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  • 1854
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Vain wish! for, lo! in gay attire conceal’d, Yonder she comes, the heart-inflaming fiend! (Will no kind power the helpless stripling shield?) Swift to her destined prey see Passion bend!


O smile accursed, to hide the worst designs! Now with blithe eye she woo’s him to be blest, While round her arm unseen a serpent twines– And, lo! she hurls it hissing at his breast.


And, instant, lo! his dizzy eyeball swims Ghastly, and reddening darts a threatful glare; Pain with strong grasp distorts his writhing limbs, And Fear’s cold hand erects his bristling hair!

Is this, O life, is this thy boasted prime? And does thy spring no happier prospect yield? Why gilds the vernal sun thy gaudy clime, When nipping mildews waste the flowery field?


How Memory pains! Let some gay theme beguile The musing mind, and soothe to soft delight. Ye images of woe, no more recoil;
Be life’s past scenes wrapt in oblivious night.


Now when fierce Winter, arm’d with wasteful power, Heaves the wild deep that thunders from afar, How sweet to sit in this sequester’d bower, To hear, and but to hear, the mingling war!


Ambition here displays no gilded toy That tempts on desperate wing the soul to rise, Nor Pleasure’s flower-embroider’d paths decoy, Nor Anguish lurks in Grandeur’s gay disguise.


Oft has Contentment cheer’d this lone abode With the mild languish of her smiling eye; Here Health has oft in blushing beauty glow’d, While loose-robed Quiet stood enamour’d by.


Even the storm lulls to more profound repose: The storm these humble walls assails in vain: Screen’d is the lily when the whirlwind blows, While the oak’s stately ruin strews the plain.


Blow on, ye winds! Thine, Winter, be the skies; Roll the old ocean, and the vales lay waste: Nature thy momentary rage defies;
To her relief the gentler seasons haste.


Throned in her emerald car, see Spring appear! (As Fancy wills, the landscape starts to view) Her emerald car the youthful Zephyrs bear, Fanning her bosom with their pinions blue.


Around the jocund Hours are fluttering seen; And, lo! her rod the rose-lipp’d power extends. And, lo! the lawns are deck’d in living green, And Beauty’s bright-eyed train from heaven descends.


Haste, happy days, and make all nature glad– But will all nature joy at your return? Say, can ye cheer pale Sickness’ gloomy bed, Or dry the tears that bathe the untimely urn?


Will ye one transient ray of gladness dart ‘Cross the dark cell where hopeless slavery lies? To ease tired Disappointment’s bleeding heart, Will all your stores of softening balm suffice?


When fell Oppression in his harpy fangs From Want’s weak grasp the last sad morsel bears, Can ye allay the heart-wrung parent’s pangs, Whose famish’d child craves help with fruitless tears?


For ah! thy reign, Oppression, is not past, Who from the shivering limbs the vestment rends, Who lays the once rejoicing village waste, Bursting the ties of lovers and of friends.


O ye, to Pleasure who resign the day, As loose in Luxury’s clasping arms you lie, O yet let pity in your breast bear sway, And learn to melt at Misery’s moving cry.


But hop’st thou, Muse, vain-glorious as thou art, With the weak impulse of thy humble strain, Hop’st thou to soften Pride’s obdurate heart, When Errol’s bright example shines in vain?


Then cease the theme. Turn, Fancy, turn thine eye, Thy weeping eye, nor further urge thy flight; Thy haunts, alas! no gleams of joy supply, Or transient gleams, that flash and sink in night.


Yet fain the mind its anguish would forego– Spread then, historic Muse, thy pictured scroll; Bid thy great scenes in all their splendour glow, And swell to thought sublime the exalted soul.


What mingling pomps rush boundless on the gaze! What gallant navies ride the heaving deep! What glittering towns their cloud-wrapt turrets raise! What bulwarks frown horrific o’er the steep!


Bristling with spears, and bright with burnish’d shields, The embattled legions stretch their long array; Discord’s red torch, as fierce she scours the fields, With bloody tincture stains the face of day.


And now the hosts in silence wait the sign. How keen their looks whom Liberty inspires! Quick as the Goddess darts along the line, Each breast impatient burns with noble fires.


Her form how graceful! In her lofty mien The smiles of Love stern Wisdom’s frown control; Her fearless eye, determined though serene, Speaks the great purpose, and the unconquer’d soul.


Mark, where Ambition leads the adverse band, Each feature fierce and haggard, as with pain! With menace loud he cries, while from his hand He vainly strives to wipe the crimson stain.


Lo! at his call, impetuous as the storms, Headlong to deeds of death the hosts are driven: Hatred to madness wrought, each face deforms, Mounts the black whirlwind, and involves the heaven.


Now, Virtue, now thy powerful succour lend, Shield them for Liberty who dare to die– Ah, Liberty! will none thy cause befriend? Are these thy sons, thy generous sons, that fly?


Not Virtue’s self, when Heaven its aid denies, Can brace the loosen’d nerves or warm the heart! Not Virtue’s self can still the burst of sighs, When festers in the soul Misfortune’s dart.


See where, by heaven-bred terror all dismay’d The scattering legions pour along the plain; Ambition’s car, with bloody spoils array’d, Hews its broad way, as Vengeance guides the rein.


But who is he that, by yon lonely brook, With woods o’erhung and precipices rude, [1] Abandon’d lies, and with undaunted look Sees streaming from his breast the purple flood?


Ah, Brutus! ever thine be Virtue’s tear! Lo! his dim eyes to Liberty he turns,
As scarce supported on her broken spear O’er her expiring son the goddess mourns.


Loose to the wind her azure mantle flies, From her dishevell’d locks she rends the plume; No lustre lightens in her weeping eyes, And on her tear-stain’d cheek no roses bloom.


Meanwhile the world, Ambition, owns thy sway, Fame’s loudest trumpet labours in thy praise, For thee the Muse awakes her sweetest lay, And Flattery bids for thee her altars blaze.


Nor in life’s lofty bustling sphere alone, The sphere where monarchs and where heroes toil, Sink Virtue’s sons beneath Misfortune’s frown, While Guilt’s thrill’d bosom leaps at Pleasure’s smile;


Full oft, where Solitude and Silence dwell, Far, far remote, amid the lowly plain, Resounds the voice of Woe from Virtue’s cell: Such is man’s doom, and Pity weeps in vain.


Still grief recoils–How vainly have I strove Thy power, O Melancholy, to withstand! Tired I submit; but yet, O yet remove
Or ease the pressure of thy heavy hand.


Yet for a while let the bewilder’d soul Find in society relief from woe;
O yield a while to Friendship’s soft control; Some respite, Friendship, wilt thou not bestow?


Come, then, Philander! for thy lofty mind Looks down from far on all that charms the great; For thou canst bear, unshaken and resign’d, The brightest smiles, the blackest frowns of Fate:


Come thou, whose love unlimited, sincere, Nor faction cools, nor injury destroys; Who lend’st to misery’s moans a pitying ear, And feel’st with ecstasy another’s joys:


Who know’st man’s frailty: with a favouring eye, And melting heart, behold’st a brother’s fall; Who, unenslaved by custom’s narrow tie, With manly freedom follow’st reason’s call.


And bring thy Delia, softly-smiling fair, Whose spotless soul no sordid thoughts deform: Her accents mild would still each throbbing care, And harmonize the thunder of the storm.


