תמונות בעמוד

Besides the · Nocturnal Reverie,' the Countess wrote many other sweet poems, of which the following gem is a specimen :


How gayly is at first begun

Our life's uncertain race!
Whilst yet that sprightly morning sun,
With which we just set out to run,

Enlightens all the place.
How smiling the world's prospect lies,

How tempting to go through!
Not Canaan to the prophet's eyes,
From Pizgah, with a sweet surprise,

Did more inviting show.
How soft the first ideas prove

Which wander through our minds !
How full the joys, how free the love,
Which does that early season move,

As flowers the western winds !
Our sighs are then but venal air,

But April drops our tears,
Which swiftly passing, all grows fair,
Whilst beauty compensates our care,

And youth such vapour clears.
But oh! too soon, alas! we climb,

Scarce feeling we ascend
The gently-rising hill of Time,
From whence with grief we see that prime,

And all its sweetness end.

The die now cast, our station known,

Fond expectation past:
The thorns which former days had sown,
To crops of late repentance grown,

Through which we toil at last.

Whilst every care 's a driving harm,

That helps to bear us down;
Which faded smiles no more can charm,
But every tear 's a winter storm,

And every look 's a frown.

Matturw Grxen, the last English poet of the period that we are now contemplating, was born of dissenting parents, in 1696. His advantages of early education seem to have been limited, but by persevering application he raised himself to a position of respectability, and finally obtained a situation in the custom-house, where he remained until his death, which occurred in 1737.

Green's natural disposition was cheerful, but this did not prevent occasional attacks of low spirits or spleen; and having tried all imaginable remedies for the malady, he at length conceived himself able to treat it ir a philosophical spirit, and, therefore, wrote The Spleen, a poem which adverts to all its forms, and their apposite remedies, in a style of comic verse resembling Hudibras, but which is still allowed to be eminently original. “The Spleen,' was first published by Glover, the author of 'Leonidas;' Gray afterward remarked that even the wood-notes of Green often break out into strains of real poetry and music.' As this poem is comparatively little known to modern readers, we present a larger extract from it than we otherwise should.



[ocr errors]

To cure the mind's wrong bias, spleen,
Some recommend the bowling-green ;
Some hilly walks ; all exercise;
Fling but a stone, the giant dies;
Laugh and be well. Monkeys have been
Extreme good doctors for the spleen;
And kitten if the humour hit,
Has harlequined away the fit.

Since mirth is good in this behalf,
At some particulars let us laugh.
Witlings, brisk fools-
Who buzz in rhyme, and, like blind flies,
Err with their wings for want of eyes.
Poor authors worshiping a calf ;
Deep tragedies that make us laugh;
Folks, things prophetic to dispense,
Making the past the future tense ;
The popish dubbing of a priest;
Fine epithets on knaves deceased;
A miser starving to be rich;
The prior of Newgate's dying speech;
A jointured widow's ritual state ;
Two Jews disputing tête-à-tête;
New almanacs composed by seers;
Experiments on felon's ears ;
Disdainful prudes, who ceaseless ply
The superb muscle of the eye;
A coquette's April-weather face;
A Queen 'brough mayor behind his mace,
And fops in military show,
Are sovereign for the case in view.

If spleen-fogs rise at close of day,
I clear my evening with a play,
Or to some concert take my way.
The company, the shine of lights,
The scenes of humour, music's flights,
Adjust and set the soul to rights.

In rainy days keep double guard,
Or spleen will surely be too hard ;
Which, like those fish by sailors met,
Fly highest while their wings are wet.


In such dull weather, so unfit
To enterprise a work of wit;
When clouds one yard of azure sky,
That's fit for simile, deny,
I dress my face with studious looks,
And shorten tedious hours with books.
But if dull fogs invade the head,
That memory minds not what is read,
I sit in window dry as ark,
And on the drowning world remark:
Or to some coffee-house I stray
For news, the manna of a day,
And from the hipped discourses gather,
That politics go by the weather.

Sometimes I dress, with women sit,
And chat away the gloomy fit;
Quit the stiff garb of serious sense,
And wear a gay impertinence,
Nor think we speak with any pains,
But lay on fancy's neck the reins.

Law, licens'd breaking of the peace,
To which vacation is disease;
A gipsy diction scarce known well
By the magi, who law fortunes tell,
I shun; nor let it breed within
Anxiety, and that the spleen.
I never game, and rarely bet,
Am loath to lend or run in debt.
No Compter-writs we agitate;
Who moralizing pass the gate,
And then mine eyes on spendthrifts turn,
Who vainly o'er their bondage mourn.
Wisdom, before beneath their care,
Pays her upbraiding visits there,
And forces folly through the grate
Her panegyric to repeat.
This view, profusely when inclined,
Enters a caveat in the mind;
Experience. joined with common sense,
To mortals is a providence.
Refornring schemes are none of mine;
To mend the world 's a vast design:
Like those who tug a little boat
To pull to them the ship afloat,
While to defeat their labour'd end,
And once both wind and steam contend:
Success herein is seldom seen,
And zeal, when baffled, turns to spleen.

