« PreviousContinue »
author's vanity; and to suspect that, however sober I may be upon proper occasions, I have yet that itch of popularity that would not suffer me to sink my title to a jest that had been so successful. But the case is not such. When I sent the copy of the Task to Johnson, I desired, indeed, Mr. Unwin to ask him the question, whether or not he would choose to make it a part of the volume ? This I did merely with a view to promote the sale of it. Johnson answered, “By all means." Some months afterwards, he enclosed a note to me in one of my packets, in which he expressed a change of mind, alleging, that to print John Gilpin, would only be to print what had been hackneyed in every magazine, in every shop, and at the corner of every street. I answered, that I desired to be entirely governed by his opinion; and that if he choseto waive it, I should be better pleased with the omission. Nothing more passed between us upon the subject, and I concluded I should never have the immortal honour of being generally known as the author of John Gilpin. In the last packet, however, down came John, very fairly printed, and equipped for public appearance. The business having taken this turn, I concluded that Johnson had adopted my original thought, that it might prove advantageous to the sale ; and as he had had the trouble and expense of printing it, I corrected the copy, and let it pass."... Ibid, vol. ii. p: 12.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
DEAR President, whose art sublime
Gives perpetuity to time,
And bids transactions of a day,
That fleeting hours would waft away
To dark futurity, survive,
And in unfading beauty live,.--
You cannot with a grace decline
A special mandate of the Nine--
Yourself, whatever task you choose,
So much indebted to the Muse.
Thus says the Sisterhood :-We come-
Fix well your pallet on your thumb,
Prepare the pencil, and the tints
We come to furnish you with hints.
French disappointment, British glory,
Must be the subject of the story.
First strike a curve, a graceful tow,
Then slope it to a point below;
Your outline easy, airy, light,
Fill'd up becomes a paper kite.
Let independence, sanguine, horrid,
Blaze like a meteor in the forehead :
Beneath (but lay aside your graces)
Draw.six-and-twenty rueful faces,
Each with a staring, steadfast eye,
Fix'd on his great and good ally.
France flies the kite --'tis on the wing--
Britannia's lightuing cuts the string.
The wind that raised it, ere it ceases,
Just rends it into thirteen pieces,
Takes charge of every flutt'ring sheet,
And lays them all at George's feet.
Iberia, trembling from afar,
Renounces the confed rate war.
Her efforts and her arts o'ercome,
France calls her shatter'd navies home;
Repenting Holland learns to mourn
The sacred treaties she has torn ;
Astonishment and awe profound
Are stamp'd upon the nations round;
Without one friend, above all foes,
Britannia gives the world repose.
LINES ON TOBACCO,
* To the Reverend William Bull. MY DEAR FRIEND,
If reading verse be your delight,
'Tis mine as much, or more, to write;
But what we would, so weak is man,
Lies oft remote from what we can.
For instance, at this very time,
I feel a wish, by cheerful rhyme
To soothe my friend, and, had I power,
To cheat him of an anxious hour;
Not mear (for I must confess,
It were but folly to suppress,)
His pleasure or his good alone,
But squinting partly at my own.
But though the sun is flaming high
I'th' centre of yon arch, the sky,
And he had once (and who but he ?)
The name for setting genius free,
Yet whether poets of past days
Yielded him undeserved praise,
And he by no uncommon lot
Was famed for virtues he had not ;
Or whether, which is like enough,
His Highness may have taken hust,
So seldom sought with invocation,
Since it has been the reigning fashion
To disregard his inspiration,
I seem no brighter in my wits,
For all the radiance he emits,
Than if I saw, through midnight vapour,
The glimm'ring of a farthing táper.
Oh, for a succedaneum, then,
T accelerate a creeping pen!
Oh, for a ready succedaneum,
Quod caput, cerebrum, et oranium
Pondere liberet exoso,
Et morbo jam caliginoso !
"Tis here ; this oval box well bħ'd
With best tobacco, finely miii'd
Beats all Anticyra's pretences
To disengage the encumber'd senses.
Oh, Nymph of Transatlantic fame,
Where'er thine baunt, whate'er thy name,
Whether reposing on the side
Of Oroonoquo's spacious tide,
Or list'ning with delight not small
To Niagara's distant fall,
'Tis thine to cherish and to feed
The pungent nose-refreshing weed,
Which, whether pulverized it gain
A speedy passage to the brain,
Or whether, touch'd with fire, it rise
In circling eddies to the skies,
Does thought more quicken and refine
Than all the breath of all the Nine-
Forgive the Bard, if Bard he be,
Who once too wantonly made free,
To touch with a satiric wipe
That symbol of thy power, the pipe ;
So may no blight infest thy plains,
And no unseasonable rains,
And so may smiling peace once more
Visit America's sad shore;
And thou, secure from all alarms,
Of thund'ring drums, and glitt'ring arms,
Rove unconfin'd beneath the shade
Thy wide expanded leaves have made ;
So may thy votaries encrease,
And fumigation never cease.
May Newton with renew'd delights
Perform thine odorif rous rites,
While clouds of incense half divine
Involve thy disappearing shrine;
And so may smoke-inbaling Bull
Be always filling! never full.
TO THE IMMORTAL MEMORY OF THE HALIBUT.
On which I Dined this day, Monday, April 26th, 1784.
WHERE hast thou floated, in what seas pursued
Thy pastime? when vast thou an egg new-spawn'
Lost in th' immensity of ocean's waste ?
Roar as they might, the overbearing winds
That rock'd the deep, thy cradle, thou wast safe---
And in thy minikin and embryo state,
Attach'd to the firm leaf of some salt weed,
Didst outlive tempests, such as wrung and rack'd
The joints of many a stout and gallant bark.
And whelm'd them in the unexplored abyss.
Indebted to no magnet and no chart,
Nor under guidance of the polar fire,
Thou wast a voyager on many coasts,
Grazing at large in mcadows submarine,
Where flat Batavia just emerging peeps
Above the brine-where Caledonia's rocks
Beat back the surge--and where Hibernia shoots
Her wondrous causeway far into the main.
-Wherever thou hast fed, thou little thought'st,
And not more, that I should feed on thee.
Peace, therefore, and good health, and much good fish,
To him who sent thee! and success, as oft
As it descends into the billowy gulph,
To the same drag that caught thee ! ---Fare thee well!
Thy lot, thy brethren of the slimy fin
Would envy, could they know that thou wast doom'd
To feed a bard, and be praised in verse.