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MATTHEW GREEN, a truly original poet, was born, | is further attested, that he was a man of great probably at London, in 1696. His parents were re- probity and sweetness of disposition, and that his spectable Dissenters, who brought him up within conversation abounded with wit, but of the most inthe limits of the sect. His learning was confined to offensive kind. He seems to have been subject to a little Latin; but, from the frequency of his clas-low-spirits, as a relief from which he composed his sical allusions, it may be concluded that what he principal poem, The Spleen." He passed his read when young, he did not forget. The austerity life in celibacy, and died in 1737, at the early age in which he was educated had the effect of inspiring of forty-one, in lodgings in Gracechurch-street. him with settled disgust; and he fled from the The poems of Green, which were not made pubgloom of dissenting worship when he was no longer lic till after his death, consist of "The Spleen;" compelled to attend it. Thus set loose from the "The Grotto;" Verses on Barclay's Apology;" opinions of his youth, he speculated very freely "The Seeker," and some smaller pieces, all comon religious topics, and at length adopted the sys-prised in a small volume. In manner and subject tem of outward compliance with established forms, and inward laxity of belief. He seems at one time to have been much inclined to the principles of Quakerism; but he found that its practice would not agree with one who lived "by pulling off the hat." We find that he had obtained a place in the Custom-house, the duties of which he is said to have discharged with great diligence and fidelity. It
they are some of the most original in our language. They rank among the easy and familiar, but are replete with uncommon thoughts, new and striking images, and those associations of remote ideas by some unexpected similitudes, in which wit principally consists. Few poems will bear more repeated perusals; and, with those who can fully enter into them, they do not fail to become favorites.
AN EPISTLE TO MR. CUTHBERT JACKSON.
THIS motley piece to you I send,
Who always were a faithful friend;
Who, if disputes should happen hence,
Can best explain the author's sense;
And, anxious for the public weal,
Do, what I sing, so often feel.
The want of method pray excuse,
Allowing for a vapor'd Muse:
Nor to a narrow path confin'd,
Hedge in by rules a roving mind.
The child is genuine, you may trace
Throughout the sire's transmitted face.
Nothing is stol'n: my Muse, though mean,
Draws from the spring she finds within;
Nor vainly buys what Gildont sells,
Poetic buckets for dry wells.
*"In this poem," Mr. Melmoth says, "there are more original thoughts thrown together than he had ever read in the same compass of lines."
↑ Gildon's Art of Poetry,
School-helps I want, to climb on high,
Where all the ancient treasures lie,
And there unseen commit a theft
On wealth in Greek exchequers left.
Then where? from whom? what can I steal,
Who only with the moderns deal?
This were attempting to put on
Raiment from naked bodies won t
They safely sing before a thief,
They cannot give who want relief;
Some few excepted, names well known,
And justly laurel'd with renown,
Whose stamps of genius mark their ware,
And theft detects: of theft beware;
From More so lash'd, example fit,
Shun petty larceny in wit.
First know, my friend, 1 do not mean
To write a treatise on the spleen;
A painted vest Prince Vortiger had on,
Which from a naked Pict his grandsire won.
HOWARD'S British Princes.
§ James More Smith, Esq. See Dunciad, B. ii. 1. 50. and FITZOSBORNE'S Letters, p. 114. the notes, where the circumstances of the transaction here alluded to are very fully explained.
Nor to prescribe when nerves convulse;
Nor mend th' alarum-watch, your pulse.
If I am right, your question lay,
What course I take to drive away
The day-mare, Spleen, by whose false pleas
Men prove mere suicides in ease;
And how I do myself demean
In stormy world to live serene.
When by its magic-lantern Spleen
With frightful figures spreads life's scene,
And threat'ning prospects urg'd my fears,
A stranger to the luck of heirs;
Reason, some quiet to restore,
Show'd part was substance, shadow more;
With Spleen's dead weight though heavy grown,
In life's rough tide I sunk not down,
But swam, till Fortune threw a rope,
Buoyant on bladders fill'd with hope.
I always choose the plainest food
To mend viscidity of blood.
Hail! water-gruel, healing power,
Of easy access to the poor;
Thy help love's confessors implore,
And doctors secretly adore;
To thee I fly, by thee dilute
Through veins my blood doth quicker shoot,
And by swift current throws off clean
Prolific particles of Spleen.
I never sick by drinking grow,
Nor keep myself a cup too low,
And seldom Chloe's lodgings haunt,
Thrifty of spirits, which I want.
