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Shenstone finely observes, that love-verses, writ without any real passion, are the most nauseous of all conceits ; and I have often thought that no man can be a proper critic of love-composition, except he himself, in one or more instances, have been a warm votary of this passion. As I have been all along a miserable dupe to love, and have been led into a thousand weaknesses and follies by it, for that reason I put the more confidence in my critical skill, in distinguishing foppery and conceit, from real passion and nature. Whether the following song will stand the test, I will not pretend to say, because it is my own; only I can say it was, at the time, genuine from the heart.
Behind yon hills, &c.
See vol. iii. p. 278.
I think the whole species of young men may be naturally enough divided into two grand classes, which I shall call the grave, and the merry; though, by the bye, these terms do not with propriety enough express my ideas. The grave I shall cast into the usual division of those who are goaded on by the love of money, and
those whose darling wish is to make a figure in the world. The merry are, the men of pleasure of all denominations ; the jovial lads, who have too much fire and spirit to have any settled rule of action; but, without much deliberation follow the strong impulses of nature: the thoughtless, the careless, the indolent—in particular he, who, with a happy sweetness of natural temper, and a cheerful vacancy of thought, steals through life-generally, indeed, in poverty and obscurity; but poverty and obscurity are only evils to him who can sit gravely down and make a repining comparison between his own situation and that of others; and lastly, to grace the quorum, such are, generally, those whose heads are capable of all the towerings of genius, and whose hearts are warmed with all the delicacy of feeling.
As the grand end of human life is to cultivate an intercourse with that Being to whom we owe life, with every enjoyment that can render life delightful; and to maintain an integritive conduct towards our fellow-creatures; that so, by forming piety and virtue into habit, we may be fit members for that society of the pious and the good, which reason and revelation teach us to expect beyond the grave: I do not see that the turn of mind and pursuits of any son of poverty and obscurity, are in the least more inimical to the sacred interests of piety and virtue, than the, even lawful, bustling and straining after the world's riches and honors; and I do not see but that he may gain Heaven as well, (which, by the bye, is no mean consideration) who steals through the vale of life, amusing himself with every little flower that fortune throws in his way; as he who, straining straight forward, and perhaps bespattering all about him, gains some of life’s little eminences; where, after all, he can only see, and be seen, a little more conspicuously, than what, in the pride of his heart, he is apt to term the poor, indolent devil he has left behind him.
There is a noble sublimity, a heart-melting tenderness, in some of our ancient ballads, which shew them to be the work of a masterly hand: and it has often given me many a heart-ache to reflect that such glorious old bards—bards who very probably owed all their talents to native genius, yet have described the exploits of heroes, the pangs of disappointment, and the meltings of love, with such fine strokes of nature—that
their very names (0 how mortifying to a bard's vanity!) are now “ buried among the wreck of things which were.”
illustrious names unknown ! who could feel so strongly and describe so well; the last, the meanest of the muses train-one who, though far inferior to your flights, yet eyes your path, and with trembling wing would sometimes soar after you—a poor rustic bard unknown, pays this sympathetic pang to your memory! Some of you tell us, with all the charms of verse, that you have been unfortunate in the world-unfortunate in love: he too has felt the loss of his little fortune, the loss of friends, and, worse than all, the loss of the woman he adored. Like you, all his consolation was his muse: she taught him in rustic measures to complain. Happy could he haye done it with your strength of imagination and flow of verse! May the turf lie lightly on your bones! and may you now enjoy that solace and rest which this world rarely gives to the heart, tuned to all the feelings of poesy
This is all worth quoting in my MSS and more than all.
To MR. AIKEN.
[The Gentleman to whom the Cotter'S SATUR
DAY Night is addressed.]
I was with Wilson, my printer, t’other day, and settled all our by-gone matters between us. After I had paid him all demands, I made him the offer of the second edition, on the hazard of being paid out of the first and readiest, which he declines. By his account, the paper of a thousand copies would cost about twenty seven pounds, and the printing about fifteen or sixteen: he offers to agree to this for the printing, if I will advance for the paper;