Page images
PDF
EPUB

« The mind of Johnson, on the contrary, was utterly devoid of all that intellectual activity and elasticity which Warburton possessed. There was about it an habitual and dogged sluggishness, an inert and listless torpor, a reluctance to call forth its energies and exercise its powers; it slumbered, but its slumbers were those of a giant. With more of positive force when called into action, it had not the same principle of motion, the same continual beat, the same sleepless inquietude and feverish excitement. It lay there like the leviathan, reposing amidst the depths of the ocean, till necessity drove it out to display the magnitude of his strength. The one waited quietly in its den for food, while the other prowled about continually for prey. To the latter, inaction was impossible ; to the former, voluntary exertion was unknown. Solidity and condensation were the qualities of the one ; continued vigour and pliability the characteristics of the other. The one, as a machine, was more clumsy in its movements; the other, more light and unencumbered, but less effectual in its operation; the forces of the one were more scattered, the resources of the other less alert. In Warburton, there was a boundless fertility of vigour, which ripened up into all the rankness of rich luxuriance. In Johnson, the har. vest of intellect was not so spontaneous, nor perhaps its fertility so great ; but when once raised, it never required the hand of the weeder, but rose unmixed with tares. The genius of the one, like a cascade, threw up its water in the air, which glistened in the sun, and shone with the variety of ten thousand hues and colourings; while the talents of the other never exerted themselves, without joining at the same time utility with splendour. The one, like the Gladiator of Lysippus, had every nerve in motion, and every muscle flexible with elasticity; while in the other, like the colossal statues

of Michael Angelo, all was undivided energy and bursting strength.

“ Such were the characters of these great men, of whom it is difficult to decide which was the greater, or which possessed, in a greater portion, those qualities which give a title to intellectual supremacy. The fame of Johnson will hereafter principally rest on his productions as a moralist and a critic; while that of Warburton, when again revived, will as certainly be raised on the foundation of his theological writings. Whatever may be thought of the truth of some of his theories, or the unseemliness of some of his attacks, it is impossible to deny that his Alliance and Divine Legation are the most splendid, the most original, the most ingenious defences of our ecclesiastical establishment, and of revelation itself, that ever man constructed. On these, as on the sure and unchangeable evidences of his powers, his admirers may depend for his reception with posterity; with whom, when the name of Johnson, rich in the accumulated tributes of time, shall hereafter be accounted the mightiest amongst those who have given ardour to virtue, and confidence to truth ;' then shall the name of Warburton, also, purified from the stains which have obscured and sullied its lustre, be numbered amongst the brightest lights of the Protestant Church-amongst the greatest of those who have adorned it by their genius, or exalted it by their learning, a worthy accession to the mighty fellowship and communion of Episcopius, Chillingworth, and Hooker.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

To accustom young ladies to select and copy the beautiful passages of favourite authors, is perhaps the most obvious and effectual of all the minor modes of polishing their minds. The old-fashioned practice of taxing them to learn by rote was not half so good, and was, moreover, attended with the disadvantage of sometimes giving them a habit of quoting in conversation ; nay, what was far worse, of betraying them into the odious vanity of even leading the conversation, in order that they might obtain opportunities to spout,—of course no Bachelor's Wife was ever guilty of such a blue offence. But, as the perfect Egeria was sometimes in the practice of making extracts in the way suggested, we shall look at a few of the sort of things that she considered good.

The first we meet with is from a little poem commonly ascribed to the celebrated Earl of Surrey, who, if not the father of English rhythm, was, after Chaucer, the first who properly felt the depth and variety of the harmonies of the language:

“ The Sun, when he hath spread his rays,

And showed his face ten thousand ways,
Ten thousand things do then begin
To show the life that they are in.

The heaven shows lively art and hue, Of sundry shapes and colours new, And laughs upon the earth :-anon, The earth, as cold as any stone, Wet in the tears of her own kind, 'Gins then to take a joyful mind; For well she feels that out and out The sun doth warm her round about, And dries her children tenderly, And shows them forth full orderly. The mountains high, and how they stand; The valleys, and the great main land; The trees, the herbs, the towers strong, The castles, and the rivers long ; And even for joy thus of this heat, She showeth forth her pleasures great, And sleeps no more; but sendeth forth Her clergions, her own dear worth, To mount and fly up to the air, Where then they sing in order fair, And tell in song full merrily, How they have slept full quietly That night about their mother's sides. And when they have sung more besides, Then fall they to their mother's breast, Whereat they feed, or take their rest. The hunter then sounds out his horn, And rangeth straight through wood and corn ; On hills then show the ewe and lamb, And every young one with his dam ; Then lovers walk and tell their tale, Both of their bliss and of their bale ; And how they serve, and how they do, And how their lady loves them too. And thus all things have comforting In that, that doth their comfort bring ;

Save I, alas ! whom neither sun,
Nor aught that God hath wrought and done,
May comfort aught; as though I were
A thing not made for comfort here.

The Earl of Surrey was the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, in the time of Henry VIII. He was born in 1516, and was early contracted to marry Lady Frances Vere, daughter of the Earl of Oxford. In 1542, he was made a knight of the garter, and appears to have been one of the gayest ornaments of the court; but he fell under the displeasure of the King, and was in consequence beheaded in the flower of life. It is proper, however, to observe, that although he has been regarded as the author of the poem quoted, it is certainly not at all like the ordinary style of his poetry, of which the following descriptive effusion, written during one of his imprisonments in Windsor Castle, is a favourable specimen. With somewhat of the general stiffness of his style, it possesses much of the grace and gallant spirit of his chivalrous character, and affords altogether an advantageous view of his powers and talents as a poet:

“ So cruel prison how could betide, alas !

As proud Windsor, where I in lust and joy, With a king's son my childish years did pass,

In greater feast than Priam's sons of Troy. Where each sweet place returns a taste full sour;

The large green courts, where we were wont to hove, With eyes cast up unto the maiden's tower,

And easy sighs, such as folks draw in love; The stately seats, the ladies bright of hue,

The dances short, long tales of great delight,

« PreviousContinue »