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That crown the solitary dome, arise;
Of sunk magnificence a blended scene
Willian Mason, a poet of some distinction, born in 1725, was the son of a clergyman, who held the living of Hull. He was admitted first of St. John's College, and afterwards of Pembroke College, Cambridge, of the latter of which he was elected Fellow in 1747. He entered into holy orders in 1754, and, by the favour of the Earl of Holderness, was presented to the valuable rectory of Aston, Yorkshire, and became Chaplain to His Majesty. Some poems which he printed gave him reputation, which received a great accession from his dramatic poem of “Elfrida.” By this piece, and his “Caractacus,” which followed, it was his aim to attempt the restoration of the ancient Greek chorus in tragedy; but this is so evidently an appendage of the infant and imperfect state of the drama, that a pedantic attachment to the ancients could alone suggest its revival. In 1756, he published a small collection of “Odes,” which were generally considered as displaying more of the artificial mechanism of poetry, than of its genuine spirit. This was not the case with his “Elegies,” published in 1763, which, abating some superfluity of ornament, are in general marked with the simplicity of language proper to this species of composition, and breathe noble sentiments of freedom and virtue. A collection of all his poems which he thought worthy of preserving, was published in 1764, and afterwards went through several editions. He had married an amiable lady, who died of a consumption in 1767, and was buried in the cathedral of Bristol, under a monument, on which are inscribed some very tender and beautiful lines, by her husband. In 1772, the first book of Mason’s “English Garden,” a didactic and descriptive poem, in blank
ODE TO MEMORY.
Morur, of Wisdom thou, whose sway
verse, made its appearance, of which the fourth and concluding book was printed in 1781. Its purpose was to recommend the modern system of natural or landscape gardening, to which the author adheres with the rigour of exclusive taste. The versification is formed upon the best models, and the description, in many parts, is rich and vivid; but a general air of stiffness prevented it from altaining any considerable share of popularity. Some of his following poetic pieces express his liberal sentiments on political subjects; and when the late Mr. Pitt came into power, being then the friend of a free constitution, Mason addressed him in an “Ode,” containing many patriotie and manly ideas. But being struck with alarm at the unhappy events of the French revolution, one of his latest pieces was a “Palinody to Liberty.” He likewise revived, in an improved form, and published, Du Fresnoy's Latin poem on the Art of Painting, enriching it with additions furnished by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and with a metrical version. Few have been better executed than this, which unites to great beauties of language a correct representation of the original. His tribute to the memory of Gray, being an edition of his poems, with some additions, and Memoirs of his Life and Writings, was favourably received by the public.
Mason died in April, 1797, at the age of seventytwo, in consequence of a mortification produced by a hurt in his leg. A tablet has been placed to his memory in Poets' Corner, in Westminster Abbey. His character in private life was exemplary for worth and active benevolence, though not without a degree of stateliness and assumed superiority of manner.
Wainly, the cygnet spread her downy plume,
Hail, Mem'ry! hail. Behold, I lead To that high shrine the sacred maid: Thy daughter she, the empress of the lyre, The first, the fairest, of Aonia's quire. She comes, and lo, thy realms expand! She takes her delegated stand
Rise, hallow'd Milton rise, and say, How, at thy gloomy close of day, How, when “deprest by age, beset with wrongs:" When “fall'n on evil days and evil tongues;” When darkness, brooding on thy sight, Exil'd the sov’reign lamp of light; Say, what could then one cheering hope diffuse? What friends were thine, save Mem'ry and the Muse? Hence the rich spoils, thy studious youth Caught from the stores of ancient truth: Hence all thy classic wand'rings could explore, When rapture led thee to the Latian shore; Each scene, that Tyber's banks supply'd ; Each grace, that play'd on Arno's side; The tepid gales, through Tuscan glades that fly: The blue serene, that spreads Hesperia's sky; Were still thine own; thy ample mind Each charm receiv'd, retain'd, combin'd. And thence “the nightly visitant,” that came To touch thy bosom with her sacred flame, Recall'd the long-lost beams of grace, That whilom shot from Nature's face, When God, in Eden, o'er her youthful breast Spread with his own right hand Perfection's gorgeous vest.
ODE TO INDEPENDENCY.
Hene, on my native shore reclin'd, While silence rules this midnight hour, I woo thee, Goddess! On my musing mind Descend, propitious power And bid these ruffling gales of grief subside: Bid my calm’d soul with all thy influence shine; As yon chaste orb along this ample tide Draws the long lustre of her silver line, While the hush'd breeze its last weak whisper blows, And lulls old Humber to his deep repose
Come to thy vot'ry's ardent prayer, In all thy graceful plainness drest: No knot confines thy waving hair, No zone, thy floating vest; Unsullied honour decks thine open brow, And candour brightens in thy modest eye : Thy blush is warm content's ethereal glow ; Thy smile is peace; thy step is liberty: Thou scatter'st blessings round with lavish hand, As Spring with careless fragrance fills the land.
As now o'er this lone beach I stray, Thy favorite swain " oft stole along, And artless wove his Dorian lay, Far from the busy throng. Thou heard'st him, goddess, strike the tender string, And bad'st his soul with bolder passions move: Soon these responsive shores forgot to ring, With beauty's praise, or plaint of slighted love; To loftier flights his daring genius rose, And led the war 'gainst thine, and Freedom's foes.
Pointed with satire's keenest steel, The shafts of wit he darts around; Ev’n f mitred dulness learns to feel, And shrinks beneath the wound. In aweful poverty his honest Muse Walks forth vindictive through a venal land: In vain corruption sheds her golden dews, In vain oppression lifts her iron hand; He scorns them both, and, arm'd with truth alone, Bids lust and folly tremble on the throne.
Behold, like him, immortal maid, The Muses' vestal fires I bring: Here, at thy feet, the sparks I spread: Propitious wave thy wing, And fan them to that dazzling blaze of song, Which glares tremendous on the sons of pride. But, hark, methinks I hear her hallow'd tongue! In distant trills it echoes o'er the tide; o Now meets mine ear with warbles wildly free, As swells the lark's meridian ecstasy.
“Fond youth ! to Marvell's patriot fame, Thy humble breast must ne'er aspire. Yet nourish still the lambent flame; Still strike thy blameless lyre : Led by the moral Muse, securely rove; And all the vernal sweets thy vacant youth Can cull from busy Fancy's fairy grove, Oh hang their foliage round the fame of Truth: To arts like these devote thy tuneful toil, And meet its fair reward in D'Arcy's smile.
“'Tis he, my son, alone shall cheer Thy sick’ning soul; at that sad hour, When o'er a much-lov'd parent's bier, Thy duteous sorrows shower: At that sad hour, when all thy hopes decline; When pining Care leads on her pallid train, And sees thee, like the weak, and widow’d vine, Winding thy blasted tendrils o'er the plain. At that sad hour shall D'Arcy lend his aid, And raise with friendship's arm thy drooping head.
“This fragrant wreath, the Muses' meed, That bloom'd those vocal shades among, Where never flatt'ry dar'd to tread, Or interest's servile throng ; Receive, thou favour’d son, at my command, And keep with sacred care, for D'Arcy's brow : Tell him, 't was wove by my immortal hand, I breath'd on every flower a purer glow ; Say, for thy sake, I send the gift divine To him, who calls thee his, yet makes thee mine."
• Andrew Marvell, born at Kingston-upon-Hull in the year 1620.
+ see The Rehearsal transprosed, and an account of the cffect of that satire, in the Biographia Britan
! nica, art. Marvell.
ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF A LADY.
The midnight clock has toll'd ; and hark, the bell
Know, ye were form'd to range yon azure field,
EPITAPH ON MRS. MASON.
