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And some delight to me the while,
Foul days in one fine fishing day.
Perhaps a week, wherein to try What the best master's hand can do With the most deadly killing fly. A day with not too bright a beam; A warm, but not a scorching sun; A southern gale to curl the stream;
And, master, half our work is done.
Then, whilst behind some bush we wait
The scaly people to betray,
Of meaner men the smaller fry.
This, my best friend, at my poor home,
Shall be our pastime and our theme; But then-should you not deign to come, You make all this a flattering dream.
[A Welsh Guide.]
[From A Voyage to Ireland."]
The sun in the morning disclosed his light,
Stanzas Irreguliers, to Mr Izaak Walton.
Farewell, thou busy world, and may
Here I can eat, and sleep, and pray,
O my beloved rocks, that rise
To awe the earth and brave the skies,
What safety, privacy, what true delight,
The brains of a goose, and the heart of a cat;
Ev'n such was my guide and his beast; let them pass, How oft, when grief has made me fly,
To hide me from society,
Nay, Tame and Isis, when conjoin'd, submit,
E'en of my dearest friends, have I,
In your recesses' friendly shade,
And my most secret woes intrusted to your privacy!
In all Charles's days
Roscommon only boasts unspotted bays.
The EARL OF ROSCOMMON (1633-1684) was the nephew and godson of the celebrated Earl of Strafford. He travelled abroad during the civil war, and returned at the time of the Restoration, when he was made captain of the band of pensioners, and subsequently master of the horse to the Duchess of York. Roscommon, like Denham, was addicted to gambling; but he cultivated his taste for literature, and produced a poetical Essay on Translated Verse, a translation of Horace's Art of Poetry,' and some other minor pieces. He planned, in conjunction with Dryden, a scheme for refining our language and fixing its standard; but, while meditating on this and similar topics connected with literature, the arbitrary measures of James II. caused public alarm and commotion. Roscommon, dreading the result, prepared to retire to Rome, saying-'It was best to sit near the chimney when the chamber smoked.' An attack of gout prevented the poet's departure, and he died in 1684. At the moment in which he expired,' says Johnson, he uttered, with an energy of voice that expressed the most fervent devotion, two lines of his own version of "Dies Ira"
My God, my Father, and my Friend, Do not forsake me in my end.'
The only work of Roscommon's which may be said to elevate him above mediocrity, is his Essay on Translated Verse,' in which he inculcates in didactic poetry the rational principles of translation previously laid down by Cowley and Denham. It was published in 1681; and it is worthy of remark, that Roscommon notices the sixth book of Paradise Lost' (published only four years before) for its sublimity. Dryden has heaped on Roscommon the most lavish praise, and Pope has said that 'every author's merit was his own.' Posterity has not confirmed these judgments. Roscommon stands on the same ground with Denham-elegant and sensible, but cold and unimpassioned. We shall subjoin a few passages from his Essay on Translated Verse:
[The Modest Muse.]
With how much ease is a young maid betray'd—
Immodest words admit of no defence,
Yet 'tis not all to have a subject good;
[Caution against False Pride.]
Proceeds from want of sense, or want of thought.
The Muse instructs my voice, and thou inspire the
[An Author must Feel what he Writes.]
I pity, from my soul, unhappy men,
Let no vain hope your easy mind seduce,
No poet any passion can excite,
But what they feel transport them when they write.
But though we must obey when heaven commands,
On the Day of Judgment.
That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
What horror will invade the mind,
The last loud trumpet's wondrous sound, Shall through the rending tombs rebound, And wake the nations under ground.
Nature and Death shall, with surprise,
Then shall, with universal dread, The sacred mystic book be read, To try the living and the dead.
The Judge ascends his awful throne ; He makes each secret sin be known, And all with shame confess their own.
O then, what interest shall I make
Thou mighty formidable King, Thou mercy's unexhausted spring, Some comfortable pity bring!
Forget not what my ransom cost, Nor let my dear-bought soul be lost In storms of guilty terror tost.
Prostrate my contrite heart I rend,
EARL OF ROCHESTER.
JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER (1647-1680), is known principally from his having (to use the figurative language of Johnson) blazed out his youth and his health in lavish voluptuousness,' and died from physical exhaustion and decay at the age of thirty-three. Like most of the courtiers of the day, Rochester travelled in France and Italy. He was at sea with the Earl of Sandwich and Sir Edward Spragge, and distinguished himself for bravery. In the heat of an engagement, he went to carry a message in an open boat amidst a storm of shot. This manliness of character forsook Rochester in England, for he was accused of betraying cowardice in street quarrels, and he refused to fight with the Duke of Buckingham. In the profligate court of Charles, Rochester was the most profligate; his intrigues, his low amours and disguises, his erecting a stage and playing the mountebank on Tower-hill, and his having been five years in a state of inebriety, are circumstances well-known and partly admitted by himself. It is remarkable, however, that his domestic letters, which were published a few years ago, show him in a totally different light- tender, playful, and alive to all the affections of a husband, a father, and a son.' His repentance itself says something for the natural character of the unfortunate profligate. To judge from the memoir left by Dr Burnet, who was his lordship's spiritual guide on his deathbed, it was sincere and unreserved. We may, therefore, with some confidence, set down Rochester as one of those whose vices are less the effect of an inborn tendency, than of external corrupting circumstances. It may fairly be said of him, Nothing in his life became him like the leaving it.' His poems consist of slight effusions, thrown off without labour. Many of them are so very licentious as to be unfit for publication; but in one of these, he has given in one line a happy character of Charles II.
