Sydney Dobell

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Sydney Thompson Dobell (5 April 1824 – 22 August 1874) was an English poet and critic, and a member of the so-called Spasmodic school.


  • Little in human schules have I beene;
    My colledge is all carpeted with greene,
    And archèd with a. roof of spangled blue,
    My Hippocrcrene is the early dewe,
    My seate turf-piled is dight with faery sheene,
    My table some old stone no handes did hewe,
    Or twisted roote of oake or classicke beech.
    My servitor, the sweetly spoken breeze,
    Strange unwritte books doth bringe me one by one.
    Well pleased I make and take my own degree,
    Master of many arts no schule can teach;
    My colledge hath no termes. Its doctors are
    Righte eloquent sweet flow'res and whisperinge trees,
    Whereof the winde takes counselle; everie star
    That discourseth all nighte with silent speeche;
    Greye leverende hilles with foreheads bare with age,
    Great stormes that argue sternlie each with each
    When woods chant anthems, and a streame or two
    For work-day musicke.
  • There grew a lowly flower by Eden-gate
    Among the thorns and thistles. High the palm
    Branch’d o’er her, and imperial by her side
    Upstood the sunburnt lily of the East.
    The goodly gate swung oft, with many gods
    Going and coming, and the spice-winds blew
    Music and murmurings, and paradise
    Well’d over and enrich’d the outer wild.
    Then the palm trembled fast-bound by the feet,
    And the imperial Lily bow’d her down
    With yearning, but they could not enter in.
    The lowly flower she look’d up to the palm
    And lily, and at eve was full of dews,
    And hung her head and wept and said, 'Ah these
    Are tall and fair, and shall I enter in?'
    There came an angel to the gate at even,
    A weary angel, with dishevell'd hair;
    For he had wander'd far, and as he went,
    The blossoms of his crown fell one by one
    Thro' many nights, and seem'd a falling star.
    He saw the lovely flower by Eden-gate,
    And cried, 'Ah, pure and beautiful!' and turn'd
    And stoop'd to her and wound her in his hair,
    And in his golden hair she enter'd in.
    Husband! I was the weed at Eden-gate;
    I look'd up to the lily and the palm
    Above me, and I wept and said, 'Ah these
    Are tall and fair, and shall I enter in?'
    And one came by me to the gate at even,
    And stoop'd to me and wound me in his hair
    And in his golden hair I enter'd in.
  • Ten heads and twenty hearts! so that this me,
    Having more room and verge, and striking less
    The cage that galls us into consciousness,
    Might drown the rings and ripples of to be
    In the smooth deep of being: plenary
    Round hours; great days, as if two days should press
    Together, and their wine-press’d night accresce
    The next night to so dead a parody
    Of death as cures such living: of these ordain
    My years; of those large years grant me not seven,
    Nor seventy, no, nor only seventy sevens!
    And then, perhaps, I might stand well in even
    This rain of things; down-rain, up-rain, side-rain;
    This rain from Earth and Ocean, air and heaven,
    And from the Heaven within the Heaven of Heavens.
    • "Perhaps" in John Nichol, ed. The Poetical Works of Sydney Dobell, Vol. 2 (1875), p. 366


  • Every decade has its standards, idols, aversions and neglects. The Preraphaelite has succeeded to the so-called Spasmodic, as the Spasmodic flashed for a season across the Tennysonian, as the Tennysonian superseded the Byronic school. This is not the place to attempt to estimate the import of these changes in the history of Art; but they testify to the shortness of our memories. Our wish is to be permitted briefly to direct attention to some of the attributes of a character which, more steadfast than fashions, stronger than suffering, and superior to the frustration of unselfish ambitions, has left to all within the range of its influence a noble example of an English life.
    • John Nichol, The Poetical Works of Sydney Dobell, Vol. 1 (1875), "In Memoriam", pp. ix–x