Landor

Walter Savage Landor 1775-1864

“To be wise indeed and happy and self-possessed, we must often be alone; we must mix as little as we can with what is called society, and abstain rather more than seems desirable even from the better few.” Landor

In every epoch of literature a group of writers lies buried from neglect either because their works were “too wise for the foolish” or “too difficult for the idle,” or because they lacked in instant sensation, pleasure, shock or enjoyment. But they must be recognized and studied for their contribution to the character and enrichment of the language. One member of this group is the dramatic poet Walter Landor, whom Byron called the “deep mouthed Boetian in Canto II, LIX: ” [referring to the home of Pindar, Plutarch, and Sophocles, all favorites of Landor]

“Some persons think that Coleridge hath the sway
And Wordsworth has supporters, two or three,
And that deep-mouthed Boetian Savage Landor,
Has taken for a swan rogue Southeys, gander.”

Elizabeth Browning wrote of his work “where the ashes of eternity burn again”. Swinburne dedicated Atalanta to Landor in memory of one who shared both a love of the ancient world and classical style, a hatred of priests, and organized religion. Landor cared little for popularity. He preferred to surround himself with a few self-selected individuals. Landor railed against injustice, institutions, and persons of authority throughout his life. Even Shakespeare could not ignore such a character. See Landor in a rotomontade as Owen Glendower* in Henry IV:

“At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes…
These signs have marked me extraordinary,
And all the courses of my life do whew
I am not in the roll of common men.”

*The Welshman Owen Glendower led the rebellion against Henry IV and in 1402 declared himself Prince of Wales

He was an ardent Jacobin, foe to kings to the degree that he refused to powder his hair, thus distinguishing himself from the Whigs by looks alone. To Southey he was “the mad Jacobin:” stubborn, intractable, and angry. Unlike Southey, he would never relinquish his rebellious spirit. He wrote in Apology for Satire:

“Too long, my friend! Hath Satire’s camp confin’d
Each active effort of thy youthful mind.
Were it not better to have ideally roved
Along the paths that happier poets loved.”

To be superior to all others was the driving force in his life. He chose to write in Greek and Latin at a time when studying the classics was a fading fad. Landor chose to be a “big fish in a little pond.” And when he finally chose a wife, he chose a lovely but poorly schooled individual. While at Rugby, he repeatedly declined any suggestion that he enter the Greek competition, remarking “I never would contend at school with anyone for anything. I formed the same resolution when I went college, and I have kept it.” Landor feared failure more than anything else, “a minor setback might detract from the supremacy of his reputation.” Elwin writes in his biography “he gave up riding when he saw that his skill could not excel his younger brother’s” lest he be beaten into second place. More likely the “rebel” role was his way of protecting himself from competing with powerful, talented Whigs. Landor was never a good scholar. He refused to take exams on the excuse that he could not compete with “inferiors” . But his inner voice argued ‘better to fail because I did not try’. Landor proudly proclaimed his superiority whenever the occasion rose. Symons writes: “Landor was not a strong man; he was a loud weak man and only in verse do we see ‘the depth and not the tumult of the soul’”. And this statement from Oscar Wilde “that to write about yourself was the way to make yourself known” and from Elwin “the histories of successful men reveal the gullibility of human sheep in their readiness to accept the assertive egoist at his own assessment.” We do know that he was a lifelong individualist holding contempt for the unwashed, unlearned, and ignorant. He did not seek out friends as did other poets, but rather waited for them to come to him; and in his last forty years he lived abroad and held court as a “literary celebrity.”

Unfortunately his exclusive behavior prevents history from fairly judging his ability. There is plenty of praise from fellow writers of that period. For example Leigh Hunt recalls him in his Feast of Poets:

“I must mention, however, that during the wine,
The mem’ry of Shakespeare was toasted with nine;
To Chaucer were five, and to Spenser one more,
And Milton had seven, and Dryden had four;
then follow’d the names, in a cursory way,
Of Fletcher, of Orway, of Collins, and Gray,
Of Cowley, Pope, Thomson, and Cowper, and Prior.
And one or two more of genuine fire.
Then says Bob, ‘If the chair will not think me a gander,
I’ll give a great genius – one Mr. Landor.”