Hunting I reckon very good,
To brace the nerves, and stir the blood:
But after no field-honors itch,
Achiev'd by leaping hedge and ditch.
While Spleen lies soft relax'd in bed,
Or o'er coal fires inclines the head,
Hygeia's sons with hound and horn,
And jovial cry, awake the Morn.
These see her from the dusky plight,
Smear'd by th' embraces of the Night,
With roral wash redeem her face,
And prove herself of Titan's race,
And, mounting in loose robes the skies,
Shed light and fragrance as she flies.
Then horse and hound fierce joy display,
Exulting at the hark-away,
And in pursuit o'er tainted ground,
From lungs robust field-notes resound.
Then, as St. George the dragon slew,
Spleen pierc'd, trod down, and dying view;
While all their spirits are on wing,
And woods, and hills, and valleys ring.
To cure the mind's wrong bias, Spleen,
Some recommend the bowling-green;
Some, hilly walks; all, exercise;
Fling but a stone, the giant dies;
Laugh and be well. Monkeys have been
Extreme good doctors for the Spleen,
And kitten, if the humor hit,
Has harlequin'd away the fit.
Since mirth is good in this behalf,
At some partic'lars let us laugh.
Witlings, brisk fools, curst with half sense,
That stimulates their impotence;
Who buzz in rhyme, and, like blind flies,
Err with their wings for want of eyes
Poor authors worshipping a calf,
Deep tragedies that make us laugh,
A strict dissenter saying grace,
A lect'rer preaching for a place,
Folks, things prophetic to dispense,
Making the past the future tense,
The popish dubbing of a priest,
Fine epitaphs on knaves deceas'd,
Green-apron'd Pythonissa's rage,
Great Esculapius on his stage,
A miser starving to be rich,
The prior of Newgate's dying speech,
A jointur'd widow's ritual state,
Two Jews disputing tête-à-tête,
New almanacs compos'd by seers,
Experiments on felons' ears,
Disdainful prudes, who ceaseless ply
The superb muscle of the eye,
A coquet's April-weather face,
A Queenb'rough mayor behind his mace, And fops in military show,
Are sov'reign for the case in view.
If spleen-fogs rise at close of day,
I clear my ev'ning with a play,
Or to some concert take my way,
The company, the shine of lights,
The scenes of humor, music's flights,
Adjust and set the soul to rights.
Life's moving pictures, well-wrought plays,
To others' grief attention raise :
Here, while the tragic fictions glow,
We borrow joy by pitying woe;
There gaily comic scenes delight,
And hold true mirrors to our sight.
Virtue, in charming dress array'd,
Calling the passions to her aid,
When moral scenes just actions join,
Takes shape, and shows her face divine.
Music has charms, we all may find,
Ingratiate deeply with the mind.
When art does sound's high pow'r advance,
To music's pipe the passions dance;
Motions unwill'd its pow'rs have shown,
Tarantulated by a tune.
Many have held the soul to be
Nearly allied to harmony.
Her have I known indulging grief,
And shunning company's relief,
Unveil her face, and, looking round,
Own, by neglecting sorrow's wound,
The consanguinity of sound.
In rainy days keep double guard,
Or Spleen will surely be too hard;
Which, like those fish by sailors met,
Fly highest, while their wings are wet.
In such dull weather, so unfit
To enterprise a work of wit,
When clouds one yard of azure sky,
That's fit for simile, deny,
I dress my face with studious looks,
And shorten tedious hours with books.
But if dull fogs invade the head,
That mem'ry minds not what is read,
I sit in window dry as ark,
And on the drowning world remark:
Or to some coffee-house I stray
For news, the manna of a day,
And from the hipp'd discourses gather,
That politics go by the weather:
Then seek good-humor'd tavern chums,
And play at cards, but for small sums,
Or with the merry fellows quaff,
And laugh aloud with them that laugh;
Or drink a joco-serious cup
With souls who've took their freedom up,
And let my mind, beguil'd by talk,
In Epicurus' garden walk,
Who thought it Heav'n to be serene;
Pain, Hell, and Purgatory, Spleen.
. Sometimes I dress, with women sit,
And chat away the gloomy fit;
Quit the stiff garb of serious sense,
And wear a gay impertinence,
Nor think nor speak with any pains,
But lay on Fancy's neck the reins;
Talk of unusual swell of waist
In maid of honor loosely lac'd,
And beauty borr'wing Spanish red,
And loving pair with sep'rate bed,
And jewels pawn'd for loss of game,
And then redeem'd by loss of fame;
Of Kitty (aunt left in the lurch
By grave pretence to go to church)
Perceiv'd in hack with lover fine,
Like Will and Mary on the coin:
And thus in modish manner we,
In aid of sugar, sweeten tea.
