Poetical Works of Johnson, Parnell, Gray, and Smollett
Samuel Johnson, Thomas Parnell, Thomas Gray, and Tobias Smollett
Part 4 out of 5
ADVERTISEMENT.--The following ode is founded on a tradition current in
Wales, that Edward I., when he completed the conquest of that country,
ordered all the bards that fell into his hands to be put to death.
'Ruin seize thee, ruthless King!
Confusion on thy banners wait;
Though fann'd by Conquest's crimson wing,
They mock the air with idle state.
Helm nor hauberk's twisted mail,
Nor even thy virtues, Tyrant! shall avail
To save thy secret soul from nightly fears;
From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!'
Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride
Of the first Edward scatter'd wild dismay,
As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side
He wound with toilsome march his long array:
Stout Glo'ster stood aghast in speechless trance:
To arms! cried Mortimer, and couch'd his quivering lance.
On a rock, whose haughty brow
Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood,
Robed in the sable garb of woe,
With haggard eyes the poet stood;
(Loose his beard and hoary hair,
Stream'd like a meteor to the troubled air,)
And with a master's hand and prophet's fire
Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre:
'Hark how each giant oak and desert cave
Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath!
O'er thee, O King! their hundred arms they wave,
Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe;
Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day,
To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.
'Cold is Cadwallo's tongue
That hush'd the stormy main;
Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:
Mountains! ye moan in vain
Modrid, whose magic song
Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-topp'd head.
On dreary Arvon's shore they lie,
Smear'd with gore and ghastly pale;
Far, far aloof the affrighted ravens sail;
The famish'd eagle screams and passes by.
Dear lost companions of my tuneful art!
Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,
Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
Ye died amidst your dying country's cries--
No more I weep. They do not sleep:
On yonder cliffs, a grisly band,
I see them sit; they linger yet,
Avengers of their native land:
With me in dreadful harmony they join,
And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.
"Weave the warp and weave the woof,
The winding-sheet of Edward's race:
Give ample room and verge enough
The characters of Hell to trace.
Mark the year and mark the night
When Severn shall re-echo with affright
The shrieks of death through Berkley's roofs that ring,
Shrieks of an agonising king!
She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs
That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate,
From thee be born who o'er thy country hangs
The scourge of Heaven. What terrors round him wait!
Amazement in his van, with Flight combined,
And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.
"Mighty Victor, mighty Lord,
Low on his funeral couch he lies!
No pitying heart, no eye afford
A tear to grace his obsequies!
Is the sable warrior fled?
Thy son is gone; he rests among the dead.
The swarm that in thy noontide beam were born,
Gone to salute the rising morn:
Fair laughs the morn, and soft the Zephyr blows,
While, proudly riding o'er the azure realm,
In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes,
Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm,
Regardless of the sweeping whirlwind's sway,
That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening prey.
"Fill high the sparkling bowl,
The rich repast prepare;
Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast.
Close by the regal chair
Fell Thirst and Famine scowl
A baleful smile upon the baffled guest.
Heard ye the din of battle bray,
Lance to lance and horse to horse?
Long years of havoc urge their destined course,
And through the kindred squadrons mow their way;
Ye Towers of Julius! London's lasting shame,
With many a foul and midnight murder fed,
Revere his consort's faith, his father's fame,
And spare the meek usurper's holy head.
Above, below, the Rose of snow,
Twined with her blushing foe, we spread;
The bristled Boar in infant gore
Wallows beneath the thorny shade;
Now, Brothers! bending o'er the accursed loom,
Stamp we our vengeance deep, and ratify his doom.
"Edward, lo! to sudden fate
(Weave we the woof; the thread is spun:)
Half of thy heart we consecrate;
(The web is wove; the work is done.")
'Stay, oh stay! nor thus forlorn
Leave me unbless'd, unpitied, here to mourn,
In yon bright track, that fires the western skies,
They melt, they vanish from my eyes.
But oh! what solemn scenes on Snowdon's height,
Descending slow, their glittering skirts unroll!
Visions of glory! spare my aching sight!
Ye unborn ages crowd not on my soul!
No more our long-lost Arthur we bewail:
All hail, ye genuine Kings! Britannia's issue, hail!
'Girt with many a baron bold,
Sublime their starry fronts they rear;
And gorgeous dames and statesmen old
In bearded majesty appear;
In the midst a form divine,
Her eye proclaims her of the Briton-line,
Her lion-port, her awe-commanding face,
Attemper'd sweet to virgin-grace.
What strings symphonious tremble in the air!
What strains of vocal transport round her play!
Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear!
They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
Bright Rapture calls, and, soaring as she sings,
Waves in the eye of Heaven her many-colour'd wings.
'The verse adorn again,
Fierce War and faithful Love,
And Truth severe, by fairy Fiction dress'd.
In buskin'd measures move
Pale Grief, and pleasing Pain,
With Horror, tyrant of the throbbing breast.
A voice as of the cherub-choir
Gales from blooming Eden bear,
And distant warblings lessen on my ear,
That lost in long futurity expire.
Fond, impious man! think'st thou yon sanguine cloud,
Raised by thy breath, has quench'd the orb of day?
To-morrow he repairs the golden flood,
And warms the nations with redoubled ray.
Enough for me: with joy I see
The different doom our Fates assign;
Be thine despair and sceptred care;
To triumph and to die are mine.'
He spoke, and headlong from the mountain's height,
Deep in the roaring tide, he plunged to endless night.
[Footnote 1: 'Hauberk:' the hauberk was a texture of steel ringlets or
rings interwoven, forming a coat of mail that sat close to the body,
and adapted itself to every motion.]
[Footnote 2: 'Stout Glo'ster:' Gilbert de Clare, surnamed the Red,
Earl of Gloucester and Hertford, son-in-law to King Edward.]
[Footnote 3: 'Mortimer:' Edmond de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore. They
both were Lords Marchers, whose lands lay on the borders of Wales, and
probably accompanied the King in this expedition.]
[Footnote 4: 'Arvon's shore:' the shores of Caernarvonshire, opposite
to the isle of Anglesey.]
[Footnote 5: 'King:' Edward II., cruelly butchered in Berkley Castle.]
[Footnote 6: 'She-wolf of France:' Isabel of France, Edward II.'s
[Footnote 7: 'From thee:' triumphs of Edward III. in France.]
[Footnote 8: 'Funeral couch:' death of that king, abandoned by his
children, and even robbed in his last moments by his courtiers and his
[Footnote 9: 'Sable warrior:' Edward the Black Prince, dead some time
before his father.]
[Footnote 10: 'Fair laughs the morn:' magnificence of Richard II.'s
reign; see Froissard, and other contemporary writers.]
[Footnote 11: 'Sparkling bowl:' Richard II. was starved to death; the
story of his assassination by Sir Piers of Exon is of much
[Footnote 12: 'Battle bray:' ruinous civil wars of York and
[Footnote 13: 'Towers of Julius:' Henry VI., George Duke of Clarence,
Edward V., Richard Duke of York, &c., believed to be murdered secretly
in the Tower of London; the oldest part of that structure is vulgarly
attributed to Julius Caesar.]
[Footnote 14: 'Consort:' Margaret of Anjou.]
[Footnote 15: 'Father:' Henry V.]
[Footnote 16: 'Usurper:' Henry VI., very near being canonised; the
line of Lancaster had no right of inheritance to the crown.]
[Footnote 17: 'Rose of snow:' the White and Red Roses, devices of York
[Footnote 18: 'Boar:' the silver Boar was the badge of Richard III.,
whence he was usually known in his own time by the name of The Boar.]
[Footnote 19: 'Half of thy heart:' Eleanor of Castile, Edward's wife,
died a few years after the conquest of Wales.]
[Footnote 20: 'Long-lost Arthur:' it was the common belief of the
Welsh nation, that King Arthur was still alive in Fairyland, and
should return again to reign over Britain.]
