Page images
[ocr errors]

AMeul, ANTEs in Horto AUDIERUNT VOCEM D Ei. They heard the voice of God walking in the garden.

This seriousness occasioned him to be charged with gloominess of temper; yet he was fond of rural sports and innocent amusements. He would sometimes visit the assembly and the bowling green; and we see in his satires that he knew how to laugh at folly. His wit was poignant, and always levelled at those who showed any contempt for decency or religion; an instance of which we have remarked in his extemporary epigram on Woltaire.

Dr. Young rose betimes, and engaged with his domestics in the duties of Morning Prayer. He is said to have read but little; but he noted what he read, and many of his books were so swelled with solding down his favourite passages, that they would hardly shut. He was moderate in his meals, and rarely drank wine, except when he was ill; being (as he used to say) unwilling to waste the succours of sickness on the stability of health. After a slight refreshment, he retired to rest early in the evening, even though he might have company who wished to prolong his stay.

He lived at a moderate expense, rather inclined to parsimony than profusion; and seems to have possessed just conceptions of the vanity of the world; yet (such is the inconsistency of man!) he courted honours and preferments at the borders of the grave, even so late as 1758; but none were then conferred. It has, however, been asserted, that he had a pension of 200l. a year from government, conferred under the auspices of Walpole.

At last, when he was full fourscore, the author of the Night Thoughts,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

eminence to be passed over without notice. In all his works, the marks of strong genius appear. His Universal Passion, possesses the full merit of that animated conciseness of style, and lively description of character, which I mention as requisite in satirical and didactic compositions. Though his wit may often be thought too sparkling, and his sentences too pointed, yet the vivacity of his fancy is so great, as to entertain every reader. In his Night Thoughts there is much energy of expression; in the three first, there are several pathetic passages; and scattered through them all, happy images and allusions, as well as pious reflections, occur. But the sentiments are frequently overstrained, and turgid; and the style is too harsh and obscure to be pleasing.” The same critic has said of our author in another place, that his “merit in figurative language is great, and deserves to be remarked. No writer, ancient or modern, had a stronger imagination than Dr. Young, or one more fertile in figures of every kind; his metaphors are often new, and often natural and beautiful. But his imagination was strong and rich, rather than delicate and correct.” These strictures may be thought severe; but it should be remembered, that an author derives far more honour from such a discriminate character, from a judicious critic, than from the indiscriminate commendation of an admirer. The following is the conclusion of Dr. Johnson's critique, and shall conclude these memoirs. “It must be allowed of Young's poetry, that it abounds in thought, but without much accuracy of selection.—When he lays hold on a thought, he pursues it beyond expectation, [and] sometimes happily, as in his parallel of quicksilver and pledsure . . . . which is very ingenious, very subtle, and almost exact . . . . . . “His versification is his own; neither his blank nor his rhyming lines have any resemblance to those of former writers; he picks up no hemisticks,

to his attachment to the Prince of Wales and his he copies no favourite expressions; he seems to friends; and others assert, that the King thought have laid up no stores of thought or diction, but him sufficiently provided for. Certain it is, that to owe all to the fortuitous suggestions of the prehe knew no straits in pecuniary matters; and that sent moment. Yet I have reason to believe that,

in the method he has recommended of estimating human life, honours are of little value. His merits as an author have already been considered in a review of his works; and nothing seems necessary to be added, but the following general characters of his composition, from Blair and Johnson. Dr. Blair says, in his celebrated lectures: “Among moral and didactic poets, Dr. Young is of too great

when he once formed a new design, he then laboured it with very patient industry, and that he composed with great labour and frequent revisions.

“His verses are formed by no certain model; he is no more like himself in his different produc. tions than he is like others. He seems never to have studied prosody, nor to have any direction, but from his own ear. But with all his defects,

he was a man of genius, and a poet."

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

As the occasion of this Poem was real, not fictitious, so the method pursued in it was rather imposed by what sponta. neously arose in the Author's mind on that occasion, than meditated or designed; which will appear very probable from the nature of it; for it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is, from long narrations to draw short morals: here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the Poem. The reason of it is, that the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thoughts of the writer.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

TIRED Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep!
He, like the world, his ready visit pays,
Where Fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes;
Swift on his downy pinion flies from wo,
And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.
From short (as usual) and disturbed repose
I wake; how happy they who wake no more!
Yet that were vain, if dreams infest the grave.
I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
Tumultuous, where my wrecked desponding
From wave to wave of fancied misery
At random drove, her helm of reason lost.
Though now restored, 'tis only change of pain,
(Abitter change!) severer for severe;
The day too short for my distress; and night,
Ev’n in the zenith of her dark domain,
Issunshine to the colour of my fate.
Night, sable goddess! from her ebon throne,
In rayless majesty now stretches forth
Her leaden sceptre o'er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! and darkness how profound!
Nor eye nor listening ear an object finds;
Creation sleeps. 'Tis as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and Nature made a pause;
An awful pause! prophetic of her end.
And let her prophecy be soon fulfilled:
Fate drop the curtain; I can lose no more.
Silence and Darkness! solemn sisters! twins
From ancient Night, who nurse the tender thought

