The library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) online

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Discretion's deed, sound Judgment's sen-
And teach me all things but repentance.


["We hear of 'Single-speech Hamilton.' We have
now to say something of ' Single-poem Smart ' the au-
hor of one of the grandest bursts of devotional and
>oetical feeling in the English language the 'Song to
)avid.' This poor unfortunate was born at Shipbourne,
ent, in 1722. His father was steward to Lord Barnard,
who after hia-death continued his patronage to the son,
who was then eleven years of age. The Duchess of
Cleveland, through Lord Barnard's influence, bestowed
on Christopher an allowance of 40 a year. With this
he went to Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, in 1739; was in
1745 elected a Fellow of Pembroke, and in 1747 took hU
degree of M. A. At college, Smart began to display
that reckless dissipation which led afterwards to such
melancholy consequences. He studied hard, however,
at intervals ; wrote poetry both in Latin and English ;
produced a comedy called a ' Trip to Cambridge ; or, The
Grateful Fair,' which was acted in the hall of Pembroke
College ; and, in spite of his vices and follies, was popu-
lar on account of his agreeable manners and amiable
dispositions. Having become acquainted with Nevvber-
ry, the benevolent, red-nosed bookseller, commemorated
in ' The Vicar of Wakefield,' for whom he wrote some
trifles he married his step-daughter, Miss Carnan, in
the year 1753. He now removed to London, and be-
came an author by trade. He wrote a clever satire, en-
titled 'The Hilliad,' against Sir John Hill, who had
attacked him in an underhand manner. He translated
the fables of Phaedrus into verse, Horace into prose
('Smart's Horace'' used to be a great favourite, under
the rose, with school boys) : made an indifferent version
of the Psalms and Paraphrases, and a good one, at a
former period, of Pope's ' Ode on St. Cecelia's Day,' with
wnich that poet professed himself highly pleased. He
was employed on a monthly publication called 'The
Universal Visitor.' We find Johnson giving the follow-
ing account of this master in Boswell's Life: Old
Gardner, the bookseller, employed Eolt and Smart to
write a monthly miscellany, called 'The Universal Visi-
tor.* There was a formal written contract. They were



bound to write nothing else, they were to have, I
think, a third of the profits of the sixpenny pamphlet,
and the contract was for ninety-nine years. I wrote for
some months in ' The Universal Visitor' for poor Smart,
while he was mad, not then knowing the terms on
which he was engaged to write, and thinking I was do-
ing him good. I hoped his wits would soon return to
him. Mine returned to me, and I wrote in the 'Uni-
versal Visitor' no longer.

" Smart at last was called to pay the penalty of his
blended labour and dissipation. In 1763 he was shut up
in a mad-house. His derangement had exhibited itself
in a religious way : he insisted upon people kneeling
down with him in the street and praying. During his
confinement, writing materials were denied him, and
he used to write his poetical pieces with a key on the
wainscot. Thus ' scrabbling,' like his own hero, on the
wall, he produced his immortal 'Song to David.' He
became by and by sane ; but, returning to his old ha-
bits, got into debt, and died in the King's Bench prison,
after a short illness, in 1770.

" The ' Song to David ' has been well called one of
the greatest curiosities of literature. It ranks in this
point with the tragedies written by Lee, and the ser-
mons and prayers uttered by Hall in a similar melan-
choly state of mind. In these cases, as well as in Smart's,
the thin partition between genius and madness wag
broken down in thunder, the thunder of a higher
poetry than perhaps they were capable of even conceiv-
ing in their saner moments. Lee produced in that
state which was, indeed, nearly his normal one some
glorious extravagancies. Hall's sermons, monologized
and overheard in the madhouse, are said to have tran-
scended all that he preached in his healthier moods.
And, assuredly, the other poems by Smart scarcely fur-
nish a point of comparison with the towering and sus-
tained loftiness of some parts of the ' Song to David.'
Nor is it loftiness alone, although the last three stan-
zas are absolute inspiration, and you see the waters of
Castalia tossed by a heavenly wind to the very summit
of Parnassus, but there are innumerable exquisite
beauties and subtleties dropt as if by the hand of rich
haste, in every corner of the poem. Witness his de-
scription of David's muse as a

' Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
The Abishag of his age.'

The account of David's object

Tor further knowledge, silence vice,
And plant perpetual paradise,
When God had calmed the world.'

Of David's Sabbath

' 'Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,
To bless and bear the rest.'

One of David's themes

' The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,
And wisdom hides her skill.'