Permit, ye fair, your idol form,
Which e'en the coldest heart can warm,
May with its beauties grace my line,
While I bow down before its shrine,
And your throng'd altars with my lays
Perfume, and get by giving praise.
With speech so sweet, so sweet a mien
You excommunicate the Spleen,
Which, fiend-like, flies the magic ring
You form with sound, when pleas'd to sing;
Whate'er you say, howe'er you move,
We look, we listen, and approve.
Your touch, which gives to feeling bliss,
Our nerves officious throng to kiss;
By Celia's pat, on their report,
The grave-air'd soul, inclin'd to sport,
Renounces wisdom's sullen pomp,
And loves the floral game, to romp.
But who can view the pointed rays,
That from black eyes scintillant blaze?
Love on his throne of glory seems
Encompass'd with satellite beams.
But when blue eyes, more softly bright,
Diffuse benignly humid light,
We gaze, and see the smiling loves,
And Cytherea's gentle doves,
And raptur'd fix in such a face
Love's mercy-seat, and throne of grace.
Shine but on age, you melt its snow;
Again fires long-extinguish'd glow,
And, charm'd by witchery of eyes,
Blood long congealed liquefies!
True miracle, and fairly done
By heads which are ador'd while on.
But oh, what pity 'tis to find
Such beauties both of form and mind,
By modern breeding much debas'd,
In half the female world at least!
Hence I with care such lott'ries shun,
Where, a prize miss'd, I'm quite undone;
And han't, by vent'ring on a wife,
Yet run the greatest risk in life.
Mothers, and guardian aunts, forbear
Your impious pains to form the fair,
Nor lay out so much cost and art,
But to deflow'r the virgin heart;
Of every folly-fost'ring bed
By quick'ning heat of custom bred.
Rather than by your culture spoil'd,
Desist, and give us nature wild,
Delighted with a hoyden soul,
Which truth and innocence control.
Coquets, leave off affected arts,
Gay fowlers at a flock of hearts;
Woodcocks to shun your snares have skill,
You show so plain, you strive to kill.
In love the artless catch the game,
And they scarce miss who never aim.
The world's great Author did create
The sex to fit the nuptial state,
And meant a blessing in a wife
To solace the fatigues of life;
And old inspired times display,
How wives could love, and yet obey.
Then truth, and patience of control,
And housewife arts, adorn'd the soul;
And charms, the gift of Nature, shone;
And jealousy, a thing unknown:
Veils were the only masks they wore;
Novels (receipts to make a whore)
Nor ombre, nor quadrille, they knew,
Nor Pam's puissance felt at loo.
Wise men did not, to be thought gay,
Then compliment their pow'r away:
But lest, by frail desires misled,
The girls forbidden paths should tread,
Of ign'rance rais'd the safe high wall;
We sink haw-haws, that show them all.
Thus we at once solicit sense,
And charge them not to break the fence.
Now, if untir'd, consider, friend,
What I avoid to gain my end.
I never am at meeting seen,
Meeting, that region of the Spleen;
The broken heart, the busy fiend,
The inward call, on Spleen depend.
Law, licens'd breaking of the peace,
To which vocation is disease:
A gipsy diction scarce known well
By th' magi, who law-fortunes tell,
I shun; nor let it breed within
Anxiety, and that the Spleen;
Law, grown a forest, where perplex
The mazes, and the brambles vex;
Where its twelve verd'rers every day
Are changing still the public way:
Yet, if we miss our path and err,
We grievous penalties incur;
And wand'rers tire, and tear their skin,
And then get out where they went in.
I never game, and rarely bet,
Am loth to lend, or run in debt.
No compter-writs me agitate;
Who moralizing pass the gate,
And there mine eyes on spendthrifts turn,
Who vainly o'er their bondage mourn.
Wisdom, before beneath their care,
Pays her upbraiding visits there,
And forces folly through the grate,
Her panegyric to repeat.
This view, profusely when inclin'd,
Enters a caveat in the mind:
Experience join'd with common sense,
To mortals is a providence.
Passion, as frequently is seen,
Subsiding settles into Spleen.
Hence, as the plague of happy life,
I run away from party-strife.
A prince's cause, a church's claim,
I've known to raise a mighty flame,
And priest, as stoker, very free
To throw in peace and charity.
