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How gayly is at first begun
Our life's uncertain race!
Enlightens all the place.
How smiling the world's prospect lies,
How tempting to go through!
Did more inviting show.
How soft the first ideas prove,
Which wander through our minds! How full the joys, how free the love, Which does that early season move, As flowers the western winds!
Our sighs are then but vernal air,
But April drops our tears,
And youth each vapor clears.
But, oh! too soon, alas! we climb,
Scarce feeling, we ascend The gently-rising hill of Time, From whence with grief we see that prime
And all its sweetness end.
The die now cast, our station known,
Fond expectation past: The thorns which former days had sown, To crops of late repentance grown,
Through which we toil at last. •
Whilst every care's a driving harm,
That helps to bear us down;
And every look's a frown.
MATTHEW PRIOR. 16155—1721.
Oi the parentage of Prior very little is known. He was nephew of the keeper of a tavern at Charing Cross, where he was found by the Earl of Dorset, and sent, at his expense, to be educated at Cambridge, where he obtained a fellowship. By the same nobleman's influence, he went as secretary to the English ambassador at the Hague. In 1607 he was secretary of legation at tho treaty of Ryswick, and the next year held the same office at the court of France. At hfty-Uiree years of age he found himself, after all his important employments, with no other means of subsistence than his fellowship at Cambridge; but the publication of his poems by subscription, and tho kindness of Lord Haslcy, restored him to easy circumstances for the rest of Ids life. He died, after a lingering illness, in 1721, in the fifty-eighth year of his age.
"Prior," says Campbell, "was one of the last of the race of poets who relied for ornament on scholastic allusion and pagan machinery; but he used litem like Swift, more in jest than earnest, and with good effect.'' His poetry has the qualities of ease, fluency, and correctness. We give one specimen:—
Interr'd beneath this marble stone
Lie sauntering Jack and idle Joan.
While rolling threescore years and one
Did round this globe their courses run,
If human tilings went ill or well,
If changing empires rose or fell,
The morning past, the evening came,
And found this couple still the same.
They walk'd, and cat, good folks: what then:
hy then the^v walk'd and eat again:
Their moral and economy
They paid the church anil parish rate,
No man's defects soueht they to know;
They neither added nor confounded;
Nor good nor bad, nor fools nor wise;
KSTHER VANHOMRIGH. Died 1721.
Thi» accomplished female is the well-known "Vanessa'' of Dean Swift While the following beautiful ode will give an idea of her refined taste dud highly cultivated mind, the cold, heartless manner in which he treated hor, must ever remain as a blot upon his character.1
ODE TO SPRING.
Hail, blushing goddess, beauteous Spring!
Yet why should I thy presence hail?
Divine imprest their gentle sw ay,
LADY RACHEL RUSSELL. 163C—1723.
This most admirable woman was the wife of Lord William Russell, who was judicially murdered, on an alleged charge of treason, July 21, 1G83. At the trial of her husband she accompanied him into court: and when he was inhumanly refused counsel, and allowed only an amanuensis, she stood forth as that assistant, and excited the deepest sympathy as well as admiration in all who beheld her. After sentence was pronounced against him, she promised him to take care of her own life, for the sake of his children,—a pro mise she religiously kept, though she survived him above forty years. "Her letters," says Burnett, "are written with an elegant simplicity, with truth and nature, which can flow only from the heart. The tenderness and constancy of her affection for her murdered lord, present an image to melt the soul."'
A collection of her letters between herself and her correspondents was published in 1773. The following is
TO DR. FITZWILLIAM.*
I need not tell you, good doctor, how little capable I have been of such an exercise as this. You will soon find how unfit I am still for it, since my yet disordered thoughts can offer me no other than such words as express the deepest sorrows, and confused as my yet amazed mind is. But such men as you, and particularly one so much my friend, will, I know, bear with my weakness, and compassionate my distress, as you have already done by your good letter and excellent prayer. I endeavor to make the best use I can of both; but I am so evil and unworthy a creature, that though I have desires, yet I have no dispositions, or worthiness, towards receiving comfort. You, that knew us both, and how we lived, must allow I have just cause to bewail my loss. I know it is common with others to lose a friend; but to have lived with such a one, it may be questioned how few can glory in the like happiness, so consequently lament the like loss. Who can but shrink at such a blow, till by the mighty aids of his Holy Spirit, we will let the gift of God, which he hath put into our hearts, interpose? That reason which sets a measure to our souls in prosperity, will then suggest many things which we have seen
1 "I have now before me a volume of letter* by the widow of the beheaded Lord Russell, which arc full of the most moving and impressive eloquence." —Horact Walpait.
* A divine for whom Lady Russell had a great esteem and friendship; he hail been chaplain to ner Cither as he was afterwards to the Duke of York
and heard, to moderate us in such sad circumstances as mine But alas! my understanding is clouded, my faith weak, sense strong, and the devil busy to fill my thoughts with false notions.
difficulties, and doubts as of a future condition1 of prayer:
but this I hope to make matter of humiliation, not sin. Lord, let me understand the reason of these dark and wounding providences, that I sink not under the discouragements of my own thoughts: I know I have deserved my punishment, and will be silent under it; but yet secretly my heart mourns, too sadly, I fear, and cannot be comforted, because I have not the dear companion and sharer of all my joys and sorrows. I want him to talk with, to walk with, to eat and sleep with; all thesi things are irksome to me now; the day unwelcome, and the night so too; all company and meals I would avoid, if it might be; yet all this is, that I enjoy not the world in my own way, and this sure hinders my comfort; when I see my children before me, I remember the pleasure he took in them: this makes my heart shrink. Can I regret his quitting a lesser good for a bigger? Oh! if I did steadfastly believe, I could not be dejected ; for I will not injure myself to say, I offer my mind any inferior consolation to supply this loss. No; I most willingly forsake this world, this vexatious, troublesome world, in which I have no other business, but to rid my soul from sin, secure by faith and a good conscience my eternal interests, with patience and courage bear my eminent misfortunes, and ever hereafter be above the smiles and frowns of it. And when I have done the remnant of the work appointed me on earth, then joyfully wait for the heavenly perfection in God's good time, when by his infinite mercy I may be accounted worthy to enter into the same place of rest and repose where he is gone, for
whom only I grieve I do" fear. From that contemplation
must come my best support. Good doctor, you will think, as you have reason, that I set no bounds, when I let myself loose to my complaints; but I will release you, first fervently asking the continuance of your prayers for Your infinitely afflicted,
But very faithfui servant, Woborne Abbey, "R. Russell.
30th September, 1684.
GEORGE SEWELL. Died 1726.
Of the life of this ingenious poet and miscellaneous writer we know but little. He was born at Windsor. After graduating at Cambridge as a bachelor in medicine, he went over to Holland, and completed his medical education nnder the celebrated Boerhaave. On his return to England, he commenced practice at Hampstead, near London ; but not succeeding well in his profession.