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JOSEPH ADDISON (1672–1719), is chiefly distinguished by his prose writings. It was by his poetry, however, that he first rose to distinction. His principal poetical performances are his Letter from Italy, the Battle of Blenheim, Cato, and the Odes.
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great original proclaim:
The unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator's power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth :
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What, though in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball ?
What though nor real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found ?
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine.
Cato, alone, sitting in a thoughtful posture: in his hand Plato's book on the Immortality of the Soul. A drawn sword on the table by him.
It must be so-Plato, thou reasonest well!-
Else whence this pleasing hope, this fond desire.
This longing after immortality ?
Or whence this secret dread, and inward horror,
Of falling into nought? why shrinks the soul
Back on herself, and startles at destruction?
'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
'T is heaven itself that points out an hereafter,
And intimates eternity to man.
Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought!
Through what variety of untried being,
Through what new scenes and changes must we pass ?
The wide, the unbounded prospect lies before me; .
But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
Here will I hold. If there's a power above us
(And that there is, all nature cries aloud
Through all her works), he must delight in virtue;
And that which he delights in must be happy.
But when? or where? This world was made for Cæsar. I'm weary of conjectures. This must end them.
(Laying his hand on his swords Thus am I doubly armed: my death and life, My bane and antidote are both before me: This in a moment brings me to an end; But this informs me I shall never die. The soul, secured in her existence, smiles At the drawn dagger, and defies its point. The stars shall fade away, the sun himself Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years; But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth, Unhurt amidst the war of elements, The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlda.
JONATHAN Swift (1667–1745), was the great Satirist of the eighteenth century. His writings, both in prose and verse, are very numerous, and had a powerful influence on his contemporaries. Those of his prose writings which have been most read are the Tale of a Tub, and Gulliver's Travels. He was a native of Dublin, and for the last thirty-two years of his life Dean of St. Patrick's. He is generally called Dean Swift. He had unbounded popularity with his coun. trymen, whom he alternately praised and abused in about equal proportions.
The verses on his own death are a fine example of his peculiar poetical vein. An extract from this is given, together with a few passages from some of his other poems.
VERSES ON His Own DEATH.
The time is not remote, when I
Must by the course of nature die;
When, I foresee, my special friends
Will try to find their private ends :
And, though 't is hardly understood,
Which way my death can do them good,
Yet thus, methinks, I hear them speak:
See, how the dean begins to break !
Poor gentleman! he droops apace !
You plainly find it in his face.
That old vertigo in his head
Will never leave him, till he's dead.
Besides, his memory decays:
He recollects not what he says;
He cannot call his friends to mind;
Forgets the place where last he dined
Plies you with stories o'er and o'er ;
He told them fifty times before.
How does he fancy we can sit
To hear his out-of-fashion wit?
But he takes up with younger folks,
Who for his wine will bear his jokes.
Faith, he must make his stories shorter,
Or change his comrades once a quarter.
In half the time he talks them round,
There must another set be found.
Behold the fatal day arrive !
How is the dean? he's just alive.
Now the departing prayer is read;
He hardly breathes. The dear is dead.
Before the passing-bell begun,
The news through half the town has run
Oh! may we all for death prepare !
What has he left? and who's his hair?
I know no more than what the nete is,
'T is all bequeathed to public uses.
To public uses ! there's a whim!
What had the public done for him ?
Mere envy, avarice, and pride:
He gave it all — but first he died.
And had the dean in all the nation
No worthy friend, no poor relation ?