And, not to multiply instances to repletion, this stanza
about gems

' Of gems their virtue and their price,
Which, hid in earth from man's device,

Their darts of lustre sheath ;
The jasper of the master's stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,
Among the mines beneath.'

"Incoherence and extravagance we find here and
there ; but it is not the flutter of weakness, it is the
fury of power : from the very stumble of the rushing
steed, sparks are kindled. And, even as Baretti, when
he read ' The Rambler ' in Italy, thought within him-
self, If such are the lighter productions of the English
mind, what must be the grander and sterner efforts of
its genius ? and formed, consequently, a strong desire
to visit that country ; so might he have reasoned, If
such poems as ' David ' issue from England's very mad-
houses, what must be the writings of its saner and
nobler poetic souls? And thus might he from the pa-
rallax of a Smart, have been able to rise toward the
ideal altitude of a Shakspeare or a Milton. Indeed,
there are portions of the ' Song to David,' which a Mil-
ton or a Shakspeare has never surpassed. The blaze of
the meteor often eclipses the light of

' The loftiest star of unascended heaven,
Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.' "]


Oh thou that sit'st upon a throne
With harp of high majestic tone,

To praise the King of Kings :
And voice of heaven-ascending swell
Which, while its deeper notes excel,

Clear as a clarion rings.

Sweet is the dew that falls betimes,
And drops upon the leafy limes ;

Sweet Hermon's fragrant air :
Sweet is the lily's silver bell,
And sweet the wakeful tapers smell

That watch for early prayer.

Sweet the young nurse, with love intense,
Which smiles o'er sleeping innocence;

Sweet when the lost arrive :
Sweet the musician's ardour beats.
While the vague mind's in quest of svtets,

The choicest flowers to hive.

Sweeter, in all the strains of leva,
The language of thy turtle-dove,



Pair'd to thy swelling chord ;
Sweeter, with every grace endued,
The glory of thy gratitude,

Respired unto the Lord.

Strong is the horse upon his speed ;
Strong in pursuit the rapid glede,

Which makes at once his game :
Strong the tall ostrich on the ground ;
Strong through the turbulent profound

Shoots Xiphias to his aim.

Strong is the lion like a coal
His eye-ball like a bastion's mole

His chest against his foes :
Strong the gier-eagle on his sail,
Strong against tide the enormous whale

Emerges as he goes.

But stronger still in earth and air,
And in the sea, the man of prayer,

And far beneath the tide :
And in the seat to faith assign' d,
Where ask is have, where seek is find,

Where knock is open wide.

Beauteous the fleet before the gale ;
Beauteous the multitudes in mail,

Rank'd arms, and crested heads;
Beauteous the garden's umbrage mild,
Walk, water, meditated wild,

And all the bloomy beds.

Beauteous the moon full on the lawn,
And beauteous when the veil's withdrawn,

The virgin to her spouse :
Beauteous the temple, deck'd and fill'd,
When to the heaven of heavens they build

Their heart-directed vows.

Glorious the sun in mid career ;
Glorious th' assembled fires appear ;

Glorious the comet's train :
Glorious the trumpet and alarm ;
Glorious the Almighty's stretch' d-out arm.

Glorious the enraptured main :

Glorious the northern light' s astream ;
Glorious the song, when God's the theme;

Glorious the thunder's roar:
Glorious hosannah from the den ;
Glorious the catholic amen ;

Glorious the martyr's gore.;

Glorious more glorious is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down,

By meekness call'd thy Son ;
Thou that stupendous truth believed,
And now the matchless deed's achievaJ,

Determined, dared, and done.



[GULIAN C. VERPLANCK, LL.D. Born New York, 1786.
Died there in 1870. He was a lawyer and elegant
scholar, served in Congress from 1825 to 1833, and pub-
lished " Discourses and Addresses," 1833, besides several
minor volumes, and numerous contributions to periodi-
cals. He edited an edition of Shakespeare in three

The study of the history of most other na-
tions fills the mind with sentiments not
unlike those which the American traveller
feels on entering the venerable and lofty
cathedral of some proud old city of Europe.
Its solemn grandeur, its vastness, its obscu-
rity strike awe to his heart. From the
richly painted windows, filled with sacred
emblems, and strange antique forms, a dim
religious light falls around. A thousand
recollections of romance and poetry, and
legendary story, come thronging in upon
him. He is surrounded by the tombs of the
mighty dead, rich with the labors of ancient
art, and emblazoned with the pomp of

What names does he read upon them ?
Those of princes and nobles who are now
remembered only for their vices ; and of
sovereigns, at whose death no tears were
shed, and whose memories lived not an hour
in the affections of their people. There, too,
he sees other names, long familiar to him
for their guilty or ambiguous fame. There
rest the blood-stained soldier of fortune
the orator, who was ever the ready apologist
of tyranny great scholars, who were the
pensioned flatterers of power and poets,
who profaned the high gift of genius to
pamper the vices of a corrupted court.

