Page images
PDF
EPUB

The wise experienc'd Grecian sage
Mourn'd not Antilochus so long:
Nor did King Priam's hoary age
So much lament his slaughter'd son.
Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs,
Augustus' numerous trophies sing;
Repeat that prince's victories,
To whom all nations tribute bring.
Niphates rolls an humbler wave,
At length the undaunted Scythian yielus,
Content to live the Roman's slave,
And scarce forsakes his native fields.

Translation of part of the Dialogue between Hector and ANDRONACHE; from

the Sixth Book of Homer's Iliad.
Sue ceas'd; theu godlike Hector answer'd kind,
(His various plumage sporting in the wind)
That post, and all the rest, shall be my care;
But shall I, then, forsake the unfinished war?
How would the Trojans brand great Hector's name!
And one base action sully all my fame,
Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought!
Oh! how my soul abhors so mean a thought.
Long since I learn'd to slight this fileeting breath,
Aud view with cheerful eyes approaching death.
The inexorable sisters have decreed
That Priam's house, and Priam's self shall bleed :
The day will come, in which proud Troy shall yield,
And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field.
Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age,
Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty rage,
Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground,
Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastly wound,
Can in my bosom half that grief create,
As the sad thought of your impending fate:
When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose,
Mimic your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Bebold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy!
Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes,
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs!
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand,
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand.

To a Young Lady on her BirtII-DAY.
This tributary verse receive, my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's pray'r.
May this returning day for ever hind
Thy form more lovely, more adorn'd thy mind;

All pains, all cares, may favouring heav'n remove,
All but the sweet solicitudes of love!
May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart;
O then, when conquered crowds confess thy sway,
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey,
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust,
Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just,
Those sovereign charms with strictest care employ;
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy:
With his own form acquaint the forward fool,
Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule;
Teach mimic censure her own faults to find,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,
So shall Belinda's charms improve maukind.

The Young Author. When first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam, Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home, He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields; Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields, Then dances jocund o'er the watery way, While the breeze whispers, and the streamers play: . Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll, And future millions lift his rising soul : In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine, And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine. Joys insincere ! thick clouds invade the skies, Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise ; Sick’ning with fear, he longs to view the shore, And vows to trust the faithless deep no more. So the young Author, panting after fame, And the long honours of a lasting name, Entrusts his happiness to human kind, More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind. “ Toil on, dull crowd," in extacies he cries, “For wealth or title, perishable prize; While I those transitory blessings scorn, Secure of praise from ages yet unborn." This thought once form’d, all council comes too late, He flies to press, and hurries on his fate; Swiftly he sees the imagin'd laurels spread, And feels the unfading wreath surround his head. Warn'd by another's fate, vain youth be wise, Those dreams were Settle's once, and Ogilby's: The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise, To some retreat the baffled writer fies; Where no sour critics suarl, no sneers molest, Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest : There begs of heaven a less distinguish'd lot, Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot.

Epilogue, intended to have been spoken by a Lady who was to personate the

Ghost of HERMIONE.
Ye blooming train, who give despair or joy,
Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy :
In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait,
And with unerring shafts distribute fate :
Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes,
Each youth admires, though each admirer dies;
Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play,
Unpitying sce them weep, and hear them pray,
And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away;
For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains;
Where sable night in all her horrour reigns;
No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades,
Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids.
For kind, for tender nymphs the myrtle blooms,
And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing glooms:
Perennial roses deck each purple vale,
And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale:
Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears,
Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs;
No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys
The balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies;
Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms,
Nor torturing whalebones pinch them into charms;
No conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame,
For those who feel no guilt can know no shame;
Unfaded still their former charms they shew,
Around them pleasures wait, and joys for ever new.
But cruel virgins meet severer fates :
Expell’d and exil'd from the blissful seats,
To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
Where furies ever how), and serpents hiss.
O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh,
And pois'nous vapours, black’ning all the sky.
With livid hue the fairest face o'ercast,
And every beauty withers at the blast:
Where'er they fly their lovers' ghosts pursue,
loflicting all those ills which once they knew;
Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair,
Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear;
Their foul deformities by all descry'd,
No maid to flatter, and no paint to hide,
Then melt, ye fair, while crowds around you sigh,
Nor let disdain sit lowring in your eye;
With pity soften every awful grace,
And beauty smile auspicious in each face;
To ease their pains exert your milder power,
So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind adore.

