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Y O UN G.
HIS great poet and eminent divine was the son of the Dean of Sarum, and was born at Upham, near Winchester, of which his father was also Rector, in June 1681. It seeins that the Queen was his Godmother.
Placed on the foundation of Winchester Coliege, he had the misfortune to remain there till he was superannuated, and in consequence, was at first entered an independent Member of New College, Oxford, from whence he removed to Corpus Christi, and afterwards was nominated by Archbishop Jenison to a law-fellowship at All Souls.
It is probable that his patrimony was small; and it is probable, that he did not study to improve bis circumstances by economy. His acquaintance with the dissipated Duke of Wharton might have fixed a stigma on his early character, but that a good heart and good principles enabled him when he entered into holy orders, which he did not till almost fifty years of age, to support the dignity of his profession at first with decorum, and for the remainder of his life with the most exemplary honour.
“ The Last Day," appears to have been his earliest poetical work of any length. “ His Love of Fame," an admirable work, and a variety of other poems which followed at intervals for a long series of years, all exhibit traits of genius and a great facility as well as energy of character.
His longest and most celebrated poem, entitled “The Complaint ; or, Night Thoughts," is said to have originated from some melancholy domestic events which tinctured all his future days. This poem once popular, is now in a great measure neglected; it is difficult to speak of it in adequate terms. As a composition, it is different from any other in the whole range of English poetry. In abundant parts it is rich, noble, and sublime. The first six books, however, are universally allowed to be the best. Of these, the two which take the lead will enrich our selection. In the remainder,
though there are very many passages of exquisite beauty and pathos, the same ideas recur again and again; and the sentiments, which at first evidently flowed from the heart, at length seem to emanate more from the head.
In 1730 Young was presented by his college to the valuable Rectory of Wellewyn in Hertfordshire, where he afterwards resided; and the following year married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the Earl of Litchfield, and widow of Colonel Lee, who left a son and two daughters. One of the latter an accomplished and amiable lady having been married to Mr.Temple, son of Lord Palmerston, fell into a decline, and was accompanied by her mother and father-in-law to the south of France. To this Young alludes in these lines :
I few, I snatch'd her from the rigid north,
The tender solicitude of her relatives, however, was without effect; and about four years after, the wife of our poet likewise died, leaving him only one son, named Frederick, of whose conduct there are very opposite representations.
Young wrote “Busiris,” “The Revenge,” and “The Brothers”, tragedies, which were all acted with great
The Revenge is still a stock piece of the Theatres. He also produced several prose compositions, which at once evince piety and genius. He died in 1765 in the 84th year of his age, and enjoy'd no other preferment except Wellwyn, till within a very few years of his death, when he was elected Clerk of the Closet to the Princess Dowager of Wales. Young, like Thomson, among the poets, says
Auderson, (whom the Editor of this Selection always quotes with pride and pleasure,) is entitled to the rare but im. portant praise of not having left a line, which for moral or religious reason on his death-bed, he could wish to have erased.
As the occasion of this poem was real, not fictitious; so the method pursued in it, was rather imposed, by what spontaneously arose in the author's mind on that occasion, than meditated or designed. Which will appear very probable from the nature of it. For it differs from the common mode of poetry, which is, from long narrations to draw short morals. Here, on the contrary, the narrative is short, and the morality arising from it makes the bulk of the poem. The reason of it is, That the facts mentioned did naturally pour these moral reflections on the thought of the writer.
ON LIFE, DEATH, AND IMMORTALITY.
Tır'd nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep!
From short (as usual) and disturb'd repose,
From wave to wave of fancied misery,
Silence and darkness! solenen sisters ! twins
Thou, who didst put to flight
Through this opaque of nature and of soul,
Nor let the phial of thy vengeance, pour'd
The bell strikes one. We take no note of time
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august, How complicate, how wonderful, is man! How passing wonder he who made him such! Who center'd in our make such strange extremes ! From different natures marvellously mix'd, Connection exquisite of distant worlds ! Distinguish'd link in Being's endless chain ! Midway from nothing to the Deity! A beam ethereal, sully'd, and absorp'd! Though sully'd and dishonour'd, still divine! Dim miniature of greatness absolute! An heir of glory! a frail child of dust! Helpless immortal! insect infinite! A worm! a god !-I tremble at: myself, And in myself am lost! at home a stranger, Thought wanders up and down, surpris'd, aghast, And wondering at her own: How reason reels! O what a miracle to man is man, Triumphantly distress'd! what joy, what dread ! Alternately transported and alarm'd! What can preserve my life, or what destroy ? An angel's arm can't snatch me from the grave; Legions of angels can't confine me there.
'Tis past conjecture; all things rise in proof: While o'er my limbs sleep's soft dominion spread, What though my soul fantastic measures trod O'er fairy fields; or mourn'd along the gloom