Page images
PDF
EPUB

Where the soul sours, and gradual rancor grows,
Imbitter'd more from peevish day to day.
E'en those whom Fame has lent her fairest ray,
The most renown'd of worthy wights of yore,
From a base world at last have stolen away:

So Scipio, to the soft Cumæan shore
Retiring, tasted joy he never knew before.

“Oh, grievous folly! to heap up estate,
Losing the days you see beneath the sun;
When, sudden, comes blind unrelenting fate,
And gives th' untasted portion you have won,
With ruthless toil, and many a wretch undone,
To those who mock you gone to Pluto's reign,
There with sad ghosts to pine, and shadows dun:
But sure it is of vanities most vain,
To toil for what you here untoiling may obtain."

ISAAC WATTS. 1674-1748. Isaac WATTS, whose reputation as a prose writer and as a poet is as wide as the world of letters, was born at Southampton on the 17th of July, 1674. At the age of but four years he began to study the Latin language; but as he was a « dissenter” from the “established" church, he could not look forward to an education in either of the great universities, and therefore, at the age of sixteen, he was placed under the care of the Rev. Thomas Rowe, who had charge of an academy in London. At the age of twenty he returned to his father's house, and spent two years in studying for the ministry. At the close of this period he accepted the invitation of Sir John Hartopp to reside with him as tutor to his son, and remained with him five years, devoting most of his time to a critical knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, and entering, during the last year, upon the duties of his profession.

In 1698 he was chosen as an assistant to Dr. Chauncey, pastor of an Independent church in Southampton, and on his death, 1702, was elected to succeed him. Soon after entering upon his office he was attacked by a dangerous illness, from which he but very slowly recovered. In 1712 he was again seized with a fever so violent and of so long continuance, that it left him in a feeble state for the rest of his life. In this state he found in Sir Thomas Abney a friend such as is not often to be met with. This gentleman received him into his own house, where he remained an inmate of the family for thirtysix years, that is, to the end of his life, where he was treated the whole time with all the kindness that friendship could prompt, and all the attention that respect could dictate.! Here he devoted all the time that his health would allow to the composition of his various works, and to his official functions; and when increasing weakness compelled him to relinquish both, his congregation would not accept his resignation, but, while they elected another pastor, continued to him the salary he had been accustomed to receive. On the 25th of November, 1748, without a pain or a struggle, this great and good man breathed his last.

1 "A coalition like this-a state in which the notions of patronage and dependence were over

ered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deserves a particular memorial."- Dr. Johnson Accordingly the great biographer has given in his life of Watts a long ext touching account of Watts's residence in this family, and then adds: “If this quotation has appeared long, let it be considered that it comprises an account of six-and-thirty years and those the years of Dr. Watts."

In his literary character, Dr. Watts may be considered as a poet, a philosopher, and a theologian. As a poet, if he takes not the very first rank in the imaginative, the creative, or the sublime, he has attained what the greatest might well envy,-a universality of fame. He is emphatically the classic poet of the religious world, wherever the English language is known. His version of the Psalms, his three books of Hymns, and his “ Divine Songs for Children," have been more read and committed to memory, have exerted more holy influences, and made more lasting impressions for good upon the human heart, and have called forth more fervent aspirations for the joys and the happiness of heaven, than the productions of any other poet-perhaps it would not be too strong to say than ALL OTHER poets, (the sacred bards of course excepted,) living or dead.

As a philosopher, he has the rare merit of always being practically useful, especially in the education of youth. His « Logic, or Right use of Reason," was for a long time a text-book in the English Universities, and of his « Improvement of the Mind," no happier eulogium can be given than that by Dr. Johnson :2 « Few books," says the sage, « have been perused by me with greater pleasure than this; and whoever has the care of instructing others may be charged with deficiency if this book is not recommended.”

As a theologian, the compositions of Watts are very numerous, and “ every page," says Dr. Drake, “ displays his unaffected piety, the purity of his principles, the mildness of his disposition, and the great goodness of his heart. The style of all his works is perspicuous, correct, and frequently elegant; and happily for mankind, his labors have been translated and dispersed with a zeal that does honor to human nature; for there are probably few persons who have studied the writings of Dr. Watts without a wish for improvement; without an effort to become wiser or better members of society."

A SUMMER EVENING.

How fine has the day been, how bright was the sun,
How lovely and joyful the course that he run,
Though he rose in a mist when his race he begun,

And there follow'd some droppings of rain!
But now the fair traveller's come to the west,
His rays are all gold, and his beauties are best;
He paints the sky gay as he sinks to his rest,

And foretells a bright rising again.

1 When he was almost worn out by his infirmities, be observed, in a conversation with a friend, that "he remembered an aged minister used to say that the most learned and knowing Christians, when they come to die, have only the same plain promises of the Gospel for their support as the common and unlearned.” “80," sald Watts, “I find it. It is the plain promises of the Gospel that are my support; and I bless God they are plain promises, and do not require much labor and pains to understand them, for I can do nothing now but look into my Bible for some promise to support me, and live upon that."

