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The precepts here of a divine old man
I could recite. Tho' old, he still retained
His manly sense, and energy of mind.
Virtuous and wise he was, but not severe ;
He still remembered that he once was young ;
His easy presence checked no decent joy.
Him even the dissolute admired ; for he
A graceful looseness when he pleased put on,
And laughing could instruct. Much had he read,
Much more had seen : he studied from the life,
And in th’ original perused mankind.
Versed in the woes and vanities of life
He pitied man: and much he pitied those
Whom falsely-smiling fate has cursed with means
To dissipate their days in quest of joy.
Our aim is happiness ; 'tis yours, 'tis mine,'
He said, “'tis the pursuit of all that live :
Yet few attain it, if 'twas e'er attained.
But they the widest wander from the mark,
Who thro’ the flowery paths of sauntering joy
Seek this cox goddess : that from stage to stage
Invites us still, but shifts as we pursue.
For, not to name the pains that pleasure brings
To counterpoise itself, relentless fate
Forbids that we thro’ gay voluptuous wilds
Should ever roam : and were the fates more kind
Our narrow luxuries would soon grow stale :
Were these exhaustless, nature would grow sick,
And, cloyed with pleasure, squeamishly complain
That all is vanity, and life a dream.
Let nature rest : be busy for yourself,
And for your friend, be busy even in vain
Rather than tease her sated appetites.
Who never fasts no banquet e’er enjoys ;
Who never toils or watches, never sleeps.
Let nature rest : and when the taste of joy
Grows keen, indulge ; but shun satiety.
'Tis not for mortals always to be blest,
But him the least the dull or painful hours

Of life oppress, whom sober sense conducts,
And virtue, thro’ this labyrinth we tread.
Virtue and sense I mean not to disjoin ;
Virtue and sense are one : and trust me, still
A faithless heart betrays the head unsound.
Virtue (for mere good-nature is a fool)
Is sense and spirit with humanity :
'Tis sometimes angry and its frown confounds;
'Tis even vindictive, but in vengeance just.
Knaves fain would laugh at it : some great ones dare.
But at his heart the most undaunted son
Of fortune dreads its name and awful charms.
To noblest uses this determines' wealth ;
This is the solid pomp of prosperous days;
The peace and shelter of adversity.
And if you pant for glory, build your fame
On this foundation, which the secret shock
Defies of envy and all-sapping time.
The gaudy gloss of fortune only strikes
The vulgar eye; the suffrage of the wise,
The praise that's worth ambition, is attained
By sense alone and dignity of mind.
Virtue, the strength and beauty of the soul,
Is the best gift of Heaven : a happiness
That even above the smiles and frowns of fate
Exalts great Nature's favourites ; a wealth
That ne'er encumbers, nor can be transferr'd.


Read boldly, and unprejudiced peruse
Each fav'rite modern, e'en each ancient Muse.
With all the comic salt and tragic rage
The great stupendous genius of our stage,
Boast of our island, pride of humankind,
Had faults to which the boxes are not blind ;
His frailties are to every gossip known,
Yet Milton's pedantries not shock the town.

Ne’er be the dupe of names however high,
For some outlive good parts, some misapply.
Each elegant Spectator you admire,
But must you therefore swear by Cato's fire ?
Masks for the court, and oft a clumsy jest,
Disgraced the muse that wrought the Alchemist.

But to the ancients.'—Faith! I am not clear,
For all the smooth round type of Elzevir,
That ev'ry work which' lasts in prose or song
Two thousand years deserves to last so long :
For--not to mention bome eternal blades
Known only now in academic shades,
(Those sacred groves where raptured spirits stray,
And in word-hunting waste the livelong day)
Ancients whom none but curious critics scan,-
Do read Messala's praises if you can.
Ah! who but feels the sweet contagious smart
While soft Tibullus pours his tender heart ?
With him the loves and muses melt in tears,
But not a word of some hexameters !
"You grow so squeamish and so devilish dry
You 'll call Lucretius vapid next.' Not I:
Some find him tedious, others think him lame,
But if he lags his subject is to blame.
Rough weary roads thro' barren wilds he tried,
Yet still he marches with true Roman pride ;
Sometimes a meteor, gorgeous, rapid, bright,
He streams athwart the philosophic night.
Find you in Horace no insipid odes ?-
He dared to tell us Homer sometimes nods ;
And but for such a critic's hardy skill
Homer might slumber unsuspected still.


