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Stern power of fate, whose ebon sceptre rules
How weak is man to reason's judging eye!
But why repine? Does life deserve my sigh;
For me, whene'er all-conquering death shall spread
I care not; though this face be seen no more,
[By James Hammond, born 1710, died 1742. This seems to be almost the only tolerable specimen of the once admired and highly-famed love elegies of Hammond. This poet, nephew to Sir Robert Walpole, and a man of fortune, bestowed his affections on a Miss Dashwood, whose agreeable qualities and inexorable rejection of his suit inspired the poetry by which his
name has been handed down to us. His verses are imitations
of Tibullus-smooth, tame, and frigid. Miss Dashwood died unmarried-bedchamber-woman to Queen Charlotte-in 1779. In the following elegy Hammond imagines himself married to his mistress (Delia), and that, content with each other, they are retired to the country.]
Let others boast their heaps of shining gold,
While calmly poor, I trifle life away,
If late at dusk, while carelessly I roam,
What joy to hear the tempest howl in vain,
Or, if the sun in flaming Leo ride,
What joy to wind along the cool retreat,
To mingle sweet discourse with kisses sweet,
Thus pleased at heart, and not with fancy's dream,
Ah, foolish man, who thus of her possessed,
Hers be the care of all my little train,
Ah, what avails to press the stately bed,
Delia alone can please, and never tire,
Oh, quit the room, oh, quit the deathful bed,
Let them, extended on the decent bier,
[The following and subsequent poems are by John Byrom, a native of Manchester. He was well educated, but declined to take advantage of an offered fellowship in the university of Cambridge, from a dislike to the clerical profession, and endeavoured to make a livelihood by teaching short-hand writing in London. Ultimately, he succeeded to some property, and came to the close of his days in affluence (1763), aged 72. The Phoebe of his poetry was a daughter of the celebrated Bentley.] I am content, I do not care,
Wag as it will the world for me;
With more of thanks and less of thought,
Physic and food in sour and sweet:
For lack or glut, for loss or gain,
I never dodge, nor up nor down:
But swing what way the ship shall swim,
I suit not where I shall not speed,
I make no bustling, but abide:
Of ups and downs, of ins and outs,
With whom I feast I do not fawn,
Nor if the folks should flout me, faint;
If wonted welcome be withdrawn,
I cook no kind of a complaint:
How all my betters should behave;
I never loose where'er I link;
I talk thereon just as I think;
If names or notions make a noise,
And read or write, but without wrath;
* One poem, entitled Careless Content, is so perfectly in the manner of Elizabeth's age, that we can hardly believe it to be an imitation, but are almost disposed to think that Byrom had
transcribed it from some old author.-SOUTHEY.
For should I burn, or break my brains,
Myself like him too, by his leave;
Came I to crouch, as I conceive: Dame Nature doubtless has designed A man the monarch of his mind. Now taste and try this temper, sirs, Mood it and brood it in your breast; Or if ye ween, for worldly stirs,
That man does right to mar his rest, Let me be deft, and debonair,
I am content, I do not care.
My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent,
My lambkins around me would oftentimes play,
But now, in their frolics when by me they pass,
My dog I was ever well pleased to see
When walking with Phoebe, what sights have I seen, How fair was the flower, how fresh was the green! What a lovely appearance the trees and the shade, The corn fields and hedges, and every thing made! But now she has left me, though all are still there, They none of them now so delightful appear: 'Twas nought but the magic, I find, of her eyes, Made so many beautiful prospects arise.
Sweet music went with us both all the wood through, The lark, linnet, throstle, and nightingale too; Winds over us whispered, flocks by us did bleat, And chirp went the grasshopper under our feet. But now she is absent, though still they sing on, The woods are but lonely, the melody's gone:
Her voice in the concert, as now I have found,
Rose, what is become of thy delicate hue?
How slowly Time creeps till my Phoebe return!
Fly swifter, ye minutes, bring hither my dear,
Nor will budge one foot faster for all thou canst say.
No, deity, bid the dear nymph to return,
[Ode to a Tobacco Pipe.]
[One of six imitations of English poets, written on the subject of tobacco, by Isaac Hawkins Browne, a gentleman of fortune, born 1705, died 1760. The present poem is the imita
tion of Ambrose Philips.]
Little tube of mighty power,
[Song-Away! let nought to Love Displeasing.*]
My Winifreda, move your care;
With pompous titles grace our blood;
Our name while virtue thus we tender,
How they respect such little folk.
*This beautiful piece has been erroneously ascribed to John Gilbert Cooper, author of a volume of poems, and sorne prose
works, who died in 1769.
