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will in retirement, and in a place which his taste bad adorned, but which he only enjoyed when people of note came to see and commend it; bis correspondence is about nothing else but this place and his own writings, with two or three neighbouring clergymen, who wrote verses too."
His poems consist of elegies, odes, and ballads, humorous sallies, and moral pieces.
His conception of an Elegy he has in his Preface very judiciously and discriminately explained. It is, according to his account, the effusion of a contemplative mind, sometimes plaintive, and always serious, and therefore superior to the glitter of slight ornaments. His compositions suit not ill to this description. His topicks of praise are the domestick virtues, and his thoughts are pure and simple; but, wanting combination, they want variety. The peace of solitude, the innocence of inactivity, and the unenvied security of an humble station, can fill but a few pages. That of which the essence is uniformity will be soon described. His elegies have therefore too much resemblance of each other.
The lines are sometimes, such as Elegy requires, smooth and easy; but to this praise his claim is not constant; his diction is often harsh, improper, and affected ; his words ill-coined, or ill-chosen ; and his phrase unskilfully inverted.
The Lyrick Poems are almost all of the light and airy kind, such as trip lightly and nimbly along, without the load of any weighty meaning. From these, however, “Rural Elegance" has some right to be excepted. I once heard it praised by a very learned lady; and though the lines are irregular, and the
thoughts diffused with too much verbosity, yet it cannot be denied to contain both philosophical argument and poetical spirit.
Of the rest I cannot think any excellent: the “ Skylark” pleases me best, which has however more of the epigram than of the ode.
But the four parts of his “ Pastoral Ballad” demand particular notice. I cannot but regret that it is pastoral; an intelligent reader, acquainted with the scenes of real life, sickens at the mention of the crook, the pipe, the sheep, and the kids, which it is not necessary to bring forward to notice, for the poet's art is selection, and he ought to shew the beauties without the grossness of the country life. His stanza seems to have been chosen in imitation of Rowe's “ Despairing Shepherd.”
In the first part are two passages, to which if any mind denies its sympathy, it has no acquaintance with love or nature :
I priz'd every hour that went by,
Beyond all that had pleas’d me before ;
And I grieve that I priz’d them no more.
When forc'd the fair nymph to forego,
What anguish I felt in my heart !
'Twas with pain that she saw me depart.
She gaz'd, as I slowly withdrew,
My path I could hardly discern;
I thought that she bade me return.
In the second this passage has its prettiness, though it be not equal to the former
I have found out a gift for my fair ;
I have found where the wood-pidgeons breed;
She will say 'twas a barbarous deed :
Who could rob a poor bird of its young;
Such tenderness fall from her tongue.
She will save, plunder forbear Pidgeons breed.
In the third he mentions the common-places of amorous poetry with some address :
'Tis his with mock passion to glow!
'Tis his in smooth tales to unfold,
And her bosom, be sure, is as cold;
With the notes of his charmer to vie;
Repine at her triumphs and die.
In the fourth I find nothing better than this natural strain of Hope ;
Alas! from the day that we met,
What hope of an end to my woes,
The glance that undid my repose?
The flower, and the shrub, and the tree,
In time may have comfort for me.
His “ Levities” are by their title exempted from the severities of criticism ; yet it may be remarked in a few words, that his humour is sometimes gross, and seldom spritely. .
Of the Moral Poems the first is the “ Choice of Hercules,” from Xenophon. The numbers are smooth, the diction elegant, and the thoughts just; but something of vigour is still to be wished, which it might have had by brevity and compression. His “ Fate of Delicacy” has an air of gaiety, but not a very pointed general moral. His blank verses, those that can read them may probably find to be like the blank verses of his neighbours. “Love and Honour” is derived from the old ballad, “ Did you not hear of a Spanish Lady?”—I wish it well enough to wish it were in rhyme.
The “ School-mistress," of which I know not what claim it has to stand among the Moral Works, is surely the most pleasing of Shenstone's performances. The adoption of a particular style, in light and short compositions, contributes much to the increase of pleasure: we are entertained at once with two imitations, of nature in the sentiments, of the original author in the style, and between them the mind is kept in perpetual employment.
The general recommendation of Shenstone is easiness and simplicity ; his general defect is want of comprehension and variety. Had his mind been better stored with knowledge, whether he could have been great, I know not; he could certainly have been agreeable.
The following life was written, at my request, by a gentleman who had better information than I could easily have obtained; and the publick will perhaps wish that I had solicited and obtained more such favours from him.*
“ DEAR SIR, “ In consequence of our different conversations about authentick materials for the Life of Young, I send you the following detail.
“ Of great men, something must always be said to gratify curiosity. Of the illustrious author of the “ Night Thoughts” much has been told of which there never could have been proofs; and little care appears to have been taken to tell that, of which proofs, with little trouble, might have been procured.”
EDWARD YOUNG was born at Upham, near Winchester, in June 1681. He was the son of Edward Young, at that time fellow of Winchester College and rector of Upham ; who was the son of Jo. Young of Woodhay in Berkshire, styled by Wood, gentleman. In September 1682 the Poet's father was collated to the prebend of Gillingham