D

The two years which he spent at home, after his return from Stourbridge, he passed in what he thought idleness, and was scolded by his father for his want of steady application. He had no settled plan of life, nor looked forward at all, but merely lived from day to day. Yet he read a great deal in a desultory manner, without any scheme of study, as chance threw books in his way, and inclination directed him through them. He used to mention one curious instance of bis casual reading, when but a boy. Having imagined that his brother had hid some apples behind a large folio upon an upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed up to search for them. There were no apples; but the large folio proved to be Petrarch, whom he had seen mentioned, in some preface, as one of the restorers of learning. His curiosity having been thus excited, he sat down with avidity, and read a great part of the book. What he read during these two years, he told me, was not works of mere amusement, “not voyages and travels, but all literature, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly: though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod : but in this irregular manner (added he) I had looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the Universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their hands by their tutors ; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me, I was the best qualified for the University that he had ever known come there."

In estimating the progress of his mind during these two years, as well as in future periods of his life, we must not regard his own hasty confession of idleness ; for we see, when he explains himself, that he was acquiring various stores; and, indeed he himself concluded the account, witla saying, “I would not have you think I was doing nothing then." He might, perhaps, have studied more assiduously; but it may be doubted, whether such a mind as his was not more enriched by roaming at large in the fields of literature, than if it had been confined to any single spot. The analogy between body and mind is very general, and the parallel will hold as to their food, as well as any other particular. The flesh of animals who feed excursively, is allowed to have a higher flavonir than that of those who are cooped up. May there not be the same difference between men who read as their taste prompts, and men who are confined in cells and colleges to stated tasks?

That a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's circumstances should think of sending his son to the expensive University of Oxford, at his own charge, seems very improbable. The subject was too delicate to question Jobsson upon : but I have been assured by Mr. Taylor, that the scheme never would have taken place, had not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of his school-fellows, spontaneously undertaken to support him at Oxford, in the character of his coinpanion: though, in fact, he never received any assistance whatever from that genleman.

He, however, went to Oxford, and was entered a Commoner of Perbroke College, on the 31st of October, 1728, being thcu ia his vineteenth year.

The Reverend Dr. Adams, who afterwards presided over Pembroke College with universal esteem, told me he was present, and gave me some account of what passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford. On the evening, his father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to have him introduced to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His being put under any tutor, reminds us of what Wood says of Robert Burton, author of the “Anatomy of Melancholy,” when elected student of Christ Church ; " for form's sake, though he wanted not a tutor, he was put under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterwards Bishop of Oxou."

His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, and told the company he was a good scholar, and a poet, and wrote Latio venres. His figure and manner appeared strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till upon something which occurred in the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in and quoted Macrobius; and thus he gave the first impression of that more extensive reading in which he had indulged himself.

His tutor, Mr. Jordeo, fellow of Pembroke, was not, it seems, a map of such abilities as we should conceive requisite for the instructor of Samuel Johnson, who gave me the following account of him.

«Не was a very worthy man, but a heavy man, and I did not profit much by his instructions. Indeed, I did not attend him much. The first day after I came to college, I waited upon him, and then staid away four,

On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why I had not attended. I answered, I had been sliding in Christ-Church meadow. And this I said with as much nonchalance as I am now talking to you. I had no notion that I was wrong or irreverent to my tutor.” Boswel." That, Sir, was great fortitude of mind.” Johnson. “No, Sir; stark insensibility.”

The fifth of November was at that time kept with great solemnity at Pembroke College, and exercises upon the subject of the day were required. Johnson neglected to perform his, which is much to be re. gretted; for his vivacity of imagination, and force of language, would probably have produced something sublime upon the gun-powder-plot. To apologise for his neglect, he gave in a short copy of verses, intitled somnium, containing a common thought; “ that the Muse had come to him in his sleep, and whispered, that it did not become him to write on such subjects as politics ; he should confine himself to humbler themes :" but the versification was truly Virgilian,

He had a love and respect for Jorden, not for his literature, but for his worth. “Whenever (said he) a young man becomes Jordeu's pupil, he becomes his son."

Having given such a specimen of his poetical powers, he was asked by Mr. Jorden, to translate Pope's Messiah in Latin verse, as a Christmas exercise. He performed it with uncommon rapidity, and in so masterly a manner, that be obtained great applause from it, which ever after kept

« PreviousContinue »