Having said that we also note that one is hard-pressed to find the poetry of Landor in English literature textbooks, collections, or references, and certainly not in student texts. Not clearly Romanticist or Classicist, but with a foot in both periods. By writing in Latin he never grasped that “what might make a poem in Latin could fail to be a poem in English…Blake, Shelley, Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth…could all do something that he could not do, something more native, more organically English, and therefore a more absolute beauty as poetry.” (Symons) He would be best described as a semi-Romanticist, an imagist writing in blank verse. He made a clear distinction between the two periods as rooted in the modes of workmanship. The classical, like the heroic age, writes Landor:

“Is past; but poetry may re-assume
That glorious name with Tartar and with Turk
With Goth or Arab, Sheik or Paladin,
And not with Roman or with Greek alone,
The name is graven on the workmanship.”

He finally concluded that it was the Greeks that set the pace. He argued for the inferiority of the Roman to the Greek.

“And through the trumpet of a child of Rome
Rang the pure music of the flutes of Greece.”

In Festus he writes:

“Is past; but poetry may reassume
That glorious name with Tartar and with Turk,
With Goth or Arab, Sheik or Paladin,
And not with Roman or with Greek alone.
The name is graven on the workmanship.”

And later in this same work he cites Shakespeare as the perfect example of a classic romanticist:

“Shakespeare with majesty benign called up
The obedient classics from their marble seat,
And led them through dim glen and sheeny glade,
And over precipices, over seas
Unknown by mariner, to palaces
High-arch’d, to festival, to dance, to joust,
And gave them golden spur and vizor barred,
And steeds that Pheidias had turned pale to see.”

The romantic movement sought to abandon the classic style mainly of “condensation of meaning”, “abruptness of transition”, and “reliance upon words to produce effect”. But the Classic period was a perfect fit for Landor who “was so anxious to avoid saying what is superfluous that he does not always say what is necessary.” Landor’s work could never have the appeal as of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner or Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey. Compare Coleridge’s romantic verse:

“The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around;
It cracked and groaned and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound.”

With Landor’s classic verse:

“Begone, tarry no longer, or ere morn
The cormorant in his solitary haunt
Of insulated rock or sounding cove
Stands on the bleached bones and screams for prey.”

Landor was born in the center of the historic town of Warwick to a middle-class family of landed wealth, free to pursue whatever he fancied. Unlike others of the Romantic period, Shelley, Keats, and Byron, he was a loner. There is nothing in his childhood background to suggest that he was forced into social retreat, it was a personality preference. The solitary activity of writing presents a perfect shelter, a kind of insulation which Landor cultivated through study a kind of ethical or intellectual superiority that separates and removes him from the problems of the world. By writing verse, as he did, in Greek and Latin, he eliminated all but most of the reading population, publishers as well as the competition. So while other poets wrote verse of the times, his verse is a reaction against the times. Landor was not concerned he was admired by contemporaries as “few can see clearly where their happiness lies; and, in those who see it, you will scarcely find one who has the courage to pursue it.” Cowper appears to have most influenced Landor: “I have read the Life of Cowper for the fourth or fifth time. No author’s life ever interested me more deeply.” There was also another work, Thomas Gray’s Elegy in a Country Courtyard, that prompted Landor to write:

“Gray’s Elegy will be read as long as any work of Shakespeare, despite of its moping owl and the tin-kettle of an epitaph tied to its tail. It is the first poem that ever touched my heart, and it strikes it now just in the same place. Homer, Shakespeare, Milton, Dante, the four giants who lived before our last Deluge of poetry, have left the ivy growing on the churchyard wall.”

His rebellion against Oxford traditions took the form of bawdy verses, defiance and refusal to ask forgiveness when confronted. In one final act he was expelled (“rusticated”) for two terms for firing his gun in his room. His father all but disowned him after this incident and Landor, refusing contrition, left for London, never to return to college. Shortly after, he published his first book of poems with little success, with only thirty-six copies sold.

