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Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence.
The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Upon the strings of this Eolian lute,
Which better far were mute.
But rimmed and circled by a silver thread,)
The coming on of rain and squally blast. And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,
And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!
And sent my soul abroad,
A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief,
In word, or sigh, or tear-
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green:
My genial spirits fail,
And what can these avail
It were a vain endeavour,
Though I should gaze for ever
I may not hope from outward forms to win
O Lady! we receive but what we give,
And would we aught behold, of higher worth,
Ah! from the soul itself must issue forth
Enveloping the Earth-
A sweet and potent voice, of its own birth,
Joy, virtuous Lady! Joy that ne'er was given,
A new Earth and new Heaven
We in ourselves rejoice!
All melodies the echoes of that voice,
There was a time when, though my path was rough,
This joy within me dallied with distress, And all misfortunes were but as the stuff
Whence Fancy made me dreams of happiness :
But oh! each visitation
My shaping spirit of imagination
But to be still and patient, all I can;
From my own nature all the natural man
This was my sole resource, my only plan; Till that which suits a part infects the whole, And now is almost grown the habit of my soul.
Reality's dark dream!
Which long has raved unnoticed. What a scream
Bare craig, or mountain-tairn*, or blasted tree,
Methinks were fitter instruments for thee,
Thou Actor, perfect in all tragic sounds!
What tell'st thou now about?
'Tis of the rushing of a host in rout,
And all that noise, as of a rushing crowd,
A tale of less affright,
And tempered with delight,
'Tis of a little child
Upon a lonesome wild,
And may this storm be but a mountain birth,
With light heart may she rise,
Gay fancy, cheerful eyes,
O simple spirit, guided from above,
Thus mayest thou ever, evermore rejoice. Tairn is a small lake, generally if not always applied to the lakes up in the mountains, and which are the feeders of those in the valleys. This address to the Storm-wind will not appear extravagant to those who have heard it at night, and in a mountainous country,
10.-APOPHTHEGMS.-I. [An Apophthegm is, properly speaking, a pithy saying. An Aphorism is a precept, or rule of practice. Plutarch made a collection of Apopthegms which are for the most part what we call Anecdotes. Lord Bacon's collection of Apophthegms is almost wholly of the same character. In a preface to this collection dur great English philosopher writes as follows:
“Julius Cæsar did write a collection of apophthegms, as appears in an epistle of Cicero : I need say no more for the worth of a writing of that nature. It is pity his work is lost, for I imagine they were collected with judgment and choice; whereas that of Plutarch and Stobæus, and much more the modern ones, draw much of the dregs. Certainly they are of excellent use. They are mucrones verborum, pointed speeches. Cicero prettily calls them salinas, salt pits, that you may extract salt out of and sprinkle it where you will. They serve to be interlaced in continued speech. They serve to be recited, upon occasions, of themselves. They serve, if you take out the kernel of them and make them your own. I have, for my recreation in my sickness, fanned the old, not omitting any because they are vulgar [common), for many vulgar ones are excellent good; nor for the meanness of the person, but because they are dull and flat, and adding many new, that otherwise would have died.”
We shall devote a few “Half-hours' to this amusing branch of literature, selecting, without chronological order from many books :-)
DESIRE OF KNOWLEDGE.-Dr. Johnson and I [Boswell] took a sculler at the Temple Stairs, and set out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential requisite to a good education. Johnson. "Most certainly, sir ; for those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it.” “And yet," said I, “people go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning." Johnson. Why, sir, that may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use ; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.” He then called to the boy, "What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts ?” “Sir,” said the boy, “I would give what I have.” Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me, “Sir,” said he, “ a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has, to get knowledge."--BOSWELL. Life of Johnson.