A merry monarch, scandalous, and poor. His songs are sweet and musical. Rochester wrote a poem Upon Nothing, which is merely a string of puns and conceits. It opens, however, with a fine image
Nothing! thou elder brother ev'n to shade, That hadst a being ere the world was made, And, well fix'd, art alone of ending not afraid.
While on those lovely looks I gaze,
But if this murder you'd forego,
Your slave from death removing, Let me your art of charming know, Or learn you mine of loving. But whether life or death betide, In love 'tis equal measure; The victor lives with empty pride, The vanquish'd die with pleasure.
I cannot change as others do,
No, Phillis, no; your heart to move
And, to revenge my slighted love,
Will still love on, will still love on, and die.
When kill'd with grief Amyntas lies,
That welcome hour that ends this smart
Can never break, can never break in vain.
Too late, alas! I must confess,
You need not arts to move me; Such charms by nature you possess, "Twere madness not to love you. Then spare a heart you may surprise, And give my tongue the glory To boast, though my unfaithful eyes Betray a tender story.
My dear mistress has a heart
Soft as those kind looks she gave me, When, with love's resistless art,
And her eyes, she did enslave me. But her constancy's so weak,
She's so wild and apt to wander, That my jealous heart would break, Should we live one day asunder. Melting joys about her move,
Killing pleasures, wounding blisses; She can dress her eyes in love,
And her lips can warm with kisses. Angels listen when she speaks;
She's my delight, all mankind's wonder; But my jealous heart would break, Should we live one day asunder.
A few specimens of Rochester's letters to his wife and son are subjoined :
I am very glad to hear news from you, and I think it very good when I hear you are well; pray be pleased to send me word what you are apt to be pleased with, that I may show you how good a husband I can be; I would not have you so formal as to judge of the kindness of a letter by the length of it, but believe of everything that it is as you would have it.
'Tis not an easy thing to be entirely happy; but to be kind is very easy, and that is the greatest measure of happiness. I say not this to put you in mind of being kind to me; you have practised that so long, that I have a joyful confidence you will never forget it; but to show that I myself have a sense of what the methods of my life seemed so utterly to contradict, I must not be too wise about my own follies, or else this letter had been a book dedicated to you, and published to the world. It will be more pertinent to tell you, that very shortly the king goes to Newmarket, and then I shall wait on you at Adderbury; in the mean time, think of anything you would have me do, and I shall thank you for the occasion of pleasing you. Mr Morgan I have sent in this errand, because he plays the rogue here in town so extremely, that he is not to be endured; pray, if he behaves himself so at
Adderbury, send me word, and let him stay till I send for him. Pray, let Ned come up to town; I have a little business with him, and he shall be back in a week.
Wonder not that I have not written to you all this while, for it was hard for me to know what to write upon several accounts; but in this I will only desire you not to be too much amazed at the thoughts my mother has of you, since, being mere imaginations, they will as easily vanish, as they were groundlessly erected; for my own part, I will make it my endeavour they may. What you desired of me in your other letter, shall punctually have performed. You must, I think, obey my mother in her commands to wait on her at Aylesbury, as I told you in my last letter. I am very dull at this time, and therefore think it pity in this humour to testify myself to you any farther; only, dear wife, I am your humble servant-ROCHESTER,
Run away like a rascal, without taking leave, dear wife; it is an unpolite way of proceeding, which a modest man ought to be ashamed of. I have left you a prey to your own imaginations, amongst my relations -the worst of damnations; but there will come an hour of deliverance, till when, may my mother be merciful to you; so I commit you to what shall ensue, woman to woman, wife to mother, in hopes of a future appearance in glory. The small share I could spare you out of my pocket, I have sent as a debt to Mrs Rowse. Within a week or ten days I will return you more pray write as often as you have leisure to your ROCHESTER.
Remember me to Nan and my Lord Wilmot. You must present my service to my cousins. I intend to be at the wedding of my niece Ellen, if I hear of it. Excuse my ill paper, and very ill manners to my mother; they are both the best the place and age could afford.
