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occupied with contemplation of God in the visible heavens, and of man as part of the great harmony :
The Sixth and Seventh Nights of the poem dwell in two parts on the nature, proof, and importance of Immortality, under the title of “ The Infidel Reclaimed.” The poem here rises to the consequences of Man's Immortality; and the Eighth Night has for its theme “ Virtue's Apology, or the Man of the World Answered ; in which are considered the Love of This Life, the Ambition and Pleasure, with the Wit and Wisdom, of the World : ”—
And has all nature, then, espoused my part ? Have I bribed heaven, and earth, to plead against thee? And is thy soul immortal?—what remains ? All, all, Lorenzo !-make immortal, blest. Unblest immortals !-what can shock us more? And yet, Lorenzo still affects the world; There stows his treasure; thence his title draws, Man of the World! (for such wouldst thou be called :) And art thou proud of that inglorious style ? Proud of reproach ? for a reproach it was, In ancient days, and Christian ;-in an age, When men were men, and not asham'd of Heav'n, Fired their ambition, as it crowned their joy. Sprinkled with dews from the Castalian font, Fain would I re-baptize thee, and confer A purer spirit, and a nobler name.
The “Night Thoughts” are, in fact, only another form of the reply to failing faith ; and though their tone is not that of a deep enthusiasm, they have a manifest affinity to other forms of the religious reasoning and feeling of their day. Lines like these might express thoughts of Wesley :
Amidst my list of blessings infinite,
As when o'er-laboured, and inclined to breathe,
What then remains:-Much, much! a mighty debt
No man is happy, till he thinks, on earth
Were all men happy, revellings would cease,
These are the closing lines of the “ Night Thoughts :”—
Thus, darkness aiding intellectual light,
The Ninth and Last Night, the “ Consolation," is
Full fast he flies, and dares not look behind him
Her gloomy flight. But what avails the flight
William Collins, who died insane in 1759, published his Odes in 1747, at the age of six-and-twenty. When, in April, 1746, the rising of '45 in Scotland for the young Pretender was crushed on Culloden Moor, and cruel executions for rebellion followed, with the disembowelling of victims and the burning of their hearts, Collins expressed sympathy for the fellow-countrymen fallen in battle, and desire for mercy to the vanquished, in two of his Odes.
ODE, Written in the beginning of the year 1746. How sleep the brave who sink to rest By all their country's wishes bless'd ? When Spring with dewy fingers cold Returns to deck their hallow'd mould, She there shall dress a sweeter sod Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
A poem on “The Grave,” by Robert Blair, cousin of Hugh Blair, who wrote upon Rhetoric, was produced at the same time as the “Night Thoughts,” with like purpose, and published in 1743. Its author was minister of Athelstaneford, in East Lothian, and was succeeded in that ministry by John Home, author of the play of “ Douglas.” Blair's “ Grave” was as popular as the “Night Thoughts,” and went in a few years through eight editions. Those dead forms of the time, which provoked many an effort to revive the soul within them, or to sweep them away and replace them with a young vigorous life, produced a gloom, often passing into sickness of mind, that is manifest in life and literature during the half century before the French Revolution. There was an appetite for sombre thought, and among Englishmen of genius more of insanity, or of a state of mind that bordered on insanity, than at any time before or since. Young failed to describe in cheerful notes religious cheerfulness; and Blair, however healthy his desire to paint death as the gate of life, is very conscious of the churchyard gloom, although he may not share the instinct he thus paints :
By fairy hands their knell is rung;
ODE TO MERCY.