Our own history, on the contrary, like
that poetical temple of fame reared by the
imagination of Chaucer, and decorated by
the taste of Pope, is almost exclusively
dedicated to the memory of the truly great.
Or, rather, like the Pantheon of Rome, it



tands in calm and severe beauty, amid the
ruins of ancient magnificence and " the toys
of modern state." Within, no idle ornament
encumbers its bold simplicity. The pure
light of heaven enters from above, and
sheds an equal and serene radiance around.
As the eye wanders about its extent it be-
holds the unadorned monuments of brave
and good men, who have bled or toiled for
their country, or it rests on votive tablets
inscribed with the names of the best bene-
factors of mankind.

Hie manus, ob patriam pugnando, volnera passi,
Quique sacerdotes casti, dum vita manebat,
Quique pii vates, et Phoebo digna locuti,
Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per arteS,
Quique sui memores, alios fecere merendo.*

Doubtless this is a subject upon which
we may be justly proud. But there is an-
other consideration, which, if it did not
naturally arise of itself, would be pressed
upon us by the taunts of European criti-

What has this nation done to repay the
world for the benefits we have received from
others ? We have been repeatedly told, and
sometimes, too, in a tone of affected impar-
tiality, that the highest praise which can
fairly be given to the American mind, is
that of possessing an enlightened selfishness ;
that if the philosophy and talents of
this country, with all their effects, were for-
ever swept into oblivion, the loss would be
felt only by ourselves ; and that if to the
accuracy of this general charge the labors
of Franklin present an illustrious, it is still
but a solitary exception.

The answer may be given, confidently
and triumphantly. Without abandoning
the fame of our eminent men, whom Eu-
rope has been slow and reluctant to honor,
we would reply that the intellectual power
of this people has exerted itself in conform-
ity to the general system of our institutions
and manners ; and, therefore, that, for the
proof of its existence and the measure of
its force, we must look not so much to the
works of prominent individuals as to the
great aggregate results ; and if Europe has

* Patriots are here, in Freedom's battle slain,
Priests, whose long lives were closed without a stain,
Bards, worthy him who breathed the poet's mind,
Founders of arts that dignify mankind,
And lovers of our race, whose labors gave
Their names a memory that defies the grave.

VIRGIL From the MS. of Bryant.

hitherto been wilfully blind to the value of
our example and the exploits of our
sagacity, courage, invention, and freedom,
the blame must rest with her, and not with

Is it nothing for the universal good of
mankind to have carried into successful
operation a system of self-government,
uniting personal liberty, freedom of opinion,
and equality of rights, with national power
and dignity ; such as had before existed
only in the Utopian dreams of philosophers?
Is it nothing, in moral science, to have an-
ticipated, in sober reality, numerous plans
of reform in civil and criminal jurispru-
dence, which are but now received as plau-
sible theories by the politicians and econo-
mists of Europe? Is it nothing to have
been able to call forth on every emergency,
either in war or peace, a body of talents
always equal to the difficulty ? Is it nothing
to have, in less than a-half century, exceed-
ingly improved the sciences of political
economy, of law, and of medicine, with all
their auxiliary branches ; to have enriched
human knowledge by the accumulation of
a great mass of useful facts and observa-
tions, and to have augmented the power and
the comforts of civilized man, by miracles of
mechanical invention? Is it nothing to
have given the world examples of disinter-
ested patriotism, of political wisdom, of
public virtue ; of learning, eloquence, and
valor, never exerted save for some praise-
worthy end ? It is sufficient to have briefly
suggested these considerations ; every mind
would anticipate me in filling up the details.

No Land of Liberty ! thy children have
no cause to blush for thee. What though
the arts have reared few monuments among
us, and scarce a trace of the Muse's foot?
step is found in the paths of our forests, or
along the banks of our rivers ; yet our soil
has been consecrated by the blood of heroes,
and by great and holy deeds of peace. Its
wide extent has become one vast temple and
hallowed asylum, sanctified by the prayers
and blessings of the persecuted of every
sect, and the wretched of all nations.