Though blest with wisdom, and with wit refined, She courts not homage, nor desires to shine: In her each sentiment sublime is join’d To female sweetness, and a form divine.


Come, and dispel the deep surrounding shade: Let chasten’d mirth the social hours employ; O catch the swift-wing’d hour before ’tis fled, On swiftest pinion flies the hour of joy.


Even while the careless disencumber’d soul Dissolving sinks to joy’s oblivious dream, Even then to time’s tremendous verge we roll With haste impetuous down life’s surgy stream.


Can Gaiety the vanish’d years restore, Or on the withering limbs fresh beauty shed, Or soothe the sad inevitable hour,
Or cheer the dark, dark mansions of the dead?


Still sounds the solemn knell in Fancy’s ear, That call’d Cleora to the silent tomb; To her how jocund roll’d the sprightly year! How shone the nymph in beauty’s brightest bloom!


Ah! beauty’s bloom avails not in the grave, Youth’s lofty mien, nor age’s awful grace: Moulder unknown the monarch and the slave, Whelm’d in the enormous wreck of human race.


The thought-fix’d portraiture, the breathing bust, The arch with proud memorials array’d, The long-lived pyramid shall sink in dust To dumb oblivion’s ever-desert shade.


Fancy from comfort wanders still astray. Ah, Melancholy! how I feel thy power!
Long have I labour’d to elude thy sway! But ’tis enough, for I resist no more.


The traveller thus, that o’er the midnight waste Through many a lonesome path is doom’d to roam, Wilder’d and weary sits him down at last; For long the night, and distant far his home.

[Footnote 1: Such, according to the description given by Plutarch, was the scene of Brutus’s death.]



Tired with the busy crowds, that all the day Impatient throng where Folly’s altars flame, My languid powers dissolve with quick decay, Till genial Sleep repair the sinking frame.


Hail, kind reviver! that canst lull the cares, And every weary sense compose to rest, Lighten the oppressive load which anguish bears, And warm with hope the cold desponding breast.


Touch’d by thy rod, from Power’s majestic brow Drops the gay plume; he pines a lowly clown; And on the cold earth stretch’d, the son of Woe Quaffs Pleasure’s draught, and wears a fancied crown.


When roused by thee, on boundless pinions borne, Fancy to fairy scenes exults to rove, Now scales the cliff gay-gleaming on the morn, Now sad and silent treads the deepening grove;


Or skims the main, and listens to the storms, Marks the long waves roll far remote away; Or, mingling with ten thousand glittering forms, Floats on the gale, and basks in purest day.


Haply, ere long, pierced by the howling blast, Through dark and pathless deserts I shall roam, Plunge down the unfathom’d deep, or shrink aghast Where bursts the shrieking spectre from the tomb:


Perhaps loose Luxury’s enchanting smile Shall lure my steps to some romantic dale, Where Mirth’s light freaks the unheeded hours beguile, And airs of rapture warble in the gale.


Instructive emblem of this mortal state! Where scenes as various every hour arise In swift succession, which the hand of Fate Presents, then snatches from our wondering eyes.


Be taught, vain man, how fleeting all thy joys, Thy boasted grandeur and thy glittering store: Death comes, and all thy fancied bliss destroys; Quick as a dream it fades, and is no more.


And, sons of Sorrow! though the threatening storm Of angry Fortune overhang awhile,
Let not her frowns your inward peace deform; Soon happier days in happier climes shall smile.


Through Earth’s throng’d visions while we toss forlorn, ‘Tis tumult all, and rage, and restless strife; But these shall vanish like the dreams of morn, When Death awakes us to immortal life.



Still shall unthinking man substantial deem The forms that fleet through life’s deceitful dream? Till at some stroke of Fate the vision flies, And sad realities in prospect rise;
And, from Elysian slumbers rudely torn, The startled soul awakes, to think, and mourn. O ye, whose hours in jocund train advance, Whose spirits to the song of gladness dance, Who flowery plains in endless pomp survey, Glittering in beams of visionary day; 10 O yet, while Fate delays the impending woe, Be roused to thought, anticipate the blow; Lest, like the lightning’s glance, the sudden ill Flash to confound, and penetrate to kill; Lest, thus encompass’d with funereal gloom, Like me, ye bend o’er some untimely tomb, Pour your wild ravings in Night’s frighted ear, And half pronounce Heaven’s sacred doom severe. Wise, beauteous, good! O every grace combined, That charms the eye, or captivates the mind! 20 Fresh, as the floweret opening on the morn, Whose leaves bright drops of liquid pearl adorn! Sweet, as the downy pinion’d gale, that roves To gather fragrance in Arabian groves!
Mild, as the melodies at close of day, That, heard remote, along the vale decay! Yet, why with these compared? What tints so fine, What sweetness, mildness, can be match’d with thine? Why roam abroad, since recollection true Restores the lovely form to fancy’s view? 30 Still let me gaze, and every care beguile, Gaze on that cheek, where all the graces smile; That soul-expressing eye, benignly bright, Where Meekness beams ineffable delight; That brow, where Wisdom sits enthroned serene, Each feature forms, and dignifies the mean: Still let me listen, while her words impart The sweet effusions of the blameless heart; Till all my soul, each tumult charm’d away, Yields, gently led, to Virtue’s easy sway. 40

By thee inspired, O Virtue, age is young, And music warbles from the faltering tongue: Thy ray creative cheers the clouded brow, And decks the faded cheek with rosy glow, Brightens the joyless aspect, and supplies Pure heavenly lustre to the languid eyes: But when youth’s living bloom reflects thy beams, Resistless on the view the glory streams: Love, wonder, joy, alternately alarm,
And beauty dazzles with angelic charm. 50

Ah, whither fled? ye dear illusions, stay! Lo! pale and silent lies the lovely clay. How are the roses on that cheek decay’d, Which late the purple light of youth display’d! Health on her form each sprightly grace bestow’d: With life and thought each speaking feature glow’d. Fair was the blossom, soft the vernal sky; Elate with hope, we deem’d no tempest nigh: When, lo! a whirlwind’s instantaneous gust Left all its beauties withering in the dust. 60

Cold the soft hand that soothed Woe’s weary head! And quench’d the eye, the pitying tear that shed! And mute the voice, whose pleasing accents stole, Infusing balm into the rankled soul!
O Death, why arm with cruelty thy power, And spare the idle weed, yet lop the flower? Why fly thy shafts in lawless error driven? Is Virtue then no more the care of Heaven? But, peace, bold thought! be still, my bursting heart! We, not Eliza, felt the fatal dart. 70 Escaped the dungeon, does the slave complain, Nor bless the friendly hand that broke the chain? Say, pines not Virtue for the lingering morn, On this dark wild condemn’d to roam forlorn; Where Reason’s meteor rays, with sickly glow, O’er the dun gloom a dreadful glimmering throw; Disclosing, dubious, to the affrighted eye O’erwhelming mountains tottering from on high, Black billowy deeps in storms perpetual tost, And weary ways in wildering labyrinths lost 80 O happy stroke, that bursts the bonds of clay, Darts through the rending gloom the blaze of day, And wings the soul with boundless flight to soar, Where dangers threat, and fears alarm no more. Transporting thought! here let me wipe away The tear of Grief, and wake a bolder lay. But ah! the swimming eye o’erflows anew; Nor check the sacred drops to pity due: Lo! where in speechless, hopeless anguish bend O’er her loved dust, the parent, brother, friend! 90 How vain the hope of man! but cease thy strain, Nor sorrow’s dread solemnity profane;
Mix’d with yon drooping mourners, on her bier In silence shed the sympathetic tear.