There was a brief period when Landor sought a political career, hoping to ride the crest of the French revolution movement. It was short-lived however, the Treaty of Amiens was broken and evil replaced evil. Following the French debacle, the English prepared for invasion, with the Whigs firmly in charge. When Landor returned to England he abandoned his political ambition, testifying later that “no person mixes in general society so little as I do; no man has kept himself so totally detached from all factions.” In reality he was ill-suited for politics, to Landor there was no grey area: “all champions of liberty are for the time being spotless heroes; nearly all kings, tyrants to be removed by the dagger or the rope; and, with a few shining exceptions, most practical politicians knaves and fools.” [Colvin]

By his own admission Landor declares that “Poetry was always my amusement, prose my study and business.” The content of his poetry divides itself into personal and narrative epic. Let us begin with the personal. We know that for the most part he avoided close relationships with fellow poets. The exact opposite may be said of women and much of the content of his verse reflect these affairs. Kirkup wrote “He had the reputation of being a violent man, and no doubt was so…but the greatest gentleness and courtesy in him, especially to women. He was chivalresque of the old school.” Victorian in female companionship, Charles Proudfit wrote “He never lost his delight in the opposite sex and that delight in part accounts for his tendency to idealize and sentimentalize women in both his poems and prose.” For each of these relationships Landor gave them verse through a substitute classic name. The first was Nancy Jones, whom he recorded as Ione in 1794:

“Sometimes as boys will do, I play’d at love,
Nor fear’d cold weather, nor withdrew in hot;
And two who were my playmates at that hour,
Hearing me call’d a poet, in some doubt
Challenged me to adapt their names to song.
Ione was the first; her name is heard
Among the hills of Cambria, north and south,
But there of shorter stature, like herself;
I placed a comely vowel at its close,
And Drove an ugly sibilant away….
Ianthe, who came later, smiled and said,
I have two names, and will be praised in both;
Sophia is quite enough for me,
And you have simply named it, and but one.
Now call the other up…”

Then there was Ianthe, Landor’s classic name for Jane Swift:

“I went, and planted in a fresh parterre
Ianthe; it was blooming, when a youth’
Leapt o’er the hedge and snatching at the stem
Broke off the lable from my favourite flower,
And stuck in on a sorrier of his own.”

“Away, my verse; and never fear,
As men before such beauty do;
On you she will not look severe,
She will not turn her eyes from you.
Some happier graces could I lend
Some little blemishes might blend,
For it would please her to forgive.”

And this one also long hymnal measure:

“Soon O Ianthe! life is o’er,
And sooner beauty’s heavenly smile:
Grant only ( and I ask no more),
Let love remain that little while.”

Followed by Dorothy Lyttelton:

“Yes, in this chancel once we sat alone,
O Dorothea! Thou wert bright with youth,
Freshness like Morning’s dwelt upon thy cheek…
I know not why, since we had each our book
And lookt upon it stedfastly, first one
Outran the learned labourer from the desk,
Then tript the other, and limpt far behind,
And smiles gave blushes birth, and blushes smiles.”

And later published in Dry Sticks:

“Stately step, commanding eye,
Attributes of majesty,
Others may from far adore…
Adoration! Mine is more
When that stately step I see,
Swifter now, approaching me,
And that eye whose one command
Is ‘Come here and take my hand.’”

In Simonidea much later on bemoaning his lost opportunity he wrote:

“Sweet was the main who hail’d my early lay,
And waited to receive my vow;
But Love, blind Love, all hurry, for ‘twas May,
Slipt it – my stars! I know not how.”

After Tenby and Nancy Jones, Landor retreats to Swansea. Here he decides to prove himself the true scholar and applies himself to reading Homer and Pindar. He once wrote that this “happiest of my life” for I “did not exchange twelve sentences with men.” However, this boast did not apply to women, for while at Swansea he meets Rose Aylmer. Still not ready to share his life, he writes of that loss:

“my courage, voice, and memory gone…
When all but lovers long had slept,
I tost and tumbled, fretted, wept,
To love himself vow’d endless hate,
Renounced my stars and curst my fate.”

