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Yet not in thoughtless slumber were they past;
For oft the heavenly fire, that lay conceal'd
Beneath the sleeping embers, mounted fast,
And all its native light anew revealed;

Oft as he travers'd the cerulean field,

And marked the clouds that drove before the wind,
Ten thousand glorious systems would he build,

Ten thousand great ideas fill'd his mind:

But with the clouds they fled, and left no trace behind.

With him was sometimes join'd, in silent walk,
(Profoundly silent, for they never spoke)

One shyer still', who quite detested talk;
Oft stung by spleen, at once away he broke,

To groves of pine and broad o'ershadowing oak;
There inly thrill'd, he wander'd all alone,

And on himself his pensive fury wroke,

Ne ever utter'd word, save when first shone

The glittering star of eve-Thank Heaven! the day is done.

1 Probably the poet Armstrong.


JOHN ARMSTRONG was born in Liddesdale about the year 1709, and died in London in 1779. His poetical works, which here alone concern us, were The Economy of Love, 1739, The Art of Preserving Health, 1744, and some slight pieces published in volumes of miscellanies later.]

Armstrong is, beyond all doubt, the most remarkable poet of the school of Thomson. It would appear that the style in his case was not the result merely of imitation of the author of The Seasons, but came from a similar cause, the study at once of the Queen Anne men and of older writers. Both Shakespeare and Spenser were

The Economy of

sufficiently attractive to Armstrong when he was quite a boy to induce him to imitate them, and though the imitations show more zeal than appreciation, they have some merit. Love, from which no extracts can here be given, contains many stately verses, and some which exhibit considerable novelty of


On the whole Armstrong's versification and language

are Thomsonian. The blemishes of that style, such as the ridi


forth, are present in large measure.

classicism which calls a cold bath a 'gelid cistern,' and so But the merits of abundant

fancy, of surprising range of illustration, and of a certain starched grace which is not unattractive, are present likewise. It would be preserving health: yet in treating it Armstrong has managed to



to find a more unsuitable subject for poetry than the art of

cannot afford to disdain. His vigour is unquestionable, and his

many passages which lovers and students of blank verse

skill is by

deformed, not merely by the unavoidable drawbacks of its subject,

no means of an every-day order. The poem however is

obsolete technicalities, which could at no time have added to its

attractions, and which now make parts of it nearly unreadable. Here and there, too, we are offended by the defect which Armstrong shares with Swift and with Smollet, the tendency to indulge in merely nauseous details. On the whole however the merits of The Art of Preserving Health far outweigh its defects. It may indeed be urged by a devil's advocate that it is but a left-handed compliment to say that a man has done better than could be expected a task which, as sense and taste should have shown him, ought not to have been attempted at all. But Armstrong must always have, with competent judges, the praise which belongs to an author who has a distinct and peculiar grasp of a great poetical form. His rhymed verse is on the whole very inferior to his blank. The rhymes are frequently careless, and the poet's ear does not seem to have taught him how to construct couplets with the proper variety and continuity of cadence. His satire however, if a little conventional, is sometimes vigorous, and a specimen of the poem entitled Taste is therefore given here.




The body, moulded by the clime, endures The equator heats or hyperborean frost: Except by habits foreign to its turn, Unwise, you counteract its forming power. Rude at the first, the winter shocks you less By long acquaintance: study then your sky, Form to its manners your obsequious frame, And learn to suffer what you cannot shun. Against the rigors of a damp cold heav'n To fortify their bodies some frequent The gelid cistern; and, where nought forbids I praise their dauntless heart: a frame so steeled Dreads not the cough, nor those ungenial blasts That breathe the tertian or fell rheumatism. The nerves so tempered never quit their tone, No chronic languors haunt such hardy breasts. But all things have their bounds: and he who makes

By daily

use the kindest regimen

Essential to his health, should never mix

With human kind, nor art, nor trade pursue.


not the safe vicissitudes of life



some shock endures; ill-fitted he

want the known, or bear unusual things.

Besides, the powerful remedies of pain
(Since pain in spite of all our care will come)
Should never with your prosperous days of health
Grow too familiar: for by frequent use

The strongest medicines lose their healing power
And even the surest poisons theirs to kill.


How to live happiest? how avoid the pains,
The disappointments, and disgusts of those
Who would in pleasure all their hours employ,

The precepts here of a divine old man
I could recite. Tho' old, he still retained
His manly sense, and energy of mind.
Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe;
He still remembered that he once was young;
His easy presence checked no decent joy.
Him even the dissolute admired; for he

A graceful looseness when he pleased put on,
And laughing could instruct. Much had he read,
Much more had seen: he studied from the life,
And in th' original perused mankind. 1

Versed in the woes and vanities of life

He pitied man: and much he pitied those
Whom falsely-smiling fate has cursed with means
To dissipate their days in quest of joy.
'Our aim is happiness; 'tis yours, 'tis mine,'
He said, 'tis the pursuit of all that live:
Yet few attain it, if 'twas e'er attained.
But they the widest wander from the mark,
Who thro' the flowery paths of sauntering joy
Seek this coy goddess: that from stage to stage
Invites us still, but shifts as we pursue.
For, not to name the pains that pleasure brings
To counterpoise itself, relentless fate

Forbids that we thro' gay voluptuous wilds
Should ever roam and were the fates more kind
Our narrow luxuries would soon grow stale :
Were these exhaustless, nature would grow sick,
And, cloyed with pleasure, squeamishly complain
That all is vanity, and life a dream.

Let nature rest: be busy for yourself,
And for your friend, be busy even in vain
Rather than tease her sated appetites.
Who never fasts no banquet e'er enjoys;
Who never toils or watches, never sleeps.
Let nature rest: and when the taste of joy
Grows keen, indulge; but shun satiety.
'Tis not for mortals always to be blest,
But him the least the dull or painful hours

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