Page images
PDF
EPUB

EARL OF ROSCOMMON.

BORN 1633-DIED 1684.

In January, 1684, Roscommon decided to remove to Rome, as he foresaw great troubles in the state, giving as his reason for so doing that "it was best to sit near the chimney when the chamber smoked." When about to make his move he was delayed by the gout, and being very impatient, both of the pain and its stoppage of his journey, he called in a French quack. This person dealt with the disease so that he drove it inwards, where it

[Wentworth Dillon, Earl of Roscommon, was born in 1633, and was the eldest son of Sir James Dillon, third Earl of Roscommon. His mother was Elizabeth Wentworth, sister to the Earl of Strafford, then Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, for which reason the poet was christened by the name of Wentworth. When Strafford returned to England he brought young Dillon with him, and placed the youth at his seat in Yorkshire, under the tuition of Dr. Hall, afterwards Bishop of Norwich. The poet soon learned to write Latin with elegance and correctness, though he could never remember a single rule of grammar. On the impeachment of Strafford his nephew was sent to Caen in Normandy, to finish his education under the learned Bochart. From Caen he, after some time, journeyed to Rome, where he busied himself assiduously in the study of antiquities, and in acquiring the Italian language, "which," says one of his biographers, "he spoke with so much grace and fluency that he was frequently mistaken for a native." After the Restoration he returned to Eng-soon became fatal. On the 17th of January land, where he was made captain of the band of pensioners by Charles II. There he indulged in gaming, and fought many duels, but before long he was obliged to go into Ireland, owing to some dispute with the lord privyseal about part of his estate. In Dublin he was looked upon as "certainly the most hopeful young nobleman in Ireland," and soon after his arrival he was appointed captain of the guards. His vice of gaming clung to him, and involved him in many duels and dangerous adventures. One night he was attacked by three ruffians, but defended himself so well that he killed one, a gentleman coming to his help disarmed another, and the third ran away. Roscommon's ally turned out to be a disbanded officer of good family, but in such poor circumstances that he had not clothes fit to appear in at the castle. However, the grateful poet presented him to the Duke of Ormond, and obtained that nobleman's leave to resign his commission in favour of the officer, who at once became captain of the guards, and enjoyed the post till his death. Roscommon returned to London, drawn thither by the pleasures of the court and the many friendships he had made in that city.

Soon after his arrival in England Roscommon was made master of the horse to the Duchess of York, and about the same time married the eldest daughter of the Earl of Burlington. Verses began to flow from his pen, and were highly praised; and he and Dryden, who were close friends, projected a design for "fixing and refining the standard of our language.” Johnson, in his life of Roscommon, expresses little hope of this project ever being of any real use; but anyhow all chance of carrying it out was destroyed by the turbulence of the times.

the poet died, after the fervent utterance of two lines from his own version of "Dies Iræ.”

"My God, my Father, and my Friend,
Do not forsake me in my end."

He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

His

Roscommon wrote little, but that little well, a thing in which he might well be imitated by more than one of our modern poets. His best works are his Essay on Translated Verse and his translation of Horace's Art of Poetry. translation of the "Dies Ira" is vigorous, and many of his smaller pieces, such as his "Ode upon Solitude," are full of grace. Johnson says, "We must allow of Roscommon, what Fenton has not mentioned so distinctly as he ought, and what is yet very much to his honour, that he is perhaps the only correct writer in verse before Addison." Pope says of him in one place :

"To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known, And every author's merit but his own."

In another place he gives him credit for morality in an age when every other poet was immoral:

"Unhappy Dryden! in all Charles's days Roscommon only boasts unspotted lays."

Dryden also says,—

"The Muse's empire is restored again, In Charles's reign and by Roscommon's pen." Fenton says of him that "his imagination might probably have been more fruitful and sprightly if his judgment had been less severe;" a very good reason for the small quantity but superior quality of his work.]

THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.
(TRANSLATION OF "DIES IRE.")

The day of wrath, that dreadful day,
Shall the whole world in ashes lay,
As David and the Sibyls say.

What horror will invade the mind,
When the strict Judge, who would be kind,
Shall have few venial faults to find.

The last loud trumpet's wondrous sound Shall through the rending tombs rebound, And wake the nations underground.

Nature and death shall with surprise
Behold the pale offender rise,
And view the Judge with conscious eyes.

Then shall, with universal dread, The sacred mystic book be read, To try the living and the dead.

The Judge ascends his awful throne, He makes each secret sin be known, And all with shame confess their own.

Oh then! what interest shall I make,
To save my last important stake,
When the most just have cause to quake?

Thou mighty, formidable King, Thou mercy's unexhausted spring, Some comfortable pity bring!

Forget not what my ransom cost, Nor let my dear-bought soul be lost, In storms of guilty terror tost.

Thou, who for me didst feel such pain, Whose precious blood the cross did stain, Let not these agonies be vain.

