Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

'Tis thine to sing, how, framing hideous spells,

In Sky's lone isle, the gifted wizard-seer, Lodged in the wintery cave with Fate's fell

spear, Or in the depth of Uist's dark forest dwells : How they, whose sight such dreary dreams en.

gross, With their own vision oft astonish'd droop ;

When, o'er the watery strath, or quaggy moss, They see the gliding ghosts unbodied troop.

Or, if in sports, or on the festive green, Their destined glance some fated youth descry,

Who now, perhaps, in lusty vigour seen, And rosy health, shall soon lamented die.

For them the viewless forms of air obey ; Their bidding heed, and at their beck repair.

They know what spirit brews the stormful day, And heartless, oft like moody madness, stare To see the phantom-train their secret work pre

pare.

To monarchs dear, some hundred miles astray,

Oft have I seen Fate give the fatal blow !

The seer, in Sky, shriek'd as the blood did flow, When headless Charles warm on the scaffold lay ! As Boreas threw his young Aurora (a) forth,

In the first year of the first George's reign,

(a) By young Aurora, Collins undoubtedly meant the first appearance of the northern lights, which happened about the year 1715 ; at least, it is most highly probable, from this peculiar circumstance, that no ancient writer whatever has taken any notice of them, nor even any one modern, previous to the above period.

And battles raged in welkin of the North,

They mourn'd in air, fell, fell Rebellion slain ! And as, of late, they joy'd in Preston's fight,

Saw at sad Falkirk all their hopes near crown'a ! They raved ! divining thro' their second sight, (a) Pale, red Culloden, where these hopes were

drown'd !

MARK AKENSIDE.

BORN 1664-DIED 1721.

AKENSIDE was the son of a butcher of Newcastle-upon

Tyne. The family were Presbyterians; and young Akenside, after leaving the grammar-school of Newcastle, was sent to Edinburgh, to qualify himself for orders in that persuasion. In prosecuting this design, he received some assistance from a fund formed by the dissenters for the education of young men intended for the ministry; but the money thus advanced was returned by Akenside, when a more extended knowledge of life, and of his own character and powers, induced him to study for another

profession. In 1741 he went to Leyden, then a favourite resort of

English and Scottish students; and, after a diligent course of regular study, obtained, in 1744, the degree of Doctor of Medicine. In the same year he returned to

(a) Second sight is the term that is used for the divination of the Highlanders.

England, and published the poem on which his fame rests—THE PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION,-a noble speci. men of blank verse, and altogether a wonderful produc

tion for a youth of twenty-three. The subsequent performances of Akenside, though they

were all classic and elegant, did not keep pace with the expectation raised by this splendid first appearance.

It is related by Johnson, on the testimony of Dodsley, the publisher of the poem, that, when it was offered to him, the price demanded was 120 guineas,-a rather startling demand to a bookseller from a young man, whose name had never been heard of, for his first production. Dodsley submitted the poem to Pope, who advised him “ not to make a niggardly offer, for this was no every-day writer.” Akenside settled in Northampton as a medical practitioner,

but found very few interruptions of his “ poetic leisure" from the calls of patients. About this time he published his Odes, and removed first to Hampstead, and next to

London, whither his poetical fame had gone before him. By good fortune, which does not always attend the votaries

of the muses, the unemployed physician found a friend of rare generosity-Mr Dyson, who allowed him £300 a year. This establishment enabled him to pursue his professional career with many advantages. He obtained a degree from Cambridge, and became a Fellow of the College of Physicians. He also wrote several creditable professional treatises ; and his medical knowledge and poetical talents thus aiding each other, Akenside advanced rapidly in reputation, and, beside gaining considerable private practice, was appointed physician to the

Queen. Of the private character of Akenside little is known, and

that not to his advantage. His manners were pompous ai cold, and was far from being popular among his professional brethren. It is said, that he sat for the ludicrous portrait of the giver of the banquet in Smollett's “ Feast of the Ancients ;” but this piece of lively though exaggerated ridicule can fix no stigma on any man's cha

racter. The choice of subject in Akenside's principal poem

is

peculiarly felicitous The Pleasures of the Imagination is the prototype of the long list of “ Pains” and “ Pleasures” on which subsequent poets have expatiated. In all his writings his images, if redundant, are always appropriate, and often strikingly beautiful and original. We forgive his sounding amplitude and fantastic diffusion, from admiration of their attendant affluence and splendour. Even the elaborate artifice of his diction displays the delicacy and address of a classic taste. His Hymn to the Naiads has much elegance and classic propriety, and, as a specimen of lyric verse, is worthy of the author of his

great poem. Akenside died of a putrid fever. He is characterized by

Johnson as one of those who make a sounding love of public liberty the disguise of an acrimonious temper. But from Johnson justice to the memory of an avowed whig is scarcely to be expected.

MENTAL BEAUTY.

FROM THE PLEASURES OF IMAGINATION.

Mind, mind alone, (bear witness, Earth and

Heaven!) The living fountains in itself contains Of beauteous and sublime : here, hand in hand, Sit paramount the Graces ; here enthroned, Celestial Venus, with divinest airs, Invites the soul to never-fading joy.

Look then abroad through Nature, to the range
Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres,
Wheeling unshaken through the void immense ;
And speak, O man ! does this capacious scene,
With half that kindling majesty, dilate
Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose
Refulgent from the stroke of Cæsar's fate,
Amid the crowd of patriots ; and his arm
Aloft extending, like eternal Jove
When guilt brings down the thunder, call'd aloud
On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel,
And bade the father of his country hail !
For lo ! the tyrant prostrate on the dust,
And Rome again is free ! Is aught so fair
In all the dewy landscapes of the spring,
In the bright eye of Hesper or the Morn,
In Nature's fairest forms, is aught so fair
As virtuous Friendship ? as the candid blush
Of him who strives with fortune to be just ?
The graceful tear that streams for others' woes ?
Or the mild majesty of private life,
Where Peace with ever-blooming olive crowns
The gate ; where Honour's liberal hands effuse
Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings
Of Innocence and Love protect the scene ?

CONCLUSION.

FROM THE SAME.

Oh ! blest of Heaven, whom not the languid songs
Of Luxury, the syren ! not the bribes
Of sordid Wealth, nor all the gaudy spoils

« ForrigeFortsæt »