By Valour's armed and awful side,
Who oft with songs, divine to hear,
Winn'st from his fatal grasp the spear,
Thou who, amidst the deathful field,
By god-like chiefs alone beheld,
See, Mercy, see, with pure and loaded hands,
Before thy shrine my country's genius stands, And decks thy altar still, though pierced with many a
The wind is up. Hark, how it howls ! Methinks
The fiend of nature joined his yoke,
Thy form, from out thy sweet abode,
O'ertook him on his blasted road,
I see recoil his sable steeds,
That bore him swift to salvage deeds,
[throne! Thou, thou shalt rule, our Queen, and share our monarch's
Samuel Johnson, after publishing, in 1749, “ The
Vanity of Human Wishes," began, on the 20th of wisdom is folly; grant, I beseech Thee, that in this my March, 1750, the Rambler, a series of essays in the undertaking, thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, form established by the Tatler and Spectator, but in but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation both of spirit and substance all his own. It was continued
myself and others; grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Jesus every Tuesday and Saturday until the 17th of March,
Christ. Amen. 1752, when the approaching death of his wife disabled him for work. She died eleven days after
The concern of the Rambler is with the true wards. The English of the Rambler represents that
wisdom of life. Its essays reproduce, with a grave earlier manner of his in which Johnson developed
kindliness and scholarly variety of thought, the to its utmost the theory of style then dominant.
essentials of Christian duty. All that he saw in the He was not the founder of the custom of employing
world concerned Johnson only as it touched the life long words, Latin in origin, constructing periods
of man. Two Christmas Days occurred during the and balanced sentences, avoiding the familiarities of
issue of this series of essays. The first fell on a speech as low. That writers should do so was the
Tuesday, one of his publishing days, and the theme doctrine of the day, established by the ascendancy of
of that essay was a practical discussion of Christ's a French criticism born in artificial times. In the
doctrine, “ Whatsoever you would that men should Rambler Johnson only pushed the current doctrine
do unto you, even so do unto them.” “Of the as to style to its legitimate conclusion. As the
divine Author of our religion," he said in that essay, times changed he grew with them, and the prose of
“it is impossible to peruse the evangelical historier Johnson's “Lives of the Poets," written late in life,
without observing how little he favoured the vanity was as distinctly prose of 1780 as the Rambler was
of inquisitiveness, how much more rarely he cutthe prose of a date thirty years earlier. But at no
descended to satisfy curiosity than to relieve distress period of Samuel Johnson's life was his sincerity
and how much he desired that his followers shoul affected by the part of the vocabulary from which
rather excel in goodness than in knowledge." he drew bis language : whether long or short as to
In the following year his Tuesday Rambler af their syllables, his words as to their meaning were
peared on the day before Christmas Day, and his measured to his thought with a conscientious desire
topic then was
THE FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES. No vicious dispositions of the mind more obstinately ress both the counsels of philosophy and the injunctions of gion, than those which are complicated with an opinion dignity; and which we cannot dismiss without leaving in t. hands of opposition some advantage iniquitously obtained suffering from our own prejudices some imputation of pasi lanimity.
For this reason scarcely any law of our Redeemer is er openly transgressed, or more industriously evaded, than by which He commands His followers to forgive injuria a prohibits, under the sanction of eternal misery, the gtitit tion of the desire which every man feels to return pain th: him that inflicts it. Many who could have conquered to anger, are unable to combat pride, and pursue offences : extremity of vengeance, lest they should be insulted by triumph of an enemy.
But certainly no precept could better become Hire : whose birth peace was proclaimed to the earth. Furwould so soon destroy all the order of society, and deur life with violence and ravage, as a permission to etery judge his own cause, and to apportion his own relep for imagined injuries?
It is difficult for a man of the strictest justice not to fshimself too much in the calmest moments of solitary pe" tion. Every one wishes for the distinctions for which thu are wishing at the same time, in their own opinion, sbetter claims. He that, when his reason operate in its : force, can thus, by the mere prevalence of self-love, pre himself to his fellow-beings, is very unlikely to judga ably when his passions are agitated by a sense of WT002. – his attention wholly engrossed by pain, interest, or do Whoever arrogates to himself the right of vengeants how little he is qualified to decide his own claims, se' certainly demands what he would think unfit to be gun to another.
