Abbildungen der Seite



“ Why are those tears ? why droops your head ?
Is then your other husband dead ?
Or does a worse disgrace betide ?
Hath no one since his death apply'd ?"

“ Alas! you know the cause too well ;
The salt is spilt, to me it fell;
Then, to contribute to my loss,
My knife and fork were laid across ;
On Friday too! the day I dread !
Would I were safe at home in bed !
Last night (I vow to Heaven 'tis true)
Bounce from the fire a coffin flew.
Next post some fatal news shall tell :
God send my Cornish friends be well!"

Unhappy widow, cease thy tears,
Nor feel affliction in thy fears;
Let not thy stomach be suspended;
Eat now, and weep when dinner's ended;
And, when the butler clears the table,
For thy desert I'll read my Fable."

Betwixt her swagging panniers' load
A farmer's wife to market rode,
And, jogging on, with thoughtful care,
Summ'd up the profits of her ware ;
When, starting from her silver dream,
Thus far and wide was heard her scream.

“ That raven on yon left-hand oak
(Curse on his ill-betiding croak!)
Bodes me no good.” No more she said,
When poor blind Ball, with stumbling tread,
Fell prone; o'erturn’d the pannier lay,
And her mash'd eggs bestrow'd the way.

She, sprawling in the yellow road, Rail'd, swore, and curs’d : “ Thou croaking toad, A murrain take thy whoreson throat ! I knew misfortune in the note.”

“ Dame,” quoth the raven, spare your oaths, Unclench your fist, and wipe your clothes. But why on me those curses thrown? Goody, the fault was all your own;

For, had you laid this brittle ware
On Dun, the old sure-footed mare,
Though all the ravens of the hundred
With croaking had your tongue out-thundered,
Sure-footed Dun had kept her legs,
And you, good woman, sav'd your eggs.”


Whether amid the gloom of night I stray,
Or my glad eyes enjoy revolving day,
Still nature's various face informs my sense,
Of an all-wise, all-powerful Providence.

When the gay sun first breaks the shades of night,
And strikes the distant eastern hills with light,
Colour returns, the plains their livery wear,
And a bright verdure clothes the smiling year;
The blooming flowers with opening beauties glow,
And grazing flocks their milky fleeces show;
The barren cliffs with chalky fronts arise,
And a pure azure arches o'er the skies.
But when the gloomy reign of night returns,
Stript of her fading pride all nature mourns :
The trees no more their wonted verdure boast,
But weep in dewy tears their beauty lost :
No distant landscapes draw our curious eyes;
Wrapt in night's robe the whole creation lies.
Yet still, ev'n now, while darkness clothes the land,
We view the traces of th' Almighty hand;
Millions of stars in heaven's wide vault appear,
And with new glories hangs the boundless sphere:
The silver moon her western couch forsakes,
And o'er the skies her nightly circle makes ;
Her solid globe beats back the sunny rays,
And to the world her borrow'd light repays.

WILLIAM SOMERVILLE, the descendant of an ancient and illustrious family, was born at Edston, Warwickshire, in 1692. He was educated at Winchester; and was elected thence to New College, Oxford. In his earlier life he wrote some skilful and graceful poems--chiefly odes to distinguished men and his personal friends. But it was not until he was somewhat advanced in years that he produced “The Chace"the poem which places him among the British Poets. Having been born to an inheritance of fifteen hundred a year, he was enabled to pursue his tastes, and, as a keen sportsman, wrote of what he saw and felt :

** Bold to attempt, and happy to excel,

His numerous verse, the huntsman's art shall tell." He resided chiefly in the country, "stepping from exercise to learned ease," and, according to one of his biographers, set a good example to men of his own class, by devoting part of his time to elegant knowledge." He was at once a skilful sportsman and a man of letters.

Unhappily, however, he lacked prudence; and the rational enjoyments of the field led to the irrational joys of the table. The “ elegant competence" he inherited was wasted by thoughtless hospitality; and before age came upon him, he had to encounter pecuniary difficulties, which he took the most mistaken of all modes to enable him to endure. His fast friend, Shenstone, who states that he loved him because of his flocci-nauci-nihili-pillification of money, thus writes of his death: "I can now excuse all his foibles--impute them to age and distress of circumstances; the last of these considerations wrings my very soul to think on. For a man of high spirit, conscious of having (at least in one production) generally pleased the world, to be plagned and threatened by wretches that are very low in every sense; to be forced to drink himself into pains of the body, in order to get rid of the pains of the mind, is a misery!"

