« PreviousContinue »
With rash and awkward force the chords he shakes,
And grins with wonder at the jar he makes ;
But let the wise and well-instructed hand
Once take the shell beneath his just command,
In gentle sounds it seems as it complain'd
Of the rude injuries it late sustain'd,
Till, tuned at length to some immortal song,
It sounds Jehovah's name, and pours his praise along.
Is tracing the poet's progress in these compositions, we find his own information true, “ that as the season of flowers departed, his industry relaxed.” Retirement, though begun in August, was not completed till the nineteenth of October, its earlier predecessors being already put to press. “My view in choosing that subject,” observes the author, in his Private Correspondence, “is to direct to the proper use of the opportunities it affords for the cultivation of a man's best interests; to censure the vices and the follies which people carry with them into their retreats, where they make no other use of their leisure, than to gratify themselves with the indulgence of their favourite appetites, and to pay themselves by a life of pleasure for a life of business. In conclusion, I would enlarge upon the happiness of that state when discreetly enjoyed, and religiously improved.” This aim he has fully accomplished. The poem has been pronounced to be the most thoroughly poetical of . the series now under examination. In richness of imagery, correct, and, at the same time, picturesque language, easy and graceful versification, this is not an exaggerated estimate of the finest portions of the poem. Indeed, this poem alone is a triumphant refutation of an opinion entertained in British criticism, that practical religion cannot successfully be made the subject of poetry. The close of Retirement, though less brilliant than its commencement, must possess a tender charm for those who love the quiet of domestic life, where all its hopes point upwards, and where Christianity sheds a heavenly lustre over its humblest joys. The composition, on the whole, considered simply in relation to the genius it displays, is a noble effort, and, in some of the higher and more imaginative departments of the poetic art, raises expectations which no subsequent work of the author fully realized.
...... studiis florens ignobilis ott. — VIRG. Geor. Lib. 4.
HACKNEY'D in business, wearied at that oar
Which thousands, once fast chain'd to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester'd spot,
Or recollected only to gild o'er
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having lived a trifler, die a man.
Thus conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebelld against, not yet suppress'd,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For heaven's high purposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates, and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is, that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster'd close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and woe,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker's power and love.
'Tis well if, look'd for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls that have long despised their heavenly birth,
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ'd with ceaseless care
In catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Inveterate habits choke th’ unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tenderest part,
And, draining its nutritious powers to feed
Their noxious growth, starve every better seed.
Happy, if, full of days -- but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life's evening star,
Sick of the service of a world that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from custom's idiot sway,
To serve the sov'reign we were born t' obey.
Then sveet to muse upon His skill display'd,
Infinite skill, in all that He has made!
To trace in Nature's most minute design
The signature and stamp of power divine,
Contrivance intricate, express'd with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks, and it is done,
Th’invisible in things scarce seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field;
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch'd, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain'd, and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now buoyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size.
More hideous foes than fancy can devise ;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn'd,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn'd,