Nothing is more apparent than that, however injer." however provoked, some must at last be contented to i
for truth. He prayed before writing; and although so unlike Milton in tendencies of thought that he failed in an endeavour thoroughly to understand him, there is perhaps not another man in literature of whom it is so evident that, like Milton, he endeavoured to “ do all as in his great Taskmaster's eye.” This was Johnson's prayer before he began the Rambler :
PRAYER ON THE “RAMBLER." Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all
1 See “Shorter English Poems," pages 375–8.
For it can never be hoped that he who first commits an rant, lazy, or cowardly acquiescence in a false appearance injury will contentedly acquiesce in the penalty required : of excellence, and proceeds not from consciousness of our the same haughtiness of contempt or vehemence of desire attainments, but from insensibility of our wants. that prompt the act of injustice, will more strongly incite its Nothing can be great which is not right. Nothing which justification; and resentment can never so exactly balance reason condemns can be suitable to the dignity of the human the punishment with the fault, but there will remain an mind. To be driven by external motives fom the path which overplus of vengeance which even he who condemns his first our own heart approves, to give way to anything but con. action will think himself entitled to retaliate. What then viction, to suffer the opinion of others to rule our choice or can ensue but a continual exacerbation of hatred, an unex. overpower our resolves, is to submit tamely to the lowest and tinguishable feud, an incessant reciprocation of mischief, a most ignominious slavery, and to resign the right of directmutual vigilance to entrap, and eagerness to destroy ?
ing our own lives. Since, then, the imaginary right of vengeance must be at The utmost excellence at which humanity can arrive is a last remitted, because it is impossible to live in perpetual constant and determinate pursuit of virtue, without regard to hostility, and equally impossible that, of two enemies, either present dangers or advantage; a continual reference of every should first think himself obliged by justice to submission, it action to the Divine will; an habitual appeal to everlasting is surely eligible to forgive early. Every passion is more justice; and an unvaried elevation of the intellectual eye to easily subdued before it has been long accustomed to posses. the reward which perseverance only can obtain. But that sion of the heart; every idea is obliterated with less difficulty, pride which many, who presume to boast of generous senti. as it has been more slightly impressed, and less frequently ments, allow to regulate their measures, has nothing nobler in renewed. He who has often brooded over his wrongs, pleased view than the approbation of men, of beings whose superiority himself with schemes of malignity, and glutted his pride with we are under no obligation to acknowledge, and who, when we the fancied supplications of humbled enmity, will not easily | have courted them with the utmost assiduity, can confer no open his bosom to amity and reconciliation, or indulge the valuable or permanent reward; of beings who ignorantly gentle sentiments of benevolence and peace.
judge of what they do not understand, or partially determine It is easiest to forgive while there is yet little to be what they never have examined; and whose sentence is there. forgiven. A single injury may be soon dismissed from the fore of no weight till it has received the ratification of our memory; but a long succession of ill offices by degrees asso own conscience. ciates itself with every idea : a long contest involves so many He that can descend to bribe suffrages like these at the circumstances, that every place and action will recall it to the price of his innocence; he that can suffer the delight of such mind, and fresh remembrance of vexation must still enkindle acclamations to withhold his attention from the commands of rage and irritate revenge.
the universal Sovereign, has little reason to congratulate A wise man will make haste to forgive, because he knows himself upon the greatness of his mind. Whenever he awakes the true value of time, and will not suffer it to pass to seriousness and reflection, he must become despicable in away in unnecessary pain. He that willingly suffers the his own eyes, and shrink with shame from the remembrance corrosions of inveterate hatred, and gives up his days and of his cowardice and folly. nights to the gloom of malice and perturbations of stratagem,
Of him that hopes to be forgiven it is indispensably cannot surely be said to consult his ease. Resentment is a required that he forgive. It is therefore superfluous to union of sorrow with malignity, a combination of a passion | urge any other motive. On this great duty eternity is suswhich all endeavour to avoid with a passion which all concur pended, and to him that refuses to practise it the throne of to detest. The man who retires to meditate mischief, and to mercy is inaccessible, and the Saviour of the world has been exasperate his own rage; whose thoughts are employed only born in vain. on means of distress and contrivances of ruin; whose mind never pauses from the remembrance of his own sufferings,
. These are three prayers by Johnson :but to indulge some hope of enjoying the calamities of another, may justly be numbered among the most miserable
ON THE DEATH OF MY WIFE. o- human beings, among those who are guilty without reward, who have neither the gladness of prosperity nor the calm of
April 24, 1752. innocence.
