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MATTHEW PRIOR Was born in London, A.D. 1664. He was of humble parentage ; but through the kindness of the Earl of Doreet, he received the advantages of a University education at Cambridge; he was afterwards introduced into political life, and held several important offices in the state. He died A.D. 1721.
Prior's poetry is harmonious, and rich in all the graces of diction and imagery; it is deficient in warmth and feeling.
A PARAPHRASE ON 1 Cor. xiii.
Did sweeter sounds adorn my flowing tongue,
Than ever man pronounced, or angel sung;
Had I all knowledge, human and divine,
That thought can reach, or science can define;
And had I power to give that knowledge birth,
In all the speeches of the babbling earth;
Did Shadrach's zeal my glowing breast inspire,
To weary tortures, and rejoice in fire;
Or had I faith like that which Israel saw,
When Moses gave them miracles and law;
Yet, gracious Charity! indulgent guest,
Were not thy power exerted in my breast,
Those speeches would send up unheeded prayer,
That scorn of life would be but wild despair;
A cymbal's sound were better than my voice;
My faith were form, my eloquence were noise.
Charity! decent, modest, easy, kind,
Softens the high, and rears the abject mind;
Knows with just reins and gentle hand to guide
Betwixt vile shame and arbitrary pride.
Not soon provoked, she easily forgives,
And much she suffers, as she much believes.
Soft peace she brings wherever she arrives;
She builds our quiet, as she forms our lives;
Lays the rough paths of peevish nature even,
And opens in each heart à little heaven.
Each other gift which God on man bestows,
Its proper bounds and due restriction knows;
To one fixed purpose dedicates its power,
And finishing its act, exists no more.
Thus, in obedience to what Heaven decrees,
Knowledge shall fail, and prophecy shall cease;
But lasting Charity's more ample sway,
Nor bound by time, nor subject to decay,
In happy triumph shall for ever live,
And endless good diffuse, and endless praise receive.
As through the artist's intervening glass, Our eye observes the distant planets pass, A little we discover, but allow That more remains unseen than art can show; So whilst our mind its knowledge would improve (Its feeble eye intent on things above), High as we may lift we our reason up, By Faith directed, and confirmed by Hope; Yet are we able only to survey Dawnings of beams and promises of day. Heaven's fuller effluence mocks our dazzled sight, Too great its swiftness, and too strong its light.
But soon the mediate clouds shall be dispelled, The Sun shall soon be face to face beheld, In all his robes, with all his glory on, Seated, sublime, on his meridian throne.
Then constant Faith and holy Hope shall die, One lost in certainty, and one in joy; Whilst thou, more happy power, fair Charity, Triumphant sister, greatest of the three, Thy office and thy nature still the same, Lasting thy lamp, and unconsumed thy flame, Shalt still surviveShalt stand before the host of heaven confessed, For ever blessing, and for ever blessed.
SOLOMON'S REFLECTION ON HUMAN LIFE. AMASSED in man, there justly is beheld, What through the whole creation has excelled: The life and growth of plants, of beasts the sense, The angel's forecast and intelligence: Say, from these glorious seeds what harvest flows, Recount our blessings, and compare our woes. In its true light let clearest reason see The man dragged out to act, and forced to be; His tender eye by too direct a ray, Wounded, and flying from unpractised day; His heart assaulted by invading air, And beating fervent to the vital war; To his young sense how various forms appear, That strike his wonder, and excite his fear: By his distortions he reveals his pains; He by his tears and by his sighs complain; Till time and use assist the infant wretch, By broken words and rudiments of speech,
I mediate, intervening.
His wants in plainer characters to show,
And paint more perfect figures of his woe;
Condemned to sacrifice his childish years;
To babbling ignorance, and to empty fears ;
To pass the riper period of his age,
Acting his part upon a crowded stage;
To lasting tọils exposed, and endless cares,
To open dangers, and to secret snares;
To malice, which the vengeful foe intends,
And the more dangerous love of seeming friends.
His deeds examined by the people's will,
Prone to forget the good, and blame the ill;
Or sadly censured in their cursed debate,
Who, in the scorner's or the judge's seat,
Dare to condemn the virtue which they hate.
Or, would he rather leave this frantic scene,
And trees and beasts prefer to courts and men,
In the remotest wood and lonely grot,
Certain to meet the worst of evils, Thought;
Different ideas to his memory brought,
Some intricate as are the pathless woods;
Impetuous some as the descending floods:
With anxious doubts, with raging passions torn,
No sweet companion near with whom to mourn;
He hears the echoing rock return his sighs,
And from himself the frighted hermit fies.
Thus, through what path soe'er of life we rove,
Rage companies our hate, and grief our love:
Vexed with the present moment's heavy gloom,
Why seek we brightness from the years to come?
Disturbed and broken, like a sick man's sleep,
Our troubled thoughts to distant prospects leap,
Desirous still what flies us to o’ertake,
For hope is but the dream of those that wake;
But, looking back, we see the dreadful train
Of woes anon, which were we to sustain,
We should refuse to tread the path again;
Still adding grief, still counting from the first,
Judging the latest evils still the worst;
And, sadly finding each progressive hour
Heighten their number, and augment their power,
Till, by one countless sum of woes opprest,
Hoary with cares, and ignorant of rest,
We find the vital springs relaxed and worn,
Compelled our common impotence to mourn.
Thus through the round of age to childhood we return
Reflecting find, that naked from the womb
We yesterday came forth; that in the tomb
Naked again we must to-morrow lie;
Born to lament, to labour, and to die.
Supreme, all wise, eternal Potentate! :
Sole Author, sole disposer of our fate!
Enthroned in light and immortality,
Whom no man fully sees, and none can see!
Original of beings! Power divine!
Since that I live, and that I think, is thine!
Benign Creator! let thy plastic' hand
Dispose its own effect; let thy command
Restore, great Father! thy instructed son!
And in my act may thy great will be done !
JOSEPH ADDISON Was born A.D. 1672. He was educated at Oxford, where he was eminently distinguished for his classical attainments. After quitting the University, he engaged in public life, and held several high offices under different Whig Administrations. He contributed largely to the Tatler, a periodical paper, commenced by bis friend, Sir Richard Steele. Two months after the Tatler had ceased, the Spectator was started, and Addison wrote the greater part of that highly-popular work. He shared also in the Guardian, the Examiner, and the Freeholder. He died A.D. 1719. A little before his death, he sent for his step-son, the young Earl of Warwick, and grasping his hand, said, impressively, “ See with what ease a Christian can die."
The poetry of Addison is not of a very high order, but his prose writings afford the best model of style of our language.
ODE ON THE CREATION.
“ The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth bis
The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator's power display,
And publishes to every land,
The work of an Almighty hand.
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
The moon takes up the wondrous tale :
2 plastic, moulding, forming a soft substance into shape.
And nightly to the listening earth,
Repeats the story of her birth;
Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.
What, though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
What, though no real voice, nor sound,
Amidst their radiant orbs be found !
In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice:
For ever singing, as they shine,
“ The Hand that made us is divine.'
GRATITUDE TO GOD.
When all thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys, Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love, and praise.
Oh, how shall words with equal warmth,
The gratitude declare,
That grows within my ravished heart!
But Thou canst read it there.
Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redrest,
When in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast.
To all my weak complaints and cries,
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learnt
To form themselves in prayer.
Unnumbered comforts to my soul
· Thy tender care bestowed,
Before iny infant heart conceived
From whence these comforts flowed. When in the slippery paths of youth,
With heedless steps, I ran,
Thine arm, unseen, conveyed me safe,
And led me up to man.
Through hidden dangers, toils, and death,
It gently cleared my way; And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be feared than they.