9 "He is one of the few poets," says Dr. Johnson, "with whom youth and ignorance may be mately pleased; and happy will be that reader whose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to copy his benevolence to man and his reverence to God." Read-his Life in Drake's Essay Jobmon's LeMemoir, by Southey-Memoirs, by Thomas Gibson.

Just such is the Christian; his course he begins,
Like the sun in a mist, when he mourns for his sins,
And melts into tears; then he breaks out and shines,

And travels his heavenly way:
But when he comes nearer to finish his race,
Like a fine setting sun, he looks richer in grace,
And gives a sure hope at the end of his days

Of rising in brighter array.

THE ROSE.

How fair is the rose! what a beautiful flower,

The glory of April and May!
But the leaves are beginning to fade in an hour,

And they wither and die in a day.
Yet the rose has one powerful virtue to boast,

Above all the flowers of the field;
When its leaves are all dead, and its fine colors lost,

Still how sweet a perfume it will yield! So frail is the youth and the beauty of men,

Though they bloom and look gay like the rose; But all our fond cares to preserve them is vain,

Time kills them as fast as he goes.
Then I'll not be proud of my youth nor my beauty,

Since both of them wither and fade;
But gain a good name by well doing my duty;

This will scent like a rose when I'm dead.

FEW HAPPY MATCHES.

Say, mighty Love, and teach my song
To whom thy sweetest joys belong;

And who the happy pairs
Whose yielding hearts, and joining hands,
Find blessings twisted with their bands,

To soften all their cares.
Not the wild herd of nymphs and swains
That thoughtless fly into thy chains,

As custom leads the way:
If there be bliss without design,
Ivies and oaks may grow and twine,

And be as blest as they.
Not sordid souls of earthy mould,
Who drawn by kindred charms of gold

To dull embraces move:
So two rich mountains of Peru
May rush to wealthy marriage too,

And make a world of love.
Not the mad tribe that hell inspires
With wanton flames; those raging fires

The purer bliss destroy :

On Ætna's top let Furies wed,
And sheets of lightning dress the bed

T' improve the burning joy.

Nor the dull pairs whose marble forms
None of the melting passions warms,

Can mingle hearts and hands :
Logs of green wood that quench the coals
Are married just like Stoic souls,

With osiers for their bands.

Not minds of melancholy strain,
Still silent, or that still complain,

Can the dear bondage bless :
As well may heavenly concerts spring
From two old lutes with ne'er a string,

Or none besides the bass.

Nor can the soft enchantments hold
Two jarring souls of angry mould,

The rugged and the keen:
Samson's young foxes might as well
In bonds of cheerful wedlock dwell,

With firebrands tied between.
Nor let the cruel fetters bind
A gentle to a savage mind;

For Love abhors the sight:
Loose the fierce tiger from the deer,
For native rage and native fear

Rise and forbid delight.

Two kindest souls alone must meet; 'Tis friendship makes the bondage sweet,

And feeds their mutual loves : Bright Venus on her rolling throne Is drawn by gentlest birds alone,

And Cupids yoke the doves.

LOOKING UPWARD.

The heavens invite mine eye,

The stars salute me round;
Father, I blush, I mourn to lie

Thus grovelling on the ground.
My warmer spirits move,

And make attempts to fly;
I wish aloud for wings of love

To raise me swift and high

Beyond those crystal vaults,

And all their sparkling balls;
They're but the porches to thy courts.

And paintings on thy walls.

Vain world, farewell to you;

Heaven is my native air :
I bid my friends a short adieu,

Impatient to be there.
I feel my powers released

From their old fleshy clod;
Fair guardian, bear me up in haste,

And set me near my God.

SEEKING A DIVINE CALM IN A RESTLESS WORLD

Eternal mind, who rul'st the fates
Of dying realms and rising states,

With one unchanged decree;
While we admire thy vast affairs,
Say, can our little trifling cares

Afford a smile to thee?
Thou scatterest honors, crowns, and gold :
We fly to seize, and fight to hold

The bubbles and the ore:
So emmets struggle for a grain;
So boys their petty wars maintain

For shells upon the shore.
Here a vain man his sceptre breaks,
The next a broken sceptre takes,

And warriors win and lose;
This rolling world will never stand,
Plunder'd and snatch'd from hand to hand,

As power decays or grows.
Earth's but an atom: greedy swords
Carve it among a thousand lords;

And yet they can't agree:
Let greedy swords still fight and slay;
I can be poor; but, Lord, I pray

To sit and smile with thee.

LAUNCHING INTO ETERNITY.
It was a brave attempt! adventurous he
Who in the first ship broke the unknown sea:
And, leaving his dear native shores behind,
Trusted his life to the licentious wind.
I see the surging brine: the tempest raves:
He on a pine-plank rides across the waves,
Exulting on the edge of thousand gaping graves.
He steers the winged boat, and shifts the sails,
Conquers the flood, and manages the gales.

Such is the soul that leaves this mortal land,
Fearless when the great Master gives command.
Death is the storm: she smiles to hear it roar,
And bids the tempest waft her from the shore:
Then with a skilful helm she sweeps the seas,
And manages the raging storm with ease;

« PreviousContinue »