Almighty and most merciful Father, who lovest those Whoever considers the weakness both of himself and others whom Thou punishest, and turnest away thy anger from the will not long want persuasives to forgiveness. We know not penitent, look down with pity upon my sorrows, and grant to what degree of malignity any injury is to be imputed; or that the affliction which it has pleased Thee to bring upon how much its guilt, if we were to inspect the mind of him me may awaken my conscience, enforce my resolutions of a that committed it, would be extenuated by mistake, precipi. better life, and impress upon me such conviction of thy power tance, or negligence. We cannot be certain how much more and goodness, that I may place in Thee my only felicity, and we feel than was intended to be inflicted, or how much we endeavour to please Thee in all my thoughts, words, and increase the mischief to ourselves by voluntary aggravations. actions. Grant, O Lord, that I may not languish in fruitless We may charge to design the effects of accident; we may | and unavailing sorrow, but that I may consider from whose think the blow violent only because we have made ourselves hand all good and evil is received, and may remember that I delicate and tender; we are on every side in danger of error am punished for my sins, and hope for comfort only by and of guilt, which we are certain to avoid only by speedy repentance. Grant, O merciful God, that by the assistance forgiveness.
of thy Holy Spirit I may repent, and be comforted, obtain From this pacific and harmless temper, thus propitious to that peace which the world cannot give, pass the residue of others and ourselves, to domestic tranquillity and to social my life in humble resignation and cheerful obedience; and happiness, no man is withheld but by pride, by the fear of when it shall please Thee to call me from this mortal state, being insulted by his adversary, or despised by the world. I resign myself into Thy hands with faith and confidence, and
It may be laid down as an unfailing and universal axiom, finally obtain mercy and everlasting happiness, for the sake that “all pride is abject and mean." It is always an igno. of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
April 25. 1752 us happy, and perhaps make us instrumental to the happiness
| of each other. It is now eighteen years. · O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and most merciful God, in whose hands are life and death, who givest and takest away, castest down and raisest up, look with mercy on
After his wife's death, in March, 1752, Johnson the affliction of thy unworthy servant, turn away thine anger
had still the care of his old mother at Lichfield. from me, and speak peace to my troubled soul. Grant me
In 1755, when his age was forty, his Dictionary the assistance and comfort of thy Holy Spirit, that I may was published, and for the good of its title-page, remember with thankfulness the blessings so long enjoyed to satisfy the booksellers, a degree of M.A. was now by me in the society of my departed wife; make me so to given to him by Oxford, and Dublin made him think on her precepts and example, that I may imitate what LL.D. From that date he was “ Dr. Johnson” to ever was in her life acceptable in thy sight, and avoid all his friends. In April, 1758, he began, under the by which she offended Thee. Forgive me, O merciful Lord, name of “ The Idler," a series of weekly essays in the all my sins, and enable me to begin and perfect that reforma Universal Chronicle. In January, 1759, his mother tion which I promised her, and to persevere in that died, at the age of ninety. This was his prayer :resolution, which she implored Thee to continue, in the purposes which I recorded in thy sight, when she lay dead
Jan. 23. before me, in obedience to thy laws, and faith in thy word.
