Page images
PDF
EPUB

some of his minor pieces) as to induce it to be selected for a happier fate than the rest. Had the same talent which Ogilvie threw away on a number of objects been concentrated on one, and that one chosen with judgement and taste, he might have rivalled in popularity the most renowned of his contempora

ries.

Among Ogilvie's larger works, that of "Providence" is, perhaps, entitled to the first place. In his preface to it, he says, "the subject of the present essay falls so naturally under the cognizance of every reflecting mind, that we have no reason to be surprised when we find it treated in the most copious manner by many writers, both ancient and modern. It is, however, certain, in general, that philosophical dissertations, in whatever degree intrinsically valuable, lose their effect on the bulk of mankind, when they are not enlivened with those graces which contribute to amuse the imagination. It is on this account that we find a moral work, in which we find the most important truths are accurately investigated, overlooked as uninteresting; when a series of incidents, which are calculated to impress upon the mind some beneficial rule of conduct, is perused with satisfaction, and seldom fails to establish a favourable prepossession. So much stronger is the impulse which leads us to search for pleasure, than that which prompts us to desire instruction." Under the deepest impression of the truth of this maxim, Ogilvie commences his poem, and conducts it with such a strict adherence to the form which he condemns, that, in spite of himself, he falls into the ranks of those who fail from that excessive anxiety to instruct, which calculates upon the necessity of

abandoning all idea of causing amusement. But there are, in this poem, several passages of great poetical beauty, which, if they formed parts of a more popular work, would often be quoted as evidences of the first school. The following lines upon Contemplation are delightful.

"I turn'd my wandering steps aside, And sought the deepest shade. There close immur'd, Where scarce a zephyr stirr'd the rustling boughs, Silent I sat, and gave my thoughts to range O'er worlds remote, as working fancy led The stream of meditation; blaming now, And now absolving Providence. Alone I sat not long. A mountain's clifted side (Seen through a visto) shew'd a gloomy cave, Hollow and deep, where scarce the quivering ray Had sprinkled glimmering twilight. The high roof, Curv'd like the arch of heaven, hung awful o'er The solemn vault below; through whose wide bound The long loud voice in many a lengthening moan Rolls on the listening ear. Advancing slow From this dark cell of solitary thought, I mark'd a venerable sage; his cheek Furrow'd by Time, and o'er his hoary head The cold white hand of slowly stealing Age Had shower'd its lucid silver: sweetly mild His looks, his mien; and, rais'd to heaven, his eyes Beam'd like fair Evening's dewy star that shines With placid radiance: graceful was his form, And simple his attire; his bending hand Lean'd on an ivory staff, the prop of age; Yet firm his step, as one whose youthful blood

Warm'd, not inflam'd, by Reason's temperate cheer,
Had ting'd the florid cheek, nor felt the blast
Of cold consumption. With slow step he scal'd
The cliff, and walking to the shade, on me
Bent a soft look, that pitied while it awed."

In another part of " Providence," he describes Fancy in a strain of equally elevated poetry.

"Her keenly-piercing eye

Glanc'd o'er the scene, that lighten'd as she came
With hasty step, and shook her dazzling wings
That sparkled in the sun: a wavy robe
Mantled her bosom, sweeping as she trod
In loose luxuriance, and the zephyr sigh'd
Soft through its swelling folds. Her right hand held
A globe, where nature's towering fabric rose

A living picture! All the scenes that glow
Gay-rob'd and lovely, in some airy dream
Where spring comes tripping o'er the low green dale,
And strews its lap with flowers. These o'er the piece
Profusely shone. Her left a magic rod
Sustain'd; that, waving as she will'd, transform'd
The face of things, as wildly working thought
Call'd up discordant images, or, rul'd
By reason, form'd them gradual, to confirm
Some truth, yet dubious to th' inquiring mind."

Among Dr. Ogilvie's minor poems, there is a very pleasing and interesting one, called "Solitude;" the best work, perhaps, as a whole, which he has produced. The design of it is to give the reader an idea, in as short a compass as possible, of the character, merit, and peculiar excellencies of the most eminent British

poets. The author has contrived, for this purpose, a sort of poetical Elysium for their residence, and endeavoured to vary the scenery of it, according to the manners of the different poets with whom it is peopled. Some of these pictorial descriptions are sketched with great taste and discrimination. We have Chaucer tuning his pipe amid a rustic scene, where

Rich, yet confus'd, the intermingling sprays

Uncouthly gay their simple flowers display'd; Nor here had fashion plann'd the wildering maze, Nor art's soft touch th' entangling shrubs obey'd.

But o'er the whole, majestic nature strode

Her form, disdainful of the mimic hand;
The brightening wilderness before her glow'd,
Behind, gay plenty cloth'd the 'broider'd land.

A little hamlet in the midst appear'd,

Where antique figures stood expos'd to view; Of rough materials was the structure rear'd,

And round its walls the clasping ivy grew.

Not far a laurel's spreading boughs were seen,
Beneath whose unbrage sat a careless swain;
The Dryads tripping o'er the daisied green,

And bleating flocks confess'd his powerful strain.

Shakespeare sits "in regal glory," on "a cliff which o'erhangs the main,” and there, obsequious to Fancy's

varying call,

The fairy region, at the magic sound,

Girt with the hanging wood or mouldering wall,
Now bloom'd a villa, or a desert frown'd.

And airy tenants o'er the dimpling stream

Hung loose; or high in aim, in effort bold,
Suck'd hues ethereal from the dazzling beam,
To tinge the violet's velvet coat with gold:
Or spoil'd the citron of its rich perfume,

Or caught the light-drop in the liquid air;
Or from the wren's breast pick'd the little plume,
To braid the tresses of the Naïad's hair.

O'er all bright Ariel shone. His devious wing
Now swept soft fragrance in the spicy gale;
Or, fluttering from the dewy lip of spring,

Brush'd nectar'd balm, and shower'd it o'er the dale.

O'er the dim top a gloomy arbour bow'd,

The boughs dark-shadowing veil'd the vaulted blue; But opening, fair beneath, the vistoed wood

Gave the gay climes that radiant burst to view. Here Shakespeare sat.

All these external descriptions, however, are greatly surpassed by those passages in which the author depicts the subjects in which each poet delighted. In the following sketch of Spenser, he has caught the very spirit and sweetness of that divine author:

"I mark'd a fairy train Like clouds gay gleaming 'mid th' aërial blue; In floating radiance o'er th' illumin'd plain,

A glittering tribe, the light assembly flew. Where art with nature's rich luxuriance strove,

Half prun'd, half rambling, rose the leafy sprays; A shepherd swain amid the gloomy grove

Play'd, wildly-sweet, his simple roundelays.

« PreviousContinue »