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Popes, May 11, 1742. Your fragment is in Aulus Gellius; and both it and your Greek delicious. But why are you thus melancholy? I am so sorry for it, that you see I cannot forbear writing again the very first opportunity; though I have little to say except to expostulate with you about it. I find you converse much with the dead, and I do not blame you for that; I converse with them too, though not indeed with the Greek. But I must condemn you for your longing to be with them. What, are there no joys among the living? I could almost cry out with Catullus, “ Alphene immemor, atque unanimis false sodalibus !” But to turn an accusation thus upon another, is ungenerous; so I will take my leave of
you for the present with a “Vale et vive paulisper cum vivis.”
London, May 27, 1742. Mine, you are to know, is a white melancholy, or rather leucocholy for the most part; which though it seldom laughs or dances, norever amounts to what one calls joy or pleasure, yet is a good easy sort of a state, and ça ne laisse que de s'amuser. The only fault of it is insipidity; which is apt now and then to give a sort of ennui, which makes one form certain little wishes that signify nothing. But there is another sort, black indeed, which I have now and then felt, that has somewhat in it like Tertullian's rule of faith, Credo quia impossibile est ; for it believes, nay, is sure of every thing that is unlikely, so it be but frightful; and, on the other hand, excludes and shuts its eyes to the most possible hopes, and every thing that is pleasurable; from this the Lord deliver us!
for none but he and sunshiny weather can do it. In hopes of enjoying this kind of weather, I am going into the country for a few weeks, but shall be never the nearer any society; so, if you have any charity, you will continue to write. My life is like Harry the Fourth's supper of hens.
“ Poulets a la broche, poulets en ragôut, poulets en hâchis, poulets en fricasées.” Reading here, reading there; nothing but books with different sauces. Do not let me lose my dessert then; for though that be reading too, yet it has a very different flavour. The May seems to be come since your invitation; and I
propose to bask in her beams and dress me in her roses.
Et Caput in vernâ semper habere rosa. I shall see Mr. ** and his wife, nay, and his child too, for he has got a boy. Is it not odd to consider one's contemporaries in the grave light of husband and father? There is my Lords * * and *
Lords * * and * * *, they are statesmen : do notyou remember them dirty boys playing at cricket? As for me, I am never a bit the older, nor the bigger, nor the wiser than I was then : no, not for having been beyond the sea. Pray how are you?
I send you an inscription for a wood joining to a park of mine (it is on the confines of mount Cithæron, on the left hand as you go to Thebes); you know I am no friend to hunters, and hate to be disturbed by their noise.
“Αζόμενος πολύθηρον εκηβόλου άλσος ανάσσας,
τάς δεινάς τεμένη λείπε, κυναγε, θεάς:
ανταχείς Νυμφάν αγροτεράν κελάδω.* Here follows also the beginning of an Heroic Epistle; but you must give me leave to tell my own story first, because historians differ. Massinissa was the son of Gala, king of the Massyli; and, when very young, at the head of his father's army, gave a most signal over
• In the twelfth Letter of the first Section, Mr. Gray says of his friend's transation of an Epigram of Posidippus, “ Græcam illam á penelay mirificè sapit.” The Inarned reader, I imagine, will readily give this tetrastic the same character.
throw to Syphax, king of the Masæsylians, then an ally of the Romans. Soon after Asdrubal, son of Gisgo the Carthaginian general, gave the beautiful Sophonisba, his daughter, in marriage to the young prince. But this marriage was not consummated on account of Massinissa's being obliged to hasten into Spain, there to command his father's troops, who were auxiliaries of the Carthaginians. Their affairs at this time began to be in a bad condition ; and they thought it might be greatly for their interest, if they could bring over Syphax to themselves. This in time they actually effected ; and, to strengthen their new alliance, commanded Asdrubal to give his daughter to Syphax. (It is probable their ingratitude to Massinissa arose from the great change of affairs which had happened among the Massylians during his absence ; for his father and uncle were dead, and a distant relation of the royal family had usurped the throne.) Sophonisba was accordingly married to Syphax; and Massinissa, enraged at the affront, became a friend to the Romans. They drove the Carthaginians before them out of Spain, and carried the war into Africa, defeated Syphax, and took him prisoner; upon which Cirtha (his capital) opened her gates to Lælius and Massinissa. The rest of the affair, the marriage, and the sending of poison, every body knows. This is partly taken from Livy, and partly from Appian.
