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While yet it burns, th' officious nation flies,
Some to condole, and some to bring supplies:
One sends him marble to rebuild, and one
With naked statues of the Parian stone,
The work of Polyclete, that seem to live;
While other images for altars give;
One books and screens, and Pallas to the breast:
Another bags of gold, and he gives best.
Childless Arturius, vastly rich before,
Thus by his losses multiplies his store:
Suspected for accomplice to the fire,
That burnt his palace but to build it higher.
But could you be content to bid adieu
To the dear play-house and the players too,
Sweet country seats are purchas'd everywhere,
With lands and gardens, at less price than here
You hire a darksome dog-hole by the year;
A small convenience decently prepar'd,
A shallow well that rises in your yard,
That spreads his easy crystal streams around,
And waters all the pretty spot of ground.
There, love the fork, thy garden cultivate,
And give thy frugal friends a Pythagorean treat;
'Tis somewhat to be lord of some small ground,
In which a lizard may, at least, turn round.
'Tis frequent here, for want of sleep, to die,
Which fumes of undigested feasts deny ;
And, with imperfect heat, in languid stomachs fry.
What house secure from noise the poor can keep,
When ev'n the rich can scarce afford to sleep;
So dear it costs to purchase rest in Rome;
And hence the sources of diseases come.
The drover who his fellow drover meets
In narrow passages of winding streets;
The wagoners that curse their standing teams,
Would wake ev'n drowsy Drusius from his dreams.
And yet the wealthy will not brook delay,
But sweep above our heads, and make their way,
In lofty litters borne, and read and write,
Or sleep at ease the shutters make it night.
Yet still he reaches, first, the public place;
The press before him stops the client's pace:
The crowd that follows crush his panting sides,
And trip his heels; he walks not, but he rides.
One elbows him, one justles in the shoal:
A rafter breaks his head, or chairman's pole;
Stocking'd with loads of fat town-dirt he goes;
And some rogue soldier, with his hob-nail'd shoes,
Indents his legs behind in bloody rows.
See with what smoke our doles we celebrate;
A hundred guests, invited, walk in state:
A hundred hungry slaves, with their Dutch kitchens, wait.
But he, for whom this busy care they take,
Poor ghost! is wandering by the Stygian lake:
Affrighted with the ferryman's grim face;
New to the horrors of that uncouth place;
His passage begs with unregarded prayer,
And wants two farthings to discharge his fare.
Return we to the dangers of the night;
And, first, behold our houses' dreadful height,
From whence come broken potsherds tumbling down,
And leaky ware, from garret-windows thrown;
Well may they break our heads, and mark the flinty
'Tis want of sense to sup abroad too late,
Unless thou first hast settled thy estate.
As many fates attend thy steps to meet,
As there are waking windows in the street.
The scouring drunkard, if he does not fight
Before his bed-time, takes no rest that night;
Passing the tedious hours in greater pain
Than stern Achilles, when his friend was slain:
'Tis so ridiculous, but so true withal,
A bully cannot sleep without a brawl:
Yet, though his youthful blood be fir'd with wine,
He wants not wit the danger to decline:
Is cautious to avoid the coach-and-six,
And on the lacqueys will no quarrel fix.
His train of flambeaux, and embroider'd coat,
May privilege my lord to walk secure on foot;
But me, who must by moonlight homeward bend,
Or lighted only with a candle's end,
Poor me he fights, if that be fighting, where
He only cudgels, and I only bear.
He stands, and bids me stand: I must abide;
For he's the stronger, and is drunk beside.
Where did you whet your knife to-night, he cries,
And shred the leeks that in your stomach rise!
With what companion-cobbler have you fed
On old ox-cheeks, or he-goat's tougher head?
What! are you dumb? Quick with your answer, quick,
Before my foot salutes you with a kick.
Say in what nasty cellar under ground,
Or what church porch your rogueship may be found!
Answer, or answer not, 'tis all the same;
He lays me on, and makes me bear the blame.
Before the bar, for beating him you come;
This is a poor man's liberty in Rome.
You beg his pardon, happy to retreat
With some remaining teeth to chew your meat.
Nor is this all; for when retired, you think
To sleep securely; when the candles wink,
When every door with iron chains is barr'd,
And roaring taverns are no longer heard;
The ruffian-robbers by no justice aw'd,
And unpaid cut-throat soldiers are abroad;
Those venal souls, who, harden'd in each ill,
To save complaints and persecution, kill.
