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Canto the Sixteenth
HOURS OF IDLENESS:
A SERIES OF POEMS, ORIGINAL AND TRANSLATED.
(FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1807. !
"Virginibus puerisque canto.'-HORACE, lib. iii. Ode 1.
TO TIE RIGHT HONOURABLE
FREDERICK, EARL OF CARLISLE,
KNIGHT OF THE GARTER, ETC, ETC.,
THE SECOND EDITION OF THESE POEMS IS INSCRIBED,
OBLIGED WARD AND AFFECTIONATE KINSMAN,
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
IN submitting to the public eye the following collection, I have not only to combat the difficulties that writers of verse generally encounter, but may incur the charge of presumption for obtruding myself on the world, when, without doubt, I might be, at my age, more usefully employed.
These productions are the fruits of the lighter hours of a young man who has lately completed his nine. teenth year. As they bear the internal evidence of a boyish inind, this is perhaps unnecessary information. Some few were written during the disadvantages of illness and depression of spirits: under the foriner influence, 'CHILDISH RECOLLECTIONS,' in particular, were composed. This consideration, though it cannot excite the voice of praise, may at least arrest the arm of censure. A considerable portion of these poems has been privately printed, at the request and for the perusal of my friends. I am sensible that the partial and frequently injudicious admiration of a social circle is not the criterion by which poetical genius is to be estimated : yet, 'to do greatly,' we must dare greatly; and I have hazarded my reputation and feelings in publishing this volume. *I have passed the Rubicon,' and must stand or fall by the 'cast of the die.' In the latter event, I shall submit without a murinur; for, though not without solicitude for the fate of these effusions, my expectations are by no ineans sanguine. It is probable that I inay have dared much and done little ; for, in the words of Cowper, it is one thing to write what may please our friends, who, because they are such, are apt to be a little biassed in our favour, and another to write what may please everybody; because they who have no connection, or even knowledge of the author, will be sure to find fault if they can.' To the truth of this, however, I do not wholly subscribe : on the contraxy, I feel convinced that these trifles will not be treated with injustice. Their merit, if they possess any, will be liberally allowed; their numerous faults, on the other hand, cannot expect that favour which has been denied to others of maturer years, decided character, and far greater ability.
I have not aimed at exclusive originality, still less have I studied any particular model for imita:ion: some translations are given, of which many are paraphrastic. In the original pieces there may appear a casual coincidence with authors whose works I have been accustomed to read; but I have not been guilty of intentional plagiarism. To produce anything entirely new, in an age so fertile in rhyme, would be a Herculean task, as every subject has already been treated to its utinost extent. Poetry, however, is not my primary vocation; to divert the dull moments of indisposition, or the monotony of a vacant lour, urged me
'to this sin :' little can be expected from so unpromising a muse. My wreath, scanty as it must be, is all I shall derive from these productions; and I shall never attempt to replace its fading leaves, or pluck a single additional sprig from groves where I am, at best, an intruder. Though accustomed, in my younger days, to rove a careless mountaineer on the Highlands of Scotland, I have not of late years had the benefit of such pure air, or so elevated a residence, as might enable me to enter the lists with genuine bards who have enjoyed both these advantages. But they derive considerable fame, and a few not less profit, from their productions: while I shall expiate my rashness as an interloper, certainly without the latter, and in all pro. bability with a very slight share of the former. I leave to others 'virum volitare per ora' ( look to the few who will hear with patience 'dulce est desipere in loco. To the former worthies I resign, without repining, the hope of immortality, and content myself with the not very magnificent prospect of ranking amongst 'the mob of gentlemen wlio write'--my readers must determine whether I dare say with ease-or the honour of a posthuinous page in The Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors,-a work to which the Peerage is under infinite obligations, inasmuch as many names of considerable length, sound, and antiquity are thereby rescued from the obscurity which unluckily overshadows several voluminous productions of their illustrious bearers.
With slight hopes, and some fears, I publish this first and last attempt. To the dictates of young ambition may be ascribed many actions more criminal and equally absurd. To a few of my own age, the contents may afford amusement: I trust they will, at least, be found harmless. It is highly improbable, from my situation and pursuits hereafter, that I should ever obtrude myself a second time on the public; nor, even in the very doubtful event of present indulgence, shall I be tempted to commit a future trespass of the same nature. The opinion of Dr. Johnson on the Poems of a noble relation of mine,* 'that when a man of rank appeared in the character of an author, he deserved to have his merit handsomely allowed,'can have little weight with verbal, and still less with periodical censors; but were it otherwise, I should be loth to avail myself of the privilege, and would rather incur the bitterest censure of anonymous criticism, than triumph in honours granted solely to a title.
* The Earl of Carlisle, whose works have long received the meed of public applause, to which by their intrinsic worth they were well entitled.
And shall presumptuous mortals Heaven arraign,
And, madly, godlike Providence accuse? Ah! no, far fly from me attempts so vain ;
I'll ne'er submission to my God refuse. Yet is remembrance of those virtues dear,
Yet fresh the memory of that beauteous face; Still they call forth my warm affection's tear,
Still in my heart retain their wonted place.
LET Folly sinjle, to view the names
Of thee and me in friendship twined; Yet Virtue will have greater claims
To love, than rank with vice combined. And though unequal is thy fate,
Since title decked my higher birth, Yet envy not this gaudy state;
Thine is the pride of modest worth.
'Αστήρ πριν μεν έλαμπες ενί ζωοίσιν έφος.
LAERTIUS, OH Friend! for ever loved, for ever dear! What fruitless tears have bathed thy honour'd bier I What sighs re-echo'd to thy parting breath, Whilst thou wast struggling in the pangs of death! Could tears retard the tyrant in his course: Could sighs avert his dart's relentless force; Could youth and virtue claim a short delay, Or beauty charm the spectre from his prey: Thou still hadst lived to bless my aching sight, Thy comrade's honour and thy friend's delight. If yet thy gentle spirit hover nigh The spot where now thy mouldering ashes lie, Here wilt thou read, recorded on my heart, A grief too deep to trust the sculptor's art. No marble marks thy couch of lowly sleep. But living statues there are seen to weep: Affliction's semblance bends not o'er thy tomb, Affliction's self deplores thy youthful doom. What though thy sire lament his failing line, A father's sorrows cannot equal mine! Though none, like thee, his dying hour will cheer, Yet other offspring soothe his anguish here : But who with me shall hold thy former place! Thine image, what new friendship can efface?
• Admiral Parker's daughter
† The author claims the indulgence of the reader more for this piece than perhaps any other in the col. lection; but as it was written at an earlier period than the rest (being composed at the age of fourteen), and his first essay, he ferred submitting it to the indul. gence of his friends in its present state, to making either addition or alteration.