Page images

Galatians. Continued Anacharsis to p. 328 with Jane.

December 21. Continued the Greek Testament; the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Epistle to the Philippians, the Epistle to the Colossians, and the two Epistles to the Thessalonians.

22. Continued the Greek Testament; the two Epistles to Timothy, the Epistle to Titus, and the Epistle to Philemon. Continued Anacharsis to p. 373 with Jane.

23. Continued Anacharsis to p. 399 with Jane. Continued the Greek Testament; the Epistle to the Hebrews.

24. Continued the Greek Testament; the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude.

26. Finished the first vol. of Anacharsis with Jane.

The beginning of the following year was clouded by the death of his old friend and schoolmaster, Mr. Price : on this occasion he thus writes to Mr. Price's son, with whom he was in a few years to be connected by still closer ties :


Cannock, January 10, 1797. MY DEAR FRIEND, It was with heart-felt sorrow that I saw announced in the papers an event which you must

for some time have apprehended. To endeavour to offer you comfort on such an occasion must, I know, be in vain. Your grief will, I fear, at first, be of that kind that does not suffer anything to soothe it, and regards almost with jealousy any pretensions to participation.

There is one circumstance, however, that, though it may increase your regret, must at the same time contribute to your consolation; it is, that he whom you lament leaves behind him a character that no censure can impair, as no praise can heighten.

Adieu, my dear friend! Make it a duty not to give way to too great an excess of grief. Believe me your Faithful and affectionate friend,


My father now commenced the great undertaking, the completion of which was afterwards to establish his reputation as a poet and a scholar. On the 16th of January in this year, as his Journal informs us, he began translating the Purgatorio of Dante. For a brief space only we have an account of the progress made in this work. At the expiration of two months he had finished five cantos; after that he continued his task at intervals, as inclination and opportunity enabled him; but we hear scarcely anything more of it until the publication of part of the Inferno, in 1805.

While his life was being thus spent in studious retirement, the whole of Europe was being convulsed by a rapid succession of events, such as could nowhere find their parallel in past history. On reading the few letters that have preceded, and the commencement of the Journal of his literary life, it would be scarcely possible to conceive that he was then living during the most dreadful period of the French Revolution. He was, however, by no means an indifferent observer of passing events; at the outset the popular party in France had his entire sympathy; his love of liberty was most ardent; but nothing moved him to give expression to that sympathy and love in the only way in which he would be likely to express them—by his pen, until the ill-fated and unsuccessful attempt of Kosciusko to deliver his country from the galling yoke of a despot roused him to offer his tribute of admiration to the cause and the heroism of the Polish patriot.

On the 13th of June he began, and in three days finished, “An Ode to General Kosciusko.” The Ode consists of only one hundred and thirty-one lines, and was immediately published in 4to. by Cadell and Davies, London. It is at present totally unknown: at the time, indeed, it was favourably noticed as a work of considerable promise, but so many years elapsed before its author had established a literary reputation beyond the circle of his own

friends, that his early efforts had fallen into total obscurity.

Of the merits of the Ode itself, when published with his other poetical remains, I must leave for future and more impartial critics to speak. Its style and structure are in the highest degree Pindaric. As I have had occasion to remark with respect to his first youthful effort, his Ode to General Elliott, he was evidently imbued with the love at least, if not with the spirit, of the Theban bard. But in this later production the similarity is more striking.

He begins the poem in praise of that virtue for which its subject was distinguished-patriotism; this forms, as it were, the key-note of the whole :

If virtue spread her sacred flower,
Whatever clime the treasure bears,
The Muse exerts her guardian power,
And cheers the plant with vernal airs ;
If glory of unfading hue
Command his wreath aloft to burn,
She opens wide her breathing urn,
And feeds the root with heavenly dew :
But chief where patriot worth displays
His vigour, struggling with the storm
That o'er the ruind landscape strays,
She darts her own authentic rays,
And shows in light reveal'd the hallow'd form !
Such thine, Kosciusko !

Then after briefly touching on the deeds of the hero, the virtues of King Stanislaus, and contrasting with these the mean and selfish tyranny of the

Prussians, and the encroaching ambition of Russia, “the Harpy of the North,” he makes a digression to speak of his own country, Britain, whose system of colonial slavery is condemned, and then returns to his subject, heaping up glory on his hero by the record of his country's ancient renown.

But steer to Poland's fields, my verse,
Thy backward course on wing sublime,
And call on Memory to rehearse
Deeds buried in the waste of time.
As old tradition's songs attest,
There Lechus * first ordain'd his seat
Within the desolate retreat.
Auspicious sign ! an eagle's nest
The name to Gnesna's turrets gave,
And thence the ample pinions spread
High on the Polish banners wave,
That oft the Turk and Russian slave
Have in the battle’s storm beheld with wondering dread.

Then having paid a similar tribute to Bolislaus the Third, he proceeds

Such antique tales my rhymes repeat
To swell thy glory, mighty chief :
Nor he who rears the temper'd laws,
Nor who has tamed the frequent foe,
Is noble, as the hand that draws
The sword in freedom's sacred cause,
Tho’ fickle fortune has not sped the blow.
This truth, by inward whispers told,
May gild thy latest eve of life ;
And teach thy spirit, firm and bold,
To pass the cloud of human strife.

* Il semble aussi que la Pologne, ayant été abandonné des Venediens, ses anciens habitans, servit de retraite à d'autres nations nouvellement arriveés, qui y formerent un état sous la conduite de Lechus, environ l'an

« PreviousContinue »