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August 31, 1813.
"it has been truly said, that there are times when mere existence is delight, when we are content to breathe, and feel the genial air around us, and let our ideas flow involuntarily, and without a purpose. The spell is broken by exertion or controul; by attempting to direct, or analyse, or record the train of our thoughts; and we are satisfied to live only for ourselves, and involve ourselves in our own pleasure.
"The season, which is most adapted to generate this frame of body and mind, is the first coming on of Spring. The heart opens at a genial day of this period, like the young leaves that begin to expand their bosoms with new fragrance, and fresh tints of inexpressible beauty. At these precious moments, I desire only to be left to the uninterrupted enjoyment of my being, and to the silent emotions of gratitude to the Parent Of Nature!
"In such a mood the bosom is too full to speak, and the head to distinguish. Labour becomes irksome; reading a task; and composition is deemed too fatiguing an effort. We saunter; lean upon stiles; and rest on banks of primroses, and watch, with a pensive kind of rapture, every "rural sight and sound."
"It is this frame of temper, which must often be my apology, for a more than ordinary deficiency on my own part in this work. I cannot withdraw myself from the fields, from the charms of the reviving scenery, and an indescribably luxurious langour of feeling, which dullness and hard-heartedness will condemn."
Such was the language in which my feelings discharged themselves on some vernal day of a former year, as appears by one of the numerous written fragments which lie scattered among my books, and in the drawers of the various apartments which have been my abode. I know not how many Springs have shone upon me, since sentiments so expressive of tranquil bliss have ruled over my bosom. I know that it has been my fate to live in a succession of conflicting agitations. I know that my pen is always guided by an hand hurried and trembling with cares, anxieties, and regrets; that Treachery haunts me; Malice pnrsues me; and, above all, Detraction never ceases to persecute me. I love fame; it is the disease of my mind: I cannot endure to be calumniated; it is the weakness which most aggravates my sufferings.
I remember, that, from a very boy, it was only in the scenery of Nature I could obtain a short respite from the torment of these restless passions. I recollect, as if it was yesterday, such a morning in Spring, when I was a school-boy, not yet seventeen. Then it was, that the Morning description in "The Minstrel'" fixed itself in indelible impressions on my fancy. At that period, my favourite studies were the Latin poems of Buchanan and Milton; of which I had every glowing passage which delineated rural scenery, by heart. I struggled to emulate them, with strength how very unequal!
But soon after came Cambridge, with her idols Euclid, Newton, and Locke; and the spirit of the Muse was enveloped and stifled in the fogs of uncongenial dullness. I sunk into langour and despondence; threw away my books, and lost the ambition of scholarship, which had hitherto animated my days, and cheered "the midnight oil!"
Years ensued of chagrin, and transient, feeble, unavailing efforts. A vernal sun, an autumnal tint, occasionally waked my soul into visions of poetry. But I had not the strength, or the steadiness to delineate them; and they vanished like the flashes of lightning that only for a moment trace their path through the darkness of night.
In that sad sterile period of blighted hopes, and suppressed fires, I amused the dreary days by poring over musty records and lifeless antiquities; my dull fancy entertained itself with the pedantry of heraldric jargon; and my memory became loaded with blazonry and funeral inscriptions: the triflings of a low creep
ing spirit; the rivalry of such minute-minded, tasteless men as •••••••• or •••••!
But the votary of Nature as I was formed to be, charms of rural solitude, forest enchantments, and castles frowning over precipitous rocks, or lifting their turrets over deep woods, peopled with feudal splendour, and animating the wild and picturesque scenes over which they ruled, still broke in by fits upon the gloom of this my early and unpropitious manhood. The lyre was now and then seized with a careless and despairing hand; but it was held not long: fatigue and disgust soon followed; and I sunk again into an humiliated, dejected, over-awed, uncontending wretch!
The lonely vallies of D , the voice of Spring
that spoke from the new-budding leaves of the impending woodlands, and her beauty and fresh odours that opened upon the primrose banks, revived about the year 179 • • < some of those seeds of warm imagination, which, though buried almost from the age of seventeen, had been thickly strewn upon my infant brain, and were the only plants congenial to it.
Painful as no inconsiderable portion of my existence has been, O how intense have been the delights of its few days of pleasure! It is the Vernal and the Autumnal hour, spent away from that society for which my irritable temperament is unfitted; it is the calm of Solitude; it is the varied hue of Nature, which to me is virtue, wisdom, enthusiasm, and ecstacy!
& singular Charaeter, tieserihfti bj) IjimseK.
"Fling away amhition,
By that sin fell the angels! How can man then,
The image of his Maker, hope to win by it?" Shakesp.
September 1, 1813.
/ insert the following letter as I received it, without any comment, for it is perfectly congenial to my work.
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE SYLVAN WANDERER."
"SIR, August 31, 1813.
"I Have seen your c Sylvan Wanderer'' announced; and am anxious to be enrolled among its Correspondents. Like you, Sir, I have roamed wildly in the fields of Literature; but, unlike you, I have dressed myself in the feathers of worldly fashion, and incurred the marks of worldly folly; which now I disdain, and loathe with inexpressible hatred and horror.
"To many of the extraordinary circumstances of my life I will not allude; but from the depth of the far-spreading woods where I now pass most of my days, I will unload my bursting heart of some of the melancholy thoughts which oppress it, in letters which I am sure your sympathy will not utterly reject.