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His heavenly Father; that he is diligently to cultivate the talents with which God has entrusted him, and assiduously to employ them in doing justice and shewing mercy, while he guards against the assaults of any internal enemy. In short, he is to demean himself, in all the common affairs of life, like an accountable creature, who, in correspondence with the Scripture character of Christians, is “ waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Often, therefore, he questions himself, “Am I employing my time, my fortune, my bodily and mental powers, so as to be able to 'render up my account with joy, and not with grief ?? Am I adorning the doctrine of God my Saviour in all things ;' and proving that the servants of Christ, animated by a principle of filial affection, which renders their work a service of perfect freedom, are capable of as active and as persevering exertions, as the votaries of fame, or the slaves of ambition, or the drudges of avarice ?"
In the eighteenth century, some valuable additions were made to our stores of sacred minstrelsy, by authors who, in the stricter sense of the word, were scarcely Christian poets. Perhaps it is for this reason that Mr Montgomery, in his “ Christian Poet," has given no specimen of Prior; but we think it would be almost as unfair to ignore his “ Solomon,” as to deprive our readers of Pope's “Messiah.” Like an airy upland in the midst of an unwholesome jungle, such a production is a welcome retreat from the frivolity and ribaldry in the midst of which it occurs; nor should it lessen the value of the work that most of its thoughts and images are borrowed from Ecclesiastes and the Canticles. The form of a soliloquy, into which the author has thrown the poem, makes the three books rather tedious; but the reader's perseverance is often rewarded by passages vigorously emphasised or finely pointed, and the flattest intervals, with their melodious verse and happy diction, convey a certain pleasure, even in the midst of the prevailing monotony.
MATTHEW PRIOR was born July, 21, 1664, and died at Wimple, near Cambridge, then the seat of Lord Oxford, September 18, 1721.
Forced by reflective reason, I confess
That human science is uncertain guess.
Alas! we grasp at clouds, and beat the air,
Vexing that spirit we intend to clear.
Can thought beyond the bounds of matter climb ?
Or who shall tell me what is space or time?
In vain we lift up our presumptuous eyes
To what our Maker to their ken denies :
The searcher follows fast; the object faster flies.
The little which imperfectly we find,
Seduces only the bewilder'd mind
To fruitless search of something yet behind.
Various discussions tear our heated brain :
Opinions often turn ; still doubts remain ;
And who indulges thought increases pain.
How narrow limits were to Wisdom given !
Earth she surveys ; she thence would measure Heaven :
Through mists obscure now wings her tedious way;
Now wanders dazzled with too bright a day;
And from the summit of a pathless coast,
Sees infinite, and in that sight is lost.
Remember that the cursed desire to know,
Offspring of Adam ! was thy source of woe.
Why wilt thou then renew the vain pursuit,
And rashly catch at the forbidden fruit ?
With empty labour and eluded strife
Seeking, by knowledge, to attain to life :
For ever from that fatal tree debarr’d,
Which flaming swords and angry cherubs guard.
The power of wealth I tried,
And all the various luxe of costly pride.
Artists and plans relieved my solemn hours ;
I founded palaces, and planted bowers.
Birds, fishes, beasts of each exotic kind,
I to the limits of my court confined.
To trees transferr'd I gave a second birth,
And bid a foreign shade grace Judah’s earth ;
Fish-ponds were made where former forests grew,
And hills were leveli'd to extend the view.
Rivers diverted from their native course,
And bound with chains of artificial force,
From large cascades in pleasing tumult rollid,
Or rose through figured stones, or breathing gold.
From furthest Africa's tormented womb
The marble brought, erects the spacious dome ;
Or forms the pillars' long extended rows,
On which the planted grove, and pensile garden grows.
The workmen here obey'd the master's call,
To gild the turret, and to paint the wall;
To mark the pavement there with various stone,
And on the jasper-steps to rear the throne :
The spreading cedar that an age had stood,
Supreme of trees, and mistress of the wood,
Cut down and carved, my shining roof adorns,
And Lebanon his ruin'd honour mourns.
A thousand artists shew their cunning power,
To raise the wonders of the ivory tower.
A thousand maidens ply the purple loom,
To weave the bed, and deck the regal room ;
Till Tyre confesses her exhausted store,
That on her coast the murex is no more ;
Till from the Parian isle, and Libya's coast,
The mountains grieve their hopes of marble lost ;
And India's woods return their just complaint,
Their brood decay'd, and want of elephant.
My full design with vast expense achieved,
I came, beheld, admired, reflected, grieved ;
I chid the folly of my thoughtless haste,
For, the work perfected, the joy was past.
Satirist, philosopher, and critic, the translator of Homer and the imitator of Horace, there was nothing which the bard of Twickenham deemed beyond his powers, and of all which he attempted nothing proved an absolute failure. Even the lyre of David and Isaiah he ventured to handle, and to his touch the chords were musical. In reading verses like the following, we forget the conceited correspondent of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, and we wish to forget the irascible career and perpetual embroilment of the author of "The Dunciad.”
Like “ The Dying Christian,” the “ Messiah” was written early in life, and first saw the light in the pages of “The Spectator."
POPE was born in Lombard Street, London, May 22, 1688, and on the 30th of the same month of May 1744, he died at Twickenham,
Ye nymphs of Solyma! begin the song :
To beavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and th’ Aonian maids,
Delight no more-0 Thou my voice inspire
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire !
Rapt into future times, the bard begun :
A virgin shall conceive, a virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse's root behold a Branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies :
Th’ ethereal spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye heavens ! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly shower !
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storm a shelter, and from licat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient frauds shall fail ;
Returning Justice lift aloft hier scale ;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise th' expected morn!
Oh spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring:
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance :
See spicy clouds from lowly Sharon rise,
And Carmel's flowery top perfume the skies !
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers ;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears !