페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

undertaking's ; one with whom that character of Horace will agree,

Si fractus illabatur orbis,

Impavidum ferient rúnia ; such an one cannot but place an esteem, and repose a confidence on him, whom no adversity, no change of courts, no bribery of interests, or cabals of factions, or advantages of fortune, can remove from the solid foundations of honour and fidelity :

Ille meós, primus qui me sibi junxit, amores

Abstulit; ille habeat secum, servetque sepulcro.9 Howwell your Lordship will deserve that praise, I need no inspiration to foretell. You have already left no room for prophecy; your early undertakings have been such in the service of your King and country, when you offered yourself to the most dangerous employment, that of the sea ;' when you chose to abandon those delights to which your youth and fortune did invite you, to undergo the hazards, and which was worse, the company of 'common seamen, that it made it evident you will refuse no opportunity of rendering yourself useful to the nation, when either your courage or conduct shall be required. The same zeal and faithfulness continues in your blood, which ani

9 Virg. Æneid. iv. 28.

· Lord Mulgrave had greatly distinguished himself in various naval engagements in both the Dutch wars.

mated one of your noble ancestors to sacrifice his life in the quarrels of his Sovereign ; though I hope, both for your sake, and for the publick tranquillity, the same occasion will never be offered to your Lordship, and that a better destiny will attend you. But I make haste to consider you as abstracted from a court, which, if you will give me leave to use a term of logick, is only an adjunct, not a propriety of happiness. The Academicks, I confess, were willing to admit the goods of Fortune into their notion of felicity; but I do not remember that any of the sects of old philosophers did ever leave a room for greatness. Neither am I formed to praise a court, who admire and covet nothing but the easiness and quiet of retirement. I naturally withdraw my sight from a precipice; and, admit the prospect be never so large and goodly,can take no pleasure even in looking on the downfal, though I am secure from the danger. Methinks there is something of a malignant joy in that excellent description of Lucretius :

Suave, mari magno turbantibus æquora ventis,
E terrâ magnum alterius spectare laborem;
Non quia vexari quenquam est jucunda voluptas,

Sed, quibus ipse malis careas, quia cernere suave est. I am sure his master, Epicurus, and my better master, Cowley, preferred the solitude of a garden,

3 Edmund, the first "Lord Sheffield, who lost his life in 1548, in quelling an insurrection at Norwich, a city for more than two centuries noted for seditious turbulence.

and the conversation of a friend, to any consideration, so much as a regard, of those unhappy people whom, in our own wrong, we call the great. True greatness, if it be any where on earth, is in a private virtue, removed from the notion of pomp and vanity, confined to a contemplation of itself, and centering on itself :

Omnis enim per se. Divům natura necesse est
Immortali ævo summâ cum pace fruatur ;

- curâ semota, metuque, Ipsa suis pollens opibus. 4 If this be not the life of a deity, because it cannot consist with Providence, it is at least a godlike life. I can be contented (and I am sure I have your Lordship of my opinion) with an humbler station in the temple of Virtue, than to be set on the pinnacle of it:

Despicere unde queas alios, passimque videre

Errare, atque viam palantes quærere vita.

The truth is, the consideration of so vain a creature as man, is not worth our pains. I have

[graphic]

as

* Our author has either quoted from memory, or altered the original to accommodate the passage to his purposes The lines of Lucretius (ii. 645) are,

Omnia enim per se Divûm natura necesse est
Immortali ævo summâ cum pace fruatur,
Semota à nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe,
Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri,
Nec bene promeritis capitur, nec tangitur ird.

fool enough at home without looking for it abroad; and am a sufficient theatre to myself of ridiculous actions, without expecting company either in a court, a town, or a playhouse. It is on this account that I am weary with drawing the deformities of life, and lazars of the people, where every figure of imperfection more resembles me than it can do others. If I must be condemned to rhyme, I should find some ease in my change of punishment. I desire to be no longer the Sisyphus of the stage; to roll up a stone with endless labour, which, to follow the proverb, gathers no moss, and which is perpetually falling down again. I never thought myself very fit for an employment, where many of my predecessors have excelled me in all kinds; and some of my contemporaries, even in my own partial judgment, have outdone me in comedy. Some little hopes I have yet remaining, (and those too, considering my abilities, may be vain,) that I may make the world some part of amends for many ill plays, by an heroick poem. Your Lordship has been long acquainted with my design ; the subject of which you know is great, the story English, and neither too far distant from the present age, nor too near approaching it. Such it is in my opinion, that I could not have wished a nobler occasion to do honour by it to

[ocr errors]

s Dr. Johnson thought that our author's intention to write an epick poem was here mentioned in obscure terms, from an apprehension that his plan might be “ purloined, as he says, happened to him when he told it my King, my country, and my friends; most of our ancient nobility being concerned in the action. And your Lordship has one particular reason to promote this undertaking, because you were the first who gave me the opportunity of discoursing it to his Majesty, and his Royal Highness; they were then pleased both to commend the design, and to encourage it by their commands; but the unsettledness of my condition has hitherto put a stop to my thoughts concerning it. As I am no successor to Homer in his wit, so neither do I desire to be in his poverty. I can make no rhapsodies, nor go a begging at the Grecian doors, while I sing the praises of their ancestors. The times of Virgil please me better, because he had an Augustus for his patron ; and to draw the allegory nearer you, I am sure I shall not want a Mæcenas with him. It is for your Lordship to stir up that remembrance in his Majesty, which his many avocations of business have caused him, I fear, to lay aside; and, as himself and his royal brother are the heroes of the poem, to represent to them the images of their warlike predecessors; as Achilles is said to be roused to glory with the sight of the combat before the ships. For my own part, I am satisfied to have offered the design; and it may be to the

more plainly in his Preface to Juvenal.” From that Preface it appears that the poem which he now, meditated; was to have been founded on the actions of either King Arthur, or the Black Prince.

« 이전계속 »