"Rugged The Breast That Beauty Cannot Tame"
Context: Many names have been rescued from oblivion because of one small act. Probably more people remember Sir Walter Raleigh for his courtly gesture of spreading his cloak over a mudhole so that his queen might walk without dirtying her shoes than for any of his more adventurous deeds. The name of the sixteenth century Spaniard Gutierre de Cetina has for four centuries occupied a place in literary history for one short madrigal of ten lines, "Ojos claros, serenos" (Clear, calm eyes), sometimes called the most perfect poem in Spanish. Of the hundreds of poets writing in the eighteenth century whose names are forgotten, John Codrington Bampfylde remains in memory because of a sheaf of poetry that he published in 1778 under the title Sixteen Sonnets. For everything else connected with his life, he deserves to be forgotten. But half a dozen anthologies reprint some or all of these sonnets. Robert Southey (1774–1843) reprinted all sixteen of them in his Specimens of Later English Poets (1807) along with two other poems that he had discovered, noting that Bampfylde had written fresh, natural descriptions that were "some of the most original in our tongue." Bampfylde, whose family was originally Bampfield, was the younger son of Sir Richard Warwick Bampfylde of Poltimore, Devonshire. He was educated at Cambridge, where he fell in love with Delia Palmer, niece of the English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. She was the inspiration for most of his poetry. When Reynolds rightly objected to her marriage to a dissolute and penniless poet, Bampfylde broke windows in the Reynolds mansion. He was arrested and sent to Newgate Jail. Delia took her uncle's advice and became the Marchioness Thomond; perhaps as a result of this marriage, Bampfylde removed the sonnet quoted from the sixteen he printed. Released from jail, he continued his dissipated life, ending in confinement in a madhouse and dying from consumption. Samuel Daniel (1562–1619) had previously written a number of "Sonnets to Delia," which Bampfylde may have had in mind, especially since the earlier poet wrote of going to America if his Delia scorned him. The "youthful graces" in the sonnet refer to a young man who completed and published his love poems before he was twenty-four. Let others sail westward to plunder America. Taught by Delia to love nature, this poet is content to "waste" his time loving his mentor and writing poetry to her. Though the word "enslave" seems highly emotional, it is only part of the period's conventional language. The object of a man's affection was his queen. He was her slave, subject to her whims. The rest of the language, including his "mild tumult," testifies to the low emotional key of the whole sonnet.
Cold is the senseless heart that never stroveWith the mild tumult of a real flame;Rugged the breast that beauty cannot tame,Nor youth's enlivening graces teach to loveThe pathless vale, the long-forsaken grove,The rocky cave that bears the fair one's name,With ivy mantled o'er–For empty fame,Let him amidst the rabble toil, or roveIn search of plunder far to western clime.Give me to waste the hours in amorous playWith Delia, beauteous maid, and build the rhymePraising her flowing hair, her snowy arms,And all that prodigality of charmsFormed to enslave my heart and grace my lay.