Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

For me, each shifting passion's sport,
Dupe of each movement of the soul,
How could my nerves their strength support,
Free from the whistling storm's controul?
Hard is the Poet's fate on earth;
Aërial breezes are the food,
His nicer senses can inhale;
He cannot join in vulgar mirth;
His finer fancy cannot brood
On the coarse worldling's sensual tale.
Its stupid jest; its trick to throw
The smile of Scorn on hearts that glow,
Chills by its blights the genial flame,
That nurs’d the seeds of nobler fame.

Alone in crowds, no voice he hears,
That his desponding spirit cheers,
But all the grating clamours round
The Muse's “ still small” notes confound!

I shall be reproached with whim and affectation in the description of such feelings: I shall be called querulous, and full of melancholy fancies. Ill-merited aspersions, and unjust sarcasms, have long nerved my mind to endure these censures. There are those who think that I have nothing beyond the common fate to complain of! Let them, who know the corruptness of office, and the success of base and 3 venal intrigue, think otherwise! Let them, who are aware how hateful a cultivated mind is to a sensual and ignoble Being, judge more candidly of the usage to which he, who loves and follows the Muse, is subjected among provincial squires and rural thanes ;

among those who think it unbecoming their importance to exercise their intellects; who look upon

“That wicked imp they call a poet,” as an evil spirit, sent to conjure them out of their fair fame, and fair enjoyments !

Sometimes, losing among my books, and sometimes, in literary productions, the sense of the many poisoned arrows which are always festering in my heart, I continually endeavour to counteract the gloom which in such various shapes attacks me! I cultivate the disposition to behold the charms of Nature in their most cheerful and attractive colours. But it is impossible to be always successful in these efforts. Even the energy of ardent exertion will be followed by langour, which throws a mistiness over the joyous aspect of the heavens, and the earth; and brings on that depression which breeds giants and monsters of Fear and Melancholy.

Gentle mornings of solitary study; dear days of virtuous retirement; on you, at least, I shall look 3 back in my old age with regret! To have done good

to mankind, or to have taught or amused the world, is higher praise; but even a passive innocence, even freedom from the stain of debasing vice, is no mean ground of tranquillity and hope!

..................“God doth not need
Either man's work, or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best: his state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait." Milton.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

September 10, 1813. The materials for the Life of Collins are more than usually scanty. This induces me to bring into one point of view, two curious communications regarding him.

The following Memoir appeared in The Gen-3 tleman's Magazine, for 1781.” It contains some affecting passages; and exhibits a familiarity with the Author which is very interesting.

[ocr errors]

January 20, 1781. “William Collins, the Poet, I was intimately acquainted with, from the time that he came to reside at Oxford. He was the son of a tradesman in the city of Chichester, I think an hatter; and, being sent very young to Winchester School, was soon distinguished for his early proficiency, and his turn for elegant composition. About the year 1740, he came off from that seminary first upon roll, a and was entered a commoner of Queen's College. There, no vacancy offering for New College,

• Dr. Joseph Warton, late head-master of Winton School, was at the same time second upon roll; and Mr. Mulso, late prebendary of the church of Winton, third upon roll.

he remained a year or two, and was chosen demy of Magdalen College; where, I think, he took a degree. As he brought with him, for so the whole turn of his conversation discovered, too high an opinion of his school acquisitions, and a sovereign contempt for all academic studies and discipline, he never looked with any complacency on his situation in the University, but was always complaining of the dulness of a college life. In short, he threw up his demyship, and, going to London, commenced a man of the town, spending his time in all the dissipation of Ranelagh, Vauxhall, and the playhouses; and was romantic enough to suppose, that his superior abilities would draw the attention of the great world, by means of whom he was to make his fortune. In this pleasurable way of life he soon wasted his little property, and a considerable legacy left him by a maternal uncle, a colonel in the army, to whom the nephew made a visit in Flanders during the war. While on this tour he wrote several entertaining letters to his Oxford friends, some of which I saw. In London I met him often, and remember he lodged in a little house with a Miss Bundy, at the corner of King's Square Court, Soho, (now a warehouse) for a long time together. When poverty overtook him, poor man, he had too much sensibility of temper to bear with his misfortunes, and so fell into a most deplorable state of mind. How he got down to Oxford I do not know, but I (myself) saw him under Merton wall, in a very affecting situation, struggling, and conveyed by force, in the arms of two or three men, towards the parish of St. Clement, in which was a house that took in such unhappy objects; and I always understood, that, not long after, he died in confinement; but when, or where, or where he was buried, I never knew.

“Thus was lost to the world this unfortunate person, in the prime of life, without availing himself of the fine abilities, which, properly improved, must have raised him to the top of any profession, and have rendered him a blessing to his friends, and an ornament to his country!

“ Without books, or steadiness or resolution to consult them, if he had been possessed of any, he was always planning schemes for elaborate publications, which were carried no farther than the drawing-up proposals for subscriptions, some of which

were published; and, in particular, as far as I remember, one for S A History of the darker Ages.'

“He was passionately fond of music; good-natured and affable; warm in his friendships, and visionary in his pursuits ; and, as long as I knew him, very temperate in his eating and drinking. He was of moderate stature; of a light and clear complexion; with grey eyes, so very weak at times as hardly to bear a candle in the room, and often raising within him apprehensions of blindness.

“With an anecdote respecting him, while at Magdalen College, I shall close my letter. It happened one afternoon, at a tea-visit, that several intelligent friends were assembled at his rooms to enjoy each other's conversation, when in comes a member of a certain college, as remarkable at that time for his brutal disposition as for his good scholarship; who, though he met with a circle of the most peaceable people in the world, was determined to quarrel; and, though no man said a word, lifted up his foot and kicked the tea-table, and all its contents, to the other side of the room. Our poet, though of a warm temper, was so confounded at the unexpected downfall, and so astonished at the unmerited insult, that he took no notice of

b What a strange and narrow remark of the Memoir-Writer, as if it was more honourable to be a great Lawyer, or a great Theologian, than a great Poet! For selfish purposes, for the sake of lucre, it might have been better. But where are now the memories of Ryder, or Henley, or Harcourt, or Parker, or Herring, or Moore, or Markham? while fresh flowers every day spring up, and bloom on the grave of Collins! Editor. • The Translator of Polybius.”

« ПредишнаНапред »