in the cathedraai, or haistol
Take, holy earth! all that my soul holds dear:
Willia, CowpzR, a poet of distinguished and original genius, was born in 1731, at Great Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire. His father, the rector of the parish, was John Cowper, D.D., nephew of Lord-Chancellor Cowper. The subject of this memorial was educated at Westminster school, where he acquired the classical knowledge and correctness of taste for which it is celebrated, but with. out any portion of the confident and undaunted spirit which is supposed to be one of the most valuable acquisitions derived from the great schools, to those who are to push their way in the world. On the contrary, it appears from his poem entitled “Tirocinium,” that the impressions made upon his mind from what he witnessed in this place, were such as gave him a permanent dislike to the system of public education. Soon after his leaving Westminster, he was articled to a solicitor in London for three years; but so far from studying the law, he spent the greatest part of his time with a relation, where he and the future Lord Chancellor (Lord Thurlow) spent their time, according to his own expression, “...in giggling, and making giggle.” At the expiration of his time with the solicitor, he took chambers in the Temple, but his time was still little employed on the law, and was rather engaged in classical pursuits, in which Coleman, Bonnel Thornton, and Lloyd, seem to have been his principal associates. Cowper's spirits were naturally weak; and when his friends had procured him a nomination to the offices of reading-clerk and clerk of the Private Committees in the House of Lords, he shrunk with such terrour from the idea of making his appearance before the most august assembly in the nation, that after a violent struggle with himself, he resigned his intended employment, and with it all his prospects in life. In fact, he became completely deranged; and in this situation was placed, in December, 1763, about the 32d year of his age, with Dr. Cotton, an amiable and worthy physician at St. Alban's. This agitation of his mind is placed by some who have mentioned it to the account of a deep consideration of his state in a religious view, in which the terrours of eternal judgment so much overpowered his faculties, that he remained seven months in momentary expectation of being plunged into final misery. Mr. Johnson, however, a near relation, has taken pains to prove to demonstration, that these views of his condition were so far from producing such an effect, that they ought to be regarded as his sole consolation. It appears, however, that his mind had acquired such an indelible tinge of melancholy, that his whole successive life was passed with little more than intervals of comfort between long paroxysms of settled despondency.
to Olney in Buckinghamshire, which was thenceforth the principal place of Cowper's residence. At Olney he contracted a close friendship with the Rev. Mr. Newton, then minister there, and since |. of St. Mary Woolnoth, London, whose religious opinions were in unison with his own. To a collection of hymns published by him, Cowper contributed a considerable number of his own composition. He first became known to the public as a poet by a volume printed in 1782, the contents of which, if they did not at once place him high in the scale of poetic excellence, sufficiently established his claim to originality. Its topics are “Table Talk,” “Errour,” “Truth,” “Expostulation,” “Hope,” “Charity,” “Conversation,” and “Retirement,” all treated upon religious principles, and not without a considerable tinge of that rigour and austerity which belonged to his system. These pieces are written in rhymed heroics, which he commonly manages with little grace, or attention to melody. The style, though often prosaic, is never flat or insipid; and sometimes the true poet breaks through, in a vein of lively description or bold figure. If this volume excited but little of the public attention, his next volume, published in 1785, introduced his name to all the lovers of poetry, and gave him at least an equality of reputation with any of his contemporaries. It consists of a poem in six books, entitled “The Task,” alluding to the injunction of a lady, to write a piece in blank verse, for the subject of which she gave him. The Sofa. It sets out, indeed, with some sportive discussion of this topic; but soon falls into a serious strain of rural description, intermixed with moral sentiments and portraitures, which is preserved through the six books, freely ranging from thought to thought with no perceptible method. But as the whole poem will here be found, it is unnecessary to enter into particulars. Another piece, entitled “Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools,” a work replete with striking observation, is added to the preceding; and several other pieces gleaned from his various writings will be found in the collection. For the purpose of losing in employment the distressing ideas which were ever apt to recur, he next undertook the real task of translating into blank verse the whole of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. This work has much merit of execution, and is certainly a far more exact representation of the ancient poet than Pope's ornamental version; but where simplicity of matter in the original is not relieved by the force of sonorous diction, the poverty of English blank-verse has scarcely been able to prevent it from sinking into mere prose. Various other translations denoted his necessity of seeking employment; but nothing was capable of durably relieving his mind from the horrible impressions it
After a residence of a year and a half with Dr. Cotton, he spent part of his time at the house of his relation, Earl Cowper, and part at Huntingdon, with his intimate friend, the Rev. Mr. Unwin. The death of the latter caused his widow to remove
had undergone. He passed some of his latter years under the affectionate care of a relation at East Dereham in Norfolk, where he died on April 25th, 1800.