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THE FARMER'S WIFE AND THE RAVEN.
“ Why are those tears ? why droops your head ?
“ Alas! you know the cause too well ;
Unhappy widow, cease thy tears,
Betwixt her swagging panniers' load
“ That raven on yon left-hand oak
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
A CONTEMPLATION ON NIGHT.
Whether amid the gloom of night I stray,
When the gay sun first breaks the shades of night,
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.
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.
Up springs the hern, redoubling every stroke,
grows the conflict, every nerve's employ'd;