Later, when he heard of her death from cholera in India, he wrote in doubled hymnal measure rhyming ababacdcd:

“Ah! what avails the sceptred race!
Ah! What the form divine!
What every virtue, every grace!
Rose Aylmer, all were thine.
Rose Aylmer, whom these wakeful eyes
May weep but never see,
A night of memories and of sights
I consecrate to thee.”

And this one:

“I held her hand, the pledge of bliss
Her hand trembled and withdrew,
She bent her head before my kiss
My heart was sure that hers was true.

Now I have told her I must part,
She shakes my hand she bids adieu,
Nor shuns the kiss alas, my heart!
Hers never was the heart for you.”

Landor was thirty-six when he finally married a girl of seventeen, lovely but “with few accomplishments.” When called upon to explain his choice he did so in this verse.

“In Clementina’s artless mien
Lucilla asks me what I see
And are the roses of sixteen
Enough for me?

Lucilla asks, if that be all,
Have I not cull’d as sweet before
Ah yes, Lucilla! And their fall
I still deplore.

I now behold another scene,
Where pleasure beams with heaven’s own light,
More pure, more constant, more serene,
And not less bright…

Faith, on whose breast the Loves repose,
Whose chain of flowers no force can sever,
And Modesty who, when she goes,
Is gone for ever.”

At one point in their relationship Rose Aylmer gave Landor the book The Progress of Romance by Clara Reeve. Subsequently the chapter, The History of Charoba Queen of Egypt, became the source for his epic poem Gebir. Landor grasped the challenge of the epic as the noblest type of narrative requiring complex action, dialogue, soliloquy and narrative, and full detail. Later Landor describes the poem as “the fruit of Idleness and Ignorance; for had I been a botanist or a mineralogist, it had never been written.” He wrote:

“Panting in the play-hour of my youth
I drank of Avon, too, a dangerous draught
That roused within the feverish thirst of song.”

It was a high caliber attempt at blank verse a la Milton with some memorable lines as:

“But I have sinuous shells of pearly hue
Within, and they that lustre have imbibed
In the sun’s palace-porch, where when unyoked
His chariot-wheel stands midway in the wave:
Shake one and it awakens, then apply
Its polish lips to your attentive ear,
And it remembers its august abodes,
And murmurs as the ocean murmurs there.”

…”The sweet and honest avarice of love”…

“Compared with youth
Age has a something like repose”

His epics have a political theme brought about either by destiny or divine creation. The basis was the cultural traditions, human failings, mythology sometimes with a modern twist. The characters are carefully chosen and reveal their motives through conversation whether supernatural or real. Napoleon appears “as a mortal man above all mortal praise” and George III cries “Aroar, what wretch that nearest us? What wretch is that with eyebrows white, and slanting brow?” Biographers report that Landor saw George III only once but later said “his eyes looked as if they had been cut out of a vulture’s gizzard.” For the metrical form Landor chose blank verse, seven-stress iambic line, but for shorter pieces there were couplets and quatrains. When he finished his first epic, Gebir, he took these three precautions in case it failed: disclaim authorship, publish in less distinguished pamphlet form, and with an obscure local printer.

Landor’s poetry falls into two classes. One class involves drama and narrative with emotion, the tone was action and/or conflict. For example: Peleus and Thetis, The Dream of Boccaccio, The Fate of a Young Poet, Essex and Spenser, Peter the Great, and Alexis.

A second class included the reflective, didactic, reminiscent, and philosophic. Examples would be The Origin of Idolatry, Love of Children, Society and Solitude, The Troubles of Ireland, The Province of History, On the Death of Southey, and The Three Roses. Landor was comfortable in Latin, Greek, and English, and was comfortable in both prose and verse. His writing spanned sixty-eight years. Landor had no special poetic form. Here is one of his quatrains, written upon seeing a lock of hair from the deceased Lucretia Borgia:

“Borgia, thou once wert almost too august,
And high for adoration; now thou’rt dust!
All that remains of thee these plaits infold
Calm hair, meand’ring with pellucid gold.”

And in long hymnal measure rhyming abab there is this from Sappho:

“Mother I cannot mind my wheel;
My fingers ache, my lips are dry:
Oh! If you felt the pain I feel!
But Oh, who ever felt as I!