[Footnote 21: 'Genuine kings:' both Merlin and Taliessin had
prophesied that the Welsh should regain their sovereignty over this
island, which seemed to be accomplished in the House of Tudor.]
[Footnote 22; 'Awe-commanding face:' Queen Elizabeth.]
[Footnote 23: 'Taliessin:' chief of the Bards, flourished in the sixth
century; his works are still preserved, and his memory held in high
veneration, among his countrymen.]
[Footnote 24: 'A voice:' Milton.]
[Footnote 25: 'Warblings:' the succession of poets after Milton's
* * * * *
VII.--THE FATAL SISTERS.
FROM THE NORSE TONGUE.
'Vitt er orpit
ADVERTISEMENT.--The author once had thoughts (in concert with a friend)
of giving a history of English poetry. In the introduction to it he
meant to have produced some specimens of the style that reigned in
ancient times among the neighbouring nations, or those who had subdued
the greater part of this island, and were our progenitors: the
following three imitations made a part of them. He afterwards dropped
his design; especially after he had heard that it was already in the
hands of a person well qualified to do it justice both by his taste
and his researches into antiquity.
PREFACE.--In the eleventh century, Sigurd, Earl of the Orkney Islands,
went with a fleet of ships, and a considerable body of troops, into
Ireland, to the assistance of Sigtryg with the Silken Beard, who was
then making war on his father-in-law, Brian, King of Dublin. The Earl
and all his forces were cut to pieces, and Sigtryg was in danger of a
total defeat; but the enemy had a greater loss by the death of Brian,
their king, who fell in the action. On Christmas-day (the day of the
battle) a native of Caithness, in Scotland, saw, at a distance, a
number of persons on horseback riding full speed towards a hill, and
seeming to enter into it. Curiosity led him to follow them, till,
looking through an opening in the rocks, he saw twelve gigantic
figures, resembling women: they were all employed about a loom; and
as they wove they sung the following dreadful song, which, when they
had finished, they tore the web into twelve pieces, and each taking
her portion, galloped six to the north, and as many to the south.
1 Now the storm begins to lower,
(Haste, the loom of Hell prepare!)
Iron-sleet of arrowy shower
Hurtles in the darken'd air.
2 Glittering lances are the loom
Where the dusky warp we strain,
Weaving many a soldier's doom,
Orkney's woe and Randver's bane.
3 See the grisly texture grow,
('Tis of human entrails made,)
And the weights that play below,
Each a gasping warrior's head.
4 Shafts for shuttles, dipp'd in gore,
Shoot the trembling cords along:
Sword, that once a monarch bore,
Keep the tissue close and strong.
5 Mista, black, terrific maid!
Sangrida and Hilda see,
Join the wayward work to aid:
'Tis the woof of victory.
6 Ere the ruddy sun be set,
Pikes must shiver, javelins sing,
Blade with clattering buckler meet,
Hauberk crash, and helmet ring.
7 (Weave the crimson web of war)
Let us go, and let us fly,
Where our friends the conflict share,
Where they triumph, where they die.
8 As the paths of Fate we tread,
Wading through th' ensanguined field,
Gondula and Geira spread
O'er the youthful king your shield.
9 We the reins to Slaughter give,
Ours to kill and ours to spare:
Spite of danger he shall live;
(Weave the crimson web of war.)
10 They whom once the desert beach
Pent within its bleak domain,
Soon their ample sway shall stretch
O'er the plenty of the plain.
11 Low the dauntless earl is laid,
Gored with many a gaping wound:
Fate demands a nobler head;
Soon a king shall bite the ground.
12 Long his loss shall Eirin weep,
Ne'er again his likeness see;
Long her strains in sorrow steep,
Strains of immortality!
13 Horror covers all the heath,
Clouds of carnage blot the sun:
Sisters! weave the web of death:
Sisters! cease; the work is done.
14 Hail the task and hail the hands!
Songs of joy and triumph sing!
Joy to the victorious bands,
Triumph to the younger king!
15 Mortal! thou that hear'st the tale,
Learn the tenor of our song;
Scotland! through each winding vale
Far and wide the notes prolong.
16 Sisters! hence with spurs of speed;
Each her thundering falchion wield;
Each bestride her sable steed:
Hurry, hurry, to the field.
[Footnote 1: 'Norse tongue:' to be found in the Orcades of Thormodus
Torfaeus, Hafniae, 1697, folio; and also in Bartholinus.]
[Footnote 2: 'Person:' Percy, author of 'Reliques of Ancient English
[Footnote 3: 'Figures:' the Valkyriur were female divinities, servants
of Odin (or Woden) in the Gothic mythology. Their name signifies
'Choosers of the Slain.' They were mounted on swift horses, with drawn
swords in their hands, and in the throng of battle selected such as
were destined to slaughter, and conducted them to Valkalla, (the Hall
of Odin, or Paradise of the Brave), where they attended the banquet,
and served the departed heroes with horns of mead and ale.]
[Footnote 4: 'Eirin:' Ireland.]
* * * * *
VIII.--THE DESCENT OF ODIN.
FROM THE NORSE TONGUE.
Uprose the King of Men with speed,
And saddled straight his coal-black steed;
Down the yawning steep he rode
That leads to Hela's drear abode.
Him the Dog of Darkness spied;
His shaggy throat he open'd wide,
While from his jaws, with carnage fill'd,
Foam and human gore distill'd:
Hoarse he bays with hideous din,
Eyes that glow and fangs that grin, 10
And long pursues with fruitless yell
The Father of the powerful spell.
Onward still his way he takes,
--The groaning earth beneath him shakes,--
Till full before his fearless eyes
The portals nine of Hell arise.
Right against the eastern gate,
By the moss-grown pile he sate,
Where long of yore to sleep was laid
The dust of the prophetic maid. 20
Facing to the northern clime,
Thrice he traced the Runic rhyme,
Thrice pronounced, in accents dread,
The thrilling verse that wakes the dead,
Till from out the hollow ground
Slowly breathed a sullen sound.
_Proph._ What call unknown, what charms presume
To break the quiet of the tomb?
Who thus afflicts my troubled sprite,
And drags me from the realms of Night? 30
Long on these mouldering bones have beat
The winter's snow, the summer's heat,
The drenching dews and driving rain!
Let me, let me sleep again.
Who is he, with voice unblest,
That calls me from the bed of rest?
_Odin._ A traveller, to thee unknown,
Is he that calls, a warrior's son.
Thou the deeds of light shalt know;
Tell me what is done below, 40
For whom yon glittering board is spread;
Dress'd for whom yon golden bed?
_Proph._ Mantling in the goblet see
The pure beverage of the bee,
O'er it hangs the shield of gold;
'Tis the drink of Balder bold:
Balder's head to death is given;
Pain can reach the sons of Heaven!
Unwilling I my lips unclose;
Leave me, leave me to repose. 50
_Odin._ Once again my call obey:
Prophetess! arise, and say,
What dangers Odin's child await,
Who the author of his fate?
_Proph._ In Hoder's hand the hero's doom;
His brother sends him to the tomb.
Now my weary lips I close;
Leave me, leave me to repose.
_Odin._ Prophetess! my spell obey;
Once again arise, and say, 60
Who the avenger of his guilt,
By whom shall Hoder's blood be spilt?
_Proph._ In the caverns of the west,
By Odin's fierce embrace compress'd,
A wondrous boy shall Rinda bear,
Who ne'er shall comb his raven hair,
Nor wash his visage in the stream,
Nor see the sun's departing beam,
Till he on Hoder's corse shall smile,
Flaming on the funeral pile. 70
Now my weary lips I close;
Leave me, leave me to repose.
_Odin._ Yet a while my call obey:
Prophetess! awake, and say,
What virgins these, in speechless woe,
That bend to earth their solemn brow,
That their flaxen tresses tear,
And snowy veils that float in air?
Tell we whence their sorrows rose,
Then I leave thee to repose. 80
_Proph._ Ha! no traveller art thou;
King of Men, I know thee now;
Mightiest of a mighty line--
_Odin._ No boding maid of skill divine
Art thou, no prophetess of good,
But mother of the giant-brood!
