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But it does not appear that there was any other reward than the appointment as chaplain. In 1739, Young obtained from his college the living of Welwyn, in Hertfordshire, where he was destined to close his days. He was eager to obtain further preferment, but having in his poetry professed a strong love of retirement, the ministry seized upon this as a pretext for keeping him out of a bishopric. The poet made a noble alliance with the daughter of the | Earl of Lichfield, widow of Colonel Lee, which lasted ten years, and proved a happier union than the titled marriages of Dryden and Addison. The lady had two children by her first marriage, to whom Young was warmly attached. Both died; and when the mother also followed, Young composed his ‘Night Thoughts.' Sixty years had strengthened and enriched his genius, and augmented even the brilliancy of his fancy. In 1761 the poet was made clerk of the closet to the
Princess Dowager of Wales, and died four years afterwards, in April 1765, at the advanced age of
eighty-four. A life of so much action and worldly anxiety has rarely been united to so much literary industry and | genius. In his youth, Young was gay and dissipated, and all his life he was an indefatigable courtier. In his poetry he is a severe moralist and ascetic divine. That he felt the emotions he de
scribes, must be true; but they did not permanently influence his conduct. He was not weaned from the world till age had incapacitated him for its pursuits; and the epigrammatic point and wit of his “Night Thoughts, with the gloomy views it presents of life and religion, show the poetical artist fully as much as the humble and penitent Christian. His works are numerous; but the best are the “Night Thoughts,” the ‘Universal Passion, and the tragedy of Revenge. The foundation of his great poem was family misfortune, coloured and exaggerated for poetical effect—
Insatiate archer! could not one suffice
This rapid succession of bereavements was a poetical license; for in one of the cases there was an interval of four years, and in another of seven months. The profligate character of Lorenzo has been supposed to indicate Young's own son. It seems to us a mere fancy sketch. Like the character of Childe Harold, in the hands of Byron, it afforded the poet scope for dark and powerful painting, and was made the vehicle for bursts of indignant virtue, sorrow, regret, and admonition. This artificial character pervades the whole poem, and is essentially a part of its structure. But it still leaves to our admiration many noble and sublime passages, where the poet speaks as from inspiration—with the voice of one crying in the wilderness—of life, death, and immortality. The truths of religion are enforced with a commanding energy and persuasion. Epigram and repartee are then forgotten by the poet; fancy yields to feeling; and where imagery is employed, it is select, nervous, and suitable. . In this sustained and impressive style Young seldom remains long at a time; his desire to say witty and smart things, to load his picture with supernumerary horrors, and conduct his personages to their ‘sulphureous or ambrosial seats, soon converts the great poet into the painter and epigrammatist. The ingenuity of his second style is in some respects as wonderful as the first, but it is of a vastly inferior order of poetry. Mr Southey thinks, that when Johnson said (in his ‘Life of Milton') that “the good and evil of eternity were too ponderous for the wings of wit,” he forgot Young. The moral critic could not, however, but have condemned even witty thoughts and sparkling metaphors, which are so in
congruous and misplaced. The “Night Thoughts,' like “Hudibras,' is too pointed, and too full of compressed reflection and illustration, to be read continuously with pleasure. Nothing can atone for the want of simplicity and connection in a long poem. | In Young there is no plot or progressive interest. Each of the nine books is independent of the other. The general reader, therefore, seeks out favourite || passages for perusal, or contents himself with a single excursion into his wide and variegated field. || But the more carefully it is studied, the more ex- || traordinary and magnificent will the entire poem || appear. The fertility of his fancy, the pregnancy of his wit and knowledge, the striking and felicitous combinations everywhere presented, are indeed remarkable. Sound sense is united to poetical imagery; maxims of the highest practical value, and passages of great force, tenderness, and everlasting truth, are constantly rising, like sunshine, over the quaint and gloomy recesses of the poet's imagination— The glorious fragments of a fire immortal, With rubbish mixed, and glittering in the dust.
