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Thou teachest Persius to inform our isle
In smoother numbers, and a clearer style;
And Juvenal, instructed in thy page,
Edges his satire, and improves his rage.
Thy copy casts a fairer light on all,
And still outshines the bright original.
Now Ovid boasts the advantage of thy song,
And tells his story in the British tongue;
Thy charming verse,2 and fair translations, show
How thy own laurel first began to grow;
How wild Lycaon, changed by angry gods,
And frighted at himself, ran howling through the woods.
O may'st thou still the noble task prolong,
Nor age nor sickness interrupt thy song!
Then may we wondering read, how human limbs
Have watered kingdoms, and dissolved in streams;
Of those rich fruits that on the fertile mould
Turned yellow by degrees, and ripened into gold:
How some in feathers, or a ragged hide,
Have lived a second life, and different natures tried.
Then will thy Ovid, thus transformed, reveal
A nobler change than he himself can tell.5
Mag. Coll. Oxon. June 2, 1693.
The Author's age, 22.
1-the advantage of thy song.] An instance of unpoetical expression. 2 Thy charming verse, and fair translations.] The epithets too general and prosaic.
3 Alexandrines, as they are called, should never be admitted into this kind of verse. But Dryden's unconfined genius had given a sanction to
♦ O may'st thou still, &c.] See note 2 in the preceding page. It might have stood thus: "Still may thy muse the noble task prolong."
5 reveal tell.] Bad rhymes. There are other instances in this short poem; and in general Mr. Addison was a bad rhymist.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE SIR JOHN SOMERS,
LORD KEEPER OF THE GREAT SEAL
Ir yet your thoughts are loose from state affairs,2
Nor feel the burden of a kingdom's cares,
If yet your time and actions are your own,
Receive the present of a muse unknown :
A muse that in adventurous numbers sings
The rout of armies, and the fall of kings,
Britain advanced, and Europe's peace restored,
By Somers' counsels, and by Nassau's sword.
To you, my lord, these daring thoughts belong,
Who helped to raise the subject of my song;
you the hero of my verse reveals
His great designs, to you in council tells
His inmost thoughts, determining the doom
Of towns unstormed, and battles yet to come.
And well could you, in your immortal strains,
Describe his conduct, and reward his pains:
But since the state has all your cares engrost,
And poetry in higher thoughts is lost,
Attend to what a lesser muse3 indites,
Pardon her faults and countenance her flights.
'King William. Printed in the year 1695. The author's age, 24. This short address to his patron is polite and proper, but, like the poem which it introduces, very prosaic.
1 A lesser muse.] Little has two comparatives, less and lesser. Use leaves us at liberty to employ either. The sound will direct us when to prefer the one to the other. As here, a lesser muse is clearly better than a less muse. But, in general, it may be a good rule "to join less with a
On you, my lord, with anxious fear I wait,
And from your judgment must expect my fate,
Who, free from vulgar passions, are above
Degrading envy, or misguided love;
If you, well pleased, shall smile upon my lays,
Secure of fame, my voice I'll boldly raise;
For next to what you write, is what you praise.
WHEN now the business of the field is o'er,
The trumpets sleep, and cannons cease to roar;
When every dismal echo is decayed,
And all the thunder of the battle laid;
Attend, auspicious prince, and let the muse
In humble accents milder thoughts infuse.
Others, in bold prophetic numbers skilled,
Set thee in arms, and led thee to the field;
My muse, expecting, on the British strand
Waits thy return, and welcomes thee to land:
She oft has seen thee pressing on the foe,
When Europe was concerned in every
But durst not in heroic strains rejoice;
The trumpets, drums, and cannons drowned her voice:
She saw the Boyne run thick with human gore,
And floating corps lie beating on the shore:
She saw thee climb the banks, but tried in vain
To trace her hero through the dusty plain,
When through the thick embattled lines he broke,
Now plunged amidst the foes, now lost in clouds of smoke. Oh that some muse, renowned for lofty verse,
In daring numbers would thy toils rehearse!
singular noun, and lesser with a plural; -as when we say, a less difficulty, and lesser difficulties. The reason is, that few singular nouns terminate in s, and most plural nouns do.
