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[From the Letter from Italy.]
For wheresoe'er I turn my ravish'd eyes,
O liberty, thou goddess heavenly bright,
Thee, goddess, thee, Britannia's isle adores;
How are thy servants blest, O Lord!
In foreign realms, and lands remote,
1 Malone states that this was the first time the phrase classic ground, since so common, was ever used. It was ridiculed by some contemporaries as very quaint and affected.
Thy mercy sweeten'd every soil,
Think, O my soul! devoutly think,
Confusion dwelt on every face,
When waves on waves, and gulfs on gulfs,
Yet then from all my griefs, O Lord!
My soul took hold on thee.
For though in dreadful whirls we hung
I knew thou wert not slow to hear,
The storm was laid, the winds retir'd,
The sea that roar'd at thy command,
In midst of dangers, fears, and death,
My life, if thou preserv'st my life,
The spacious firmament on high,
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
What, though in solemn silence, all
*The earliest composition that I recollect taking any pleasure in was the Vision of Mirza, and a hymn of Addison's, beginning, "How are thy servants blest, O Lord!" I particularly remember one half-stanza, which was music to my boyish ear:
"For though in dreadful whirls we hung
Burns-Letter to Dr Moore.
[The Battle of Blenheim.]
[From The Campaign."]
But now the trumpet terrible from far,
The fatal day its mighty course began,
Behold, in awful march and dread array
But O, my muse, what numbers wilt thou find
Amidst confusion, horror, and despair,
[The concluding simile of the angel has been much celebrated, and was so admired by the lord treasurer, that on seeing it, without waiting for the completion of the poem, he rewarded the poet by appointing him, in the place of Mr Locke (who had been promoted), a commissioner of appeals.]
[From the Tragedy of Cato.]
Act iv.-Scene iv.
Long may they keep asunder!
Welcome, my son! here lay him down, my friends,
Juba. Behold that upright man! Rome fills his
Juba. While Cato lives, Caesar will blush to see
Cato. Cæsar ashamed! has not he seen Pharsalia!
Lucius. Caesar has mercy, if we ask it of him.
Portius. Misfortune on misfortune! grief on grief! Add, if you please, that I request it of him,
The virtue of my friends may pass unpunish'd.
The Roman empire fallen! O curst ambition!
What means this heaviness that hangs upon me! Whilst I have life, may heaven abandon Juba! This lethargy that creeps through all my senses ?
Cato. Thy virtues, prince, if I foresee aright, Nature oppress’d, and harass'd out with care,
An offering fit for heaven. Let guilt or fear Wrestling with vice and faction : now thou seest me Disturb man's rest : Cato knows neither of them; Spent, overpower'd, despairing of success :
Indifferent in his choice to sleep or die.
JONATHAN SWIFT, one of the most remarkable In humble virtues and a rural life.
men of the age, was born in Dublin in 1667. His There live retired ; pray for the peace of Rome; father was steward to the society of the King's Inns, Content thyself to be obscurely good.
but died in great poverty before the birth of his disWhen vice prevails, and impious men bear sway, tinguished son. Swift was supported by his uncle The post of honour is a private station.
and the circumstances of want and dependence with Portius. I hope my father does not recommend A life to Portius that he scorns himself.
Cato. Farewell, my friends ! if there be any of you
[Pointing to his dead son.
Act V.-Scene I.
which he was early familiar, seem to have sunk deep 'Tis the divinity that stirs within us;
in his haughty soul. Born a posthumous child, 'Tis heaven itself that points out an hereafter,
says Sir Walter Scott, ‘and bred up an object of And intimates eternity to man.
charity, he early adopted the custom of observing Eternity! thou pleasing, dreadful thought !
his birth-day as a term, not of joy, but of sorrow, Through what variety of untried being,
and of reading, when it annually recurred, the Through what new scenes and changes must we pass ? striking passage of Scripture in which Job laments The wide, th' unbounded prospect, lies before me ; and execrates the day upon which it was said in But shadows, clouds, and darkness rest upon it.
his father's house “that a man-child was born." Here will I hold. If there's a power above us, Swift was sent to Trinity college, Dublin, which he (And that there is, all nature cries aloud
left in his twenty-first year, and was received into Through all her works), he must delight in virtue; the house of Sir William Temple, a distant relation And that which he delights in must be happy. of his mother. Here Swift met King William, and But when ? or where This world was made for indulged hopes of preferment, which were never reaCæsar.
