« VorigeDoorgaan »
THOMAS CHATTERTON: 1752-177 0.'
Chatterton was the son of a schoolmaster in Bristol. He wrote a series of
poems in the old English language, which, in his seventeenth year, he passed off upon some competent judges as the productions of a versifier of the fifteenth century, and which contained many passages of the highest poetical beauty. He afterwards sought employment as a writer in London; but being overtaken by pecuniary distress, he put an end to his life, 25th August 1770. 'No English poet,' says Campbell, 'ever equalled him at the same age.'
Bright sun had in his ruddy robes been dight,
From the red east he flitted with his train ;
The Houris draw away the gate of Night,
Her sable tapestry was rent in twain :
The dancing streaks bedecked heaven's plain,
And on the dew did smile with skimmering eye,
Like gouts of blood which do black armour stain,
Shining upon the bourn which standeth by ;
The soldiers stood upon the hillis side,
Like young enleaved trees which in a forest bide.
The budding floweret blushes at the light,
The meads be sprinkled with the yellow hue,
In daisied mantles is the mountain dight,
The fresh young cowslip bendeth with the dew ;
The trees enleafed, into heaven straight,
When gentle winds do blow, to whistling din is brought.
The evening comes, and brings the dews along,
The ruddy welkin shineth to the eyne,
Around the ale-stakel minstrels sing the song,
Young ivy round the door-post doth entwine ;
I lay me on the grass, yet to my will
Albeit all is fair, there lacketh something still.
O God, whose thunder shakes the sky,
this atom globe surveys ; To thee, my only rock, I fly, Thy mercy in thy justice praise. The mystic mazes of thy will The shadows of celestial light, Are past the power of human skillBut what th' Eternal acts is right. O teach me in the trying hour, When anguish swells the dewy tear, To still my sorrows, own thy power, Thy goodness love, thy justice fear. If in this bosom aught but thee, Encroaching sought a boundless sway, Omniscience could the danger see, And Mercy look the cause away. Then why, my soul, dost thou complain Why drooping seek the dark recess ? Shake off the melancholy chain, For God created all to bless.
But, ah ! my breast is human still ;
The rising sigh, the falling tear,
My languid vitals' feeble rill,
The sickness of my soul declare.
But yet, with fortitude resigned,
I'll thank th' inflicter of the blow,
Forbid the sigh, compose my mind,
Nor let the gush of misery flow.
The gloomy mantle of the night,
Which on my sinking spirit steals,
Will vanish at the morning light,
Which God, my East, my Sun, reveals.
JAMES BEATTIE: 1735-1803.
James Beattie, Professor of Moral Philosophy in Marischal College, Aberdeen,
published in 1771 his celebrated poem, The Minstrel, which describes, in the Spenserian stanza, the progress of the imagination and feelings of a young village poet.
LIFE AND IMMORTALITY.
O ye wild groves, O where is now your bloom !'
The Muse interprets thus his tender thought,
*Your flowers, your verdure, and your balmy gloom,
Of late so grateful in the hour of drought !
Why do the birds, that song and rapture brought
To all your bowers, their mansions now forsake ?
Ah! why has fickle chance this ruin wrought?
For now the storm howls mournful through the brake,
And the dead foliage flies in many a shapeless flake.
• Where now the rill, melodious, pure, and cool,
And meads, with life, and mirth, and beauty crowned !
Ah! see th’ unsightly slime, and sluggish pool,
Have all the solitary vale embrowned ;
Fled each fair form, and mute each melting sound,
The raven croaks forlorn on naked spray:
And, hark! the river, bursting every mound,
Down the vale thunders, and with wasteful sway
Uproots the grove, and rolls the shattered rocks away.
Yet such the destiny of all on earth :
So flourishes and fades majestic Man.
Fair is the bud his vernal morn brings forth,
And fostering gales awhile the nursling fan.
0, smile, ye heavens, serene ; ye mildews wan,
Ye blighting whirlwinds, spare his balmy prime,
Nor lessen of his life the little span !
Borne on the swift, though silent wings of Time,
Old age comes on apace to ravage all the clime.
6 And be it so. Let those deplore their doom,
Whose hope still grovels in this dark sojourn :
But lofty souls who look beyond the tomb,
Can smile at Fate, and wonder how they moum.
Shall Spring to these sad scenes no more return ?
Is yonder wave the Sun's eternal bed ?
Soon shall the orient with new lustre burn,
And Spring shall soon her vital influence shed,
Again attune the grove, again adorn the mead.
‘Shall I be left forgotten in the dust,
When Fate, relenting, lets the flower revive ?
Shall Nature's voice, to man alone unjust,
Bid him, though doomed to perish, hope to live ?
Is it for this fair Virtue oft must strive
With disappointment, penury, and pain ?
No! Heaven's immortal springs shall yet arrive,
And man's majestic beauty bloom again,
Bright through th' eternal year of Love's triumphant reign.'
But who the melodies of morn can tell ?
The wild brook babbling down the mountain-side ;
The lowing herd; the sheepfold's simple bell ;
The pipe of early shepherd dim descried
In the lone valley; echoing far and wide
The clamorous horn along the cliffs above;
The hollow murmur of the ocean tide ;
The hum of bees, the linnet's lay of love,
And the full choir that wakes the universal grove.
The cottage-curs at early pilgrim bark :
Crowned with her pail the tripping milkmaid sings ;
The whistling ploughman stalks afield ; and, hark !
Down the rough slope the ponderous wagon, rings ;
Through rustling corn the hare astonished springs;
Slow tolls the village clock the drowsy hour ;
The partridge bursts away on whirring wings;
Deep mourns the turtle in sequestered bower,
And shrill lark carols clear from her aërial tower.
Cowper, the most popular poet of his generation, was educated for the law;
but, owing to some constitutional weaknesses, which occasionally affected his reason, he retired in the prime of life to reside with a private family in the country. His first volume of poems, containing Table Talk, Truth, The Progress of Error, and others, appeared in 1782. Three years later he published the famous ballad, John Gilpin, and his great poem entitled The Task, which were followed in 1791 by his translation of Homer in blank verse. Cowper's poems are chiefly didactic, and are remarkable for the charming descriptions of rural scenery and domestic life which are mingled with his moral and religious reflections. (For specimens of Cowper's Letters see Readings in English Prose, page 151.)
THE PLAY-PLACE OF EARLY DAYS.
From Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools.
Be it a weakness, it deserves some praise,
We love the play-place of our early days ;
The scene is touching, and the heart is stone
That feels not at that sight, and feels at none.
The wall on which we tried our graving skill,
The very name we carved subsisting still ;
The bench on which we sat while deep employed,
Though mangled, hacked, and hewed, not yet destroyed ;
The little ones, unbuttoned, glowing hot,
Playing our games, and on the very spot ;
As happy as we once, to kneel and draw
The chalky ring, and knuckle down at taw ;
To pitch the ball into the grounded hat,
Or drive it devious with a dext'rous pat;
The pleasing spectacle at once excites
Such recollection of our own delights,
That, viewing it, we seem almost ť obtain
Our innocent sweet simple years again.