Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

would have exerted a more happy influence—what one would have been more the delight of the wise and the good? As it is, the consideration of what Byron's character was will ever be a great drawback from the feel. ings of pleasure which his poems would otherwise have inspired.

Henry Kirke White, the son of John White, a butcher of Notting. ham, was born at that place on the 21st of March, 1785. From his very early years he showed a strong thirst for knowledge, and at the age of seven tried his hand at prose composition. About this time, he was put to a school in his native place, where he greatly distinguished himself among his juvenile companions. He learned the rudiments of mathematics and the French language, and displayed wonderful powers of acquisition. His father intended to bring him up to his own business; and one whole day in every week, and his leisure hours on other days, were employed in carrying the butcher's basket. But this proved so irksome to him that, at the request of his mother, he was apprenticed to a stocking weaver, to prepare himself for the hosiery line. This proved scarcely more satisfactory than his former occupation; and, after a year, his mother found means to place him in the office of Coldbam & Enfield, attorneys of Nottingham. He devoted himself with steadiness to his profession during the day, and passed his evenings in learning the Latin, Greek, and Italian languages; together with chemistry, astronomy, drawing, and music. To these acquirements he soon added practical mechanics. A London magazine, called the “Monthly Preceptor," having proposed prize themes for the youth of both sexes, Henry became a candidate, and while only in his fifteenth year obtained a silver medal for a translation from Horace, and the next year a pair of twelve inch globes for an imaginary tour from London to Edinburgh.

In 1803, appeared a volume of his poems. The statement in the preface that they were written by a youth of seventeen, and published to enable him to get the means to aid him in his studies, should have disarmed the severity of criticism; yet the poems were contemptuously noticed in the “ Monthly Review.” This treatment Henry felt most keenly. But the book fell into the hands of Mr. Soutley, who most kindly and generously wrote to the young poet to encourage him ; and very soon friends sprung up who enabled him to pursue the great object of his ambition-admission to the University of Cambridge. Hitherto his religious opinions had inclined to Deism; but a friend having put into his hands “Scott's Force of Truth," an entire change was wrought thereby in his whole character. A most decided and earnest piety now became his prominent characteristic, and he resolved to devote his life to the cause of religion, and with great zeal entered upon the study of divinity, in connection with his other studies. His application indeed was so intense that a severe illness was the result; on his recovery from which, he produced those beautiful lines written in Milford churchyard.

In the latter of 1804, his long.delayed hopes of entering the university were about 10 be gratified. “I can now inform you," he writes to a friend, "that I have reason to believe my way through college is close before me. From what source I know not; but, through the hands of Mr.

would have exerted a more happy influence-what one would have been more the delight of the wise and the good? As it is, the consideration of what Byron's character was will ever be a great drawback from the feel. ings of pleasure which his poems would otherwise have inspired.

Henry kirke White, the son of John White, a butcher of Notting. ham, was born at that place on the 21st of March, 1785. From his very early years he showed a strong thirst for knowledge, and at the age of seven tried his hand at prose composition. About this time, he was put to a school in his native place, where he greatly distinguished himself among his juvenile companions. He learned the rudiments of mathematics and the French language, and displayed wonderful powers of acquisitioz. His father intended to bring him up to his own business; and one whole day in every week, and his leisure hours on other days, were employed is carrying the butcher's basket. But this proved so irksome to him that, at the request of his mother, he was apprenticed to a stocking weaver, to prepare himself for the hosiery line. This proved scarcely more satisfactory than his former occupation; and, after a year, his mother found mear to place him in the office of Coldham & Enfield, attorneys of Nottingham. He devoted himself with steadiness to his profession during the day, and passed his evenings in learning the Latin, Greek, and Italian langnages; together with chemistry, astronomy, drawing, and music. To these des quirements he soon added practical mechanics. A London magazine, called the “Monthly Preceptor," having proposed prize themes for the yon'a of both sexes, Henry became a candidate, and while only in his fifteenth year obtained a silver medal for a translation from Horace, and the next year a pair of twelve inch globes for an imaginary tour from London to Edinburgh.

