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« Love, is a little subject to blindness, which makes her mistake her way to
preferments and honours; and that she retains a Jutiful admiration of her “ father's family ; but divides her favours, and generally lives with her “ mother's relations." Pbetry, it is true, did not lead Young to preferments or to honours, but was there not something like blindness in the flattery which he sometimes forced her, and her sister Prosę, to utter? She was always, indeed, taught by him to entertain a most dutiful admiration of riches; but surely Young, though nearly related to Poetry, had no connexion with her whom Plato makes the mother of Love. That he could not well complain of being related to Poverty appears clearly from the frequent bounties which his gratitude records, and from the wealth which he left behind him. By “The Universal Passion” he acquired no vulgar fortune, more than three thousand pounds. A considerable sum had already been swallowed up in the South-Sea : For this loss he took the vengeance of an author. His muse makes poetical use more than once of a South-Sea Dream.
It is related by Mr. Spence, in his Manuscript Anecdotes, on the authority of Mr. Rawlinson, that Young, upon the publication of his “ Universal “ Passion,” received from the Duke of Grafton two thousand pounds; and that, when one of his friends exclaimed, « Two thousand pounds for a
poem !” he said it was the best bargain he ever inade in his life, for the poem was worth four thousand.
This story may be true ; but it seems to have been raised from the two answers of Lord Burghleigh and Sir Philip Sidney in Spencer's Life.
After inscribing his Satires, not perhaps without the hope of preferments and honours, to such names as the Duke of Dorset, Mr. Dodington, Mr. Spencer Compton, Lady Elizabeth Germain, and Sir Robert Walpole, he returns to plain panegyrie. In 1726, he addressed a poem to Sir Robert Walpole, of which the title sufficiently explains the intention. If Young must be acknowledged a ready celebrator, he did not endeavour, or did not choose, to be a lasting one, “ The Instalment” is among the pieces he did not adnit into the number of bis excụseable writings. Yet it contains a couplet which pretends to pant after the power of bestowing iinmortality :
O how I long, enkindied by the theme,
In deep eternity to launch thy name ! The bounty of the former reign seems to have been continued, possibly increased, in this. Whatever it might have been, the poet thought he deserved it; for he was not ashamed to acknowledge what, without his acacknowledgment, would now perhaps never have been known :
My breast, o Walpole, glows with grateful fire,
If the purity of modern patriotism will term Young a pensioner, it must as least be confessed he was a grateful one.
The reign of the new monarch was ushered in by Young with “ Ocean, an Ode.” The hint of it was taken from the royal speech, wich recommended the encrease and encouragement of the seamen; that they might be « invited, rather than compelled by force and violence, to enter into the service of their country;" a plan which humanity must lament that policy has not even yet been able, or willing to carry into execution. Prefixed to the original publication were an “ Ode to the King, Pater Patriæ," and an" Essay on Lyrick Poetry.” It is but justice to confess, that he preserved neither' of them ; and that the ode itself, which in the first edition, and in the last, consists of seventy-three stanzas, in the author's own edition is reduced to forty-nine. Among the omitted passages is a “Wish,” that concluded the poem, which few would have suspected Young of forming; and of which few, after having formed it, would confess something like their shame by suppression.
It stood originally so high in the author's opinion, that he intituled the poem,“ Ocean, an Ode. Concluding with a Wish.” This Wish consists of thirteen stanzas. The first runs thus :
Along the vale
My friend sincere,
My judgment clear,
And gentle business my repose ! The three last stanzas are not more remarkable for just rhymes ; but, altogether, they will make rather a curious page in the life of Young,
And golden dreams,
Have what I have,
And live, not leave,
My hours my own!
My faults unknown !
Then leave one beam
Of honest fame!
Unhurt my urn
Till that great TURN
may I steal
Time cease to glide,
With human pride,
Sunk in the ocean of eternity! It'is whimsical that he, who was soon to bid adieu to rhyme, should fix upon a measure in which rhyme abounds even to satiety. Of this he said, in his “ Essay on Lyrick Poetry," prefixed to the poem--"For the more « harmony likewise I chose the frequent return of rhyme, which laid me « under great difficulties. But difficulties, overcome, give grace and plea
sure. Nor can I account for the pleasure of rhyme in general (of which the “ moderns are too fond) but from this truth." Yet the moderns surely deserve not much censure for their fondness of what, by his own confession, affords pleasure, and abounds in harmony.
The next paragraph in his Essay did not occur to him when he talked of " that great turn” in the stanza just quoted. “But then the writer must “ take care that the difficulty is overcome. That is, he must make rhyme " consistent with as perfect sense and expression, as could be expected if he
was perfectly free from that shackle."
Another part of this Essay will convict the following stanza of, what every reader will discover in it, “ involuntary burlesque."
The northern blast,
The shatter'd mast,
The breaking spout.
The stars gone out
The boiling streight, the monster's shock. But would the English poets fill quite so many volumes, if all their productions were to be tried, like this, by an elaborate essay on each particular species of poetry of which they cxhibit specimens?
If Young be not a lyric poet, he is at least a critic in that sort of poetry; ard, if his lyric poetry can be proved bad, it was first proved so by his own criticism. This surely is candid.
