« ForrigeFortsett »
SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
WHEN Dryden, worn with sickness, bow'd with
years, Was doom'd (my friend, let pity warm thy tears) The galling pang of penury to feel, For ill-plac'd loyalty and courtly zeal, To see that laurel which his brows o'erspread, Transplanted, droop on Shadwell's barren head, The bard oppress'd, yet not subdu'd by fate, For very bread descended to translate : And he, whose fancy, copious as his phrase, Could light at will expression's brightest blaze, On Fresnoy's lay employ'd his studious hour ; But niggard there of that melodious power, His pen, in haste the hireling task to close, Transform'd the studied strain to careless prose, Which, fondly lending faith to French pretence, Mistook its meaning, or obscur'd its sense.
Yet still he pleas’d, for Dryden still must please, Whether with artless elegance and ease
He glides in prose, or from its tinkling chime,
How oft, on that fair shrine when poets bind The flowers of song, does partial passion blind Their judgment's eye! How oft does truth disclaim The deed, and scorn to call it genuine fame! How did she here, when Jervas was the theme, Waft thro' the ivory gate the poet's dream! How view, indignant, error's base alloy The sterling lustre of his praise destroy. Which now, if praise like his my Muse could coin, Current through ages, she would stamp for thine !
Let friendship, as she caus’d, excuse the deed; With thee, and such as thee, she must succeed.
But what, if fashion tempted Pope astray ? The witch has spells; and Jervas knew a day When mode-struck belles and beaux were proud
to come And buy of him a thousand years of bloom.t * Mr. Pope, in his Epistle to Jervas, has these lines : Read these instructive leaves, in which conspire
Fresnoy's close art with Dryden's native fire. † Alluding to another couplet in the same Epistle :
Beauty, frail flower, that every season fears,
Ev’n then I deem it but a venal crime : Perish alone that selfish sordid rhyme, Which flatters lawless sway, or tinsel pride ; Let black Oblivion plunge it in her tide.
From fate like this my truth-supported lays,
And, 0, if aught thy Poet can pretend
Oct. 10, 1782..