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returns. It is as worthy to be quoted as any of his elegant Latin poems, not only for the train of its thought, but for the grace of its composition, and as illustrating the almost certain effect of classical studies in producing a clear and beautiful English style:
• Being warned by the hand of God that my dissolution draweth nigh, I thank the divine goodness for giving me this timely notice, and not cutting me off suddenly in the midst of my sins; that he has granted me leisure, and a due sense of my follies and corruptions, and thereby enabled me to make my reconciliation with Him, before that I am no more seen. I esteem it as a great instance of His mercy that he has not afflicted me with any delirium, or disease that would have deprived me of my memory or my senses, but has visited me with a distemper which however otherwise grievous, has given me time and opportunity to look into my past life, and with seriousness and attention to consider my latter end.
Upon recollection, I find the offences of my youth, and the transgressions of my riper years are so many, that were not the mercy of God as infinite as his justice, I might despair of pardon ; but through the merits and intercession of a crucified Saviour, I humbly hope forgiveness. As the Almighty has himself declared that he delighteth not in the death of a sinner, I beseech Him that His extensive compassion may reach even unto me; and in dutiful confidence thereof, I submit myself to His holy will, with resignation, constancy, and cheerfulness. For that part of my behaviour that relates to my fellow-creature, man; if that should happen to be less exceptionable ; if I have not willingly and deliberately injured my neighbor by calumny, oppression, or extor. tion, not unto me, but unto God, be the praise. I hope it may, in some measure, compensate for many other misdeeds, and so far procure the favor and candor of all those who are so sensible of their own failings as to overlook and forget mine. “There is one thing which I have often heard myself charged with, and
my neglect of entering into holy orders, and a due preparation for that sacred office. Though I think myself in strictness answerable to none but God and my own conscience, yet for the satisfaction of the person that is dearest to me, I own and declare that the importance of so great a charge, joined with a mistrust of my own sufficiency, made me fearful of undertaking it; if I have not in that capacity assisted in the salvation of souls, I have not been the means of losing any; if I have not brought reputation to the function by any merit of mine, I have the comfort of this reflection, I have given no scandal to it by my meanness and unworthiness. It has been my sincere desire, though not my happiness, to be as useful in my little sphere of life as possible; my own inclinations would have led me to a more likely way of being serviceable, if I might have pursued them; however, as the method of education I have been brought up in was, I am satisfied, very kindly intended, I have nothing to find fault with, but a wrong choice, and the not knowing those disabilities I have since been truly conscious of; those difficulties I have endeavored to get over, but found them insuperable. It has been the knowledge of these discouragements that has given me the greatest uneasiness I have ever met with; that has been the chief
subject of my sleeping as well as waking thoughts, a fear of reproach and contempt. To the question what I now am ? I answer, an unhappy composition of weakness, folly, and sin; but what I shall be hereafter, is that which startles and perplexes me. Here I am lost in amazement and dread! The most pleasing, and the dearest engagements of this world, as having nothing in them solid, sincere, or lasting, I could readly forego; but the looking for of that unknown state into which I am to enter, when I put off this body of frailty and corruption, is confounding and terrible. The prospect into futurity is all darkness and uncertainty : nor can the nearest relative or friend who is gone before me repass the gulf that is fixed between us, to give me the least notice or intimation of it. It is this thought that forbids me, polluted as I am, though ever so much wearied with life, to wish for dissolution; this reminds me that though the body be sleeping and mouldering in the grave, the soul dieth not, nor yet slumbereth: the place and condition of unbodied spirits, who of all mankind knoweth? What thought can con. ceive that which the eye never saw, nor the ear heard of ? Who shall inform me of that state whence there is no return? Surely there is a reward for the righteous! The souls of the faithful after they are delivered from the burthen of the flesh, are undoubtedly in joy and felicity; but then where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Where shall I, who have spent many years in idleness and vanity, and no merit of my own to plead for me, where shall I, who have not treasured up one good work to bespeak the favor of the Almighty, and have only the suf. ferings of Jesus Christ, and those very sufferings often slighted, trampled upon and rejected by me, to offer in my behalf? But, oh! may the goodness of God, if there be still mercy left for me, while it is yet called to-day, before the night cometh on, so assist me with his grace in working out my salvation, that neither the desire of life, nor the dread of death, may withdraw my thoughts from Him; but that in this my day I may consider the things which make for my peace, before they are hid from my eyes. In humble confidence thereof, and in full assurance of His most gracious mercy to all returning sinners, I will endeavor to fortify and prepare myself against the terrors of death.'
