Puslapio vaizdai

the scholar, the philosopher, and the wit, to write little poems of devotion, and systems of instruction, adapted to their wants and capacities, from the dawn of reason through its gradations of advance in the morning of life. Every man acquainted with the common principles of human action will look with veneration on the writer, who is at one time combating Locke, and at another making a catechism for children in their fourth year. A voluntary descent from the dignity of science is perhaps the hardest lesson that humility can teach. With his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness of opposition, and his mildness of censure." Dr. Doddridge has likewise artlessly described the character and pursuits of his venerated friend, in an affectionate dedication to him of his "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul."

Amidst many things that were unnatural, or trite, Watts has displayed a very vivid imagination, and produced some of the most suitable devotional lyrics in the English language. His poetry is always religiously pure, and some of its shorter strains burn with the chastened sublimity of his pious emotions, expressed in language which could hardly have been rendered more appropriately beautiful. Considered as the work of one mind, his volume of Psalms and Hymns is a remarkable production, and if the best of its contents were selected and published together, such a book would alone entitle him to a high rank among the British poets. His hymns for infant minds display, likewise, a true poetical genius. Had he made poetry the business of his life, his success would doubtless have been eminent; it was only his relaxation. "He is one of the few poets," says Johnson, "with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will be that reader, whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to copy his benevolence to man and his reverence to God."



Every grief we feel,
Shortens the destin'd number: every pulse
Bears a sharp moment of the pain away,

And the last stroke will come. By swift degrees
Time sweeps us off, and we shall soon arrive
At life's sweet period: O celestial point,
That ends this mortal story!

But if a glimpse of light, with flattering ray,
Break through the clouds of life; or wandering fire
Amidst the shades invite your unblest feet,
Beware the dancing meteor, faithless guide,
That leads the lonesome pilgrim wide astray,

To bogs, and fens, and pits, and certain death.
Should vicious pleasure take an angel form,
And at a distance rise by slow degrees,
Treacherous to wind herself into your heart,
Stand firm aloof; nor let the gaudy phantom
Too long allure your gaze, nor tempt your thoughts
In slavery to sense. Still may our souls

Claim kindred with the skies, nor mix with dust
Our holier affections.

O, there are gardens of the immortal kind,
That crown the heavenly Eden's rising hills
With beauty and with sweets; no lurking mischief
Dwells in the fruit, nor serpent twines the bough.
The branches bend, laden with life and bliss,
Ripe for the taste. But 'tis a steep ascent:
Hold fast the golden chain let down from Heaven;
"T will help your feet and wings-I feel its force
Draw upwards-fastened to the pearly gate,
It guides the way unerring. Happy clue
Through this dark wild! 'T was wisdom's noblest work,
All join'd by power divine, and every link is love.


THERE is a land of pure delight,

Where saints immortal reign;
Infinite day excludes the night,

And pleasures banish pain,

There everlasting spring abides,

And never withering flowers:
Death, like a narrow sea, divides

This heavenly land from ours.

Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood
Stand drest in living green;
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.

But timorous mortals start and shrink
To cross this narrow sea,
And linger, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.

O could we make our doubts remove,-
Those gloomy doubts that rise,-
And see the Canaan that we love,
With unbeclouded eyes.

[ocr errors]

Could we but climb where Moses stood,
And view the landscape o'er,

Not Jordan's stream nor death's cold flood
Should fright us from the shore.

It is needless to multiply quotations from a book so familiarly known and so constantly used in public, social, and private worship, as the Psalms and Hymns of Watts. Though unequal, they are sometimes eminently beautiful. Let us take for example of their happiest and frequent excellence, the following stanza.

Pure are the joys above the sky,
And all the region peace;
No wanton lips nor envious eye
Can see or taste the bliss.

Born 1681-Died 1765.

THE father of Young was a pious and honored clergyman in the Church of England. The poet was educated principally at Oxford University, where he obtained a fellowship in law. In this profession he never practised, but seems to have made poetry his chief employment, till in 1728 he entered into orders, and was appointed chaplain to the king. In 1730 he was presented to a rectory of three hundred pounds, and in the year following married the lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the earl of Litchfield. This lady died in 1741, in which year he commenced his Night Thoughts.

