Page images
PDF
EPUB

AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND.

1798.

Villula,

et pauper agelle,
Me tibi, et hos und mecum, quos semper aniavi,
Commendo.

31203

PREFACE.

Every reader turns with pleasure to those passages of Horace, and Pope, and Boileau, which describe how they lived and where they dwelt; and which, being interspersed among their satirical writings, derive a secret and irresistible grace from the contrast, and are admirable examples of what in painting is termed repose.

We have admittance to Horace at all hours. We enjoy the company and conversation at his table ; and his suppers, like Plato's, “non solum in præsentia, sed etiam postero die jucundæ sunt.” But, when we look round as we sit there, we find ourselves in a Sabine farm, and not in a Roman villa. His windows have every charm of prospect ; but his furniture might have descended from Cincinnatus ; and gems, and pictures, and old marbles, are mentioned by him more than once with a seeming indifference.

His English imitator thought and felt, perhaps, more correctly on the subject ; and embellished his garden and grotto with great industry and success. But to these alone he solicits our notice. On the ornaments of his house he is silent ; and he appears to have reserved all the minuter touches of his pencil for the library, the chapel, and the banqueting-room of Timon. Le savoir de notre siècle," says Rousseau, “ tend beaucoup plus à détruire qu'à édifier. On censure d’un ton de maitre ; pour proposer, il en faut prendre un autre.”

It is the design of this Epistle to illustrate the virtue of True Taste ; and to show how little she requires to secure, not only the comforts, but even the elegances of life. True Taste is an excellent economist. She confines her choice to few objects, and delights in producing great effects by small means : while False Taste is forever sighing after the new and the rare ; and reminds us, in her works, of the Scholar of Apelles, who, not being able to paint his Helen beautiful, determined to make her fine.

EPISTLE TO A FRIEND.

An Invitation — The Approach to a Villa described — Its Situation — Its

few Apartments - Furnished with Casts from the Antique, &c. — The Dining-room – The Library - A Cold Bath – A Winter Walk -- A Summer Walk — The Invitation renewed Conclusion.

WHEN, with a REAUMUR's skill, thy curious mind
Has classed the insect-tribes of human kind,
Each with its busy hum, or gilded wing,
Its subtle web-work, or its venomed sting;
Let me, to claim a few unvalued hours,
Point out the green lane rough with fern and flowers;
The sheltered gate that opens to my field,
*And the white front through mingling elms revealed.

In vain, alas ! a village friend invites
To simple comforts and domestic rites,
When the gay months of Carnival resume
Their annual round of glitter and perfume;
When London hails thee to its splendid mart.
Its hives of sweets and cabinets of art;
And, lo! majestic as thy manly song,
Flows the full tide of human life along.

Still must my partial pencil love to dwell
On the home-prospects of my hermit-cell ;
The mossy pales that skirt the orchard-green,
Here hid by shrub-wood, there by glimpses seen ;

And the brown pathway, that, with careless flow,
Sinks, and is lost among the trees below.
Still must it trace (the flattering tints forgive)
Each fleeting charm that bids the landscape live.
Oft o'er the mead, at pleasing distance, pass,
Browsing the hedge by fits, the panniered ass;
The idling shepherd-boy, with rude delight,
Whistling his dog to mark the pebble's flight;
And in her kerchief blue the cottage-maid,
With brimming pitcher from the shadowy glade.
Far to the south a mountain-vale retires,
Rich in its groves, and glens, and village spires;
Its upland lawns, and cliffs with foliage hung,
Its wizard-stream, nor nameless nor unsung :
And through the various year, the various day,
What scenes of glory burst, and melt away!

When April-verdure springs in Grosvenor-square,
And the furred Beauty comes to winter there,
She bids old Nature mar the plan no more ;
Yet still the seasons circle as before.
Ah! still as soon the young Aurora plays,
Though moons and flambeaux trail their broadest blaze;
As soon the sky-lark pours his matin-song,
Though Evening lingers at the Masque so long.

There let her strike with momentary ray,
As tapers shine their little lives away;
There let her practise from herself to steal,
And look the happiness she does not feel;
The ready smile and bidden blush employ
At Faro-routs that dazzle to destroy;
Fan with affected ease the essenced air,
And lisp of fashions with unmeaning stare.

« PreviousContinue »