That tribe, whose practicals decree
Small-beer the deadliest heresy ;
Who, fond of pedigree, derive
From the most noted whore alive;
Who own wine's old prophetic aid,
And love the mitre Bacchus made,
Forbid the faithful to depend
On half-pint drinkers for a friend,
And in whose gay red-letter'd face
We read good-living more than grace:
Nor they so pure, and so precise,
Immac'late as their white of eyes,
Who for the spirit hug the Spleen,
Phylacter'd throughout all their mien,
Who their ill-tasted home-brew'd pray'r
To the state's mellow forms prefer;
Who doctrines, as infectious, fear,
Which are not steep'd in vinegar,
And samples of heart-chested grace
Expose in show-glass of the face,
Did never me as yet provoke
Either to honor band and cloak,
Or deck my hat with leaves of oak.
I rail not with mock-patriot grace
At folks, because they are in place;
Nor, hir'd to praise with stallion pen,
Serve the ear-lechery of men;
But to avoid religious jars,
The laws are my expositors,
Which in my doubting mind create
Conformity to church and state.
I go, pursuant to my plan,
To Mecca with the caravan.
And think it right in common sense
Both for diversion and defence.
Reforming schemes are none of mine;
To mend the world's a vast design:
Like theirs, who tug in little boat,
To pull to them the ship afloat,
While to defeat their labor'd end,
At once both wind and stream contend:
Success herein is seldom seen,
And zeal, when baffled, turns to Spleen
Happy the man, who innocent,
Grieves not at ills he can't prevent;
His skiff does with the current glide,
Not puffing pull'd against the tide.
He, paddling by the scuffling crowd,
Sees unconcern'd life's wager row'd,
And when he can't prevent foul play,
Enjoys the folly of the fray.
By these reflections I repeal Each hasty promise made in zeal. When Gospel propagators say, We're bound our great light to display, And Indian darkness drive away, Yet none but drunken watchmen send, And scoundrel link-boys for that end; When they cry up this holy war, Which every Christian should be for; Yet such as owe the law their ears, We find employ'd as engineers:
This view my forward zeal so shocks,
In vain they hold the money-box.
At such a conduct, which intends
By vicious means such virtuous ends,
I laugh off Spleen, and keep my pence
From spoiling Indian innocence.
Yet philosophic love of ease
I suffer not to prove disease,
But rise up in the virtuous cause
Of a free press and equal laws.
The press restrain'd! nefandous thought!
In vain our sires have nobly fought:
While free from force the press remains,
Virtue and Freedom cheer our plains,
And Learning largesses bestows,
And keeps uncensur'd open house.
We to the nation's public mart
Our works of wit, and schemes of art,
And philosophic goods this way,
Like water-carriage, cheap convey
This tree, which knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming swords
From lay approach with zeal defend,
Lest their own paradise should end.
The Press from her fecundous womb
Brought forth the arts of Greece and Rome;
Her offspring, skill'd in logic war,
Truth's banner wav'd in open air;
The monster Superstition fled,
And hid in shades its Gorgon head;
And lawless pow'r, the long-kept field,
By reason quell'd, was forc'd to yield.
This nurse of arts, and freedom's fence,
To chain, is treason against sense;
And, Liberty, thy thousand tongues
None silence, who design no wrongs;
For those, who use the gag's restraint,
First rob, before they stop complaint.
Since disappointment galls within,
And subjugates the soul to Spleen,
Most schemes, as money-snares, I hate,
And bite not at projectors' bait,
Sufficient wrecks appear each day,
And yet fresh fools are cast away.
Ere well the bubbled can turn round,
Their painted vessel runs aground;
Or in deep seas it oversets
By a fierce hurricane of debts;
Or helm directors in one trip,
Freight first embezzled, sink the ship.
Such was of late a corporation,*
The brazen serpent of the nation,
Which, when hard accidents distress'd,
The poor must look at to be blest,
And thence expect, with paper seal'd
By fraud and us'ry, to be heal'd.
I in no soul-consumption wait
Whole years at levees of the great,
*The Charitable Corporation, instituted for the relief of the industrious poor, by assisting them with small sums upon pledges at legal interest. By the villany of those who had the management of this scheme, the proprietors were defrauded of very considerable sums of money. In 1732 the conduct of the directors of this body became the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, and some of them, who were members of the house of commons. were expelled for their concern in this iniquitous transaction.
And hungry hopes regale the while
On the spare diet of a smile.
There you may see the idol stand
With mirror in his wanton hand;
Above, below, now here, now there,
He throws about the sunny glare.
Crowds pant, and press to seize the prize,
The gay delusion of their eyes.
