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Bishop Taylor has an allusion, somewhat similar, to the decline of day: 66 And if a man were but of a day's life, it is well if he lasts till Even-Song, and then, says his Compline, an hour before the time *."
One of the best lines in my Hymn to Adversity,
And leave us leisure to be good, is imitated from Oldham, whose early death—for he was taken away in his thirtieth year—is to be deeply deplored. He possessed a liveliness of invention, a vigour of expression, and a nervous freedom of versification, that maturer years would have ripened into a very high order of satire. Pope complained with propriety that his strong rage was too much like Billingsgate; but by what obliquity of critical vision he could prefer the feeble rhymes of Rochester and the Earl of Dorset, I am unable to understand. Point out to me, in the writings of those witty noblemen, such verses as the following:
Age just crawling on the verge of life.
* Of Contentedness. Holy Living and Dying, cap. 2, sect. 6.
Or the process of composition in a poetic mind :
When at first search I traverse o'er my mind,
And glimmering thoughts just dawning into sense. Is not the last admirable? There is something pretty in the sketch of a relenting beauty.
Her looks, with anger rough erewhile,
Yes, but very far behind the lines you quoted the other day from Aulus Gellius :—“ Sigilla in Mento impressa Amoris digitulo vestigio demonstrant mollitudinem."
He calls the delights of common life,
Pleasures which enter at the waking eyes. Speaking of a person near death, he says with great ingenuity,
The slackened string of life run down. His description of eloquent music, that
Can call the listening soul into the ear, was not unworthy of his friend Dryden's noble ode upon a similar subject *.
* For St. Cecilia's Day.
You will not, after these few specimens of Oldham's talents*, wonder at Dryden's eloquent eulogy; an eulogy, so warm with the heart of true friendship and admiration, and so glowing with the brightest poetry, that I never read it without delight. It sweeps over the mind like the solemn dirge of an organ.
Farewell, too little and too lately known,
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
* Some of Oldham's concetti are very pretty. Mr. Moore has rhymed a worse compliment than the following, addressed to diadame L. E.
In that white snow which overspreads your skin
We trace the whiter soul that dwells within. He beseeches Destiny,
To twine All her smooth fortunes in a silken line. In his verses to the memory of Charles Worwent, he says,
So gentle was thy pilgrimage beneath,
Time's unheard feet scarce make less noise,
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around. That felicitous phrase-a noble error-is a translation of the αμαρτημα ευγινες of Longinus. .
A noble tribute.
Admire Dryden, and be blind to all his faults. This was my advice to Beattie. His Absalom and Achitophel, and Theodore and Honoria, are alone sufficient to elevate him above a host. The soul of the writer glows through his verses, and lives along every line. Those who affirm him to be a giant only upon earth, pronounce an erroneous judgment. The Flower and the Leaf is one of the most lively, beautiful, and romantic poems in the language. He has beaten Chaucer at his own weapons. But this remark ought to go into a parenthesis.
Satire is a painful study,
The skill To strike the vice, but spare the person still is a very rare gift. Cartwright claims it for his poetical father, Jonson. But in Oldham, Cleveland, and others of that school, the arrow hits the person oftener than the vice.
Cleveland was justly censured for obtruding new words upon his readers. To express a thought in the harshest form, constituted the charm of his elocution. Dryden drew this distinction between his Satires and Donne's; that the one gives us deep thoughts in common language, though in rough cadence; the other, common thoughts in abstruse words. Some of his conceits must have astonished even his contemporaries. Wishing to describe the various acquirements of Milton's early friend, Edward King, he says, that in him
Neptune hath got an University.
But a writer of lively fancy, and enriched by considerable learning, must occasionally produce a striking thought; probably you will think the couplet, in which he alludes to the unequalled