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i i i i 'i i i i i Ai i i i i i i i i
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 Distrust formed the basis of his strength; and he co1dd never indulge in those higher recreations of our nature, without considering that it would lose that time, which for his own worldly purposes coul4 not be redeemed. The songs of the Muse, if they did not forward the intrigues of state, were to him "Vox et prceterea 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 negotiates: 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 the anxieties and degradations of a capricious and despotic Court!
It is not among the least of the numerous praises due to Poetry, that it is calculated to people, enrich, and animate Solitude, and the virtuous retreats of the country. The mind that stagnates, in absence from the busy but baneful liveliness of Courts, is mean, dependent, and empty. Sir Thomas Wyat, who seems to have had a noble spirit, and feeling heart, has a fine moral poem on the sufferings of courtiers, and on the comparative freedom, peace, and purity of a rural seclusion. In the days of ruder and less cultivated intellect in which he lived, how powerful must have been the sentiments, which thus break out into forcible and elegant language!
"This is the cause that I could never yet
"True poesy is as a gum which issues
August 6, 1813.
In the calm of solitary walks, away from those objects which irritate and confuse the mind, we can form the most candid and wise opinions of the human character. I would not let the kindly serenity, which the surrounding images thus produce, lead me into wild and exaggerated praise. But surely it is better to err on the side of admiration, than of detraction; and it is not easy to forgive or excuse Dr. Johnson for the degrading light in which he has set many of our English poets.
It was lucky for Goldsmith, that the life of him did not come within the plan of this great biographer. Goldsmith, it is true, was his friend, and was often praised by him, when others presumed to censure. But friendship would not always protect from the critic's lash. Collins was his friend: but, how has he treated poor Collins!
The genius of Goldsmith was rather elegant, and marked by a graceful propriety, than sublime or pathetic. It does not appear certain that he loved literature for its own sake. He seems to have considered it only as the means of procuring money, or distinction, if we believe the accounts of him, and the sentiments thrown out in his conversation. But there is sufficient reason to suspect that his conversation was not to be depended upon. His excessive and indiscriminate vanity led him to deceive himself, and, perhaps, others. We cannot without some hesitation suppose, that the writer of " The Traveller"—" The Deserted Village," and "The Vicar of Wahefeld" did not love the Muse for her own sake. When he speaks of the Muse, as
"His shame in crowds, his solitary pride,"
he seems to have loved her from his heart.
There can scarely be a worse trade or profession than that of authorship. If an income was his object, he was unhappy in the mode he adopted; though more successful in that way than most authors. We cannot attain the power of arresting and communicating to others "the shadowy tribes of mind," without much cultivation; and that cultivation no one can be expected to give without having an intrinsic pleasure in it.
The time, the exhausting toils,
"The languid tedium of o'erlabour'd thought,"
that these pursuits require and produce, can never be balanced by any pecuniary recompence.