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FROM AN ESSAY ON EPIC POETRY
For me, who feel, whene'er I touch the lyre,
My talents sink below my proud desire ;
Who often doubt, and sometimes credit give,
When friends assure me that my verse will live;
Whom health too tender for the bustling throng
Led into pensive shade and soothing song;
Whatever fortune my unpolish'd rhymes
May meet, in present or in future times,
Let the blest art my grateful thoughts employ,
Which soothes my sorrow and augments my joy ;
Whence lonely peace and social pleasure springs,
And friendship dearer than the smile of kings !
While keener poets, querulously proud,
Lament the ills of poesy aloud,
And magnify, with irritation's zeal,
Those common evils we too strongly feel,
The envious comment and the subtle style
Of specious slander, stabbing with a smile;
Frankly I wish to make her blessings known,
And think those blessings for her ills atone:
Nor would my honest pride that praise forego,
Which makes malignity yet more my foe.
If heartfelt pain e'er led me to accuse
The dangerous gift of the alluring Muse,
'Twas in the moment when my verse imprest
Some anxious feelings on a mother's breast.
O thou fond Spirit, who with pride hast smil'd,
And frown'd with fear on thy poetic child,
Pleas’d, yet alarm’d, when in his boyish time
He sigh'd in numbers, or he laugh'd in rhyme;
While thy kind cautions warn’d him to beware
Of penury, the bard's perpetual snare;
Marking the early temper of his soul,
Careless of wealth, nor fit for base control :
Thou tender saint, to whom he owes much more
Than ever child to parent ow'd before,
In life's first season, when the fever's flame
Shrunk to deformity his shrivell’d frame,
And turn'd each fairer image in his brain
'Twas thine, with constant love, through ling'ring years,
To bathe thy idiot orphan in thy tears ;
Day after day, and night succeeding night,
To turn incessant to the hideous sight,
And frequent watch, if haply at thy view
Departed reason might not dawn anew.
Though medicinal art, with pitying care,
Could lend no aid to save thee from despair,
Thy fond maternal heart adher'd to hope and prayer :
Nor pray'd in vain; thy child from powers above
Receiv'd the sense to feel and bless thy love;
O might he thence receive the happy skill,
And force proportion'd to his ardent will,
With Truth's unfading radiance to emblaze
Thy virtues, worthy of immortal praise !
Nature, who deck'd thy form with Beauty's flowers,
Exhausted on thy soul her finer powers;
Taught it with all her energy to feel
Love's melting softness, Friendship's fervid zeal,
The generous purpose and the active thought,
With Charity's diffusive spirit fraught;
There all the best of mental gifts she plac'd,
Vigour of judgment, purity of taste,
Superior parts without their spleenful leaven,
Kindness to earth, and confidence in heaven.
While my fond thoughts o'er all thy merits roll,
Thy praise thus gushes from my filial soul ;
Nor will the public with harsh rigour blame
This my just homage to thy honour'd name;
To please that public, if to please be mine,
Thy virtues train'd me- -let the praise be thine.
Since thou hast reach'd that world where love alone,
Where love parental can exceed thy own;
If in celestial realms the blest may know
And aid the objects of their care below,
While in this sublunary scene of strife
Thy son possesses frail and feverish life,
If heaven allot him many an added hour,
Gild it with virtuous thought and mental power,
Power to exalt, with every aim refin’d,
The loveliest of the arts that bless mankind !
PROM THE TRIUMPHS OF TEMPER.
Why art thou fled, O blest poetic time,
When fancy wrought the miracles of rhyme ;
When, darting from her star-encircled throne,
Her poet's eye commanded worlds unknown ;
When, by her fiat made a mimic god,
He saw existence waiting on his nod,
And at his pleasure into being brought
New shadowy hosts, the vassals of his thought,
In joy's gay garb, in terror's dread array,
Darker than night, and brighter than the day ;
Who, at his bidding, through the wilds of air,
Rais'd willing mortals far from earthly care,
And led them wandering through his wide domain,
Beyond the bounds of nature's narrow reign ;
While their rapt spirits, in the various flight,
Shook with successive thrills of new delight?
Return, sweet season, grac'd with fiction's flowers,
Let not cold system cramp thy genial powers !
Shall mild morality in garb uncouth,
The housewife garb of plain and homely truth,
Robb’d by stern method of her rosy crown,
Chill her faint votaries by a wintry frown?
No; thou sweet friend of man, as suits thee best,
Shine forth in fable's rich-embroiderd vest !
O make my verse thy vehicle, thy arms,
To spread o'er social life thy potent charms !
And thou, Sophrosyne, mysterious sprite!
If haply I may trace thy steps aright,
Roving through paths untrod by mortal feet,
To paint for human eyes thy heavenly seat,
Shed on my soul some portion of that power,
Which sav'd Serena in the trying hour,
To bear those trials, which, however hard,
As bards all tell us, may befall the bard ;
The fop's pert jest, the critic's frown severe,
Learning's proud cant, with envy's artful sneer,
And, the vext poet's last and worst disgrace,
His cold blank bookseller's rhyme-freezing face.
dark omens, that to Spleen belong,
While Beauty's lovely race, for whom I sing,
Fire my warm hand to strike the ready string.
