Page images

Whom health, too tender for the bustling throng,
Led into pensive shade and soothing song.
Whatever fortune my unpolished rhymes
May meet in present or in future times,
Let the blest art iny grateful thoughts employ,
Which soothes my sorrow and augments may joy;
Whence lonely peace and social pleasure springs,
And friendship dearer than the smile of kings.
While keener poets, querulously proud, -
Lament the ill of poesy aloud,
And magnify with irritation's zeal,
Those common evils we too strongly feel,
The envious comment and the subtle style
Of specious slander, stabbing with a smile:
Frankly I wish to make her blessings known,
And think those blessings for her ills atone;
Nor would my honest pride that praise forego,
Which makes Malignity yet more my foe.

If heartfelt pain e'er led me to accuse
The dangerous gift of the alluring Muse,
'Twas in the moment when my verse impressed
Some anxions feelings on a mother's breast.
O thou fond spirit, who with pride has smiled,
And frowned with fear on thy poetic child,
Pleased, yet alarmed, when in his boyish time
He sighed in numbers or he laughed in rhyme;
While thy kind cautions warned him to beware
Of Penury, the bard's perpetual snare;
Marking the early temper of his soul,
Careless of wealth, nor fit for base control !
Thou tender saint, to whom he owes much more
Than ever child to parent owed before;
In life's first season, when the fever's flame
Shrunk to deformity his shrivelled frame,
And turned each fairer image in his brain
To blank confusion and her crazy train,
'Twas thine, with constant love, through lingering years,
To bathe thy idiot orphan in thy tears;
Day after day, and night succeeding night,
To turn incessant to the hideous sight,
And frequent watch, if haply at thy view
Departed reason might not dawn anew;
Thongh medicinal art, with pitying care,
Could lend no aid to save thee from despair,
Thy fond maternal heart adhered to hope and prayer
Nor prayed in vain; thy child from powers above
Received the sense to feel and bless thy love.
O might he thence receive the happy skill,
And force proportioned to his ardent will,
With truth's unfuding radiance to emblaze
Thy virtues, worthy of immortal praise !

Nature, who decked thy form with beauty's flowers. Exhausted on thy soul her finer powers; Taught it with all her energy to feel Love's melting softness, friendship's fervid zeal, The generous purpose and the active thought, With charity's diffusive spirit fraught. There all the best of mental gifts she placed Vigour of judgment. purity of taste, Superior parts without their spleenful leaven, Kindness to earth, and confidence in heaven,

While my fond thoughts o'er all thy merits roll,
Thy praise thus gushes from my filial soul;
Nor will the public with harsh rigour blame
This my just homage to thy bonoured name;
To please that public, if to please be mine,
Thy virtues trained me-let the praise be thine.

Inscription on the Tomb of Cowper.
Ye who with warmth the public triumph feel
Of talents dignified by sacred zeal,
Here, to devotion's bard devoutly just,
Pay your fond tribute due to Cowper's dusti
England, exulting in his spotless fame,
Ranks with her dearest sons his favourite name.
Sense, fancy, wit, suffice not all to raise
So clear a title to affection's praise :
His highest honours to the heart belong;
His virtues formed the magic of his song.)

On the Tomb of Mrs. Unwin.
Trusting in God with all her heart and mind,
This woman proved magnanimously kind;
Endured affliction's desolating hail,
And watched a poet through misfortune's vale.
Her spotless dust angelic guards defend !
It is the dust of Unwin, Cowper's friend.
That single title in itself is fame,
For all who read his verse revere her name.

DR. ERASMUS DARWIN. DR. ERASMUS DARWIN (1731-1802), an ingenious philosophical, though fanciful poet, was born at Elston, near Newark. Having passed with credit through a course of education at St. John's College, Cambridge, he applied himself to the study of physic, and took his degree of bachelor in medicine at Edinburgh in 1755. He then commenced practice in Nottingham, but meeting with little encouragement, he removed to Lichfield, where he long continued a successful and distinguished physician. In 1757 Dr. Darwin married an accomplished lady of Lichfield, Miss Mary Howard, by whom he had five children, two of whom died in infancy. The lady herself died in 1770; and after her decease, Darwin seems to have commenced his botanical and literary pursuits. He was at first afraid that the reputation of a poet would injure him in his profession, but being firmly established in the latter capacity, he at length ventured on publication. At this time he lived in a picturesque villa in the neighbourhood of Lichfield, furnished with a grotto and fountain, and here he began the formation of a botanic garden. The spot he has described as adapted to love-scenes, and as being thence a proper residence for the modern goddess of botany. In 1781 appeared the first part of Darwin's ‘Botanic Garden,' a poem in glittering and polished heroic verse, designed to describe, adorn, and allegorise the Linnæan system of botany. The Rosicrucian doctrine of gnomes, sylphs, nymphs, and salamanders, was adopted by the poet, as ' affording a

