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“ Draw near, my birds! the mother cries,
An Ant, who climb'd beyond his reach,
MATTHEW GREEN, a truly original poet, was born, probably at London, in 1696. His parents were respectable Dissenters, who brought him up within the limits of the sect. His learning was confined to a little Latin ; but, from the frequency of his classical allusions, it may be concluded that what he read when young, he did not forget. The austerity in which he was educated had the effect of inspiring him with settled disgust; and he fled from the gloom of dissenting worship when he was no longer compelled to attend it. Thus set loose from the opinions of his youth, he speculated very freely on religious topics, and at length adopted the system of outward compliance with established forms and inward laxity of belief. He seems at one time to have been much inclined to the principles of Quakerism; but he found that its practice would not agree with one who lived “ by pulling off the hat.” We find that he had obtained a place in the Custom-house, the duties of which he is said to have discharged with great diligence and fidelity. It is further attested, that he was a man of great
probity and sweetness of disposition, and that his conversation abounded with wit, but of the most inoffensive kind. He seems to have been subject to low-spirits, as a relief from which he composed his principal poem, “ The Spleen.” He passed his life in celibacy, and died in 1737, at the early age of forty-one, in lodgings in Gracechurch-street.
The poems of Green, which were not made public till after his death, consist of “ The Spleen;" “ The Grotto ;" “ Verses on Barclay's Apology;" “ The Seeker," and some smaller pieces, all comprised in a small volume. In manner and subject they are some of the most original in our language. They rank among the easy and familiar, but are replete with uncommon thoughts, new and striking images, and those associations of remote ideas by some unexpected similitudes, in which wit principally consists. Few poems will bear more repeated perusals; and, with those who can fully enter into them, they do not fail to become favourites.
THE SPLEEN. "
AN EPISTLE TO MR. CUTHBERT JACKSON.
This motley piece to you I send,
The want of method pray excuse,
The child is genuine, you may trace
School-helps I want, to climb on high,
* “ In this poem,” Mr. Melmoth says, “ there are more original thoughts thrown together than he had ever read in the same compass of lines.”
FITZOSBORNE'S Letters, p. 114. + Gildon's Art of Poetry.
Then where? from whom ? what can I steal,
First know, my friend, I do not mean
When by its magic lantern Spleen
Howard's British Princes. + James More Smith, Esq. See Dunciad, B. ii. 1. 50. and the notes, where the circumstances of the transaction here alluded to are very fully explained.