Thou whom avenging powers obey, Cancel my debt (too great to pay) Before the sad accounting day.

Surrounded with amazing fears,
Whose load my soul with anguish bears,
I sigh, I weep; accept my tears.

Thou, who wert moved with Mary's grief, And, by absolving of the thief,

Hast given me hope, now give relief.

Reject not my unworthy prayer, Preserve me from that dangerous snare, Which Death and gaping Hell prepare.

Give my exalted soul a place Among the chosen right-hand race, The sons of God and heirs of grace.

From that insatiable abyss,
Where flames devour and serpents hiss,
Promote me to thy seat of bliss.

Prostrate my contrite heart I rend, My God, my Father, and my Friend, Do not forsake me in my end.

Well may they curse their second breath,
Who rise to a reviving death;
Thou great Creator of mankind,
Let guilty man compassion find.

ODE UPON SOLITUDE.

Hail, sacred Solitude! from this calm bay
I view the world's tempestuous sea,

And with wise pride despise
All those senseless vanities:
With pity moved for others cast away

On rocks of hopes and fears, I see them toss'd;
On rocks of folly and of vice, I see them lost:
Some, the prevailing malice of the great,
Unhappy men, or adverse fate,

Send deep into the gulfs of an afflicted state.
But more, far more, a numberless prodigious train,
Whilst virtue courts them, but, alas! in vain,
Fly from her kind embracing arms,

Deaf to her fondest call, blind to her greatest

charms,

And, sunk in pleasure and in brutish ease, They in their shipwreck'd state themselves obdurate please.

Hail, sacred Solitude! soul of my soul,
It is by thee I truly live,

Thou dost a better life and nobler vigour give;
Dost each unruly appetite control:

Thy constant quiet fills my peaceful breast
With unmix'd joy, uninterrupted rest.

Presuming love does ne'er invade
This private solitary shade;

And, with fantastic wounds by beauty made,
The joy has no alloy of jealousy, hope, and fear,
The solid comforts of this happy sphere:

Yet I exalted Love admire, Friendship, abhorring sordid gain, And purify'd from Lust's dishonest stain:

Nor is it for my solitude unfit,

For I am with my friend alone,
As if we were but one;

'Tis the polluted love that multiplies,
But friendship does two souls in one comprise.
Here in a full and constant tide doth flow
All blessings men can hope to know;
Here in a deep recess of thought we find
Pleasures which entertain and which exalt the
mind,

And, stopping for a while my breath,
With ease convey me to a better shade.

Or dig in Grecian mines for purer ore? . . .
The first great work (a task perform'd by few)
Is, that yourself may to yourself be true:
Pleasures which do from friendship and from No mask, no tricks, no favour, no reserve;
knowledge rise,

Which make us happy, as they make us wise;
Here may I always on this downy grass
Unknown, unseen, my easy minutes pass:
Till with a gentle force victorious death
My solitude invade,

Dissect your mind, examine every nerve.
Whoever vainly on his strength depends,
Begins like Virgil, but like Mævius ends.
That wretch (in spite of his forgotten rhymes),
Condemned to live to all succeeding times,
With pompous nonsense and a bellowing sound
Sung lofty Ilium trembling to the ground,
And (if my Muse can through past ages see),
That noisy, nauseous, gaping fool was he;
Exploded, when with universal scorn,
The mountain labour'd and a mouse was born.
Each poet with a different talent writes,
One praises, one instructs, another bites.
Horace did ne'er aspire to epic bays,
Nor lofty Maro stoop to lyric lays.
Examine how your humour is inclin'd,
And which the ruling passion of your mind;
Then seek a poet who your way does bend,
And choose an author as you choose a friend.
United by this sympathetic bond,

You grow familiar, intimate, and fond;

Your thoughts, your words, your styles, your souls

agree,

No longer his interpreter, but he . .

Immodest words admit of no defence;
For want of decency is want of sense.

Yet 'tis not all to have a subject good,
It must delight as when 'tis understood.
He that brings fulsome objects to my view
(As many old have done and many new),
With nauseous images my fancy fills,
And all goes down like oxymel of squills.

On sure foundations let your fabric rise,
And with attractive majesty surprise,
Not by affected meretricious arts,
But strict harmonious symmetry of parts;
Which through the whole insensibly must pass,
With vital heat to animate the mass.

IMITATION OF THE TWENTY-SECOND
ODE OF FIRST BOOK OF HORACE.
Virtue (dear friend) needs no defence,
No arms but its own innocence:
Quivers and bows, and poison'd darts,
Are only used by guilty hearts.

An honest mind safely alone
May travel through the burning zone;
Or through the deepest Scythian snows,
Or where the fam'd Hydaspes flows.

While, ruled by a resistless fire,
Our great Orinda I admire.
The hungry wolves, that see me stray,
Unarm'd and single, run away.