lised. In 1692 he repaired to Oxford, for the purI'm weary of conjectures. This must end them. pose of taking his degree of M.A., and shortly after
[Laying his hand on his sword. obtaining this distinction he resolved to quit the Thus am I doubly armà : my death and life, establishment of Temple and take orders in the My bane and antidote are both before me:
Irish church. He procured the prebend of Kilroot, This in a moment brings me to an end ;
in the diocese of Connor, but was soon disgusted But this informs me I shall never die.
with the life of an obscure country clergyman with The soul, secured in her existence, smiles
an income of £100 a-year. He returned to MoorAt the drawn dagger, and defies its point.
park, the house of Sir William Temple, and threw The stars shall fade away, the sun himself
up his living at Kilroot. Temple died in 1699, and Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years ; the poet was glad to accompany Lord Berkeley to But thou shalt flourish in immortal youth,
Ireland in the capacity of chaplain. From this Unhurt amidst the wars of elements,
nobleman he obtained the rectory of Aghar, and The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds. the vicarages of Laracor and Rathveggan; to which
was afterwards added the prebend of Dunlarin, But books, and time, and state affairs,
In school to hear the finest boy. In 1701, Swift became a political writer on the The tragedy continued to deepen as it approached side of the Whigs, and on his visits to England, he the close. Eiglit years had Vanessa nursed in soliassociated with Addison, Steele, and Arbuthnot. In tude the hopeless attachment. At length she wrote 1710, conceiving that he was neglected by the mi
to Stella, to ascertain the nature of the connexion nistry, he quarrelled with the Whigs, and united with between her and Swift; the latter obtained the fatal Harley and the Tory administration. He was re- letter, and rode instantly to Marley abbey, the received with open arms. I stand with the new
sidence of the unbappy Vanessa. • As he entered people, he writes to Stella, 'ten times better than the apartment,' to adopt the picturesque language ever I did with the old, and forty times more
of Scott in recording the scene, the sternness of his caressed.' He carried with him shining weapons countenance, which was peculiarly formed to express for party warfare — irresistible and unscrupulous the stronger passions, struck the unfortunate Vanessa satire, steady hate, and a dauntless spirit. From with such terror, that she could scarce ask whether his new allies, he received, in 1713, the deanery of he would not sit down. He answered by flinging a St Patrick's. During his residence in England, he letter on the table; and instantly leaving the house, had engaged the affections of another young lady, mounted his horse, and returned to Dublin. When Esther Vanhomrigh, who, under the name of Vanessa opened the packet, she only found her own Vanessa, rivalled Stella in poetical celebrity, and in letter to Stella. It was her death-warrant. She personal misfortune. After the death of her father, sunk at once under the disappointment of the delayed this young lady and her sister retired to Ireland, yet coerished hopes which had so long sickened her where their father had left a small property near heart, and beneath the unrestrained wrath of him Dublin. Human nature has, perhaps, never before for whose sake she had indulged them. How long or since presented the spectacle of a man of such she survived this last interview is uncertain, but transcendent powers as Swift involved in such a
the time does not seem to have exceeded a few pitiable labyrinth of the affections. His pride or
weeks.'* ambition led him to postpone indefinitely his mar- Even Stella, though ultimately united to Swift, riage with Stella, to whom he was early attached. dropped into the grave without any public recogniThough, he said, he loved her better than his life a tion of the tie; they were married in secrecy in the thousand millions of times,' he kept her hanging garden of the deanery, when on her part all but life on in a state of hope deferred, injurious alike to her had faded away. The fair sufferers were deeply peace and her reputation. Did he fear the scorn avenged. But let us adopt the only charitableand laughter of the world, if he should marry the perhaps the just-interpretation of Swift's conduct; obscure daughter of Sir William Temple's steward? the malady which at length overwhelmed his reason He dared not afterwards, with manly sincerity, de might then have been lurking in his frame; the clare his situation to Vanessa, when this second heart might have felt its ravages before the intelvictim avowed her passion. He was flattered that
lect. A comparison of dates proves that it was a girl of eighteen, of beauty and accomplishments,
some years before Vanessa's death that the scene sighed for a gown of forty-four,' and he did not occurred which has been related by Young, the stop to weigh the consequences. The removal of author of the Night Thoughts.' Swift was walking Vanessa to Ireland, as Stella had gone before, to be with some friends in the neighbourhood of Dublin. near the presence of Swift-her irrepressible passion,
Perceiving he did not follow us,' says Young, I which no coldness or neglect could extinguish--- her life of deep seclusion, only chequered by the occa
* The talents of Vanessa may be seen from her letters to sional visits of Swift, each of which she commemo- Swift. They are further evinced in the following Ode to rated by planting with her own hand a laurel in the Spring, in which she alludes to her unhappy attachment:garden where they met — her agonizing remon
Hail, blushing goddess, beauteous Spring! strances, when all her devotion and her offerings
Who in thy jocund train dost bring had failed, are touching beyond expression.