Worser, the second comparative of bad, has not the same authority to plead as lesser; and is not, I think, of equal use.-Our grammarians do not enough attend to the influence which the ear has in modelling a language.
Draw thee beloved in peace, and feared in wars,
Inured to noon-day sweats,1 and midnight cares!
But still the godlike man, by some hard fate,
Receives the glory of his toils too late;
Too late the verse the mighty act succeeds;
One age the hero, one the poet breeds.
A thousand years in full succession ran
Ere Virgil raised his voice, and sung the man
Who, driven by stress of fate, such dangers bore
On stormy seas and a disastrous shore,
Before he settled in the promised earth,
And gave the empire of the world its birth.
Troy long had found the Grecians bold and fierce,
Ere Homer mustered up their troops in verse;
Long had Achilles quelled the Trojans' lust,
And laid the labour of the gods in dust,
Before the towering muse began her flight,
And drew the hero raging in the fight,
Engaged in tented fields and rolling floods,
Or slaughtering mortals, or a match for gods.
And here, perhaps, by fate's unerring doom,
Some mighty bard lies hid in years to come,
That shall in William's godlike acts engage,
And with his battles warm a future age.
Hibernian fields shall here thy conquests show,
And Boyne be sung when it has ceased to flow;
Here Gallic labours shall advance thy fame,
And here Seneffe shall wear another name.
Our late posterity, with secret dread,
Shall view thy battles, and with pleasure reaa
How, in the bloody field, too near advanced,
The guiltless bullet on thy shoulder glanced.2
The race of Nassaus was by Heaven designed
To curb the proud oppressors of mankind,
To bind the tyrants of the earth with laws,
And fight in every injured nation's cause,
He should have said heats, as he does say in the Campaign, The midnight watches and the noon-day heats.
2 The guiltless bullet, &c.] Delicately, and, at the same time, nobly expressed. Our great preacher, Tillotson, was not so happy when he spoke of the king's shoulder as being kindly kissed by this bullet.
The world's great patriots; they for justice call,
And, as they favour, kingdoms rise or fall.
Our British youth, unused to rough alarms,
Careless of fame, and negligent of arms,
Had long forgot to meditate the foe,
And heard unwarmed the martial trumpet blow;
But now, inspired by thee, with fresh delight,
Their swords they brandish, and require the fight,
Renew their ancient conquests on the main,
And act their fathers' triumphs o'er again;
Fired, when they hear how Agincourt was strowed
With Gallic corps, and Cressi swam in blood,
With eager warmth they fight, ambitious all
Who first shall storm the breach, or mount the wall.
In vain the thronging enemy by force
Would clear the ramparts, and repel their course;
They break through all, for William leads the way,
Where fires rage most, and loudest engines play.
Namure's late terrors and destruction show
What William, warmed with just revenge, can do:
Where once a thousand turrets raised on high
Their gilded spires, and glittered in the sky,
An undistinguished heap of dust is found,
And all the pile lies smoking on the ground.
His toils, for no ignoble ends designed,
Promote the common welfare of mankind;
No wild ambition moves, but Europe's fears,
The cries of orphans, and the widow's tears;
Opprest religion gives the first alarms,
And injured justice sets him in his arms;
His conquests freedom to the world afford,
And nations bless the labours of his sword.
Thus when the forming muse would copy forth
A perfect pattern of heroic worth,
She sets a man triumphant in the field,
O'er giants cloven down, and monsters killed,
Reeking in blood, and smeared with dust and sweat,
Whilst angry gods conspire to make him great.
Thy navy rides on seas before unprest,
And strikes a terror through the haughty East;
Algiers and Tunis from their sultry shore
With horror hear the British engines roar,