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the fall of one of his father's cleavers, or hatchets, on his foot—rendered him lame for life, and perpetuated the recollection of his lowly birth. The Society of Dissenters advanced a sum for the education of the poet as a clergyman, and he repaired to Edinburgh for this purpose in his eighteenth year. He afterwards' repented of this destination, and, returning the money, entered himself as a student of medicine. He was then a poet, and in his Hymn to Science, written in Edinburgh, we see at once the formation of his classic taste, and the dignity of his personal character:That last best effort of thy skill, To form the life and rule the will, Propitious Power' impart; Teach me to cool my passion's fires, Make me the judge of my desires, The master of my heart.
Raise me above the vulgar's breath,
And all in life that's mean;
Through every various scene. A youth animated by such sentiments, promised a manhood of honour and integrity. After three years spent in Edinburgh, Akenside removed to Leyden to complete his studies; and in 1744 he was admitted to the degree of M.D. He next established himself as a physician in London. In Holland he had (at the age of twenty-three) written his “Pleasures of Imagination,’ which he now offered to Dodsley, demanding £120 for the copyright. The bookseller consulted Pope, who told him “to make no niggardly offer, since this was no every-day writer.” The poem attracted much attention, and was afterwards translated into French and Italian. Akenside established himself as a physician in Northampton, where he remained a year and a-half, but did not succeed. The latter part of his life was spent in London. At Leyden he had formed an intimacy with a young Englishman offortune, Jeremiah Dyson, Esq., which ripened into a friendship of the most close and enthusiastic description; and Mr Dyson (who was afterwards clerk of the House of Commons, a lord of the treasury, &c.) had the generosity to allow the poet £300 a-year. After writing a few Odes, and attempting a total alteration of his great poem (in which he was far from successful), Akenside made no further efforts at composition. His society was courted for his taste, knowledge, and eloquence; but his solemn sententiousness of manner, his romantic ideas of liberty, and his unbounded admiration of the ancients, exposed him occasionally to ridicule. The physician in Peregrine Pickle, who gives a feast in the manner of the ancients, is supposed to have been a caricature of Akenside. The description, for rich humour and grotesque combinations of learning and folly, has not been excelled by Smollett; but it was unworthy his talents to cast ridicule on a man of high character and splendid genius. Akenside died suddenly of a putrid sore throat, on the 23d of June 1770, in his 49th year, and was buried in St James's church. With a feeling common to poets, as to more ordinary mortals, Akenside, in his latter days, reverted with delight to his native landscape on the banks of the Tyne. In his fragment of a fourth book of “The Pleasures of Imagination,’ written in the last year of his life, there is the following beautiful passage:–
O ye dales Of Tyne, and ye most ancient woodlands; where Oft as the giant flood obliquely strides,
| And his banks open and his lawns extend,
The spirit of Milton seems to speak in this strain of lofty egotism! “The Pleasures of Imagination' is a poem seldom read continuously, though its finer passages, by frequent quotation, particularly in works of criticism and moral philosophy, are well known, Gray censured the mixture of spurious philosophy—the speculations of Hutcheson and Shaftesbury—which the work contains. Plato, Lucretius, and even the papers by Addison in the Spectator, were also laid under contribution by the studious author. He gathered sparks of enthusiasm from kindred minds, but the train was in his own. The pleasures which his poem professes to treat of ‘proceed, he says, ‘either from natural objects, as from a flourishing grove, a clear and murmuring fountain, a calm sea by moonlight, or from works of art, such as a noble edifice, a musical tune, a statue, a picture, a poem.” These, with the moral and intellectual objects arising from them, furnish abundant topics for illustration; but Akenside dealt chiefly with abstract subjects, pertaining more to philosophy than to poetry. He did not seek to graft upon them human interests and passions. In tracing the final causes of our emotions, he could have described their exercise and effects in scenes of ordinary pain or pleasure in the walks of real life. This does not seem, however, to have been the purpose of the poet, and hence his work is deficient in interest. He seldom stoops from the heights of philosophy and classic taste. He considered that physical science improved the charms of nature. Contrary to the feeling of an accomplished living poet, who repudiates these “cold material laws, he viewed the rainbow with additional pleasure after he had studied the Newtonian theory of lights and colours.
Nor ever yet The melting rainbow's vernal tinctured hues To me have shone so pleasing, as when first | The hand of Science pointed out the path | In which the sunbeams gleaming from the west Fall on the watery cloud, whose darksome veil Involves the orient.
