Sunday Poetry – James Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt was a writer & editor of radical newspapers in the early 19th century. He was a supporter & friend of Keats & Shelley. Unfortunately for his later reputation, he was immortalised as the awful scrounger Harold Skimpole in Bleak House & now that’s his main claim to fame. This poem was written during a period of imprisonment in 1814 after Hunt had attacked the Prince Regent in his newspaper, The Examiner.

Winter has reached thee once again at last,
And now the rambler, whom thy groves yet please,
Feels on his house-warm lips the thin air freeze,
While in his shrugging neck the resolute blast
Comes edging; and the leaves, in heaps down cast,
He shuffles with his hastening foot, and sees
The cold sky whitening through the wiry trees,
And sighs to think his loitering noons have passed.

And do I love thee less, to paint thee so?
No. This the season is of beauty still,
Doubled at heart; of smoke, with whirling glee
Uptumbling ever from the blast below,
And home remembered most – and oh, loved hill,
The second, and the last, away from thee!

To show how admired Leigh Hunt was in his radical days, here’s the poem that Keats wrote on the day he was released from prison.

What though, for showing truth to flatter’d state,   
Kind Hunt was shut in prison, yet has he,   
In his immortal spirit, been as free   
As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.   
Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?           
Think you he nought but prison walls did see,   
Till, so unwilling, thou unturn’dst the key?   
Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!   
In Spenser’s halls he strayed, and bowers fair,   
Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew           
With daring Milton through the fields of air:   
To regions of his own his genius true   
Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair   
When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew? 

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