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With this we may well contrast
A SATIRE, BY DR. Johnson.
Ling'ring year, at length is down:
Great Sir John are now your own.
Free to mortgage or to sell,
Bid the sons of thrift farewell.
All the names that banish care;
Show the spirit of an heir.
Joy to see their quarry fly;
There the lender, grave and sly.
Let it wander as it will:
Bid them come and take their fill.
Pockets full and spirits high,
Only dirt, or wet, or dry.
Tell the woes of wilful waste :
You can hang or drown at last.
This lively satirical effusion was recited with great spirit by Dr. Johnson on his death-bed, when he said that he had composed it some years before, on the occasion of a rich, extravagant young gentleman coming of age. He had never repeated it but once before, and had never given but one copy of it.
That copy was sent to Mrs. Thrale on the 8th of August, 1780, enclosed in a letter in which Dr. Johnson writes :
“ You have heard in the papers how Sir John Lade is come to age. I have enclosed a short song of congratulation, which you must not show to anybody. I hope you will read it with candour. It is, I believe, one of the author's first essays in that way of writing, and a beginner is always to be treated with tenderness.”
Another of Dr. Johnson's birthday effusions was a Greek epigram, sent to Cave, of the Gentleman's Magazine. It was written in honour of the twentyfirst birthday of the learned and pious Miss Carter, for whom Dr. Johnson had a profound and steady friendship extending over fifty years. He told Cave that she ought to be celebrated in as many languages as Louis le Grand.
A very different style of poem “On Coming of Age,” is that by Mrs. Hemans :
TO MY ELDEST BROTHER, LIEUTENANT IN THE ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS, ON HIS
COMPLETING HIS TWENTY-FIRST YEAR.
Yet, while on fancy's raptured sight
For thee, she sings, shall fancy bloom,
The crowning glory and joy of Early Life is
When it doth two fond hearts enfold:
When sunlit waters flow like gold.
The pilgrim walks in fear untold,
Bursteth upon the silent wold.
Lovers' serenades were formerly very popular in England early on birthday mornings. This is by Thomas Heywood, 1607 :
With night we banish sorrow;
To give my love good-morrow!
Notes from the lark I'll borrow;
To give my love good-morrow!
Wake from thy nest, robin redbreast,
Sing, birds, in every furrow;
Stare, linnet, and cock-sparrow,
Sing my fair love good-morrow!
One of the royalist poets of the reign of Charles the First, William Cartwright, - of whom Ben Jonson said, “My son Cartwright writes all like a man,” and for whose early death King Charles the First mourned-wrote the following thoughtful stanzas, intended to prove that there can be no real disparity of age where true love exists—the birthday of love being the true measure of the age of lovers. There are two births; the one when light
First strikes the new awaken'd sense ;
And we must count our life from thence.
Love, then, to us did new souls give,
And in those souls did plant new powers ;
The breath we breathe is His, not ours;
Love, like that angel that shall call
Our''boaies from the silent grave,
None too much, none too little have;
Pope has left us a perfect model of an elegant birthday poem to a young lady. A very original and striking reflection on birthdays is comprised within the first ten lines. To the subject of this poem Pope left in his will “one thousand pounds immediately on my decease ; and all the furniture of my grotto, urns in my garden, household goods, chattels, plate, or whatever is not otherwise disposed of in this my will, I give and devise to the said Mrs. Martha Blount, out of a sincere regard and long friendship for her.”
TO MARTHA BLOUNT, ON HER BIRTHDAY. Oh be thou blest with all that Heaven can send, Long health, long youth, long pleasure, and a
friend : Not with those toys the female world admireRiches that vex, and vanities that tire. With added years, if life bring nothing new But like a sieve let every blessing through,