תמונות בעמוד

thinks for himself, and is not content to express trite ideas and traditionary images in that ordinary and common-place language of poetry, which has been chimed over and over to different tunes, till at length the manufacture of verses has become as mechanical as the turning of a hand organ. Dryden, in speaking of one of the fathers of English verse, has some lines which are singularly applicable to the earlier poetry of Clifton.

“O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue;
But satire needs not that, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.”

But in his later poems this mist of obscurity seems rapidly elearing away. The epistle to Mr. Gifford, which appears to be the only piece in the collection which had undergone any very scrupulous revision, for spirit and animation, for rich luxuriance of poetical ornament and diction, for vigorous condensation of brilliant thought and happy boldness of phrase, as well as for purity and richness of versification, may be fairly placed in competition with any of the satiric poetry of the age.

This poem, having been originally published anonymously in the first American edition of Mr. Gifford's poems, and afterwards reprinted in several fugitive publications, is better known than any other of Mr. Clifton's productions, and has been read and admired by many to whom the name of the author is probably altogether unknown. The following similes are selected, not for their peculiar beauty, for the whole poem is of a very uniform and sustained excellence, but as a fair specimen of its general style and manner.

After describing the severe intellectual discipline by which the ancient scholars were formed, when

Patience and perseverance, care and pain,
Alone the steep, the rough ascent could gain,
None but the great the sun-clad summit found;
The weak were baffled while the strong were crown'd.

and placing it in vivid contrast with the mushroom precocity, with which authors now spring up, he adds,

“So the sage oak, to nature's mandate true,
Advanc'd but slow, and strengthen'd as it grew !
But when at length (full many a season o'er)
Its virile head, in pride, aloft it bore;
When steadfast were its roots, and sound its heart,
It bade defiance to the insect's art,
And, storm and time resisting, still remains
The neverdying glory of the plains.

“ Then, if some thoughtless Bavius dared appear,
Short was his date, and limited his sphere;
He could but please the changeling mob a day,
Then, like his noxious labours, pass away:
So, near a forest tall, some worthless flower
Enjoys the triumph of its gaudy hour,
Scatters its little poison through the skies,
Then droops its empty, hated head, and dies."

As the other pieces in this collection are very little known, most of my readers will probably be gratified by a selection of a few of his happier effusions; and although these and some other pasages of equal excellence stand in very bold relief among many careless and inferior verses which accompany them, they will yet, I trust, be sufficient to show us how much of poetical talent and taste was lost to the world by the untimely death of this young poet, who, haply, had he survived, might, under more favourable auspices, have proved the American Dryden.

In the Chimeriad, the genius of false philosophy is personified with much spirit and boldness of imagination under the character of the witch Chimeria. The following passage is brilliant in fancy and rich in thought, though in some of the lines the idea is not brought out with sufficient distinctness, and the expression is occasionally harsh and obscure.

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“ In times of old, ere yet the sacred page Display'd its treasures to a graceless age,

When from his fields and flocks first urg'd to roam
Man found in crowded towns a restless home;
The witch Chimeria into being came,
Her sire Ambition, Discontent her dam,
Exulting passions haild the monstrous birth,
And choral demons stalk'd the frighted earth,
Mysterious, wild, aspirant, fierce, and bold;
No art could tame her, and no mandate hold;
Change was her dear delight; her eye of fire
Forever burnt with uncontrolld desire;
With maniac flight, through pathless skies pursu'd,
Some vision painted on the filmy scud.
The heavenly impulse which decreed the fane
of social compact to protect the plain,
Its various grades from capital to base,
Which gave the building all its strength and grace,
Content and comfort shelter'd by its shade,
From the proud palace to the cot display'd,
Obtain'd not her regard; her roving mind
Left meek content, and order far behind.
Too light to study, and too dull to scan,
The temper, state and faculties of man,
Full of herself, she soar'd aloft to prove,
The joys which float in endless change above;
And saw obedient to her mad command,
Incongruous nothings into chaos plann'd.
She saw her empire form’d, and day by day,
Saw systems spring to light and pass away ;
Saw idiots dazzled with her tinsel zone,
And genius sometimes sporting round her throne;
There Plato walk'd his academic round,
And there his shadowy prototypes were found;
His spectre cave he pompously display'd,
Talk'd of a world, of endless essence made;
Pour'd forth of eloquence an airy storm,
And lick'd his cub republic into form.
There too the Stagyrite, with plastic hand,
Fill'd with new shapes her metaphysic land,
And the proud stoic sought her dædal train,
To writhe in transports of delicious pain,
While Epicurus press'd the breeze, to kiss
His flow'ry visions bright with golden bliss,

And pass’d on banks of bad delight the day,
Free as the gods, and overjoy'd as they.”

It is doubtless remembered that the adjustment of differences with France, in 1799, whatever may now be thought of the policy of the measure, was at the time received with great disgust by many generous spirits to whom the honour of their country was dearer than its immediate interests. Among this number was Mr. Clifton. The following lines, alluding to that event, contain a very fine burst of poetical indignation. The simile, "So Satan," &c. will probably recall to the memory some celebrated couplets in Otway's Orphan, which it strongly resembles in spirit and flow of versification. The bitter smile of angry contempt which the poet assumes in the last lines, their mixture of sprightly sarcasm, and lofty indignation, are in the very spirit of Juvenal.

“ Infatuate men, ah! what avails your boast,
Your rising navy, and your guarded coast,
Your hosts of patriot youth, in arms array'd ;-
'Tis all the wretched shadow of a shade.
For soon the spoiler comes, 'with wanton es,
With quips, and cranks, and nods, and wreathed smiles,
Disarms your vengeance, stays the lifted blow,
And lays your freedom and your honour low.
So the poor girl whose bold seducer flies,
With steps too rudle to seize the virgin prize,
Frowns on the wretch who dar'd invade her charms,
And all her injur'd feelings rush to arms:
But soon return’d, he drops an artful tear,
And pours his plaintive sorrows in her ear,
'Till treacherous love admits the wily cheat,
And stamps her ruin and her shame complete.
So Satan once, with · diplomatic skill,'
Rush'd through the tangles of the sacred hill,
Beguild the truth of Adam's honest mind,
And nail'd the yoke of mischief on mankind.
Infatuate men ! while clouds invest the air
You fondly dream to-morrow will be fair:
Still careless, on the same dull road you stray,
Nor heed the stormy dangers of the way;

With you the frolick and the seast is found,
The chariot rattles and the glass goes round:
You still can truck your wares, and go to bed
With some new speculation in your head;
Still strut the 'change with haberdasher pride;
Still count the profits, and the gain divide;
Still take the breakfast paper, and explore
The advertising columns o'er and o'er;
And, if the tale should meet your listless glance,
Of some new land, a prey to bloody France,
You still can look at home with vast content,
And underwrite the state for one per cent.”

In a little poem entitled “A Flight of Fancy" he appears in pleasing contrast in a very different character. With the exception of one or two stanzas, which are a little tarnished by that Della Cruscan tinsel, which he had himself joined in ridiculing, it is altogether filled with delicate sentiment and some of the sweetest images of rural beauty and domestic happiness. He pictures, with exquisite taste and great gayety of imagination, an imaginary scene of pastoral felicity, where

“ Spring shall laugh at winter's frown,

And summer blush for gamesome spring,
And autumn prank'd in wheaten crown,

His stores to hungry winter bring.

66 'Tis mine! 'tis mine! this sacred grove,

Where truth and beauty may recline,
The sweet resort of many a love;

Monimia come and make it thine.

“For thee the bursting buds are ripe,

The whistling robin calls thee here,
To thee complains the woodland pipe;

Will not my lov'd Monimia hear?

“A fawn I'll bring thee, gentle maid,

To gambol round thy pleasant door;
I'll cull thee wreaths that ne'er shall fade,
What shall I say to tempt thee more?

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