Page images
PDF
EPUB

And read with such discernment, in the port
And figure of the man, his secret aim,
That oft we owe our safety to a skill
We could not teach, and must despair to learn.
But learn we might, if not too proud to stoop
To quadruped instructors, many a good
And useful quality, and virtue too,
Rarely exemplified among ourselves;
Attachment never to be wean'd, or chang’d
By any change of fortune ; proof alike
Against unkindness, absence, and neglect;
Fidelity, that neither bribe nor threat
Can move or warp; and gratitude for small
And trivial favours, lasting as the life,
And glist’ning even in the dying eye.

Man praises man. Desert in arts or arms
Wins publick honour; and ten thousand sit
Patiently present at a sacred song,
Commemoration-mad; content to hear
(O wonderful effect of musick's pow'r!)
Messiah's eulogy for Handel's sake.
But less, methinks, than sacrilege might servem
(For, was it less, what heathen would have dar'd
To strip Jove's statue of his oaken wreath,
And hang it up in honour of a man ?)
Much less might serve, when all that we design
Is but to gratify an itching ear,
And give the day to a musician's praise.
Remember Handel? Who, that was not born
Deaf as the dead to harmony, forgets,
Or can, the more than Homer of his age ?
Yes--we remember him ; and, while we praise
VOL. II.

16*

[ocr errors]

A talent so divine, remember too
That His most holy book, from whom it came,
Was never meant, was never us'd before,
To buckram out the mem'ry of a man.
But hush the muse perhaps is too severe;
And with a gravity beyond the size
And measure of th' offence, rebukes a deed
Less impious than absurd, and owing more
To want of judgment than to wrong design.
So in the chapel of old Ely House,
When wand'ring Charles, who meant to be the

third,
Had fled from William, and the news was fresh,
The simple clerk, but loyal, did announce,
And eke did rear right merrily, two staves,
Sung to the praise and glory of King George!
-Man praises man; and Garrick's mem’ry next,
When time had sowewhat mellow'd it, and made
The idol of our worship while he liv'd
The God of our idolatry once more,
Shall have its altar; and the world shall go
In pilgrimage to bow before his shrine.
The theatre too small shall suffocate
Its squeez'd contents, and more than it admits
Shall sigh at their exclusion, and return
Ungratified: for there some noble lord
Shall stuff his shoulders with king Richard's bunch,
Or wrap himself in Hamlet's inky cloak,
And strut, and storm, and straddle, stamp and stare,
To show the world how Garrick did not act,
For Garrick was a worshipper himself;
He drew the liturgy, and fram'd the rites

And solemn ceremonial of the day,
And call'd the world to worship on the banks
Of Avon, fam'd in song. Ah, pleasant proof
That piety has still in human hearts
Some place, a spark or two not yet extinct.
The mulb'rry-tree was hung with blooming wreaths;
The mulb’rry-tree stood centre of the dance ;
The mulb'rry-tree was hymn’d with dulcet airs;
And from his touchwood trunk the mulb’rry-tree
Supplied such relicks as devotion holds
Still sacred, and preserves with pious care.
So'twas a hallow'd time : decorum reign'd,
And mirth without offence. No few return’d,
Doubtless, much edified, and all.refresh'd.-
Man praises man. The rabble all alive
From tippling benches, cellars, stalls, and sties,
Swarm in the streets. The statesman of the day,
A pompous and slow-moving pageant, comes.
Some shout him, and some hang upon his car,
To gaze in's eyes, and bless him. Maidens wave
Their kerchiefs, and old women weep for joy :
While others, not so satisfied, unhouse
The gilded equipage, and, turning loose
His steeds, usurp a place they well deserve.
Why? what has charm’d them? Hath he say'd the

state ?
No. Doth he purpose its salvation ? No,
Enchanting novelty, that moon at full,
That finds out ev'ry crevice of the head
That is not sound and perfect, hath in theirs
Wrought this disturbance. But the wane is

near, And his own cattle must suffice him soon.

Thus idly do we waste the breath of praise,
And dedicate a tribute, in its use
And just direction sacred, to a thing
Doom'd to the dust, or lodg'd already there.
Encomium in old time was poets' work;
But poets, having lavishly long since
Exhausted all materials of the art,
The task now falls into the publick hand;
And I, contented with an humbler theme,
Have pour'd my stream of panegyrick down
The vale of Nature, where it creeps, and winds
Among her lovely works with a secure
And unambitious course, reflecting clear,
If not the virtues, yet the worth, of brutes.
And I am recompens'd, and deem the toils
Of poetry not lost, if verse of mine
May stand between an animal and wo,
And teach one tyrant pity for his drudge.

The groans of Nature in this nether world,
Which Heav'n has heard for ages, have an end.
Foretold by prophets, and by poets sung,
Whose fire was kindled at the prophet’ lamp,
The time of rest, the promis'd sabbath, comes.
Six thousand years of sorrow have well-nigh
Fulfill’d their tardy and disastrous course
Over a sinful world ; and what remains
Of this tempestuous state of human things
Is merely as the working of a sea
Before a calm, that rocks itself to rest :
For He, whose car the winds are, and the clouds
The dust that waits upon his sultry march,
When sin hath mov'd him, and his wrath is hot,

a

Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend
Propitious in his chariot pav'd with love;
And what his storms have blasted and defac'd
For man's revolt shall with a smile repair.

Sweet is the harp of prophecy; too sweet
Not to be wrong'd by a mere mortal touch :
Nor can the wonders it records be sung
To meaner musick, and not suffer loss.
But when a poet, or when one like me,
Happy to rove among poetick flow'rs,
Though pour in skill to rear them, lights at last
On some fair theme, some theme divinely fair,
Such is the impulse and the spur he feels,
To give it praise proportion'd to its worth,
That not attempt it, arduous as he deems
The labour, were a task more arduous still.

O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scenes of accomplish'd bliss! which who can see,
'Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refresh'd with foretaste of the joy?
Rivers of gladness water all the earth,
And clothe all climes with beauty; the reproach
Of barrenness is past. The fruitful field
Laughs with abundance; and the land, once lean,
Or fertile only in its own disgrace,
Exults to see its thistly curse repeal’d.
The various seasons woven into one,
And that one season an eternal spring,
The garden fears no blight, and needs no fence,
For there is none to covet, all are full.
The lion, and the libbard, and the bear,
Graze with the fearless flocks; all bask at noon

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »