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C without common sense :" and it should seem like. wise, that he possessed a zeal for religion with little of its practical influence ; for, with all his gaiety and ambition, he was an advocate for Revelation and Christianity. Thus when Tindal, the atheistical philosopher, used to spend much of his time at All Souls, he complained : “ The other boys I can always answer,
because I know whence they have their arguments, which I have read an hundred times; but " that fellow Young, is continually pestering me with “ something of his own.”
This apparent inconsistency is rendered the more striking from the different kinds of composition in which, at this period, he was engaged: viz. a political Panegyric on the new Lord Lansdowne, and a sacred Poem on the Last Day, which was written in 1710, but not published till 1713. It was dedicated to the Queen, and acknowledges an obligation, which has been differently understood, either as referring to her having been his godmother, or his patron; for it is inferred from a couplet of Swift's, that Young was a pen
oned advocate of government:
56 Whence Gay was banish'd in disgrace,
This, however, might be mere report, at this period, since Swift was not over nice in his authorities, and nothing is more common than to suppose the advocate, and the flatterer of the great, an hireling. Flattery seems indeed to have been our poet's besetting sin through life; but if interest was his object, he must have been frequently disappointed : and to those disappointments we probably owe some of his best reflections on human life.
Of his Last Day, (his first considerable performance) Dr. Johnson observes, that it, “has an equabi“lity and propriety which he afterwards either never 56 endeavoured for, or never attained. Many para.
graphs are noble, and few are mean; yet the whole " is languid: the plan is too much extended, and a só succession of images divides and weakens the gene. . " ral conception: But the great reason why the read. “ er is disappointed is, that the thought of The La+
every man more than poetical, by spreading over his mind a general obscurity of sa“ cred horror, that oppresses distinction and disdains " expression.” The subject is indeed truly awful, and was peculiarly affecting to this celebrated critic, who never could, without trembling, meditate upon death, or the eternal world. The poet's theological system, moreover, was not, at least when he wrote this, the most consistent and evangelical : I mean he had not those views of the Christian atonement, and of pardoning grace, which give such a glory to his Night Thoughts, and would much more have illumined this composition. All the preparation he seems to have there in view, is
By tears and groans, and never-ceasing care,
to fit himself for the Tribunal. Moreover, the project of future misery is too awful for pcetic enlargement, and makes the piece too terrible be read with pleasure; while the attempt to particularize the solemni. ties of judgment, lowers their sublimity, and makes
some parts of the description, as Dr. Johnson has observed, appear mean, and even bordering on burlesque. This poem, however, was well received upon the whole, and the better for being written by a layman ; and it was commended by the ministry and their party, because the dedication flattered their mistress and her government-far too much, indeed, for the nature of the subject.
Dr. Young's next poem was entitled, the Force of Religion, and founded on the deaths of Lady Jane Grey and her husband. “ It is written with elegance e« nough,” according to Dr. Johnson; but was
popular:” for “ Jane is too heroic to be pitied.” The dedication of this piece to the countess of Salisbury, was also inexcusably fulsome, and, I think profane. Indeed the author himself seems afterwards to have thought so; for when he collected his smaller pieces into volumes, he very judiciously suppressed this and most of his other dedications.
In some part of his life Young certainly went to Ire. land*, and was there acquainted with the eccentrical
* From his seventh satire it appears also, that he.
Dean Swift ; and his biographers seem agreed, that this was, most probably, during his connection with the Duke of Wharton, who went thither in 1717. But he cannot have long remained there, as in 1719, he brought out his first tragedy of Busiris, at Drury Lane, and dedicated it to the Duke of Newcastle. This tragedy had been written some years, though now first performed; for it is to our author's credit, that many of his works were laid by him a considerable time before they were offered to the public. Our great dramatic critic pronounces this piece “ too far “ remov'd from known life" to affect the passions.
His next performance was The Revenge, the dramatic character of which is sufficiently ascertained by its still keeping possession of the stage. The hint of this is supposed to have been taken from Othello; « but the reflections, the incidents, and the diction,
was once abroad, probably about this time, and saw a field of battle covered with the slain; and it is affirm: ed that once, with a classic in his hand, he wandered into the enemy's encampment, and had some difficulty to convince them, that he was only an absent poet and mot a spy.