網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

66

THE PLEASURES OF RETIREMENT.
THRICE happy he who by some shady grove,
Far from the clamorous world, doth live his own :1
Though solitary, who is not alone,

But doth converse with that eternal love!

Oh, how more sweet is bird's harmonious moan,
Or the hoarse sobbings of the widowed dove,

Than those smooth whisperings near a prince's throne,
Which good make doubtful, do the evil prove!

Oh, how more sweet is zephyr's wholesome breath,
And sighs embalmed which new-born flowers unfold,
Than that applause vain honour doth bequeath!
How sweet are streams to poison2 drunk in gold!
The world is full of horrors, troubles, slight-
Woods' harmless shades have only true delights.

DIRGE OVER FIDELE'S TOMB.3
To fair Fidele's grassy tomb,

Drummond.

Soft maids and village hinds shall bring
Each opening sweet of earliest bloom,
And rifle all the breathing Spring.

No wailing ghost shall dare

appear
To vex with shrieks this quiet grove:
But shepherd lads assemble here,

And melting virgins own their love.

No withered witch shall here be seen,
No goblins lead their nightly crew;
The female fays shall haunt the green,
And dress thy grave with pearly dew!

(1) His own-by himself.

(2) To poison, &c.-Compared to poison.

(3) This exquisite poem seems to have been suggested by the funeral chant over the body of Imogen, under the assumed name of Fidele, in Shakspere's Cymbeline." Sir E. Brydges commends its "simplicity and pathos," its "highly poetical thought and tone." its "exquisite polish, without one superfluous, one prosaic word." He continues thus:-"The extreme transparency of the words and thoughts would induce a vulgar reader to consider them [such poems] trite, while they are the expression of a genius so refined as to be all essence of spirit."

The redbreast oft,' at evening hours,
Shall kindly lend his little aid,
With hoary moss, and gathered flowers,
To deck the ground where thou art laid.
When howling winds and beating rain
In tempests shake the sylvan cell;
Or 'midst the chace, on every plain,
The tender thought on thee shall dwell;

Each lonely scene shall thee restore;
For thee the tear be duly shed;
Beloved, till life can charm no more,
And mourned, till Pity's self be dead.

Collins.

TO MAY.2

THOUGH many suns have risen and set
Since thou, blithe May, wert born,
And bards, who hailed thee, may forget
Thy gifts, thy beauty scorn,
There are who to a birthday strain
Confine not harp and voice,
But evermore throughout thy reign
Are grateful and rejoice.

Earth, sea, thy presence feel-nor less,
If yon ethereal blue

With its soft smile the truth express,

The heavens have felt it too.
The inmost heart of man, if glad,
Partakes a livelier cheer;

And eyes that cannot but be sad

Let fall a brightened tear.

(1) The redbreast, &c.-It is thought that Gray was indebted to this stanza for the lines in the "Elegy" (see p. 65) beginning

"There scattered oft," &c.

(2) Among the many beautiful poems of the same author, there is not perhaps a more finished composition than this-not one more noticeable for the "curiosa felicitas"-that "grace beyond the reach of art," which evinces the perfect mastery of the artist.

Since thy return, through days and weeks
Of hope that grew by stealth,
How many wan and faded cheeks
Have kindled into health!
The old, by thee revived, have said,
"Another year is ours!"

And wayworn wanderers, poorly fed,
Have smiled upon thy flowers.

Who tripping lisps a merry song
Amid his playful peers?
The tender infant, who was long
A prisoner of fond fears;

But now, when every sharp-edged blast
Is quiet in its sheath,

His mother leaves him free to taste
Earth's sweetness in thy breath.

Lo! streams that April could not check
Are patient of thy rule;
Gurgling in foamy water-break,
Loitering in glassy pool:

By thee, thee only, could be sent
Such gentle mists as glide,
Curling with unconfirmed intent,
On that green mountain's side.

