Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

among the negroes; and I served out my time, as in duty bound to do.

When my time was expired, I worked my passage home, and glad I was to see Old England again, because I loved my country. I was afraid, however, that I should be indicted for a vagabond once more, so did not much care to go down into the country, but kept about the town, and did little jobs when I could get them.

I was very happy in this manner for some time, till one evening, coming home from work, two men knocked me down, and then desired me to stand. They belonged to a press-gang: I was carried before the justice, and, as I could give no account of myself, I had my choice left, whether to go on board a man of war, or list for a soldier: I chose the latter; and, in this post of a gentleman, I served two campaigns in Flanders, was at the battles of Val and Fontenoy, and received but one wound, through the breast here; but the doctor of our regiment soon made me well again.

When the peace came on I was discharged; and, as I could not work, because my wound was sometimes troublesome, I listed for a landman in the East India Company's service. I have fought the French in six pitched battles ; and I verily believe that, if I could read or write, our captain would have made me a corporal. But it was not my good fortune to have any promotion, for I soon fell sick, and so got leave to return home again with forty pounds in my pocket. This was at the beginning of the present war, and I hoped to be set on shore, and to have the pleasure of spending my money ; but the government wanted men, and so I was pressed for a sailor before ever I could set foot

on shore.

The boatswain found me, as he said, an obstinate fellow: insisted that I understood my business, but that I liked to be idle: but I knew nothing of seabusiness, and he beat me, without considering what he was about. I had still, however, my forty pounds, and that was some comfort to me under every beating; and the money I might have had to this day, but that our ship was taken by the French, and so I lost all.

Our crew was carried into Brest, and many of them died, because they were not used to live in a jail; but, for my part, it was nothing to me, for I was seasoned. One night, as I was asleep on the bed of boards, with a warm blanket about me, for I always loved to lie well, I was awakened by the boatswain, who had a dark lantern in his hand : “ Jack," says he to me, “ will you knock out the French sentry's brains ?” I don't care, says I, striving to keep myself awake, if I lend a hand. “ Then follow me," says he, “and I hope we shall do business.” So up I got, and went with him to fight the Frenchmen. I hate the French, because they are all slaves, and wear wooden shoes.

Though we had no arms, one Englishman is able to beat five French at any time: so we went down to the door, where both the sentries were posted, and, rushing upon them, seized their arms in a moment, and knocked them down. From thence nine of us ran together to the quay, and seizing the first boat we met, got out of the harbour, and put to sea. We had not been here three days before we were taken up by the Dorset privateer, who were glad of so many good hands, and we consented to run our chance. However, we had not as much good luck as we expected. In three days we fell in with the Pompadour privateer, of forty guns, while we had but twenty-three ; so to it we went, yard-arm and yard-arn. The fight lasted for three hours, and I verily believe we should have taken the Frenchman, had we but had some more men left behind: but, unfortunately, we lost all our men just as we were going to get the victory

I was once more in the power of the French, and I believe it would have gone hard with me had I been brought back to Brest ; but, by good fortune, we were retaken by the Viper. I had almost forgot to tell you, that, in that engagement, I was wounded in two places; I lost four fingers off the left hand, and my leg was shot off. If I had had the good fortune to have lost my leg and use of my hand on board a king's ship, and not aboard a privateer, I should have been entitled to clothing and maintenance during the rest of my life! but that was not

my

chance. One man's born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and another with a wooden laddle. However, I enjoy good health, and will for ever love liberty and Old England. Liberty, property, and Old England for ever, huzza !

Thus saying, he limped off, leaving me in admiration at his intrepidity and content; nor could I avoid acknowledging, that an habitual acquaintance with misery serves better than philosophy to teach us to despise it.

Goldsmith.

