« PreviousContinue »
While thus I write, vast shoals of critics come, And on my verse pronounce their saucy doom ; The muse, like some bright country virgin, shows Fall’n by mishap among a knot of beaux; They, in their lewd and fashionable prate, Rally her dress, her language, and her gait; Spend their base coin before the bashful maid, Current like copper, and as often paid :
'Tis time to bid my friend a long farewell,
In this descending sheet you'll haply find
OCCASIONED BY SIR WILLIAM TEMPLE'S
LATE ILLNESS AND RECOVERY.
WRITTEN IN DECEMBER 1693. STRANGE to conceive, how the same objects
strike At distant hours the mind with forms so like!
* Would not one imagine that Swift had at this time already conceived his idea of the Yahoos ? S.
Whether in time, Deduction's broken chain
Be what it will; late near yon whisp'ring stream,
As when to scare th' ungrateful or the proud Tempests long frown, and thunder threatens loud, Till the blest sun to give kịnd dawn of grace Darts weeping beams across Heaven's wat’ry face; When soon the peaceful bow unstring'd is shown, A sign God's dart is shot, and wrath o'erblown ; Such to unhallowed sight the Muse divine Might seem, when first she rais'd her eyes to mine.
What mortal change does in thy face appear, Lost youth, she cried, since first I met thee liere! With how undecent clouds are overcast Thy looks, when every cause of grief is past ! Unworthy the glad tidings which I bring, Listen while the Muse thus teaches thee to sing:
SIR W. TEMPLE'S ILLNESS AND RECOVERY.
As parent earth, burst by imprison’d winds, Scatters strange agues o'er men's sickly minds, And shakes the atheist's knees ; such ghastly fear Late I beheld on every face appear; Mild Dorothea,* peaceful, wise, and great, Trembling beheld the doubtful hand of fate
. And if so black the cloud, that Heaven's bright
queen Shrouds her still beams; how should the stars be
seen? Thus when Dorinda wept, joy ev'ry face forsook, And grief flung sables on each menial look; The humble tribe mourn’d for the quick’ning soul, That furnish'd spirit and motion through the whole; So would earth's face turn pale, and life decay, Should Heaven suspend to act but for a day; So nature's crazed convulsions make us dread That time is sick, or the world's mind is dead. * Sister to Sir William Temple. S.
Take, youth, these thoughts, large matter to employ
Unknown the forms we the high-priesthood use
Malignant goddess ! bane to my repose, Thou universal cause of all my woes ; Say whence it comes that thou art grown of late A poor amusement for my scorn and hate; The malice thou inspir'st I never fail On thee to wreak the tribute when I rail; Fool's commonplace thou art, their weak enscon
cing fort, Th’appeal of dulness in the last resort : Heaven with a parent's eye regarding earth, Deals out to man the planet of his birth: But sees thy meteor blaze about me shine, And passing o'er, mistakes thee still for mine : Ah, should I tell a secret yet unknown, That thou ne'er hadst a being of thy own, But a wild form dependent on the brain, Scatt'ring loose features o'er the optic vein; Troubling the crystal fountain of the sight, Which darts on poet's eyes a trembling light; Kindled while reason sleeps, but quickly flies, Like antic shapes in dreams, from waking eyes :
SIR W. TEMPLE'S ILLNESS AND RECOVERY. 45
In sum, a glitt'ring voice, a painted name,
stay, So highly courted by the brisk and gay? Wert thou right woman, thou shouldst scorn to
look On an abandon'd wretch by hopes forsook ; Forsook by hopes, ill fortune's last relief, Assign’d for life to unremitting grief; For, let Heaven's wrath enlarge these weary days, If hope e'er dawns the smallest of its rays. Time o'er the happy takes so swift a flight, And treads so soft, so easy, and so light, That we the wretched, creeping far behind, Can scarce th' impression of his footsteps find; Smooth as that airy nymph so subtly born With inoffensive feet o'er standing corn ; Which bow'd by ev'ning breeze with bending stalks, Salutes the weary trav'ller as he walks ; But o'er th' afflicted with a heavy pace Sweeps the broad sithe, and tramples on his face. Down falls the summer's pride, and sadly shows Nature's bare visage furrow'd as he mows : See, Muse, what havoc in these looks appear, These are the tyrant's trophies of a year ; Since hope his last and greatest foe is fled, Despair and he lodge ever in its stead;
* What a miserable state of mind must Swift have been in when he wrote this! which was owing to the state of dependence in which he had always lived from his birth to that time, with but little prospect of his being relieved from it. How grating must this have been to such a proud and generous spirit! S.