_Proph._ Hie thee hence, and boast at home,
That never shall inquirer come
To break my iron-sleep again,
Till Lok has burst his tenfold chain; 90
Never till substantial Night
Has re-assumed her ancient right;
Till, wrapp'd in flames, in ruin hurl'd,
Sinks the fabric of the world.
[Footnote 1: 'Norse Tongue:' to be found in Bartholinus, De Causis
Contemnendae Mortis: Hafniae, 1689, quarto.]
[Footnote 2: 'Hela:' Niflheimr, the hell of the Gothic nations,
consisted of nine worlds, to which were devoted all such as died of
sickness, old age, or by any other means than in battle: over it
presided Hela, the goddess of Death.]
[Footnote 3: 'Lok:' is the evil being, who continues in chains till
the twilight of the gods approaches, when he shall break his bonds;
the human race, the stars, and sun, shall disappear, the earth sink in
the seas, and fire consume the skies: even Odin himself, and his
kindred deities, shall perish.]
* * * * *
IX.--THE DEATH OF HOEL.
Had I but the torrent's might,
With headlong rage, and wild affright,
Upon Deira's squadrons hurl'd,
To rush and sweep them from the world!
Too, too secure in youthful pride,
By them my friend, my Hoel, died,
Great Cian's son; of Madoc old
He ask'd no heaps of hoarded gold;
Alone in Nature's wealth array'd,
He ask'd and had the lovely maid. 10
To Cattraeth's vale, in glittering row,
Twice two hundred warriors go;
Every warrior's manly neck
Chains of regal honour deck,
Wreath'd in many a golden link:
From the golden cup they drink
Nectar that the bees produce,
Or the grape's ecstatic juice.
Flush'd with mirth and hope they burn:
But none from Cattraeth's vale return, 20
Save Aeron brave and Conan strong,
--Bursting through the bloody throng--
And I, the meanest of them all,
That live to weep and sing their fall.
[Footnote 1: 'Hoel:' from the Welsh of Aneurim, styled 'The Monarch of
the Bards.' He flourished about the time of Taliessin, A.D. 570. This
ode is extracted from the Gododin.]
[Footnote 2: 'Deira:' a kingdom including the five northernmost
counties of England.]
[Footnote 3: 'Cattraeth:' a great battle lost by the ancient Britons.]
* * * * *
X.--THE TRIUMPH OF OWEN:
A FRAGMENT FROM THE WELSH.
ADVERTISEMENT.--Owen succeeded his father Griffin in the Principality
of North Wales, A.D. 1120: this battle was near forty years
Owen's praise demands my song,
Owen swift, and Owen strong,
Fairest flower of Roderick's stem,
Gwyneth's shield and Britain's gem.
He nor heaps his brooded stores,
Nor on all profusely pours;
Lord of every regal art,
Liberal hand and open heart.
Big with hosts of mighty name,
Squadrons three against him came; 10
This the force of Eirin hiding;
Side by side as proudly riding
On her shadow long and gay
Lochlin ploughs the watery way;
There the Norman sails afar
Catch the winds and join the war;
Black and huge, along they sweep,
Burthens of the angry deep.
Dauntless on his native sands
The Dragon son of Mona stands; 20
In glittering arms and glory dress'd,
High he rears his ruby crest;
There the thundering strokes begin,
There the press and there the din:
Talymalfra's rocky shore
Echoing to the battle's roar!
Check'd by the torrent-tide of blood,
Backward Meniai rolls his flood;
While, heap'd his master's feet around,
Prostrate warriors gnaw the ground. 30
Where his glowing eye-balls turn,
Thousand banners round him burn;
Where he points his purple spear,
Hasty, hasty rout is there;
Marking, with indignant eye,
Fear to stop and Shame to fly:
There Confusion, Terror's child,
Conflict fierce, and Ruin wild,
Agony, that pants for breath,
Despair and honourable Death. 40
[Footnote 1: 'Gwyneth:' North Wales.]
[Footnote 2: 'Lochlin:' Denmark.]
[Footnote 3: 'Dragon son:' the Red Dragon is the device of
Cadwalladar, which all his descendants bore on their banners.]
* * * * *
'Hence, avaunt! ('tis holy ground,)
Comus and his midnight crew,
And Ignorance, with looks profound,
And dreaming Sloth, of pallid hue,
Mad Sedition's cry profane,
Servitude that hugs her chain,
Nor in these consecrated bowers,
Let painted Flattery hide her serpent-train in flowers;
Nor Envy base, nor creeping Gain,
Dare the Muse's walk to stain, 10
While bright-eyed Science watches round:
Hence, away! 'tis holy ground.'
From yonder realms of empyrean day
Bursts on my ear the indignant lay;
There sit the sainted sage, the bard divine,
The few whom Genius gave to shine
Through every unborn age and undiscover'd clime.
Rapt in celestial transport they,
Yet hither oft a glance from high
They send of tender sympathy, 20
To bless the place where on their opening soul
First the genuine ardour stole.
'Twas Milton struck the deep-toned shell,
And, as the choral warblings round him swell,
Meek Newton's self bends from his state sublime,
And nods his hoary head, and listens to the rhyme.
Ye brown o'er-arching groves!
That Contemplation loves,
Where willowy Camus lingers with delight;
Oft at the blush of dawn 30
I trod your level lawn,
Oft wooed the gleam of Cynthia, silver-bright,
In cloisters dim, far from the haunts of Folly,
With Freedom by my side, and soft-eyed Melancholy.
But hark! the portals sound, and pacing forth,
With solemn steps and slow,
High potentates, and dames of royal birth,
And mitred fathers, in long orders go:
Great Edward, with the Lilies on his brow
From haughty Gallia torn, 40
And sad Chatillon, on her bridal morn,
That wept her bleeding love, and princely Clare,
And Anjou's heroine, and the paler Rose,
The rival of her crown, and of her woes,
And either Henry there,
The murder'd saint, and the majestic lord
That broke the bonds of Rome,--
(Their tears, their little triumphs o'er,
Their human passions now no more,
Save Charity, that glows beyond the tomb,) 50
All that on Granta's fruitful plain
Rich streams of regal bounty pour'd,
And bade those awful fanes and turrets rise,
To hail their Fitzroy's festal morning come;
And thus they speak in soft accord
The liquid language of the skies:
'What is grandeur, what is power?
Heavier toil, superior pain,
What the bright reward we gain?
The grateful memory of the good. 60
Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee's collected treasures sweet,
Sweet Music's melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of Gratitude.'
Foremost, and leaning from her golden cloud,
The venerable Margaret see!
'Welcome, my noble son!' she cries aloud,
'To this thy kindred train, and me:
Pleased, in thy lineaments we trace
A Tudor's fire, a Beaufort's grace. 70
Thy liberal heart, thy judging eye,
The flower unheeded shall descry,
And bid it round Heaven's altars shed
The fragrance of its blushing head;
Shall raise from earth the latent gem
To glitter on the diadem.
'Lo! Granta waits to lead her blooming band;
Not obvious, not obtrusive, she
No vulgar praise, no venal incense flings;
Nor dares with courtly tongue refined 80
Profane thy inborn royalty of mind:
She reveres herself and thee.
With modest pride, to grace thy youthful brow,
The laureate wreath that Cecil wore she brings,
And to thy just, thy gentle hand
Submits the fasces of her sway;
While spirits blest above, and men below,
Join with glad voice the loud symphonious lay.
'Through the wild waves, as they roar,
With watchful eye, and dauntless mien, 90
Thy steady course of honour keep,
Nor fear the rock, nor seek the shore:
The Star of Brunswick smiles serene,
And gilds the horrors of the deep.'
[Footnote 1: 'Music:' performed in the Senate-house, Cambridge, July
1, 1769, at the installation of his Grace, Augustus Henry Fitzroy,
Duke of Grafton, Chancellor of the University.]
