Abbildungen der Seite

Covers his fatal beak, and cautious hides
The well-dissembled fraud. The falcon darts
Like lightning from above, and in her breast
Receives the latent death: down plump she falls
Bounding from earth, and with her trickling gore
Defiles her gaudy plumage. See, alas!
The falconer in despair, his favourite bird
Dead at his feet, as of his dearest friend
He weeps her fate; he meditates revenge,
He storms, he foams, he gives a loose to rage:
Nor wants he long the means; the hern fatigu’d,
Borne down by numbers yields, and prone on earth
He drops : his cruel foes wheeling around
Insult at will. The vengeful falconer flies
Swift as an arrow shooting to their aid;
Then muttering inward curses breaks his wings,
And fixes in the ground his hated beak;
Sees with malignant joy the victors proud
Smear’d with his blood, and on his marrow feast.



[ocr errors]

Where rages not Oppression ? Where, alas!
Is Innocence secure? Rapine and Spoil
Haunt ev'n the lowest deeps ; seas have their sharks,
Rivers and ponds enclose the ravenous pike;
He in his turn becomes a prey; on him
Th' amphibious otter feasts. Just is his fate
Deserv'd: but tyrants know no bounds; nor spears
That bristle on his back, defend the perch
From his wide greedy jaws; nor burnish'd mail
The yellow carp; nor all his arts can save
Th’ insinuating eel, that hides his head
Beneath the slimy mud ; nor yet escapes
The crimson-spotted trout, the river's pride,
And beauty of the stream. Without remorse,
This midnight pillager, ranging around,
Insatiate swallows all. The owner mourns
Th' unpeopled rivulet, and gladly hears
The huntsman's early call, and sees with joy
The jovial crew, that march upon its banks
In gay parade, with bearded ces arm’d.

The subtle spoiler, of the beaver kind,
Far off perhaps, where ancient alders shade
The deep still pool, within some hollow trunk
Contrives his wicker couch : whence he surveys
His long purlieu, lord of the stream, and all
The finny shoals his own. But you, brave youths,
Dispute the felon's claim; try every root,
And every reedy bank; encourage all
The busy spreading pack, that fearless plunge
Into the flood, and cross the rapid stream.
Bid rocks and caves, and each resounding shore,

your bold defiance; loudly raise
Each cheering voice, till distant hills repeat
The triumphs of the vale. On the soft sand
See there his seal impress'd! and on that bank
Behold the glittering spoils, half-eaten fish,
Scales, fins, and bones, the leavings of his feast.
Ah! on that yielding sag-bed, see, once more
His seal I view. O'er yon dank rushy marsh
The sly goose-footed prowler bends his course,
And seeks the distant shallows. Huntsman, bring
Thy eager pack, and trail him to his couch.
Hark! the loud peal begins, the clamorous joy,
The gallant chiding, loads the trembling air.

Ye Naiads fair, who o'er these floods preside,
Raise up your dripping heads above the wave,
And hear our melody. Th’ harmonious notes
Float with the stream; and every winding creek
And hollow rock, that o'er the dimpling flood
Nods pendant, still improve from shore to shore
Our sweet reiterated joys. What shouts!
What clamour loud! What gay heart-cheering sounds
Urge through the breathing brass their mazy way!
Nor quires of Tritons glad with sprightlier strains
The dancing billows, when proud Neptune rides
In triumph o'er the deep. How greedily
They snuff the fishy steam, that to each blade
Rank-scenting clings! See! how the morning dews
They sweep, that from their feet besprinkling drop
Dispers’d, and leave a track oblique behind.
Now on firm land they range; then in the flood
They plunge tumultuous; or through reedy pools
Rustling they work their way: no hole escapes
Their curious search. With quick sensation now