Egregium accipio promissi Munus amoris,
Inque manu mortem, jam fruitura, fero:
Transieram Stygios non inhonesta lacus.
Nec fueram fastus, Roma superba, tuos.
Detractam, hæc pompæ jura minora suæ
Objecta et sævæ plausibus urbis eo :
Magnum Romanæ pignus amicitiæ!
Scipiadæ excuses, oro, si tardius utar
Munere. Non nimiùm vivere, crede, velim. Parva mora est, breve sed tempus mea fama requirit:
Detinet hæc animam cura suprema meam.
Inter Elisæas gloria prima nurus,
Vel nimis hostiles extimuisse manus.
Gaudiaque heu! quantis nostra repensa malis. Primitiasne tuas meministi atque arma Syphacis
Fusa, et per Tyrias ducta trophæa vias? (Landis at antiquæ forsan meminisse pigebit,
Quodque decus quondam causa ruboris erit.) Tempus ego certe memini, felicia Pænis
Quo te non puduit solvere vota deis ; Mæniaque intrantem vidi : longo agmine duxit
Turba salutantum, purpureique patres. Fæminea ante omnes longe admiratur euntem
Hæret et aspectu tota caterva tuo. Jam flexi, regale decus, per colla capilli,
Jam decet ardenti fuscus in ore color!
Seque cupit laudi surripuisse suæ.
Et dextræ soli credimus esse virum.
(Seu rexit casus lumina, sive Venus)
Sensi; virgineus perculit ora pudor. Nescio quid vultum molle spirare tuendo,
Credideramque tuos lentius ire pedes.
Quæ poterat visus detinuisse tuos :
Asseruitque decus conscia forma suum.
Sin premat invitæ lumina victa sopor,
Atque iterum hesterno munere victor ades.
Immediately after writing the preceding Letter, Mr. Gray went upon a visit to his relations at Stoke; where
* There is so much of nature in the sentiment, as well as poetry in the description of this triumphal entry of young Massinissa, that it seems much to be regretted the author did not finish this Poem. But I believe he never proceeded further with it. I had therefore my doubts concerning the printing of so small a part; but as I thought it the best, because the only original specimen of Mr. Gray's Ovidian verse (the rest of his hexameters and pentameters being only translations either from English or Italian), I was willing to give it to the reader.
he writ that beautiful little Ode which stands first in his collection of poems. He sent it as soon as written to his beloved friend; but he was dead* before it reached Hertfordshire. He diedt only twenty days after he had written the letter to Mr. Gray, which concluded with “Vale, et vive paulisper cum vivis.” So little was the amiable youth then aware of the short time that he himself would be numbered amongst the living. But this is almost constantly the case with such persons as die of that most remediless, yet most flattering of all distempers, a consumption. Shall humanity be thankful or sorry that it is so ? Thankful, surely. For as this malady generally attacks the young and the innocent, it seems the merciful intention of Heaven that, to these, death should come unperceived, and as it were by stealth ; divested of one of his sharpest stings, the lingering expectation of their dissolution. As to Mr. Gray, we may assure ourselves that he felt much more than his dying friend, when the letter, which inclosed the Ode, was returned unopened. There seems to be a kind of presentiment in that pathetic piece, which readers of taste will feel when they learn this anecdote; and which will make them read it with redoubled pleasure. It will also throw a melancholy grace (to borrow one of his own expressions) on the Ode on a distant prospect of Eton, and on that to Adversity; both of them written the August following: for as both these poems abound with pathos, those who have feeling hearts will feel this excellence the more strongly, when they know the cause from whence it arose; and the unfeeling will, perhaps,
• This singular anecdote is founded on a marginal note in his common-place book, where that Ode is transcribed, and the following memorandum annexed : “ Written at Stoke the beginning of June 1742, and sent to Mr. West, not knowing he was then dead.”
+ He was buried at Hatfield (the house called Popes being in that parish). On a grave-stone in the chancel is the following plain inscription; "Here lieth the body of Richard West, Esq. only son to the Right Honourable Richard West, late lord chancellor of Ireland, who died the first of June, 1742, in the twenty-sixth year of his age."