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See how the torrent rolls the golden sand From the high ridges to the flatter land. The lofty lines abound with endless store Of mineral treasure and metallic ore.
Among the Whig poets of the day, whom Pope's enmity raised to temporary importance, was AMBROSE PHILIPS (1671-1749). He was a native of Leicestershire, educated at Cambridge, and patronised by the Whig government of George I. He was a commissioner of the collieries, held some appointments in Ireland, and sat for the county of Armagh in the Irish House of Commons. The works of Philips consist of three plays, some miscellaneous poems, translations, and pastorals. The latter were published in the same miscellany with those of Pope, and were injudiciously praised by Tickell as the finest in the English language. Pope resented this unjust depreciation of his own poetry by an ironical paper in the Guardian, calculated to make Philips appear ridiculous. Ambrose felt the satire keenly, and even vowed to take personal vengeance on his adversary, by whipping him with a rod in Button's coffeehouse. A paper war ensued, and Pope immortalised Philips as-
The bard whom pilfered pastorals renown,
A fragment of Sappho, translated by Philips, is a poetical gem so brilliant, that Warton thought Addison must have assisted in its composition :—
Blessed as the immortal gods is he, The youth who fondly sits by thee, And hears and sees thee all the while, Softly speak and sweetly smile.
"Twas this deprived my soul of rest,
Epistle to the Earl of Dorset. COPENHAGEN, March 9, 1709. From frozen climes, and endless tracts of snow, From streams which northern winds forbid to flow, What present shall the Muse to Dorset bring, Or how, so near the pole, attempt to sing? The hoary winter here conceals from sight All pleasing objects which to verse invite. The hills and dales, and the delightful woods, The flowery plains, and silver-streaming floods, By snow disguised, in bright confusion lie, And with one dazzling waste fatigue the eye.
No gentle-breathing breeze prepares the spring, No birds within the desert region sing. The ships, unmoved, the boisterous winds defy, While rattling chariots o'er the ocean fly.
The vast leviathan wants room to play,
And yet but lately have I seen, even here,
The First Pastoral.
If we, O Dorset ! quit the city-throng,
By your command, be present; and, O bring The Muse along! The Muse to you shall sing Her influence, Buckhurst, let me there obtain, And I forgive the famed Sicilian swain.
Begin. In unluxurious times of yore, When flocks and herds were no inglorious store, Lobbin, a shepherd boy, one evening fair, As western winds had cooled the sultry air, His numbered sheep within the fold now pent, Thus plained him of his dreary discontent; Beneath a hoary poplar's whispering boughs, He, solitary, sat, to breathe his vows. Venting the tender anguish of his heart, As passion taught, in accents free of art; And little did he hope, while, night by night, His sighs were lavished thus on Lucy bright.
Ah! well-a-day, how long must I endure This pining pain? Or who shall speed my cure? Fond love no cure will have, seek no repose, Delights in grief, nor any measure knows: And now the moon begins in clouds to rise; The brightening stars increase within the skies;
The winds are hushed; the dews distil; and sleep
The Italian opera and English pastorals-both sources of fashionable and poetical affectation-were driven out of the field at this time by the easy, indolent, good-humoured JOHN GAY, who seems to have
How flying years impair thy youthful prime!
And flowers, though left ungathered, will decay:
My words are wind! She, deaf to all my cries,
"Tis only love; and love why should'st thou fear?
Stay, simple girl; a lover cannot harm;
Two sportive kidlings, both fair-flecked, I rear,
How would the crook beseem thy lily hand!
Now to the waning moon the nightingale,
born at Barnstaple, in Devonshire, in 1688. He was of the ancient family of the Le Gays of Oxford and Devonshire; but his father being in reduced circumstances, the poet was put apprentice to a silk-mercer in the Strand, London. He disliked this mercenary employment, and at length obtained his discharge from his master. In 1711, he published his Rural Sports, a descriptive poem, dedicated to Pope, in which we may trace his joy at being emancipated from the drudgery of a shop:
Fatigued at last, a calm retreat I chose,
Next year, Gay obtained the appointment of domestic secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth, on which he was cordially congratulated by Pope, who took a warm interest in his fortunes. His next work was his Shepherd's Week, in Six Pastorals, written to throw ridicule on those of Ambrose Philips; but containing so much genuine comic humour, and entertaining pictures of country life, that they became popular, not as satires, but on account of their intrinsic merits, as affording a prospect of his own country. In an address to the 'courteous reader,' Gay says, Thou wilt not find my shepherdesses idly piping on oaten reeds, but milking the kine, tying up the sheaves; or, if the hogs are astray, driving them to their styes. My shepherd gathereth none other nosegays but what are the growth of our own fields; he sleepeth not under myrtle shades, but under a hedge; nor doth he vigilantly defend his flock from wolves, because there are none.' This matter-of-fact view of rural life has been admirably followed by Crabbe, with a moral aim and effect to which Gay never aspired. About this time the poet also produced his Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, and The Fan, a poem in three books. The former of these is in the mock-heroic style, in which he was assisted by Swift, and gives a graphic account of the dangers and impediments then encountered in traversing the narrow, crowded, ill-lighted, and vice-infested thoroughfares of the metropolis. His paintings of city life are in the Dutch style, low and familiar, but correctly and forcibly drawn. The following sketch of the frequenters of book-stalls in the streets may still be verified :
Volumes on sheltered stalls expanded lie,
The poet gives a lively and picturesque account of the great frost in London, when a fair was held on the river Thames :
In 1713, Gay brought out a comedy entitled The Wife of Bath; but it failed of success. His friends were anxious in his behalf, and next year (July 1714), he writes with joy to Pope-'Since you went out of the town, my Lord Clarendon was appointed envoy-extraordinary to Hanover, in the room of Lord Paget; and by making use of those friends, which I entirely owe to you, he has accepted me for his secretary.' The poet accordingly quitted his situation in the Monmouth family, and accompanied Lord Clarendon on his embassy. He seems, however, to have held it only for about two months; for on the 23d of September of the same year, Pope welcomes him to his native soil, and counsels him, now that the queen was dead, to write something on the king, or prince, or princess. Gay was an anxious expectant of court favour, and he complied with Pope's request. He wrote a poem on the princess, and the royal family went to see his play of What D'ye Call It? produced shortly after his return from Hanover, in 1714. The piece was eminently successful; and Gay was stimulated to another dramatic attempt of a similar nature, entitled Three Hours After Marriage. Some personal satire and indecent dialogues in this piece, together with the improbability of the plot, sealed its fate with the public. It soon fell into disgrace; and its author being afraid that Pope and Arbuthnot would suffer injury from their supposed connexion with it, took all the shame on himself.' Gay was silent and dejected for some time; but in 1720 he published his poems by subscription, and realised a sum of £1000. He received, also, a present of South-Sea stock, and was supposed to be worth £20,000, all of which he lost by the explosion of that famous delusion. This serious calamity to one fond of finery in dress and living only prompted to farther literary exertion. In 1724, Gay brought out another drama, The Captives, which was acted with moderate success; and in 1726 he wrote a volume of fables, designed for the special improvement of the Duke of Cumberland, who certainly did not learn mercy or humanity from them. The accession of the prince and princess to the throne seemed to augur well for the fortunes of Gay; but he was only offered the situation of gentleman usher to one of the young princesses, and considering this an insult, he rejected it. His genius proved his best patron. In 1726, Swift came to England, and resided two months with Pope at Twickenham. Among other plans, the dean of St Patrick suggested to Gay the idea of a Newgate pastoral, in which the characters should be thieves and highwaymen, and the Beggar's Opera was the result. When finished, the two friends were doubtful of the success of the piece, but it was received with unbounded applause. The songs and music aided greatly its popularity, and there was also the recommendation of political satire; for the quarrel between Peachum and Lockit was an allusion to a personal collision between Walpole and his colleague, Lord Townsend. The spirit and variety of the piece, in which song and sentiment are so happily intermixed with vice and roguery, still render the 'Beggar's Opera' a favourite with the public; but as Gay has succeeded in making highwaymen agreeable, and even attractive, it cannot be commended for its moral tendency. Of this we suspect the Epicurean author thought little. The Dis-opera had a run of sixty-three nights, and became the rage of town and country. Its success had also
O, roving muse! recall that wondrous year
* Squirt is the name of an apothecary's boy in Garth's
So, when a general bids the martial train
the effect of giving rise to the English opera, a species of light comedy enlivened by songs and music, which for a time supplanted the Italian opera, with all its exotic and elaborate graces. Gay tried a sequel to the 'Beggar's Opera,' under the title of Polly; but as it was supposed to contain sarcasms on the court, the lord chamberlain prohibited its representation. The poet had recourse to publication; and such was the zeal of his friends, and the effect of party spirit, that while the Beggar's Opera' realised for him only about £400, 'Polly' produced a profit of £1100 or £1200. The Duchess of Marlborough gave £100 as her subscription for a copy. Gay had now amassed £3000 by his writings, which he resolved to keep entire and sacred.' He was at the same time received into the house of his kind patrons the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry, with whom he spent the remainder of his life. His only literary occupation was composing additional fables, and corresponding occasionally with Pope and Swift. A sudden attack of inflammatory fever hurried him out of life in three days. He died on the 4th of December 1732. Pope's letter to Swift announcing the event was indorsed by the latter: On my dear friend Mr Gay's death. Received, December 15th, but not read till the 20th, by an impulse foreboding some misfortune.' The friendship of these eminent men seems to have been sincere and tender; and nothing in the life of Swift is more touching or honourable to his memory, than those passages in his letters where the recollection of Gay melted his haughty stoicism, and awakened his deep though unavailing sorrow. Pope, always more affectionate, was equally grieved by the loss of
him whom he has characterised as
Of manners gentle, of affections mild; In wit a man, simplicity a child.
Gay was buried in Westminster abbey, where a handsome monument was erected to his memory by the Duke and Duchess of Queensberry. The works of this easy and loveable son of the muses have lost much of their popularity. He has the licentiousness, without the elegance, of Prior. His fables are still, however, the best we possess; and if they have not the nationality or rich humour and archness of La Fontaine's, the subjects of them are light and pleasing, and the versification always smooth and The Hare with Many Friends is doubtless drawn from Gay's own experience. In the Court of Death, he aims at a higher order of poetry, and marshals his diseases dire' with a strong and gloomy His song of Black-Eyed Susan, and the ballad beginning Twas when the seas were roaring,'
are full of characteristic tenderness and lyrical melody. The latter is said by Cowper to have been the joint production of Arbuthnot, Swift, and Gay.
[The Country Ballad Singer.] [From The Shepherd's Week."]
Sublimer strains, O rustic muse! prepare;
That Bowzybeus who could sweetly sing,
Ah, Bowzybee, why didst thou stay so long?
Cicely, brisk maid, steps forth before the rout, And kissed with smacking lip the snoring lout (For custom says, Whoe'er this venture proves, For such a kiss demands a pair of gloves'). By her example Dorcas bolder grows, And plays a tickling straw within his nose. He rubs his nostril, and in wonted joke The sneering strains with stammering speech bespoke: To you, my lads, I'll sing my carols o'er; As for the maids, I've something else in store.
No sooner 'gan he raise his tuneful song,
For still new fairs before his eyes arose.
The mountebank now treads the stage, and sells
Then sad he sung The Children in the Wood,' (Ah, barbarous uncle, stained with infant blood !) How blackberries they plucked in deserts wild, And fearless at the glittering faulchion smiled; Their little corpse the robin-redbreasts found, And strewed with pious bill the leaves around. (Ah, gentle birds! if this verse lasts so long, Your names shall live for ever in my song.)
For 'Buxom Joan' he sung the doubtful strife, How the sly sailor made the maid a wife.
To louder strains he raised his voice, to tell What woful wars in Chevy Chase' befell, When 'Percy drove the deer with hound and horn; Wars to be wept by children yet unborn!' Ah, Witherington! more years thy life had crowned, If thou hadst never heard the horn or hound! Yet shall the squire, who fought on bloody stumps, By future bards be wailed in doleful dumps.
All in the land of Essex' next he chaunts, How to sleek mares starch Quakers turn gallants: How the grave brother stood on bank so greenHappy for him if mares had never been!
Then he was seized with a religious qualm, And on a sudden sung the hundredth psalm. He sung of Taffy Welsh' and 'Sawney Scot,' 'Lilly-bullero' and the Irish Trot.'
Why should I tell of Bateman' or of ' Shore,'
Through winter streets to steer your course aright,
When the black youth at chosen stands rejoice,
The wooden heel may raise the dancer's bound,
Now in thy trunk thy D'Oily habit fold,
Be this the horseman's fence, for who would wear
Be thine of kersey firm, though small the cost, Then brave unwet the rain, unchilled the frost.
If the strong cane support thy walking hand, Chairmen no longer shall the wall command; Even sturdy carmen shall thy nod obey, And rattling coaches stop to make thee way: This shall direct thy cautious tread aright, Though not one glaring lamp enliven night. Let beaux their canes, with amber tipt, produce; Be theirs for empty show, but thine for use. In gilded chariots while they loll at ease, And lazily insure a life's disease; While softer chairs the tawdry load convey To court, to White's,3 assemblies, or the play; Rosy-complexioned Health thy steps attends, And exercise thy lasting youth defends. Imprudent men Heaven's choicest gifts profane: Thus some beneath their arm support the canc; The dirty point oft checks the careless pace, And miry spots the clean cravat disgrace. Oh! may I never such misfortune meet! May no such vicious walkers crowd the street! May Providence o'ershade me with her wings, While the bold Muse experienced danger sings!
Sweet woman is like the fair flower in its lustre, Which in the garden enamels the ground; Near it the bees, in play, flutter and cluster, And gaudy butterflies frolic around.
But when once plucked, 'tis no longer alluring,
[The Poct and the Rose.]
[From the Fables."]
I hate the man who builds his name
1 A town in Oxfordshire.
2 A Joseph, wrap-rascal, &c.
3 A chocolate-house in St James's Strect.