To reason, and on reason build resolve,
(That column of true majesty in man)
Assist me: I will thank you in the grave;
The grave your kingdom: there this frame shall
A victim sacred to your dreary shrine.
But what are ye?—
Thou who did'st put to flight
Primeval Silence, when the morning stars,
Exulting, shouted o'er the rising ball;
O Thou! whose word from solid darkness struck
That spark, the sun, strike wisdom from my soul;
My soul, which flies to thee, her trust her treasure,
As Inisers to their gold, while others rest.
Through this opaque of nature and of soul,
This double night, transmit one pitying ray,
To lighten and to cheer. O lead my mind,
(A mind that fain would wander from its wo)
Lead it through various scenes of life and death,
And from each scene the noblest truths inspire,
Nor less inspire my conduct than my song;
Teach my best reason, reason; my best will
Teach rectitude; and fix my firm resolve
Wisdom to wed, and pay her long arrear:
Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, poured
On this devoted head, be poured in vain.
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
But from its loss: to give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours.
Where are they? With the years beyond the
It is the signal that demands despatch:
How much is to be done? My hopes and fears
Start up alarmed, and o'er life's narrow verge

Look down—on what? A fathomless abyss. A dread etermity! how surely mine! And can eternity belong to me, Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour! How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful, is man! How passing wonder He who made him such! Who centered in our make such strange extremes, From different natures marvellously mixed, Connexion exquisite of distant worlds! Distinguished link in being's endless chain! Midway from nothing to the Deity! A beam ethereal, sullied and absorpt! Though sullied and dishonoured, still divine! Dim miniature of greatness absolute! An heir of glory, a frail child of dust! Helpless immortal! insect infinite! A worm! a god!—I tremble at myself, And in myself am lost. At home a stranger, Thought wanders up and down, surprised, aghast, And wondering at her own. How reason reels? O what a miracle to man is man! Triumphantly distressed! what joy! what dread! Alternately transported and alarmed; What can preserve my life! or what destroy! An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave; Legions of angels can't confine me there. 'Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof. While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread, What though my soul fantastic measures trod O'er fairy fields, or mourned along the gloom Of pathless woods, or down the craggy steep Hurled headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool, Or scaled the cliff, or danced on hollow winds With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain! Her ceaseless slight, though devious, speaks her nature Of subtler essence than the trodden clod; Active, aerial, towering, unconfined, Unsettered with her gross companion's fall. Even silent night proclaims my soul immortal; Even silent might proclaims eternal day! For human weal Heaven husbands all events: Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain. Why then their loss deplore, that are not lost? Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around In infidel distress 2 Are angels there? Slumbers, raked up in dust, ethereal fire? They live! they greatly live a life on earth Unkindled, unconceived, and from an eye Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall, On me, more justly numbered with the dead. This is the desert, this the solitude: How populous, how vital is the grave! This is creation's melancholy vault, The vale funereal, the sad cypress gloom; The land of apparitions, empty shades!

All, all on earth is shadow, all beyond Is substance; the reverse is Folly's creed. How solid all, where change shall be no more! This is the bud of being, the dim dawn, The twilight of our day, the vestibule. Life's theatre as yet is shut, and Death, Strong Death, alone can heave the massy bar, This gross impediment of clay remove, And make us, embryos of existence, free. From real life but little more remote Is he, not yet a candidate for light, The future embryo, slumbering in his sire. Embryos we must be till we burst the shell, Yon ambient azure shell, and spring to life, The life of gods, O transport' and of man. Yet man, fool man! here buries all his thoughts, Inters celestial hopes without one sigh: Prisoner of earth and pent beneath the moon, Here pinions all his wishes; wing'd by Heav'n To fly at infinite, and reach it there, Where seraphs gather immortality. On Life's fair tree, fast by the throne of God, What golden joys ambrosial clustering glow In his full beam, and ripen for the just, Where momentary ages are no more! Where Time, and Pain, and Chance, and Death expire And is it in the flight of threescore years To push eternity from human thought, And smother souls immortal in the dust? A soul immortal, spending all her fires, Wasting her strength in strenuous idleness, Thrown into tumult, raptur'd, or alarm'd At aught this scene can threaten or indulge, Resembles ocean into tempest wrought, To wast a feather, or to drown a fly. Where falls this censure? it o'erwhelms myself How was my heart instructed by the world! O how self-fetter'd was my groveling soul! How, like a worm, was I wrapt round and round In silken thought, which reptile Fancy spun, Till darken'd Reason lay quite clouded o'er, With soft conceit of endless comfort here, Nor yet put forth her wings to reach the skies! Night-visions may befriend, (as sung above:) Our waking dreams are fatal. How I dream, Of things impossible! (could sleep do more?) Of joys perpetual in perpetual change Of stable pleasures on the tossing wave; Eternal sunshine in the storms of life! How richly were my noon-tide trances hung With gorgeous tapestries of pictur'd joys, Joy behind joy, in endless perspective; Till at Death's toll, whose restless iron tongue Calls daily for his millions at a meal, Starting I woke, and found myself undone. Where now my frenzy's pompous furniture? The cobweb'd cottage, with its ragged wall Of mouldering mud, is royalty to me!