proper machinery for a botanic poem, as it is probable they were ori-
ginally the names of hieroglyphic figures representing the elements.'
The novelty and ingenuity of Darwin's attempt attracted much atten-
tion, and rendered him highly popular. In the same year the poet
was called to attend an aged gentleman, Colonel Sachevell Pole of
Radbourne Hall, near Derby. An intimacy was thus formed with
Mrs. Pole; and the colonel dying, the poetical physician in a few
months afterwards, in 1781, married the fair widow, who possessed
a jointure of £600 per annum. Darwin was now released from all
prudential fears and restraints as to the cultivation of his poetical
talents, and he went on adding to his floral gallery. In 1789 appear-
ed the second part of his poem, containing the 'Loves of the Plants.'
Ovid having, he said, transmuted men, women, and even gods and
goddesses, into trees and flowers, he had undertaken, by similar art,
to restore some of them to their original animality, after having re-
mained prisoners so long in their respective vegetable mansions.

Extract from Loves of the Plants.'
From giant oaks, that wave their branches dark,
To the dwarf moss that clings upon their bark,
What beaux and beauties crowd the gaudy groves.
And woo and win their vegetable loves. *
How snowdrops cold, and blue-eyed barebells, blend
Their tender tears, as o'er the streams they bend;
The love-sick violet, and the primrose pale,
Bow their eweet heads, and whisper to the gale;
With secret sighs the virgin lily droops,
And jealous cowslips hang their tawny cups.
How the young rose, in beauty's damask pride,
Drinks the warm blushes of his bashful bride :
With honeyed lips enamoured woodbines meet,
Clasp with fond arms, and mix their kisses sweet!
Stay thy soft murmuring waters, gentle rill;
Hush, whispering winds; ye rustling leaves, be still;
Rest, silver butterflies, your quivering wings;
Alight, ye beetles, from your airy rings;
Ye painted moths, your gold-eyed plumage furl,
Blow your wide horns, your spiral trunks uncurl ;
Glitter, ye glow-worms, on your mossy beds;
Descend, ye spiders, on your lengthened threads;
Slide here, ye horned snails, with varnished shells;

Ye bee-nymphs, listen in your waxen cells ! This is certainly melodious verse, and ingenious subtle fancy. A few passages have moral sentiment and human interest united to the same powers of vivid painting and expression:

Roll on. ve stars, exult in youthful prime.
Mark with bright củrves the printless steps of time:
Near and more near your beamy cars approach,
And lessening orbs on lessening orbs encroach;
Flowers of the sky ! ye too to age must yield,
Frail as your silken sisters of the field !

* Linnæus, the celebrated Swedish naturalist, has demonstrated that all flowers contain families of inales or females, or both , and on their marriage has constructed his iu. yaluable system of botany.-DARWIN,

Star after star from heaven's high arch shall rush,
Suns sink on suns, and systems, systems crush,
Headlong, extinct, to one dark centre fall,
And death, and night, and chaos mingle all!
Till o'er the wreck, emerging from the storm,
Immortal nature lifts her changeful form,
Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame,

And soars and shines, another and the same! In another part of the poem, after describing the cassia plant, cinctured with gold,' and borne on by the current to the coasts of Norway, with all its 'infant loves,' or seeds, the poet, in his usual strain of forced similitude, digresses in the following happy and vigorous lines, to Moses concealed on the Nile,' and the slavery of the Africans:

So the sad mother at the noon of night,
From bloody Memphis stole her silent flight;
Wrapped her dear babe beneath her folded yest,
And clasped the treasure to her throbbing breast;
With soothing whispers hushed its feeble cry,
Pressed the soft kiss, and breathed the secret sigh,
With dauntless step she seeks the winding shore,
Hears unappalled the glimmering torrents roar;
With paper-flags a floating cradle weaves,
And hides the smiling boy in lotus leaves ;
Gives hér white bosom to his eager lips,
The salt tears mingling with the milk he sips;
Waits on the reed-crowned brink with pious guile,
And trusts the scaly monsters of the Nile.
Erewhile majestic from his lone abode,
Ambassador of heaven, the prophet trod;
Wrenched the red scourge from proud oppression's hands,
And broke, cursed slavery! thy iron bands.

