« AnteriorContinuar »
To this period of Mr. Sheridan's life we are indebted for most of those elegant love-verses, which are so well known and so often quoted. The lines “ Uncouth is this mosscovered grotto of stone," were addressed to Miss Linley, after having offended her by one of those lectures upon decorum of conduct, which jealous. lovers so frequently inflict upon their mistresses, and the grotto, immortalized by their quarrel, is supposed to have been in Spring Gardens, then the fashionable place of resort in Bath.
I have elsewhere remarked that the conceit in the following stanza resembles a thought in some verses of Angerianus :
And thou, stony grot, in thy arch may'st preserve
Two lingering drops of the night-fallen dew,
As tears of my sorrow entrusted to you.
Dicite nov roris sed pluvia hæc lacrimæ.
" Dry be that tear, my gentlest love,” is supposed to have been written at a later period; but it was most probably produced at the time of his courtship, for he wrote but few love verses after his marriage-like the nightingale (as a French editor of Bonefonius says, in remarking a similar circumstance of that poet) “ qui développe le charme de sa voix tant qu'il veut plaire à sa compagne-sont-ils unis ? il se tait, il n'a plus le besoin de lui plaire.” This song having been hitherto printed incorrectly, I shall give it here, as it is in the copies preserved by his relations.
Dry be that tear, my gentlest love,*
Be hush'd that struggling sigh,
More fix'd, more true than I.
An Elegy by Halhed, transcribed in one of letters to eridan, be gins thus :
Dry be that tear, be hush'd that struggling sigh.”
Hush'd be that sigh. be dry that tear,
Dry be that tear.
When all that's new is past ?-
How long my life will last?
Hush'd be that sigh.
The thought of Sylvio's death,
Must yield that faithful breath?
Dry be that tear. There is in the second stanza here a close resemblance to one of the madrigals of Montreuil, a French poet, to whom Sir J. Moore was indebted for the point of his well known verses, “
“ If in that breast, so good, so pure."* Mr. Sheridan, however, knew nothing of French, and neglected every opportunity of learning it, till, by a very natural process, his ignorance of the language grew into hatred of it. Besides, we have the immediate source from which he derived the thought of this stanza, in one of the essays of Hume, who, being a reader of foreign literature, most probably found it in Montreuil.f The passage in Hume (which Sheridan has
• The grief that on my quiet preys,
That rends my heart and checks my tongue,
And feel it will not last me long.
C'est un mal que j'aurai tout le tems de ma vie ;
Mais je ne l'aurai pas long-tems. † Or in an Italian song of Menage, from which Montreuil, who was aecustomed to such thefts, most probably stole it. The point in the Italian is, far as I can remember it, expressed thus :
In van, o Filli, tu chiedi
Chi lo potrebbe dire?
done little more than versify) is as follows:-“Why so often ask me, How long my love shall yet endure? Alas, my Cælia, can I resolve the question? Do I know how long my life shall yet endure ?"*
The pretty lines, "Mark'd you her cheek of rosy hue ?" were written, not upon Miss Linley, as has been generally stated, but upon Lady Margaret Fordyce, and form part of a poem which he published in 1771, descriptive of the principal beauties of Bath, entitled “ Clio's Protest, or the Picture
an answer to some verses by Mr. Miles Peter Andrews, called “The Bath Picture,” in which Lady Margaret was thus introduced :
“Remark too the dimpling, sweet smile
The following is the passage in Mr. Sheridan's poem, entire ; and the beauty of the six favourite lines shines out so conspicuously, that we cannot wonder at their having been so soon detached, like ill set gems, from the loose and clumsy workmanship around them.
“But, hark!-did not our bard repeat
The love-born name of M-rg-r-t?-
" And could you really discover,
In gazing those sweet beauties over,
* The Epicurean.
That eye, in liquid circles moving;
Now Pallas-now the Queen of Love !"
“We see the Dame, in rustic pride,
We find here, too, the source of one of those familiar lines, which so many quote without knowing whence they come ;one of those stray fragments, whose parentage is doubtful, but to which (as the law says of illegitimate children)“ pater est populus."
" You write with ease, to show your breeding,
In the following passage, with more of the tact of a man of the world than the ardour of a poet, he dismisses the object nearest his heart with the mere passing gallantry of a compliment :
“O! should your genius ever rise,
On the opening of the New Assembly Rooms at Bath, which commenced with a ridotto, Sept. 30, 1771, he wrote a humorous description of the entertainment, called “ An Epistle from Timothy Screw to his Brother Henry, Waiter at Almack's,” which appeared first in the Bath Chronicle, and was so eagerly sought after, that Crutwell, the editor, was induced to publish it in a separate form. The allusions in this trifle have, of course, lost their zest by time ; and a specimen or two of its humour will be all that is necessary here.
"Two rooms were first opened--the long and the round one,
Nor less among you was the medley, ye fair!