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Could we but climb where Moses stood,
Not Jordan's stream nor death's cold flood
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,
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 judg ment 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.
REFLECTIONS AT MIDNIGHT,
THE bell strikes One. We take no note of time
I feel the solemn sound. If heard aright,
Where are they? With the years beyond the flood.
How much is to be done! My hopes and fears
And can eternity belong to me,
Poor pensioner on the bounties of an hour?
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,
A worm! a god!--I tremble at myself,
O what a miracle to man is man!
Triumphantly distress'd ! what joy! what dread !—
What can preserve my life! or what destroy!
"Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof.
Her ceaseless flight, though devious, speaks her nature
Active, aërial, towering, unconfin'd,
Why then their loss deplore, that are not lost?
They live! they greatly live a life, on earth Unkindled, unconceiv'd, and from an eye
Of tenderness let heavenly pity fall
DELAY IN THE BUSINESS OF RELIGION.
Br Nature's law, what may be may be now;
Our nountain-hopes, spin out eternal schemes,
Not ev'n Philander had bespoke his shroud;
If not so
That 'tis so frequent, this is stranger still.
Of man's miraculous mistakes, this bears The palm, "That all men are about to live,” For ever on the brink of being born: All pay themselves the compliment to think They one day shall not drivel, and their pride On this reversion takes up ready praise; At least their own; their future selves applauds,
STUDIES IN POETRY.
How excellent that life they ne'er will lead !
And scarce in human wisdom to do more.
And that through every stage. When young, indeed
Unanxious for ourselves, and only wish,
As duteous sons, our fathers were more wise.
Resolves, and re-resolves; then dies the same.
And why? because he thinks himself immortal.
SOCIETY NECESSARY TO HAPPINESS.
WISDOM, though richer than Peruvian mines,
Denies or damps an undivided joy.
Joy is an import; joy is an exchange;
Joy flies monopolists; it calls for two:
Rich fruit! heaven-planted! never pluck'd by one.
To social man true relish of himself.