No longer could I doubt him true;
All other men may use deceit:
He always said my eyes were blue
And often swore my lips were sweet.”

Landor attempted the unrhymed sonnet, here is To Robert Browning:

“There is delight in singing, tho’none hear
Beside the singer; and there is delight
In praising, tho
The praiser sit alone
And see the prais’d far off him, far above
Shakespeare is not our poet, but the world’s
Therefore on him no speech! And brief for thee,
Browning! Since Chaucer was alive and hale,
No man hath walkt along our roads with step
So active, so inquiring eye, or tongue
So varied in Discourse. But warmer climes
Give brighter plumage, stronger wing; the breeze
Of alpine highths thou playest with, borne on
Beyond Sorrento and Amalfi where
The Siren waits thee, singing song for song.”

He was so unique in behavior that writers like Dickens and Shakespeare developed characters to representing him. For example, there was Boythorn in Dickens’ Bleak House “capturing Landor’s affection for dogs, love of country and most obvious characteristic, the hearty laugh of Landor.” But his odd behaviors and lack of patience posed greater problems. Landor was unable to live anywhere without becoming embroiled in altercations ranging from political controversy, paying bills, taxes, and other liabilities. In England he was sued for debt by his family and for libel by “the measureless Bethams”. He fled to France and was expelled as a spy. He moved to Como and was ordered out by authorities. He finally settled in Florence. In September of 1835 he returned to England, and from there back to Italy, where he died in 1864. At the age of eighty he wrote:

“Welcome, old friend! These many years
Have we lived door by door;
The Fates have laid aside their shears
Perhaps for some few more.

I was indocile at an age
When better boys were taught,
But thou at length hast made me sage,
If I am sage in aught.

Little I know from other men,
Too little they from me,
But thou hast pointed well the pen
That writes these lines to thee.

Thanks for expelling Fear and Hope
One vile, the other vain;
One’s scourge, the other’s telescope,
I shall not see again:

Rather what lies before my feet
My notice shall engage.
He who hath braved Youth’s dizzy heat
Dreads not the frost of Age.”

Landor wrote verse to commemorate events. For example this for Lord Nugent with whom he shared time and viewpoints at various stages of his life, expecially at Bath:

“Ah! Nugent! Are those days gone by
When, warm from Chaucer, you and I
Beheld our claret’s beak dip low,
And then felt Moca’s breezes blow,
Fragrant beyond the fragrant flower
Of citron in her dewy hour:
We schemed such projects as we might
In younger days with better right.”

In Ode to Wordsworth he writes:

“We both have run o’er half the space
Listed for mortals’ earthly race;
We both have crost life’s fervid line,
And other stars before us shine:
May they be bright and prosperous
As those that have been stars for us!
Our course by Milton’s light was sped,
And Shakespeare shining overhead:
Chatting on deck was Dryden too,
The Bacon of the rhyming crew”

On the death of Coleridge:

“Coleridge hath heard the call, and bathes in bliss
Among the spirits that have powers like his.”

“None ever crost our mystic sea
More richly stored with thought than he;
Tho’ never tender nor sublime,
He wrestles with and conquers Time.
To learn my lore on Chaucer’s knee,
I left much prouder company;
Thee gentle Spenser fondly led,
But me he mostly sent to bed.
I wish them every joy above
That highly blessed spirits prove,
Save one: and that too shall be theirs,
But after many rolling years,
When ‘mid their light thy light appears.”

Our first characteristic is compression and fastidiousness of word choice:

“The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forced, the notes are few,

“…that hurl’d thy chariot o’er its wheels,
And held thy steeds erect and motionless
As molten statues on some palace gates…” Count Julian

“Imagination’s paper kite,
Unless the string is held in tight,
Whatever fits and starts it takes,
Soon bounces on the ground, and breaks.” Landor

“The shore was won; the fields markt out; and roofs
Collected the dun wings that seek house-fare;
And presently the ruddy-bosom’d guest
Of winter knew the doors; then infant cries
Were heard within; and lastly, tottering steps
Pattered along the image-stationed hall.” Count Julian

