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Two Early Poems

This page presents two poems Hone published in the 1790s. The first, "Verses on our Excellent Constitution" appears to be a youthful exercise, the product of the Hone family's reaction to the French Revolution. The second, an untitled "Sonnet," is still a very youthful effort—it was likely written while he was only 16 or 17 years old—but it shows the influence of Hone's early reading and early engagement in the world of print and publication.

Verses on our Excellent Constitution

This short poem comes from Hone's first published work (1792). As originally printed, the document--one side of a single sheet called The Contrast--has two contrasting poetic excerpts with prose commentaries. These are intended to demonstrate the evils of the French Revolution. Centered at the bottom of the sheet is this original poem, which, as the note at the foot of the text claims, was written by Hone when he was just twelve years old. The young Hone (or perhaps his proud parents) sent a copy of the work to the headquarters of the Reeves' Association; in return, the secretary of this conservative group wrote back commending Hone for his "spirit of loyalty." For a more detailed account of The Contrast see the biographical fragment called "A London Childhood." The copy text for this edition is the British Library document, Add. MS 40120, f. 2.

Verses on our Excellent Constitution

Come Britons unite, and in one common cause,
Stand up in defence of King, Liberty, Laws;
And rejoice that we've got such a good Constitution,
And down with the barbarous French Revolution.

There's Marat, Egalite, and the famous Tom Paine,
Had best stay where they are, and not come here to reign:
Be staunch for your King and your good Constitution,
And down with their barbarous French Revolution.

The French call us now a province of France,
But we'll soon let 'em know we can learn 'em to dance.
Come, rejoice that we've got such a good Constitution,
And down with the barbarous French Revolution.

Tom Paine he would fain set us wrangling together,
That his friends o'er the water may seize us at pleasure;
Don't let him teaze us, nor our good Constitution,
But down with the barbarous French Revolution.

We're taxed, he says, by our merciful King,
But that's to ourselves, and nothing to him.
May he gloriously reign, and our good Constitution,
And down with the barbarous French Revolution.

Our soldiers are honest, brave, loyal, and true,
For the blood of their King their own they would rue:
They'd stand firm in the cause of our good Constitution,
And down with the barbarous French Revolution.

[The Author of the above is a Youth only Twelve Years of Age.]

Sonnet: "Dear to my soul is chill November's breeze"

This sonnet first appeared over the signature "W. S. Hone," in The Monthly Visitor and Pocket Companion (London, 1797, p. 98 in the Poetry section entitled "Parnassian Garland"). If, as seems likely, the poem was written in 1796 or 97, then it was probably the product of Hone's years spent in the vicinity of Chatham where he met his friend John Venning and where he seems to have enjoyed what little free time he had outside of the city. The sonnet itself is reminiscent of the work of Bowles or (especially) Charlotte Smith.

In the original publication the sonnet has only the generic title, "Sonnet." A Huntington Library copy in Hone's hand, obviously produced much later (after 1819), bears the more extended title "Sonnet by the Author of The Political House that Jack Built". The present text is taken from the original 1797 publication. The few differences between the two are indicated in the notes.


By W. S. Hone.*

Dear to my soul* is chill November's breeze--
The Wind which sighs* along the lonely walls,
The Tempest's blast which bares* the sapless trees,
And the low rustling of each leaf that falls.

Then, when pale Ev'ning throws her mantle o'er
The clear bright prospects of declining day,
I frequent roam, till past the midnight hour,
And to its secret influence homage pay.

Oft when the moon rides in the cloudless sky,
I climb the rocky mountain's shelvy* side
And watch the fish-boats flitting sail pass by,
While roaring rolls beneath the foaming tide:

These scenes assuage the pain of inward grief,
Draw forth the silent tear, and give my heart relief.

25th August, 1797.

* Byline: The Huntington MS is called "Sonnet: by the Author of the Political House that Jack Built."
* Line 1: Huntington has "Soul" in place of "soul."
* Line 2: Huntington has "that sighs" in place of "which sighs."
* Line 3: Huntington has "that bares" in place of "which bares."
* Line 10: Huntington has "shelving" in place of "shelvy."