[William SOMERVILLE was born in Warwickshire in 1677. He was educated at Winchester, and became a Fellow of New College, Oxford. In 1704 he inherited the seat of his ancestors, Edston, where he spent the remainder of his life as a country gentleman. Late in life he began to write, and published The Two Springs, 1725; Occasional Poems, 1727; The Chase, 1734; and Hobbinol. He died July 19, 1742, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley in Arden.]

Somerville was a handsome noisy squire, a strapping fellow six feet high, a hard rider, a crack shot. No more characteristic specimen of the sporting country gentleman, pure and simple, could be imagined, or one less likely to develope into a poet. It was, in fact, not until fast living had begun to break down his constitution that he took to literature as a consolation. One of his earliest exercises was an epistle addressed to Addison, who had bought a property in Warwickshire, and so had become Somerville's neighbour. This poem is neatly and enthusiastically versified, and contains the well-known compliment which pleased Dr. Johnson so much :

When panting Virtue her last efforts made,

You brought your Clio to the virgin's aid.' Somerville was the disciple of Addison, but he enjoyed at the same time the friendship of Pope. A lyric correspondence with Allan Ramsay tells us more about his person than we should otherwise have known, and an epistle to James Thomson displays the respect with which he learned to contemplate his own literary judgment. A friendship with the boyish Shenstone was the last event of a career that ended very plaintively, in pain, financial ruin, and drunkenness. His life is a singular variant of the pagan ideal of the time ; it is curious to find a boisterous squire, of the coarse type that Fielding painted in the next generation, assuming the airs of a stoic and a wit, and striking the fashionable Cato attitude in top-boots and a hunting-belt.

Somerville, who was a well-read man, took the Cynegetica of Gratius Faliscus as his model, when he produced his best poem, The Chase. Like the Latin poet, he alternates moral maxims with practical information about the training and the points of hounds. This epic, which is in four books, discusses in its first part the origin of hunting, the economy of kennels, the physical and moral accomplishments of hounds, and the choosing of a good or bad scenting day. The second book, which possesses more natural language and a finer literary quality than the others, commences with directions for hare-hunting, and closes with a moral reproof of tyranny. In the third book hunting is treated from an antiquarian and an exotic standpoint, while the fourth deals with the breeding of hounds, their diseases, and the diseases they cause, such as hydrophobia. It will hardly be guessed from such a sketch of the contents that The Chase is a remarkably readable and interesting poem : it is composed in blank verse that is rarely turgid and not very often flat, and the zeal and science of the author give a certain vitality to his descriptions which compels the reader's attention. People that have a practical knowledge of the matters described confess that Somerville thoroughly understood what he was talking about, and that in his easy chair before the fire he

plied his function of the woodland' no less admirably than he had done in the saddle in his athletic youth.

The success of The Chase induced him, when he was quite an old man, to sing of fishing and of the bowling green ; but on these subjects he was less interesting than on hunting. His Hobbinol, a sort of mock-heroic poem on rural games, written in emulation of The Splendid Shilling of John Philips, was intended to be sprightly, and only succeeded in being ridiculous. Less foolish, but somewhat coarsely and frivolously easy, were his Fables, in the manner of Prior. Posterity, in short, has refused to regard Somerville in any other light than as the broken-down squire, warming himself with a mug of ale in his ancestral chimney corner, and instructing the magnificent Mr. Addison in the mysteries of breeds and points.


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