Page images
PDF
EPUB

equally an original. Gray and Collins aimed at the dazzling imagery and magnificence of lyrical poetry - the direct antipodes of Pope. Akenside descanted on the operations of the mind, and the associated charms of taste and genius, in a strain of melodious and original blank verse. Goldsmith blended morality and philosophy with a beautiful simplicity of expression and numbers, pathetic imagery, and natural description. Beattie portrayed the romantic hopes and aspirations of youthful genius in a style formed from imitation of Spenser and Thomson. And the best of the secondary poets, as Shenstone, Dyer, and Mason, had each a distinct and independent poetical character. Johnson alone, of all the eminent authors of this period, seems to have directly copied the style of Pope and Dryden. The publication of Percy's Reliques, and Warton's History of Poetry, may be here adverted to, as directing public attention to the early writers, and to the powerful effects which could be produced by simple narrative and natural emotion in verse. It is true that few or none of the poets we have named had much immediate influence on literature: Gray was ridiculed, and Collins was neglected, because both public taste and criticism had been vitiated and reduced to a low ebb. The spirit of true poetry, however, was not broken; the seed was sown, and in the next generation, Cowper completed what Thomson had begun. The conventional style was destined to fall, leaving only that taste for correct language and versification which was established by the example of Pope, and found to be quite compatible with the utmost freedom and originality of conception and expression. -Chalmers.

[ocr errors]

No writer of the last century occupied a larger space in the public mind, or exercised a greater influence probably on public opinion, than Dr. Samuel Johnson. It is, however, chiefly as a writer of prose, that he is distinguished. The poetry which he did write was after the manner of Pope and Dryden, and was characterized by strong sense, and great fulness of expression. He was born in 1709, and died in 1784.

CHARLES XII. OF SWEDEN.

(From the Vanity of Human Wishes.)

On what foundations stands the warrior's pride,
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide;
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;
O'er love, o'er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.
No joys to him pacifie sceptres yield,
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their power combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain,
“ Think nothing gained,” he cries, “till nought remain,
On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.”
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern famine guards the solitary coast,
And winter barricades the realms of frost;
He comes, nor want, nor cold, his course delay;
Hide, blushing glory, hide Pultowa's day:

The vanquished hero leaves his broken bands,
And shows his miseries in distant lands;
Condemned a needy supplicant to wait
While ladies interpose, and slaves debate.
But did not chance at length her error mend?
Did no subverted empire mark his end ?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left the name, at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.

LENGTH OF DAYS NOT ALWAYS DESIRABLE.

(From the same.)

Enlarge my life with multitude of days,
In health, and sickness, thus the suppliant prays;
Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know
That life protracted, is protracted woe.
Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy,
And shuts up all the passages of joy:
In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour
The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flower;
With listless eyes the dotard views the store,
He views and wonders that they please no more;
Now pall the tasteless meats and joyless wines,
And luxury with sighs her slave resigns.

[ocr errors]

Approach, ye minstrels, try the soothing strain,
Diffuse the tuneful lenitives of pain:
No sounds, alas! would touch the impervious ear,
Though dancing mountains witnessed Orpheus near;
Nor lute nor lyre his feeble powers attend,
Nor sweeter music of a virtuous friend,
But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue,
Perversely grave, or positively wrong.
The still returning tale, and lingering jest,
Perplex the fawning niece, and pampered guest.
While growing hopes scarce awe the gathering sneer,
And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear;
The watchful guests still hint the last offence,
The daughter's petulance, the son's expense,
Improve his heady rage with treacherous skill,
And mould his passions till they make his will.

Unnumbered maladies his joints invade,
Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade;
But unextinguished avarice still remains,
And dreaded losses aggravate his pains :
He turns, with anxious heart and crippled handen
His bonds of debt, and mortgages of lands;
Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes,
Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies

THE TRUE SOURCE OF HUMAN HAPPINESS.

(From the same.)

Where, then, shall hope and fear their objects find ? Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind? Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate ? Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise, No cries invoke the mercies of the skies ? Inquirer, cease; petitions yet remain, Which Heaven may hear, nor deem religion vain. Still raise for good the supplicating voice, But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice. Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar The secret ambush of a specious prayer, Implore his aid, in his decisions rest, Secure whate'er he gives, he gives the best. Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires, And strong devotion to the skies aspires, Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind, Obedient passions, and a will resigned ; For love, which scarce collective man can fill; For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill; For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,

Counts death kind nature's signal of retreat:
• These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain,

These goods he grants, who grants the power to gain;
With these celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.

« PreviousContinue »