e a m harris

Roaming the byways of literature

Faded fame – Samuel Rogers

Today is the 250th anniversary of the birth, in London, of Samuel Rogers – banker, art collector, great conversationalist and rich and generous person, among other things.

I stumbled across mention of this man in my wanderings around the web. I’d never heard of him, but in his lifetime he was famous as a poet. He was even offered the post of poet laureate but by then he was very old and his health was failing so he declined.

Reading about him made me think of fame and the tricks history plays with it. He stood at the peak of the poetry world at one time, but he was of the 18th century with its elevated, classical style poetry. The Romantic poets, most of whom he knew as friends, have long since overshadowed him. Sad, but common – there’s nothing like a major change in fashion for pushing aside the once popular.

In my opinion, what is much sadder is for fame to strike the other way around. How many writers and artists now known to everyone, lived their lives in obscurity and, often, poverty?

I like to think of Mr Rogers taking his last breath, at the age of 92, secure and happy in his reputation.

And he has not been forgotten. There are several websites with information on his life and poetry and his records of his wide circle of important artists and writers have been invaluable to historians.

Most of his poems are very long, but the following one gives a good idea of his style.

WRITTEN AT DROPMORE

Grenville, to thee my gratitude is due
For many an hour of studious musing here,
For many a day-dream, such as hovered round
Hafiz or Sadi; thro’ the golden East,
Search where we would, no fairer bowers than these,
Thine own creation; where, called forth by thee,
“Flowers worthy of Paradise, with rich inlay,
Broider the ground,” and every mountain-pine
Elsewhere unseen (his birth-place in the clouds),
His kindred sweeping with majestic march
From cliff to cliff along the snowy ridge
Of Caucasus, or nearer yet the Moon)
Breathes heavenly music. — Yet much more I owe
For what so few, alas! can hope to share,
Thy converse; when among thy books reclined,
Or in thy garden chair that wheels its course
Slowly and silently thro’ sun and shade,
Thou speak’st, as ever thou art wont to do,
In the calm temper of philosophy;
— Still to delight, instruct, whate’er the theme.

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