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The peculiarity of Juvenal, according to Johnson's own definition, ' is a mixture of gaiety and stateliness, of pointed sentences and declamatory grandeur.' He had less reflection and less moral dignity than his English imitator.
The other poetical pieces of Johnson are short and occasional; but his Beautiful Prologue on the Opening of Drury Lane,' and his lines . On the Death of Levett,' are in his best manner.
From the Vanity of Human Wishes.
Let observation, with extensive view,
Survey inankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife,
And watch the busy scenes of crowded life;
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O'erspread with suares the clouded maze of fate,
Where wavering man, betrayed by venturous pride,
To tread the dreary paths without a guide;
As treacherous phantoms in the mist delude,
Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good.
How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice,
Rules the bold hand. or prompts the suppliant voice.
How nations sink, by darling schemes oppressed,
When vengeance listens to the fool's request.
Fate wings with every wish the afflictive dart,
Each gift of nature, and each grace of art,
With fatal heat impetuous courage glows,
With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
Impeachment stops the speaker's powerful breath,
And restless fire precipitates on death.
But scarce observed, the knowing and the bold,
Fall in the general massacre of gold;
Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
And crowds with crimes the records of mankind;
For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws,
For gold the liireling judge distorts the laws;
Wealth heaped on wealth, nor truth nor safety buys,
The dangers gather as the treasures rise.
Let history tell where rival kings command,
Aud dubious title shakes the maddened land;
When statutes glean the refuse of the sword,
How much more safe the vassal than the lord;
Low skulks the hind beneath the rage of power,
And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower,
Untouched his cottare, and his slumbers sound,
Though confiscation's vultures hover round.
Unnumbered suppliants crowd preferment's gate,
Athirst for we Ith, and burning to be great;
Delusive fortune heurs i he incessant call,
They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall.
On every stage, the foes of
Hate dogs their flight, and insult mocks their end.
Love ends with hope, the sinking statesman's door
Pours in the morning worshipper no more ;
For growing names the weekly scribbler lies,
To growing wealth the dedicator flies;
From every room descends the painted face,
That hung the bright puladium of the place,
And smoked in kitchens, or in auctions sold,
To better features yields
frame of gold;
For now no more we trace in every line
Heroic worth, benevolence divine;
The form distorted justifies the fall,
Avd detestation rids the indignant wall.
But will not Britain hear the last appeal,
Siga her foes' doom, or guard her favourites' zeal ?
Through freedoin's sons no more remonstrance rings,
Degradiug nobles, and controlling kings;
Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats,
And ask no questions but the price of votes ;
With weekly libels and septennial ale,
Their wish is full to riot and to rail.
In full-blowii dignity, see Wolsey stand,
Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand :
To him the church, the realm, their powers consign;
Through him the rays of regal bounty shine;
Turned by his nod the stream of honour flows,
His smile alone security bestows :
Still to new heights his restless wishes tower;
Claim leads to claim, and power advances power;
Till conquest unresisted ceased to please,
And rights submitted, left him none to seize.
At length his sovereign frowns—the train of state,
Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate :
Where'er he turns he meets a stranger's eye,
His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly;
Now drops at once the pride of awful state
The golden canopy, the glittering plate,
The regal palace, the luxurious board,
The liveried army, and the menial lord.
With age, with cares, with maladies oppressed,
He seeks the refuge of monastic rest.
Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings,
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings.
Speak thou. whose thoughts at humble peace repine,
Shall Wolsey's wealth, with Wolsey's end, be thine ?
Or liv'st thou now, with safer pride content,
The wisest Justice on the banks of Trent?
For why did Wolsey, near the steeps of fate,
On weak foundations raise the enormous weight!
Why, but to sink beneath misfortune's blow,
With louder ruin to the gulfs below.
What gave great Villiers to the assassin's knife,
And fixed disease on Harley's closing life?
What murdered Wentworth, and what exiled Hyde,
By kings protected, and to kings allied ?
What, but their wish indulged in courts to shine,
And power too great to keep, or to resign!...
The festal blazes, the triumphal show,
The ravished standard, and the captive foe,
The senate's thanks, the gazette's pompous tale,
With force resistless o’er the brave prevail.
Such bribes the rapid Greek o'er Asia whirled,
For such the steady Roman shook the world;
For such in distant lands the Britons shine,
And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine:
This power has praise, the virtue scarce can wurm,
Till fame supplies the universal charm.
Yet reason frowns on war's unequal game,
Where wasted nations raise a single name,
And mortgaged states their grandsire's wreaths regret
From age to age in crerlasting debt;
E. L. v. iv.-
Wreaths which at last the dear-hought right convey
To rust on medals, or on stones decay.
On what foundation stands the
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide;
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
No dangers fright him, and no labours tire;'
O'er love, o'er fear, extends his wide domain,
Unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield,
War sounds the truinp, he rushes to the field;
Behold surrounding kings their powers combine,
And one capitulate, and one resign;
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in vain ;
• Think nothing gained,' he cries, 'till nought remain,
On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly,
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.'
The march begins in military state,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
Stern famine guards the solitary coast,
And winter barricades the realms of frost :
He comes, nor wapt, nor cold, his course delay;
Hide, blushing glory, hide Pultowa's day;
The vanquished hero leaves his broken hands,
And shews bis miseries in distant lands;
Condemned a needy supplicant to wait,
While ladies interpose and slaves debate.
But did not chance at length her error mend ?
Did no subverred empire mark his end?
Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
Or hostile millions press him to the ground ?
His fall was destined to a barren strand,
A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.*
But grant the virtues of a temperate prime,
Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime;
An age that melts with unperceived decay,
And glides in modest innocence away ;
Whose peaceful day benevolence endears,
Whose night congratulating conscience cheers;
The general favourite as the general friend;
Such age there is, and who shall wish its end ?