When Fancy tries her limning skill
To draw and color at her will,
And raise and round the figure well,
And show her talent to excel,
I guard my heart, lest it should woo
Unreal beauties Fancy drew,
And, disappointed, feel despair
At loss of things that never were.
When I lean politicians mark
Grazing on ether in the Park;
Who e'er on wing with open throats
Fly at debates, expresses, votes,
Just in the manner swallows use,
Catching their airy food of news;
Whose latrant stomachs oft molest
The deep-laid plans their dreams suggest;
Or see some poet pensive sit,
Fondly mistaking Spleen for Wit:
Who, though short-winded, still will aim
To sound the epic trump of Fame;
Who still on Phoebus' smiles will dote,
Nor learn conviction from his coat;
I bless'd my stars, I never knew
Whimsies, which close pursu'd, undo,
And have from old experience been
Both parent and the child of Spleen.
These subjects of Apollo's state,
Who from false fire derive their fate,
With airy purchases undone
Of lands, which none lend money on,
Born dull, had follow'd thriving ways,
Nor lost one hour to gather bays.
Their fancies first delirious grew,
And scenes ideal took for true.
Fine to the sight Parnassus lies,
And with false prospects cheats their eyes;
The fabled gods the poets sing,
A season of perpetual spring,
Brooks, flow'ry fields, and groves of trees,
Affording sweets and similes,
Gay dreams inspir'd in myrtle bow'rs,
And wreaths of undecaying flow'rs,
Apollo's harp with airs divine,
The sacred music of the Nine,
Views of the temple rais'd to Fame,
And for a vacant niche proud aim,
Ravish their souls, and plainly show
What Fancy's sketching power can do.
They will attempt the mountain steep,
Where on the top, like dreams in sleep,
The Muse's revelations show,
That find men crack'd, or make them so.
You, friend, like me, the trade of rhyme
Avoid, elab'rate waste of time,
Nor are content to be undone,
To pass for Phœbus' crazy son.
Poems, the hop-grounds of the brain,
Afford the most uncertain gain;
And lott'ries never tempt the wise
With blanks so many to a prize.
I only transient visits pay,
Meeting the Muses in my way,
Scarce known to the fastidious dames,
Nor skill'd to call them by their names.
Nor can their passports in these days,
Your profit warrant, or your praise.
On poems by their dictates writ,
Critics, as sworn appraisers, sit,
And mere upholst'rers in a trice
On gems and paintings set a price.
These tayl'ring artists for our lays
Invent cramp'd rules, and with straight stays
Striving free Nature's shape to hit,
Emaciate sense, before they fit.
A commonplace and many friends,
Can serve the plagiary's ends,
Whose easy vamping talent lies,
First wit to pilfer, then disguise.
Thus some, devoid of art and skill
To search the mine on Pindus' hill,
Proud to aspire and workmen grow,
By genius doom'd to stay below,
For their own digging show the town
Wit's treasure brought by others down.
Some wanting, if they find a mine,
An artist's judgment to refine,
On fame precipitately fix'd,
The ore with baser metals mix'd
Melt down, impatient of delay,
And call the vicious mass a play.
All these engage to serve their ends,
A band select of trusty friends,
Who, lesson'd right, extol the thing,
As Psapho taught his birds to sing;
Then to the ladies they submit,
Returning officers on wit:
A crowded house their presence draws,
And on the beaux imposes laws,
A judgment in its favor ends,
When all the panel are its friends:
Their natures merciful and mild
Have from mere pity sav'd the child;
In bulrush ark the bantling found
Helpless, and ready to be drown'd,
They have preserv'd by kind support,
And brought the baby-muse to court.
But there's a youth† that you can name,
Who needs no leading-strings to fame,
Whose quick maturity of brain
The birth of Pallas may explain:
Dreaming of whose depending fate,
I heard Melpomene debate,
“This, this is he, that was foretold
Should emulate our Greeks of old.
Inspir'd by me with sacred art,
He sings, and rules the varied heart;
If Jove's dread anger he rehearse,
We hear the thunder in his verse;
If he describes love turn'd to rage,
The furies riot in his page.
* Psapho was a Lybian, who, desiring to be accounted a god, effected it by this means: he took young birds and taught them to sing, Psapho is a great god. When they were perfect in their lesson, he let them fly; and other birds learning the same ditty, repeated it in the woods; on which his countrymen offered sacrifice to him, and considered him as a deity.
† Mr.Glover, the excellent author of Leonidas, Boadicea, Medea, &c.