In the early part of his life, Young is said to have been ambitious and profligate; but it is remarkable that his earliest poetry is of the most serious cast, and the following anecdote is related of his conversation. The infidel, Tindal, used to spend much of his time at the college where Young resided. "The other boys," said the atheist, "I can always answer, because I always know whence they have their arguments, which I have read a hundred times; but that fellow, Young, is continually pestering me with something of his own."

As a clergyman, he was distinguished for his piety and eloquence. His turn of mind was solemn, and his conversation, as well as his writings, all had reference to a future state. Yet he seems always to have been greatly addicted to flattery, and he did not cease to seek for preferment, even till his death.

As a poet, he possessed a very strong and sublime imagination, unaccompanied to an equal degree by delicacy of judgment or refinement of taste. Hence his poems, while they

contain a great number of noble and powerful passages, abound likewise in false and meretricious ornament, unnatural thoughts, harsh expressions, and laboured conceits. The felicity and splendour of his conceptions is continually interrupted with false wit and antithesis. If at one moment he speaks from the heart, at the next his thoughts are evidently produced by a strained and exaggerated fancy.

"He has been well described in a late poem," says Campbell," as one in whom

'Still gleams and still expires the cloudy day
Of genuine poetry."

The reader most sensitive to his faults must have felt, that there is in him a spark of originality which is never long extinguished, however far it may be from vivifying the entire mass of his poetry. Many and exquisite are his touches of sublime expression, of profound reflection, and of striking imagery. It is recalling but a few of these, to allude to his description, in the eighth book, of the man, whose thoughts are not of this world; to his simile of the traveller, at the opening of the ninth book, to his spectre of the antediluvian world, and to some parts of his very unequal description of the conflagration; above all, to that noble and familiar image,

'When final ruin fiercely drives Her ploughshare o'er creation."

It is true, that he seldom, if ever, maintains a flight of poetry long free from oblique associations, but he has individual passages, which Philosophy might make her texts, and Experience select for her mottos."

The moral influence of his poetry is excellent in the highest degree. No person can arise from the perusal of his Night Thoughts, without feeling more deeply the value of time, the awful solemnity of death, and the unspeakable importance of a preparation for eternity.


THE bell strikes One. We take no note of time
But from its loss: to give it then a tongue
Is wise in man. As if an angel spoke
I feel the solenın sound. If heard aright,
It is the knell of my departed hours.
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
It is the signal that demands dispatch:
How much is to be done! My hopes and fears
Start up alarm'd, and o'er life's narrow verge
Look down-on what? A fathomless abyss.
A dread eternity! how surely mine!

And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?

How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
How complicate, how wonderful is man!
How passing wonder He who made him such!
Who center'd in our make such strange extremes,
From different natures marvellously mix'd,
Connexion exquisite of distant worlds!
Distinguish'd link in being's endless chain!
Midway from nothing to the deity!
A beam ethereal, sullied and absorpt!
Though sullied and dishonor'd, still divine!
Dim miniature of greatness absolute!
An heir of glory! a frail child of dust!
Helpless immortal! insect infinite!
A worm! a god!—I tremble at myself,
And in myself am lost. At home a stranger,
Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd aghast,
And wondering at her own. How reason reels!
O what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distress'd! what joy! what dread !~
Alternately transported and alarm'd;
What can preserve my life! or what destroy!
An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave;
Legions of angels can't confine me there.

"Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof. While o'er my limbs Sleep's soft dominion spread, What though my soul fantastic measures trod O'er fairy fields, or mourn'd along the gloom Of pathless woods, or down the craggy steep Hurl'd headlong, swam with pain the mantled pool, Or scal'd the cliff, or danc'd on hollow winds With antic shapes, wild natives of the brain! Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature Of subtler essence than the trodden clod: Active, aërial, towering, unconfin'd, Unfetter'd with her gross companion's fa.l. Ev'n silent night proclaims my soul immortal; Ev'n silent night proclaims eternal day! For human weal Heaven husbands all events: Dull sleep instructs, nor sport vain dreams in vain.

Why then their loss deplore, that are not lost? Why wanders wretched Thought their tombs around In infidel distress? Are angels there? Slumbers, rak'd up in dust, ethereal fire?

They live! they greatly live a life, on earth Unkindled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye

« AnkstesnisTęsti »