[Footnote 2: 'Great Edward.' Edward III., who added the Fleur-de-lis
of France to the arms of England. He founded Trinity College.]
[Footnote 3: 'Chatillon:' Mary de Valentia, Countess of Pembroke,
daughter of Guy de Chatillon, Comte de St Paul, in France, who lost
her husband on the day of his marriage. She was the foundress of
Pembroke College or Hall, under the name of Aula Marias de Valentia.]
[Footnote 4; 'Clare:' Elizabeth de Burg, Countess of Clare, was wife
of John de Burg, son and heir of the Earl of Ulster, and daughter of
Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, by Joan of Acres, daughter of
Edward I.; hence the poet gives her the epithet of 'princely.' She
founded Clare Hall.]
[Footnote 5: 'Anjou's heroine:' Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI.,
foundress of Queen's College.]
[Footnote 6: 'Rose:' Elizabeth Widville, wife of Henry IV. She added
to the foundation of Margaret of Anjou.]
[Footnote 7: 'Either Henry:' Henry VI. and Henry VII., the former the
founder of King's, the latter the greatest benefactor to
[Footnote 8: 'Margaret:' Countess of Richmond and Derby, the mother of
Henry VII., foundress of St John's and Christ's Colleges.]
[Footnote 9: 'Tudor:' the Countess was a Beaufort, and married to a
Tudor; hence the application of this line to the Duke of Grafton, who
claimed descent from both these families.]
[Footnote 10: 'Wreath:' Lord Treasurer Burleigh was Chancellor of the
University in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.]
* * * * *
A LONG STORY.
ADVERTISEMENT.--Gray's 'Elegy,' previous to its publication, was
handed about in MS., and had, amongst other admirers, the Lady Cobham,
who resided in the mansion-house at Stoke-Pogeis. The performance
inducing her to wish for the author's acquaintance, Lady Schaub and
Miss Speed, then at her house, undertook to introduce her to it. These
two ladies waited upon the author at his aunt's solitary habitation,
where he at that time resided, and not finding him at home, they left
a card behind them. Mr Gray, surprised at such a compliment, returned
the visit; and as the beginning of this intercourse bore some
appearance of romance, he gave the humorous and lively account of it
which the 'Long Story' contains.
1 In Britain's isle, no matter where,
An ancient pile of building stands:
The Huntingdons and Hattons there
Employ'd the power of fairy hands,
2 To raise the ceiling's fretted height,
Each pannel in achievements clothing,
Rich windows that exclude the light,
And passages that lead to nothing.
3 Full oft within the spacious walls,
When he had fifty winters o'er him,
My grave Lord-Keeper led the brawls:
The seal and maces danced before him.
4 His bushy beard and shoe-strings green,
His high-crown'd hat and satin doublet,
Moved the stout heart of England's Queen,
Though Pope and Spaniard could not trouble it.
5 What, in the very first beginning,
Shame of the versifying tribe!
Your history whither are you spinning?
Can you do nothing but describe?
6 A house there is (and that's enough)
From whence one fatal morning issues
A brace of warriors, not in buff,
But rustling in their silks and tissues.
7 The first came _cap-a-pie_ from France,
Her conquering destiny fulfilling,
Whom meaner beauties eye askance,
And vainly ape her art of killing.
8 The other Amazon kind Heaven
Had arm'd with spirit, wit, and satire;
But Cobham had the polish given,
And tipp'd her arrows with good nature.
9 To celebrate her eyes, her air--
Coarse panegyrics would but tease her;
Melissa is her _nom de guerre;_
Alas! who would not wish to please her!
10 With bonnet blue and capuchine,
And aprons long, they hid their armour;
And veil'd their weapons, bright and keen,
In pity to the country farmer.
11 Fame, in the shape of Mr P--t,
(By this time all the parish know it),
Had told that thereabouts there lurk'd
A wicked imp they call a Poet,
12 Who prowl'd the country far and near,
Bewitch'd the children of the peasants,
Dried up the cows, and lamed the deer,
And suck'd the eggs, and kill'd the pheasants.
13 My Lady heard their joint petition,
Swore by her coronet and ermine,
She'd issue out her high commission
To rid the manor of such vermin.
14 The heroines undertook the task;
Through lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventured,
Rapp'd at the door, nor stay'd to ask,
But bounce into the parlour enter'd.
15 The trembling family they daunt;
They flirt, they sing, they laugh, they tattle,
Rummage his mother, pinch his aunt,
And up-stairs in a whirlwind rattle.
16 Each hole and cupboard they explore,
Each creek and cranny of his chamber,
Run hurry-scurry round the floor,
And o'er the bed and tester clamber;
17 Into the drawers and china pry,
Papers and books, a huge imbroglio!
Under a tea-cup he might lie,
Or creased like dog's-ears in a folio!
18 On the first marching of the troops,
The Muses, hopeless of his pardon,
Convey'd him underneath their hoops
To a small closet in the garden.
19 So Rumour says; (who will believe?)
But that they left the door a-jar,
Where safe, and laughing in his sleeve,
He heard the distant din of war.
20 Short was his joy: he little knew
The power of magic was no fable;
Out of the window, whisk! they flew,
But left a spell upon the table.
21 The words too eager to unriddle,
The Poet felt a strange disorder;
Transparent birdlime form'd the middle,
And chains invisible the border.
22 So cunning was the apparatus,
The powerful pothooks did so move him,
That will-he, nill-he, to the great house
He went as if the devil drove him.
23 Yet on his way (no sign of grace,
For folks in fear are apt to pray)
To Phoebus he preferr'd his case,
And begg'd his aid that dreadful day.
24 The godhead would have back'd his quarrel:
But with a blush, on recollection,
Own'd that his quiver and his laurel
'Gainst four such eyes were no protection.
25 The court was set, the culprit there;
Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping,
The Lady Janes and Joans repair,
And from the gallery stand peeping:
26 Such as in silence of the night
Come sweep along some winding entry,
(Styack has often seen the sight)
Or at the chapel-door stand sentry;
27 In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish'd,
Sour visages enough to scare ye,
High dames of honour once that garnish'd
The drawing-room of fierce Queen Mary!
28 The peeress comes: the audience stare,
And doff their hats with due submission;
She curtsies, as she takes her chair,
To all the people of condition.
29 The Bard with many an artless fib
Had in imagination fenced him,
Disproved the arguments of Squib,
And all that Grooms could urge against him.
30 But soon his rhetoric forsook him,
When he the solemn hall had seen;
A sudden fit of ague shook him;
He stood as mute as poor Maclean.
31 Yet something he was heard to mutter,
How in the park, beneath an old tree,
(Without design to hurt the butter,
Or any malice to the poultry,)
32 He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet,
Yet hoped that he might save his bacon;
Numbers would give their oaths upon it,
He ne'er was for a conjuror taken.
33 The ghostly prudes, with hagged face,
Already had condemn'd the sinner:
My Lady rose, and with a grace--
She smiled, and bid him come to dinner,
34 'Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,
Why, what can the Viscountess mean?'
Cried the square hoods, in woeful fidget;
'The times are alter'd quite and clean!
35 'Decorum's turn'd to mere civility!
Her air and all her manners show it:
Commend me to her affability!
Speak to a commoner and poet!'
[_Here 500 stanzas are lost._]
36 And so God save our noble king,
And guard us from long-winded lubbers,
That to eternity would sing,
And keep my lady from her rubbers.
[Footnote 1: 'Pile of building:' the mansion-house at Stoke-Pogeis,
then in the possession of Viscountess Cobham. The style of building
which we now call Queen Elizabeth's, is here admirably described, both
with regard to its beauties and defects; and the third and fourth
stanzas delineate the fantastic manners of her time with equal truth
and humour. The house formerly belonged to the Earls of Huntingdon and
the family of Hatton.]
