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LINES TO THE KING.
PRESENTED TO THE LORD KEEPER.
RIGHT HON. SIR JOHN SOMERS, LORD KEEPER OF THE GREAT SEAL. 1
IF yet your thoughts are loose from state affairs,
* To the Right Honorable, &c., Sir John Somers :-Somers, equally eminent as a constitutional lawyer, a statesman, and a patron of letters, was born at Worcester in 1652. He studied at Oxford, soon distinguished himself at the bar, made his first appearance in political life as an opponent of the policy of Charles II., established his legal reputation by his five minutes' plea in defence of the seven bishops, sat for Worcester in the convention of parliament, was one of the managers for the Commons in the conference with the lords on the word abdicate, was knighted and made Solicitorgeneral in 1689, Attorney-general in 1692, Lord Keeper in 1693, and Lord High Chancellor in 1695, and Peer, by the title of Lord Somers, Baron Evesham. After William's death, he retired from public life to letters, which he had always loved, and, in this capacity, was chosen President of the Royal Society. In 1706 he drew up a plan of union for England and Scotland, and was appointed one of the Commissioners for carrying it into effect.
In 1708 he returned to public life as President of the Council, was dismissed in 1710, and died in 1716 of an apoplectic fit, at the age of 64. As a patron of letters, his name is closely associated with that of Addison, like whom he contributed to call attention to the neglected beauties of the Paradise Lost. He translated some of Ovid's epistles, Plutarch’s Alcibiades, and wrote several tracts, one of which, called “The judgment of whole kingdoms and nations concerning the rights, powers, and prerogatives of kings, and the rights, privileges, and properties of the people,
á This short address to his patron, is polite and proper, but, like the poem, which it introduces, very prosaic.
A muse that in advent'rous numbers sings
To you, my lord, these daring thoughts belong,
you the hero of my verse reveals
shewing,” &c., &c., was reprinted during the discussions which preceded our own revolution, with the following date:
Newport, Rhode Island : reprinted and sold by Solomon Southwick, in Queen-street, 1774.
Somers left also a large collection of scarce tracts, from which a selection was published, in 14 vols., and in 1809–1812, a new edition, in 12 vols. 4to. edited by Sir Walter Scott.
It is to him that Swift, in a letter to Bolingbroke, attributes “the regularity of an alderman or a gentleman usher;” and Evelyn says of him, in the 3d vol. of his memoirs, “It is certain that this chancellor was a most excellent lawyer, very learned in all polite literature, a superior pen, master of a handsome style, and of easy conversation : but he is said to make too much haste to be rich, as his predecessor, and most in place in this age did, to a more prodigious excess than was ever known.”
Addison, who was not yet known to Somers, was invited to wait upon him; and thus his second verses, like the first, opened the way to an important political as well as literary acquaintance.-G.]
a Lesser muse. Little has two comparatives, less and lesser. Use leaves us at libery to employ either. The sound will direct us when to prefer the one to the other." As here, a lesser muse, is clearly better than
01 you, my lord, with anxious fear I wait,
TO THE KING,1
WHEN now the business of the field is o'er,
Others, in bold prophetick numbers skill'd,
1 This poem was addressed to William on his return from the campaign of 1695 in Flanders, against the French army under Villeroy. The great event of the campaign was the taking of Namur on the 4th of August.-G.
a less muse. But, in general, it may be a good rule “to join less with a singular noun, and lesser with a plural:”-as, when we say, a less difficulty, and, lesser difficulties. The reason is, that few singular nouns terminate in s, and most plural nouns do.
Worser, the second comparative of bad, has not the same authority to plead, as lesser, and is not, I think, of equal use.-Our grammarians do not enough attend to the influence, which the ear has in modelling a language.
She saw the Boyne ' run thick with human gore,
O that some muse, renown'd for lofty verse,
A thousand years in full succession ran,
Troy long had found the Grecians bold and fierce,
She saw the Boyne. The usual poetic exaggeration. This battle, which on the 11th July, 1690, decided the fate of James II., cost him little more than 1500 men, William was slightly wounded.-G.
He should have said heats, as he does say in the Campaign, The midnight watches and the noon-day heats.
Engag'd in tented fields, and rolling floods,
And here, perhaps, by fate's unerring doom,
The race of Nassaus was by heav'n design'd
* And here Seneffe shall wear another name.
Battle of Seneft in Flanders, Aug 11, 1674. The last battle of the great Condé-who fought three divisions of the enemy in succession. The last combat lasted till midnight, and between both armies 25,000 men were killed without a decisive victory on either side. Condé was severely criticized for sacrificing so many men, and the lover of rhetorical artifice will admire the skill with which Bossuet in his celebrated funeral oration, escapes the perilous point of his subject, by connecting his mention of Seneff with a personal anecdote of the Prince and his son.-G.
a The guiltless bullet, &c. Delicately, and, at the same time, nobly expressed. Our great preacher, Tillotson, was not so happy when he spoke of the king's shoulder as being kindly kissed by this bullet.