This is a melancholy picture of one whose “foibles" overcame duty; and whose naturally sound understanding and amiable disposition were insufficient to preserve him from ruin of constitution and property :

" Por, prodigal of life, in one rash night

He lavished more than might support three days." He died in 1742, in the fiftieth year of his age, and was buried at Wotton, near Henley, in Arden. He is described as “a man of great benevolence and very agree. able manners."

“ The Chase," besides the exceeding merit of its composition, will always be, as it has always been, highly popular. It describes so eloquently, and with so much truth and accuracy--so as to satisfy as well as please the sportsman-the various modes and circumstances under which “the field” may lead to health and enjoyment. It is so full of life and fire; and changes admirably its character with the more pensive and retired or bustling and exciting scenes which it describes. The jovial huntsman-the contemplative angler-alike find themselves and their choicest pleasures portrayed by one who was capable of understanding and appreciating both. The “ Field Sports” is chiefly confined to the ancient but now almost forgotten sport of hawking. He introduces it, indeed, as a supplement to " The Chase," desiring to give some account of all the more polite entertainments of the field to those gentlemen who have had “the goodness to encourage them."

His occasional poems are very numerous, and embrace a variety of topics-familiar cpistles, odes, translations or imitations, ballads, hunting songs, and fables; some of the latter are unfit to meet the eye of the general reader; among them, however, there are several which contain a fine moral, and they are rendered more effective by the interest of the story and the vividness of the descriptions.

Dr. Johnson limits his praise of Somerville to the admission, that “he wrote very well for a gentleman;" a harsh and unjust conclusion; he is, at times, vigorous and elevated-and, in the treatinent of a subject worthy of the Muse, yet presenting many difficulties, he has succeeded better than any other writer in our language. His minor productions are also frequently graceful and elegant, and always easy and correct.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

Next will I sing the valiant falcon's fame; Aerial fights, where no confederate brute Joins in the bloody fray; but bird with bird Justs in mid air. Lo! at his siege the hern, Upon the bank of some small purling brook, Observant stands to take his scaly prize, Himself another's game. For mark behind The wily falconer creeps : his grazing, horse Conceals the treacherous foe, and on his fist Th' unhooded falcon sits: with eager eyes She meditates her prey, and, in her wild Conceit, already plumes the dying bird.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Up springs the hern, redoubling every stroke,
Conscious of danger, stretches far away,
With busy pennons and projected beak,
Piercing th' opponent clouds: the falcon swift
Follows at speed, mounts as he mounts, for hope
Gives vigour to her wings. Another soon
Strains after to support the bold attack,
Perhaps a third. As in some winding creek,
On proud Iberia's shore, the corsairs sly
Lurk waiting to surprise a British sail,
Full freighted from Hetruria's friendly ports,
Or rich Byzantium; after her they scud,
Dashing the spumy waves with equal oars,
And spreading all their shrouds; she makes the main
Inviting every gale, nor yet forgets
To clear her deck, and tell th' insulting foe,
In peals of thunder, Britons cannot fear.
So flies the hern pursu’d, but fighting flies.

grows the conflict, every nerve's employ'd;
Now through the yielding element they soar
Aspiring high, then sink at once, and rove
In trackless mazes through the troubled sky.
No rest, no peace. The falcon hovering flies
Balanc'd in air, and confidently bold
Hangs o'er him like a cloud, then aims her blow
Full at his destin'd head. The watchful hern
Shoots from her like a blazing meteor swift
That gilds the night, eludes her talons keen
And pointed beak, and gains a length of way.
Observe th' attentive crowd; all hearts are fix'd
On this important war, and pleasing hope
Glows in each breast. The vulgar and the great,
Equally happy now, with freedom share
The common joy. The shepherd-boy forgets
His bleating care; the labouring hind lets fall
His grain unsown; in transport lost, he robs
Th' expecting furrow, and in wild amaze
The gazing village point their eyes to heaven.
Where is the tongue can speak the falconer's cares,
'Twixt hopes and fears, as in a tempest tost ?
His futtering heart, his varying cheeks confess
His inward woe. Now like a wearied stag,
That stands at bay, the hern provokes their rage;
Close by his languid wing, in downy plumes

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »