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The number of students was increased; new buildings were provided for their accommodation; the apparatus and library were enlarged; additional professorships were established, and the President soon gathered around him a body of instructers to whose talents and industry combined with his own, it is to be ascribed that the institution is now, in numbers and popularity, if not in resources, one of the first among the American Universities.
As President, Dr Dwight was charged with the direct instruction of the senior class. How well he performed this work, how he delighted his pupils by the eloquence and variety of his instructions ; how he won their confidence, and their admiration ; how he secured for himself their warmest and kindest affections; with what paternal feelings he advised them individually, entering into all their plans, and understanding as if by intuition all their difficulties and embarrassments; and how intimate and enduring was the tie by which he and they were mutually connected—hundreds now living,
In addition to his duties as President, he sustained the Professorship of Divinity. In this office, he preached in the college Chapel twice every Sunday. One of the sermons every week was in the course of systematic lectures on Theology, which has been published since his death, and has obtained a popularity unprecedented for a work of that description. In discharging the duties of this department, he also conducted the studies of the Theological class, and was, as the Professor of Divinity has always been till within a short time past, their sole instructer.
After his accession to the Presidency, his course of life was remarkably uniform. Forty weeks of each year, he was confined by his official duties. The remaining twelve weeks were generally spent in excursions through almost every part of the Northern states. The vast amount of local, historical, and statistical information, which he was able thus to collect, has been published since his death under the title of “Travels in New England and New York.” The transactions
of the Connecticut Academy, several of the literary and religious periodicals of his time, and his frequent occasional publications, anonymous and avowed, testify to his industry, and to the richness and energy of his mind.
Twenty years had thus passed away, and he had never been once detained from his pulpit by sickness or by any other
At the age of sixtythree his constitution, notwithstanding so many years of sedentary toil, was unimpaired. The same manly frame, and noble and commanding aspect, the same indefatigable activity, the same powerful intellect, the same splendid imagination which had distinguished him at forty, still remained. But in February 1816, he was attacked by the disease under which he died. For twelve weeks he endured an agony which a constitution less powerful could not have so long sustained. After this, he gained a partial relief, and the hope of his recovery was indulged. He again entered his pulpit, and recommenced the course of his labors. But the disease was not removed. His employments were unremitted till within four days of his death, which took place on the 11th day of January 1817, in the sixtyfifth year of his age.
The poetical works of Dr Dwight, are The Conquest of Canaan, in eleven books. The Triumph of Infidelity. Greenfield Hill, in seven parts. Watts's Psalms with additions and emendations, and some miscellaneous pieces.
The Conquest of Canaan is a regular epic, founded on that portion of Scripture history to which the title refers. It was commenced in early youth, and finished when the writer was in his twentythird year. Soon after, in 1775, it was proposed for publication, and more than three thousand subscribers gave their names for the encouragement of the design. Unfortunately, owing to the state of the country, it was withheld from the press for ten years longer. Thus, when it was at last given to the public, although it had undergone no material alteration, it was regarded not as the production of youthful genius, trying its wings by long any daring flights, nor as the work of a mind immature in judgment or in strength, and from which, therefore, nothing perfect ought to be ex
pected,—but rather as the most elaborate effort of an author renowned for splendid faculties and thoroughly disciplined.
In the same light has it been generally regarded to this hour. And as the reputation of its author has been continually spreading and swelling, this work has been held in less and less esteem, and is now rarely mentioned, save when some witling, rejoicing in the weak efforts of genius, refers to the epic of Dwight as an illustration of the “Nemo omnibus horis sapit.” Yet the poem is not without its merits. If we regard it as written by a youth, before his twentyfourth year, it is abundant with the marks of genius. The smoothness of its versification, the distinctness and beauty of many descriptive passages, and its occasional flights of sublimity, indicate a mind which by culture might have attained no moderate sphere of poetical excellence. It is copious, indeed, in faults, but they are mostly the faults of youth. A turgid versification, and the perpetual recurrence of favorite expressions, and favorite rhymes, may be laid to the charge of every youthful poet, and are generally remedied by practice in composition and by the exercise of maturer judgment. The characters are wanting in individuality: they are not sufficiently distinguished from each other by their separate traits: they resemble too much the “ fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum” of Virgil. But who would expect of an academic stripling, that acquaintance with human nature, and that creative skill in the conception of character, which are among the last attainments of genius? The propriety of local circumstances and national character is violated. The narrative is too much broken up by long and commonplace discussions that have little connexion with the progress of the action. And finally, though the poem has a formal unity in respect to time and place and action, it is wanting in that unity which consists in fastening the attention of the reader to one object, and in leaving on his mind one deep impression. For all these faults in the poem of a young man, we can easily make allowance. But the case is altered in a measure, when we reflect that though the poem was written by a young man within the
walls of a college, it was revised and finished by one of years and discretion, who had been long familiar with the groves of Academus, and the fountains of sweet song, and long versed in the ways of the world; by one who had been a scholar and a teacher, a chaplain in the tented field, a politician in the halls of legislation, and a pastor in the quiet country.
Greenfield Hill is rather a collection of poems than one connected work. For though the several parts have a slight relation to the general title, each part is in itself a separate performance. Portions of it were written expressly in imitation of the manner of some popular British poets. Thus“ The Prospect,” imitates Thomson ;“ The Flourishing Village” is a beautiful counterpart to the masterpiece of Goldsmith ; " The Destruction of the Pequods,"
,” in versification and style, is modeled after the “ Minstrel ” of Beattie ; and “The Clergyman's advice to the Villagers ”-one of the simplest and truest, and most beautiful of ethical poems—is in the manner of Edward Moore. In every part of the work, we see not only maturity and strength of mind, superadded to melody of verse and power of imagination, but every proof that the author feels himself at home, and is employed in just that class of subjects in which his genius is best fitted to excel.
The “Triumph of Infidelity,” is a satire occasioned by the publication of Dr Chauncey's work on Universal Salvation. In its style it resembles the strong and hearty invective of Juvenal, more than the playful ridicule of Horace. It is not without obvious faults. Its topics of sarcasm are sometimes trite, and it occasionally expresses, perhaps too freely, the author's contempt of individuals. This poem was published anonymously, and has not been numbered with his works in any biography of the author hitherto published.
His edition of Watts contains thirtythree psalms written by himself. Some of these are superior and favorite specimens of a kind of poetry in which true excellence is uncom
Respecting the poems of Dwight generally, it may be said, that while they cannot claim for him the praise which is ren
dered only to a few exalted names, they rise in merit far above the average level of that mass of compositions which constitutes as a body, the poetry of the English language.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PEQUODS.
Ah me! while up the long, long vale of time, Reflection wanders towards the eternal vast, How starts the eye, at many a change sublime, Unbosom'd dimly by the ages pass'd ! What mausoleums crowd the mournful waste! The tombs of empires fallen! and nations gone! Each, once inscribed, in gold, with “ Aye to last," Sate as a queen; proclaim'd the world her own, And proudly cried, “By me no sorrows shall be known."
Soon fleets the sunbright form, by man adored.
As o’er proud Asian realms the traveller winds,