In the same tone of mournful moralizing is the elegant epistle which he indicted to a lady after paying a respectful visit to the dead in a country church-yard. For its style and eloquence Jeremy Taylor might have composed it, and as it has been rarely read except by the small class of persons who have had the good fortune to fall in with his works, (and we believe that few copies have found their way to this country,) we shall extract some parts of it, as they exhibit a favorable contrast with the playfulness of his Latin verse:
• I will allow that the pomp of a great man may adorn his funeral, and flattery may attend it with coronets and banners. Whatever is be. yond is nuisance only and abhorence. The sepulchre too, may be painted without, but within is full of filthiness and uncleanness; and the corpse may be wrapt in velvet and fine linen, yet in velvet and fine linen it shall rot. The leaden coffin and the arched vault may separate it from vulgar dust; but even here shall the worm find it, nor shall
his hunger be satisfied till he strip it to the bones. In the mean time, the labored epitaph is mocking it with titles, and belying it with praises. The passenger must be stayed to lament its loss; and the reader is called upon to weep, that a person illustriously descended should be so like the rest of his fellow creatures as to die.
• The procession may be long, and set off with all the finery that pride can invent, or money can purchase ; insomuch that women shall stand amazed, and children shall hold up their hands with astonishment. Yet all this midnight show which has raised the curiosity of multitudes, and with purposed delays has increased it into impatience, can go no farther with him than to his grave: here must all his state leave him, and the honors are his no longer.
Having thus amused myself in contemplating the vanity of human greatness - what is it, said I, that can thus make us startle and shrink at the thoughts of death? The mighty and the rich of the world may tremble; but what is the sting of death to those whose life has been altogether misery? or what power has the grave over the un. happy? Is it not rather a refuge from violence and oppression, and a retreat from insolence and contempt? Is it not a protection to the defenceless, and a security to him who had no place to flee unto ? Surely in death there is safety, and in the grave there is peace. This wipes off the sweat of the poor laboring man, and takes the load from the bended back of the weary traveller. This dries up the tears of the disconsolate, and maketh the heart of the sorrowful to forget its throbbing. This eases the agonies of the diseased, and giveth a medicine to the hopeless incurable. This discharges the naked and hungry insol. vent; it releases him from his confinement who must not otherwise have come thence till he had paid the uttermost farthing. It is this that rescues the slave from his heavy task-master; and frees the prisoner from the cruelties of him that cannot pity. This silences the clamors of the defamer, and hushes the virulence of the whisperer. The infirmi. ties of age and the unweariness of youth, the blemishes of the deformed, the frenzies of the lunatic, and the weaknesses of the idiot, are here all buried together, and who shall see them ?
“With these, and many other reflections which the compass of a letter cannot contain, I left the chambers of the dead. What first occurred to me after this solitary walk I have communicated to you ; at present perhaps you may think them little worthy of your regard; or look on them at best, as the product of a sickly and distempered brain. A lecture of mortality to a maiden in the prime of her health and beauty, you may suppose can come only from a gloomy and disturbed mind, to fortify and prepare the soul against the day when the face of the fairest shall gather blackness, the heart of the strongest shall fail, and the mirth of the most frolicsome shall depart from him. The prospect, I believe may be unwelcome, but unseasonable it cannot be, while youth is subject to diseases, and while beauty is deceitful. I desire you to accept of this night piece, drawn by an artless hand; and when that hand shall be mouldering in the dust, to peruse the picture, and then be assured that though it be artless, it is true.'
Having thus given a specimen of all which we are able to find of Bourne's English composition, we propose to give the reader a taste of those exquisite Latin poems, which have gained him an envied name among scholars.