How delicate the leafy veil

Through which yon House of God
Gleams 'mid the peace of this deep dale,
By few but shepherds trod!

And lowly huts, near beaten ways,
No sooner stand attired

In thy fresh wreaths, than they for praise
Peep forth, and are admired.

Season of fancy and of hope,
Permit not for one hour,

A blossom from thy crown to drop,

Nor add to it a flower!

(1) Gurgling, &c.-In one line of this couplet we may almost hear the "gurgling," and in the other almost feel the stillness, of the water.

(2) Curling, &c.-One of those "felicities" of phrase alluded to in the first

note.

Keep, lovely May,' as if by touch

Of self-restraining art,

This modest charm of not too much,

Part seen, imagined part!

Wordsworth.

THE POET.

AGES elapsed ere Homer's lamp appeared,
And ages ere the Mantuan swan2 was heard.
To carry nature lengths unknown before,
To give a Milton birth, asked ages more.
Thus genius rose and set at ordered times,
And shot a day-spring into distant climes,
Ennobling every region that he chose;
He sank in Greece, in Italy he rose;
And, tedious years of Gothic darkness past,
Emerged all splendour in our isle at last :
Thus lovely halcyons dive into the main,
Then show far off their shining plumes again.
Nature, exerting an unwearied power,
Forms, opens, and gives scent to every flower;
Spreads the fresh verdure of the field, and leads
The dancing Naiads through the dewy meads:
She fills profuse ten thousand little throats
With music, modulating all their notes;

And charms the woodland scenes, and wilds unknown,
With artless airs and concerts of her own;

But seldom (as if fearful of expense)
Vouchsafes to man a poet's just pretence-
Fervency, freedom, fluency of thought,
Harmony, strength, words exquisitely sought;
Fancy, that from the bow that spans the sky,
Brings colours dipt in heaven3 that never die;

(1) Keep lovely May, &c.-The most satisfactory test of superlative excellence, in point of composition, of such lines as this and the following, would be afforded by the attempt to improve them by the alteration, or addition of even a single word. The success of Horace himself in such an endeavour would have been extremely doubtful.

(2) Mantuan swan-Virgil, so called because he was born at Mantua, in Italy. A particular species of swans had the reputation among the ancients of singing very beautifully-hence poets were figuratively styled swans.

(3)" Colours dipt in heaven "—an expression borrowed from "Paradise Lost.”

A soul exalted above earth; a mind
Skilled in the characters that form mankind;
And, as the sun in rising beauty drest,
Looks to the westward from the dappled east,
And marks, whatever clouds may interpose,
Ere yet his race begins, its glorious close;
An eye like his to catch the distant goal;
Or, ere the wheels of verse begin to roll,
Like his to shed illuminating rays
On every scene and subject it surveys:
Thus graced, the man asserts a poet's name,
And the world cheerfully admits the claim.

'MORAL MAXIMS, EPIGRAMS, &c.

I. LIVE WHILE YOU LIVE 1

[ocr errors]

"LIVE while you live," the epicure would say,
"And seize the pleasures of the present day.'
"Live while you live," the sacred preacher cries,
And give to God each moment as it flies."
Lord! in my views let both united be;
I live in pleasure when I live to Thee.

[ocr errors]

II. LINES UNDER MILTON'S PORTRAIT.

THREE poets in three distant ages born,
Greece, Italy, and England, did adorn.
The first in loftiness of thought surpassed;
The next in majesty; in both the last.
The force of nature could no further go,
To make a third, she joined the former two.

III. HOPE.

THE wretch, condemned with life to part,
Still, still on hope relies;

And every pang that rends the heart

Bids expectation2 rise.

Cowper.

Doddridge.

Dryden.

(1) Dr. Johnson has pronounced this epigram the finest in the language.

(2) Expectation-is here employed in precisely the same sense as hope; for the distinction between them, see note 1, p. 203.

« 上一頁繼續 »