MY WIFE-The difficulties of pleasing your ladyship do increase so fast upon me, and are grown so numerous, that, to a man less resolved than myself never to give it over, it would appear a madness ever to attempt it more; but through your frailties mine ought not to multiply; you may, therefore, secure yourself that it will not be easy for you to put me out of my constant resolutions to satisfy you in all I can. I confess there is nothing will so much contribute to my assistance in this as your dealing freely with me; for since you have thought it a wise thing to trust me less and have reserves, it has been out of my power I intended them. At a distance, I am likeliest to learn to make the best of my proceedings effectual to what your mind, for you have not a very obliging way of delivering it by word of mouth; if, therefore, you will let me know the particulars in which I may be useful to you, I will show my readiness as to my own part; and if I fail of the success I wish, it shall not be the fault of-Your humble servant, ROCHESTER. I intend to be at Adderbury sometime next week.
I hope, Charles, when you receive this, and know that I have sent this gentleman to be your tutor, you will be very glad to see I take such care of you, and be very grateful, which is best shown in being obedient and diligent. You are now grown big enough to be a man, and you can be wise enough; for the way to be truly wise is to serve God, learn your book, and observe the instructions of your parents first, and next your tutor, to whom I have entirely resigned you for this seven years, and according as you employ that time, you are to be happy or unhappy for ever; but I have so good an opinion of you, that I am glad to think you will never deceive me; dear child, learn your book and be obedient, and you shall see what a father I will be to you. You shall want no pleasure while you are good, and that you may be so are my constant prayers. ROCHESTER.
Charles, I take it very kindly that you write me (though seldom), and wish heartily you would behave yourself so as that I might show how much I love you without being ashamed. Obedience to your grandmother, and those who instruct you in good things, is the way to make you happy here and for ever. Avoid idleness, scorn lying, and God will bless you.
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.
SIR CHARLES SEDLEY (1639-1701) was one of the brightest satellites of the court of Charles II.- -as witty and gallant as Rochester, as fine a poet, and a better man. He was the son of a Kentish baronet, Sir John Sedley of Aylesford. The Restoration drew him to London, and he became such a favourite for his taste and accomplishments, that Charles is said to have asked him if he had not obtained from Nature a patent to be Apollo's viceroy. His estate, his time, and morals, were squandered away at court; but latterly the poet redeemed himself, became a constant attender of parliament, in which he had a seat, opposed the arbitrary measures of James II., and assisted to bring about the Revolution. James had seduced Sedley's daughter, and created her Countess of Dorchester-a circumstance which probably quickened the poet's zeal against the court. 'I hate ingratitude,' said the witty Sedley; and as the king has made my daughter a countess, I will endeavour to make his daughter a queen'-alluding to the Princess Mary, married to the Prince of Orange. Sir Charles wrote plays and poems, which were extravagantly praised by his contemporaries. Buckingham eulogised the witchcraft of Sedley, and Rochester spoke of his gentle prevailing art." His songs are light and graceful, with a more studied and felicitous diction than is seen in most of the court poets. One of the finest, Ah! Chloris, could I now but sit,' has been often printed as the composition of the Scottish patriot, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of the court of session : the verses occur in Sedley's play, The Mulberry Garden. Sedley's conversation was highly prized, and he lived on, delighting all his friends, till past his sixtieth year. As he says of one of his own heroines, he
Bloom'd in the winter of his days, Like Glastonbury thorn.
Ah, Chloris! could I now but sit As unconcern'd as when
Your infant beauty could beget
When I this dawning did admire,
Would take my rest away.
Age from no face takes more away,
To their perfection prest,
Still as his mother favour'd you,
To make a beauty, she.
Love still has something of the sea,
Or are in tempests lost.
One while they seem to touch the port,
At first disdain and pride they fear, Which, if they chance to 'scape, Rivals and falsehood soon appear In a more cruel shape.
By such decrees to joy they come,
A hundred thousand oaths your fears
Phillis, men say that all my vows
Were I of all these woods the lord,
My humble love has learn'd to live
DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE.
MARGARET, DUCHESS OF NEWCASTLE, who died in 1673, was distinguished for her faithful attachment to her lord in his long exile during the time of the commonwealth, and for her indefatigable pursuit of literature. She was the daughter of Sir Charles Lucas, and one of the maids of honour to Henrietta Maria. Having accompanied the queen to France, she met with the Marquis of Newcastle, and was married to him at Paris in 1645. The marquis took up his residence at Antwerp, till the troubles were over, and there his lady wrote and published (1653) | a volume, entitled Poems and Fancies. The marquis assisted her in her compositions, a circumstance which Horace Walpole has ridiculed in his 'Royal and Noble Authors; and so indefatigable were the noble pair, that they filled nearly twelve volumes, folio, with plays, poems, orations, philosophical discourses, &c. On the restoration of Charles II., the marquis and his lady returned to England. The picture of domestic happiness and devoted loyalty presented by the life of these personages, creates a strong prepossession in favour of the poetry of the duchess. She had invention, knowledge, and imagination, but wanted energy and taste. The Pastime and Recreation of the Queen of Fairies in Fairy Land is her