The spider's most attenuated thread Is cord, is cable, to man's tender tie On earthly bliss: it breaks at every breeze. O ye blest scenes of permanent delight! Full above measure! lasting beyond bound ! A perpetuity of bliss is bliss. Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end, That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy, And quite unparadise the realms of light. Safe are you lodged above these rolling spheres, The baleful influence of whose giddy dance Sheds sad vicissitude on all beneath. Here teems with revolutions every hour, And rarely for the better; or the best More mortal than the common births of Fate. Each Moment has its sickle, emulous Of Time's enormous scythe, whose ample sweep Strikes empires from the root: each Moment plays His little weapon in the narrower sphere Of sweet domestic comfort, and cuts down The fairest bloom of sublunary bliss. Bliss' sublunary bliss'—proud words, and vain! Implicit treason to divine decree! A bold invasion of the rights of Heaven! I clasped the phantoms, and I found them air. 0 had I weighed it eremy fond embrace, What darts of agony had missed my heart! Death! great proprietor of all! 'tis thine To tread out empire, and to quench the stars. The sun himself by thy permission shines, And, one day, thoushalt pluck him from his sphere: Amid such mighty plunder, why exhaust Thy partial quiver on a mark so mean? Why thy peculiar rancour wreaked on me ! Insatiate archer! could not one suffice 4 Thy shaft flew thrice, and thrice my peace was slain: And thrice, ere thrice yon moon had filled herhorn. 0 Cynthia' why so pale 1 dost thou lament Thy wretched neighbour? grieve to see thy wheel Of ceaseless change outwhirled in human life? How wanes my borrow'd bliss' from Fortune's smile Precarious courtesy not virtue's sure, Self-given, solar ray of sound delight. In every varied posture, place, and hour, How widowed every thought of every joy! Thought, busy thought too busy for my peace, Through the dark postern of time long elaps'd, Led softly, by the stillness of the night, Led, like a murderer, (and such it proves!) Strays (wretched rover!) o'er the pleasing past; In quest of wretchedness perversely strays, And finds all desert now; and mects the ghosts Of my departed joys, a numerous train! I rue the riches of my former fate; Sweet comfort's blasted clusters I lament; I tremble at the blessings once so dear, And every pleasure pains me to the heart. Yet why complain? or why complain for one? Hangs out the sun his lustre but for me,

The single man are angels all beside?
I mourn for millions; 'tis the common lot:
In this shape or in that has Fate entail'd
The mother's throes on all of woman born;
Not more the children than sure heirs of pain.

War, famine, pest, volcano, storm, and fire, Intestine broils, Oppression, with her heart Wrapt up in triple brass, besiege mankind. God's image, disinherited of day, Here plung'd in mines, forgets a sun was made: There beings, deathless as their haughty lord, Are hammer'd to the galling oar for life, And plough the winter's wave, and reap despair. Some for hard masters, broken under arms, In battle lopt away, with half their limbs, Beg bitter bread through realms their valour saved, If so the tyrant or his minion doom. Want and incurable disease, (fell pair!) On hopeless multitudes remorseless seize At once, and make a refuge of the grave. How groaning hospitals eject their dead! What numbers groan for sad admission there! What numbers, once in Fortune's lap high-fed, Solicit the cold hand of Charity! To shock us more, solicit it in vain! Ye silken sons of Pleasure! since in pains You rue more modish visits, visit here, And breathe from your debauch: give, and reduce Surfeits dominion o'er you. But so great Your impudence, you blush at what is right.

Happy! did sorrow seize on such alone. Not prudence can defend, or virtue save, Disease invades the chastest temperance, And punishment the guiltless; and alarm, Through thickest shades, pursues the fond of peace. Man's caution often into danger turns, And, his guard falling, crushes him to death. Not Happiness itself makes good her name; Our very wishes gives us not our wish. How distant oft the thing we dote on most From that for which we dote, felicity! The smoothest course of Nature has its pains, And truest friends, through error, wound our rest. Without misfortune, what calamities! And what hostilities, without a foe! Nor are foes wanting to the best on earth. But endless is the list of human ills, And sighs might sooner fail than cause to sigh.

