Imágenes de páginas

...pwwwsy we cannoun, au no w vc acmointu, wat were 18 a very obvious distinction between his early and his later style. Dryden was his first model in versification, while Pope was his last. He had more skill in selection, however, than in execution. He debased the style of Dryden, and weakened that of Pope. His greatest poetical work is undoubtedly the tragedy of Cato, which is sufficiently sustained and dignified to hold a high place in the imagination of classical readers, who are content to surrender the more natural and passionate characteristics of tragedy, in return for the embodiment it seems to present of those remote visions of Roman grandeur and stoicism which were so familiar to their youth. In the more subtle accomplishments of scholarship Addison was certainly deficient. His translations from the Classics would alone sufficiently prove this. They are polished and easy, but they want the exactness of the scholar, and are more seriously deficient in the true spirit and genius of classical learning. In a word, the character of Addison's mind was not poetical. He was a fine essayist and a correct critic, and in his life he never failed to zustain the character and respectability of letters. His name is never mentioned in any intellectual circle, without a feeling that the gratitude and reverence paid to it,

[graphic][merged small]

FROM A LETTER FROM ITALY. How has kind Heaven adorn'd the happy land, And scatter'd blessings with a wasteful hand ! But what avail her unexhausted stores, Her blooming mountains, and her sunny shores, With all the gifts that heaven and earth impart, The smiles of nature, and the charms of art, While proud oppression in her valleys reigns, And tyranny usurps her happy plains ? The poor inhabitant beholds in vain The reddening orange and the swelling grain : Joyless he sees the growing oils and wines, And in the myrtle's fragrant shade repines :

Starves, in the midst of nature's bounty curst,
And in the loaded vineyard dies for thirst.

O Liberty, thou goddess heavenly bright,
Profuse of bliss, and pregnant with delight!
Eternal pleasures in thy presence reign,
And smling Plenty leads thy wanton train ;
Eas'd of her load, Subjection grows more light,
And Poverty looks cheerful in thy sight;
Thou mak'st the gloomy face of nature gay, .
Giv'st beauty to the Sun, and pleasure to the day.

Thee, goddess, thee, Britannia's isle adores;
How has she oft exhausted all her stores,
How oft in fields of death thy presence sought,
Nor thinks the mighty prize too dearly bought!
On foreign mountains may the Sun refine
The grape's soft juice, and mellow it to wine,
With citron groves adorn a distant soil,
And the fat olive swell with floods of oil:
We envy not the warmer clime, that lies
In ten degrees of more indulgent skies,
Nor at the coarseness of our Heaven repine,
Though o'er our heads the frozen Pleiads shine :

'Tis Liberty that crowns Britannia's isle, And makes her barren rocks and her bleak mountains smile.


The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a shepherd's care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful

My noon-day walks he shall attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.


When in the sultry glebe I faint,
Or on the thirsty mountain pant;
To fertile vales and dewy meads
My weary wandering steps he leads,
Where peaceful rivers, soft and slow,

Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My stedfast heart shall fear no ill,
For thou, O Lord, art with me still ;
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Though in a bare and rugged way,
Through devious lonely wilds I stray,
Thy bounty shall my wants beguile:
The barren wilderness shall smile,
With sudden greens and herbage crown’d,
And streams shall murmur all around.


The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator's power display ;
And publishes to every land,
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wonderous tale ;
And nightly, to the listening earth,
Repeats the story of her birth :
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets, in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What though in solemn silence, all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice, nor sound,
Amidst their radiant orbs be found :
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing as they shine,

Isaac Watts was born in 1674, at Southampton, where his father, who was a Dissenter, kept a boarding school. He was the eldest of nine children, and gave indications of genius while yet a child. At the age of sixteen, his abilities had become so generally known that it was proposed to raise a subscription for his support at the University. The youth had, however, resolved to adhere to the tenets of his forefathers; and accordingly entered a Dissenting academy in London, with a view to preparation for the ministry. This object was attained; he became the zealous, upright, and eloquent pastor of a congregation; but his constitution, always delicate, compelled him, from time to time, to abstain from labour; until he was induced to accede to the wishes of his friend, Sir Thomas Abney, by becoming a permanent resident in his house. Here the remainder of his years were spent; enjoying uninterrupted demonstrations of the truest friendship, in a family which " for piety, order, harmony, and every virtue, was a house of God.” To this happy circumstance the world is mainly indebted for the many rare and estimable productions of the pen of Dr. Watts. Ease of mind, with graceful relaxations from laborious studies, domestic quiet and competence, were matters upon the obtaining of which even his existence depended. The history of his life from the time of his entering this “ home" is merely that of his works. He continued actively employing his pen--producing his “Logic," “ Improvement of the Mind," Sermons, Discourses, Prayers, Essays, and Poemsall tending to one great object-the glory of God and the benefit of human kind. At length, full of years and honours, he died on the 25th of November, 1748.

Dr. Watts is described as of remarkably small stature; scarcely exceeding five feet; his countenance was amiable and benevolent; his eloquence rich and persuasive; his natural temper was quick of resentment; but by his established and habitual practice, he was gentle, modest, and inoffensive.

The works of Dr. Watts, in prose and verse, were collected and published under the superintendence of Dr. Doddridge, in 6 vols. 8vo. in 1754. They are proofs of his fine genius, fervent piety, extensive learning, and benevolent heart; and they continue to retain a very large share of public favour.

His poems are, for the most part, devotional. His nature and his education both prompted him to employ his talents in the service of the Creator. Poetry with him, therefore, was but the giving a more delightful and inviting dress to that which is naturally grand, dignified, and beautiful. “Yet," as he says, " it was not the business of his life”-and if he seized those hours of leisure wherein his soul was in a more sprightly frame, to entertain his friends or himself with a divine or moral song--he hopes he shall find an easy pardon. These remarks occur in the preface to his Lyric Poems; the subjects of which are varied, although chiefly of a sacred character. They do not perhaps possess merit sufficient to establish the name of the writer among the highest order of British Poets ;—but they are the productions of a healthy mind, a sound judgment, and a discriminating taste; and the versification is exceedingly easy and correct, except when he “attempts in rhyme the same variety of cadence, comma, and period, which blank verse glories in as its peculiar elegance and ornament."

The “ Divine Songs for Children" we are disposed to class among the rarest and most valuable works to which genius has ever given existence. If the earliest impressions are of the greatest importance, because the most effective and the most enduring, how essential is it that the bias of the young mind should be towards virtue, honesty, industry, and humanity! There is no lesson in either which Dr. Watts has left untaught. Children lisp his verses long before they can read them--the moral fixes upon the mind through the imagination, and is retained for life. The "Divine Songs” are neither too high nor -- what is less easy of attainment - too low for the comprehension of a child, and they tempt perusal and thought by the graces of easy rhyme. They are simple without being weak; and they reason without being argumentative; they are just of sufficient length to be committed to memory, without being long enough to become wearisomo as a task. They are indeed the most perfect examples in our language of the achievement of that which a writer desires to achieve. We regard Dr. Watts, therefore, as one of the greatest benefactors of human kind; and may search in vain through the thousand tomes of our poets for so many golden

« AnteriorContinuar »