“Sixty the years since Fidler bore
My grouse-bag up the Bala moor;
Above the lakes, along the lea,
Where gleams the darkly yellow Dee;
Through crags, o’er cliffs, I carried there
My verses with paternal care,
But left them, and went home again
To wing the birds upon the plain.
With heavier luggage half forgot,
For many months they follow’d not.
When over Tawey’s sands they came,
Brighter flew up my winter flame,
And each old cricket sang alert
With joy that they had come unhurt.” Recovery of Gebir

“Of all who pass us in life’s drear descent
We grieve the most for those who wisht to die.” Count Julian

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself:

“In spite of its original and powerfully grasped imagery, Gebir as a narrative poem fails by over-condensation and abruptness.” Sidney Colvin

“Landor rarely succeeds in seeming spontaneous…as one who too obviously picks and chooses wounds the susceptibilities of a host or a friend. His touch…sometimes misses the note; in evading the brutatlity of statement, he sometimes leaves his meaning half expressed.” Symonds

“His powers are certainly very considerable,…The truth is, he does not possess imagination in its highest form…Besides which, he has never learned, with all his energy, how to write simple and lucid English.” Coleridge

“At one point he lost the manuscript to Gebir. When it reappeared Landor wrote this vague description of the event leaving to the reader to discover the details of survival .” Friedman

“…solid and profound reflexions upon life, carved, polished, and compressed in the manner which was Landor’s alone” Sidney Colvin

“I hate false words and seek with care, difficulty, and moroseness, those that fit the thing.” Landor

Our second characteristic is imagery:

“Gryphens and eagles, ivory and gold,
Can add no clearness to the lamp above;
Yet many look for them in palaces
Who have them not, and want them not, at home.” Count Julian

“She always did look pale,
They tell me; all the saints, and all the good
And all the tender-hearted, have looked pale.
Upon the Mount of Olives was there one
Of dawn-red hue even before that day?
Among the mourners under Calvary
Was there a cheek the rose had rested on?” Beatrice Cenci

“Mild is the parting year, and sweet
The odour of the falling spray;
Life passes on more rudely fleet,
And balmless is its closing day.

I wait its close. I court its gloom,
But mourn that never must there fall
Or on my breast or on my tomb
The tear that would have soothed it all.” Mild is the Parting Year ( long hymnal measure)

“Now holding in her breath constrain’d,
Now pushing with quick impulse and be stats,
Till the dust blackened upon every pore.” Gebir

Comments from critics, colleagues, and himself:

“Personally, Landor exercised the spell of genius upon everyone who came near him. His gifts, attainments, impetuosities, hiw originality…were all of the same conspicuous and imposing kind.” Colvin

“The speech of Julian to Roderigo the image is used with more direct aim at direct effect.”

“The master faculty in his mind was certainly the poetic or imaginative faculty. This in his creative work ranges with equal assurance from the extreme of strength to the extreme of tenderness.” Sidney Colvin

“He wrote on may subjects and in many forms, and was strong both in imagination and in criticism.” Sidney Colvin

“It is hardly conceivable that a poem of this perfect ease and grace, this pure classical charm of imagery and narrative, should not long ago have established itself, as it must surely one day do, as a standard favourite with all readers of English poetry.” Sidney Colvin of The Hamadryad

“Landor is a great master of imagery. Note how precise, how visual is the image; and how scrupulous the exactitude of the thought rendered by the image. But the image is, after all, no more than just such an ornamentation of ‘gryphens and eagles ivory, and gold’ to a thought separately clear in itself.” Symonds Count Julian

Our third characteristic is kindness toward the weak; anger at imperfection; high moral ground:

“…his ready kindness towards the weak, his high spirit and sense of honour to his companions. He was pugnacious, but only against the strong.” Colvin

“I never pluck the rose; the violet’s head
Hath shaken with my breath upon its bank
And not reproach’d me; the e’er-sacred cup
Of the pure lily hath between my hands
Felt safe, unsoil’d, nor lost one grain of gold.”

“Byron’s sharp bark and Wordsworth’s long-drawn wheeze
Issue alike from breasts that pant for ease,
One caught the fever of the flowery marsh,
The other’s voice intemperate scorn made harsh.
But each hath better parts; to One belong
Staffs for the old and guide-posts for the young:
The other’s story-room downcast eyes approve,
Hung with bright feathers cropt from moulting Love.”

“Thine is the care to keep our native springs
Pure of pollution, clear of weeds; but thine
Are also graver cares, with fortune blest
Not above competence, with duties charged
Which with more zeal and prudence none perform.
There are who guide the erring, tend the sick,
Nor frown the starving from a half-closed door…”

“It is too troublesome; it rumples sleep,
It settles on the dishes of the feast,
It bites the fruit, it dips into the wine;
I’d rather my enemy hate me
Than I hate him.” Mecaenas Advises Octavius

Comments from critics, colleagues and himself:

“Landor can surpass all except the very greatest writers by the depth of his intuition, by the exquisite delicacy of his approach; his dealing with human weakness and affliction …” Sidney Colvin

“He had a soul in love with heroism, in love with freedom, in love with beauty, and as ardent in indignation as in compassion.” Colvin

“The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and poetry wants to be wooed by life” Landor

“With his lofty standards of honour and veracity, of independence and decorum…His arbitrary indignations and eccentricities made him seem the most ideally mad of all mad Englishmen. “ Sidney Colvin

“Landor’s critical shortcomings are the obvious and practically inevitable result of certain well-known peculiarities of temperament, moral rather than intellectual, and principles of life rather than literature.” Saintsbury

“I have often heard them…Grattan…Pitt and Fox…I preferred always the plain-spokenness of Fox, even when hammering repetition upon repetition, to the sounding inanities of Pitt and the gaudy barbarism of Grattan.”

“He had a heart infinitely kind and tender. His generosity was royal, delicate, never hesitating. In pride there was no moroseness in his independence there was not a shadow of jealousy. From spite, meanness, or uncharitableness he was utterly exempt.... Quick as was his resentment of a slight, his fiercest indignations were ever those which he coneceived on personal grounds, but those with which he pursued an injustice of an act of cruelty..He hated nothing but tyranny and fraud, and for these his hatred was implacable.” Whiting

“My favourite lens is a virtuous man: it brings into harmony the discordant parts of the moral world.” Landor Twenty-one Years at Bath

Our fourth characteristic is love of nature:

”Those trackless forest glades, those noble hills,
And those enchanting but sequestered valleys
Which broad-browed Landor rules as his domain.”

“Here, where precipitate Spring, with one light bound
Into hot Summer’s lusty arms, expires,
And where go forth at morn, at eve, at night,
Soft airs that want the lute to play with ’em,
And softer sighs that know not what they want,
Aside a wall, beneath an orange-tree,
Whose tallest flowers could tell the lowlier ones
Of sights in Fiesole right up above,
While I was gazing a few paces off
At what they seem’d to show me with their nods,
Their frequent whispers and their pointing shoots,
A gentle maid came down the garden-steps
And gathered the pure treasure in her lap.
I heard the branches rustle, and stept forth
To drive the ox away, or mule, or goat,
Such I believed it must be. How could I
Let beast o’erpower them? When hath wind or rain
Borne hard upon weak plant that wanted me,
And I (however they might bluster round)
Walkt off? ’Twere most ungrateful: for sweet scents
Are the swift vehicles of still sweeter thoughts,” 1831 Villa Landor

“Like the ocean, love embraces the earth; and by love, as by the ocean, whatever is sordid and unsound is borne away.”

“I come to visit thee again,
My little flowerless cyclamen;
To touch the hand, almost to press,
That cheer’d thee in thy loneliness.
What would those lovely sisters find,
Of thee in form, of me in mind,
What is there in us rich or rare,
To make us claim a moment’s care?
Unworthy to be so carest,
We are but withering leaves at best.” Cyclamen

“Human life hath its equinoxes. In the vernal its flowers open under violent tempests: in the autumnal it is more exempt from gusts and storms, more regular, serene, and temperate, looks complacently on the fruits it has gathered, on the harvests it has reaped, and is not averse to the graces of order…” Lucullus and Caesar

“It was no dull though lonely strand
Where thyme ran o’er the solid sand,
Where snap-dragons with yellow eyes
Looked down on crowds that could not rise,
Where Spring had fill’d with dew the moss
In winding dells two strides across
There tiniest thorniest roses grew
To their full size, nor shared the dew:
Acute and jealous, they took care
That none their softer seat should share.” Abertawy (the old name for Swansea. In his Welsh days (1795-1798) Landor used to walk with Rose Aylmer.