The fuming vapour stings; Autter their hearts,
And joy redoubled bursts from every mouth
In louder symphonies. Yon hollow trunk,
That with its hoary head incurv'd salutes
The passing wave, must be the tyrant's fort,
And dread abode. How these impatient climb,
While others at the root incessant bay !
They put him down. See, there he drives along !
Th' ascending bubbles mark his gloomy way.
Quick fix the nets, and cut off his retreat
Into the sheltering deeps. Ah! there he vents !
The pack plunge headlong, and pretended spears
Menace destruction: while the troubled surge
Indignant foams, and all the scaly kind,
Affrighted, hide their heads. Wild tumult reigns,
And loud uproar. Ah, there once more he vents !
See, that bold hound has seiz'd him! down they sink
Together lost: but soon shall he repent
His rash assault. See, there escap’d, he flies
Half-drown'd, and clambers up the slippery bank
With ouze and blood distain'd. Of all the brutes,
Whether by Nature form’d, or by long use,
This artful diver best can bear the want
Of vital air. Unequal is the fight,
Beneath the whelming element. Yet there
He lives not long; but respiration needs
At proper intervals. Again he vents;
Again the crowd attack. That spear has piere'd
His neck; the crimson waves confess the wound.
Fixt is the bearded lance, unwelcome guest,
Where'er he flies; with him it sinks beneath,
With him it mounts; sure guide to every foe.
Inly he groans; nor can his tender wound
Bear the cold stream, Lol to yon sedgy bank
He creeps disconsolate: his numerous foes
Surround him, hounds, and men.. Pierc'd through and

On pointed spears they lift him high in air ;
Wriggling he hangs, and grins, and bites in vain :
Bid the loud horns, in gaily-warbling strains,
Proclaim the felon's fate; he dies, he dies.


MATTHEW GREEN, “who wrote the Spleen," was born in 1696. His family were Quakers, and he was brought up and educated among that sect.

But it appears their formality and precision were unpalatable to him, and he quitted the society " with disgust;" but without entering into communion with any other religious body, in consequence of which he incurred the reproach of "free thinking" upon sacred subjects. His probity, however, has not been questioned, and there is ample tes. timony of the gentleness of his temper and the suavity of his manners. He had a post at the Custom-House, and discharged his duty with diligence and ability. He died, in 1737, at his lodgings in Nag's-head-court, Gracechurch-street. Such is almost the whole of our knowledge of Matthew Green; but this paucity of information regarding him is to be accounted for by the fact, that he published nothing during his life-time, and that he wrote probably without the remotest idea of " finding fame." We are, however, told that he was liable to fits of hypochondriacism, and that * out of this affliction grew the poem on the Spleen. In completing it he is said to have laboured during several years; adding to when the “fit was on him.”

Besides this poem, he wrote “The Grotto," and two or three other pieces of no great merit. The Spleen" has, however, always been considered one of the most striking compositions in the language. It is written in an easy, but energetic styleat once simple and nervous; it is the obvious production of a mind ill at ease with itself, yet conscious that a remedy for the disease may be easily obtained. There are no common thoughts in the poem, yet they are all natural, recorded with strength and originality, just such as would occur upon such a subject, and they are happily compressed.

The design of the writer, as he expressed to his friend, Cuthbert Jackson, to whom the poem is addressed, is not,

“ To write a treatise on the Spleen;

Nor to prescribe when nerves convulse ;
Nor mend th'alarum watch, your pulse.
If I am right, your question lay,
What course I take to drive away
The day-mare, Spleen, by whose false pleas,
Men prove mere suicides in ease;
And how I do myself demean,

In stormy world to live serene." He then describes his peculiar habits, opinions, employments, and amusementsand he evidently describes them with truth.

“ Nothing is stol'n ; my muse though mean,

Draws from the spring she finds within." The remedies he prescribes are those which produce or nourish cheerfulness:Exercise "fling but a stone the giant dies;” things that excite laughter – poor authors worshipping a calf, deep tragedies, fine epitaphs on knaves deceased ;-music and the dance, the gay impertinence of gossiping: each and all he touches with the pen of a gentle satirist; and proceeds to state how by a perpetual struggle against its influence he has contrived to master, or at least control, the “day-mare;” swimming along the troubled stream of life,

“ Till fortune threw a rope

Buoyant on bladders fill'd with hope." It would be difficult to point out, in the whole range of English poetry, so many striking and original thoughts in the same number of lines. They were penned down as they occurred to him. If the descriptions appear unconnected, we are amply compensated by finding no weak link to bind them together. His object was to write less for the world than himself—and if years were employed in producing this one, and comparatively short, addition to our national store of verse, they were not spent in vain. The selection we have made from it will, we think, bear out our opinion of its high and enduring merit, and justify even higher praise than we have bestowed upon its author.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

CONTENTMENT, parent of delight,
So much a stranger to our sight,
Say, goddess, in what happy place
Mortals behold thy blooming face;
Thy gracious auspices impart,
And for thy temple choose my

They, whom thou deignest to inspire,
Thy science learn, to bound desire;
By happy alchymy of mind
They turn to pleasure all they find;
They both disdain in outward mien
The grave and solemn garb of Spleen,

« ZurückWeiter »