[Footnote 2: 'Lord-Keeper:' Sir Christopher Hatton, promoted by Queen
Elizabeth for his graceful person and fine dancing. Brawls were a sort
of a figure-dance then in vogue.]
[Footnote 3: 'Styack:' the house-keeper.]
[Footnote 4: 'Squib:' the steward.']
[Footnote 5: 'Grooms:' of the chamber.]
[Footnote 6: 'Maclean:' a famous highwayman, hanged the week before.]
[Footnote 7: 'Hagged:' i. e., the face of a witch or hag.]
* * * * *
ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD.
1 The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
2 Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:
3 Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.
4 Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
5 The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.
6 For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care;
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees, the envied kiss to share.
7 Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
8 Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
9 The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
10 Nor you, ye Proud! impute to these the fault,
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where, through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault,
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.
11 Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death?
12 Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre.
13 But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of Time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.
14 Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
15 Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.
16 The applause of listening senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,
17 Their lot forbade; nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of Mercy on mankind,
18 The struggling pangs of conscious Truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous Shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.
19 Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
20 Yet e'en these bones, from insult to protect,
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.
21 Their name, their years, spelt by the unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply,
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.
22 For who, to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing, anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?
23 On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.
24 For thee, who, mindful of the unhonour'd dead,
Dost in those lines their artless tale relate,
If chance, by lonely Contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate,
25 Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
'Oft have we seen him, at the peep of dawn,
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.
26 'There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
That wreathes its old fantastic root so high,
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
27 'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful, wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.
28 'One morn I miss'd him on the accustom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came, nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood, was he:
29 'The next, with dirges due, in sad array,
Slow through the churchway-path we saw him borne:
Approach, and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn:'
30 Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth,
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown:
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.
31 Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere;
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to misery all he had--a tear;
He gain'd from Heaven--'twas all he wish'd--a friend.
32 No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose)
The bosom of his Father and his God.
[Footnote 1: This part of the elegy differs from the first copy. The
following stanza was excluded with the other alterations:--
Hark! how the sacred calm, that breathes around,
Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease,
In still small accents whispering from the ground
A grateful earnest of eternal peace. ]
[Footnote 2: In early editions, the following stanza occurred:--
There scatter'd oft, the earliest of the year,
By hands unseen, are showers of violets found;
The redbreast loves to build and warble there,
And little footsteps lightly print the ground. ]
* * * * *
EPITAPH ON MRS JANE CLARKE.
Lo! where this silent marble weeps,
A friend, a wife, a mother sleeps;
A heart, within whose sacred cell
The peaceful Virtues loved to dwell:
Affection warm, and faith sincere,
And soft humanity were there.
In agony, in death resign'd,
She felt the wound she left behind.
Her infant image here below
Sits smiling on a father's woe:
Whom what awaits while yet he strays
Along the lonely vale of days?
A pang, to secret sorrow dear,
A sigh, an unavailing tear,
Till time shall every grief remove
With life, with memory, and with love.
[Footnote 1: 'Mrs Jane Clarke' this lady, the wife of Dr Clarke,
physician at Epsom, died April 27, 1757, and is buried in the church
of Beckenham, Kent.]
* * * * *
SUGGESTED BY A VIEW OF THE SEAT AND RUINS AT
KINGSGATE, IN KENT, 1766.
1 Old, and abandon'd by each venal friend,
Here Holland took the pious resolution,
To smuggle a few years, and strive to mend
A broken character and constitution.
2 On this congenial spot he fix'd his choice;
Earl Goodwin trembled for his neighbouring sand;
Here sea-gulls scream, and cormorants rejoice,
And mariners, though shipwreck'd, fear to land.
3 Here reign the blustering North, and blasting East,
No tree is heard to whisper, bird to sing;
Yet Nature could not furnish out the feast,
Art he invokes new terrors still to bring.
4 Now mouldering fanes and battlements arise,
Turrets and arches nodding to their fall,
Unpeopled monasteries delude our eyes,
And mimic desolation covers all.
5 'Ah!' said the sighing peer, 'had Bute been true,
Nor C--'s, nor B--d's promises been vain,
Far other scenes than this had graced our view,
And realised the horrors which we feign.
6 'Purged by the sword, and purified by fire,
Then had we seen proud London's hated walls:
Owls should have hooted in St Peter's choir,
And foxes stunk and litter'd in St Paul's.'
* * * * *
TRANSLATION FROM STATIUS.
Third in the labours of the disc came on,
With sturdy step and slow, Hippomedon;
Artful and strong he poised the well-known weight,
By Phlegyas warn'd, and fired by Mnestheus' fate,
That to avoid and this to emulate.
His vigorous arm he tried before he flung,
Braced all his nerves, and every sinew strung,
Then with a tempest's whirl and wary eye
Pursued his cast, and hurl'd the orb on high;
The orb on high, tenacious of its course, 10
True to the mighty arm that gave it force,
Far overleaps all bound, and joys to see
Its ancient lord secure of victory:
The theatre's green height and woody wall
Tremble ere it precipitates its fall;
The ponderous mass sinks in the cleaving ground,
While vales and woods and echoing hills rebound.
As when, from Aetna's smoking summit broke,
The eyeless Cyclops heaved the craggy rock,
Where Ocean frets beneath the dashing oar, 20
And parting surges round the vessel roar;
'Twas there he aim'd the meditated harm,
And scarce Ulysses 'scaped his giant arm.
A tiger's pride the victor bore away,
With native spots and artful labour gay,
A shining border round the margin roll'd,
And calm'd the terrors of his claws in gold.
CAMBRIDGE, _May_ 8, 1736.
* * * * *
GRAY ON HIMSELF.
Too poor for a bribe, and too proud to importune,
He had not the method of making a fortune;
Could love and could hate, so was thought something odd;
No very great wit, he believed in a God;
A post or a pension he did not desire,
But left church and state to Charles Townshend and Squire.
* * * * *
END OF GRAY'S POEMS.
* * * * *
THE POETICAL WORKS
LIFE OF TOBIAS SMOLLETT.
The combination of a great writer and a small poet, in one and the
same person, is not uncommon. With not a few, while other, and severer
branches of study are the laborious task of the day, poetry is the
slipshod amusement of the evening. Dr Parr calls Johnson _probabilis
poeta_--words which seem to convey the notion that the author of "The
Rambler," who was great on other fields, was in that of poetry only
respectable. This term is more applicable to Smollett, whose poems
discover only in part those keen, vigorous, and original powers which
enabled him to indite "Roderick Random" and "Humphrey Clinker." Yet
the author of "Independence," and "The Tears of Scotland," must not be
excluded from the list of British poets--an honour to which much even
of his prose has richly entitled him.
The incidents in Smollett's history are not very numerous, and some of
them are narrated, under faint disguises, with inimitable vivacity and
_vraisemblance_ in his own fictions. Tobias George Smollett was born
in Dalquhurn House, near the village of Renton, Dumbartonshire, in
1721. His father, a younger son of Sir James Smollett of Bonhill,
having died early, the education of the poet devolved on his
grandfather. The scenery of his native place was well calculated to
inspire his early genius. It is one of the most beautiful regions in
Scotland. A fine hollow vale, pervaded by the river Leven, and
surrounded by rich woodlands and bold hills, stretches up from
Dumbarton, with its double peaks and ancient castle, to the
magnificent Loch Lomond; and in one of the loops of this winding vale
was the great novelist born and bred. He called his native region, in
"Humphrey Clinker," the "Arcadia of Scotland," and has sung the Leven
in one of his small poems. He was sent to the Grammar School of
Dumbarton, and thence to Glasgow College. He was subsequently placed
apprentice to one M. Gordon, a medical practitioner in Glasgow; and
from thence, according to some of his biographers, he proceeded to
study medicine in Edinburgh. When he was about nineteen years of age,
his grandfather expired, without having made any provision for him;
and he was compelled, in 1739, to repair to London, carrying with him
a tragedy entitled "The Regicide,"--the subject being the
assassination of James the First of Scotland,--which he had written
the year before, and which he in vain sought to get presented at the
theatres. He had letters of introduction to some eminent literary
characters, who, however, either could not or would not do anything
for him; and he found no better situation than that of surgeon's mate
in an eighty-gun ship. He continued in the navy for six or seven
years, and was present at the disastrous siege of Carthagena, in 1741,
which he has described in a Compendium of Voyages he compiled in 1756,
and with still more vigour in "Roderick Random." His long acquaintance
with the sea furnished ample materials for his genius, although it did
not improve his opinion of human nature. Disgusted with the service,
he quitted it in the West Indies, and lived for some time in Jamaica.
