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Too short my life! more favour'd be thy fate!
(Beloved by thee 'twas painful to resign :) Thou best of Husbands ! live thy utmost date;
Then add those years which death has torn from mine!
A very elegant inscription, under the statue of a sleeping Nymph, is still extant at Rome, which Mr. Pope has transcribed and translated in one of his letters, when speaking of his garden at Twickenham.
Hujus Nympha loci, sacri custodia fontis,
Dormio, dum blandæ sentio murmur aquæ:
Rumpere ; si bibas, sive lavere, tace.
Nymph of the grot, these sacred springs I keep,
Ben Jonson's celebrated Epitaph on the sister of Sir Philip Sidney is distinguished by the Epigrammatic point in which it terminates :
Underneath this marble hearse,
We cannot resist adding another, written about the same period, which will probably amuse our readers:
On William Shakespeare, 1616.
Renowned Spencer, lye a thought more nigh
For Love Elegies we are chiefly indebted to Hammond; and he, again, to Tibullus. Johnson has treated Hammond with the most caustic severity; forgetting, or affecting to forget, that the English Elegies are almost wholly translations, or paraphrases, of those of the Roman poet. If the criticism is just, it applies not to Hammond alone, but to many of the finest poems of antiquity.
“ The truth is, says the Doctor, these Elegies have neither passion, nature, nor manners. Where there is fiction, there is no passion; he that describes himself as a shepherd, and his Neæra, or Delia, as a shepherdess, and talks of goats and lambs, feels no passion. He that courts his mistress with Roman imagery deserves to lose her; for she may with good reason suspect his sincerity. Hammond has few sentiments drawn from Nature, and few images from modern life. He produces nothing but frigid pedantry. It would be hard to find in all his productions three stanzas that deserve to be remembered.”
“ Like other lovers, he threatens the lady with dying ; and what then shall follow?
Wilt thou in tears thy lover's corse attend;
With eyes averted light the solemn pyre,
Then, slowly sinking, by degrees expire?
To soothe the hovering soul be thine the care,
With plaintive cries to lead the mournful band;
And cull my ashes with thy trembling hand :
Panchaia's odours be their costly feast,
And all the pride of Asia's fragrant year;
And, what is still more precious, give thy tear.
“Surely no blame can fall upon a nymph who rejected a swain of so little meaning."
To be sure, Miss Emma and Miss Caroline (not being nymphs) would smile, were they addressed by their sweethearts in similar verses. It is certainly not the custom, now-a-days, for gallants to commit suicide, when their suits are rejected; nor for their relenting mistresses to set fire to the pile which shall reduce to ashes the dead bodies of their lovers. The Doctor was right. It is all a fiction. The very meaning of the word Poetry is “a lie.” Ladies of rank and taste never tended sheep, even on the delightful pastures of Sicily, except in the fabulous strains of Theocritus; neither, with all our admiration of classical antiquity, can we seriously believe that the Gods held their assemblies on Mount Olympus, or that Apollo, with all his Muses, ever inspired a single votary. The truth is, that the Poet lives in a region of his own creation. He takes his fictions for realities and his imaginations for truths. The train of his thoughts are the illusions of his fancy; but they are powerful illusions which lead his auditors spell-bound through enchanted ground, forgetful, for the moment, of that world to which they must return. The true Poet, like the Pythian Priestess, is in a state of phrenzy while under the inspiration of the god; and it is only in the shortness of the fits of his delirium that he differs from the insane. Whatever may have been the previous stores of his mind, the reverie of the maniac is too long continued to be coherent; and his lucid intervals are too few to enable him to mould his tale and correct its incongruities; in consequence of
which his flights of fancy are lost to the world. The following Stanzas, “written at the York Retreat, by a Young Woman who, when composing them, was labouring under a very considerable degree of active mania” are strikingly illustrative of what we have here advanced :
Spirit of Darkness! from yon lonely shade
Where fade the virgin roses of the spring, Spirit of Darkness ! hear thy favourite maid
To sorrow's harp her wildest anthem sing.
Ah! how has love despoil'd my earliest bloom,
And flung my charms as to the wintery wind! Ah! how has love hung o'er my trophied tomb
The spoils of genius and the wreck of mind!
High rides the moon the silent heavens along;
Thick fall the dews of midnight o'er the ground; Soft steals the lover, when the morning song
Of waken'd warblers through the woods resound:
Then I with thee my solemn vigils keep,
And, at thine altar, take my lonely stand; Again my lyre unstrung I sadly sweep,
While Love leads up the dance with harp in band.
High, o'er the woodlands, Hope's gay meteors shone,
And thronging thousands bless'd the ardent ray; I turn'd, but found Despair on his wild roam,
And with the demon bent my hither way :