Page images
PDF
EPUB

20

In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan,
He could not for a moment sink the man.
In whate'er cast his character was laid,
Self still, like oil, upon the surface played.
Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in:
Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff-still 't was Quin.

1761.

FROM

5

IO

THE APOLOGY
The Muse's office was by Heaven designed
To please, improve, instruct, reform mankind;
To make dejected Virtue nobly rise
Above the tow'ring pitch of splendid Vice;
To make pale Vice, abashed, her head hang down,
And trembling crouch at Virtue's awful frown.
Now armed with wrath, she bids eternal shame,
With strictest justice, brand the villain's name;
Now in the milder garb of ridicule
She sports, and pleases while she wounds the fool.
Her shape is often varied; but her aim,
To prop the cause of virtue, still the same.
In praise of mercy let the guilty bawl,
When vice and folly for correction call;
Silence the mark of weakness justly bears,
And is partaker of the crimes it spares.

But if the Muse, too cruel in her mirth,
With harsh reflections wounds the man of worth;
If wantonly she deviates from her plan,
And quits the actor to expose the man;
Ashamed, she marks that passage with a blót,
And hates the line where candour was forgot.

But what is candour, what is humour's vein,
Though judgment join to consecrate the strain,
If curious numbers will not aid afford,
Nor choicest music play in ev'ry word?
Verses must run, to charm a modern ear,
From all harsh, rugged interruptions clear;
Soft let them breathe as zephyr's balmy breeze,
Smooth let their current flow as summer seas,

15

20

25

30 40

45

50

Perfect then only deemed when they dispense
A happy tuneful vacancy of sense.
Henceforth farewell, then, fev'rish thirst of fame;
Farewell the longings for a poet's name;
Perish my Musema wish 'bove all severe
To him who ever held the Muses dear-
If e'er her labours weaken to refine
The gen'rous roughness of a nervous line.

Others affect the stiff and swelling phrase:
Their Muse must walk in stilts, and strut in stays;
The sense they murder, and the words transpose,
Lest poetry approach too near to prose.
See tortured Reason how they pare and trim,
And, like Procrustes, stretch or lop the limb.
Waller, whose praise succeeding bards rehearse,
Parent of harmony in English verse,
Whose tuneful Muse in sweetest accents flows,
In couplets first taught straggling sense to close.
In polished numbers and majestic sound,
Where shall thy rival, Pope, be ever found?
But whilst each line with equal beauty flows,
E'en excellence, unvaried, tedious grows.
Nature, through all her works, in great degree,
Borrows a blessing from Variety.
Music itself her needful aid requires
To rouse the soul and wake our dying fires.
Still in one key, the nightingale would tease;
Still in one key, not Brent would always please.
Here let me bend, great Dryden, at thy shrine,
Thou dearest name to all the tuneful Nine.
What if some dull lines in cold order creep,
And with his theme the poet seems to sleep?
Still, when his subject rises proud to view,
With equal strength the poet rises too;
With strong invention, noblest vigour fraught,
Thought still springs up and rises out of thought;
Numbers ennobling numbers in their course
In varied sweetness flow, in varied force;
The pow'rs of genius and of judgment join,
And the whole art of poetry is thine.

55

60

65

70

FROM

THE GHOST

5

10

Pomposo, insolent and loud,
Vain idol of a scribbling crowd,
Whose very name inspires an awe,
Whose ev'ry word is sense and law,
For what his greatness hath decreed,
Like laws of Persia and of Mede,
Sacred through all the realm of wit,
Must never of repeal admit;
Who, cursing flatt'ry, is the tool
Of ev'ry fawning, flatt'ring fool;
Who wit with jealous eye surveys,
And sickens at another's praise;
Who, proudly seized of Learning's throne,
Now damns all learning but his own;
Who scorns those common wares to trade in,
Reas'ning, convincing, and persuading,
But makes each sentence current pass
With “puppy," "coxcomb," "scoundrel," "ass,"
For 't is with him a certain rule,
The folly's proved when he calls “fool" ;
Who, to increase his native strength,
Draws words six syllables in length,
With which, assisted with a frown
By way of club, he knocks us down.

