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SHENSTONE'S highest effort was his Schoolmistress.
In every village marked with little spire,
Embowered in trees, and hardly known to fame,
A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name,
Awed by the power of this relentless dame;
For unkempt hair, or task unconned, are sorely shent.
Here is an
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,
Which Learning near her little dome did stowe;
Though now so wide its waving branches flow,
But their limbs shuddered, and their pulse beat low:
Near to this dome is found a patch so green,
On which the tribe their gambols do display;
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray,
The noises intermixed, which thence resound,
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield;
Her apron dyed in grain, as blue, I trow,
As is the hare-bell that adorns the field:
Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwined, With dark distrust, and sad repentance filled; And steadfast hate, and sharp affliction joined, And fury uncontrolled, and chastisement unkind.
'Twas simple russet, but it was her own;
'Twas her own country bred the flock so fair! 'Twas her own labour did the fleece prepare ; And, sooth to say, her pupils, ranged around,
Through pious awe, did term it passing rare;
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground.
In elbow-chair (like that of Scottish stem,
By the sharp tooth of cankering eld defaced,
Our sovereign prince and liefest liege is placed)
Unlike most other poets, YOUNG preferred to dilate upon themes connected with the shady side of life, rather than its cheerful aspects. This gloomy proclivity of his pen is the more remarkable from the fact that he was, even to old age, far from being insensible to worldly influences and enjoyments. Schlegel thinks that he was affected in his misanthropy, and unnatural in his pathos. The following incident does not seem to conflict with that opinion :
Young was one day walking in his garden at Welwyn, in company with two ladies (one of whom he afterwards married); the servant came to acquaint him that a gentleman wished to speak with him. "Tell him," said the doctor, "I am too happily engaged to change my situation." The ladies insisted he should go, as his visitor was a man of rank, his patron and his friend; but as persuasion had no effect, one took him by the right arm and the other by the left, and led him to the garden gate; when, finding resistance
vain, he bowed, laid his hand upon his heart, and improvised the following lines:
Thus Adam looked, when from the garden driven,
Notwithstanding the morbid spirit which pervades and overshadows most of his poetry, depriving it of much of its potency, yet it abounds with grand imagery, and is sustained by splendor of conception. The genius of Christianity is the patron of all that is joyous; she gilds the pathway of the present life with Heaven's own brightness, and makes even the clouds and darkness which hang over the grave, luminous with the rainbow of Hope. If the poet and moralist had but infused a little starlight into his Night Thoughts, they would have possessed a tenfold charm. It is said that his friend, the Duke of Wharton, sent him a human skull with a candle fixed in it, as the most fitting lamp for him during his nocturnal lucubrations. But we must cull a few passages from our author: and here is an apostrophe to Night :
O majestic night!
Nature's great ancestor! day's elder-born!
By mortals and immortals seen with awe '
A starry crown thy raven brow adorns,
An azure zone thy waist; clouds, in heaven's loom
In ample folds of drapery divine,
Thy flowing mantle form, and, heaven throughout,
Thy gloomy grandeurs-nature's most august,
Here are his impressive lines on Procrastination :
Be wise to-day: 'tis madness to defer;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
There are some noble thoughts in the following passage :—
How poor, how rich, how abject, how august,