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Than all her witless revels happier far;
Then beauteous Contemplation, hail !
ILLIAM Mason, a poet of soine distinction, born in 1725, was the son of a clergyman, who held the living of Hull. He was admitted first of St. John's College, and afterwards of Pembroke College, Cambridge, of the latter of which he was elected Fellow in 1747. He entered into holy orders in 1754, and, by the favour of the Earl of Holderness, was presented to the valuable rectory of Aston, Yorkshire, and became Chaplain to His Majesty. Some poems which he printed gave him reputation, which received a great accession from his dramatic poem of “ Elfrida.” piece, and his “ Caractacus,” which followed, it was his aim to attempt the restoration of the ancient Greek chorus in tragedy; but this is so evidently an appendage of the infant and imperfect state of the drama, that a pedantic attachment to the ancients could alone suggest its revival. In 1756, he published a small collection of “ Odes,” which were generally considered as displaying more of the artificial mechanism of poetry, than of its genuine spirit. This was not the case with his 66 Elegies,” published in 1763, which, abating some superfluity
of ornament, are in general marked with the simplicity of language proper to this species of composition, and breathe noble sentiments of freedom and virtue. A collection of all his poems which he thought worthy of preserving, was published in 1764, and afterwards went through several editions. He had married an amiable lady, who died of a consumption in 1767, and was buried in the cathedral of Bristol, under a monument, on which are inscribed some very tender and beautiful lines, by her husband.
In 1772, the first book of Mason's “ English Garden," a didactic and descriptive poem, in blank
made its appearance, of which the fourth and concluding book was printed in 1781. Its purpose was to recommend the modern system of natural or landscape gardening, to which the author adheres with the rigour of exclusive taste. The versification is formed upon the best models, and the description, in many parts, is rich and vivid ; but a general air of stiffness prevented it from attaining any considerable share of popularity. Some of his following poetic pieces express his liberal sentiments on political subjects; and when the late Mr. Pitt came into power, being then the friend of a free constitution, Mason addressed him in an “ Ode,” containing many patriotic and manly ideas. But being struck with alarm at the unhappy events of the French revolution, one of his latest pieces was a Palinody to Liberty.” He likewise revived, in an improved form, and published, Du Fresnoy's Latin poem on the Art
of Painting, enriching it with additions furnisheč by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and with a metrical ve: sion. Few have been better executed than this, which unites to great beauties of language a correct representation of the original. His tribute to the memory of Gray, being an edition of his poems, with some additions, and Memoirs of his Life and Writings, was favourably received by the public.
Mason died in April, 1797, at the age of seventytwo, in consequence of a mortification produced by a hurt in his leg. A tablet has been placed to his memory in Poets’ Corner, in Westminster Abbey. His character in private life was exemplary for worth and active benevolence, though not without a degree of stateliness and assumed superiority of
ODE TO MEMORY.
MOTHER of Wisdom ! thou, whose sway
Accept this votive verse. Thy reign
Nor place can fix, nor power restrain. All, all is thine. For thee the ear, and eye, Rove through the realms of
and harmony : The senses thee spontaneous serve, That wake, and thrill through ev'ry nerve.
Else vainly soft, lov'd Philomel ! would flow
Else vainly sweet yon woodbine shade
With clouds of fragrance fill the glade; Vainly, the cygnet spread her downy plume, The vine gush nectar, and the virgin bloom.
But swift to thee, alive and warm,
Devolves each tributary charm :
While every flower in Fancy's clime,
Each gem of old heroic time, Cull’d by the hand of the industrious Muse, Around thy shrine their blended beams diffuse.
Hail, Mem'ry ! hail. Behold, I lead
To that high shrine the sacred maid : Thy daughter she, the empress of the lyre, The first, the fairest, of Aonia's quire.
She comes, and lo, thy realms expand !
She takes her delegated stand
There thron'd supreme in native state,
If Sirius flame with fainting heat, She calls ; ideal groves their shade extend, The cool gale breathes, the silent show'rs descend,
Or, if bleak Winter, frowning round,
Disrobe the trees, and chill the ground,
See, visionary suns arise