תמונות בעמוד

am speaking of the verse itself, I give all just praise to many of my friends now living, who have in epic carried the harmony of their numbers as far as the nature of this measure will permit. But once more: he that writes in rhymes, dances in fetters: and as his chain is more extended, he may certainly take larger steps.

I need make no apology for the short digressive panegyric upon Great Britain, in the first book. I am glad to have it observed, that there appears throughout all my verses a zeal for the honour of my country; and I had rather be thought a good Englishman, than the best poet, or greatest scholar that ever wrote.

And now as to the publishing of this piece, though I have in a literal sense observed Horace's Nonum prematur in Annum, yet have I by no means obeyed our poetical lawgiver, according to the spirit of the precept. The poem has indeed been written and laid aside much longer than the term prescribed; but in the meantime I had little leisure, and less inclination to revise or print it. The frequent interruptions I have met with in my private studies, and the great variety of public life in which I have been employed; my thoughts (such as they are) having generally been expressed in foreign language, and even formed by a habitude very different from what the beauty and elegance of English poetry requires: all these, and some other circumstances which we had as good pass by at present, do justly contribute to make my excuse in this behalf very plausible. Far indeed from designing to print, I had locked up these papers in my seritoire, there to lie in peace till my executors might have taken them out. What altered this design, or how my scritoire came to be unlocked before my coffin was nailed, is the question. The true reason I take to be the best. Many of my friends of the first quality, finest learning, and greatest understanding, have wrested the key from my hands by a very kind and irresistible violence: and the poem is published, not without my consent indeed, but a little against my opinion; and with an implicit submission to the partiality of their judgment. As I give up here the fruits of many of my vacant hours to their amusement and pleasure, I shall always think myself happy, if I may dedicate my most serious endeavours to their interest and service. And I am proud to finish this preface by saying, that the violence of many enemies, whom I never justly offended, is abundantly recompensed by the goodness of more friends, whom I can never sufficiently oblige. And if I here assume the liberty of mentioning my Lord Harley and Lord Bathurst as the authors of this amicable confederacy, among all those whose names do me great honour at the beginning of my book," these two only ought to be angry with me; for I disobey their positive order, whilst I make even this small acknowledgment of their particular kindness.

TEXTS CHIEFLY ALLUDED TO IN THIS BOOK. THE words of the Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem. Ecclesiastes, chapter i. verse 1. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Werse 2. 1 As subscribers to the edition in folio, 1718.

I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. Verse 16.

He spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. 1 Kings, chapter iv. verse 33.

I know, that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. Ecclesiastes, chapter iii. verse 14.

He hath made everything beautiful in his time; also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. Verse 11.

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow. Chapter i. verse 18.

And further by these, my Son, be admonished; of making many books there is no end: and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Chapter xii. verse 12.




Solomon seeking happiness from knowledge, convenes the learned men of his kingdom; requires them to explain to him the various operations and effects of nature; discourses of vegetables, animals, and man; proposes some questions concerning the origin, and situation of the habitable earth; proceeds to examine the system of the visible heaven; doubts if there be not a plurality of worlds; enquires into the nature of spirits and angels; and wishes to be more fully informed, as to the attributes of the Supreme Being. He is imperfectly answered by the Rabbins and doctors; blames his own curiosity; and concludes, that, as to human science, all is vanity.

YE sons of men, with just regard attend,
Observe the preacher, and believe the friend,
Whose serious Muse inspires him to explain,
That all we act, and all we think is vain.
That in this pilgrimage of seventy years,
Over rocks of perils, and through vales of tears,
Destined to march, our doubtful steps we tend,
Tired with the toil, yet fearful of its end.

That from the womb we take our fatal shares 9
Of follies, passions, labours, tumults, cares;
And at approach of death shall only know
The truths, which from these pensive numbers
That we pursue false joy, and suffer real woe.
Happiness, object of that waking dream,
Which we call life, mistaking; fugitive theme
Of my pursuing verse; ideal shade,
Notional good, by fancy only made,
And by tradition nursed; fallacious fire,
Whose dancing beams mislead our fond desire;
Cause of our care, and error of our mind; 20
Oh! hadst thou ever been by Heaven designed
To Adam, and his mortal race, the boon
Entire had been reserved for Solomon:
On me the partial lot had been bestowed,
And in my cup the golden draught had flowed.
But O ! ere yet original man was made,
Ere the foundations of this earth were laid,
It was opponent to our search, ordained,
That joy, still sought, should never be attained;
This sad experience cites me to reveal, 30
And what I dictate, is from what I feel.
Born as I was, great David's favourite son,
Dear to my people, on the Hebrew throne;
Sublime my court with Ophir's treasures blessed,
My name extended to the farthest east,
My body clothed with every outward grace,
Strength in my limbs, and beauty in my face,
My shining thought with fruitful notions crowned,
Quick my invention, and my judgment sound.
Arise (I communed with myself) arise; 40
Think, to be happy; to be great, be wise;

Content of spirit must from science flow, 42
For 'tis a godlike attribute to know.
I said; and sent my edict through the land;
Around my throne the lettered Rabbins stand,
Historic leaves revolve, long volumes spread,
The old discoursing, as the younger read:
Attent I heard, proposed my doubts, and said:
The vegetable world, each plant and tree,
Its seed, its name, its nature, its degree 50
I am allowed, as Fame reports, to know,
From the fair cedar on the craggy brow
Of Lebanon, nodding supremely tall,
To creeping moss, and hyssop on the wall;
Yet, just and conscious to myself, I find
A thousand doubts oppose the searching mind.
I know not why the beech delights the glade
With boughs extended, and a rounder shade;
Whilst towering firs in conic forms arise,
And with a pointed spear divide the skies. 60
Nor why again the changing oak should shed
The yearly honour of his stately head;
Whilst the distinguished yew is ever seen,
Unchanged his branch, and permanent his green.
Wanting the sun why does the caltha fade?
Why does the cyprus flourish in the shade?
The fig and date, why love they to remain
In middle station, and an even plain;
While in the lower marsh the gourd is found;
And while the hill with olive shade is crowned? 70
Why does one climate, and one soil endue
The blushing poppy with a crimson hue;
Yet leave the lily pale, and tinge the violet blue?
Why does the fond carnation love to shoot
A various colour from one parent root;

While the fantastic tulip strives to break 76
In twofold beauty, and a parted streak?
The twining jasmine, and the blushing rose,
With lavish grace their morning scents disclose;
The smelling tuberose and jonquil declare,
The stronger impulse of an evening air.
Whence has the tree (resolve me) or the flower
A various instinct, or a different power;
Why should one earth, one clime, one stream, one breath
Raise this to strength, and sicken that to death?
Whence does it happen, that the plant which well
We name the sensitive should move and feel;
Whence know her leaves to answer her command,
And with quick horror fly the neighbouring hand?
Along the sunny bank, or watery mead, 90
Ten thousand stalks their various blossoms spread;
Peaceful and lowly in their native soil,
They neither know to spin, nor care to toil;
Yet with confessed magnificence deride
Our vile attire, and impotence of pride.
The cowslip smiles, in brighter yellow dressed,
Than that which veils the nubile virgin's breast;
A fairer red stands blushing in the rose,
Than that which on the bridegroom's vestment flows.
Take but the humblest lily of the field, 100
And if our pride will to our reason yield,
It must by sure comparison be shown
That on the regal seat great David's son,
Arrayed in all his robes, and types of power,
Shines with less glory, than that simple flower.
Of fishes next, my friends, I would enquire,
How the mute race engender or respire;
From the small fry that glide on Jordan's stream
Unmarked, a multitude without a name,

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