페이지 이미지

under the painful necessity of discontinuing the edition. I have availed myself of this opportunity, not only by correcting the imperfections of the first publication, but by rendering this as unexceptionable in the external, at least, as I possibly could. I should have been wanting to the public and myself, if the flattering encouragement I have already received had not prompted me to proceed with the work; and if my alacrity in the further prosecution of it shall meet any check, it must arise only from those causes, which no human diligence can control.

Vos tamen O nostri ne festinate libelli!

Si post fata venit gloria, nonne propero.


Jam te premit nox.

HOR. CAR. 1, 4, 16.

I AM sitting down to begin the task of adding a new volume to these Essays, when the last day of the year 1789 is within a few hours of its conclusion, and I shall bid farewell to this eventful period with a grateful mind for its having passed lightly over my head without any extraordinary perturbation or misfortune on my part suffered, gently leading me towards that destined and not far distant hour, when I, like it, shall be no more.

I have accompanied it through all those changes and successions of seasons, which, in our climate, are so strongly discriminated; have shared in the pleas

ures and productions of each, and if any little idle jars or bickerings may occasionally have started up betwixt us, as will sometimes happen to the best of friends, I willingly consign them to oblivion, and keep in mind only those kind and good offices which will please on reflection, and serve to endear the memory of the deceased.

All days in twelve months will not be days of sunshine; but I will say this for my friend, in his last moments, that I cannot put my finger upon one in the same century, that hath given birth to more interesting events, been a warmer advocate for the liberties and rights of mankind in general, or a kinder patron to his country in particular. I could name a day, if there was any need to point out what is so strongly impressed on our hearts, a day of gratulation and thanksgiving which will ever stand forth amongst the whitest in our calendar.

Hic dies verè mihi festus atras
Eximet curas: ego nec tumultum,
Nec mori per vim metuam, tenente
Caesare terras.

This is indeed a festal day,

HOR. CAR. 3, 14, 13.

A day that heals my cares and pains,
Drives death and danger far away,
And tells me Cæsar lives and reigns.

Though my friend, in his last moments, hath in this and other instances been so considerate of our happiness, I am afraid he is not likely to leave our morals much better than he found them. I cannot say that, in the course of my duty as an Observer, any very striking instance of amendment hath come under my notice; and though I have all the disposition in life to speak as favourably in my friend's behalf as truth will let me, I am bound to confess

he was not apt to think so seriously of his latter end as I could have wished; there was a levity in his conduct, which he took no pains to conceal; he did not seem to reflect upon the lapse of time, how speedily his spring, summer, and autumn would pass away, and the winter of his days come upon him; like Wolsey, he was not aware how soon the frost, the killing frost, would nip his root; he was, however, a gay convivial fellow, loved his bottle and his friend, passed his time peaceably amongst us, and certainly merits the good word of every loyal subject in this kingdom.

As for his proceedings in other countries, it is not here the reader must look for an account of them; politics have no place in these volumes; but it cannot be denied that he has made many widows and orphans in Europe, been an active agent for the court of death, and dipped his hands deep in Christian and Mahometan blood. By the friends of freedom he will be celebrated to the latest time. He has begun a business, which, if followed up by his successor with equal zeal, less ferocity, and more discretion, may lead to wonderful revolutions; there are, indeed, some instances of cruelty, which bear hard upon his character; if separately viewed, they admit of no palliation; in a general light allowances may be made for that frenzy, which seizes the mind, when impelled to great and arduous undertakings; when the wound is gangrened, the incision must be deep, and if that is to be done by coarse instruments and unskilful hands, who can wonder if the gash more resembles the stab of an assassin, than the operation of a surgeon. An era is now open, awful, interesting, and so involved in mystery, that the acutest speculation cannot penetrate to the issue of it. In short, my friend, in his last moments, hath

put a vast machine in motion, and left a task to futurity, that will demand the strongest hands and ablest heads to complete. In the mean time, I shall hope that my countrymen, who have all those blessings by inheritance, which less-favoured nations are now struggling to obtain by force, will so use their liberty, that the rest of the world, who are not so happy, may think it an object worth contending for, and quote our peace and our prosperity as the best proofs existing of its real value.

Whilst my thoughts have been thus employed in reflecting upon the last day of an ever-memorable year, I have composed a few elegiac lines to be thrown into the grave which time is now opening to receive his relics.

The year's gay verdure, all its charms are gone,
And now comes old December chill and drear,
Dragging a darkling length of evening on,

Whilst all things droop, as Nature's death were near.

Time flies amain with broad expanded wings,
Whence never yet a single feather fell,

But holds his speed, and through the welkin rings
Of all that breathe the inexorable knell.

Oh! for a moment stop- -a moment's space
For recollection mercy might concede,
A little pause for man's unthinking race
To ponder on that world, to which they speed.

But 'tis in vain; old Time disdains to rest,
And moment after moment flits along,
Each with a sting to pierce the idler's breast,
And vindicate its predecessor's wrong.

Though the new-dawning year in its advance
With Hope's gay promise may entrap the mind,
Let memory give one retrospective glance
Through the bright period which it leaves behind.

Era of Mercies! my wrapt bosom springs
To meet the transport recollection gives:
Heaven's angel comes with healing on his wings;
He shakes his plumes, my country's father lives.

The joyful tidings o'er the distant round
Of Britain's empire the four winds proclaim,
Her sun-burnt islands swell the exulting sound,
And furthest Ganges echoes George's name.

Period of bliss! can any British muse
Bid thee farewell without a parting tear?
Shall the historian's gratitude refuse
His brightest page to this recorded year?

Thou Freedom's nursing mother shall be styl'd,
The glories of its birth are all thine own,
Upon thy breasts hung the Herculean child,
And tyrants trembled at its baby frown.

A sanguine mantle the dread infant wore,
Before it roll'd a stream of human blood:
Smiling it stood, and, pointing to the shore,
Beckon'd the nations from across the flood.

Then at that awful sight, as with a spell,
The everlasting doors of Death gave way,
Prone to the dust Oppression's fortress fell,
And rescu'd captives hail'd the light of day.

Meanwhile Ambition chas'd its fairy prize

With moonstruck madness down the Danube's stream,
The Turkish crescent glittering in its eyes,
And lost an empire to pursue a dream.

The trampled serpent, Superstition, wreath'd
Her fest'ring scales with anguish to and fro,
Torpid she lay, then darting forward sheath'd
Her deadly fangs in the unguarded foe.

Oh Austria! why so prompt to venture forth,
When fate now hurries thee to life's last goal?
Thee too, thou crowned eagle of the north,
Death's dart arrests, though tow'ring to the pole.

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »