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JOHN GAY, born in the same year with Pope, much beloved by him in life, and mourned by him at his
1688-1732 death, was one of the most amiable of all these poets, and was known as a man too good-natured for his own advantage. He began by writing pastoral poems, which really contained some natural pictures of country life, in contrast to most pastorals, which are as stiff and unlike nature as possible. After these, Gay wrote, in contrast to his earlier works, a long epic called Trivia, or the Art of Walking the Streets of London, in which he describes city
This last poem is to me exceedingly dull, the only merit I find in it being that the street scenes it paints are interesting as a study of the times. After these achievements in verse he began to write dramas, none of them drawing much attention till he wrote the Beggars' Opera, which brought him both fame and money. The characters in this were highwaymen and thieves, the lowest characters in Newgate prison; but they were depicted with humor, accompanied by a biting satire against follies which were found to exist as well in the highest society as among thieves. The hero is the highwayman, Macheath, who narrowly escapes hanging. In one place he says, “As to conscience and nasty morals, I have as few drawbacks upon my pleasures as any man of quality in England ; in these I am not in the least vulgar; ” and Polly, the heroine, says pertly, “A woman knows how to be mercenary, though she has never been in a court or an assembly.” Besides such hits as these at the follies and vice of the age, some of the lines contain a vast deal of cynical wisdom. One of the rogues exclaims over his cups, “ The present time is ours, and nobody alive has more.” “Well, I forgive you," says Mrs. Peachum to Polly, as far as one woman can forgive another."
After the great success of the Beggar's Opera, Gay wrote a sequel called Polly, which, as almost always happens when one tries to repeat a success, was greatly inferior to the first. Yet he made money by it, and was able to retire in comfortable circumstances, leading a life of retirement
the rest of his days. His latest works were fables in rhyme, inclosing a shrewd and wholesome moral. Here is one of the best :
THE MAN AND THE FLEA.
Whether on earth, in air, or main,
“What dignity 's in human nature !”
“ When I behold this glorious show,
“ Not of th' importance you suppose,”
'T is vanity that swells thy mind.
That more important fleas might feed.”
, one thing for which Gay deserves credit is that he did not write, like so many of his compeers, about dukes and duchesses, but that in the Beggar's Opera he contrives to wake an interest in the human nature common to all men and women, just as in the ballad of Black-Eyed Susan it is the common sailor and his love for whom he seeks our sympathy. This is so much the case in our day that it would not attract notice; but we must remember that it was different in the time of Gay, and that the humanity that makes us all akin was not so much the subject of the poet's
WILLIAM'S FAREWELL TO BLACK-EYED SUSAN.
The streamers waving in the wind,
“Oh, where shall I my true love find?
Rocked with the billow to and fro,
He sighed and cast his eyes below.
Shuts close his pinions to his breast
And drops at once into her nest.
My vows shall ever true remain.
We only part to meet again.
Change as ye list, ye winds; my heart shall be
“ If to fair India's coast we sail,
Thy eyes are seen in diarnonds bright,
Thy skin is ivory so white.
“Though battle call me from thy arms,
Let not my pretty Susan mourn;
William shall to his dear return.
The boatswain gave the dreadful word;
The sails their swelling bosoms spread:
They kissed, she sighed, he hung his head.
THOMAS PARNELL was a clergyman and a scholar. He
wrote one piece which has earned him nearly all 1679-1718
the fame he possesses as a poet, — The Hermit, – written in that see-saw rhyme that becomes so tiresome to the ear when we read much of it. These are the opening lines :
“Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew.
I shall not quote The Hermit further; it is a poem which I think will not find so many readers in the future as it has found in the past; but there is one little song by Parnell which we will read, that for melody and archness could easily be put among the best songs of the earlier singers, Suckling, Lovelace, or Waller. It is a wonder that a man who could write such a song could have been tied down to such stiff models, and have trained his muse to grind out the formal measure in which The Hermit is written:
“When thy beauty appears
In its graces and airs,
“But when, without art,
Your kind thought you impart;
In our sex,' she replied,
But still be a woman to you.'”
ON THE AUTHOR OF “ ROBINSON CRUSOE."
UR hearts will always respond to the mention of the of DANIEL DE FOE, if we have read
1661-1731 the story of Robinson Crusoe when we were children, and who of us did not?
Most of these writers of the Augustan age were men who belonged to the English Church, and were in sympathy with the political party in power. De Foe was much of the time in opposition to both. In religion he belonged to the Dissenters; in politics he was a Whig; and although a few of his political pamphlets were popular, they brought him, for the most part, only trouble. He was several times fined ; three times set in the pillory; imprisoned in Newgate for more than a year, where he had an opportunity to study some of the types of character he afterwards put into his fictions. It was late in life when he gave up political writing and began to write novels. Then he seems