« PreviousContinue »
And from the powerful arms of Sloth get free 'Tis rising from the dead-alas !—it cannot be !
you then learn to dissipate the band
Of these huge threat'ning difficulties dire,
That in the weak man's way like lions stand,
His soul appall, and damp his rising fire ?
Resolve, resolve, and to be men aspire.
Esert that noble privilege, alone,
Here to mankind indulg'd; control desire;
Let godlike Reason, from her sovereign throne,
Speak the commanding word, I will !—and it is done.
“Heavens ! can you then thus waste, in shameful wise,
Your few important days of trial here?
Heirs of eternity! yborn to rise
Through endless states of being, still more near
To bliss approaching, and perfection clear?
Can you renounce a fortune so sublime ?
Such glorious hopes, your backward steps to steer,
And roll, with vilest brutes, through mud and slime ?
No! no! your heaven-touch'd hearts disdain the sordid
“Enough! enough !" they cried. Strait from the crowd
The better sort on wings of transport fly;
As when amid the lifeless summits proud
Of Alpine cliffs, where to the gelid sky
Snows pild on snows in wintry torpor lie,
The rays divine of vernal Phæbus play,
Th' awaken’d heaps, in streamlets from on high,
Rous'd into action, lively leap away,
Glad-warbling through the vales, in their new being gay.
But far the greater part with rage inflam'd,
Dire-mutter'd curses, and blasphem'd high Jove.
"Ye sons of Hate!" (they bitterly exclaim'd),
“What brought you to this seat of peace and love?
While with kind Nature, here amid the grove,
We passed the harmless sabbath of our time,
What to disturb it could, fell men, emove
Your barbarous hearts? Is happiness a crime?
Then do the fiends of hell rule in yon heaven sublime."
“Ye impious wretches !" (quoth the knight in wrath),
“ Your happiness behold !”—then strait a wand
He wav'd, an anti-magic power that hath
Truth from illusive falsehood to command.
Sudden the landscape sinks on every hand;
The pure quick streams are marshy puddles found;
On baleful heaths the groves all blackend stand ;
And o'er the weedy, foul, abhorrèd ground,
Snakes, adders, toads, each loathsome creature crawls around.
And here and there, on trees by lightning scath'd,
Unhappy wights, who loathéd life, yhung;
Or in fresh gore and recent murder bath’d,
They weltering lay; or else, infuriate flung
Into the gloomy flood, while ravens sung
The funeral dirge, they down the torrent rollid:
These by distemper'd blood to madness stung,
Had doom'd themselves; whence oft, when night con-
The world, returning hither their sad spirits howl'd.
Attended by a glad acclaiming train
Of those he rescued had from gaping hell,
Then turn'd the knight, and to his hall again
Soft pacing, sought of Peace the mossy cell;
Yet down his cheeks the gems of pity fell,
To see the helpless wretches that remain'd,
There left through delves and deserts dire to yell;
Amaz'd, their looks with pale dismay were stain'd,
And spreading wide their hands, they meek repentance feign'd.
But, ah! their scornèd day of grace was past;
For (horrible to tell) a desert wild
Before them stretch'd, bare, comfortless, and vast,
With gibbets, bones, and carcases defild.
There nor trim field nor lively culture smild,
Nor waving shade was seen, nor mountain fair ;
But sands abrupt on sands lay loosely pil'd,
Thro’ which they floundering toild with painful care, Whilst Phoebus smote them sore, and fir'd the cloudless air,
Then, varying to a joyless land of bogs,
The sadden'd country a gray waste appear'd,
Where naught but putrid streams and noisome fogs
Forever hung on drizzly Auster's beard ;
Or else the ground by piercing Caurus sear'd,
Was jagg’d with frost, or heap'd with glazed snow :
Thro' these extremes a ceaseless round they steer'd,
By cruel fiends still hurried to and fro,
Gaunt Beggary, and Scorn, with many hell-hounds moe.
The first was with base dunghill rags yelad,
Tainting the gale in which they flutter'd light;
Of morbid hue, his features sunk and sad;
His hollow eyne shook forth a sickly light;
And o'er his lank jaw-bone, in piteous plight,
His black rough beard was matted rank and vile;
Direful to see! an heart-appalling sight!
Meantime foul scurf and blotches him defile,
And dogs, where'er he went, still barked all the while.
The other was a fell despightful fiend :
Hell holds none worse in baleful bower below;
By pride, and wit, and rage, and rancor, keen'd;
Of man alike, if good or bad, the foe;
With nose upturn'd, he always made a show,
As if he smelt some nauseous scent; his eye
Was cold and keen, like blast from boreal snow,
And taunts he casten forth most bitterly.
Such were the twain that off drove this ungodly fry.
E'en so thro' Brentford town, a town of mud,
An herd of bristly swine is prick'd along;
The filthy beasts, that never chew the cud,
Still grunt, and squeak, and sing their troublous song,
And oft they plunge themselves the mire among;
But aye the ruthless driver goads them on,
And aye, of barking dogs the biter throng
Makes them renew their unmelodious moan;
Ne ever find they rest from their unresting fone.
Staries by Sir Richard Steele.
These stories, with the exception of two, compose the entire set contributed by this great master of character and sentiment to the Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian. They are remarkable for going to the heart of their subjects with a comprehensive brevity; and are just such stories as a man might tell over his wine to a party of friends. Addison's stories are of a more fanciful sort, and more elegant in the style; some of them are charming; but they are pieces of writing—these are relations. They have all the warmth as well as brevity of unpremeditated accounts, given as occasion called them forth. Steele, indeed, may be said to have always talked, rather than written; and hence the beauties as well as defects of his style, which is apt to be too carelessly colloquial.
Steele, like Fielding, Smollett, Goldsmith-in fact, like almost all our most entertaining wits and novelists, not excepting (on a great scale) Sir Walter Scott himself—was an impulsive and imprudent man, not attentive enough to his outlays, and too sanguine about his income. He warranted, perhaps, the remonstrances of his staider friend Ad
and was more touched than comforted by them, from feeling that they were useless. The remonstrances (if they were of the harsh and practical nature they are said to have been), would have come with less ungraciousness from a more genial and generous man; that is to say, supposing such a man would have thought them advisable. Objections to men like Steele come indeed with grace from none but