When in the crimson cloud of even
The lingering light decays,
And Hesper on the front of heaven
His glittering gem displays;
Deep in the silent vale, unseen,
Beside a lulling stream,
A pensive Youth, of placid mien,
Indulged this tender theme:


“Ye cliffs, in hoary grandeur piled
High o’er the glimmering dale;
Ye woods, along whose windings wild Murmurs the solemn gale:
Where Melancholy strays forlorn,
And Woe retires to weep,
What time the wan Moon’s yellow horn Gleams on the western deep!


To you, ye wastes, whose artless charms Ne’er drew ambition’s eye,
‘Scaped a tumultuous world’s alarms, To your retreats I fly.
Deep in your most sequester’d bower Let me at last recline,
Where Solitude, mild, modest power, Leans on her ivied shrine.


How shall I woo thee, matchless fair? Thy heavenly smile how win?
Thy smile that smooths the brow of Care, And stills the storm within.
O wilt thou to thy favourite grove Thine ardent votary bring,
And bless his hours, and bid them move Serene on silent wing?


Oft let Remembrance soothe his mind
With dreams of former days,
When in the lap of Peace reclined
He framed his infant lays;
When Fancy roved at large, nor Care Nor cold distrust alarm’d,
Nor Envy, with malignant glare,
His simple youth had harm’d.


Twas then, O Solitude, to thee
His early vows were paid,
From heart sincere, and warm, and free, Devoted to the shade.
Ah! why did Fate his steps decoy
In stormy paths to roam,
Remote from all congenial joy?–
O take the wanderer home!


Thy shades, thy silence now be mine, Thy charms my only theme;
My haunt the hollow cliff, whose pine Waves o’er the gloomy stream.
Whence the scared owl on pinions gray Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
To more profound repose.


Oh, while to thee the woodland pours Its wildly-warbling song,
And balmy from the bank of flowers The Zephyr breathes along;
Let no rude sound invade from far, No vagrant foot be nigh,
No ray from Grandeur’s gilded car
Flash on the startled eye.


But if some pilgrim through the glade Thy hallow’d bowers explore,
O guard from harm his hoary head,
And listen to his lore;
For he of joys divine shall tell,
That wean from earthly woe,
And triumph o’er the mighty spell
That chains his heart below.


For me no more the path invites
Ambition loves to tread;
No more I climb those toilsome heights By guileful hope misled;
Leaps my fond fluttering heart no more To Mirth’s enlivening strain;
For present pleasure soon is o’er, And all the past is vain.”



At the close of the day, when the hamlet is still, And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove, When nought but the torrent is heard on the hill, And nought but the nightingale’s song in the grove ‘Twas thus, by the cave of the mountain afar, While his harp rung symphonious, a hermit began: No more with himself or with nature at war, He thought as a sage, though he felt as a man.


“Ah! why, all abandon’d to darkness and woe, Why, lone Philomela, that languishing fall? For Spring shall return, and a lover bestow, And sorrow no longer thy bosom enthrall. But if pity inspire thee, renew the sad lay, Mourn, sweetest complainer, man calls thee to mourn: O, soothe him whose pleasures like thine pass away: Full quickly they pass–but they never return.


Now gliding remote on the verge of the sky, The Moon, half extinguish’d, her crescent displays: But lately I mark’d when majestic on high She shone, and the planets were lost in her blaze. Roll on, thou fair orb, and with gladness pursue The path that conducts thee to splendour again. But man’s faded glory what change shall renew? Ah, fool! to exult in a glory so vain!


‘Tis night, and the landscape is lovely no more; I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you: For morn is approaching, your charms to restore, Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew: Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn; Kind Nature the embryo blossom will save. But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn? O when shall it dawn on the night of the grave?


‘Twas thus, by the glare of false Science betray’d, That leads to bewilder, and dazzles to blind; My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to shade, Destruction before me, and sorrow behind. ‘O pity, great Father of light,’ then I cried, ‘Thy creature, who fain would not wander from thee: Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride: From doubt and from darkness thou only canst free.’


And darkness and doubt are now flying away; No longer I roam in conjecture forlorn: So breaks on the traveller, faint, and astray, The bright and the balmy effulgence of morn. See Truth, Love, and Mercy in triumph descending, And nature all glowing in Eden’s first bloom! On the cold cheek of Death smiles and roses are blending, And Beauty immortal awakes from the tomb.”



(WRITTEN IN 1765.)


Lest your Lordship, who are so well acquainted with everything that relates to true honour, should think hardly of me for attacking the memory of the dead, I beg leave to offer a few words in my own vindication.

If I had composed the following verses, with a view to gratify private resentment, to promote the interest of any faction, or to recommend myself to the patronage of any person whatsoever, I should have been altogether inexcusable. To attack the memory of the dead from selfish considerations, or from mere wantonness of malice, is an enormity which none can hold in greater detestation than I. But I composed them from very different motives; as every intelligent reader, who peruses them with attention, and who is willing to believe me upon my own testimony, will undoubtedly perceive. My motives proceeded from a sincere desire to do some small service to my country, and to the cause of truth and virtue. The promoters of faction I ever did, and ever will, consider as the enemies of mankind: to the memory of such I owe no veneration: to the writings of such I owe no indulgence.

Your Lordship knows that (Churchill) owed the greatest share of his renown to the most incompetent of all judges, the mob: actuated by the most unworthy of all principles, a spirit of insolence, and inflamed by the vilest of all human passions, hatred to their fellow-citizens. Those who joined the cry in his favour seemed to me to be swayed rather by fashion than by real sentiment: he therefore might have lived and died unmolested by me, confident as I am, that posterity, when the present unhappy dissensions are forgotten, will do ample justice to his real character. But when I saw the extravagant honours that were paid to his memory, and heard that a monument in Westminster Abbey was intended for one whom even his admirers acknowledge to have been an incendiary and a debauchee; I could not help wishing that my countrymen would reflect a little on what they were doing, before they consecrated, by what posterity would think the public voice, a character, which no friend to virtue or true taste can approve. It was this sentiment, enforced by the earnest request of a friend, which produced the following little poem; in which I have said nothing of (Churchill’s) manners that is not warranted by the best authority: nor of his writings, that is not perfectly agreeable to the opinion of many of the most competent judges in Britain.

ABERDEEN, January 1765.

