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ALTHOUGH the poetry of Lamb is greatly above mediocrity, he is better known by a beautiful collection of sketches, under the signature of Elia, his Tales from Shakspeare, and other prose works, teeming with profound philosophy and criticism expressed in the happiest diction. He was born in London, on the 10th of February, 1775, and was educated in Christ's Hospital, after which he received a small appointment in the India House, where he rose by regular gradation during thirty years of service, when he was pensioned off with a comfortable annuity. During this long period, however, his heart was in literature, and he published numerous essays, tales, and dissertations, and associated with several of the most distinguished authors of the day. He died on the 27th of December, 1834.
DIALOGUE BETWEEN A MOTHER AND CHILD.
“O lady, lay your costly robes aside,
No longer may you glory in your pride.”
Wherefore to-day art singing in mine ear
Sad songs, were made so long ago, my dear;
This day I am to be a bride, you know-
Why sing sad songs, were made so long ago?
O, mother, lay your costly robes aside,
For you may never be another's bride.
That line I learn'd not in the old sad song.
I pray thee, pretty one, now hold thy tongue,
Play with the bride-maids, and be glad, my boy,
For thou shalt be a second father's joy.
One father fondled me upon his knee.
One father is enough, alone, for me.
The cheerful sabbath bells, wherever heard,
Strike pleasant on the sense, most like the voice
Of one who from the far-off hills proclaims
Tidings of good to Zion: chiefly when
Their piercing tones fall sudden on the ear
Of the contemplant, solitary man,
Whom thoughts abstruse or high have chanced to lure
Forth from the walks of men, revolving oft,
And oft again, hard matter, which eludes
And baffles his pursuit—thought-sick and tired
Of controversy, where no end appears,
No clue to his research, the lonely man
Half wishes for society again.
Him, thus engaged, the sabbath bells salute
Sudden! his heart awakes, his ears drink in
The cheering music; his relenting soul
Yearns after all the joys of social life,
And softens with the love of human kind.
Fresh clad from Heaven in robes of white,
A young probationer of light,
Thou wert, my soul, an Album bright,
A spotless leaf; but thought, and care,
And friends, and foes, in foul or fair,
Have“ written strange defeature" there.
And Time, with heaviest hand of all,
Like that fierce writing on the wall,
Hath stamp'd sad dates he can't recall.
And Error, gilding worst designs,
Like speckled snake that strays and shines-
Betrays his path by crooked lines.
And Vice hath left his ugly błot-
And Good Resolves, a moment hot,
Fairly began—but finish'd nct.
And fruitless late Remorse doth trace,
Like Hebrew lore, a backward pace-
Her irrecoverable race.
Disjointed members—sense unknit-
Huge reams of folly-shreds of wit-
Compose the mingled mass of it.
My scalded eyes no longer brook
Upon this ink-blurr'd thing to look.
Go- shut the leaves—and clasp the book !—
Array'd-a half-angelic sight-
In vests of pure Baptismal white-
The mother to the Font doth bring
The little helpless, nameless thing,
With hushes soft and mild caressing,
At once to get-a name and blessing.
Close by the Babe the Priest doth stand-
The sacred water at his hand,
Which must assoil the soul within
stain of Adam's sin.-
The Infant eyes the mystic scenes,
Nor knows what all this wonder means;
And now he smiles, as if to say,
“I am a Christian made this day;"
Now, frighted, clings to Nurse's hold,
Shrinking from the water cold,
Whose virtues, rightly understood,
Are, as Bethesda’s waters, good.-
Strange words—the World, the Flesh, the Devil-
Poor babe, what can it know of evil?
But we must silently adore
Mysterious truths, and not explore.
Enough for him, in after times,
When he shall read these artless rhymes,
If looking back upon this day
With easy conscience he can say,
“ I have in part redeem'd the pledge
Of my baptismal privilege;
And more and more will strive to flee
All that my sponsors kind renounced for me.”
We were two pretty babes, the youngest she,
The youngest, and the loveliest far, I
And INNOCENCE her name. The time has been,
We two did love each other's company;
Time was, we two had wept to have been apart.
But when by show of seeming good beguiled,
I left the garb and manners of a child,
And my first love, for man's society,
Defiling with the world my virgin heart-
My loved companion dropp'd a tear, and fled,
And hid in deepest shades her awful head.
Beloved! who shall tell me where thou art-
In what delicious Eden to be found-
That I may seek thee the wide world around?
SUGGESTED BY A PICTURE OF TWO FEMALES BY LEONARDO DA VINCI.
The lady Blanch, regardless of all her lovers' fears, To the Urs’line convent hastens, and long the Abbess
hears. “O Blanch, my child, repent ye of the courtly life ye
lead. Blanch look'd on a rose-bud and little seem'd to heed. She look'd on the rose-bud, she look'd round, and
thought On all her heart had whisper'd, and all the Nun had
taught. “I am worshipped by lovers, and brightly shines my
fame, All Christendom resoundeth the noble Blanch's name. Nor shall I quickly wither like the rose-bud from the
tree, My queen-like graces shining when my beauty 's gone
from me. But when the sculptured marble is raised o'er my head, And the matchless Blanch lies lifeless among the noble
dead, This saintly lady Abbess hath made me justly fear, It would nothing well avail me that I were worshipp’d
ON THE PICTURES OF SALOME.
When painters would by art express
Beauty in unloveliness,
Thee, Herodias' daughter, thee,
They fittest subject take to be.
They give thy form and features grace;
But ever in thy beauteous face
They show a steadfast cruel gaze,
An eye unpitying; and amaze
In all beholders deep they mark,
That thou betrayest not one spark
Of feeling for the ruthless deed,
That did thy praiseful dance succeed.
For on the head they make you look,
As if a sullen joy you took,
A cruel triumph, wicked pride,
That for your sport a saint had died.
On a bank with roses shaded,
Whose sweet scent the violets aided,
Violets whose breath alone
Yields but feeble smell or none;
(Sweeter bed Jove ne'er reposed on
When his eyes Olympus closed on ;)
While o'er head six slaves did hold
Canopy of cloth o' gold,
And two more did music keep,
Which might Juno lull to sleep,–
Oriana, who was queen
To the mighty Tamerlane,
That was lord of all the land
Between Thrace and Samerchand,
While the noon-tide fervour beam'd,
Mused herself to sleep and dream'd.
Thus far, in magnific strain,
A young poet soothed his vein,
But he had nor prose nor numbers
To express a princess' slumbers.-
Youthful Richard had strange fancies,
Was deep versed in old romances,
And could talk whole hours upon
The great Cham and Prester John,
Tell the field in which the Sophi
From the Tartar won trophy-
What he read with such delight of,
Thought he could as eas’ly write of-
But his over young invention
Kept not pace with brave intention.