Hark! heard ye not that piercing cry,
Which shook the waves and rent the sky ?
E'en now, e'en now, on yonder western shores
Weeps pale despair, and writhing anguish roars;
E'en now in Afric's groves, with hideous yell,
Fierce slavery stalks, and slips the dogs of hell;
From vale to vale the gathering cries rebound,
And sable nations tremble at the sound !
Ye bands of senators! whose suffrage sways
Britannia's realms, whom either Ind obeys;
Who right the injured and reward the brave,
Stretch your strong arm, for ye have power to save!
Throned in the vaulted heart, his dread resort,
Inexorable conscience holds his court;
With still small voice the plots of guilt alarms,
Bares his masked brow, his lifted hand disarms;
But wrapped in night with terrors all his own,
He speaks in thunder when the deed is done.
Hear him, ye senates! hear this truth sublime,
"He who allows oppression, shares the crime!!

The material images of Darwin are often less happy than the above, being both extravagant and gross, and grouped together without any visible connection or dependence one on the other. He has such a throng of startling metaphors and descriptions, the latter

drawn out to an excessive length and tiresome minuteness, that nothing is left to the reader's imagination, and the whole passes like a glittering pageant before the eye, exciting wonder, but without touching the heart or feelings. As the poet was then past fifty, the exuberance of his fancy, and his peculiar choice of subjects, are the more remarkable. A third part of the ‘Botanic Garden' was added in 1792; (he received £900 for the copyright of the whole). Darwin next published his Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life,' part of which he had written many years previously. This is a curious and original physiological treatise, evincing an inquiring and attentive study of natural phenomena. Dr. Thomas Brown, Professor Dugald Stewart, Paley, and others, have, however, successfully combated the positions of Darwin, particularly his theory which refers instinct to sensation. , In 1801 our author came forward with another philoso. phical disquisition, entitled · Phytologia, or the Philosophy of Agriculture and Gardening.' He also wrote a short treatise on 'Female Education,' intended for the instruction and assistance of part of his own family. This was Darwin's last publication. He had always been a remarkably temperate man. Indeed, he totally abstained from all fermented and spirituous liquors, and in his ‘Botanic Garden' he compares their effects to that of the Promethean fire. He was, however, subject to inflammation as well as gout, and a sudden attack carried him off in his seventy-first year, on the 18th of April 1802. Shortly after his death, was published a poem, the Temple of Nature,' which he had ready for the press, the preface to the work being dated only three months before his death. The Temple of Nature' aimed, like the ‘Botanic Garden,' to amuse by bringing distinctly to the imagination the beautiful and sublime images of the operations of nature. It is more metaphysical than its predecessor, and more inverted in style and diction.

The poetical reputation of Darwin was as bright and transient as the plants and flowers which formed the subject of his verse. Cowper praised his 'song' for its rich embellishments, and said it was as 'strong' as it was learned and sweet.' There is a fashion in poetry,' observes Sir Walter Scott, 'which, without increasing or diminishing the real value of the materials moulded upon it, does wonders in facilitating its currency while it has novelty, and is often found to impede its reception when the mode has passed away. This has been the fate of Darwin.' Besides his coterie at Lichfield, the poet of Flora had considerable influence on the poetical. taste of his own day. He may be traced in the ‘Pleasures of Hope' of Campbell, and in other young poets of that time. The attempt to unite science with the inspirations of the Muse, was in itself an attractive novelty, and he supported it with various and high powers. His command of fancy, of poetical language, dazzling metaphors, and sonorous versification, was well seconded by his curious and multifarious koorledge. The effect of the whole, however, was artificial, and

« PreviousContinue »