Milbourne was styled by Pope “ the fairest of critics,” only because he exbibited his own version of Virgil to be compared with Dryden's which he condemned, and with which every reader had it otherwise in his power to compare it. Young was surely not the most unfair of poets for prefixing to a lyric composition an essay on Lyric Poetry so just and impartial as to condemn himself.
We shall soon come to a work, before which we find indeed no critical Essay, but which disdains to shrink from the touchstone of the severest critic; and which certainly, as I remember to have heard you say, if it contain some of the worst, contains also some of the best things in the language.
Soon after the appearance of “Ocean," when he was almost fifty, Young entered into Orders. In April 1728, not long after he put on the gown, he was appointed chaplain to George the Second.
The tragedy of “ The Brothers,” which was already in rehearsal, he immediately withdrew from the stage. The managers resigned it with some reluctance to the delicacy of the new clergyman. The Epilogue to « The Brothers,” the only appendages to any of his three plays which he added himself, is, I believe, the only one of the kind. He calls it an historical Epilogue. Finding that “ Guilt's dreadful close his narrow scene denied,” he, in a manner, continues the tragedy in the Epilogue, and relates how Rome revenged the shade of Demetrius, and punished Perseus “ for this night's deed.”
Of Young's taking orders something is told by the biographer of Pope, which places the easiness and simplicity of the poet in a singular light. When he determined on the Church, he did not address himself to Sherlock, to Atterbury, or to Hare, for the best instructions in Theology, but to Pope, who, in a youthful frolick, advised the diligent perusal of Thomas Aquinas. With this treasure Young retired from interruption to an obscure place in the suburbs. His poetical guide to godliness hearing nothing of him during balf a year, and apprehending he might have carried the jest too far, sought after him, and found him just in time to prevent what Ruff head calls “ an “ irretrievable derangement.”
That attachment to his favourite study, which made him think a poet the surest guide in his new profession, left him little doubt whether poetry were the surest path to its honours and preferments: Not long indeed after he took orders, he published in prose, 1728,"A true Estimate of Human Life,” dedicated, notwithstanding the Latin quotations with which it abounds, to the Queen; and a sermon preached before the House of Commons, 1729, on the martyrdom of King Charles, intituled, “ An Apology for Priuces, “ or the Reverence due to Government.” But the “ Second Discourse,” the counterpart of his “ Estimate," without which it cannot be called “a “ true estimate,” though in 1728 it was announced as “ soon to be pub" lished,” never appeared, and his old friends the Muses were not forgotten. In 1730 he relapsed to poetry, and sent into the world “ Imperium
Pelagi: a Naval Lyric, written in imitation of Pindar's Spirit, occasioned “ by his Majesty's Return from Hanover, September, 1929, and the suc“ Ceeding Peace." It is inscribed to the Duke of Chandos. In the Preface we are told, that the Ode is the most spirited kind of Poetry, and that the Piudaric is the most spirited kind of Ode. “ This I speak” he adds, with sufficient candour, " at iny own very great peril. But truth has an eternal “ title to our confession, though we are sure to suffer by it.” Behold, again, “ the fairest of poets. Young's “Imperium Pelagi” was ridiculed in Field“ings Tom Thumb;" but, let us not forget that it was one of his pieces which the author of the “Night Thoughts” deliberately refused to own.
Not long after this Pindaric attempt, he published two Epistles to Pope, “ concerning the Authors of the Age,” 1730. Of these poems one occasion seems to have been an apprehension lest, from the liveliness of his satires, he should not be deemed sufficiently serious for promotion in the Church.
In July 1730 he was presented by his College to the rectory of Welwyn in Hertfordshire. In May 1731, he married Lady Elizabeth Lee, daughter of the Earl of Litchfield, and widow of Colonel Lee. His connexion with this lady arose from his father's acquaintance, already mentioned, with Lady Anne Wharton, who was coheiress of Sir Henry Lee of Ditchley in Oxfordshire. Poetry had lately been taught by Addison to aspire to the arms of nobility, though not with extraordinary happiness.
We may naturally conclude that Young now gave himself up in some measure to the comforts of his new connexion, and to the expectations of that preferment which he thought due to his poetical talents, or, at least, to the manner in which they had so frequently been exerted.
The next production of his Muse was “ The Sea-piece," in two odes.
Young enjoys the credit of what is called an “ Extempore Epigram on “ Voltaire ;" who, when he was in England, ridiculed, in the company of the jealous English poet, “ Milton's allegory of Sin and Death”.
You are so witty, profligate, and thin,
At once we think thee Milton, Death, and Sin. From the following passage in the poetical Dedication of his “ Sea-piece" to Voltaire, it seems that this extemporaneous reproof, if it must be exteinporaneous, for what few will now affirm Voltaire to have deserved any reproof, was something longer than a distich, and something more gentle than the distich just quoted,
No stranger, Sir, though born in foreign climes,
Thy rage provok’d, who sooth'd with genıle rhymes ?
While with your Dodington retir'd you sit,
Charm'd with his flowing Burgundy and wit, &c. Thomson, in his Autumn, addressing Mr. Dodington, calls his seat the seat of the Muses,
Where, in the secret bower and winding walk,