After all his bustling toils and ambition, how finely 7
does Young advert to the quiet retirement of his country life— Blest be that hand divine, which gently laid My heart at rest beneath this humble shades The world's a stately bark, on dangerous seas, With pleasure seen, but boarded at our peril; Here, on a single plank, thrown safe ashore, I hear the tumult of the distant throng, As that of seas remote, or dying storms ; And meditate on scenes more silent still ; Pursue my theme, and fight the fear of death. Here like a shepherd, gazing from his hut, Touching his reed, or leaning on his staff, Eager ambition's fiery chase I see; I see the circling hunt of noisy men Burst law's enclosure, leap the mounds of right, Pursuing and pursued, each other's prey; As wolves for rapine; as the fox for wiles; | Till death, that mighty hunter, earths them all. Why all this toil for triumphs of an hour? What though we wade in wealth, or soar in fame, Earth's highest station ends in “here he lies,' And “dust to dust' concludes her noblest song.
| And when he argues in favour of the immortality of man from the analogies of nature, with what exquisite taste and melody does he characterise the changes and varied appearances of creation–
Look nature through, 'tis revolution all;
He thus moralises on human life—
— Life speeds away From point to point, though seeming to stand still. The cunning fugitive is swift by stealth, Too subtle is the movement to be seen ; Yet soon man's hour is up, and we are gone. Warnings point out our danger; gnomons, time; As these are useless when the sun is set, So those, but when more glorious reason shines. Reason should judge in all; in reason's eye | That sedentary shadow travels hard. But such our gravitation to the wrong, So prone our hearts to whisper that we wish, 'Tis later with the wise than he's aware: A Wilmington! goes slower than the sun : And all mankind mistake their time of day; Even age itself. Fresh hopes are hourly sown In furrowed brows. To gentle life's descent We shut our eyes, and think it is a plain. We take fair days in winter for the spring, And turn our blessings into bane. Since ost Man must compute that age he cannot feel, He scarce believes he's older for his years. Thus, at life's latest eve, we keep in store One disappointment sure, to crown the rest— The disappointment of a promised hour.
And again in a still nobler strain, where he compares human life to the sea—
Self-flattered, unexperienced, high in hope,
I Lord Wilmington.
And fondly dream each wind and star our friend;
With such a throng of poetical imagery, bursts of sentiment, and rays of fancy, does the poet-divine clothe the trite and simple truths, that all is vanity, and that man is born to die!
These thoughts, O Night ! are thine; From thee they came like lovers' secret sighs, While others slept. So Cynthia, poets feign, In shadows veiled, soft, sliding from her sphere, Her shepherd cheered; of her enamoured less Than I of thee. And art thou still unsung, Beneath whose brow, and by whose aid, I sing : Immortal silence 1 where shall I begin? Where end ? or how steal music from the spheres To soothe their goddess :
0 majestic Night ! Nature's great ancestor Day's elder born 1 And fated to survive the transient sun 1 By mortals and immortals seen with awe I A starry crown thy raven brow adorns, An azure zone thy waist; clouds, in heaven's loom Wrought through varieties of shape and shade, In ample folds of drapery divine, Thy flowing mantle form, and, heaven throughout, Voluminously pour thy pompous train: Thy gloomy grandeurs—Nature's most august, Inspiring aspect —claim a grateful verse; And, like a sable curtain starred with gold, Drawn o'er my labours past, shall clothe the scene.
This magnificent apostrophe has scarcely been equalled in our poetry since the epic strains of Milton.
On Life, Death, and Immortality.
Tired Nature's sweet restorer, balmy Sleep !
| I wake, emerging from a sea of dreams
With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain
Of subtler essence than the common clod : * *
And is it in the flight of threescore years
[Thoughts on Time.]
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature
Where time, and pain, and chance, and death expire!
Part with it as with life, reluctant; big
On all important time, through every age,
Time, in advance, behind him hides his wings, And seems to creep, decrepit with his age. Behold him when passed by ; what then is seen But his broad pinions swifter than the winds ! And all mankind, in contradiction strong, Rueful, aghast, cry out on his career.
We waste, not use our time; we breathe, not live;
! We push time from us, and we wish him back ;
Life we think long and short ; death seek and shun.
'Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
All-sensual man, because untouched, unseen,
Lorenzo! no: on the long destined hour, |
On this great theme kind Nature keeps a school
But why on time so lavish is my song: | |
Throw years away Throw empires, and be blameless: moments seize; Heaven's on their wing: a moment we may wish, When worlds want wealth to buy. Bid day stand still, Bid him drive back his car and re-impart The period past, re-give the given hour. Lorenzo more than miracles we want. Lorenzo O for yesterdays to come !
