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was, he reflects on it with anguish, and almost thinks it a sufficient ground for their lasting separation. Judging from his expressions, we are led to conjecture that his resentment had been public.
Continually has it been lamented that we know almost nothing of our poet's life; yet here we have an event in it, on which we can rely, described by his own hand, with many attending circumstances, every one of which exemplifies his character ; and together they form a tale of interest, the like of which, among the biographies of other great men, poets or not, we may seek in vain. This is fresh from the well-spring of truth in his own bosom. To learn how any man, whose genius we reverence, might have acted in his trying situation, would excite that species of curiosity which is commendable ;-a desire to be more intimately acquainted with his mind and his character, by a knowledge of the working of his passions. Here, at the first glance, we find the deeply philosophic poet giving loose to a storm of anger, like one of the common herd, as if philosophy were vain indeed.
But this proceeded from the animal portion of his being,—no more.
Nor is this conduct wanting in useful speculation. His usual epithet, given by his personal friends, was the gentle ; and we must believe he was rarely otherwise, never except under a stinging provocation; and it may tend to prove that strong passions, however subdued, will be found among the hidden attributes of genius. On the other hand, let us view him, soon as his "nobler reason” had overcome the animal within him, acting up to the dictates, or beyond them, of his own philosophy; not simply and coldly forgiving—a most virtuous effort in the estimation of many,—but kind, affectionate, seeking excuses for the wrong he had endured, and heart-struck at the recollection of his resentment. This looks like something not altogether man, as man is used to exhibit his nature. How he joys in the return of friendship !
As in this second poem he describes himself far more than in any of the others, it is worthy of the minutest examination. Its chief characteristics are gentleness, tenderness, and sincerity. The poem was written when he was distant from London, possibly during one of his journeys to Stratford; because as will be seen, it is mentioned he was travelling on horseback, and that it was his intention to return.
you are at
Stanza 27. Though we are distant from each other, I think of you so much, that I can find no repose after the toil of the day. Unable to close my eyes, I fancy, in the darkness, that
bed-side. 28. Thus worn by night as well as by day, I find no rest. 34. You, like the sun, promised a beauteous day, leaving me unprotected against the clouds. It is not enough that you break through the clouds to shine on me again. If you
29. When I lament my fate, if by chance I think on you, I am happy.
30. When I grieve at past misfortunes, the thinking of you restores my losses and ends my sorrows.
31. All those friends, whom I have supposed dead, lie hidden in you. All that they had of me is yours; and I view their beloved images in you.
32. If you survive me, and should once more read these lines, preserve them, not for their excellence, but as a memorial of my friendship.
33. Alas! I had rejoiced but one hour in the sunshine of early morning, when the clouds came over me.
heal my wound, you cure not my disgrace; nor can your shame be
my comfort. Though you repent, my loss is the same.
Your sorrow for having offended me still leaves me to suffer the
offence. Ah, but the tears you shed enforce me to forgive you !
35. No more reproach yourself. All things and all men have faults; and I, the offended one, excuse the sin you have committed. 36. It
be that, friends as we are, we ought never to meet again. Such a separation will not harm our friend ship, but it will rob us of happiness. Perhaps I must not openly acknowledge you, lest the resentment I showed, which I bitterly lament, should be remembered to your shame; nor may you, in your kindness, publicly honour me, lest the honour of your name should suffer. That cannot be; as, loving you truly, I feel that your character, like yourself, is mine.
37. I take all my comfort in your worth and truth. Whatever you possess of beauty, birth, wealth, or wit, I, by engrafting my friendship on you, partake of all, and of all your glory. Wishing you every thing that is best, I am ten times happy in seeing my wish fulfilled.
38. While you live, my muse can never want a worthy subject.
39. But how can I, with propriety, sing of one wlio is the better part of myself? In praising you, shall I not also praise myself? It may therefore be better that we should live divided, in order that, by not being confounded together, I may do you justice. This will alleviate the pain of absence.
40. Take all I love ; you had all, before you took her. If
you love her for my sake, I cannot blame you; if otherwise, I shall. Gentle thief, I forgive your robbery; though you have stolen all my property ; and though it is harder to bear a wrong from love than an injury from hate. Kill me, by your blandishments towards her, with spiteful thoughts; yet we must not be foes.
41. The licence you give yourself, forgetting me the while, well befits your youth and beauty, for temptation follows you every where. You are gentle, therefore apt to yield ; you are beauteous, therefore to be wooed ; and when a woman woos, what woman's son will deny her? Ah me! but yet you should forbear, and chide your beauty and your straying youth, when they lead you, in their riot, to break not only your faith to me, but her's.
42. I am grieved that you have her, for I loved her dearly; but it is a worse loss, through her means, to be deprived of you. I would fain excuse you both, by saying
my friend loves her for my sake, and that she loves you because you are my friend. If I lose you, it is her
in; and the loss of her is my friend's gain. But my friend and I are one ;. so I may sweetly flatter myself that she still loves me, and no other.
43. I see you in my dreams at night; how much more happy should I be to see you by day!
44. If I could move as quick as thought, I would instantly conquer this distance between us; but I must wait in sadness for time's leisure.
45. I am for ever sending my thoughts and wishes in tender embassy. They, swift messengers, return with news of
your fair health; yet I am not content. 46. My eye and my heart have been contending for which has the greatest share in you; and it is determined * This and the following stanza would almost lead us to conclude that he really had his friend's picture. I believe nothing more is meant than his outward form. Proteus, speaking of Silvia, uses the word in the same sense,
that my eye has a right to your picture,* that is, your outward appearance, and my heart to your friendship.
47. Thus my eye, possessed of your form, and my heart of your friendship, I still have you with me, in spite of the distance between us.
48. How careful I was, when I set out, to place each trifle under lock and key ; but I left you, to whom my jewels are trifles, a prey to every vulgar thief, and I fear
you may be stolen from me.
49. If ever that should happen, and you, upon more advised consideration, should frown on my defects, pass by, and scarcely look on me, I here, beforehand, declare that you may lawfully leave me, since I can produce no reason for your loving me.
50. How heavy is a journey away from a friend! My horse plods dully on, as if he knew, by some instinct, that his rider loved not speed when leaving you.
51. What excuse will my poor beast find on my return, when the wind itself will not be swift enough?
52. This absence will but increase my pleasure in seeing you.
53. How comes it you are surrounded by so many admirers ? Your beauty is like that of Adonis, or of Helen,
“ 'Tis but her picture I have yet beheld." This part of the poem is full of conceits, once, no doubt, wondered at for their wit and elegance. In the two preceding stanzas the author is composed of the four elements : his body is earth and water; his thoughts and wishes are air and fire; then when he sends his air and fire on an embassy, his earth and water “sink down to death, oppressed with melancholy !"