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Abroad, and desolating public life.
The benevolent poet was anxious to cherish in others a taste which he so virtuously cultivated in himself. Speaking of “The Task," he says in one of his letters:
“My descriptions are all from nature: not one of them second-handed: my delineations of the heart Kare from my own experience: not one of them bor
rowed from books, or in the least degree conjectural. In my numbers, which I have varied as much as I could, (for blank-verse, without variety of numbers, is no better than bladder and string,) I have imitated nobody, though sometimes, perhaps, there may be an apparent resemblance; because, at the same time that I would not imitate, I have not affectedly differed.
“If the work cannot boast a regular plan, (in which respect, however, I do not think it altogether indefensible) it may yet boast that the reflections are naturally suggested always by the preceding passage, and that except the fifth book, which is rather of a political aspect, the whole has one tendency. To
discountenance the modern enthusiasm after a Lon-> I don life, and to recommend rural ease and leisure, as friendly to the cause of piety and virtue."
Again, he says, in another letter,
“My principal purpose is to allure the reader by s character, by scenery, by imagery, and such poetical
embellishments, to the reading of what may profit him.
Subordinately to this, to combat that predilection in IS favour of a metropolis, that beggars and exhausts the
country, by evacuating it of all its principal inhabitants; collaterally, and as far as is consistent with this double intention, to have a stroke at vice, vanity, and folly, wherever I find them.”
How much above the selfish toils of the statesman were employments like these! How much above the luxuries of courts must have been the gratifications of such a poet! I ramble with him in his quiet and fragrant walks: I sit by him at his amusements dur
ing the winter evenings at home, and find my head B illumined by the most gentle and beautiful images; S K and my heart purified, and softened into charity and delight.
Cowper was of a family of ancient descent, highly allied, and widely connected with the world; and it * is well that soured ambition did not sink him into
sullen and silent discontent. But the light of the Muse prevailed; and eclipsed the robes of pomp and the splendor of palaces.
“If you would know whether virtues or vices keep a man farthest from a
court, go to court and learn." SHAKESP. “A court is full of tongues, and ears, and eyes,
Vigilant as the fabled House of Fame.” Lorrt's SHAKESP. APHOR.
August 6, 1813. If we could call up the worthies of Queen Elizabeth's Court from their graves, and examine them, that we might learn from their own lips which of them had enjoyed the greatest happiness in their earthly career, and in what that happiness mostly consisted, should we not be taught to fix on Sydney and on Sackville, and on those days of their lives which were spent in converse with the Muse?
A man of high talents, and more especially of high fancy and feelings, must be miserable among the intrigues of a Court. The mean ideas, the petty cun-S ning, the degraded sycophancy of a true-bred courtier, must disgust him by their baseness, and enrage him by their success. There is a sort of ungenerous triumph attendant on the good fortune of these groveling minds, which looks with scorn and sarcasm on any other test of ability or worth.
The great Burleigh, eminent as he was, seems in some degree to have partaken of this character.
Spenser thus alludes to him in his poem called “The
“For he, that now wields all things at his will,
I doubt about the advantages of that miserable policy which depends upon under-plots, intelligencies, and minute labours, to conduct the affairs of a great state. I would rather cut the little knots of treachery and hostility than untie them! I would rather trample upon, and ride over, and crush these paltry snares by bold measures, than attempt to oppose them by counter-schemes of similar littleness !
Burleigh could not be a happy man: Care and perpetual Watchfulness wrinkled his brow; and must have haunted even his slumbers. Suspicion and Dis
trust formed the basis of his strength; and he could s never indulge in those higher recreations of our nature,
without considering that it would lose that time, which for his own worldly purposes could not be redeemed. The songs of the Muse, if they did not forward the intrigues of state, were to him “Vox et præterea nihil.” They dealt in other eloquence than seemed to him solid; and relied on other arguments than those of which he felt the force.
It is with the follies, the subtleties, the baseness of mankind, that a cunning politician battles, or negociates: there lie his studies; those are the mysteries which he loves to investigate and resolve. To him whatever is unprofitable, is childish; and every thing is unprofitable which helps him not forward in the paths of his own ambition.
Those sentiments of affection or of hate, which soften or palsy the heart; those mighty images which swell the bosom and elevate the soul, are deemed in the cold temperament of these worldly sages, an idle waste of delusive energies, which mislead from the severity of Truth, and unfit for the purposes of practical life.
How mean must be the enjoyments that are consistent with such narrow ideas! We are told, that the retired Lord Treasurer found a luxury in his gardens, and his books! But the voice of Nature, and the voice of Wisdom reproach such groveling habits of thought. It was for Sydney and Sackville to feel their bliss in such occupations as these. It was for the lover of the Muses, and not for him who scorned them, to enjoy their smiles, and inhale delight amid their haunts !
Sydney and Sackville had those gifts of Nature, and acquirements of Art, which opened their minds to the most genuine and refined pleasures among the venerable oaks of Penshurst, or under the spreading beeches of the not far-distant Buckhurst and Withiam; pleasures inexpressibly enhanced by the contrast with