As quiet now her lightest mantle laid
O'er the still senses of the sleeping maid,
Her nightly visitant, her faithful guide,
Descends in all her empyrean pride;
That fairy shape no more she deigns to wear,
Whose light foot smooths the furrow plough'd by care
In mortal faces, while her tiny spear
Gives a kind tingle to the caution'd ear.
Now, in her nobler shape, of heavenly size,
She strikes her votary's soul with new surprise.
Jove's favourite daughter, arm'd in all his powers,
Appear'd less brilliant to th' attending hours,
When, on the golden car of Juno rais’d,
In heavenly pomp
the queen of battles blaz'd.
With all her lustre, but without the dread
Which from her arm the frowning Gorgon shed,
Sophrosyne descends, with guardian love,
To waft her gentle ward to worlds above.
From her fair brow a radiant diadem
Rose in twelve stars, and every separate gem
Shot magic rays, of virtue to control
Some passion hostile to the human soul.
Round her sweet form a robe of æther flow'd,
And in a wondrous car the smiling spirit rode;
Firm as pure ivory, it charm’d the sight
With finer polish and a softer white.
The hand of beauty, with an easy swell,
Scoop'd the free concave like a bending shell;
And on its rich exterior, art display'd
The triumphs of the power the car convey'd.
Here, in celestial tints, surpassing life,
Sate lovely gentleness, disarming strife ;
There, young affection, born of tender thought,
In rosy chains the fiercer passions caught :
Ambition, with his sceptre snapt in twain,
And avarice, scorning what his chests contain.
Round the tame vulture flies the fearless dove;
Soft innocence embraces playful love ;
And laughing sport, the frolic child of air,
Buries in flowers the sinking form of care.
William JONES was born in London in 1746. His father, a native of Anglesey, was an eminent mathematician, and distinguished by the esteem of Newton and Halley; he died in 1749, and left the future care of the education of the son to his mother, a woman in every way qualified to discharge so arduous a duty. She lived to see her labours amply repaid : he became as distinguished for virtue as for learning. When but seven years old he was sent to Harrow school; even then, such was the rare promise of his childhood, that his master is said to have described him as "a boy of so active a mind, that if he were left naked and friendless on Salisbury Plain, he would find the way to fame and riches." He found the way to both.
In 1764 he was entered at University College, Oxford, and two years afterwards obtained a Fellowship. From this period until 1783, when he was appointed one of the judges of the supreme court of judicature at Calcutta, he was continually occupied in pursuing knowledge through paths the most difficult, and where it could then have been sought only by men of large genius as well as active industry. In college he became master of all the usual scholastic acquirements, and commenced the study of Oriental Literature, in which he subsequently so much excelled. He succeeded in acquiring a thorough knowledge of eight languages; studied attentively, and made considerable progress, in eight more; and obtained some acquaintance with twelve others. His learning was not like the sand which " receives the shower” and yields nothing in return. He published a Treatise on Oriental Poetry, and other works on the languages of the East; composed a tragedy, and employed himself in "decyphering Chinese;" translated “the Greek Orations of Isæus, in cases relating to succession to doubtful property;" published a French letter to a French traveller, who had spoken disrespectfully of the University of Oxford; commenced a History of Turkey, and sketched the plan of an epic poem; translated into French, from an Eastern MSS., the Life of Nadir Shah; wrote in Latin “ Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry;" and produced an Essay on the “ Law of Bailments ;” and in the midst of these weightier studies, learned music, dancing, fencing, riding; became a skilful chess player; travelled on the continent; wrote several elegant poems ;--in fact, so labouring, and with so much success, as to realize our notions of “the adınirable Crichton;" for his mind was elegant as well as vigorous; and the variety of its application appears little short of a miracle.
In 1774 he was called to the bar; but his desires turned towards India. His appointment to office in that country was the consummation of long and fondly-cherished hopes. It secured to him that advantage, without which taste is an affliction and genius a curse-Independence. It afforded opportunities of completing the vast works he had commenced, and of searching among the rich but neglected stores of another world; it was in fact giving reality to that which had been, comparatively, but a gorgeous dream.
In December, 1783, he entered on his judicial functions at Calcutta. From this period, to his death, he continued to labour with astonishing industry. In 1794 he was attacked with inflammation of the liver, of which he unhappily died, in the April of that year. His country has recorded his name as one of the "worthies" to whom she is indebted for equal honour and advantage.
The poetry of Sir William Jones is, as we have intimated, the produce of leisure hours rather than the results of any serious purpose. He had the praise of “ adorning every thing he touched;" the dryest topics he rendered elegant and attractive; and when he turned his thoughts to subjects more capable of embellishment, he could scarcely have failed in “clothing them with beauty.” As a poet, however, he cannot be described as great. His poems are, for the most part, translations, or paraphrases of ideas formed elsewhere. His original productions fill but a few pages. His mind appears to have been so deeply imbued with Oriental lore, and so fervent was his admiration of the mysteries of Brahminical idolatry, that he imagined he might create interest for subjects which never could excite sympathy; the allegories he borrowed from the East appear only absurd to the English reader; and the gorgeous drapery in which the Indian deities are arrayed, seem ungraceful and unnatural. Except, therefore, “ The Persian Song to Hafiz," and one or two of less importance,