What though, from fortune's lavish bounty,
Still shall each kind returning season
The tragic drama of this period bore the impress of the French school, in which cold correctness or turgid declamation was more regarded than the natural delineation of character and the fire of genius. One improvement was the complete separation of tragedy and comedy. Otway and Southerne had marred the effect of some of their most pathetic and impressive dramas, by the intermixture of farcical and licentious scenes and characters, but they were the last who committed this incongruity. Public taste had become more critical, aided perhaps by the papers of Addison in the 'Spectator,' and other essayists, as well as by the general diffusion of literature and knowledge. Great names were now enlisted in the service of the stage. Fashion and interest combined to draw forth dramatic talent. A writer for the stage, it has been justly remarked, like the public orator, has the gratification of witnessing his own triumphs; of seeing in the plaudits, tears, or smiles of delighted spectators, the strongest testimony to his own powers.' The publication of his play may also insure him the fame and profit of authorship. If successful on the stage, the remuneration was then considerable. Authors were generally allowed the profits of three nights' performances; and Goldsmith, we find, thus derived between four and five hundred pounds by She Stoops to Conquer. The genius of Garrick may also be considered as lending fresh attraction and popularity to the stage. Authors were ambitious of fame as well as profit by the exertions of an actor so well fitted to portray the various passions and emotions of human nature, and who partially succeeded in recalling the English taste to the genius of Shakspeare.
One of the most successful and conspicuous of the tragic dramatists was the author of the 'Night Thoughts,' who, before he entered the church, produced three tragedies, all having one peculiarity, that they ended in suicide. The Revenge, still a popular acting play, contains, amidst some rant and hyperbole, passages of strong passion and eloquent declamation. Like Othello, "The Revenge' is founded on jealousy, and the principal character, Zanga, is a Moor. The latter, son of the Moorish king Abdallah, is taken prisoner after a conquest by the Spaniards, in which his father fell, and is condemned to servitude by Don Alonzo. In revenge, he sows the seeds of jealousy in the mind of his
conqueror, Alonzo, and glories in the ruin of his spair and suicide, and the dramatic art evinced in the victim:
Thou seest a prince, whose father thou hast slain,
Dr Johnson's tragedy of Irene was performed in 1749, but met with little success, and has never since been revived. It is cold and stately, containing some admirable sentiments and maxims of morality, but destitute of elegance, simplicity, and pathos. At the conclusion of the piece, the heroine was to be strangled upon the stage, after speaking two lines with the bowstring round her neck. The audience cried out Murder! murder!' and compelled the actress to go off the stage alive, in defiance of the author. An English audience could not, as one of Johnson's friends remarked, bear to witness a strangling scene on the stage, though a dramatic poet may stab or slay by hundreds. The following passage in 'Irene' was loudly applauded :To-morrow!
That fatal mistress of the young, the lazy,
Five tragedies were produced by Thomson betwixt the years 1729 and the period of his death: these were Sophonisba, Agamemnon, Edward and Eleonora, Tancred and Sigismunda, and Coriolanus. None of them can be considered as worthy of the author of the Seasons: they exhibit the defects of his style without its virtues. He wanted the plastic powers of the dramatist, and though he could declaim forcibly on the moral virtues, and against corruption and oppression, he could not draw characters or invent scenes to lead captive the feelings and imagination.
Two tragedies of a similar kind, but more animated in expression, were produced-Gustavus Vasa by Brooke, and Barbarossa by Dr Brown. The acting of Garrick mainly contributed to the success of the latter, which had a great run. The sentiment at the conclusion of Barbarossa' is finely expressed :
Heaven but tries our virtue by affliction,
Aaron Hill translated some of Voltaire's tragedies with frigid accuracy, and they were performed with success. In 1753, The Gamester, an affecting domestic tragedy, was produced. Though wanting the merit of ornamented poetical language and blank verse, the vivid picture drawn by the author (Edward Moore) of the evils of gambling, ending in de- |
characters and incidents, drew loud applause. "The Gamester' is still a popular play.
[The Gamester's Last Stake.]
Beverley. Why, there's an end then. I have judged deliberately, and the result is death. How the selfmurderer's account may stand, I know not; but this I know, the load of hateful life oppresses me too much. The horrors of my soul are more than I can bear. [Offers to kneel]. Father of Mercy! I cannot pray; despair has laid his iron hand upon me, and sealed me for perdition. Conscience! conscience! thy clamours are too loud: here's that shall silence thee. [Takes a phial of poison out of his pocket.] Thou art most friendly to the miserable. Come, then, thou cordial for sick minds, come to my heart. [Drinks it.] Oh, that the grave would bury memory as well as body! for, if the soul sees and feels the sufferings of those dear ones it leaves behind, the Everlasting has no vengeance to torment it deeper. I'll think no more on it; reflection comes too late; once there was a time for it, but now 'tis past. Who's there?
Jar. One that hoped to see you with better looks. Why do you turn so from me! I have brought comfort with me; and see who comes to give it welcome. Bev. My wife and sister! Why, 'tis but one pang more then, and farewell, world.
Enter MRS BEVERLEY and CHarlotte.
Mrs B. Where is he? [Runs and embraces him.] 0, I have him! I have him! And now they shall never part us more. I have news, love, to make you happy for ever. Alas! he hears us not. Speak to me, love; I have no heart to see you thus.
Bev. This is a sad place.
Mrs B. We came to take you from it; to tell you the world goes well again; that Providence has seen our sorrows, and sent the means to help them; your uncle died yesterday.
Bev. My uncle? No, do not say so. O! I am sick at heart!