Comments from critics, colleagues and himself:

“I remember a little privet which I planted when I was about six years old…whenever I returned from school or college I felt something like uneasiness till I had seen and measured it.”

“This sensitivity towards trees and plants carried on throughout Landor's life and when decades later he was visiting his eldest sister who still lived in the family house, he complained about the 'incessant mowing and weeding' which went on in the garden.'

“ I assemble and arrange my thoughts, with freedom and with pleasure in the fresh air and open sky.”

“on his Lanthony estate and its infinite variety of flowers he so often wished that he knew more about.” Forster

“He had a retentive memory for places, and a great love of trees and flowers. The mulberries, cedars, and fig-trees of the Warwick garden, the nut-walk and apricots of Tachbrook, afforded him joys which he never afterwards forget.” Sidney Colvin

In our closing remarks we note that his philosophy at the end of his life was that of its beginning he writes “I began with self and will end with self”. In Preface to the Heroic Idyls he wrote “He who is within two paces of the ninetieth year may sit down and make no excuses; he must be unpopular, he never tried to be much otherwise, he never contended with a contemporary, but walked alone on the far eastern uplands, meditating and remembering.”

And this tribute from Charles Swinburne:

Back to the flower-town, side by side,
The bright months bring
Newborn the bridegroom and the bride,
Freedom and spring.

The sweet land laughs from sea to sea,
Filled full of sun;
All things come back to her, being free;
All things but one.

In many a tender wheaten plot
Flowers that were dead
Live, and old suns revive; but not
That holler head.

But this white wandering waste of sea,
Far north, I hear
One Face shall never turn to me
As once this year:

Shall never smile and turn and rest
On mine as there,
Nor one most sacred hand be prest
Upon my hair.

I came as one whose thoughts half linger,
Half run before;
The youngest to the oldest singer
That England bore.

I found him whom I shall not find
Till all grief end,
In holiest age our mightiest mind,
Father and friend.

But thou, if anything endure,
If hope there be,
O spirit that man’s life left poure,
Man’s death set free,

Not with disdain of days that were
Look earthward now;
Let dreams revive the reverend hair,
The imperial brow;

Come back in sleep, for in the life
Where thou art not
We find none like thee. Time and strife
And the world’s lot

Move thee no more; but love at least
And reverent heart
May move thee, royal and released
Soul, as thou art.

And thou, his Florence, to thy trust
Receive and keep,
Keep safe his dedicated dust,
His sacred sleep.

So shall thy lovers, come from far,
Mix with thy name
As morning-star and evening-star
His faultless fame.

And this the last stanza of Song for the Centenary of Walter Savage Landor:

Poet whose large-eyed loyalty of love
Was pure toward all high poets, all their kind
And all bright words and all sweet works thereof;
Strong like the sun, and like the sunlight kind;
Heart that no fear but every grief might move
Wherewith men’s hearts were bound of powers that bind;
The purest soul that ever proof could prove
From taint of tortuous or of envious mind;
Whose eyes elate and clear
Nor shame nor ever fear
But only pity or glorious wrath could blind;
Name set for love apart,
Held lifelong in my heart,
Face like a father’s toward my face inclined;
No gifts like thine are mine to give,
Ah! by thine own words only bid thee hail, and live.

And this, the last poem he wrote:

“The grave is open; soon to close
On him who sang the charms of Rose,
Her pensive brow, her placid eye,
Her smile, angelic purity,
Her voicer so sweet her speech so sage,
It checked wild Youth and cheered dull Age,
Her truth when others were untrue,
And vows forgotten.
Friends, adieu!
The grave is open…O how far
From under that bright morning star.”