Here he became acquainted with Miss Lascelles, a beautiful lady whom
he afterwards married. She sat for the portrait of Narcissa, in
In 1746 he returned to England. He found the country ringing with
indignation at the cruelties inflicted by Cumberland on the Highland
rebels, and he caught and crystalised the prevalent emotion in his
spirited lyric, "The Tears of Scotland." He published the same year
his "Advice,"--a satirical poem upon things in general, and the public
men of the day in particular. He wrote also an opera entitled
"Alceste" for Covent Garden; but owing to a dispute with the manager,
it was neither acted nor printed. In 1747 he produced "Reproof," the
second part of "Advice,"--a poem which breathes the same manly
indignation at the abuses, evils, and public charlatans of the day.
This year also he married Miss Lascelles, by whom he expected a
fortune of three thousand pounds. This sum, however, was never fully
realised; and his generous housekeeping, and the expenses of a
litigation to which he was compelled, in connection with Miss
Lascelles' money, embarrassed his circumstances, and, much to the
advantage of the world, drove him to literature. In 1748, he gave to
the world his novel of "Roderick Random,"--counted by many the
masterpiece of his genius. It brought him in both fame and emolument.
In 1749 he published, by subscription, his unfortunate tragedy, "The
Regicide." In 1750 he went to Paris, and shortly after wrote his
"Adventures of Peregrine Pickle," including the memoirs of the
notorious Lady Vane--the substance of which he got from herself, and
which added greatly to the popularity of the work. Notwithstanding the
success he met with as a novelist, he was anxious to prosecute his
original profession of medicine; and having procured from a foreign
university the degree of M.D., he commenced to practise physic in
Chelsea, but without success. He wrote, however, an essay "On the
External Use of Water," in which he seems to have partly anticipated
the method of the cold-water cure. In 1753 he published his
"Adventures of Count Fathom;" and, two years later, encouraged by a
liberal subscription, he issued a translation of "Don Quixote," in two
quarto volumes. While this work was printing, he went down to
Scotland, visited his old scenes and old companions, and was received
everywhere with enthusiasm. The most striking incident, however, in
this journey was his interview with his mother, then residing in
Scotston, near Peebles. He was introduced to her as a stranger
gentleman from the West Indies; and, in order to retain his incognita,
he endeavoured to maintain a serious and frowning countenance. While
his mother, however, continued to regard him steadfastly, he could not
forbear smiling; and she instantly sprang from her seat, threw her
arms round his neck, and cried out, "Ah, my son, I have found you at
last! Your old roguish smile has betrayed you."
Returning to England, he resumed his literary avocations. He became
the editor of the _Critical Review_--an office, of all others, least
fitted to his testy and irritable temperament. This was in 1756. He
next published the "Compendium of Voyages," in seven volumes, 12mo. In
1757 he wrote a popular afterpiece, entitled "The Reprisals; or, the
Tars of England;" and in 1758 appeared his "Complete History of
England," in four volumes, quarto,--a work said to have been compiled
in the almost incredibly short time of fourteen months. It became
instantly popular, although distinguished by no real historical
quality, except a clear and lively style.
An attack on Admiral Knowles in the _Critical Review_ greatly incensed
the Admiral; and when he prosecuted the journal, Smollett stepped
forward and avowed himself the author. He was sentenced to a fine of
L100, and to three months' imprisonment. During his confinement in
King's Bench, he composed the "Adventures of Sir Lancelot Greaves,"
which appeared first in detached numbers of the _British Magazine_,
and was afterwards published separately in 1762. About this time, his
busy pen was also occupied with histories of France, Italy, Germany,
&c., and a continuation of his English History--all compilations--and
some of them exceedingly unworthy of his genius. He became an ardent
friend and supporter of Lord Bute, and started _The Briton_, a weekly
paper, in his defence; which gave rise to the _North Briton_, by
Wilkes. In our Life of Churchill, we have recounted his quarrel with
that poet, and the chastisement inflicted on Smollett in "The Apology
to the Critical Reviewers."
In 1763 he lost his only daughter, a girl of fifteen. This event threw
him into deep despondency, and seriously affected his health. He went
to France and Italy for two years; and on his return, in 1766,
published two volumes of Travels--full of querulous and captious
remarks--for which Sterne satirised him, under the name of Smelfungus.
The same year he again visited Scotland. In 1767 he published his
"Adventures of an Atom,"--a political romance, displaying, under
Japanese names, the different parties of Great Britain. A recurrence
of ill health drove him back to Italy in 1770. At Monte Nuovo, near
Leghorn, he wrote his delightful "Humphrey Clinker." This was his last
work. He died at Leghorn on the 21st October 1771, in the fifty-first
year of his age. His widow erected a plain monument to his memory,
with an inscription by Dr Armstrong. In 1774 a Tuscan monument was
erected on the banks of the Leven by his cousin, James Smollett, Esq.,
of Bonhill. As his wife was left in poor circumstances, the tragedy of
"Venice Preserved" was acted at Edinburgh for her benefit, and the
money remitted to Italy.
Smollett, for variety of powers, and indefatigable industry, has
seldom been surpassed. He was a politician, a poet, a physician, a
historian, a translator, a writer of travels, a dramatist, a novelist,
a writer on medical subjects, and a miscellaneous author. It is only,
however, as a novelist and a poet that he has any claims to the
admiration of posterity. His history survives solely because it is
usually bound up with Hume's. His translation of "Don Quixote" has
been eclipsed by after and more accurate versions. His "Tour to Italy"
is a succession of asthmatic gasps and groans. His "Regicide", and
other plays, are entirely forgotten. So also are his critical,
medical, political, and miscellaneous effusions.
In fiction he is undoubtedly a great original. He had no model, and
has had no imitator. His qualities as a novel-writer are rapidity of
narrative, variety of incident, ease of style, graphic description,
and an exquisite eye for the humours, peculiarities, and absurdities
of character and life. In language he is generally careless, but
whenever a great occasion occurs, he rises to meet it, and writes with
dignity, correctness, and power. His sea-characters, such as Bowling,
and his characters of low-life, such as Strap, have never been
excelled. His tone of morals is always low, and often offensively
coarse. In wit, constructiveness, and general style, he is inferior to
Fielding; but surpasses him in interest, ease, variety, and humour,
"Roderick Random" is the most popular and bustling of his tales.