In 1803, appeared a volume of his poems. The statement in the preface that they were written by a youth of seventeen, and published to enable bim to get the means to aid him in his studies, should have disarmed the severity of criticism; yet the poems were contemptuously noticed in the “Monthly Review." This treatment Henry felt most keenly. But the book fell into the hands of Mr. Southey, who most kindly and generously wrote to the young poet to encourage him; and very soon friends sprung up who enabled him to pursue the great object of his ambition-admission to the University of Cambridge. Hitherto his religious opinions had inclined to Deism; but a friend having put into his hands Scott's Force of Truth,'' an entire change was wrought thereby in his whole character. A most decided and earnest piery now became his prominent characteristic, and be resolved to devote his life to the cause of religion, and with great zeal entered upon the study of divinity, in connection with his other studies. His application indeed was so intense that a severe illness was the result; on his recovery from which, he produced those beautiful lines written in Milford churchyard.

In the latter of 1804, his long.delayed hopes of entering the uniter. siry were about 10 be gratified. I can now inform you," he writes to 8 riend, "that I have ieason to believe my way through college is close be

73

Simeon, I am provided with thirty pounds per annum, and I can command twenty or thirty more from my friends, in all probability, until I take my degree. The friends to whom I allude are my mother and brother.” Poetry was now abandoned for severer studies. He competed for one of the univer. sity scholarships, and at the end.of the term was pronounced the first man of his year. Twice he distinguished himself in the following year, was again pronounced first at the great college examination, and also one of the three best theme writers, between whom the examiners could not decide. But this distinction was purchased at the sacrifice of health, and ultimately of lise. Of this, he himself was sensible. “Were I," he writes to a friend, "to paint a picture of Fame crowning a distinguished undergraduate, after the senate house examination, I would represent her as concealing a death's head under a mask of beauty." He went to London to recruit his shattered nerves and spirits ; but it was too late. He returned to his college, renewed his studies with unabated ardor, and sank under the effort. Nature was at length overcome; he grew delirious, and died on the 19th of October, 1806, in his twenty.first year.

Thus fell, a victim to his own genius, one whose abilities and acquire. ments were not more conspicuous than his moral and social excellence. It is not possible,” says Southey," "to conceive a human being more amiable in all the relations of life."'? And again : “He possessed as pure a beart as ever it pleased the Almighty to warm with life.” Of his fervent piety, his letters, his prayers, and his hymns will afford ample and interesting proof. It was in him a living and quickening principle of goodness, which sancti. fied all his hopes and all his affections; which made him keep watch over his own heart, and enabled him to correct the few symptoms, which it ever displayed, of human imperfection.

With regard to his poems, the same good judge observes, “Chatterton is the only youthful poet whom he does not leave far behind him;"' and, in alluding to some of his papers, handed to him for perusal after the death of this gifted youth, he observes, “I have inspected all the existing manuscripts of Chatterton, and they excited less wonder than these."

[ocr errors]

· The "Remains of Henry Kirke White, with an Account of his Life," by Robert Southey, 2 vols.

3"What an amazing reach of genius appears in the Remains of Henry Kirke White ! How unfortunate that he should have been lost to the world almost as soon as known. I greatly lament the circumstances that forced him to studies so contrary to his natural talent."-Sir E. Brydges, "Censura Literaria," vol. ix. p. 393. Again, this same discriminating critic says, " There are,

I think, among these · Remains,' a few of the most exquisite pieces in the whole body of English poetry. Conjoined with an easy and flowing fancy, they possess the charm of a peculiar moral delicacy, often conveyed in a happy and inimitable simplicity of language."

ore me. From what source I know not; but, through the hands of Mr.

SONNET IN HIS SICKNESS.

Yes, 'twill be over soon.

1.-This sickly dream of life will vanish from my feverish brain; And death my wearied spirit will redeem

From this wild region of unvaried pain, Yon brook will glide as softly as before

Yon landscape smile-yon golden harvest growYon sprightly lark on mounting wing will soar

When Henry's name is heard no more below. I sigh when all my youthful friends caress

They laugh in health, and future evils brave; Them shall a wife and smiling children bless,

While I am mould'ring in my silent grave. God of the just—Thou gav'st the bitter cup; I bow to thy behest, and drink it up.