• To show how admirably Johnson has imitated this part of Jụvenal, applying to the modern hero, Charles XII. what the Roman satirist directed against Hannibal. we sub join a literal version of the words of Juvenal. Weigh Hannibal-how many pounds weight will you find in that consummate general? This is the man whom Africa. washed by the Moorish sea. and stretching to the warm Nile, cannot contain. Again, in addition to Ethiopia. and other elephant-breeding countries. Spain is added to his empire: He jumps over the Pyrenees: in vain nature opposed to him the Alps with their shows: he severed the rocks, and rent the mountains with vinegar. Now he reaches Italy yet he determines to go further: “Nothing is done,” says he. "unless with our Punic soldiers we break down their gates, and I plant iny standard in the midst of Saburra (street ) O what a figure. and what a fine picture he would make the one eyed general. carried by the Getulian brute! What, after all. was the end of it? Alas for glory! this very man is routed, and flies headlong into banishment, and there the great and wonderful commander sits like a poor dependent at the palace door of a king, till it please the
Bithy. pian tyrant to awake. That life, which had so long disturbed all human affairs, was brought to an end, not by swords. nor stones, nor darts. but by that redresser of Cannæ and avenger of the blood that had been shed-a ring. Go. madman: hurry over the sar: age lps. to please the school-boys, and become their subject of declamation ! It will be recollected that Hannibal, to prevent his falling into the hands of the Romans swal luwod poison. which he carried in a ring on his inger.
Yet even on this her load misfortune flings,
To press the weary minute's flagging wings;
New sorrow rises as the day returns,
A sister sickens, or a daughter mourns.
Now kindred merit fills the sable bier,
Now lacerated friendship claims a tear.
Year chases year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops some joy from withering life away;
New forms arise, and different views engage,
Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage,
nature signs the last release,
And bids afflicted worth retire to peace.
But few there are whom hours like these await,
Who set unclouded in the gulfs of fate.
From Lydia's monarch should the search descend,
By Solon cautioned to regard his end.
In life's last scene what prodigies surprise,
Fears of the lyrave, and follies of the wise !
From Marlb’rough's eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Swift expires a driveller and a show.
Where, then, shall hope and fear their objects find !
Must dull suspense corrupt the staguant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate ?
Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies?
Inquirer, cease; petitions yet remain,
Which Heaven may hear, nor deem religion vain.
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to heaven the measure and the choice.
Safe in his power, whose eyes discein afar
The secret ambush of a specious prayer.
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,
Secure whate'er he gives, he gives the best.
Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires,
Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
Obedieut passions, and a will resigned ;
For love, which searce collective man can fill;
For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill;
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind nature's signal of retreat:
These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain,
These goods he grants, who grants the power to gain;
With these celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find
Prologue spoken by Mr. Garrick, at the Opening of the Theatre in
Drury Lane, in 1777.
When Learning's triumph o'er her barbarous foes
First reared the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose;
Each change of many-coloured life he drew,
Exhausted worlds, and then imagined new :
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toiled after him in vain:
His powerful strokes presiding truth impressed,
And unresisted passion stormed the breast.
Then Jonson came, instructed from the school,
To please in method, and invent by rule;
His studious patience and laborious art
By regular approach essayed the heart:
Cold approbation gave the lingering bays,
For those who durst not ceusure. scarce could praise.
A mortal born, he met the general doom,
But left, like Egypt's kings, a lasting tomb.
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,
Nor wished for Jonson's art, or Shakspeare's flame;
Themselves they studied, as they felt they writ,
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
Vice always found a sympathetic friend;
They pleased their age, and did not aim to mend.
Yet burds like these uspired to lasting praise,
And proudly hoped to pimp in future days:
Their cause was general, their supports were strong,
Their slaves were willing, and their reign was loug ;
Till shame regained the post that sense betrayed,
And virtue called oblivion to her aid.
Then crushed by rules, and weakened as refined,
For years the power of Tragedy declined:
From bard to bard the frigid caution crept,
Till declamation roared, whilst passion slept ;
Yet still did virtue deign the stage to tread;
Philosophy remained, though nature fled.
But forced at length her ancient reign to quit,
She saw great Faustas lay the ghost of wit:
Exulting folly hailed the joyful day,
And Pantomime and song confirmed her sway.
But who the coming changes can presage,
And mark the future periods of the stage ?
Perhaps, if skill conld distant times explore,
New Bebus, new D'Urfeys yet remain in store;
Perhaps, where Lear has raved, and Hamlet died,
On flying cars new sorcerers may ride:
Perhaps-for who can guess the effects of chance ?
Here Hunt may box, or Mahomet may dance."
Hard is his lot that, bere by fortune placed,
Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste;
With every meteor of caprice must play,
And chase the new-blown bubble of the day.
Ah! let not censure term our fate our choice,
The stage but echoes back the public voice;
The drama's laws the drama's patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live,
Then prompt no more the follies you decry,
As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die;
"Tis yours this vight to bid the reign commence
Of rescued nature and reviving sense ;
To chase the charms of sound, the pomp of show,
For useful mirth and solitary woe,
Bid Scenic Virtue form the rising age,
Aud Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.
On the Death of Dr. Robert Levett—1782.
Condemned to Hope's delasive mine, Oflicions, innocent, sincere,
As on we toil from day to day,
Of every friendless name the friend. By sudden blasts, or slow decline, Our social comforts drop away.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind; Well tried through many a varying year, Nor, lettered arrogance, deny See Levett to the grave descend,
Thy praise to merit unrefined. * Hant, a famous boxer on the stage ; Mahomet, a rope-dancer who had exhibited at Covent Garden Theatre the winter before.