"Peregrine Pickle" is the filthiest and least agreeable; its humours
are forced and exaggerated, and the sea-characters seem caricatures of
those in "Roderick Random;" just as Norna of the Fitful Head, and
Magdalene Graeme, are caricatures of Meg Merriless. "Sir Lancelot
Greaves" is a tissue of trash, redeemed only here and there by traits
of humour. "The Adventures of an Atom" we never read. "Humphrey
Clinker" is the most delightful novel, with the exception of the
Waverley series, in the English language. "Ferdinand, Count Fathom,"
contains much that is disgusting, but parts of it surpass all the rest
in originality and profundity. We refer especially to the description
of the pretended English Squire in Paris, who _bubbles_ the great
_bubbler_ of the tale; to Count Fathom's address to Britain, when he
reaches her shores,--a piece of exquisite mock-heroic irony; to the
narrative of the seduction in the west of England; and to the
matchless robber-scene in the forest,--a passage in which one knows
not whether more to admire the thrilling interest of the incidents, or
the eloquence and power of the language. It is a scene which Scott has
never surpassed, nor, except in the cliff-scene in the "Antiquary,"
and, perhaps, the barn-scene in the "Heart of Midlothian,"
Smollett's poetry need not detain us long. In his twin satires,
"Advice" and "Reproof," you see rather the will to wound than the
power to strike. There are neither the burnished compression, and
polished, pointed malice of Pope, nor the gigantic force and vehement
fury of Churchill. His "Tears of Scotland" is not thoroughly finished,
but has some delicate and beautiful strokes. "Leven Water" is sweet
and murmuring as that stream itself. His "Ode to Independence," as we
have said elsewhere, "should have been written by Burns. How that
poet's lips must have watered, as he repeated the line--
'Lord of the lion-heart and eagle-eye,'
and remembered he was not their author! He said he would
have given ten pounds to have written 'Donochthead'--he
would have given ten times ten, if, poor fellow! he had had
them, to have written the 'Ode to Independence'--although,
in his 'Vision of Liberty,' he has matched Smollett on his
own ground." Grander lines than the one we have quoted above,
and than the following--
"A goddess violated brought thee forth,"
are not to be found in literature. Round this last one, the whole ode
seems to turn as on a pivot, and it alone had been sufficient to stamp
Smollett a man of lofty poetic genius.
ADVICE: A SATIRE.
----Sed podice levi
Caeduntur tumidae, medico ridente, mariscae.
O proceres! censore opus est, an haruspice nobis?
Peccandi finem posuit sibi? quando recepit
Ejectum semel atterita de fronte ruborem?
Enough, enough; all this we knew before;
'Tis infamous, I grant it, to be poor:
And who, so much to sense and glory lost,
Will hug the curse that not one joy can boast?
From the pale hag, oh! could I once break loose,
Divorced, all hell should not re-tie the noose!
Not with more care shall H-- avoid his wife,
Nor Cope fly swifter, lashing for his life,
Than I to leave the meagre fiend behind.
Exert your talents; Nature, ever kind, 10
Enough for happiness bestows on all;
'Tis Sloth or Pride that finds her gifts too small.
Why sleeps the Muse?--is there no room for praise,
When such bright constellations blaze?
When sage Newcastle, abstinently great,
Neglects his food to cater for the state;
And Grafton, towering Atlas of the throne,
So well rewards a genius like his own:
Granville and Bath illustrious, need I name,
For sober dignity, and spotless fame; 20
Or Pitt, the unshaken Abdiel yet unsung:
Thy candour, Chomdeley! and thy truth, O Younge!
The advice is good; the question only, whether
These names and virtues ever dwelt together?
But what of that? the more the bard shall claim,
Who can create as well as cherish fame.
But one thing more,--how loud must I repeat,
To rouse the engaged attention of the
great,--Amused, perhaps, with C--'s prolific hum,
Or rapt amidst the transports of a drum; 30
While the grim porter watches every door,
Stern foe to tradesmen, poets, and the poor,
The Hesperian dragon not more fierce and fell,
Nor the gaunt growling janitor of Hell?
Even Atticus (so wills the voice of Fate)
Enshrines in clouded majesty his state;
Nor to the adoring crowd vouchsafes regard,
Though priests adore, and every priest a bard.
Shall I then follow with the venal tribe,
And on the threshold the base mongrel bribe? 40
Bribe him to feast my mute imploring eye
With some proud lord, who smiles a gracious lie!
A lie to captivate my heedless youth,
Degrade my talents, and debauch my truth;
While, fool'd with hope, revolves my joyless day,
And friends, and fame, and fortune, fleet away;
Till, scandal, indigence, and scorn my lot,
The dreary jail entombs me, where I rot!
Is there, ye varnish'd ruffians of the state!
Not one among the millions whom ye cheat, 50
Who, while he totters on the brink of woe,
Dares, ere he falls, attempt the avenging
blow,--A steady blow, his languid soul to feast,
And rid his country of one curse at least?
What! turn assassin?
Let the assassin bleed:
My fearless verse shall justify the deed.
'Tis he who lures the unpractised mind astray,
Then leaves the wretch, to misery a prey;
Perverts the race of Virtue just begun,
And stabs the Public in her ruin'd son. 60
Heavens! how you rail; the man's consumed by spite!
If Lockman's fate attends you when you write,
Let prudence more propitious arts inspire;
The lower still you crawl, you'll climb the higher.
Go then, with every supple virtue stored,
And thrive, the favour'd valet of my lord.
Is that denied? a boon more humble crave.
And minister to him who serves a slave;
Be sure you fasten on promotion's scale,
Even if you seize some footman by the tail: 70
The ascent is easy, and the prospect clear,
From the smirch'd scullion to the embroider'd peer.
The ambitious drudge preferr'd, postilion rides,
Advanced again, the chair benighted guides;
Here doom'd, if Nature strung his sinewy frame,
The slave, perhaps, of some insatiate dame;
But if, exempted from the Herculean toil,
A fairer field awaits him, rich with spoil,
There shall he shine, with mingling honours bright,
His master's pathic, pimp, and parasite; 80
Then strut a captain, if his wish be war,
And grasp, in hope, a truncheon and a star:
Or if the sweets of peace his soul allure,
Bask at his ease, in some warm sinecure;
His fate in consul, clerk, or agent vary,
Or cross the seas, an envoy's secretary;
Composed of falsehood, ignorance, and pride,
A prostrate sycophant shall rise a Lloyd;
And, won from kennels to the impure embrace,
Accomplish'd Warren triumph o'er disgrace. 90
Eternal infamy his name surround,
Who planted first that vice on British ground!
A vice that, spite of sense and nature, reigns,
And poisons genial love, and manhood stains!
Pollio! the pride of science and its shame,
The Muse weeps o'er thee, while she brands thy name!
Abhorrent views that prostituted groom,
The indecent grotto, or polluted dome!
There only may the spurious passion glow,
Where not one laurel decks the caitiff's brow, 100
Obscene with crimes avow'd, of every dye,
Corruption, lust, oppression, perjury.
Let Chardin, with a chaplet round his head,
The taste of Maro and Anacreon plead,
'Sir, Flaccus knew to live as well as write,
And kept, like me, two boys array'd in white;'
Worthy to feel that appetence of fame
Which rivals Horace only in his shame!
Let Isis wail in murmurs as she runs,
Her tempting fathers, and her yielding sons; 110
While dulness screens the failings of the Church,
Nor leaves one sliding Rabbi in the lurch:
Far other raptures let the breast contain,
Where heaven-born taste and emulation reign.
Shall not a thousand virtues, then, atone us
In thy strict censure for the breach of one?
If Bubo keeps a catamite or whore,
His bounty feeds the beggar at his door:
And though no mortal credits Curio's word,
A score of lacqueys fatten at his board: 120
To Christian meekness sacrifice thy spleen,
And strive thy neighbour's weaknesses to screen.
Scorn'd be the bard, and wither'd all his fame,
Who wounds a brother weeping o'er his shame!
But if an impious wretch, with frantic pride,
Throws honour, truth, and decency aside;
If not by reason awed, nor check'd by fears,
He counts his glories from the stains he bears,
The indignant Muse to Virtue's aid shall rise,
And fix the brand of infamy on vice. 130
What if, aroused at his imperious call,
An hundred footsteps echo through his hall,
And, on high columns rear'd, his lofty dome
Proclaims the united art of Greece and Rome.
What though whole hecatombs his crew regale,
And each dependant slumbers o'er his ale,
While the remains, through mouths unnumber'd pass'd,
Indulge the beggar and the dogs at last:
Say, friend, is it benevolence of soul,
Or pompous vanity, that prompts the whole? 140
These sons of sloth, who by profusion thrive,
His pride inveigled from the public hive:
And numbers pine in solitary woe,
Who furnish'd out this phantasy of show.
When silent misery assail'd his eyes,
Did e'er his throbbing bosom sympathise?