Mrs B. Indeed, I meant to bring you comfort. Bev. Tell me he lives, then; if you would bring me comfort, tell me he lives.
Mrs B. And if I did, I have no power to raise the dead. He died yesterday.
Bev. And I am heir to him?
Jar. To his whole estate, sir. But bear it patiently, pray bear it patiently.
Bev. Well, well. [Pausing.] Why, fame
am rich then?
Mrs B. And truly so. Why do you look so wildly! Bev. Do I? The news was unexpected. But has he left me all?
Jar. All, all, sir; he could not leave it from you.
Mrs B. Why are you disturbed so?
Mrs B. Not an old man's death; yet, if it trouble you, I wish him living.
Bev. And I, with all my heart; for I have a tale to tell, shall turn you into stone; or if the power of speech remain, you shall kneel down and curse me. Mrs B. Alas! Why are we to curse you? I'll bless
and to redeem past errors, I sold the reversion, sold it for a scanty sum, and lost it among villains.
Char. Why, farewell all then.
Bev. Liberty and life. Come, kneel and curse me. Mrs B. Then hear me, heaven. [Kneels.] Look down with mercy on his sorrows! Give softness to his looks, and quiet to his heart! On me, on me, if misery must be the lot of either, multiply misfortunes! I'll bear them patiently, so he be happy! These hands shall toil for his support; these eyes be lifted up for hourly blessings on him; and every duty of a fond and faithful wife be doubly done to cheer and comfort him. So hear me! so reward me!
[Rises. Bev. I would kneel too, but that offended heaven would turn my prayers into curses; for I have done a deed to make life horrible to you.
Mrs B. What deed?
Jar. Ask him no questions, madam; this last misfortune has hurt his brain. A little time will give him patience.
Bev. Why is this villain here?
Stuk. To give you liberty and safety. There, madam, is his discharge. [Gives a paper to Charlotte.] The arrest last night was meant in friendship, but came too late.
Char. What mean you, sir?
Char. And give me pangs unutterable.
Bates. Dawson and I are witnesses of this.
Stuk. The arrest was too late, I say; I would have by sharpers and false dice; and Stukely sole contriver kept his hands from blood; but was too late.
Mrs B. His hands from blood! Whose blood?
Char. No, villain ! Yet what of Lewson; speak quickly.
Stuk. You are ignorant then; I thought I heard the murderer at confession.
Char. What murderer? And who is murdered? Not Lewson? Say he lives, and I will kneel and worship you.
Stuk. And so I would; but that the tongues of all cry murder. I came in pity, not in malice; to save the brother, not kill the sister. Your Lewson's dead. Char. O horrible!
Bev. Silence, I charge you. Proceed, sir.
and possessor of all.
Daw. Had he but stopped on this side murder, we had been villains still.
Lew. [To Beverley.] How does my friend?
Mrs B. 'Tis Lewson, love. Why do you look so at
Bev. [Wildly.] They told me he was murdered!
Bev. Lend me your hand; the room turns round. Lew. This villain here disturbs him. Remove him from his sight; and on your lives see that you guard him. [Stukely is taken off by Dawson and Bates.] How is it, sir?
Bev. 'Tis here, and here. [Pointing to his head and Stuk. No; justice may stop the tale; and here's an heart.] And now it tears me! evidence.
Bev. Why, ay; this looks like management. Bates. He found you quarrelling with Lewson in the street last night. [To Beverley.
Mrs B. No; I am sure he did not. Jar. Or if I didMrs B. "Tis false, old man; they had no quarrel, there was no cause for quarrel. Bev. Let him proceed, I say. O! I am sick! sick! [Jarvis brings it, he sits down. Mrs B. You droop and tremble, love. Yet you are innocent. If Lewson's dead, you killed him not.
Reach a chair.
Stuk. Who sent for Dawson?
Mrs B. You feel convulsed, too. What is it disturbs you?
Bev. A furnace rages in this heart. [Laying his hand upon his heart.] Down, restless flames! down to your native hell; there you shall rack me! Oh, for a pause from pain! Where is my wife? Can you forgive me, love?
Mrs B. Alas! for what?
Bev. As truly as my soul must answer it. Had Jarvis staid this morning, all had been well; but, pressed by shame, pent in a prison, and tormented with my pangs for you, driven to despair and madness, I took the advantage of his absence, corrupted the poor wretch he left to guard me, and swallowed poison.
Lew. Oh, fatal deed!
Bev. Ay, most accursed. And now I go to my account. Bend me, and let me kneel. from his chair, and support him on his knees.] I'll [They lift him pray for you too. Thou Power that mad'st me, hear me. If, for a life of frailty, and this too hasty deed of death, thy justice doom me, here I acquit the sentence; but if, enthroned in mercy where thou sitt'st, thy pity hast beheld me, send me a gleam of hope, that in these last and bitter moments my soul may
Bates. "Twas I. We have a witness too, you little taste of comfort! And for these mourners here, Ö
think of. Without there!
Stuk. What witness?
Bates. A right one. Look at him.
let their lives be peaceful, and their deaths happy. Mrs B. Restore him, heaven! O, save him, save him, or let me die too!