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PROM THE TRIUMPHS OP TEMPER.
Why art thou fled, O blest poetic time,
ye dark omens, that to Spleen belong, Ye shall not check the current of my song,
While Beauty's lovely race, for whom I sing,
As quiet now her lightest mantle laid
WILLIAM Joxes was born in London in 1746. His father, a native of Anglesey, was an eminent mathematician, and distinguished by the esteem of Newton and Halley; he died in 1749, and left the future care of the education of the son to his mother, a woman in every way qualified to discharge so arduous a duty. She lived to see her labours amply repaid : he became as distinguished for virtue as for learning. When but seven years old he was sent to Harrow school; even then, such was the rare promise of his childhood, that his master is said to have described him as "a boy of so active a mind, that if he were left naked and friendless on Salis. bury Plain, he would find the way to fame and riches.” He found the way to both.
In 1764 he was entered at University College, Oxford, and two years afterwards obtained a Fellowship. From this period until 1783, when he was appointed one of the judges of the supreme court of judicature at Calcutta, he was continually occupied in pursuing knowledge through paths the most difficult, and where it could then have been sought only by men of large genius as well as active industry. In college he became master of all the usual scholastic acquirements, and commenced the study of Oriental Literature, in which he subsequently so much excelled. He succeeded in acquiring a thorough knowledge of eight languages; studied attentively, and made considerable progress, in eight more; and obtained some acquaintance with twelve others. His learning was not like the sand which " receives the shower” and yields nothing in return. He published a Treatise on Oriental Poetry, and other works on the languages of the East; composed a tragedy, and employed himself in “decyphering Chinese;" translated “the Greek Orations of Isæus, in cases relating to succession to doubtful property;" published a French letter to a French traveller, who had spoken disrespectfully of the University of Oxford ; commenced a History of Turkey, and sketched the plan of an epic poem; translated into French, from an Eastern MSS., the Life of Nadir Shah; wrote in Latin “ Commentaries on Asiatic Poetry;" and produced an Essay on the “ Law of Bailments;" and in the midst of these weightier studies, learned music, dancing, fencing, riding; became a skilful chess player; travelled on the continent; wrote several elegant poems ;-in fact, so labouring, and with so much success, as to realize our notions of “the admirable Crichton;" for his mind was elegant as well as vigorous; and the variety of its application appears little short of a miracle.
In 1774 he was called to the bar; but his desires turned towards India. His appointment to office in that country was the consummation of long and fondly-cherished hopes. It secured to him that advantage, without which taste is an affliction and genius a curse-Independence. It afforded opportunities of completing the vast works he had commenced, and of searching among the rich but neglected stores of another world; it was in fact giving reality to that which had been, comparatively, but a gorgeous dream.
In December, 1783, he entered on his judicial functions at Calcutta. From this period, to his death, he continued to labour with astonishing industry. In 1794 he was attacked with inflammation of the liver, of which he unhappily died, in the April of that year. His country has recorded his name as one of the “worthies" to whom she is indebted for equal honour and advantage.
The poetry of Sir William Jones is, as we have intimated, the produce of leisure hours rather than the results of any serious purpose. He had the praise of “ adorning every thing he touched;" the dryest topics he rendered elegant and attractive; and when he turned his thoughts to subjects more capable of embellishment, he could scarcely have failed in "clothing them with beauty." As a poet, however, he cannot be described as great. His poems are, for the most part, translations, or paraphrases of ideas formed elsewhere. His original productions fill but a few pages. His mind appears to have been so deeply imbued with Oriental lore, and so fervent was his admiration of the mysteries of Brahminical idolatry, that he imagined he might create interest for subjects which never could excite sympathy; the allegories he borrowed from the East appear only absurd to the English reader; and the gorgeous drapery in which the Indian deities are arrayed, seem ungraceful and unnatural. Except, therefore, “ The Persian Song to Hafiz," and one or two of less importance, the poems of Sir William Jones are forgotten.
Sweet maid, if thou wouldst charm my sight;
O! when these fair, perfidious maids,
In vain with love our bosoms glow;
Beauty has such resistless power,
But ah, : weet maid ! my counsel hear, –
and scorn the frowns of age.
What cruel answer have I heard !
how fell that bitter word
Go boldly forth, my simple lay,