Happy the man, who, innocent, Grieves not at ills he can't prevent; His skiff does with the current glide, Not puffing pulled against the tide. He, paddling by the scoffiing crowd, Sees unconcerned life's wager rowed,


And when he can't prevent foul play,
Enjoys the folly of the fray.
Yet philosophic love of ease
I suffer not to prove disease,
But rise up in the virtuous cause
Of a free press and equal laws.

Since disappointment galls within,
And subjugates the soul to spleen,
Most schemes, as money snares, I hate,
And bite not at projector's bait.
Sufficient wrecks appear each day,
And yet fresh fools are cast away.
Ere well the bubbled can turn round,
Their painted vessel runs a-ground;
Or in deep seas it oversets
By a fierce hurricane of debts;
Or helm-directors in one trip,
Freight first embezzled, sink the ship.

When Fancy tries her limning skill
To draw and colour at her will,
And raise and round the figures well,
And show her talent to excel,
I guard my heart, lest it should woo
Unreal beauties Fancy drew,
And, disappointed, feel despair
At loss of things that never were.

“The Scottish muse had,' in the language of Chambers, “ been silent for nearly a century, excepting when it found brief expression in some stray song of broad humor or simple pathos, chanted by the population of the hills and dales. The genius of the country was, however, at length revived in all its force and nationality, by Allan Ramsay, whose very name is now an impersonation of Scottish scenery and manners. The religious austerity of the Covenanters still hung over the country, and damped the efforts of poets and dramatists; but a freer spirit found its way into the towns, as trade and commerce increased. The higher classes were in the habit of visiting London, though the journey was still performed with much labor ; and the writings of Pope and Swift were circulated, to a very considerable extent, over the North.'

Allan RAMSAY was born in the village of Leadhills, Lanarkshire, in 1686. His father held the situation of manager of Lord Hopeton's mines; and when Allan became a poet, he boasted that he was of the ' auld descent of the Dalhousie family, and also collaterally sprung from a Douglass loin.' His father died while the poet was in his infancy, but his mother, an English lady, put him to the village school, where he acquired learning enough to enable him to read Horace 'faintly in the original.' When in the fifteenth year of his age, he was put apprentice to a wig-maker, in Edinburgh -a light employment, suited to his slender frame and boyish smartness, but not very congenial to his literary taste. His first poem was written in the twenty-sixth year of his age; and was in the form of an address to the * Easy Club,' a convivial society of young men, of which Allan was admitted a member, and became their poet laureate. He soon after wrote several light pieces which were extremely popular.

In 1712 Ramsay greatly extended his reputation by writing a continuation to King James's .Christ's Kirk on the Green.' This work was executed with such genuine humor and fancy, and evinced such a mastery of the Scottish language, that nothing so rich had appeared since the strains of Dunbar and Lindsay. He now left off wig-making, and opened a bookseller's shop. He also became an editor, and published The Tea Table Miscellany and The Evergreen. The former was a collection of songs, some of which were his own; and the latter was a collection of Scottish poems written before 1600. He was not well qualified for editing works of this kind, being deficient in both knowledge and taste. In 1725 Ramsay published his celebrated pastoral drama, The Gentle Shepherd. This work was received with universal approbation, and was republished both in London and Dublin. He now opened a larger shop, and established a circulating library, the first known in Scotland. From this time Ramsay relinquished poetry, devoted bimself carefully to his business, and eventually acquired a handsome independence. His death occurred on the seventh of January, 1758, and was occasioned by a scurvy of the gums—a disease that had long affected him.

Ramsay's poetical works are both numerous and various; but his reputation rests almost exclusively on ‘The Gentle Shepherd.' This is really a very remarkable production. It possesses that air of primitive simplicity and seclusion which seem indispensable in compositions of this class, and its landscapes are filled with life-like beings, who interest us from their character, their situation, and their circumstances. It is, in the opinion of Blair, the finest pastoral drama ever written. Of this important poem our space limits us to the following brief extract :

Hear how I served my lass I love as well
As ye do Jenny, and with heart as leal.
Last morning I was gay and early out,
Upon a dike I leaned, glowering about,
I saw my Meg come linkin' o'er the lee,
I saw my Meg, but Meggy saw na me;
For yet the sun was wading through the mist,
And she was close upon me e'er she wist;
Her coats were keltit, and did sweetly shaw
Her straight bare legs that whiter were than snaw.
Her cockernony snooded up for 'sleek,
Her haffet locks hang waving on her cheek;
Her cheeks sae ruddy, and her e'en sae clear;
And oh! her mouth 's like ony hinny pear.
Neat, neat she was, in bustine waistcoat clean,
As she came skiffiing o'er the dewy green.

« הקודםהמשך »