prevent. [Page 96]
101 But hush, ye winds, ye crickets chirp no more,
102 I'll shrink to bed, nor these sad omens hear;
103 An hideous rustling shakes the lattic'd door,
104 His spirits hover in the sightless air.
105 Now, Morpheus, shut each entrance of my mind,
106 Sink, sink, Otranto, in this vacant hour;
107 To thee, Oh, balmy God! I'm all resign'd,
108 To thee e'en Walpole's wand resigns its power.