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Through vales of grass and meads of flowers,
Our ploughs their furrows made,
Of changeful A pril played.
We dropped the seed o'er hill and plain,
Beneath the sun of May,
The robber-crows away.
All through the long, bright days of June,
Its leaves grew green and fair,
Its soft and yellow hair.
10 Where'er the wide old kitchen hearth
Sends up its smoky curls,
And bless our farmer girls ?
JOHxson. SAMUEL Johnson was born in Litchfield, England, September 18, 1709, and died December 13, 1784. Besides his great work, the “ Dictionary of the Eug. lish Language,” which occupied many laborious years, he wrote “Irene," a tragedy ;“ London,” and “ The Vanity of Human Wishes,” poems in imitation of Juvenal ;“ Rasselas," a tale ; “ The Rambler," a periodical paper ; “A Tour to the Hebrides ;” “The Lives of the Poets ;” various other biographies; and many reviews, miscellanies, pamphlets, and contributions to periodical literature.
The peculiarities of Dr. Johnson's style are well known. It is artificial, elaborate, delighting in antithesis and in words of Latin origin, and frequently pompous and heavy. Its defects are redeemed by essential vigor of mind, but it is very easily imitated, and when adopted by men of commonplace understanding, it is like Saul's armor upon the limbs of David. His diction grew simpler, as he grew older, and his “Lives of the Poets," his latest work, is also his best. His carefully poised periods, also, had a sensible effect upon the general structure of the language as it has since been written.
Dr. Johnson's character was a singular compound of strength and weakness. He was very religious, but bigoted and superstitious. His judgment was generally sound, but he was full of the most unreasonable prejudices. He was charitable and benevolent, but impetuous, and most impatient of con tradiction. His conversation was rich in sense and wit, but his manners were intolerable. He was capable of great application, though not habitually industrious. He was of a morbid temperament, and his spirit was often darkened by constitutional melancholy. For a long period, too, he had to struggle against poverty, and to live in a state of literary slavery most galling to his haughty and independent spirit.
Dr. Johnson's life and character have been painted to us - as those of no
an of letters were ever before painted in his biography by Boswell, a most instructive and delightful book, which has done quite as much for Johnson's fame as his own writings have done. It is not merely a biography of Johnson, but a record of the social and literary life of England, during the period of which it treats, such as is nowhere else to be found. Till the publication of "Lockhart's Life of Scott," there was no other such work in the language; and these two are not proper subjects of comparison, but each stands alone in its peculiar and unrivalled excellence; both full of dramatic interest, possessing the highest charm of fiction, and yet ri the fruits of wisdom, observation, and experience,
Two of the greatest writers of our age- Macaulay and Carlyle -- have writ. ten essays upon the life and writings of Johnson. Each is characteristic of its author, and they are therefore unlike; but both are excellent, and deserve an attentive reading.
The following extract is from the life of Pope in “ The Lives of the Poets," and is an excellent specimen of Johnson's peculiar style.]
Pope professed to have learned his poetry from Dryden, whom, whenever an opportunity was presented, he praised through his whole life with unvaried liberality; and per
haps his character may receive some illustration, if he be 5 compared with his master.
Integrity of understanding, and nicety of discernment, were not allotted in a less proportion to Dryden than to Pope. The rectitude of Dryden's mind was sufficiently
shown by the dismission of his poetical prejudices, and 10 the rejection of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers.
But Dryden never desired to apply all the judgment that he had. He wrote, and professed to write, merely for the people ; and when he pleased others, he contented himself.
He spent no time in struggles to rouse latent powers ; he 15 never attempted to make that better which was already
good, nor often to mend what he must have known to be faulty. He wrote, as he tells us, with very little consideration. When occasion or necessity called upon him, he
poured out what the present moment happened to supply, 20 and, when once it had passed the press, ejected it from
his mind; for, when he had no pecuniary interest, he had no further solicitude.
Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavored to do his best; he did not court the candor, but dared the judgment of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he showed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven.
For this reason he kept his pieces very long in his 10 hands, while he considered and reconsidered them. The
only poems which can be supposed to have been written with such regard to the times as might hasten their publication, were the two satires of “ Thirty-eight:" of which
Dodsley told me, that they were brought to him by the 15 author, that they might be fairly copied. “Every line,"
said he, “was then written twice over ; I gave him a clean transcript, which he sent some time afterwards to me for the press, with every line written twice over a second time.”
His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their publication, was not strictly true. His parental attention never abandoned them; what he found amiss in the first edition, he silently corrected in those that fol
lowed. He appears to have revised the “Iliad,” and freed 25 it from some of its imperfections, and the “ Essay on Crit
icism ” received many improvements after its first appearance. It will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance, or vigor. Pope had perhaps
the judgment of Dryden; but Dryden certainly wanted 30 the diligence of Pope.
In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastic, and who, before he became an author, had been allowed more time
for study, with better means of information. His mind 35 has a larger range, and he collects his images and illus
trations from a more extensive circumference of science.
Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope
by minute attention. There is more dignity in the 5 knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.
Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his
prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is ca10 pricious and varied; that of Pope is cautious and uniform.
Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind ; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth,
uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, 15 rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exu
berance of abundant vegetation ; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
Of genius, — that power which constitutes a poet, — that quality, without which judgment is cold, and knowl20 edge is inert, — that energy, which collects, combines,
amplifies, and animates, — the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of this poetical vigor, Pope had only a little,
because Dryden had more ; for every other writer since 25 Milton must give place to Pope ; and even of Dryden it
must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems.
Dryden's performances were always hasty, - either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by some do30 mestic necessity. He composed without consideration, and
published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of
Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply 35 his images, and to accumulate all that study might pro
duce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden,