« AnteriorContinuar »
If pow'rs of acting vast and unconfin'd;
Edward Young, a poet of considerable celebrity, was the only son of Dr. Edward Young, fellow of Winchester College, and rector of Upham, Hampshire. He was born at his father's living, in 1684, and was educated at Winchester school, whence he was removed to New College, and afterwards to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. By the favour of Archbishop Tenison he obtained a law-fellowship at All-Souls. At this time his chief pursuit appears to have been poetry; and it is little to his credit, with respect to his choice of patrons, that he has sought them through all the political changes of the time. Tragedy was one of his favourite pursuits, in which his “ Revenge," dedicated in 1721 to the Duke of Wharton, was regarded as his principal effort. Many other performances, however, took their turn, of which the most noted at this time were his “ Paraphrase on Part of the Book of Job ;” and “ The Love of Fame, or the Universal Passion.”
Young, now in his forty-fourth year, having given up his prospects as a layman, took orders, and was nominated one of the Royal Chaplains.
He published some prose works as the fruits of his new profession, of which were, “The True Estimate of Human Life,” representing only its dark side; and “ An Apology for Princes, or the Reverence due to Government,” a sermon, well suited to a court chaplain. In 1730 he was presented, by his college, to the rectory of Welwyn, in Hertfordshire; and in the following year he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, widow of Colonel Lee, and daughter of the Earl of Lichfield. This lady he lost in 1741, after she had borne him one son. Other affecting family losses occurred about that period, and aggravated his disposition to melancholy; and it was in this year that he commenced his famous poem, the “ Night Thoughts.” This production is truly original in design and execution : it imitates none, and has no imitators. Its spirit is, indeed, gloomy and severe, and its theology awful and overwhelming. It seems designed to pluck up by the roots every consolation for human evils, except that founded on the scheme of Christianity which the writer adopted ; yet it presents reflections which are inculcated with a force of language, and sublimity of imagination, almost unparalleled. It abounds with the faults characteristic of the writer, and is spun out to a tedious length, that of nine books; but if not often read through, it will never sink into neglect. It was evidently the favourite work of the author, who ever after wished to be known as the composer of the “ Night Thoughts." The numerous editions of the work sufficiently
prove the hold which it has taken of the public mind.
The lyric attempts of Young were singularly unfortunate, not one of his pieces of that class having a claim for perusal; and, indeed, many of his other poetical writings display inequalities, and defects of taste and judgment, very extraordinary for a writer of his rank. In an edition of his works, published during his life, in four vols. 8vo., he himself excluded several compositions, which he thought of inferior merit, and expunged many de. dications, of which he was doubtless ashamed. A letter to him, from Archbishop Secker, proves, however, that at a late period of life he had not ceased to solicit preferinent. He latterly fell under domestic sway, and was entirely subdued to the controul of a housekeeper. Young continued to exist till April, 1765, when he expired in his 84th year.
ON PART OF
THE BOOK OF JOB. Turice happy Job long liv'd in regal state, Nor saw the sumptuous East a prince so great ; Whose worldly stores in such abundance flow'd, Whose heart with such exalted virtue glow'd. At length misfortunes take their turn to reign, And ills on ills succeed! a dreadful train ! What now but deaths, and poverty, and wrong, The sword wide-wasting, the reproachful tongue, And spotted plagues, that mark'd his limbs all o'er So thick with pains, they wanted room for more! A change so sad what mortal here could bear? Exhausted woe had left him nought to fear; But gave him all to grief. Low earth he press'd, Wept in the dust, and sorely smote his breast. His friends around the deep affliction mourn’d, Felt all his pangs, and groan for groan return’d; In anguish of their hearts their mantles rent, And seven long days in solemn silence spent! A debt of reverence to distress so great! Then Job contain'd no more; but curs'd his fate. His day of birth, its inauspicious light, He wishes sunk in shades of endless night, And blotted from the year; nor fears to crave Death, instant death ; impatient for the grave, That seat of peace, that mansion of repose, Where rest and mortals are no longer foes;