Page images
PDF
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Jncurs derision for his easy faith,
And lack of knowledge, and with cause enough:
For when was public virtue to be found
Where private was not? Can he love the whole
Who loves no part?-he be a nation's friend,
Who is in truth the friend of no man there?
Can he be strenuous in his country's cause
Who slights the charities, for whose dear sake
That country, if at all, must be beloved ?

From Yardley Oak.' *
Relic of ages !-could a mind, imbued
With truth from heaven, created thing adore,
I might with reverence kneel and worship th
Thou wast a bauble once; a cup and ball,
Which babes might play with ; and the thievish jay,
Seeking her food, with ease might have purloined
The auburn nut that held thee, swallowing down
The yet close-folded latitude of boughs,
And all thy embryo vastness, at a gulp.
But fate thy growth decreed ; autumnal rains,
Beneath thy parent tree, mellowed the soil
Designed thy cradle: and a skipping deer,
With pointed hoof dibbling the glebe, prepared
The soft receptacle in which, secure,
Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through. ..

Who lived when thou wast euch? Oh, couldst thou speak,
As in Dodona once thy kindred trees
Oracular, I would not curious ask
The future, best unknown, but at thy mouth
Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.
By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
The clock of history, facts and events
Timing more punctual, unrecorded facts.
Recovering, and misstated setting right
Desperate attempt, till trees shall speak again!

What exhibitions various hath the world
Witnessed of mutability in all
That we account most durable below!
Change is the diet on which all subsist,
Croated changeable, and change at last
Destroys them. Skies uncertain, now the heat
Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam
Now quenching in a boundless sea of clouds-
Calm and alternate storm, moisture and drought,
Invigorate by turns the springs of life
In all that live, plant, animal, and man,
And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads,
Fine passing thought, even in her coarsest works,
Delight in agitation, yet sustain
The force that agitates, not unimpaired;
But worn by frequent impulse, to the cause
Of their best tone their dissolution owe.

Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still
The great and little of thy lot, thy growth
From almost nullity into a state
Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence,
Slow, into such magnificent decay.
Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly

* A tree in Yardley Chace, near Olney, said to have been planted by Judith, of William the Conqueror, and wife of Earl Waltheof,

eless, an in the rest has, far an et ring.

Could shake thee to the root-and time has been
When tempest could not. At thy firmest age
Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents,
That might have ribbed the sides and planked the deck
Of some flagged admiral; and tortuous arms,
The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present
To the four-quartered winds, robust and bold,
Warped into tough knee-timber, many a load!
But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest waged
For senatorial honours. Thus to time
The task was left to whittle thee away
With his sly scythe, whose ever-nibblin
Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more,
Disjoining from the rest, has, unobserved,
Achieved a labour, which had, far and wide,
By man performed, made all the forest ring.

Embowelled now, and of thy ancient self
Possessing nought but the scooped rind-that seems
An huge throat calling to the clouds for drink,
Which it would give in rivulets to thy root-
Thou temptest none, but rather much forbiddest
The feller's toil, which thou couldst ill requite.
Yet is thy root sincere, sound as the rock,
A quarry of stout spurs and knotted fangs,
Which crooked into a thousand whimsies, clasp
The stubborn soil, and hold thee still erect. .

So stands a kingdom, whose foundation vet
Fails not. in virtue and in wisdom laid.
Though all the superstructure, by the tooth
Pulverized of venality, a shell
Stands now, and semblance only of itself !

The Diverting History of John Gilpin.-Showing how he went farther

than he intended, and came safe home again. John Gilpin was a citizen of

“I am a linen-draper bold, . 's * Of credit and renown,

Will As all the world doth know. A train-band captain eke was he

And my good friend the calender Of famous London town.

Will lend his horse to go.' John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear:: ! Quoth Mrs. Gilpin: That's well said;

“Though wedded we have been i And for that wine is dear, These twice ten tedious years, yet we 'n We will be furnished with our own, No holiday have seen.

Which is both bright and clear.'. .To-morrow is our weddir

John Gilpin kissed his loving wife; And we will then repair

O’erjoyed was he to find Upto the Bell at Edinonton :

That, though on pleasure she was bent All in a chaise and pair.

She had a frugal mind. My sister, and my sister's child.

The morning came, the chaise was Myself and children three,

brought, Will fill the chaise; so you must ride

But yet was not allowed On horseback after we.' .

To drive up to the door, lest all

Should say that she was proud.
He soon replied: 'I do admire
Of womankind but one,

So three doors off the chaise was stayed, And you are she, my dearest dear;

Where they did all get in; Therefore it shall be done.

Six precious souls, and all agog

To dash through thick and t!

Smack went the whip, round went the So stooping down, as needs he must wheels,

Who cannot sit upright, Were never folk so glad ;

He grasped the mane with both his hands, The stones did rattle underneath,

And eke with all his might. As if Cheapside were mad.

His horse, which never in that sort John Gilpin at his horse's side

Had handled been before, Seized fast the flowing mane;

What thing upon his back had got And up he got, in haste to ride,

Did wonder more and more.
But soon came down again ;

Away went Gilpin, neck or nought;
For saddle-tree scarce reached had he,' - Away went hat and wig;
His journey to begin,

He little dreamt when he set out,
When, turning round his head, he saw Of running such a rig.
Three customers come in,

The wind did blow, the cloak did fly, So down he came : for loss of time,

Like streamer long and gay, Although it grieved him sore,

Till, loop and button failing both, Yet loss of pence, full well he knew,

At last it flew away. ' Would trouble him much more.

Then might all people well discern 'Twas long before the customers

The bottles he had slung; Were suited to their mind,

A bottle swinging at each side, When Betty screaming came down-stairs: As hath been said or sung. The wine is left

The dogs did bark, the children scream"Good lack ! quoth he—yet bring it me,

ed, My leathern belt likewise,

Up flew the windows all; In which I bear my trusty sword

And every soul cried out: Well done! When I do exercise.'

As loud as he could bawl.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Then over all, that he might be

And now, as he went bowing
Equipped from top to toe,

His reeking head full low.
His long red cloak, well brushed and neat, The bottles twain behind his back
He manfully did throw.

Were shattered at a blow.'

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The calender, amazed to see

Whereat his horse did snort, as he
His neighbour in such trim,

Had heard a lion roar,
Laid down his pipe, flew to the gate,''. And galloped off with all his might,
And thus accosted him :

1 As he had done before.

What news? what news ? your tidings Away went Gilpin, and away
Tell me you must and shal

Went Gilpin's hat and wig:
Say why bareheaded you are come, He lost them sooner than at first;
Or why you come at all ?'

For why ?-they were too big.
Now Gilpin had a pleasant wit,

Now Mrs. Gilpin, when she saw And loved a timely joke;

Her husband posting down And thus unto the calender

Into the country far away. In merry guise he spoke:

She pulled out half-a-crown; "I came because your horse would come And thus unto the youth she said, And, if I well forebode,

That drove them to the Bell: My hat and wig will soon be here

. This shall be yours, when you bring They are upou the road.'

My husband safe and well. [back The calender, right glad to find

The youth did ride, and soon did meet His friend in merry pin, *

John coming back amain ! Returned him not a single word,

Whom in a trice he tried to stop, But to the house went in;

By catching at his rein;

* We may add to the poet's text an explanation of the old phrase 'a merry pin' as given in Fuller's Church History: At a grand synod of the clergy and laity, 3 Henry I. (1102 A.D), priests were prohibited from drinking at pins. This was a Dutch trick, but used in England, of artificial drunkenness, out of a cup marked with certain pins, and he accounted the best man who emuld nick the pin. drinking even unto it, whereas to go above or beneath it was a forfeiture. Hence probably the proverb, he is in a merry pin.'

But, not performing what he meant, And all and each that passed that way
And gladly would have done,

Did join in the pursuit.
The frighted steed he frighted more,
And made him faster run.

And now the turnpike gates again

Flew open in short space; Away went Gilpin, and away

The tollman thinking as before,
Went post-boy at his heels,

That Gilpin rode a race.
The post-boy's horse right glad to miss.
The lumbering of the wheels.. And so he did, and won it too,

For he got first to town;
Six gentlemen upon the road

Nor stopped till where he had got up
Thus seeing Gilpin fly,

He did again get down.
With post-boy scampering in the rear,
They raised the hue and cry:

Now let us sing, long the king,

And Gilpin, long live he;
Stop thief! stop thief! a highwayman!' And when he next doth ride abroad,
Not one of them was mute;

May I be there to see!

WILLIAM HAYLEY. WILLIAM HAYLEY (1745-1820), the biographer of Cowper, wrote various poetical works which enjoyed great popularity in their day. His principal work is The Triumphs of Temper,' a poem in six cantos (1781). He wrote also an 'Essay on History,' addressed to Gibbon (1780), an `Essay on Epic Poetry' (1782), an 'Essay on Old Maids' (1785), “Essays on Sculpture,' addressed to Flaxman (1800), • The Triumph of Music' (1804), &c. He wrote also various dramatic pieces and a Life of Milton' (1796). A gentleman by education and fortune, and fond of literary communication, Hayley enjoyed the acquaintance of most of the eminent men of his times. His over-strained sensibility and romantic tastes exposed him to ridicule, yet he was an amiable and accomplished man. It was through his personal application to Pitt that Cowper received his pension. He had—what appears to have been to him a sort of melancholy pride and satisfaction the task of writing epitaphs for most of his friends, including Mrs. Unwin and Cowper. His life of Cowper appeared in 1803, and three years afterwards it was enlarged by a supplement. Hayley prepared memoirs of his own life, which he disposed of to a publisher on condition of his receiving an annuity for the remainder of his life. This annuity he enjoyed for twelve years. The memoirs appeared in two fine quarto volumes, but they failed to attract attention. Hayley had outlived his popularity, and his smooth but often unmeaning lines had vanished like chaff before the vigorous and natural outpourings of the modern muse. As a specimen of this once much-praised poet, we subjoin from his · Essay on Epic Poetry' some lines on the death of his mother, which had the merit of delighting Gibbon, and with which Southey has remarked" Cow. per would sympathise deeply:

Tribute to a Mother, on her Death. . Bir
For me who feel, whene'er I touch the lyre,
My talents sink below my proud desire;
Who often doubt, and sometimes credit give,
When friends assure me that my verse will live;

« PreviousContinue »