On Reading The Controversy Between Lord Byron And Mr Bowles
WHETHER a ship's poetic? -- Bowles would own,
If here he dwelt, where Nature is prosaic,
Unpicturesque, unmusical, and where
Nature-reflecting Art is not yet born; --
A land without antiquities, with one,
And only one, poor spot of classic ground,
(That on which Cook first landed) -- where, instead
Of heart-communings with ancestral relicks,
Which purge the pride while they exalt the mind,
We've nothing left us but anticipation,
Better (I grant) than utter selfishness,
Yet too o'erweening -- too American;
Where's no past tense, the ign'rant present's all;
Or only great by the All hail, hereafter!
One foot of Future's glass should rest on Past;
Where Hist'ry is not, Prophecy is guess --
If here he dwelt, Bowles (I repeat) would own
A ship's the only poetry we see.
For, first, she brings us "news of human kind,"
Of friends and kindred, whom perchance she held
As visitors, that she might be a link,
Connecting the fond fancy of far friendship,
A few short months before, and whom she may
In a few more, perhaps, receive again.
Next is a ship poetic, forasmuch
As in this spireless city and prophane,
She is to my home-wand'ring phantasy,
With her tall anch'ring masts, a three-spir'd minster,
Van-crown'd; her bell our only half-hour chimes.
Lastly, a ship is poetry to me,
Since piously I trust, in no long space,
Her wings will bear me from this prose-dull land.