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The writings of Blair are so far from being voluminous, that “ The Grave” has but lately been received into a collection of “ Classical English Poe“ try;” and every recollection of the author's private character or situation was passing fast away into unmerited oblivion. Mr. Pinkerton was the first who subjected this poem to the review of criticism. “ The “ Grave," he says,
" is worth a thousand common poems. The language is such as Shakspeare would “ have used ; yet he no ere
tates Shakspeare, “ or uses any expression of his. It is frugal and “ chaste; yet, upon occasion, highly poetical, with. " out any appearance of research. It is unquestion“ ably the best piece of blank verse we have, save " those of Milton.” Perhaps some fastidious critic, notwithstanding the unqualified manner in which praise is thus lavished on the poem, may insist that the reflections on
the hot-brain’d youth ; Who the tiara at his pleasure tore From kings of all the then discover'd globe---are but an extension of Hamlet's remarks on the same subject ;-he may contend that the following passages are palpable plagiarisins from our immortal dramatic bard : Alas ! how chop-fall'n now ! That awful gulph, no mortal e'er repass’d, To tell what's doing on the other side. The sexton, hoary-headed chronicle, &c. &c. It may be said too, that “ light-heeld ghosts.” thick-lipp'd musing melancholy," * sooty blackbird," and such like epithets, which frequently occur, seldom illustrate the subject, but, on the contrary, frequently reuder it ludicrous. Nay, some will object, for various reasons, to such verses as--Invidious grave !-how dost thou rend in sunder
Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one ! A tie more stubborn far than nature's band.-Self-murder ! name it not : our island's shame, That makes her the reproach of neighbouring states. Some will say also, that in speaking of the soul and body at the hour of death, after keeping them so beautifully distinct, he destroys this exquisite discrimination, by saying of the soul
Mournful sight! Her very eyes weep blood and every groan She heaves is big with horror. But such faults as these the eye of taste overlooks with pleasure ; for there is not one line in the poem which can fail to excite the sparkle of admiration.
“ The school-boy with his satchel in his hand,” passing through “ the lone church-yard at night,” is inost naturally drawn. The new-made widow, too, l'ře sometimes spy'd,
&c. -Prone on the lowly grave of the dear man She drops ; whilst busy meddling memory, In barbarous succession musters up The past endearments of their softer hours, Tenacious of its theme. “ Busy meddling memory, in barbarous succession, “ musters up,” is peculiarly happy. The following need no comment. Surely there's not a dungeon slave that's bury'd In the highway, unshrouded and uncoffin'd, But lies as soft, and sleeps as sound as he.* Sorry pre-eminence of high descent, Above the baser born, to rot in state.
After a description of a funeral procession, he exclaims
Ye undertakers, tell us,
--Strength too, &c. &c.-
-See how the great Goliah,
The following verses equal the most sublime passages of Milton:
-But the foe,* Like a staunch murd'rer, steady to his purpose, Pursues hert close through every lane of life, Nor misses once the track, but presses on ; TILL FORC'D AT LAST TO THE TREMENDOUS VERGE, AT ONCE SHE SINKS TO EVERLASTING RUIN.
There is something remarkably striking in the concluding remark he makes on the sexton :
-Poor wretch ! he minds not That soon some trusty brother of the trade Shall do for him what he has done for thousands. But to pretend to point out all the beauties, were
nothing less than to print another copy of the poem. I must therefore unwillingly stop short with repeating what Mr. Pinkerton has said, that“ The Grave
is unquestionably the best piece of blank verse we 6 have, save those of Milton.”
Gray's “ Elegy written in a country church-yard," is so well appropriated to accompany “ The Grave,” that it has of late years become its inseparable companion. In compliance with the established custom, which is certainly no improper one, the far-famed Elegy is attached to this edition. The author is so well known to the readers of English poetry, that any account of him here would be completely unnecessary. I shall therefore conclude these remarks by adding only the opinion which our greatest critic entertained of " The Church-Yard."
“ In the character of this Elegy,” says Dr. Johnson, “ I rejoice to concur with the common reader ; for “ by the common sense of readers, uncorrupted with “ literary prejudices, after all the refinements of sub“ tilty, and the dogmatism of learning, must be fi
nally decided all claim to poetical honours. The “ Church-Yard abounds with images which find a “ mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which
every bosom returns an echo. The four stanzas “ beginning, Yet even those bones, are to me origi"nal: I have never seen the notion in any other “ place ; yet be that reads them here, persuades him“ self that he has always felt them. Had Gray writ66 ten oftener thus, it had been vain to blame, und « useless to praise him."
WHILST some affect the sun, and some the shade,
Some flee the city, some the hermitage, Their aims as various as the roads they take In journeying through life ;--the task be mine To paint the gloomy horrors of the tomb ; Th' appointed place of rendezvous, where all These travellers meet. Thy succours 1 implore, Eternal King ! whose potent arm sustains The keys of hell and death.- -The grave, dread
thing! Men shiver when thou'rt nam'd : Nature appallid, Shakes off her wonted firmness.-Ah ! how dark Thy long-extended realms, and rueful wastes ! Where nought but silence reigns, and night, dark
night, Dark as was chaos, ere the infant sun Was rollid together, or had try'd its beams Athwart the gloom profound. --The sickly taper, By glimm’ring through thy low-brow'd misty vaults, (Furr'd round with mouldy damps, and ropy slime) Lets fall a supernumerary horror, | And only serves to make thy night more irksome.
Well do I know thee by thy trusty yew,