Bufo, begone! with thee may Faction’s fire, That hatch’d thy salamander-fame, expire. Fame, dirty idol of the brainless crowd, What half-made moon-calf can mistake for good! Since shared by knaves of high and low degree; Cromwell and Cataline: Guido Faux, and thee. By nature uninspired, untaught by art; With not one thought that breathes the feeling heart, With not one offering vow’d to Virtue’s shrine, With not one pure unprostituted line; 10 Alike debauch’d in body, soul, and lays;– For pension’d censure, and for pension’d praise, For ribaldry, for libels, lewdness, lies, For blasphemy of all the good and wise: Coarse violence in coarser doggrel writ, Which bawling blackguards spell’d, and took for wit: For conscience, honour, slighted, spurn’d, o’erthrown:– Lo! Bufo shines the minion of renown.
Is this the land that boasts a Milton’s fire, And magic Spenser’s wildly warbling lyre? 20 The land that owns the omnipotence of song, When Shakspeare whirls the throbbing heart along? The land, where Pope, with energy divine, In one strong blaze bade wit and fancy shine: Whose verse, by truth in virtue’s triumph born, Gave knaves to infamy, and fools to scorn; Yet pure in manners, and in thought refined, Whose life and lays adorn’d and bless’d mankind? Is this the land, where Gray’s unlabour’d art Soothes, melts, alarms, and ravishes the heart: 30 While the lone wanderer’s sweet complainings flow In simple majesty of manly woe:
Or while, sublime, on eagle pinion driven, He soars Pindaric heights, and sails the waste of Heaven? Is this the land, o’er Shenstone’s recent urn, Where all the Loves and gentler Graces mourn? And where, to crown the hoary bard of night, [1] The Muses and the Virtues all unite?
Is this the land where Akenside displays The bold yet temperate flame of ancient days? 40 Like the rapt sage, [2] in genius as in theme, Whose hallow’d strain renown’d Illyssus’ stream: Or him, the indignant bard, [3] whose patriot ire, Sublime in vengeance, smote the dreadful lyre: For truth, for liberty, for virtue warm, Whose mighty song unnerved a tyrant’s arm, Hush’d the rude roar of discord, rage, and lust, And spurn’d licentious demagogues to dust. Is this the queen of realms? the glorious isle, Britannia, blest in Heaven’s indulgent smile? 50 Guardian of truth, and patroness of art, Nurse of the undaunted soul, and generous heart! Where, from a base unthankful world exiled, Freedom exults to roam the careless wild: Where taste to science every charm supplies, And genius soars unbounded to the skies? And shall a Bufo’s most polluted name
Stain her bright tablet of untainted fame? Shall his disgraceful name with theirs be join’d, Who wish’d and wrought the welfare of their kind? 60 His name, accurst, who, leagued with—-[4] and Hell, Labour’d to rouse, with rude and murderous yell, Discord the fiend, to toss rebellion’s brand, To whelm in rage and woe a guiltless land: To frustrate wisdom’s, virtue’s noblest plan, And triumph in the miseries of man.
Drivelling and dull, when crawls the reptile Muse, Swoln from the sty, and rankling from the stews, With envy, spleen, and pestilence replete, And gorged with dust she lick’d from Treason’s feet: 70 Who once, like Satan, raised to Heaven her sight, But turn’d abhorrent from the hated light:– O’er such a Muse shall wreaths of glory bloom? No–shame and execration be her doom.
Hard-fated Bufo, could not dulness save Thy soul from sin, from infamy thy grave? Blackmore and Quarles, those blockheads of renown, Lavish’d their ink, but never harm’d the town. Though this, thy brother in discordant song, Harass’d the ear, and cramp’d the labouring tongue: 80 And that, like thee, taught staggering prose to stand, And limp on stilts of rhyme around the land. Harmless they dozed a scribbling life away, And yawning nations own’d the innoxious lay, But from thy graceless, rude, and beastly brain, What fury breathed the incendiary strain? Did hate to vice exasperate thy style? No–Bufo match’d the vilest of the vile. Yet blazon’d was his verse with Virtue’s name– Thus prudes look down to hide their want of shame: 90 Thus hypocrites to truth, and fools to sense, And fops to taste, have sometimes made pretence: Thus thieves and gamesters swear by honour’s laws: Thus pension-hunters bawl “their country’s cause:” Thus furious Teague for moderation raved, And own’d his soul to liberty enslaved. Nor yet, though thousand cits admire thy rage, Though less of fool than felon marks thy page: Nor yet, though here and there one lonely spark Of wit half brightens through the involving dark, 100 To show the gloom more hideous for the foil, But not repay the drudging reader’s toil; (For who for one poor pearl of clouded ray Through Alpine dunghills delves his desperate way? Did genius to thy verse such bane impart? No. ‘Twas the demon of thy venom’d heart, (Thy heart with rancour’s quintessence endued). And the blind zeal of a misjudging crowd. Thus from rank soil a poison’d mushroom sprung, Nursling obscene of mildew and of dung: 110 By Heaven design’d on its own native spot Harmless to enlarge its bloated bulk, and rot. But gluttony the abortive nuisance saw; It roused his ravenous, undiscerning maw: Gulp’d down the tasteless throat, the mess abhorr’d Shot fiery influence round the maddening board. O had thy verse been impotent as dull, Nor spoke the rancorous heart, but lumpish scull; Had mobs distinguish’d, they who howl’d thy fame, The icicle from the pure diamond’s flame, 120 From fancy’s soul thy gross imbruted sense, From dauntless truth thy shameless insolence, From elegance confusion’s monstrous mass, And from the lion’s spoils the skulking ass, From rapture’s strain the drawling doggrel line, From warbling seraphim the grunting swine; With gluttons, dunces, rakes, thy name had slept, Nor o’er her sullied fame Britannia wept: Nor had the Muse, with honest zeal possess’d, To avenge her country, by thy name disgraced, 130 Raised this bold strain for virtue, truth, mankind, And thy fell shade to infamy resign’d.
When frailty leads astray the soul sincere, Let mercy shed the soft and manly tear. When to the grave descends the sensual sot, Unnamed, unnoticed, let his carrion rot. When paltry rogues, by stealth, deceit, or force, Hazard their necks, ambitious of your purse: For such the hangman wreaths his trusty gin, And let the gallows expiate their sin. 140 But when a ruffian, whose portentous crimes, Like plagues and earthquakes terrify the times, Triumphs through life, from legal judgment free, For Hell may hatch what law could ne’er foresee: Sacred from vengeance shall his memory rest?– Judas, though dead, though damn’d, we still detest.

[Footnote 1: ‘Hoary bard of night:’ Dr Young.] [Footnote 2: ‘Rapt sage:’ Pluto.]
[Footnote 3: ‘Indignant bard:’ Alceus; see Akenside’s ‘Ode on Lyric Poetry.’]

[Footnote 4: Wilkes.]




The Pigmy people, and the feather’d train, Mingling in mortal combat on the plain, I sing. Ye Muses, favour my designs,
Lead on my squadrons and arrange the lines; The flashing swords and fluttering wings display, And long bills nibbling in the bloody fray; Cranes darting with disdain on tiny foes, Conflicting birds and men, and war’s unnumber’d woes! The wars and woes of heroes six feet long Have oft resounded in Pierian song. 10 Who has not heard of Colchos’ golden fleece, And Argo mann’d with all the flower of Greece? Of Thebes’ fell brethren; Theseus stern of face; And Peleus’ son, unrivall’d in the race; Eneas, founder of the Roman line,
And William, glorious on the banks of Boyne? Who has not learn’d to weep at Pompey’s woes, And over Blackmore’s epic page to doze? ‘Tis I, who dare attempt unusual strains, Of hosts unsung, and unfrequented plains; 20 The small shrill trump, and chiefs of little size, And armies rushing down the darken’d skies. Where India reddens to the early dawn, Winds a deep vale from vulgar eye withdrawn: Bosom’d in groves the lowly region lies, And rocky mountains round the border rise. Here, till the doom of fate its fall decreed, The empire flourish’d of the pigmy breed; Here Industry perform’d, and Genius plann’d, And busy multitudes o’erspread the land. 30 But now to these lone bounds if pilgrim stray, Tempting through craggy cliffs the desperate way, He finds the puny mansion fallen to earth, Its godlings mouldering on the abandon’d hearth; And starts where small white bones are spread around, “Or little [1] footsteps lightly print the ground;” While the proud crane her nest securely builds, Chattering amid the desolated fields.
But different fates befell her hostile rage, While reign’d invincible through many an age 40 The dreaded pigmy: roused by war’s alarms, Forth rush’d the madding manikin to arms. Fierce to the field of death the hero flies; The faint crane fluttering flaps the ground and dies; And by the victor borne (o’erwhelming load!) With bloody bill loose-dangling marks the road. And oft the wily dwarf in ambush lay,
And often made the callow young his prey; With slaughter’d victims heap’d his board, and smiled, To avenge the parent’s trespass on the child. 50 Oft, where his feather’d foe had rear’d her nest, And laid her eggs and household gods to rest, Burning for blood in terrible array,
The eighteen-inch militia burst their way: All went to wreck; the infant foeman fell, Whence scarce his chirping bill had broke the shell. Loud uproar hence and rage of arms arose, And the fell rancour of encountering foes; Hence dwarfs and cranes one general havoc whelms, And Death’s grim visage scares the pigmy realms. 60 Not half so furious blazed the warlike fire Of mice, high theme of the Maeonian lyre; When bold to battle march’d the accoutred frogs, And the deep tumult thunder’d through the bogs. Pierced by the javelin bulrush on the shore Here agonizing roll’d the mouse in gore; And there the frog (a scene full sad to see!) Shorn of one leg, slow sprawl’d along on three; He vaults no more with vigorous hops on high, But mourns in hoarsest croaks his destiny. 70 And now the day of woe drew on apace,
A day of woe to all the pigmy race, When dwarfs were doom’d (but penitence was vain) To rue each broken egg, and chicken slain. For, roused to vengeance by repeated wrong, From distant climes the long-bill’d legions throng: From Strymon’s lake, Cayster’s plashy meads, And fens of Scythia, green with rustling reeds; From where the Danube winds through many a land, And Mareotis leaves the Egyptian strand; 80 To rendezvous they waft on eager wing,
And wait, assembled, the returning spring. Meanwhile they trim their plumes for length of flight, Whet their keen beaks and twisting claws for fight: Each crane the pigmy power in thought o’erturns, And every bosom for the battle burns.
When genial gales the frozen air unbind, The screaming legions wheel, and mount the wind; Far in the sky they form their long array, And land and ocean stretch’d immense survey 90 Deep, deep beneath; and, triumphing in pride With clouds and winds commix’d, innumerous ride. ‘Tis wild obstreperous clangour all, and heaven Whirls, in tempestuous undulation driven. Nor less the alarm that shook the world below, Where march’d in pomp of war the embattled foe: Where manikins with haughty step advance, And grasp the shield, and couch the quivering lance: To right and left the lengthening lines they form, And rank’d in deep array await the storm. 100 High in the midst the chieftain-dwarf was seen, Of giant stature and imperial mien:
Full twenty inches tall, he strode along, And view’d with lofty eye the wondering throng; And while with many a scar his visage frown’d, Bared his broad bosom, rough with many a wound Of beaks and claws, disclosing to their sight The glorious meed of high heroic might. For with insatiate vengeance he pursued, And never-ending hate, the feathery brood. 110 Unhappy they, confiding in the length
Of horny beak, or talon’s crooked strength, Who durst abide his rage; the blade descends, And from the panting trunk the pinion rends: Laid low in dust the pinion waves no more, The trunk disfigured stiffens in its gore. What hosts of heroes fell beneath his force! What heaps of chicken carnage mark’d his course! How oft, O Strymon, thy lone banks along, Did wailing Echo waft the funeral song! 120 And now from far the mingling clamours rise, Loud and more loud rebounding through the skies. From skirt to skirt of Heaven, with stormy sway, A cloud rolls on, and darkens all the day. Near and more near descends the dreadful shade, And now in battailous array display’d,
On sounding wings, and screaming in their ire, The cranes rush onward, and the fight require. The pigmy warriors eye with fearless glare The host thick swarming o’er the burden’d air; 130 Thick swarming now, but to their native land Doom’d to return a scanty straggling band.– When sudden, darting down the depth of heaven, Fierce on the expecting foe the cranes are driven, The kindling frenzy every bosom warms,
The region echoes to the crash of arms; Loose feathers from the encountering armies fly, And in careering whirlwinds mount the sky. To breathe from toil upsprings the panting crane, Then with fresh vigour downwards darts again. 140 Success in equal balance hovering hangs. Here, on the sharp spear, mad with mortal pangs, The bird transfix’d in bloody vortex whirls, Yet fierce in death the threatening talon curls; There, while the life-blood bubbles from his wound, With little feet the pigmy beats the ground: Deep from his breast the short, short sob he draws, And, dying, curses the keen-pointed claws. Trembles the thundering field, thick cover’d o’er With falchions, mangled wings, and streaming gore; 150 And pigmy arms, and beaks of ample size, And here a claw, and there a finger, lies. Encompass’d round with heaps of slaughter’d foes, All grim in blood the pigmy champion glows; And on the assailing host impetuous springs, Careless of nibbling bills and flapping wings; And ‘midst the tumult wheresoe’er he turns, The battle with redoubled fury burns;
From every side the avenging cranes amain Throng, to o’erwhelm this terror of the plain. 160 When suddenly (for such the will of Jove) A fowl enormous, sousing from above,
The gallant chieftain clutch’d, and, soaring high, (Sad chance of battle!) bore him up the sky. The cranes pursue, and, clustering in a ring, Chatter triumphant round the captive king. But, ah! what pangs each pigmy bosom wrung, When, now to cranes a prey, on talons hung, High in the clouds they saw their helpless lord, His wriggling form still lessening as he soar’d. 170 Lo! yet again with unabated rage,
In mortal strife the mingling hosts engage. The crane with darted bill assaults the foe, Hovering; then wheels aloft to ‘scape the blow: The dwarf in anguish aims the vengeful wound; But whirls in empty air the falchion round. Such was the scene, when ‘midst the loud alarms Sublime the eternal Thunderer rose in arms, When Briareus, by mad ambition driven,
Heaved Pelion huge, and hurl’d it high at heaven, 180 Jove roll’d redoubling thunders from on high, Mountains and bolts encounter’d in the sky; Till one stupendous ruin whelm’d the crew, Their vast limbs weltering wide in brimstone blue. But now at length the pigmy legions yield, And, wing’d with terror, fly the fatal field. They raise a weak and melancholy wail,
All in distraction scattering o’er the vale. Prone on their routed rear the cranes descend; Their bills bite furious, and their talons rend; 190 With unrelenting ire they urge the chase, Sworn to exterminate the hated race.
‘Twas thus the pigmy name, once great in war, For spoils of conquer’d cranes renown’d afar, Perish’d. For, by the dread decree of Heaven, Short is the date to earthly grandeur given, And vain are all attempts to roam beyond Where fate has fix’d the everlasting bound. Fallen are the trophies of Assyrian power, And Persia’s proud dominion is no more: 200 Yea, though to both superior far in fame, Thine empire, Latium, is an empty name! And now, with lofty chiefs of ancient time, The pigmy heroes roam the Elysian clime. Or, if belief to matron-tales be due,
Full oft, in the belated shepherd’s view, Their frisking forms, in gentle green array’d, Gambol secure amid the moonlight glade: Secure, for no alarming cranes molest,
And all their woes in long oblivion rest: 210 Down the deep vale and narrow winding way They foot it featly, ranged in ringlets gay: ‘Tis joy and frolic all, where’er they rove, And Fairy-people is the name they love.

[Footnote 1: ‘Or little,’ &c.: from Gray’s Elegy.]



Yes, yes, I grant the sons of Earth
Are doom’d to trouble from their birth. We all of sorrow have our share;
But say, is yours without compare? Look round the world; perhaps you’ll find Each individual of our kind
Press’d with an equal load of ill, Equal at least: look further still,
And own your lamentable case
Is little short of happiness. 10 In yonder hut that stands alone
Attend to Famine’s feeble moan;
Or view the couch where Sickness lies, Mark his pale cheek, and languid eyes;
His frame by strong convulsion torn, His struggling sighs, and looks forlorn. Or see, transfixt with keener pangs,
Where o’er his hoard the miser hangs; Whistles the wind; he starts, he stares, Nor Slumber’s balmy blessing shares; 20 Despair, Remorse, and Terror roll
Their tempests on his harass’d soul. But here perhaps it may avail
To enforce our reasoning with a tale. Mild was the morn, the sky serene,
The jolly hunting band convene,
The beagle’s breast with ardour burns, The bounding steed the champaign spurns, And Fancy oft the game descries
Through the hound’s nose and huntsman’s eyes, 30 Just then a council of the hares
Had met on national affairs.
The chiefs were set; while o’er their head The furze its frizzled covering spread. Long lists of grievances were heard,
And general discontent appear’d.
“Our harmless race shall every savage Both quadruped and biped ravage?
Shall horses, hounds, and hunters still Unite their wits to work us ill? 40 The youth, his parent’s sole delight,
Whose tooth the dewy lawns invite, Whose pulse in every vein beats strong, Whose limbs leap light the vales along, May yet ere noontide meet his death,
And lie dismember’d on the heath.
For youth, alas! nor cautious age, Nor strength, nor speed eludes their rage. In every field we meet the foe,
Each gale comes fraught with sounds of woe; 50 The morning but awakes our fears,
The evening sees us bathed in tears. But must we ever idly grieve,
Nor strive our fortunes to relieve? Small is each individual’s force;
To stratagem be our recourse;
And then, from all our tribes combined, The murderer to his cost may find
No foes are weak whom Justice arms, Whom Concord leads, and Hatred warms. 60 Be roused; or liberty acquire,
Or in the great attempt expire.”
He said no more, for in his breast Conflicting thoughts the voice suppress’d: The fire of vengeance seem’d to stream
From his swoln eyeball’s yellow gleam. And now the tumults of the war,
Mingling confusedly from afar,
Swell in the wind. Now louder cries Distinct of hounds and men arise. 70 Forth from the brake, with beating heart, The assembled hares tumultuous start,
And, every straining nerve on wing, Away precipitately spring.
The hunting band, a signal given,
Thick thundering o’er the plain are driven; O’er cliff abrupt, and shrubby mound,
And river broad, impetuous bound;
Now plunge amid the forest shades, Glance through the openings of the glades; 80 Now o’er the level valley sweep,
Now with short step strain up the steep; While backward from the hunter’s eyes
The landscape like a torrent flies. At last an ancient wood they gain’d,
By pruner’s axe yet unprofaned.
High o’er the rest, by nature rear’d, The oak’s majestic boughs appear’d;
Beneath, a copse of various hue
In barbarous luxuriance grew. 90 No knife had curb’d the rambling sprays, No hand had wove the implicit maze.
The flowering thorn, self-taught to wind, The hazel’s stubborn stem entwined,
And bramble twigs were wreathed around, And rough furze crept along the ground. Here sheltering from the sons of murther, The hares their tired limbs drag no further. But, lo! the western wind ere long
Was loud, and roar’d the woods among; 100 From rustling leaves and crashing boughs The sound of woe and war arose.
The hares distracted scour the grove, As terror and amazement drove;
But danger, wheresoe’er they fled, Still seem’d impending o’er their head. Now crowded in a grotto’s gloom,
All hope extinct, they wait their doom. Dire was the silence, till, at length,
Even from despair deriving strength, 110 With bloody eye and furious look,
A daring youth arose and spoke:
“O wretched race, the scorn of Fate, Whom ills of every sort await!
O cursed with keenest sense to feel The sharpest sting of every ill!
Say ye, who, fraught with mighty scheme, Of liberty and vengeance dream,
What now remains? To what recess
Shall we our weary steps address, 120 Since Fate is evermore pursuing
All ways, and means to work our ruin? Are we alone, of all beneath,
Condemn’d to misery worse than death? Must we, with fruitless labour, strive
In misery worse than death to live? No. Be the smaller ill our choice;
So dictates Nature’s powerful voice. Death’s pang will in a moment cease;
And then, all hail, eternal peace!” 130 Thus while he spoke, his words impart
The dire resolve to every heart.
A distant lake in prospect lay,
That, glittering in the solar ray, Gleam’d through the dusky trees, and shot A trembling light along the grot.
Thither with one consent they bend, Their sorrows with their lives to end;
While each, in thought, already hears The water hissing in his ears. 140 Fast by the margin of the lake,
Conceal’d within a thorny brake,
A linnet sat, whose careless lay
Amused the solitary day.
Careless he sung, for on his breast Sorrow no lasting trace impress’d;
When suddenly he heard a sound
Of swift feet traversing the ground. Quick to the neighbouring tree he flies, Thence trembling casts around his eyes; 150 No foe appear’d, his fears were vain;
Pleased he renews the sprightly strain. The hares whose noise had caused his fright, Saw with surprise the linnet’s flight.
“Is there on earth a wretch,” they said, “Whom our approach can strike with dread?” An instantaneous change of thought
To tumult every bosom wrought.
So fares the system-building sage, Who, plodding on from youth to age, 160 At last on some foundation dream
Has rear’d aloft his goodly scheme, And proved his predecessors fools,
And bound all nature by his rules; So fares he in that dreadful hour,
When injured Truth exerts her power, Some new phenomenon to raise,
Which, bursting on his frighted gaze, From its proud summit to the ground
Proves the whole edifice unsound. 170 “Children,” thus spoke a hare sedate,
Who oft had known the extremes of fate, “In slight events the docile mind
May hints of good instruction find, That our condition is the worst,
And we with such misfortunes curst, As all comparison defy,
Was late the universal cry;
When, lo! an accident so slight
As yonder little linnet’s flight, 180 Has made your stubborn hearts confess
(So your amazement bids me guess)
That all our load of woes and fears Is but a part of what he bears.
Where can he rest secure from harms, Whom even a helpless hare alarms?
Yet he repines not at his lot;
When past, the danger is forgot:
On yonder bough he trims his wings, And with unusual rapture sings: 190 While we, less wretched, sink beneath
Our lighter ills, and rush to death. No more of this unmeaning rage,
But hear, my friends, the words of age: “When, by the winds of autumn driven,
The scatter’d clouds fly ‘cross the heaven, Oft have we, from some mountain’s head, Beheld the alternate light and shade
Sweep the long vale. Here, hovering, lowers The shadowy cloud; there downward pours, 200 Streaming direct, a flood of day,
Which from the view flies swift away; It flies, while other shades advance,
And other streaks of sunshine glance. Thus chequer’d is the life below
With gleams of joy and clouds of woe. Then hope not, while we journey on,
Still to be basking in the sun;
Nor fear, though now in shades ye mourn, That sunshine will no more return. 210 If, by your terrors overcome,
Ye fly before the approaching gloom, The rapid clouds your flight pursue,
And darkness still o’ercasts your view. Who longs to reach the radiant plain
Must onward urge his course amain: For doubly swift the shadow flies,
When ‘gainst the gale the pilgrim plies. At least be firm, and undismay’d
Maintain your ground! the fleeting shade 220 Ere long spontaneous glides away,
And gives you back the enlivening ray. Lo, while I speak, our danger past!
No more the shrill horn’s angry blast Howls in our ear: the savage roar
Of war and murder is no more.
Then snatch the moment fate allows, Nor think of past or future woes.”
He spoke; and hope revives; the lake That instant one and all forsake, 230 In sweet amusement to employ
The present sprightly hour of joy. Now from the western mountain’s brow,
Compass’d with clouds of various glow, The sun a broader orb displays,
And shoots aslope his ruddy rays.
The lawn assumes a fresher green,
And dew-drops spangle all the scene. The balmy zephyr breathes along,
The shepherd sings his tender song, 240 With all their lays the groves resound, And falling waters murmur round:
Discord and care were put to flight, And all was peace and calm delight.




Laws, as we read in ancient sages,
Have been like cobwebs in all ages: Cobwebs for little flies are spread,
And laws for little folks are made; But if an insect of renown,
Hornet or beetle, wasp or drone,
Be caught in quest of sport or plunder, The flimsy fetter flies in sunder.
Your simile perhaps may please one With whom wit holds the place of reason: 10 But can you prove that this in fact is
Agreeable to life and practice?
Then hear, what in his simple way Old AEsop told me t’ other day.
In days of yore, but (which is very odd) Our author mentions not the period,
We mortal men, less given to speeches, Allow’d the beasts sometimes to teach us. But now we all are prattlers grown,
And suffer no voice but our own; 20 With us no beast has leave to speak,
Although his honest heart should break. ‘Tis true, your asses and your apes,
And other brutes in human shapes,
And that thing made of sound and show, Which mortals have misnamed a beau,
(But in the language of the sky
Is call’d a two-legg’d butterfly), Will make your very heartstrings ache
With loud and everlasting clack, 30 And beat your auditory drum,
Till you grow deaf, or they grow dumb. But to our story we return:
‘Twas early on a Summer morn,
A Wolf forsook the mountain den,
And issued hungry on the plain.
Full many a stream and lawn he past And reach’d a winding vale at last;
Where from a hollow rock he spied
The shepherds drest in flowery pride. 40 Garlands were strew’d, and all was gay, To celebrate a holiday.
The merry tabor’s gamesome sound
Provoked the sprightly dance around. Hard by a rural board was rear’d,
On which in fair array appear’d
The peach, the apple, and the raisin, And all the fruitage of the season.
But, more distinguish’d than the rest, Was seen a wether ready drest, 50 That smoking, recent from the flame,
Diffused a stomach-rousing steam.
Our Wolf could not endure the sight, Courageous grew his appetite:
His entrails groan’d with tenfold pain, He lick’d his lips, and lick’d again:
At last, with lightning in his eyes, He bounces forth, and fiercely cries:
“Shepherds, I am not given to scolding, But now my spleen I cannot hold in. 60 By Jove, such scandalous oppression
Would put an elephant in passion.
You, who your flocks (as you pretend) By wholesome laws from harm defend,
Which make it death for any beast, How much soe’er by hunger press’d,
To seize a sheep by force or stealth, For sheep have right to life and health; Can you commit, uncheck’d by shame,
What in a beast so much you blame? 70 What is a law, if those who make it
Become the forwardest to break it? The case is plain: you would reserve
All to yourselves, while others starve. Such laws from base self-interest spring, Not from the reason of the thing–“
He was proceeding, when a swain
Burst out,–“And dares a wolf arraign His betters, and condemn their measures, And contradict their wills and pleasures? 80 We have establish’d laws, ’tis true,
But laws are made for such as you. Know, sirrah, in its very nature
A law can’t reach the legislature. For laws, without a sanction join’d,
As all men know, can never bind;
But sanctions reach not us the makers, For who dares punish us, though breakers? ‘Tis therefore plain, beyond denial,
That laws were ne’er design’d to tie all; 90 But those, whom sanctions reach alone:
We stand accountable to none.
Besides, ’tis evident, that, seeing Laws from the great derive their being, They as in duty bound should love
The great, in whom they live and move, And humbly yield to their desires:
‘Tis just what gratitude requires. What suckling, dandled on the lap,
Would tear away its mother’s pap? 100 But hold–Why deign I to dispute
With such a scoundrel of a brute?
Logic is lost upon a knave,
Let action prove the law our slave.” An angry nod his will declared
To his gruff yeoman of the guard;
The full-fed mongrels, train’d to ravage, Fly to devour the shaggy savage.
The beast had now no time to lose In chopping logic with his foes; 110 “This argument,” quoth he, “has force,
And swiftness is my sole resource.” He said, and left the swains their prey, And to the mountains scour’d away.




Blow, blow, thou vernal gale!
Thy balm will not avail
To ease my aching breast;
Though thou the billows smooth,
Thy murmurs cannot soothe
My weary soul to rest.


Flow, flow, thou tuneful stream!
Infuse the easy dream
Into the peaceful soul;
But thou canst not compose
The tumult of my woes,
Though soft thy waters roll.


Blush, blush, ye fairest flowers!
Beauties surpassing yours
My Rosalind adorn;
Nor is the Winter’s blast,
That lays your glories waste,
So killing as her scorn.


Breathe, breathe, ye tender lays,
That linger down the maze
Of yonder winding grove;
O let your soft control
Bend her relenting soul
To pity and to love.


Fade, fade, ye flowerets fair!
Gales, fan no more the air!
Ye streams, forget to glide;
Be hush’d each vernal strain;
Since nought can soothe my pain,
Nor mitigate her pride.




Why, lady, wilt them bind thy lovely brow With the dread semblance of that warlike helm; That nodding plume, and wreath of various glow, That graced the chiefs of Scotia’s ancient realm?


Thou know’st that Virtue is of power the source, And all her magic to thy eyes is given; We own their empire, while we feel their force, Beaming with the benignity of heaven.


The plumy helmet and the martial mien Might dignify Minerva’s awful charms; But more resistless far the Idalian queen– Smiles, graces, gentleness, her only arms.



Farewell, my best beloved! whose heavenly mind Genius with virtue, strength with softness join’d; Devotion, undebased by pride or art,
With meek simplicity, and joy of heart: Though sprightly, gentle; though polite, sincere; And only of thyself a judge severe:
Unblamed, unequall’d in each sphere of life, The tenderest daughter, sister, parent, wife. In thee, their patroness the afflicted lost; Thy friends their pattern, ornament, and boast; And I–but ah, can words my loss declare, Or paint the extremes of transport and despair! O thou, beyond what verse or speech can tell– My guide, my friend, my best beloved, farewell!