Land of Refuge Land of Benedictions !
Those prayers still arise, and they still are
heard : " May peace be within thy walls,
and plenteousness within thy palaces!"
" May there be no decay, no leading into
captivity, and no complaining in thy
streets 1" " May truth flourish out of the
earth, and righteousness look down from
Heaven !"




ARTINEZ DE LA KOSA, one of the most
thanning modern poets of Spain, born at Granada in
1789. His early life was spent in opposing the French
invasion of his country, and in 1812 he composed his
tragedy of La Viuda de Pudillt. He was a member of
the Spanish Cortez in 1820, and of the Cabinet in 1822,
and has written a great variety of lyric, dramatic and
historical works.]

Come to my bidding, gentle damsels fair,

That haunt the banks of Douro and Genii !
Come, crowned with roses in your fragrant


More fresh and pure than April balms
distil !

With long, dark locks adown your shoulders

straying ;
With eyes of fire, and lips of honeyed

power :

Uncinctured robes, the bosom bare displaying,
Let songs of love escort me to the bower.

With lore resounds the murmur of the

stream ;
With love the nightingale awakes the

grove ;
O'er wood and mountain love inspires the


And Earth and Heaven repeat the strain of

Even there, where, 'midst the Alcazar's Moor-
ish pride,

Three centuries of ruin sleep profound,
From marble walls, with gold diversified,

The sullen echoes murmur love around.

Where are its glories now ? the pomps, the


The triumph, the emprise of proud display,
The song, the dance, the feast, the deeds of


The gardens, baths, and fountains, where
are they ?

Round jasper columns thorns and ivy creep ;
Where roses blossomed, brambles now o'er-

spread :

The mournful ruins bid the spirit weep ;
The broken fragments stay the passing

Ye nymphs of Douro ! to my words give heed ;

Behold how transient pride and glory prove.
Then, while the headlong moments urge their

Taste happiness, and try the joys of love.


[JEAN BAPTISTE Louis GBESSET, an elegant Frencn
poet, born at Amiens in 1709, died in 1777. His princi-
pal poem, " Ver- Vert," containing the humorous adven-
tures of a parrot, has been translated into many lan-
guages. We cite the following extiacU.J

The public soon began to ferret
The hidden nest of so much merit,
And, spite of all the nuns' endeavours,
The fame of Ver-Vert filled all Nevers ;
Nay, from Moulines folks eame to stare at
The wondrous talent of this parrot ;
And to fresh visitors, ad libitum,
Sister Sophie had to exhibit him.
Dressed in her tidiest robes, the virgin,
Forth from the convent cells emerging,
Brings the bright bird, and for his plumage
First challenges unstinted homage ;
Then to his eloquence adverts,
" What preacher's can surpass Ver-Vert's ? "
Truly, in oratory, few men
Equal this learned catechumen,
Fraught with the convent's choicest lessons,
And stuffed with piety's quintessence ;
A bird most quick of apprehension,
With gifts and graces hard to mention ;
Say, in what pulpit can you meet
A Chrysostom half so discreet,
Who 'd follow, in his ghostly mission,
So close the fathers and tradition? "
Silent, meantime, the feathered hermit
Waits for the sister's gracious permit,
When, at a signal from his Mentor,
Quick on a course of speech he '11 enter :
Not that he cares for human glory,
Bent but to save his auditory ;
Hence he pours forth with so much unction,
That all his hearers feel compunction.

Thus for a time did Ver-Vert dwell
Safe in his holy citadel ;
Scholared like any well-bred abbe*
And loved by many a cloistered Hebe :
You 'd swear that he had crossed the same


As any youth brought up in Cambridge.
Other monks starve themselves ; but his skin
Was sleek, like that of a Franciscan,
And far more clean ; for this grave Solon
Bathed every day in eau de Cologne.
Thus he indulged each guiltless gambol,
Blessed had he ne'er been doomed to ramble I

The prodigal, reclaimed and free,
Became again a prodigy,
And gave more joy, by works and words,
Than ninety-nine Canary-birds,



Until his death ; which last disaster
(Nothing on earth endures !) came faster
Than they imagined. The transition
From a starved to a stuffed condition,
From penitence to jollification,
Brought on a fit of constipation.
Some think he would be living still,
If given a vegetable pill ;
But from a short life, and a merry,
Poll sailed one day per Charon's ferry.

By tears from nuns' sweet eyelids wept
Happy in death this parrot slept ;
For him Elysium oped its portals,
And there he talks among immortals.
But I have read, that, since that happy day
(So writes Cornelius a Lapide,
Proving, with commentary droll,
The transmigration of the soul),
Still Ver-Vert this earth doth haunt,
Of convent bowers a visitant ;
And that gay novices among
He dwells, transformed into a tongue !


From the harbor, richly laden,
Sailed the gallant ship ;
'T was a precious freight she carried :
Father, mother, youth, and maiden,
Wife and husband newly married,
Watch her cable slip.

And upon her deck they tarried,
While the land they left was fading,
Some their eager eyes are shading

From the morning sun ;

As away they glide,
How the waters heave and glitter !

And how many a one,
Leaning o'er the vessel's side,
Seems to watch, but droppeth bitter

Tears into the tide !

What though, at the consummation,

We shall know our sad emotion,
To the joy of all creation,

Was a teardrop to an ocean?
Ere midnight the wind had shifted,

Rising to a gale.
Backward on her course she drifted,

Heeding not her helm ;
Now on giant waves uplifted,

Threat' ning to o'erwhelm;

Now adown a vale
Of dark angry waters driven ;
While, like spirits chased from heaven,

Loud the wild winds wail.

None that night had sought a pillow,

Still the deck they crowd ;
While to each successive billow

The tall mast is bowed.
Hoarser sounds now meet their hearing

"Tis the breakers' roar.
And the hapless bark is nearing

Fast the fatal shore.

A shock.

She hath struck the sunken rock,
And her lofty hull is shattered ;
All her wealth must now be scattered

On the raging waves.
Ah ! but she was richly laden !
And the precious freight she carried,
Father, mother, youth, and maiden,
Bride and bridegroom newly married,
These must find their graves,
In the darkness, near each other,
Clinging close by friend and brother
And the tender nursing mother
With her babe is there
Some with hearts for terror failing,
Some with shrieking, some with wailing,

Some with faith and prayer,
Some with noble, self-devotion,
Stifling their own wild emotion,

Seek to calm despair.

On the waves again uplifted,
Now her giant bulk is rifted,

On the sharp rock driven.
O'er the breach the white foam streameth,
Now no hope on earth there seemeth,

And no help in Heaven !

One small boat is filled,
And amid the surges boiling,
Through the darkness men are toiling,

Strong and bravely skilled.
On the strand the boat doth shiver ;
Few are saved it may be never
Known how many lost
Lost for ever ! Lost for ever !

What a mighty cost !

Ah ! the saved shall stand to-morrow,
With the dawn, in awful sorrow,
On the wreck-strewn shore ;
None who hath not lost another,
Child or parent, friend or brother,

Than his soul loved more.
Does the sea deplore its doing ?
Are the waves their wild work ruing?
With a mighty sorrow swelling
Seems the ocean's breast ;
Which its mournful voice seems telling

Thus " No rest, No rest !"
What though, at the consummation,

We shall know our sad emotion,
To the joy of all creation,



Is a teardrop to an Ocean ?
Wherefore all this wreck and ruin,

Beneficent ?
And in Thine eternity,
Like the great and boundless sea,

To o'er whelm us meant?
Shall a few be safely landed

On the eternal shore ?
And a countless number stranded

Where Thy breakers roar ?
Ah ! methinks the saved
Few without one friend or other,
Child or parent, wife or brother,

' Mong that awful host,
Evermore the glory scorning,
On that shore would wander mourning,
Seeking for the lost.



And as for the Bastille, the terror is in
the word. Make the most of it you can,
said I to myself, the Bastille is but another
word for a tower, and a tower is but another
word for a house you can't get out of.
Mercy on the gouty ! for they are in it twice
a year ; but with nine livres a day, and pen,
and ink, and paper, and patience ; albeit a
man can't get out, he may do well within,
at least, for a month or six weeks, at the end
of which, if he is a harmless fellow, his in-
nocence appears, and he comes out a better
and a wiser man than he went in.

I had some occasion (I forget what) to
step into the court-yard as I settled this ac-
count ; and remember I walked down stairs
in no small triumph with the conceit of my
reasoning. Beshrew the sombre pencil !
said I, vauntingly, for I envy not the powers
which paint the evils of life with so hard and
deadly a colouring. The mind sits terrified
at the objects she has magnified herself and
blackened : reduce them to their proper size
and hue, she overlooks them.

Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 23 of 75)