[merged small][ocr errors]

25.-The Business and Qualifications of a Poet. “ WHEREVER I went, I found that poetry was considered as the highest learning, and regarded with a veneration somewhat approaching to that which man would pay to the angelic nature. And it yet fills me with wonder, that, in almost all countries, the most ancient poets are considered as the best : whether it be that every other kind of knowledge is an acquisition gradually attained, and poetry is a gift conferred at once; or that the first poetry of every nation surprised them as a novelty, and retained the credit by consent which it received by accident at first; or whether, as the province of poetry is to describe nature and passion, which are always the same, the first writers took possession of the most striking objects for description, and the most probable occurrences for fiction, and left nothing to those that followed them, but transcriptions of the same events, and new combinations of the same images. Whatever be the reason, it is commonly observed, that the early writers are in possession of nature, and their followers of art: that the first excel in strength and invention, and the latter in elegance and refinement.

“ I was desirous to add my name to this illustrious fraternity. I read all the poets of Persia and Arabia, and was able to repeat by memory the volumes that are suspended in the mosque of Mecca. But I soon found that no man was ever great by imitation. My desire of

excellence impelled me to transfer my attention to nature and to life. Nature was to be my subject, and men to be my auditors: I could never describe what I had not seen ; I could not hope to move those with delight or terror, whose interests and opinions I did not understand.

“ Being now resolved to be a poet, I saw every thing with a new purpose; my sphere of attention was suddenly magnified: no kind of knowledge was to be overlooked. Í ranged mountains and deserts for images and resemblances, and pictured upon my mind every tree of the forest and flower of the valley. I observed with equal care the crags of the rock and the pinnacles of the palace. Sometimes I wandered along the mazes of the rivulet, and sometimes watched the changes of the summer clouds. To a poet nothing can be useless. Whatever is beautiful, and whatever is dreadful, must be familiar to his imagination : he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast or elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety : for every idea is useful for the enforcement or decoration of "moral or religious truth; and he, who knows most, will have most power of diversifying his scenes, and of gratifying his reader with remote allusions and unexpected instruction.

« All the appearances of nature I was therefore careful to study, and every country which I have surveyed has contributed something to my poetical powers.”

“ In so wide a survey,” said the prince, “ you must surely have left much unobserved. I have lived, till now, within the circuit of these mountains, and yet cannot walk abroad without the sight of something which I never beheld before, or never heeded.”

“ The business of a poet," said Imlac, " is to examine, not the individual, but the species ; to remark general properties and large appearances : he does not number the streaks of the tulip, or describe the different shades in the verdure of the forest. He is to exhibit in his portraits of nature such prominent and

striking features, as recal the original to every mind; and must neglect the minuter discriminations, which one may have remarked, and another have neglected, for those characteristics which are alike obvious to vigilance and carelessness.

“ But the knowledge of nature is only half the task of a poet; he must be acquainted likewise with all the modes of life. His character requires that he estimate the happiness and misery of every condition, observe the power of all the passions in all their combinations, and trace the changes of the human mind as they are modified by various institutions, and accidental influences of climate or custom, from the sprightliness of infancy to the despondence of decrepitude. He must divest himself of the prejudices of his age or country; he must consider right and wrong in their abstract and invariable state ; he must disregard present laws and opinions, and rise to general and transcendental truths, which will always be the same: he must therefore content himself with the slow

progress

of his name; contemn the applause of his own time, and commit his claims to the justice of posterity: He must write as the interpreter of nature, and the legislator of mankind, and consider himself as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations, as a being superior to time and place.

“ His labour is not yet at an end: he must know many languages and many sciences; and, that his style may be worthy of his thoughts, must by incessant practice familiarize to himself every delicacy of speech and grace of harmony."

Johnson's Rasselas,

26.-Remarks on some of the best Poets, both Ancient

and Modern. "Tis manifest, that some particular ages have been more happy than others, in the production of great men, and all sorts of arts and sciences; as that of Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and the rest, for stage poetry, amongst the Greeks; that of Augustus for heroic, lyric, dramatic, elegiac, and indeed alì sorts

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »