Imágenes de página

No, fair illusions ! artful phantoms, no!
My muse will not attempt your fairy land :
She has no colours that like you can glow :
To catch your vivid scenes too gross her hand.
But sure it is, was ne'er a subtler band
Than these same guileful angel-seeming sprights,
Who thus in dreams voluptuous, soft, and bland,

Poured all the Arabian heaven upon our nights,
And blest them oft besides with more refined delights.

To number up the thousands dwelling here, An useless were, and eke an endless task ; From kings, and those who at the helm appear, To gipsies brown in summer-glades who bask. Yea many a man, perdie, I could unmask, Whose desk and table make a solemn show, With tape-ty'd trash, and suits of fools that ask For place or pension laid in decent row; But these I passen by, with nameless numbers moe. Of all the gentle tenants of the place, There was a man of special grave remark?; A certain tender gloom o’erspread his face, Pensive, not sad ; in thought involv'd, not dark; As soot this man could sing as morning lark, And teach the noblest morals of the heart; But these his talents were yburied stark : Of the fine stores he nothing would impart, Which or boon Nature gave, or nature-painting Art. To noontide shades incontinent he ran, Where purls the brook with sleep-inviting sound, Or when Dan Sol to slope his wheels began, Amid the broom he bask'd him on the ground, Where the wild thyme and camomile are found; There would he linger, till the latest ray Of light fate trembling on the welkin's bound, Then homeward thro' the twilight shadows stray, Sauntering and slow : so had he passed many a day.

William Paterson, Thomson's amanuensis.

Yet not in thoughtless slumber were they past;
For oft the heavenly fire, that lay conceal'd
Beneath the sleeping embers, mounted fast,
And all its native light anew revealed ;
Oft as he travers’d the cerulean field,
And marked the clouds that drove before the wind,
Ten thousand glorious systems would he build,
Ten thousand great ideas fill'd his mind :
But with the clouds they fled, and left no trace behind.
With him was sometimes join'd, in silent walk,
(Profoundly silent, for they never spoke)
One shyer still", who quite detested talk;
Oft stung by spleen, at once away he broke,
To groves of pine and broad o'ershadowing oak;
There inly thrillid, he wander'd all alone,
And on himself his pensive fury wroke,
Ne ever utter'd word, save when first shone
The glittering star of eve—'Thank Heaven ! the day is done.'

1 Probably the poet Armstrong.


(JOHN ARMSTRONG was born in Liddesdale about the year 1709, and died in London in 1779. His poetical works, which here alone concern us, were The Economy of Love, 1739, The Art of Preserving Health, 1744, and some slight pieces published in volumes of miscellanies later.]

Armstrong is, beyond all doubt, the most remarkable poet of the school of Thomson. It would appear that the style in his case was not the result merely of imitation of the author of The Seasons, but came from a similar cause, the study at once of the Queen Anne men and of older writers. Both Shakespeare and Spenser were sufficiently attractive to Armstrong when he was quite a boy to induce him to imitate them, and though the imitations show more zeal than appreciation, they have some merit. The Economy of Love, from which no extracts can here be given, contains many stately verses, and some which exhibit considerable novelty of structure. On the whole Armstrong's versification and language are Thomsonian. The blemishes of that style, such as the ridiculous classicism which calls a cold bath a 'gelid cistern,' and so forth, are present in large measure. But the merits of abundant fancy, of surprising range of illustration, and of a certain starched grace which is not unattractive, are present likewise. (It would be difficult to find a more unsuitable subject for poetry than the art of preserving health : yet in treating it Armstrong has managed to produce many passages which lovers and students of blank verse cannot afford to disdain. His vigour is unquestionable, and his skill is by no means of an every-day order. The poem however is deformed, not merely by the unavoidable drawbacks of its subject, but by the insertion of a large mass of unnecessary and now obsolete technicalities, which could at no time have added to its attractions, and which now make parts of it nearly unreadable. Here and there, too, we are offended by the defect which Armstrong shares with Swift and with Smollet, the tendency to indulge in merely nauseous details. On the whole however the merits of The

Art of Preserving Health far outweigh its defects. It may indeed be urged by a devil's advocate that it is but a left-handed compliment to say that a man has done better than could be expected a task which, as sense and taste should have shown him, ought not to have been attempted at all. But Armstrong must always have, with competent judges, the praise which belongs to an author who has a distinct and peculiar grasp of a great poetical form. His rhymed verse is on the whole very inferior to his blank. The rhymes are frequently careless, and the poet's ear does not seem to have taught him how to construct couplets with the proper variety and continuity of cadence. His satire however, if a little conventional, is sometimes vigorous, and a specimen of the poem entitled Taste is therefore given here.




The body, moulded by the clime, endures
The equator heats or hyperborean frost :
Except by habits foreign to its turn,
Unwise, you counteract its forming power.
Rude at the first, the winter shocks you less
By long acquaintance : study then your sky,
Form to its manners your obsequious frame,
And learn to suffer what you cannot shun.
Against the rigors of a damp cold heav'n
To fortify their bodies some frequent
The gelid cistern ; and, where nought forbids
I praise their dauntless heart : a frame so steeled
Dreads not the cough, nor those ungenial blasts
That breathe the tertian or fell rheumatism.
The nerves so tempered never quit their tone,
No chronic languors haunt such hardy breasts.
But all things have their bounds : and he who makes
By daily use the kindest regimen
Essential to his health, should never mix
With human kind, nor art, nor trade pursue.
He not the safe vicissitudes of life
Without some shock endures ; ill-fitted he
To want the known, or bear unusual things.
Besides, the powerful remedies of pain
(Since pain in spite of all our care will come)
Should never with your prosperous days of health
Grow too familiar : for by frequent use
The strongest medicines lose their healing power
And even the surest poisons theirs to kill.

How to live happiest ? how avoid the pains,
The disappointments, and disgusts of those
Who would in pleasure all their hours employ,

« AnteriorContinuar »