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Here tears shall flow from a more generous cause,
Britons, attend: be worth like this approv'd,
Joux GAY, descended from an old but decayed family, was born in Devonshire, in 1688. He was educated at the Free-school in Barnstaple, and afterwards placed apprentice with a silk-mercer in London ; from whom he soon procured, for a small consideration, a surrender of his indentures, that he might undertake the more pleasant duties of Secretary to the Duchess of Monmouth. In the leisure of this office he found time to cultivate his literary tastes; and, in 1713, published a poem on “Rural Sports," which he dedicated to Alexander Pope. His friendship was immediately sought by that great writer and his party, and Gay was enrolled among the brilliant societies of the day as a wit and a party man. His life took its colour accordingly. He continued to publish verses-he wrote for the stage-he was caressed by Bolingbroke and Swift-taken into the service of the Tories as Secretary to Lord Clarendon's Embassy-and when their fortunes declined with the life of Anne, he fell into disfavour also. Soon after this, however, one of his dramatic pieces won so much Court popularity, that it was hoped its author might be admitted to share it; and Gay, alive to the easy excitement and the quick depression of a fond and playful temper, suffered bitter disappointment in finding this expectation false :
** Places he found were daily given away,
And yet no friendly Gazette mentioned Gay!" From this time to the year 1727, no permanent change occurred in his fortunes, though they witnessed all the extremes of plenty and want. But now, on a hint from Swift, he commenced the Beggar's Opera. On its completion neither Pope nor Swift thought it would succeed. * We were all at the first night of it," says Pope, “ in very great uncertainty of the event; till we were very much encouraged, by overhearing the Duke of Argyle, who sat in the next box to us, say, 'It will do-it must do-I see it in the eyes of them! This was a good while before the first act was over." Its success was extraordinary indeed. The manager made his fortune-the actress of Polly won the favour of the town and the hand of the Duke of BoltonItalian Opera was driven out of England-and Gay himself never complained more of pecuniary want, Other complaints, nevertheless, remained. His sound and masterly satire had given mortal offence to the Court; and from this period to the time of his death he was subjected to continual annoyances. These had their alleviation in the love of Pope, and in the affectionate services of the Duke and Duchess of Queensbury, who resented the indignities put upon him, resigned their respective employments at Court, and took him into their family. Here, on the 4th of December, 1732, Gay died. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. The Duke and Duchess of Queensbury raised a monument to his memory, and Pope wrote his epitaph.
* of all thy blameless life the sole return,
My versc, and Queensb'ry weeping o'er thy urn !" Gay's poetry has several high characteristics. Habitual gaiety and good sense distinguished it-the structure of his verse was always admirable for its elegance and facility--his fables prove the richness of his invention as well as the strength of his moral perceptions—while in his ballads, and more especially in the songs of his Beggar's Opera, are to be found a happy negligence, yet exquisite harmony of rythm; a luxurious richness with a fond simplicity and romantic cast of sentiment; a voluptuous yet most tender delicacy; and, above all, an ever-running under-current of grave and excellent purpose. Gay was a first-rate wit, and a man of real genius. When Swift praised the Beggar's Opera for the excellence of its morality, as a piece, that " by a turn of humour, entirely new, placed all kinds of vice in the strongest and most odious light," he appreciated truly the meaning and the force of that immortal satire. As a view of human life in a certain subtle and abstracted sense, under cover of which the most fatal sophistries are exploded, nothing has ever been produced superior to this master-piece of Gay, by ancient or modern satirists.
In conclusion, it is to be remarked of this fine writer, that where his works are sullied by passages of grossness, an excuse suggests itself which Prior has no claim to,-for Gay's admirers are glad to acknowledge that his inferiority to Prior on this score, is a proof of the superior purity of his mind.
'Tis not that rural sports alone invite,
When the fresh Spring in all her state is crown’d,
While with the mounting sun the meadow glows,
Or when the ploughman leaves the task of day, And trudging homeward, whistles the
way; When the big-udder'd cows with patience stand, Waiting the strokings of the damsel's hand; No warbling cheers the woods ; the feather'd choir, To court kind slumbers, to the sprays
retire: When no rude gale disturbs the sleeping trees, Nor aspen leaves confess the gentlest breeze; Engag'd in thought, to Neptune's bounds I stray, To take my farewell of the parting day; For in the deep the Sun his glory hides, A streak of gold the sea and sky divides : The purple clouds their amber linings show, And, edg'd with flame, rolls every wave below: Here pensive I behold the fading light, And o'er the distant billow lose my sight.
Now let the fisherman his toils prepare,
When floating clouds their spongy fleeces drain,
Far up the stream the twisted hair he throws, Which down the murmuring current gently flows; When, if or chance or hunger's powerful sway Directs the roving trout this fatal way, He greedily sucks in the twining bait, And tugs and nibbles the fallacious meat: Now, happy fisherman, now twitch the line ! How thy rod bends! behold, the prize is thine !
When a brisk gale against the current blows,