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Well would it be if all the aspirations of youth tended to produce a character deserving similar praise to that contained in the neat and terse tribute by Cowper :
TO MISS C, ON HER BIRTHDAY.
Or this by Milton :
TO A VIRTUOUS YOUNG LADY.
Lady, that in the prime of earliest youth
That labour up the hill of heavenly truth;
Passes to bliss at the mid-hour of night,
Hast gain'd thy entrance, virgin wise and pure.
The prime epoch of life to the children of fortune is the "coming of age." The best of Ben Jonson's birthday odes is admirable in its moral
counsel to the young heir on arriving at his majority:
ODE TO SIR WILLIAM SIDNEY,* ON HIS
Now that the hearth is crowned with smiling fire, And some do drink and some do dance,
And all do strive to advance
The gladness higher;
Wherefore should I
Stand silent by,
Who not the least
Both love the cause and authors of the feast?
Give me my cup, but from the Thespian well,
And he may think on that
Which I do tell;
When all the noise
Of these forced joys
Are fled and gone,
And he with his best genius left alone.
This day says, then, the number of glad years
Strive all right ways it can,
T'outstrip your peers:
* Eldest son of Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester, and nephew of Sir Philip Sidney.
Since he doth lack
Little whose will
Doth urge him to run wrong, or to stand still.
Nor can a little of the common store
And great, must seek for new,
And study more;
Nor weary rest
On what's deceased;
With dust of ancestors in graves do dwell.
"Twill be exacted of you whose son,
Say you have followed far,
When well begun :
Which must be now,
They teach you how.
And he that stays
To live unto to-morrow hath lost two days.
So may you live in honour as in name,
Be more and long desired;
And with the flame
Of love be bright
As with the light
Of bonfires! then
The birthday shines, when logs not burn, but men.
With this we may well contrast
A SATIRE, BY DR. JOHNSON.
Loosen'd from the minor's tether,
Call the Betseys, Kates, and Jennies,
All that prey on vice and folly
Wealth, my lad, was made to wander,
Call the jockey, call the pander,
Bid them come and take their fill.
When the bonny blade carouses,
Should the guardian, friend, or mother
This lively satirical effusion was recited with great spirit by Dr. Johnson on his death-bed, when he said that he had composed it some years before, on the occasion of a rich, extravagant young gentleman coming of age. He had never repeated it but once before, and had never given but one copy of it. That copy was sent to Mrs. Thrale on the 8th of August, 1780, enclosed in a letter in which Dr. Johnson writes:—
"You have heard in the papers how Sir John Lade is come to age. I have enclosed a short song of congratulation, which you must not show to anybody. I hope you will read it with candour. It is, I believe, one of the author's first essays in that way of writing, and a beginner is always to be treated with tenderness."
Another of Dr. Johnson's birthday effusions was a Greek epigram, sent to Cave, of the Gentleman's Magazine. It was written in honour of the twentyfirst birthday of the learned and pious Miss Carter, for whom Dr. Johnson had a profound and steady friendship extending over fifty years. He told Cave that she ought to be celebrated in as many languages as Louis le Grand.
A very different style of poem Age," is that by Mrs. Hemans:
"On Coming of
TO MY ELDEST BROTHER,
LIEUTENANT IN THE ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS, ON HIS
While Hope, the syren fair and gay,