SONNET TO CONSUMPTION.

Gently, most gently, on thy victim's head,

Consumption, lay thine havd !- let me decay,

Like the expiring lamp, unseen away, And softly go to slumber with the dead. And if 'tis true, what holy men have said,

That strains angelic ost foretell the day

Or death to those good men who fall thy prey, O let the aerial music round my bed, Dissolving sad in dying symphony,

Whisper the solemn warning in mine ear,
That I may bid my weeping friends good-bye

Ere I depart upon my journey drear:
And, smiling faintly on the painful past,
Compose my decent head, and breathe my last.

SOLITUDE.

It is not that my lot is low,
Tbat bids this silent tear to flow;
It is not grief that bids me moan,
It is that I am all alone.
In woods and glens I love to roam,
When the tired hedger hies him home;
Or by the woodland pool to rest,
When the pale star looks on its breast.

Yet, when the silent evening sighs
With hallow'd airs and symphonies,
My spirit takes another tone,
And sighs that it is all alone.
The autumn leaf is sear and dead,
It floats upon the water's bed:
I would not be a leaf, to die
Without recording sorrow's sigb!
The woods and winds, with sullen wail,
Tell all the same unvaried tale;
I've none to smile when I am free,
And when I sigh to sigh with me!
Yet, in my dreams, a form I view
That thinks on me, and loves me too :
I start, and when the vision 's flown,
I weep that I am all alone.

ODE TO DISAPPOINTMENT.

Come, Disappointment, come!

Not in thy terrors clad;
Come in thy meekest, saddest guise;
Thy chastening rod but terrifies
The restless and the bad.

But I recline

Beneath thy shrine, And, round my brow resign'd, thy peaceless cypress twine

Though Fancy flies away

Before thy hollow tread,
Yet Meditation, in her cell,
Hears, with faint eye, the lingering knell
Tbat tells her hopes are dead;

And though the tear

By chance appear, Yet she can smile, and say, " My all was not laid here."

Come, Disappointment, come!

Though from Hope's summit hurl’d,
Still, rigid Nurse, thou art forgiven,
For thou severe wert sent from heaven
To wean me from the world:

To turn my eye

From vanity,
And point to scenes of bliss that never, never die.

What is this passing scene ?

A peevish April day!

A little sun-a little rain,
And then night sweeps along the plain,
And all things fade away.

Man (soon discuss d)

Yields up bis trust,
And all his hopes and fears lie with him in the dust.

0, what is beauty's power?

It flourishes and dies;
Will the cold earth its silence break,
To tell how soft, how smooth a cheek
Beneath its surface lies?

Mute, mute is all

O'er Beauty's fall;
Her praise resounds no more when mantled in her pall.

The most belov'd on earth

Not long survives to-day;
So music past is obsolete-
And yet 'twas sweet, 'twas passing sweet;
But now 'tis gone away.

Thus does the shade

In memory fade,
When in forsaken tomb the form belov'd is laid.

Then, since this world is vain,

And volatile, and fleet,
Why should I lay up earthly joys,
Where rust corrupts, and moth destroys,
And cares and sorrows eat?

Why fly from ill

With anxious skill, When soon this hand will freeze, this throbbing heart be still?

Come, Disappointment, come!

Thou art not stern to me;
Sad monitress! I own thy sway ;
A votary sad in early day,
I bend my knee to thee:

From sun to sun

My race will run;
I only bow, and say, “ My God, thy will be done !"

TO AN EARLY PRIMROSE.

Mild offspring of a dark and sullen sire!
Whose modest form, so delicately five,

Was nursed in whirling storms,

And cradled in the winds; Thee, when young Spring first questioned Winter's sway, And dared the sturdy blust'rer to the fight, Ihee on this bank he threw,

To mark his victory.

« AnteriorContinuar »