William Lisle Bowles (1762-1850)

A vicar's son, Bowles toured northern England in the 1780s, and the resulting collection, his influential Fourteen Sonnets (1789) (University of Pennsylvania website) was a reaction against the classicism of Pope and other writers of the preceding period. His work was admired by Coleridge, Wordsworth, and a large public.

On the Busts of Milton, in Youth and Age, at Stourhead

return to sonnet central return to the Romantic Era

"O Time! who know'st a lenient hand to lay"

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,
The faint pang stealest unperceived 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 every sorrow past,
And meet life's peaceful evening with a smile;
As some lone bird, at day's departing hour,
Sings in the sunbeam, of the transient shower
Forgetful, though its wings are wet the while:
Yet ah! how much must that poor heart endure,
Which hopes from thee, and thee alone, a cure!

On a Beautiful Landscape

Beautiful landscape! I could look on thee
For hours,--unmindful of the storm and strife,
And mingled murmurs of tumultuous life.
Here, all is still as fair--the stream, the tree,
The wood, the sunshine on the bank: no tear
No thought of time's swift wing, or closing night
Which comes to steal away the long sweet light,
No sighs of sad humanity are here.

Here is no tint of mortal change--the day
Beneath whose light the dog and peasant-boy
Gambol with look, and almost bark, of joy--
Still seems, though centuries have passed, to stay.
Then gaze again, that shadowed scenes may teach
Lessons of peace and love, beyond all speech.

To a Friend

Go, then, and join the murmuring city's throng!
Me thou dost leave to solitude and tears;
To busy phantasies, and boding fears,
Lest ill betide thee; but 't will not be long
Ere the hard season shall be past; till then
Live happy; sometimes the forsaken shade
Remembering, and these trees now left to fade;
Nor, mid the busy scenes and hum of men,
Wilt thou my cares forget: in heaviness
To me the hours shall roll, weary and slow,
Till mournful autumn past, and all the snow
Of winter pale, the glad hour I shall bless
That shall restore thee from the crowd again,
To the green hamlet on the peaceful plain.

Netley Abbey

Fallen pile! I ask not what has been thy fate;
But when the winds, slow wafted from the main,
Through each rent arch, like spirits that complain,
Come hollow to my ear, I meditate
On this world's passing pageant, and the lot
Of those who once majestic in their prime
Stood smiling at decay, till bowed by time
Or injury, their early boast forgot,
They may have fallen like thee! Pale and forlorn,
Their brow, besprent with thin hairs, white as snow,
They lift, still unsubdued, as they would scorn
This short-lived scene of vanity and woe;
Whilst on their sad looks smilingly they bear
The trace of creeping age, and the pale hue of care!


On hearing the Bells at Sea

How sweet the tuneful bells' responsive peal!
As when at opening dawn the fragrant breeze
Touches the trembling sense of pale 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 waked my wondering childhood into tears!
But seeming now, when all those days are o'er,
The sounds of joy once heard and heard no more.

In Youth

Milton, our noblest poet, in the grace
Of youth, in those fair eyes and clustering hair,
That brow untouched by one faint line of care,
To mar its openness, we seem to trace
The front of the first lord of the human race,
Mid thine own Paradise portrayed so fair,
Ere Sin or Sorrow scathed it: such the air
That characters thy youth. Shall time efface
These lineaments as crowding cares assail!
It is the lot of fallen humanity.
What boots it! armed in adamantine mail,
The unconquerable mind, and genius high,
Right onward hold their way through weal and woe,
Or whether life's brief lot be high or low!

In Age

And art thou he, now "fallen on evil days,"
And changed indeed! Yet what do this sunk cheek,
These thinner locks, and that calm forehead speak!
A spirit reckless of man's blame or praise,--
A spirit, when thine eyes to the noon's blaze
Their dark orbs roll in vain, in suffering meek,
As in the sight of God intent to seek,
Mid solitude or age, or through the ways
Of hard adversity, the approving look
Of its great Master; whilst the conscious pride
Of wisdom, patient and content to brook
All ills to that sole Master's task applied,
Shall show before high heaven the unaltered mind,
Milton, though thou art poor, and old, and blind!

The Rhine

It was morn, and beauteous on the mountain's brow
(Hung with the clusters of the bending vine)
Shone in the early light, when on the Rhine
We bounded, and the white waves round the prow
In murmurs parted;--varying as we go,
Lo! the woods open and the rocks retire,
As some grey convent-wall or glistening spire
Mid the bright landscape's track unfolding slow!
Here, dark with furrowed aspect, like despair
Frowns the bleak cliff! There, on the woodland's side
The shadowy sunshine pours its gleaming tide;
Whilst hope, enchanted with the scene so fair,
Counts not the hours of a long summer's day,
Nor heeds how fast the prospect winds away.

On Hearing "The Messiah" Performed in Gloucester Cathedral

O stay, harmonious and sweet sounds, that die
In the long vaultings of this ancient fane!
Stay, for I may not hear on earth again
Those pious airs--that glorious harmony;
Lifting the soul to brighter orbs on high,
Worlds without sin or sorrow! Ah, the strain
Has died--even the last sounds that lingeringly
Hung on the roof ere they expired!
                                                And I
Stand in the world of strife, amidst a throng,
A throng that reckons not of death or sin!
Oh, jarring scenes! to cease, indeed, ere long;
The worm hears not the discord and the din;
But he whose heart thrills to this angel song
Feels the pure joy of heaven on earth begin!