Akenside's Hymn to the Naiads has the true classical spirit. He had caught the manner and feeling, the varied pause and harmony, of the Greek poets, with such felicity, that Lloyd considered his Hymn as fitted to give a better idea of that form of composition, than could be conveyed by any translation of Homer or Callimachus. Gray was an equally
learned poet, perhaps superior. His knowledge was better digested. But Gray had not the romantic enthusiasm of character, tinged with pedantry, which naturally belonged to Akenside. He had also the experience of mature years. The genius of Akenside was early developed, and his diffuse and florid descriptions seem the natural product—marvellous of its kind—of youthful exuberance. He was afterwards conscious of the defects of his poem. He saw that there was too much leaf for the fruit; but in cutting off these luxuriances, he sacrificed some of the finest blossoms. Posterity has been more just to his fame, by almost wholly disregarding this second copy of his philosophical poem. In his youthful aspirations after moral and intellectual greatness and beauty, he seems, like Jeremy Taylor in the pulpit, “an angel newly descended from the visions of glory.” In advanced years, he is the professor in his robes; still free from stain, but stately, formal, and severe. The blank verse of “The Pleasures of Imagination' is free and well-modulated, and seems to be distinctively his own. Though apt to run into too long periods, it has more compactness of structure than Thomson's ordinary composition. Its occasional want of perspicuity probably arises from the fineness of his distinctions, and the difficulty attending mental analysis in verse. He might also wish to avoid all vulgar and common expressions, and thus err from excessive refinement. A redundancy of ornament undoubtedly, in some passages, takes off from the clearness and prominence of his conceptions. His highest flights, however— as in the allusion to the death of Caesar, and his exquisitely-wrought parallel between art and nature—have a flow and energy of expression, with appropriate imagery, which mark the great poet. His style is chaste, yet elevated and musical. He never compromised his dignity, though he blended sweetness with its expression.
[Aspirations after the Infinite.]
Say, why was man so eminently raised
Who that, from Alpine heights, his labouring eye
t | Disdains to rest her heaven-aspiring wing | Beneath its native quarry. Tired of earth | And this diurnal scene, she springs aloft | Through fields of air; pursues the flying storm; Rides on the vollied lightning through the heavens; | Or, yoked with whirlwinds and the northern blast, | Sweeps the long tract of day. Then high she soars | The blue profound, and, hovering round the sun, | Beholds him pouring the redundant stream Of light; beholds his unrelenting sway Bend the reluctant planets to absolve The fated rounds of Time. Thence far effused, She darts her swiftness up the long career | Of devious comets; through its burning signs | Exulting measures the perennial wheel of Nature, and looks back on all the stars, Whose blended light, as with a milky zone, Invest the orient. Now, amazed she views | The empyreal waste, where happy spirits hold, Beyond this concave heaven, their calm abode; | And fields of radiance, whose unfading light Has travelled the profound six thousand years, Nor yet arrives in sight of mortal things. Even on the barriers of the world, untired She meditates the eternal depth below; Till half recoiling, down the headlong steep She plunges; soon o'erwhelmed and swallowed up In that immense of being. There her hopes Rest at the fated goal. For from the birth Of mortal man, the sovereign Maker said, That not in humble nor in brief delight, Not in the fading echoes of Renown, Power's purple robes, nor Pleasure's flowery lap, The soul should find enjoyment: but from these Turning disdainful to an equal good, Through all the ascent of things enlarge her view, Till every bound at length should disappear, And infinite perfection close the scene.
| Mind, mind alone (bear witness earth and heaven!) The living fountains in itself contains Of beauteous and sublime: here hand in hand Sit paramount the Graces; here enthroned, Celestial Venus, with divinest airs, Invites the soul to never-fading joy. Look, then, abroad through Nature, to the range Of planets, suns, and adamantine spheres, Wheeling unshaken through the void immense; And k, oh man! does this capacious scene With half that kindling majesty dilate Thy strong conception, as when Brutus rose Refulgent from the stroke of Caesar's fate, Amid the crowd of patriots; and his arm Aloft extending, like eternal Jove When guilt brings down the thunder, called aloud On Tully's name, and shook his crimson steel, And bade the father of his country, hail For lo! the tyrant prostrate on the dust, And Rome again is free! Is aught so fair In all the dewy landscapes of the spring, In the bright eye of Hesper, or the morn, In Nature's fairest forms, is aught so fair i. As virtuous friendship as the candid blush || Of him who strives with fortune to be just | The graceful tear that streams for others' woes, | Or the mild majesty of private life, | Where Peace, with ever-blooming olive, crowns The gate; where Honour's liberal hands effuse || Unenvied treasures, and the snowy wings | Of Innocence and Love protect the scene | Once more search, undismayed, the dark profound | Where nature works in secret; view the beds | Of mineral treasure, and the eternal vault
| That bounds the hoary ocean; trace the forms |
Of atoms moving with incessant change
[Operations of the Mind in the Production of Works of Imagination.]
By these mysterious ties, the busy power
was made one of the lords of the treasury. He was afterwards a privy councillor and chancellor of the exchequer, and was elevated to the peerage. He died August 22, 1773, aged sixty-four. Lyttelton was author of a short but excellent treatise on The Conversion of St Paul, which is still regarded as one of the subsidiary bulwarks of Christianity. He also wrote an elaborate History of the Reign of Henry II., to which he brought ample information and a spirit of impartiality and justice. These valuable works, and his patronage of literary men (Fielding, it will be recollected, dedicated to him his Tom Jones, and to Thomson he was a firm friend), constitute the chief claim of Lyttelton upon the regard of posterity. Gray has praised his Monody on his wife's death as tender and elegiac; but undoubtedly the finest poetical effusion of Lyttelton is his Prologue to Thomson's Tragedy of Coriolanus. Before this
play could be brought out, Thomson had paid the
debt of nature, and his premature death was deeply lamented. The tragedy was acted for the benefit of the poet's relations, and when Quin spoke the prologue by Lyttelton, many of the audience wept at the lines—
He loved his friends—forgive this gushing tear: Alas! I feel I am no actor here.
[From the Monody.]
In vain I look around O'er all the well-known ground, My Lucy's wonted footsteps to descry; Where oft we used to walk, Where oft in tender talk We saw the summer sun go down the sky; Nor by yon fountain's side, Nor where its waters glide Along the valley, can she now be found: In all the wide-stretched prospect's ample bound, No more my mournful eye Can aught of her espy, But the sad sacred earth where her dear relics lie.
Sweet babes, who, like the little playful fawns, Were wont to trip along these verdant lawns, By your delighted mother's side : Who now your infant steps shall guide? Ah! where is now the hand whose tender care To every virtue would have formed your youth, And strewed with flowers the thorny ways of truth? O loss beyond repair
O wretched father, left alone To weep their dire misfortune and thy own | How shall thy weakened mind, oppressed with wo,
And drooping o'er thy Lucy's grave, Perform the duties that you doubly owe,
Now she, alas ! is gone, From folly and from vice their helpless age to save 1
Advice to a Lady.
The counsels of a friend, Belinda, hear,
Hence, by fond dreams of fancied power amused, When most you tyrannise, you're most abused. What is your sex's earliest, latest care, Your heart's supreme ambition —To be fair. For this, the toilet every thought employs, Hence all the toils of dress, and all the joys: For this, hands, lips, and eyes, are put to school, And each instructed feature has its rule: And yet how few have learnt, when this is given, Not to disgrace the partial boon of Heaven : How few with all their pride of form can move How few are lovely, that are made for love! Do you, my fair, endeavour to possess An elegance of mind, as well as dress; Be that your ornament, and know to please By graceful Nature's unaffected ease. Nor make to dangerous wit a vain pretence, But wisely rest content with modest sense; For wit, like wine, intoxicates the brain, Too strong for feeble woman to sustain: Of those who claim it more than half have none; And half of those who have it are undone. Be still superior to your sex's arts, Northink dishonesty a proof of parts: For you, the plainest is the wisest rule: A cunning woman is a knavish fool. Be good yourself, nor think another's shame Can raise your merit, or adorn your fame. Virtue is amiable, mild, serene; Without all beauty, and all peace within; The honour of a prude is rage and storm, 'Tis ugliness in its most frightful form; Fiercely it stands, defying gods and men, As fiery monsters guard a giant's den. Seek to be good, but aim not to be great; A woman’s noblest station is retreat; Her fairest virtues fly from public sight, Domestic worth, that shuns too strong a light. To rougher man Ambition's task resign, 'Tis ours in senates or in courts to shine, To labour for a sunk corrupted state, Or dare the rage of Envy, and be great; One only care your gentle breasts should move, The important business of your life is love; To this t point direct your constant aim, This makes your happiness, and this your fame. Be never cool reserve with passion joined; With caution choose! but then be fondly kind. The selfish heart, that but by halves is given, Shall find no place in Love's delightful heaven; Here sweet extremes alone can truly bless: The virtue of a lover is excess. A maid unasked may own a well-placed flame; Not loving first, but loving wrong, is shame. Contemn the little pride of giving pain, Northink that conquest justifies disdain. Short is the period of insulting power; Offended Cupid finds his vengeful hour; Soon will resume the empire which he gave, And soon the tyrant shall become the slave. Blest is the maid, and worthy to be blest, Whose soul, entire by him she loves possessed, Feels every vanity in fondness lost, And asks no power but that of pleasing most: Hers is the bliss, in just return, to prove The honest warmth of undissembled love; For her, inconstant man might cease to range, And gratitude forbid desire to change. But, lest harsh care the lover's peace destroy, And roughly blight the tender buds of joy, Let Reason teach what Passion fain would hide, That Hymen's bands by Prudence should be tied; Venus in vain the wedded pair would crown, If angry Fortune on their union frown: Soon will the flattering dream of bliss be o'er, And cloyed Imagination cheat no more.