1784–1849

Introduction

portrait

Born: Jan­u­a­ry 31, 1784, Car­lisle, Cum­ber­land, Eng­land.

Died: Feb­ru­a­ry 19, 1849, Wood­bridge, Suf­folk, Eng­land.

Buried: Quak­er Bur­i­al Ground, Wood­bridge, Suf­folk, Eng­land.

portrait
© National Portrait Gallery

Biography

Barton was Bri­tain’s coun­ter­part to Am­er­i­can John Green­leaf Whit­ti­er. Like Whit­ti­er, he was called the Quak­er Po­et.

Barton at­tend­ed a Quak­er school in Ip­swich. In 1798, he was ap­pren­ticed to a Mr. S. Je­sup, a shop­keep­er at Hal­stead, Es­sex, with whom he stayed un­til 1806.

Barton then moved to Wood­bridge, Suf­folk, and en­tered into bu­si­ness with his bro­ther as a coal and corn mer­chant.

He mar­ried, but his wife died af­ter on­ly a year. Bar­ton then moved to Li­ver­pool for a short while, but re­turned to Woodb­ridge in 1810.

A bank clerk by pro­fes­sion, he wrote 10 books of po­ems, ma­ny of which became hymns.

Publications

Poem

The Statue of Memnon

Hast thou heard of a statue, erected of yore,
Of whose musical murmurs such marvels are told,
As Philosophy now, counts but fabulous lore,
Though trusted as truth by the simple of old.

For ’twas said, and believed—in the silence of night
It was mute as the landscape around it that lay;
But awoke at the touch of glad morning’s first light,
And with harmony greeted the herald of day.

Be it fiction alone! yet a truth it may teach,
And one which too many have need to be taught,
Could the emblem’s true essence availingly reach
To the inmost recesses of feeling and thought.

Thus the dark heart of man, in its fallen estate,
Bewildered by error, of passion the slave,
To all that is glorious, or god-like, or great,
Is cold as that statue, and still as the grave.

But if on it the bright Sun of righteousness shine,
With light and with life far surpassing the day’s,
Enkindled at once, by that radiance Divine,
It is vocal with joy, and thanksgiving, and praise.

Adapted from Bernard Barton
Household Verses, 1845

The Co­los­si of Mem­non, two sta­tues of pha­raoh Amen­ho­tep III, near Lux­or, Egypt, were dubbed in an­ti­qu­ity as the Mem­no­ni­um, af­ter the Greek he­ro Mem­non, who died at Troy. In his Ge­o­gra­phy, Greek his­to­ri­an Str­abo (65–23 BC), claimed that af­ter par­tial col­lapse in an earth­quake, one of the sta­tues be­gan mak­ing mu­sic-like sounds each dawn.

Sources

Lyrics