The day on which my dear Mother was buried. And now, O Lord, release me from my sorrow, fill me with Almighty God, merciful Father, in whose hands are life just hopes, true faith, and holy consolations, and enable me and death, sanctify unto me the sorrow which I now feel. to do my duty in that state of life to which Thou hast been Forgive me whatever I have done unkindly to my mother, pleased to call me, without disturbance from fruitless grief,
and whatever I have omitted to do kindly. Make me to or tumultuous imaginations; that in all my thoughts, words, remember her good precepts and good example, and to reform and actions, I may glorify thy Holy Name, and finally my life according to thy Holy Word, that I may lose no more obtain, what I hope Thou hast granted to thy departed opportunities of good. I am sorrowful, O Lord ; let not my servant, everlasting joy and felicity, through our Lord Jesus sorrow be without fruit. Let it be followed by holy resolu. Christ. Amen.
tions, and lasting amendment, that when I shall die like my
mother, I may be received to everlasting life. May 6, 1752.
I commend, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful, into thy O Lord, our heavenly Father, without whom all purposes
hands, the soul of my departed mother, beseeching Thee are frustrate, all efforts are vain, grant me the assistance of
to grant her whatever is most beneficial to her in her present thy Holy Spirit, that I may not sorrow as one without hope,
state. but may now return to the duties of my present state with
O Lord, grant me Thy Holy Spirit, and have mercy upon humble confidence in thy protection, and so govern my
me, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. thoughts and actions, that neither business may withdraw
And, O Lord, grant unto me that am now about to return my mind from Thee, nor idleness lay me open to vain
to the common comforts and business of the world, such imaginations; that neither praise may fill me with pride, nor
moderation in all enjoyments, such diligence in honest labour, censure with discontent; but that in the changes of this life,
and such purity of mind, that, amidst the changes, miseries, I may fix my heart upon the reward which Thou hast pro
or pleasures of life, I may keep my mind fixed upon Thee, mised to them that serve Thee, and that whatever things are
and improve every day in grace, till I shall be received into true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just,
thy kingdom of eternal happiness. whatever are pure, whatever are lovely, whatever are of good report, wherein there is virtue, wherein there is praise, I may think upon and do, and obtain mercy and everlasting Johnson was poor, and to pay for his mother's happiness. Grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ. funeral, and clear the little debt she left behind her, Amen.
he wrote, in the spring of 1759, his tale of “Rasselas," Our Father, &c.—The grace, &c.
which has been called a “ Vanity of Human Wishes"
in prose. May 6.-I used this service, written April 24, 25, May 6, as
The worth of Samuel Johnson had made him, preparatory to my return to life to-morrow.
though poor and ungainly, a power in literature, and
in society his outward roughness of manner could The following note, made eighteen years later, on not hide from any who came near to him the real the anniversary of her death, represents Johnson's tenderness of his nature. Indignant at the pre life-long fidelity to his wife's memory :
valent corruption, he had defined a “pension” in his
Dictionary as “an allowance made to any one without Wednesday, March 28, 1770. an equivalent. In England, it is generally understood This is the day on which, in 1752, I was deprived of poor
to mean pay given to a state hireling for treason to dear Tetty. Having left off the practice of thinking on her
his country.” And he had defined “ Pensioner" as with some particular combinations, I have recalled her to my
“a slave of state hired by a stipend to obey his mind of late less frequently ; but when I recollect the time in
master.” But to friends of Johnson his poverty which we lived together, my grief for her departure has not
seemed a reproach to the country he had served, and abated ; and I have less pleasure in any good that befalls me, interest was maule, without his knowledge, that because she does not partake it. On many occasions, I think secured for him in 1762 a pension of £300. It was what she would have said or done. When I saw the sea at a difficult duty to break this news to him. After a Brighthelmstone, I wished for her to have seen it with me. pause of deep thought, he recallerl his detinition of a But with respect to her, no rational wish is now left, but pensioner, and was told that “he, at least, did not that we may meet at last where the mercy of God shall make come under it.” He then deferred his answer for