« 上一頁繼續 »
[BORN at Cambridge in 1715; educated at Winchester and at Clare Hall, Cambridge. His poems were collected in 1754, and again in 1774. He became Poet Laureate in 1758, and died in 1785, in London.]
William Whitehead, who must not be confused with his clever and disreputable namesake, Paul Whitehead, the poet of the orgies of Medmenham, succeeded Cibber in the laureateship when Gray declined that doubtful honour. He was the perpetual butt of the satire of Churchill, who, as Campbell says, 'completely killed his poetical character!' Indeed his poetry is for the most part tame and conventional enough; yet here and there he emerges from the ruck of Georgian poetasters and becomes noticeable. Variety, a Tale for Married People, which is too long for quotation, is an excellent story in verse- with a moral, of course, as a conte should have-told in a light and flowing style not unworthy of Gay. The Enthusiast, an Ode, is here given, because of the admirable way in which it epitomises the debate -it is a perennial debate, but the eighteenth century took one side and we take the other-between Nature and Society.
'O bards, that call to bank and glen,
-when the modern poet writes in this way, we note him as breaking the poetical concert of our age. But the doctrine is one which the poets of Pope's century were for ever enforcing; even Cowper, antithesis to Pope as he was, enforced it; and this little ode of Whitehead's is so happy a rendering of their argument that it is worthy of being rescued from the oblivion which has almost overwhelmed its author.
THE ENTHUSIAST. AN ODE
Once I remember well the day,
In short, 'twas that sweet season's prime
And doubting mortals hardly know
'Twas then, beside a green-wood shade
And now my eyes with transport rove
Unbroken by a cloud!
And now beneath delighted pass,
Where winding through the deep-green grass
A full-brimmed river flowed.
I stop, I gaze, in accents rude,
Burst forth th' unbidden lay;
These, these are joys alone, I cry, 'Tis here, divine philosophy,
Thou deign'st to fix thy throne !
Adieu, ye vain low-thoughted cares,
The tyrant passions all subside,
Of universal love.
When lo! a voice, a voice I hear! 'Twas Reason whispered in my ear
These monitory strains :
'What mean'st thou, man? wouldst thou unbind The ties which constitute thy kind, The pleasures and the pains?
The same almighty power unseen,
To contemplation's eye,
Fixed every movement of the soul,
And quickened every joy.
He bids the tyrant passions rage,
Art thou not man, and dar'st thou find A bliss which leans not to mankind?
Presumptuous thought and vain! Each bliss unshared is unenjoyed, Each power is weak unless employed Some social good to gain.
Shall light and shade, and warmth and air, With those exalted joys compare
Which active virtue feels,
When on she drags, as lawful prize,
As rest to labour still succeeds,
This fair variety of things
Are merely life's refreshing springs,
Enthusiast go, unstring thy lyre,
Enthusiast go, try every sense,
Thou yet hast learned to scan;
That man was made for man.'
[BORN November 9th, 1721; studied medicine at Edinburgh and Leyden; practised as a physician at Northampton; received from his friend Jeremiah Dyson an annual allowance of £300; removed to London, 1748; appointed one of the Physicians to the Queen; wrote various medical tracts and lectures; died June 23rd, 1770. The Pleasures of Imagination was published in January 1744; Odes on Several Subjects, 1745. The unfinished recast of The Pleasures of Imagination appeared after Akenside's death in his Poems, 1772.]
'Reason clad in strains Of harmony, selected minds to inspire.'
These words, from one of Akenside's Odes, define his own poetry, or at least what he desired it to be. He was a witness for high aims in verse; for the ideal, as some call it; for the union of imagination and reason. There was in Akenside's time much dull brutality of living, much gross time-serving. He, the Newcastle butcher's son, held his head aloft; when others reeled and spoke thick, he offered libations to the memory of ancient sages or patriots, and intoned hymns to Virtue and Honour. And to inspire a life-long friendship, such as that of Dyson, to whom he owed his well-being, his leisure and his ease of mind, implies the presence in his character of some solid worth, some genuine elevation. His verse is in keeping with his life. Much verse was manufactured in his day on trivial occasions of passing interest; some of this was the more piquant for its zest of indecency. Much metrical satire was written; it was not long since the Dunciad had stung the dullards not to death but to more zealous moods of dulness, and soon Churchill was to show how in rougher style to belabour antagonists with the knotty cudgel. Akenside wrote odes which may be called occasional, but he always contrived to add dignity to his poem by giving it something of a general character. If ever he became a satirist, it was in the solemn manner of one devoted before all else to principles. It was his choice to be at once poet and