Loves and graces siniling hours• The reason I write to you,' she says, 'is because
Balmy breezes-fragrant flowers ; I cannot tell it to you, should I see you. For when
Come, with tints of roseate hue, I begin to complain, then you are angry; and there
Nature's faded charms renew! is something in your looks so awful, that it strikes
Yet why should I thy presence bail? me dumb. 0! that you may have but so much re
To me no more the breathing gale gard for me left, that this complaint may touch
Comes fraught with sweets, no more the rose your soul with pity. I say as little as ever I can.
With such transcendent beauty blows, Did you but know what I thought, I am sure it
As when Cadenus blest the scene, would move you to forgive me, and believe that I
And shared with me those joys serene. cannot help telling you this, and live.'
When, unperceived, the lambent fire
Of friendship kindled new desire ; To a being thus agitated and engrossed with the
Still listening to his tuneful tongue, strongest passion, how poor, low cruel, must have
The truths which angels might have sung, seemed the return of Swift!
Divine imprest their gentle sway,
And sweetly stole my soul away. Cadenus, common forms apart,
My guide, instructor, lover, friend, In every scene had kept his heart;
Dear names, in one idea blend ; Had sighed and languished, vowed and writ,
Oh! still conjoined, your incense rise, For pastime, or to shcw his wit;
And waft sweet odours to the skies!
went back, and found him fixed as a statue, and artists were perfect painters. He never attempted
I're often wished that I had clear
Well, now I have all this and more,
If I ne'er got or lost a groat
Something in verse as true as prose.
Tomb of Swift in Dublin cathedral. Drapier's Letters and other works gave him unbounded popularity. His wish to serve Ireland was content to lash the frivolities of the age, and to deone of his ruling passions ; yet it was something like pict its absurdities. In his too faithful representathe instinct of the inferior animals towards their tions, there is much to condemn and much to admire. offspring; waywardness, contempt, and abuse were
Who has not felt the truth and humour of his City strangely mingled with affectionate attachment and Shower, and his description of Morning? Or the ardent zeal. Kisses and curses were alternately on
liveliness of his Grand Question Debated, in which his lips. Ireland, however, gave Swift her whole the knight, his lady, and the chambermaid, are so heart-he was more than king of the rabble. After
admirably drawn? His most ambitious flight is his various attacks of deafness and giddiness, his temper Rhapsody on Poetry, and even this is pitched in a became ungovernable, and his reason gave way. pretty low key. Its best lines are easily remembered : Truly and beautifully has Scott said, 'the stage Not empire to the rising sun, darkened ere the curtain fell.' Swift's almost total By valour, conduct, fortune won ; zilence during the last three years of his life (for the Not highest wisdom in debates last year he spoke not a word) appals and overawes
For framing laws to govern states ; the imagination. He died on the 19th of October Not skill in sciences profound, 1745, and was interred in St Patrick's cathedral, So large to grasp the circle round, amidst the tears and prayers of his countrymen.
Such heavenly influence require, His fortune, amounting to about £10,000, he left
As how to strike the Muses' lyre. chiefly to found a lunatic asylum in Dublin, which Not beggar's brat on bulk begot, he had long meditated.
Not bastard of a pedler Scot,
Not boy brought up to cleaning shoes,
The spawn of Bridewell or the stews,
Not infants dropt, the spurious pledges
Of gipsies littering under hedges,
Are so disqualified by fate Gulliver's Travels and the Tale of a Tub must ever To rise in church, or law, or state, be the chief corner-stones of Swift's fame. The As he whom Phoebus in his ire purity of his prose style renders it a model of Eng
Hath blasted with poetic fire. lish composition. He could wither with his irony Swift's verses on his own death are the finest and invective; excite to mirth with - his wit and in- example of his peculiar poetical vein. He predicts vention; transport as with wonder at his marvellous what his friends will say of his illness, his death, powers of grotesque and ludicrous combination, his and his reputation, varying the style and the topicsknowledge of human nature (piercing quite through to suit each of the parties. The versification is easy the deeds of men), and his matchless power of feign- and flowing, with nothing but the most familiar and ing reality, and assuming at pleasure different cha- commonplace expressions. There are some little racters and situations in life. He is often disgust- touches of homely pathos, which are felt like trick. ingly coarse and gross in his style and subjects; but ling tears, and the effect of the piece altogether is his grossness is always repulsive, not seductive. electrical : it carries with it the strongest convicSwift's poetry is perfect, exactly as the old Dutch | tion of its sincerity and truth ; and we see and feel