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He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, and then he returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school-exercises and in other occasional compositions. Of these I have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. Hector, his school-fellow and friend; from which I select the following specimens:
Translation of VIRGIL. Pastoral I.
Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid,
Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade;
While wretched we about the world must roam,
And leave our pleasing fields and native home,
Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame,
And the wood rings with Amarillis' name.
Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd,
For I shall never think him less than God;
Oft on his altar shall my firstlings lie,
Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye:
He gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads,
And me to tune at ease th' unequal reeds,
My admiration only I exprest,
(No spark of envy harbours in my breast)
That, when confusion o'er the country reigns,
To you alone this happy state remains.
Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats,
Far from their antient fields and humble cots.
This scarce I lead, who left on yonder rock
Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock.
Had we not been perverse and careless grown,
This dire event by omens was foreshown ;
Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke,
And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak,
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak.
Translation of HoRACE. Book I. Ode xxii.
THE man, my friend, whose conscious heart
With virtue's sacred ardour glows,
Nortaints with death the envenom'd dart
Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows;
Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads,
Or horrid Africk's faithless sands;
Or where the fam'd Hydaspes spreads
His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands.
For while by Chloe's image charm’d,
Too far in Sabine woods I stray’d;
Me singing, careless and unarm’d,
A grizly wolf surprised, and fled.
No savage more portentous stain'd
Apulia's spacious wilds with gore;
No fiercer Juba's thirsty land,
Dire nurse of raging lions, bore.
Place me where no soft summer gale
Among the quivering branches sighs;
Where clouds condens'd for ever veil
With horrid gloom the frowning skies:
Place me beneath the burning line,
A clime deny'd to human race:
I’ll sing of Chloe's charms divine,
Her heav'nly voice, and beauteous face.
Translation of HoRACE. Book II. Ode ix
CLouds do not always veil the skies,
Nor showers immerse the verdant plain:
Nor do the billows always rise,
Or storms afflict the ruffled main.
Nor, Walgius, on th’Armenian shores
Do the chain'd waters always freeze ;
Not always furious Boreas roars, o
Or bends with violent force the trees.
But you are ever drown'd in tears,
For Mystes dead you ever mourn;
No setting Sol can ease your care,
But finds you sad at his return.
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 women'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 yields,
Content to live the Roman's slave,
And scarce forsakes his native fields.
Translation of part of the Dialogue between HEctoR and ANDROMACHE ;
from the Sixth Book of HomeR's ILIAD.
SHE ceas'd; then 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 fleeting breath,
And 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,
Mimick 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,
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy
Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes,
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs 1
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand,
- To a YoUNG LADY on her BIRTH-DAY."
THIs tributary verse receive my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest pray’r.
May this returning day for ever find
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 1
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 mimick censure her own faults to find,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.
WHEN first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam, Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home, 1 Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost impromptu, in his presence.
* This he inserted, with many alterations, in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1743. [He however, did not add his name. See Gent. Mag. vol. xiii. p. 378.-M.]
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields,
He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields;
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 Authour, 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 croud, 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 flies;
Where no sour criticks snarl, 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 see 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:
1 Some young ladies at Lichfield having proposed to act “The Distressed Mother,” Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr. Hector to convey it privately to them. .
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 balmykiss, 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;
Fxpell'd and exil'd from the blissful seats,
To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
Where furies ever howl, and serpents hiss.
O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh,
And pois'nous vapours, black’ning all the sky,
With living hue the fairest face o'ercast,
And every beauty withers at the blast :
Where'er they fly their lovers' ghosts pursue,
Inflicting 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 crouds 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,
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 his 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