[The Man whose Thoughts are not of this World.]
Some angel guide my pencil, while I draw,
With aspect mild, and elevated eye,
The present all their care, the future his. When public welfare calls, or private want, They give to Fame; his bounty he conceals. Their virtues varnish Nature, his exalt. Mankind's esteem they court, and he his own. Theirs the wild chase of false felicities; His the composed possession of the true. Alike throughout is his consistent peace, All of one colour, and an even thread; While party-coloured shreds of happiness, With hideous gaps between, patch up for them A madman's robe; each puff of Fortune blows The tatters by, and shows their nakedness.
He sees with other eyes than theirs: where they Behold a sun, he spies a Deity. What makes them only smile, makes him adore. Where they see mountains, he but atoms sees. An empire in his balance weighs a grain.
| They things terrestrial worship as divine; His hopes, immortal, blow them by as dust That dims his sight, and shortens his survey, Which longs, in infinite, to lose all bound. Titles and honours (if they prove his fate) He lays aside to find his dignity; | No dignity they find in aught besides. | They triumph in externals (which conceal Man's real glory), proud of an eclipse: | Himself too much he prizes to be proud, | And nothing thinks so great in man as man. Too dear he holds his interest to neglect | Another's welfare, or his right invade: Their interest, like a lion, lives on prey. They kindle at the shadow of a wrong; | Wrong he sustains with temper, looks on heaven, Nor stoops to think his injurer his foe. Nought but what wounds his virtue wounds his peace. | A covered heart their character defends; A covered heart denies him half his praise. | With nakedness his innocence agrees, While their broad foliage testifies their fall. | Their no-joys end where his full feast begins; His joys create, theirs murder future bliss. To triumph in existence his alone; | And his alone triumphantly to think His true existence is not yet begun. His glorious course was yesterday complete; Death then was welcome, yet life still is sweet.
| Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer: Next day the fatal precedent will plead; Thus on, till wisdom is pushed out of life. | Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled, And to the mercies of a moment leaves The vast concerns of an eternal scene. If not so frequent, would not this be strange? That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still. Of man’s miraculous mistakes, this bears The palm, ‘That all men are about to live,’ For ever on the brink of being born: All pay themselves the compliment to think They one day shall not drivel, and their pride On this reversion takes up ready praise; At least their own; their future selves applaud; How excellent that life they ne'er will lead Time lodged in their own hands is Folly's vails; | That lodged in Fate's to wisdom they consign; | The thing they can't but purpose, they postpone. | Tis not in folly not to scorn a fool, And scarce in human wisdom to do more. All promise is poor dilatory man, And that through every stage. When young, indeed, In full content we sometimes nobly rest, Unanzious for ourselves, and only wish, As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise. At thirty man suspects himself a fool; l Knows it at forty, and reforms his plan; At fifty chides his infamous delay, | Pushes his prudent purpose to resolve; In all the magnanimity of thought 'Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same. And why? because he thinks himself immortal. All men think all men mortal but themselves; Themselves, when some alarming shock of fate Strikes through their wounded hearts the sudden dread: | But their hearts wounded, like the wounded air, Soon close; where past the shaft no trace is found, | A from the wing no scar the sky retains, The parted wave no furrow from the keel, So dies in human hearts the thought of death: Een with the tender tear which nature sheds O'er those we love, we drop it in their grave.
[From the Love of Fame.]
Not all on books their criticism waste; The genius of a dish some justly taste, And eat their way to fame ! with anxious thought The salmon is refused, the turbot bought. Impatient Art rebukes the sun's delay, And bids December yield the fruits of May. Their various cares in one great point combine The business of their lives, that is, to dine; Half of their precious day they give the feast, And to a kind digestion spare the rest. Apicius here, the taster of the town, Feeds twice a-week, to settle their renown.
These worthies of the palate guard with care The sacred annals of their bills of fare; In those choice books their panegyrics read, And scorn the creatures that for hunger feed; If man, by feeding well, commences great, Much more the worm, to whom that man is meat.
Belus with solid glory will be crowned;
The man who builds, and wants wherewith to pay,
Some for renown on scraps of learning dote, And think they grow immortal as they quote. To patch-work learned quotations are allied ; Both strive to make our poverty our pride.
Let high birth triumph what can be more great
[The Emptincss of Riches.]
Can gold calm passion, or make reason shine?