DECAYED GENTRY.—It happened in the reign of King James, when Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, was Lieutenant of Leicestershire, that a labourer's son of that country was pressed into the wars ; as I take it to go over with Count Mansfeldt. The old man at Leicester requested his son might be discharged, as being the only staff of his age, who by his industry maintained him and his mother. The earl demanded his name, which the man for a long time was loth to tell (as suspecting it a fault for so poor a man to confess the truth), at last he told his name was Hastings. “Cousin Hastings,” said the earl, "we cannot all be top branches of the tree, though we all spring from the same root; your son, my kinsman, shall not be pressed !” So good was the meeting of modesty in a poor, with courtesy in an honourable person, and gentry I believe in both. And I have reason to believe, that some who justly hold the surnames and blood of Bohuns, Mortimers, and Plantagenets (though ignorant of their own extractions), are hid in the heap of common people, where they find that under a thatched cottage, which some of their ancestors could not enjoy in a leaded castle-contentment, with quiet and security.-FULLER. Worthies.— Art. of ShireReeves or Shiriffes.
GOLDSMITH. Colonel O'Moore, of Cloghan Castle in Ireland, told me an amusing instance of the mingled vanity and simplicity of Goldsmith, which (though, perhaps, coloured a little, as anecdotes too often are) is characteristic at least of the opinion which his best friends entertained of Goldsmith. One afternoon, as Colonel O'Moore and Mr. Burke were going to dine with Sir Joshua Reynolds, they observed Goldsmith (also on his way to Sir Joshua's) standing near a crowd of people, who were staring and shouting at some foreign women in the windows of one of the houses in Leicester Square. “Observe Goldsmith,” said Mr. Burke to O'Moore, “and mark what passes between him and me by and by at Sir Joshua's.” They passed on, and arrived before Goldsmith, who came soon after, and Mr. Burke affected to receive him very coolly. This seemed to vex poor Goldsmith, who begged Mr. Burke would tell him how he had the misfortune to offend him. Burke appeared very reluctant to speak; but, after a good deal of pressing, said “that he was really ashamed to keep up an intimacy with one who could be guilty of such monstrous indiscretions as Goldsmith had just exhibited in the square.” Goldsmith, with great earnestness, protested he was unconscious of what was meant. “Why,” said Burke, "did you not exclaim, as you were looking up at those women, What stupid beasts the crowd must be for staring with such admiration at those painted Jezebels ; while a man of your talents passed by unnoticed ?” Goldsmith was horror-struck, and said, “Surely, surely, my dear friend, I did not say so ?” Nay,” replied Burke, “if you had not said so, how should I have known it ?” “That's true," answered Goldsmith, with great humility: “I am very sorry—it was very foolish : I do recollect that something of the kind passed through my mind, but I did not think I had uttered it.”- Notes in Croker's edition of Boswell & Johnson.
ILLUSTRIOUS PRISONERS.—Queen Elizabeth, the morrow of her coronation, went to the chapel ; and in the great chamber, Sir John Rainsforth, set on by wiser men (a knight that had the liberty of a buffoon), besought the queen aloud—“That now this good time, when prisoners were delivered, four prisoners, amongst the rest, mought likewise have their liberty who were like enough to be kept still in hold.” The queen asked, “who they were ?” and he said “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who had long been imprisoned in the Latin tongue, and now he desired they mought go abroad among the people in English.” The queen answered, with a grave countenance, “ It were good, Rainsforth, they were spoken with themselves, to know of them whether they would be set at liberty ?"-Bacon.
CANNING AND THE AMBASSADOR.—What dull coxcombs your diplomatists at home generally are ! I remember dining at Mr. Frere’s once in company with Canning and a few other interesting men. Just before dinner Lord called on Frere, and asked himself to dinner. From the moment of his entry he began to talk to the whole party, and in French-all of us being genuine English—and I was told his French was execrable. He had followed the Russian army into France, and seen a good deal of the great men concerned in the war ; of none of those things did he say a word, but went on, sometimes in English and sometimes in French, gabbling about cookery and dress, and the like. At last he paused for a little—and I said a few words, remarking how a great image may be reduced to the ridiculous and contemptible by bringing the constituent parts into prominent detail, and mentioned the grandeur of the deluge and the preservation of life in Genesis and the Paradise Lost, and the ludicrous effect produced by Drayton's description in his Noah's Flood :
“And now the beasts are walking from the wood,
And to the Ark brings on the fair-eyed cow," &c.