O thou! whose steps in sacred reverence tread These lone dominions of the silent dead; On this sad stone a pious look bestow,
Nor uninstructed read this tale of woe; And while the sigh of sorrow heaves thy breast, Let each rebellious murmur be suppress’d; Heaven’s hidden ways to trace, for us how vain! Heaven’s wise decrees, how impious to arraign! Pure from the stains of a polluted age, In early bloom of life they left the stage: Not doom’d in lingering woe to waste their breath, One moment snatch’d them from the power of Death: They lived united, and united died;
Happy the friends whom Death cannot divide!



Escaped the gloom of mortal life, a soul Here leaves its mouldering tenement of clay, Safe where no cares their whelming billows roll, No doubts bewilder, and no hopes betray.


Like thee, I once have stemm’d the sea of life; Like thee, have languish’d after empty joys; Like thee, have labour’d in the stormy strife; Been grieved for trifles, and amused with toys.


Yet, for a while, ‘gainst Passion’s threatful blast Let steady Reason urge the struggling oar; Shot through the dreary gloom, the morn at last Gives to thy longing eye the blissful shore.


Forget my frailties, thou art also frail; Forgive my lapses, for thyself mayst fall; Nor read, unmoved, my artless tender tale, I was a friend, O man! to thee, to all.




The paradox of Dr Johnson, in reference to sacred poetry, has long ago fallen into disrepute. It seems singular indeed, how it ever obtained credence, even although supported by one of the most powerful pens that ever wrote in Britain, when we remember that, previous to that author’s day, the best poetry in the world ‘had’ been sacred. The Holy Scriptures then existed, with that poetry which bursts out at their every pore, besides being collected here and there into masses of rich song, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Dante, too, had written his great work, which, as if to mark it out for ever from things unclean and common, he had called the “‘Divina’ Commedia,” and which was worthy of the name. Tasso’s “Gerusalemme Liberata” had a religious moral, as well as a title suggestive of religious ideas. Spenser’s “Faery Queen” was sacred, if not in all the parts, yet at least in the pervading spirit of its poetry. Cowley’s “Davideis,” Herbert’s “Temple,” Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained,” and Young’s “Night Thoughts,” existed then, were all admitted to be more or less masterpieces, and were all sacred in their subjects and aims. Blair’s “Grave” too, had, ere Johnson’s day, appeared, and furnished a good example of a solemn and religious theme, treated with genuine poetic power.

We need not say what a flood of sacred song has arisen since, and drowned the dictum of the lexicographer in the waves. Nay, an opinion is gaining ground, that all lofty poetry tends toward the sacred, and lies under the shadow of the divine. Poetry is like fire, which, even when employed in culinary or destructive purposes, points its column upwards, and seems to transmit the flower and essence of its conquests to heaven. All poetry that does not thus ascend is either morbid in spirit, or secondary in merit.

We come now to the life of one of our best religious poets,–ROBERT BLAIR–whose short poem “The Grave,” is so admirable as to excite keen regret that it is almost the only specimen extant of his gifted and original mind.

The facts of his life are more than usually scanty, and our biography, therefore, must be brief and meagre. Robert Blair was born in Edinburgh, in 1699. It is curious, by the way, how few poets the Modern Athens has produced. It has bred lawyers, statists, critics, savans, in plenty, but reared but few men of transcendant genius, and, so far as we remember, only five good poets,–Scott, Ferguson, Ramsay, Falconer, and Blair,–whom the manufacturing town of Paisley nearly matches with its Tannahill, Motherwell, Alexander and John Wilson. Blair was the eldest son of the Rev. David Blair, who was a minister of the Old Church of Edinburgh, and one of the chaplains to the King. His mother was Euphemia Nisbet, daughter of Alexander Nisbet, Esq., of Carfin. His grandfather, Robert Blair, of Irvine,–descended from the ancient family of Blair ‘of that ilk (‘i.e.’, of Blair), in Ayrshire,–distinguished himself, in the troublous times of the Solemn League and Covenant, as a powerful preacher, an able negociator, and a brave, determined man. The celebrated Hugh Blair,–whose writings, once so popular, seem now nearly forgotten,–was our poet’s cousin, although younger by nineteen years. Robert lost his father while yet a boy, but enjoyed the anxious care and admirable training of an excellent mother. He studied first at the University of Edinburgh, and afterwards in Holland. Of the particulars of either part of his curriculum nothing is known. On his return from abroad, he seems to have received license to preach, and to have hung about Edinburgh for a few years, an unemployed probationer. This was of less consequence, as he had some hereditary property. It gave him, too, abundant leisure for study, and he employed it well–cultivating natural history and the cognate sciences–publishing a few fugitive verses, which made very little impression on the public–and drawing out the first rude draught of the poem which was destined to make him immortal,–“The Grave.” In 1731, when he was in his thirty-second year, he was appointed to the living of Athelstaneford, a parish in East Lothian, where he continued to reside all the rest of his life. Dissenter though the author of this biography be, he is free to confess, that there is very much that is enviable in the position of a parish minister, particularly in the country. Possessed of an easy competence, and a manageable field of labour, surrounded by the simplicities of rural manners, and the picturesque features of rural scenery,–lord of his sphere of duty, and master of his time,–his life can be, and often is, one of the most useful and happy, honourable in its toils, and graceful in its relaxations, to be found on earth. Where could we expect elegant studies to be prosecuted with more success, or whence could we expect more works of sanctified learning and genius to issue, than in and from the “manses” of Scotland, always so beautifully situated, now on the brink of the mountain stream, singing its wild way through the woods,–now in the centre of rich orchards and fertile fields,–now on sunny braes, overlooking the whole parish, prostrate in its loveliness at their feet,–and now surrounded and shadowed by broad old oaks and tall black pine-trees? And so, accordingly, it has been, although not perhaps to the extent we might have wished or expected. Philosophy of the deepest order has been studied–inquiries the most profound and extensive into natural science and history have been prosecuted; and painting, music, and poetry, have found enthusiastic and gifted votaries, who, at the same time, have not neglected their higher vocation,–in the quiet manses of our country; and we rejoice to know that this state of things continues, and is not confined to the Established Church, but may be asserted with equal or greater force to exist in others.

At Athelstaneford, Blair seems to have realised this ideal of a country minister. He was attentive to his pastoral duties, and the correspondent of Doddridge and the author of “The Grave,” could not fail to be an evangelical, a practical, and a powerful preacher. He at the same time diligently prosecuted his favourite studies, which were botany, natural history, and poetry. Possessing a considerable fortune, he lived on a footing of equality and friendship with the gentry of the neighbourhood, and others of similar rank in distant parts of Scotland. Sir Francis Kinloch of Gilmerton and John Gallander of Craigforth are mentioned as two of his intimates. We are tempted to figure the author of “The Grave” as a morose and melancholy ‘solitaire’–musing amid midnight churchyards–stumbling over bones–and returning home to light his lamp, inserted in a gaping skull, and to write out his gloomy cogitations. This is very far from being his real character. He was more frequently seen wandering amidst the flowery nooks of summer, with a microscope in his hand; or, on his way home from his pastoral visitations, stopping to analyse the fungi and the mosses which met him on his path; or musing above the long liquid lapse of some wayside stream, down which were floating the red leaves of autumn; or turning a telescope of his own construction aloft to the gleaming host of heaven. In his mode of