Chas'd from their woods and bogs, the padders come
To this vast city as their native home;
To live at ease, and safely skulk in Rome.
The forge in fetters only is employ'd;
Our iron mines exhausted and destroy'd
In shackles; for these villains scarce allow
Goads for teams, and ploughshares for the plough.
Oh, happy ages of our ancestors,
Beneath the kings and tribunitial powers!
One jail did all their criminals restrain,
Which now the walls of Rome can scarce contain.
More I could say, more causes I could show
For my departure; but the sun is low:
The wagoner grows weary of my stay,
And whips his horses forwards on their way.
Farewell; and when, like me, o'erwhelm'd with care,
You to your own Aquinum shall repair,
To take a mouthful of sweet country air,
Be mindful of your friend; and send me word
What joys your fountains and cool shades afford;
Mr Southey has said that the age from Dryden to Pope is the worst age of English poetry. In this interval, which was but short, for Dryden bore fruit to the last, and Pope was early in blossom, there were about twenty poets, most of whom might be blotted from our literature, without being missed or regretted. The names of Smith, Duke, King, Sprat, Garth, Hughes, Blackmore, Fenton, Yalden, Hammond, Savage, &c., have been preserved by
Dr Johnson, but they excite no poetical associations. Their works present a dead-level of tame and uninteresting mediocrity. The artificial taste introduced in the reign of Charles II., to the exclusion of the romantic spirit which animated the previous reign, sunk at last into a mere collocation of certain phrases and images, of which each repetition was more weak than the last. Pope revived the national spirit by his polished satire and splendid versification; but the true poetical feeling lay dormant till Thomson's Seasons and Percy's Relics of Ancient Poetry spoke to the heart of the people, and recalled the public taste from art to nature.
Of the artificial poets of this age, JOHN PHILIPS (1676-1708) evinced considerable talent in his Splendid Shilling, a parody on the style of Milton. He was the son of Dr Philips, archdeacon of Salop, who officiated as minister of Bampton, in Oxfordshire. He intended to follow the medical profession, and studied natural history, but was cut off at the early age of thirty-three. Philips wrote a poem on the victory of Blenheim, and another on Cider, the latter in imitation of the Georgics. The whole are in blank verse. He was an avowed imitator of Milton, but regretted that, like his own Abdiel, the great poet had not been faithful found'
But he however let the muse abstain,
Nor blast his fame, from whom she learnt to sing
In much inferior strains, grovelling beneath
Th' Olympian hill, on plains and vales intent-
The notion, that Philips was able, by whatever he might write, to blast the fame of Milton, is one of those preposterous conceits which even able men will sometimes entertain.
- Sing, heavenly muse!
Things unattempted yet, in prose or rhyme,' A shilling, breeches, and chimeras dire.
Happy the man, who, void of care and strife,
In silken or in leathern purse retains
A Splendid Shilling: he nor hears with pain
New oysters cried, nor sighs for cheerful ale;
But with his friends, when nightly mists arise,
To Juniper's Magpie, or Town-hall1 repairs:
Where, mindful of the nymph, whose wanton eye
Transfix'd his soul, and kindled amorous flames,
Chloe or Phillis, he each circling glass
Wishes her health, and joy, and equal love.
Meanwhile he smokes, and laughs at merry tale,
Or pun ambiguous, or conundrum quaint.
But I, whom griping penury surrounds,
And hunger, sure attendant upon want,
With scanty offals, and small acid tiff,
Wretched repast! my meagre corpse sustain :
Then solitary walk, or doze at home
In garret vile, and with a warming puff
Regale chill'd fingers; or from tube as black
As winter-chimney, or well-polish'd jet,
Exhale mundungus, ill-perfuming scent:
Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size,
Smokes Cambro-Britain (versed in pedigree,
Sprung from Cadwallader and Arthur, kings
Full famous in romantic tale) when he
O'er many a craggy hill and barren cliff,
Upon a cargo of fam'd Cestrian cheese,
High over-shadowing rides, with a design
To vend his wares, or at th' Avonian mart,
Or Maridunum, or the ancient town
Two noted alehouses in Oxford, 1700.
Yclep'd Brechinia, or where Vaga's stream
Encircles Ariconium, fruitful soil!
Whence flows nectareous wines, that well may vie
With Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern.
Thus, while my joyless minutes tedious flow
With looks demure, and silent pace, a dun,
Horrible monster! hated by gods and men,
To my aërial citadel ascends:
And restless wish, and rave; my parched throat
Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose:
But if a slumber haply does invade
My weary limbs, my fancy's still awake;
Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream,
Tipples imaginary pots of ale
In vain; awake, I find the settled thirst
Still gnawing, and the pleasant phantom curse.
Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarr'd,
Nor taste the fruits that the sun's genial rays
Mature, John-apple, nor the downy peach,
Nor walnut in rough-furrow'd coat secure,
Nor medlar, fruit delicious in decay.
Afflictions great! yet greater still remain:
My galligaskins, that have long withstood
The winter's fury and encroaching frosts,
By time subdued (what will not time subdue!)
A horrid chasm disclos'd with orifice
Wide, discontinuous; at which the winds
Eurus and Auster, and the dreadful force
Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronian waves,
Tumultuous enter with dire chilling blasts,
Portending agues. Thus, a well-fraught ship,
Long sail'd secure, or through th' gean deep,
With vocal heel thrice thundering at my gate;
With hideous accent thrice he calls; I know
The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound.
What should I do? or whither turn? Amaz'd,
Confounded, to the dark recess I fly
Of wood-hole; straight my bristling hairs erect
Through sudden fear: a chilly sweat bedews
My shuddering limbs, and (wonderful to tell!)
My tongue forgets her faculty of speech;
So horrible he seems! His faded brow
Intrench'd with many a frown, and conic beard,
And spreading band, admir'd by modern saints,
Disastrous acts forebode; in his right hand
Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,
With characters and figures dire inscribed,
Grievous to mortal eyes (ye gods, avert
Such plagues from righteous men !) Behind him stalks Or the Ionian, till, cruising near
Another monster, not unlike himself,
Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar call'd
A catchpole, whose polluted hands the gods
With force incredible, and magic charms,
First have endued: if he his ample palm
Should haply on ill-fated shoulder lay
Of debtor, straight his body, to the touch
Obsequious (as whilom knights were wont),
To some enchanted castle is convey'd,
Where gates impregnable, and coercive chains,
In durance strict detain him, till, in form
Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.
Beware, ye debtors! when ye walk, beware,
Be circumspect; oft with insidious ken
This caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft
Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,
Prompt to enchant some inadvertent wretch
With his unhallow'd touch. So (poets sing)
Grimalkin, to domestic vermin sworn
An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
Lies nightly brooding o'er a chinky gap,
Portending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice
Sure ruin. So her disembowell'd web
Arachne, in a hall or kitchen, spreads
Obvious to vagrant flies: she secret stands
Within her woven cell; the humming prey,
Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils
Inextricable; nor will aught avail
Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue;
The wasp insidious, and the buzzing drone,
And butterfly, proud of expanded wings
Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,
Useless resistance make: with eager strides,
She tow'ring flies to her expected spoils:
Then, with envenom'd jaws, the vital blood
Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave
Their bulky carcasses triumphant drags.
So pass my days. But, when nocturnal shades
This world envelop'd, and th' inclement air
Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts
With pleasant wines and crackling blaze of wood,
Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light
Of make-weight candle, nor the joyous talk
Of loving friend, delights; distress'd, forlorn,
Amidst the horrors of the tedious night,
Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts
My anxious mind; or sometimes mournful verse
Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades,
Or desperate lady near a purling stream,
Or lover pendent on a willow-tree.
Meanwhile I labour with eternal drought,
The Lilybean shore, with hideous crush
On Scylla or Charybdis (dangerous rocks!)
She strikes rebounding; whence the shatter'd oak,
So fierce a shock unable to withstand,
Admits the sea; in at the gaping side
The crowding waves gush with impetuous rage,
Resistless, overwhelming! horrors seize
The mariners; death in their eyes appears;
They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they
(Vain efforts!) still the battering waves rush in,
Implacable; till, delug'd by the foam,
The ship sinks foundering in the vast abyss.
JOHN POMFRET (1667-1703) was the son of a clergyman, rector of Luton, in Bedfordshire, and himself a minister of the church of England. He obtained the rectory of Malden, also in Bedfordshire, and had the prospect of preferment; but the bishop of London considered, unjustly, his poem, The Choice, as conveying an immoral sentiment, and rejected the poetical candidate. Detained in London by this unsuccessful negotiation, Pomfret caught the smallpox, and died. The works of this amiable ill-fated man consist of occasional poems and some Pindaric Essays, the latter evidently copied from Cowley. The only piece of Pomfret's now remembered (we can hardly say read) is "The Choice.' Dr Johnson remarks that no composition in our language has been oftener perused; and Mr Southey asks why Pomfret's Choice' is the most popular poem in the English language? To the latter observation Mr Campbell makes a quaint reply-It might have been demanded with equal propriety, why London bridge is built of Parian marble.' It is difficult in the present day, when the English muse has awakened to so much higher a strain of thought and expression, and a large body of poetry, full of passion, natural description, and emotion, lies between us and the times of Pomfret, to conceive that the 'Choice' could ever have been a very popular poem. It is tame and commonplace. The idea, however, of a country retirement, a private seat, with a wood, garden, and stream, a clear and competent estate, and the enjoyment of lettered ease and happiness, is so grateful and agreeable to the mind of man, espe cially in large cities, that we can hardly forbear liking a poem that recalls so beloved an image to our recollection. Swift has drawn a similar picture
in his exquisite imitation of Horace's sixth satire; and Thomson and Cowper, by their descriptions of rural life, have completely obliterated from the |public mind the feeble draught of Pomfret.
[Extract from The Choice.]
If Heaven the grateful liberty would give
That I might choose my method how to live;
And all those hours propitious fate should lend,
In blissful ease and satisfaction spend ;
Near some fair town I'd have a private seat,
Built uniform, not little, nor too great;
Better, if on a rising ground it stood;
On this side fields, on that a neighbouring wood.
It should within no other things contain
But what are useful, necessary, plain;
Methinks 'tis nauseous; and I'd ne'er endure
The needless pomp of gaudy furniture.
A little garden grateful to the eye,
And a cool rivulet run murmuring by;
On whose delicious banks a stately row
Of shady limes or sycamores should grow.
At th' end of which a silent study plac'd,
Should be with all the noblest authors grac'd:
Horace and Virgil, in whose mighty lines
Immortal wit and solid learning shines;
Sharp Juvenal, and amorous Ovid too,
Who all the turns of love's soft passion knew:
He that with judgment reads his charming lines,
In which strong art with stronger nature joins,
Must grant his fancy does the best excel;
His thoughts so tender, and express'd so well:
With all those moderns, men of steady sense,
Esteem'd for learning and for eloquence.
In some of these, as fancy should advise,
I'd always take my morning exercise;
For sure no minutes bring us more content
Than those in pleasing useful studies spent.
I'd have a clear and competent estate,
That I might live genteely, but not great;
As much as I could moderately spend ;
A little more, sometimes t'oblige a friend.
Nor should the sons of poverty repine
Too much at fortune; they should taste of mine;
And all that objects of true pity were,
Should be reliev'd with what my wants could spare;
For that our Maker has too largely given
Should be return'd in gratitude to Heaven.
A frugal plenty should my table spread;
With healthy, not luxurious, dishes spread;
Enough to satisfy, and something more,
To feed the stranger, and the neighbouring poor.
Strong meat indulges vice, and pampering food
Creates diseases, and inflames the blood.
But what's sufficient to make nature strong,
And the bright lamp of life continue long,
I'd freely take; and, as I did possess,
The bounteous Author of my plenty bless.
EARL OF DORSET.
CHARLES SACKVILLE, EARL OF DORSET (1637-1706), wrote little, but was capable of doing more, and being a liberal patron of poets, was a nobleman highly popular in his day. Coming very young to the possession of two plentiful estates, and in an age when pleasure was more in fashion than business, he applied his talents rather to books and conversation than to politics. In the first Dutch war he went a volunteer under the Duke of York, and wrote or finished a song (his best composition, one of the prettiest that ever was made,' according to Prior) the night before the naval engagement in which Opdam, the Dutch admiral, was blown up, with all
his crew. He was a lord of the bedchamber to
Charles II., and was chamberlain of the household
to William and Mary. Prior relates, that when
Dorset, as lord chamberlain, was obliged to take the
king's pension from Dryden, he allowed him an
equivalent out of his own estate. He introduced
Butler's Hudibras to the notice of the court, was
consulted by Waller, and almost idolised by Dryden.