1762.

15

20

WILLIAM FALCONER

FROM

THE SHIPWRECK
In vain the cords and axes were prepared,
For now th' audacious seas insult the yard;
High o'er the ship they throw a horrid shade,
And o'er her burst in terrible cascade.
Uplifted on the surge, to heaven she flies,
Her shattered top half-buried in the skies;

5 10

15

20

25

Then, headlong plunging, thunders on the ground:
Earth groans ! air trembles! and the deeps resound!
Her giant bulk the dread concussion feels,
And, quivering with the wound, in torment reels;
So reels, convulsed with agonizing throes,
The bleeding bull beneath the murd'rer's blows.
Again she plunges ! hark! a second shock
Tears her strong bottom on the marble rock-
Down on the vale of death, with dismal cries,
The fated victims, shuddering, roll their eyes,
In wild despair, while yet another stroke
With deep convulsion rends the solid oak;
Till, like the mine in whose infernal cell
The lurking demons of destruction dwell,
At length, asunder torn, her frame divides,
And, crashing, spreads in ruin o'er the tides.

Oh, were it mine with tuneful Maro's art
To wake to sympathy the feeling heart,
Like him the smooth and mournful verse to dress
In all the pomp of exquisite distress,
Then, too severely taught by cruel fate
To share in all the perils I relate,
Then might I, with unrivalled strains, deplore
Th' impervious horrors of a leeward shore.

As o'er the surge the stooping main-m'ast hung,
Still on the rigging thirty seamen clung.
Some struggling on a broken crag were cast,
And there by oozy tangles grappled fast;
Awhile they bore th' o'erwhelming billows' rage,
Unequal combat with their fate to wage,
Till, all benumbed and feeble, they forego
Their slippery hold and sink to shades below.
Some, from the main-yard-arm impetuous thrown
On marble ridges, die without a groan.
Three with Palemon on their skill depend,
And from the wreck on oars and rafts descend :
Now on the mountain wave on high they ride,
Then downward plunge beneath th' involving tide;
Till one, who seems in agony to strive,
The whirling breakers heave on shore alive;
The rest a speedier end of anguish knew,

30

35

40

45 50

55

60

65

And pressed the stony beach-a lifeless crew!

Next, o unhappy chief! th' eternal doom
Of Heaven decreed thee to the briny tomb!
What scenes of misery torment thy yiew!
What painful struggles of thy dying crew!
Thy perished pes all buried in the flood
O’erspread with corses, red with human blood !
So, pierced with anguish, hoary Priam gazed
When Troy's imperial domes in ruin blazed,
While he, severest sorrow doomed to feel,
Expired beneath the victor's murdering steel.
Thus with his helpless partners till the last,
Sad refuge! Albert hugs the floating mast.
His soul could yet sustain this mortal blow,
But droops, alas! beneath superior woe;
For now soft nature's sympathetic chain
Tugs at his yearning heart with powerful strain :
His faithful wife, forever doomed to mourn
For him, alas! who never shall return;
To black adversity's approach exposed,
With want and hardships unforeseen enclosed;
His lovely daughter, left without a friend
Her innocence to succour and defend,
By youth and indigence set forth a prey
To lawless guilt, that flatters to betray.
While these reflections rack his feeling mind,
Rodmond, who hung beside, his grasp resigned;
And, as the tumbling waters o'er him rolled,
His outstretched arms the master's legs enfold:
Sad Albert feels the dissolution near,
And strives in vain his fettered limbs to clear,
For death bids every clinching joint adhere;
All faint, to Heaven ḥe throws his dying eyes,
And “Oh protect my wife and child !” he cries-
The gushing streams roll back th' unfinished sound;
He gasps, he dies, and tumbles to the ground.

Five only left of all the perished throng
Yet ride the pine that shoreward drives along;
With these Arion still his hold secures,
And all th' assaults of hostile waves endures.
O'er the dire prospect as for life he strives.

70

75

80

85

« PreviousContinue »