Robert Bridges (1844-1930)

Robert Bridges was born in 1844 and educated at Eton and Corpus Christi College, Oxford. After traveling extensively, he studied medicine in London and practiced until 1882. Most of his poems, like his occasional plays, are classical in tone as well as treatment. He was appointed poet laureate in 1913, following Alfred Austin. His command of the secrets of rhythm and a subtle versification give his lines a firm delicacy and beauty of pattern.

(From Modern British Poetry by Louis Untermeyer)

The Growth of Love (sonnet sequence)

return to sonnet central British/Irish 20th century


The sickness of desire, that in dark days
Looks on the imagination of despair,
Forgetteth man, and stinteth God his praise;
Nor but in sleep findeth a cure for care.
Incertainty that once gave scope to dream
Of laughing enterprise and glory untold,
Is now a blackness that no stars redeem,
A wall of terror in a night of cold.

Fool! thou that hast impossibly desired

And now impatiently despairest, see
How nought is changed: Joy's wisdom is attired
Splended for others' eyes if not for thee:
Not love or beauty or youth from earth is fled:
If they delite thee not, 'tis thou art dead.

To the President of Magdalen College, Oxford

Since now from woodland mist and flooded clay
I am fled beside the steep Devonian shore,
Nor stand for welcome at your gothic door,
'Neath the fair tower of Magdalen and May,
Such tribute, Warren, as fond poets pay
For generous esteem, I write, not more
Enhearten'd than my need is, reckoning o'er
My life-long wanderings on the heavenly way:

But well-befriended we become good friends,

Well-honour'd honourable; and all attain
Somewhat by fathering what fortune sends.
I bid your presidency a long reign,
True friend; and may your praise to greater ends
Aid better men than I, nor me in vain.

To Joseph Joachim

Belov'd of all to whom that Muse is dear
Who hid her spirit of rapture from the Greek,
Whereby our art excelleth the antique,
Perfecting formal beauty to the ear;
Thou that hast been in England many a year
The interpreter who left us nought to seek,
Making Beethoven's inmost passion speak,
Bringing the soul of great Sebastian near.

Their music liveth ever, and 'tis just
That thou, good Joachim, so high thy skill,
Rank (as thou shalt upon the heavenly hill)
Laurel'd with them, for thy ennobling trust
Remember'd when thy loving hand is still
And every ear that heard thee stopt with dust.

To Thos. Floyd

How fares it, friend, since I by Fate annoy'd
Left the old home in need of livelier play
For body and mind? How fare, this many a day,
The stubborn thews and ageless heart of Floyd?
If not too well with country sport employ'd,
Visit my flock, the breezy hill that they
Choose for their fold; and see, for thence you may,
From rising walls all roofless yet and void,

The lovely city, thronging tower and spire,

The mind of the wide landscape, dreaming deep,
Grey-silvery in the vale; a shrine where keep
Memorian hopes their pale celestial fire:
Like man's immortal conscience of desire,
The spirit that watcheth in me ev'n in my sleep.

"While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry"

While yet we wait for spring, and from the dry
And blackening east that so embitters March,
Well-housed must watch grey fields and meadows parch,
And driven dust and withering snowflake fly;
Already in glimpses of the tarnish'd sky
The sun is warm and beckons to the larch,
And where the covert hazels interarch
Their tassell'd twigs, fair beds of primrose lie.
Beneath the crisp and wintry carpet hid
A million buds but stay their blossoming;
And trustful birds have built their nests amid
The shuddering boughs, and only wait to sing
Till one soft shower from the south shall bid,
And hither tempt the pilgrim steps of spring.

"In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan"

In autumn moonlight, when the white air wan
Is fragrant in the wake of summer hence,
'Tis sweet to sit entranced, and muse thereon
In melancholy and godlike indolence:
When the proud spirit, lull'd by mortal prime
To fond pretence of immortality,
Vieweth all moments from the birth of time,
All things whate'er have been or yet shall be.
And like the garden, where the year is spent,
The ruin of old life is full of yearning,
Mingling poetic rapture of lament
With flowers and sunshine of spring's sure returning;
Only in visions of the white air wan
By godlike fancy seized and dwelt upon.