Hospitable, generous, and refined, we need not
wonder at the incense which was heaped upon
Dorset by his contemporaries. His works are
trifling; a few satires and songs make up the cata-
logue. They are elegant, and sometimes forcible;
but when a man like Prior writes of them, 'there
is a lustre in his verses like that of the sun in Claude
Lorraine's landscapes,' it is impossible not to be
struck with that gross adulation of rank and fashion
which disgraced the literature of the age. Dorset's
satire on Mr Edward Howard has some pointed lines:
They lie, dear Ned, who say thy brain is barren,
When deep conceits, like maggots, breed in carrion.
Thy stumbling founder'd jade can trot as high
As any other Pegasus can fly;
So the dull eel moves nimbler in the mud
Than all the swift-finn'd racers of the flood.
As skilful divers to the bottom fall
Sooner than those who cannot swim at all,
So in this way of writing, without thinking,
Thou hast a strange alacrity in sinking.
former is an Essay on Satire, which Dryden is reported to have revised. His principal work, however, is his Essay on Poetry, which received the praises of Roscommon, Dryden, and Pope. It is written in the heroic couplet, and seems to have suggested Pope's Essay on Criticism.' It is of the style of Denham and Roscommon, plain, perspicuous, and sensible, but contains as little true poetry, or less, than any of Dryden's prose essays.
[Extract from the Essay on Poetry.]
Of all those arts in which the wise excel,
Nature's chief master-piece is writing well;
No writing lifts exalted man so high,
As sacred and soul-moving poesy:
No kind of work requires so nice a touch,
And, if well finish'd, nothing shines so much.
But heaven forbid we should be so profane
To grace the vulgar with that noble name.
"Tis not a flash of fancy, which, sometimes
Dazzling our minds, sets off the slightest rhymes;
Bright as a blaze, but in a moment done:
True wit is everlasting like the sun,
Which, though sometimes behind a cloud retir'd,
Breaks out again, and is by all admir'd.
Number and rhyme, and that harmonious sound
Which not the nicest ear with harshness wound,
Are necessary, yet but vulgar arts;
And all in vain these superficial parts
Contribute to the structure of the whole;
Without a genius, too, for that's the soul:
A spirit which inspires the work throughout,
As that of nature moves the world about;
A flame that glows amidst conceptions fit,
Even something of divine, and more than wit;
Itself unseen, yet all things by it shown,
Describing all men, but describ'd by none.
Where dost thou dwell? what caverns of the brain
Can such a vast and mighty thing contain?
When I at vacant hours in vain thy absence mourn,
O where dost thou retire? and why dost thou return,
Sometimes with powerful charms, to hurry me away
From pleasures of the night and business of the day!
Ev'n now too far transported, I am fain
To check thy course, and use the needful rein,
As all is dulness when the fancy's bad,
So without judgment fancy is but mad:
And judgment has a boundless influence,
Not only in the choice of words or sense,
But on the world, on manners, and on men:
Fancy is but the feather of the pen ;
Reason is that substantial useful part
Which gains the head, while t'other wins the heart.
DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.
JOHN SHEFFIELD, DUKE OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE (1649-1721) was associated in his latter days with the wits and poets of the reign of Queen Anne, but he properly belongs to the previous age. He went with Prince Rupert against the Dutch, and was afterwards colonel of a regiment of foot. In order to learn the art of war under Marshall Turenne, he made a campaign in the French service. The literary taste of Sheffield was never neglected amidst the din of arms, and he made himself an accomplished scholar. He was a member of the privy council of James II., but acquiesced in the Revolution, and was afterwards a member of the cabinet council of William and Mary, with a pension of £3000. Shef-Yet that not seem to creep, nor this to fly; field is said to have made love' to Queen Anne No words transpos'd, but in such order all, when they were both young, and her majesty heaped As wrought with care, yet seem by chance to fall. honours on the favourite immediately on her accession to the throne. He was an opponent of the court of George I., and continued actively engaged in public affairs till his death. Sheffield wrote several poems and copies of verses.
Without his song no fop is to be found.
First, then, of songs, which now so much abound;
A most offensive weapon which he draws
On all he meets, against Apollo's laws;
Though nothing seems more easy, yet no part
Of poetry requires a nicer art;
For as in rows of richest pearl there lies
Many a blemish that escapes our eyes,
The least of which defects is plainly shown
In one small ring, and brings the value down:
So songs should be to just perfection wrought;
Yet when can one be seen without a fault!
Exact propriety of words and thought;
Expression easy, and the fancy high;
Of all the ways that wisest men could find
To mend the age, and mortify mankind,
Satire well writ has most successful prov'd,
Among the I And cures, because the remedy is lov'd.