Set me in the remotest place
That ever Neptune did embrace;
When there her image fills my breast,
Helicon is not half so blest.

Leave me upon some Libyan plain,
So she my fancy entertain,
And when the thirsty monsters meet
They'll all pay homage to my feet.

The magic of Orinda's name,
Not only can their fierceness tame,
But, if that mighty word I once rehearse,
They seem submissively to war in verse.

ESSAY ON TRANSLATED VERSE.

Happy that author, whose correct essay
Repairs so well our old Horatian way:
And happy you, who (by propitious fate)
On great Apollo's sacred standard wait,

And with strict discipline instructed right,
Have learned to use your arms before you fight.
But since the press, the pulpit, and the stage,
Conspire to censure and expose our age,
Provok'd too far, we resolutely must,
To the few virtues that we have, be just,
For who have longed, or who have laboured more
To search the treasures of the Roman store;

[ocr errors]

Pride (of all others the most dangerous fault)
Proceeds from want of sense or want of thought.
The men who labour and digest things most,
Will be much apter to despond than boast;
For if your author be profoundly good,
'Twill cost you dear before he's understood.
How many ages since has Virgil writ!
How few there are who understand him yet!
. . Words in one language elegantly us'd,
Will hardly in another be excus'd.

And some that Rome admir'd in Cæsar's time,
May neither suit our genius nor our clime.
The genuine sense, intelligibly told,
Shows a translator both discreet and bold.
I pity from my soul, unhappy men,
Compell'd by want to prostitute their pen;
Who must, like lawyers, either starve or plead,
And follow, right or wrong, where guineas lead!
But you, Pompilian, wealthy, pamper'd heirs,
Who to your country owe your swords and cares,
Let no vain hope your easy mind seduce,
For rich ill poets are without excuse.

Of many faults rhyme is perhaps the cause;
Too strict to rhyme we slight more useful laws,
For that, in Greece or Rome, was never known,
Till by barbarian deluges o'erflown:
Subdued, undone, they did at last obey,
And change their own for their invaders' way.
. . . Oh may I live to hail the glorious day,
And sing loud pæans through the crowded way,
When in triumphant state the British Muse,
True to herself, shall barbarous aid refuse,
And in the Roman majesty appear,

Which none know better, and none come so near.

THE HON. ROBERT BOYLE.

BORN 1626 DIED 1691.

[Robert Boyle, "a most distinguished philo- | where he spent his time in reading Italian sopher and chemist, and an exceedingly good history and acquiring the language. After a man," was seventh son of Richard, "the great sight of Rome he and his brother visited Earl of Cork," and brother of Roger Boyle, several other places, and in May, 1642, they Earl of Orrery, of whom we have already reached Marseilles. Here they had letters spoken. He was born at Lismore, in the south from their father, telling of the outbreak of of Ireland, on the 25th January, 1626, and the Irish rebellion, and saying how hard put was early committed to the care of a country to he had been to procure the £250 he sent nurse, with instructions to bring him up as to carry them home. The money never hardy as if he had been her own son. When reached their hands, and they were forced to about three years old he lost his mother, and accompany their tutor to Geneva, where, after shortly after had a narrow escape from being a time, some money was raised on jewels, by drowned. A little later, while in his fourth means of which they continued their journey year, he was sent to Eton, and placed in charge to England. When they arrived in 1644 they of the provost, Sir Henry Wootton, an old found their father dead. friend and intimate acquaintance of his father. At Eton he remained for three or four years, when his father took him to his own house at Stalbridge in Dorsetshire, where he had for tutor the minister of the place. In 1638 he went with his father to London, and at the end of October in the same year he and his brother Francis were sent abroad on their travels under the charge of a Mr. Marcombes. At Geneva, where their tutor had his family, they halted and pursued their studies quietly for a time, and there Robert renewed and made more perfect his acquaintance with mathematics. A writer in the National Encyclopædia says, "At Geneva the occurrence of an awful thunderstorm awakened religious feelings which actuated him greatly in after life."

Towards the end of 1641 he quitted Geneva, and passing through Switzerland visited most of the principal cities and towns in Italy. During the winter he stayed at Florence,

In 1646 Boyle retired to his manor of Stalbridge, left him by his father, and there applied himself with great industry to studies of various kinds, but chiefly to those of chemistry and natural philosophy. About this time, too, he formed one of the little band of men who held weekly meetings for the promotion of philosophy and science under the title of the Philosophical College, which, on the Restoration, burst into full bloom as the Royal Society. In 1652 he went over to Ireland to look after his property, and after a second visit in 1654 he went to live at Oxford, where he stayed chiefly till 1668. At Oxford he found most of the members of the Philosophical College, and while there he invented the air-pump.

After the Restoration he was treated with great respect by the king and those in authority; but he resolutely refused their request that he should enter into holy orders, thinking that he could be of more benefit to religion as a layman. In 1660 he published his New Ex

« EelmineJätka »