Or his extensive charity pervade
To those who languish in the barren shade,
Where oft, by want and modesty suppress'd,
The bootless talent warms the lonely breast? 150
No! petrified by dulness and disdain,
Beyond the feeling of another's pain,
The tear of pity ne'er bedew d his eye,
Nor his lewd bosom felt the social sigh!
Alike to thee his virtue or his vice,
If his hand liberal owns thy merit's price.
Sooner in hopeless anguish would I mourn,
Than owe my fortune to the man I scorn!
What new resource?
A thousand yet remain,
That bloom with honours, or that teem with gain: 160
These arts--are they beneath--beyond thy care?
Devote thy studies to the auspicious fair:
Of truth divested, let thy tongue supply
The hinted slander, and the whisper'd lie;
All merit mock, all qualities depress,
Save those that grace the excelling patroness;
Trophies to her on others' follies raise,
And, heard with joy, by defamation praise;
To this collect each faculty of face,
And every feat perform of sly grimace; 170
Let the grave sneer sarcastic speak thee shrewd;
The smutty joke ridiculously lewd;
And the loud laugh, through all its changes rung,
Applaud the abortive sallies of her tongue;
Enroll'd a member in the sacred list,
Soon shalt thou sharp in company at whist;
Her midnight rites and revels regulate,
Priest of her love, and demon of her hate.
But say, what recompense for all this waste
Of honour, truth, attention, time, and taste? 180
To shine, confess'd, her zany and her tool,
And fall by what I rose--low ridicule?
Again shall Handel raise his laurell'd brow,
Again shall harmony with rapture glow;
The spells dissolve, the combination breaks,
And Punch no longer Frasi's rival squeaks:
Lo! Russell falls a sacrifice to whim,
And starts amazed, in Newgate, from his dream:
With trembling hands implores their promised aid,
And sees their favour like a vision fade! 190
Is this, ye faithless Syrens!--this the joy
To which your smiles the unwary wretch decoy?
Naked and shackled, on the pavement prone,
His mangled flesh devouring from the bone;
Rage in his heart, distraction in his eye,
Behold, inhuman hags! your minion lie!
Behold his gay career to ruin run,
By you seduced, abandon'd, and undone!
Rather in garret pent, secure from harm,
My Muse with murders shall the town alarm; 200
Or plunge in politics with patriot zeal,
And snarl like Guthrie for the public weal,
Than crawl an insect in a beldame's power,
And dread the crush of caprice every hour!
'Tis well; enjoy that petulance of style,
And, like the envious adder, lick the file:
What, though success will not attend on all?
Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall.
Behold the bounteous board of Fortune spread;
Each weakness, vice, and folly yields thee bread, 210
Would'st thou with prudent condescension strive
On the long settled terms of life to thrive.
What! join the crew that pilfer one another,
Betray my friend, and persecute my brother;
Turn usurer, o'er cent. per cent. to brood,
Or quack, to feed like fleas on human blood?
Or if thy soul can brook the gilded curse,
Some changeling heiress steal--
Why not a purse?
Two things I dread--my conscience and the law.
How? dread a mumbling bear without a claw? 220
Nor this, nor that, is standard right or wrong,
Till minted by the mercenary tongue;
And what is conscience but a fiend of strife,
That chills the joys, and damps the scenes of life,
The wayward child of Vanity and Fear,
The peevish dam of Poverty and Care?
Unnumber'd woes engender in the breast
That entertains the rude, ungrateful guest.
Hail, sacred power! my glory and my guide!
Fair source of mental peace, whate'er betide! 230
Safe in thy shelter, let disaster roll
Eternal hurricanes around my soul:
My soul serene amidst the storms shall reign,
And smile to see their fury burst in vain!
Too coy to flatter, and too proud to serve,
Thine be the joyless dignity to starve.
No;--thanks to discord, war shall be my friend;
And mortal rage heroic courage lend
To pierce the gleaming squadron of the foe,
And win renown by some distinguish'd blow. 240
Renown! ay, do--unkennel the whole pack
Of military cowards on thy back.
What difference, say, 'twixt him who bravely stood,
And him who sought the bosom of the wood?
Envenom'd calumny the first shall brand;
The last enjoy a ribbon and command.
If such be life, its wretches I deplore,
And long to quit the inhospitable shore.
[Footnote 1: 'Cope': a general famous for an expeditious retreat,
though not quite so deliberate as that of the ten thousand Greeks from
Persia; having unfortunately forgot to bring his army along with him.]
[Footnote 2: 'Newcastle:' alluding to the philosophical contempt which
this great personage manifested for the sensual delights of
[Footnote 3: 'Grafton': this noble peer, remarkable for sublimity of
parts, by virtue of his office (Lord Chamberlain) conferred the
laureate on Colley Cibber, Esq., a delectable bard, whose character
has already employed, together with his own, the greatest pens of
[Footnote 4: 'Granville and Bath': two noblemen famous in their day
for nothing more than their fortitude in bearing the scorn and
reproach of their country.]
[Footnote 5: 'Prolific hum': this alludes to a phenomenon, not more
strange than true,--the person here meant having actually laid upwards
of forty eggs, as several physicians and fellows of the Royal Society
can attest: one of whom, we hear, has undertaken the incubation, and
will no doubt favour the world with an account of his success.]
[Footnote 6: 'Drum': this is a riotous assembly of fashionable people,
of both sexes, at a private house, consisting of some hundreds: not
unaptly styled a drum, from the noise and emptiness of the
entertainment. There are also drum-major, rout, tempest, and
hurricane, differing only in degrees of multitude and uproar, as the
significant name of each declares.]
[Footnote 7: 'Lockman's fate': to be little read, and less approved.]
[Footnote 8: 'Chardin': this genial knight wore at his own banquet a
garland of flowers, in imitation of the ancients; and kept two rosy
boys robed in white, for the entertainment of his guests.]
[Footnote 9: 'Isis': in allusion to the unnatural orgies said to be
solemnised on the banks of this river; particularly at one place,
where a much greater sanctity of morals and taste might be expected.]
[Footnote 10: 'Russell:' a famous mimic and singer, ruined by the
patronage of certain ladies of quality.]
[Footnote 11: 'Guthrie:' a scribbler of all work in that age.]
[Footnote 12: 'Bosom of the wood:' this last line relates to the
behaviour of the Hanoverian general in the battle of Dettingen.]
* * * * *
REPROOF: A SATIRE.
Howe'er I turn, or wheresoe'er I tread,
This giddy world still rattles round my head!
I pant for silence e'en in this retreat--
Good Heaven! what demon thunders at the gate?
In vain you strive, in this sequester'd nook,
To shroud you from an injured friend's rebuke.
An injured friend! who challenges the name?
If you, what title justifies the claim?
Did e'er your heart o'er my affliction grieve,
Your interest prop me, or your praise relieve? 10
Or could my wants my soul so far subdue,
That in distress she crawl'd for aid to you?
But let us grant the indulgence e'er so strong;
Display without reserve the imagined wrong:
Among your kindred have I kindled strife,
Deflower'd your daughter, or debauch'd your wife;
Traduced your credit, bubbled you at game;
Or soil'd with infamous reproach your name?
No: but your cynic vanity (you'll own)
Exposed my private counsel to the town. 20
Such fair advice 'twere pity sure to lose:
I grant I printed it for public use.
Yes, season'd with your own remarks between,
Inflamed with so much virulence of spleen
That the mild town (to give the devil his due)
Ascribed the whole performance to a Jew.
Jews, Turks, or Pagans--hallow'd be the mouth
That teems with moral zeal and dauntless truth!
Prove that my partial strain adopts one lie,
No penitent more mortified than I; 30
Not e'en the wretch in shackles doom'd to groan,
Beneath the inhuman scoffs of Williamson.
Hold--let us see this boasted self-denial--
The vanquish'd knight has triumph'd in his trial.
Your own sarcastic verse unsay,
That brands him as a trembling runaway.
With all my soul;--the imputed charge rehearse;
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