In the Critical Review for April, 1772, is a notice of his works, which is cursory, as it is intended for the English scholar, who is already supposed familiar with all which he has written. Since that time numerous editions have been published, and latterly with all the luxury of the British press. And certainly when so much respectable poetry is to be found among the various collections of the schools and universities, only their intrinsic merits could have preserved the works of Vincent Bourne so long in a distinct form ; nor can we upon examination deem that those merits have been exaggerated. Novimus quem Tibullo ac Propertio prætulit bonus Cuperus, says Landor; and then endeavors to detract a part of the poet's well deserved praise. Let us examine his different styles, and then pronounce whether the 'good Cowper' is extravagant when he thus speaks of him: 'I love the memory of Vinny Bourne. I think him a better Latin poet than Tibullus, Propertius, Ausonius, or any of the writers in his way, except Ovid, and not at all inferior to him. I love him too with a love of partiality, because he was Usher of the fifth form at Westminster, when I passed through it. He was so good natured, and so indolent, that I lost more than I got by him ; for he made me as idle as himself. His humor is entirely original; he can speak of a magpie or a cat in terms so exquisitely appropriate to the character he draws, that one would suppose him animated by the spirit of the creature he describes. And with all his drollery, there is a mixture of rational and even religious reflection at times, and always an air of pleasantry, good nature, and humanity, that makes him in my mind one of the most amiable writers in the world. It is not common to meet with an author who can make you smile, and yet at nobody's expense; who is always entertaining, and always harmless, and who, though always elegant and classical to a degree not always found in the classics themselves, charms as much by the simplicity, and playfulness of his ideas, as by the neatness and purity of his verse.'' Although his original compositions alone are sufficiently stamped with his genius (as a proof of which Cowper has translated more than twenty of them into English verse) perhaps we can better judge of his admirable taste and delicacy, from some of those little English poems which he has turned into Latin. It is here that we enjoy more fully their ingenuity and nice structure, and by comparing them sentence for sentence, and idiom for idiom, can appreciate the great difficulties with which the author had to contend, and also the measure of his triumph. It is delightful, and indeed surprising to note how he has discovered the most elegant equivalents for phrases which seemed purely English ; he has rather enhanced the grace of those exquisite little poems; many of them are more beautiful in their Latin dress, although it would seem as difficult to make them more charming or to improve their polish, as it would be to gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to adorn the rose, or add a perfume to the violet. To illustrate
this very remark, let us take the pleasing little ballad of. Tweedside,' and note the process of such a refinement :
"What beauties does Flora disclose!
How sweet are her smiles upon Tweed!
Both nature and fancy exceed.
Nor all the gay flowers of the field,
Ad placidam Tueda lene fluentis aquam!
Naturæ pariter vincit et artis opes.
Totaque luxuries, qué variatur humus;
Flumine, tam suavi Tueda decore bitet. The sixth line recalls to us Horace's expression, omnis copia narium, while the smoothly gliding river in the following lines has been justly considered a type of the harmony and ease of Vincent Bourne's verse. Indeed can any thing be more exquisite than his translation of the whole ballad, wherein he has expressed the full sense and meaning of the original, in words picked out, and compacted with a neatness which is remarkable :
"THE warblers are heard in the grove,
The linnet, the lark, and the thrush;
With music enchant every bush.
Let us see how the primroses spring;
And love, where the feathered folks sing.
Does Mary not tend a few sheep?
While happily she lies asleep ?
Kind nature indulging my bliss;
I'd steal an ambrosial kiss.
No beauty with her may compare;
She' fairest where thousands are fair.
Oh! tell me, at noon where they feed ?
Or the pleasanter banks of the Tweed?
SYLVA choris avium resonat vocalis; et omne
Virgullum harmonià fervet, et omne nemus.
Desuper aérios addit alauda rodos.
Videris, ut surgai primula, veris honos.
Quam mecum ad Tuedam lenta vacare potes !
Quo minuit studio, quo longas decipit horas ?
Nonne aliquot teneras lux mea servat oves ?
Dum furtim somnus lumina claudit hera ?
Si possit votis Tueda secunda meis;
Lætusque et tacitus, surripuisse velim.