A part how small of the terraqueous globe Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste, Rocks, deserts, frozen seas, and burning sands! Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and


Such is earth's melancholy map! but, far
More sad! this earth is a true map of man:
So bounded are its haughty lord's delights
To wo's wide empire, where deep troubles toss.
Loud sorrows howl, envenom'd passions bite,

Ravenous calamities our vitals seize,
And threatening Fame wide opens to devour.
What then am I, who sorrow for myself!
In age, in infancy, from others' aid
Is all our hope; to teach us to be kind:
That Nature's first, last lesson to mankind.
The selfish heart deserves the pain it feels:
More generous sorrow, while it sinks exalts,
And conscious virtue mitigates the pang.
Nor virtue more than prudence bids me give
Swoln thought a second channel: who divide,
They weaken, too, the torrent of their grief.
Take, then, O World! thy much indebted tear.
How sad a sight is human happiness
To those, whose thought can pierce beyond an
O thou! whate'er thou art, whose heart exults,
Wouldst thou I should congratulate thy fate!

I know thou wouldst; thy pride demands it from line:

Let thy pride pardon what thy nature needs,
The salutary censure of a friend;
Thou happy wretch! by blindness thou art bless'd;
By dotage dandled to perpetual smiles.
Know, smiler! at thy peril art thou pleas'd;
Thy pleasure is the promise of thy pain.
Misfortune, like a creditor severe,
But rises in demand for her delay;
She makes a scourge of past prosperity,
To sting thee more, and double thy distress.
Lorenzo! Fortune makes her court to thee;
Thy fond heart dances while the syren sings.
Dear is thy welfare; think me not unkind;
I would not damp, but to secure thy joys.
Think not that fear is sacred to the storm;
Stand on thy guard against the smiles of Fate.
Is Heaven tremendous in its frowns? most sure:
And in its favours formidable too:
Its favours here are trials, not rewards;
A call to duty, not discharge from care,
And should alarm us full as much as woes,
Awake us to their cause and consequence,
And make us tremble, weighed with our desert;
Awe Nature's tumult, and chastise her joys,
Lest while we clasp we kill them; nay, invert
To worse than simple misery their charms.
Revolted joys, like foes in civil war,
Like bosom friendships to resentments soured,
With rage envenomed rise against our peace.
Beware what earth calls happiness; beware
All joys but joys that never can expire.
Who builds on less than an immortal base,
Fond as he seems, condemns his joys to death.
Mine died with thee, Philander; thy last sigh
Dissolved the charm; the disenchanted earth
Lost all her lustre. Where her glittering towers?
Her golden mountains where? all darkened down
To naked waste; a dreary vale of tears.
The great magician's dead! Thou poor, pale piece

Of outcast earth, in darkness: what a change
From yesterday ! Thy darling hope so near,
(Long-laboured prize!) O how ambition flushed
Thy glowing cheek; ambition truly great,
Of virtuous praise. Death's subtle seed within,
(Sly, treacherous miner!) working in the dark,
Smiled at thy well concerted scheme, and beckoned
The worm to riot on that rose so red,
Unfaded ere it fell, one moment's prey!
Man's foresight is conditionally wise.
Lorenzo! wisdom into folly turns,
Ost the first instant its idea fair
To labouring thought is born. How dim our eye!
The present moment terminates our sight;
Clouds, thick as those on Doomsday, drown the
We penetrate, we prophesy in vain.
Time is dealt out by particles, and each
Are mingled with the streaming sands of life,
By Fate's inviolable oath is sworn
Deep silence,—where Eternity begins.
By Nature's law, what may be may be now:
There's no prerogative in human hours.
In human hearts what bolder thoughts can rise
Than man's presumption on to-morrow's dawn?
Where is to-morrow? In another world.
For numbers this is certain; the reverse
Is sure to none; and yet on this perhaps,
This peradrenture, infamous for lies,
As on a rock of adamant we build
Our mountain-hopes, spin out eternal schemes,
As we the fatal sisters could outspin,
And, big with life's futurities expire.
Not even Philander had bespoke his shroud;
Nor had he cause; a warning was denied.
How many fall as sudden, not as safe
As sudden, though for years admonished home;
Of human ills the last extreme beware;
Beware, Lorenzo! a slow sudden death;
How dreadful that deliberate surprise!
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer:
Next day the fatal precedent will plead,
Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.
If not so frequent, would not this be strange?
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes this bears
The palm, ‘That all men are about to live,’
For ever on the brink of being born:
All pay themselves the compliment to think
They one day shall not drivel, and their pride
On this reversion takes up ready praise;
At least their own; their future selves applauds,
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead!

Time lodged in their own hands is Folly's wails;
That lodged in Fate's to wisdom they consign;

« PreviousContinue »