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Approach : But awful! Lo! th’ Ægerian Grot,
Ver. 11. Where British sighs from dying Wyndham stole,] In his MS. it was thus :
To Wyndham's breast the patriot passions stole, which made the whole allude to a certain anecdote of not much consequence to any but the parties concerned. W.
Ver. 9. Ægerian Grot,] These are two charming lines; but are blemished by two bad rhymes, Grot to thought ; scarce excusable in so short a poem, in which every syllable ought to be correct.
It is remarkable that Juvenal having mentioned this celebrated cave, takes occasion to inveigh against artificial grotto-work, and adulterating the simple beauties of nature, in lines uncommonly poetical :
66 In vallem Ægeriæ descendimus, et Speluncas
Sat. iii. v. 17.
TO MRS. M. B.
ON HER BIRTH-DAY..
Oh be thou blest with all that Heav'n can send, Long Health, long Youth, long Pleasure, and a
Friend : Not with those Toys the female world admire, Riches that vex, and Vanities that tire. With added years if Life bring nothing new, 5 But like a Sieve let ev'ry blessing through, Some joy still lost, as each vain year runs o'er, And all we gain, some sad Reflection more; Is that a Birth-day ? 'tis alas ! too clear, 'Tis but the Fun’ral of the former year.
Let Joy or Ease, let Affluence or Content, And the gay Conscience of a life well spent, Calm ev'ry thought, inspirit ev'ry grace, Glow in thy heart, and smile upon thy face.
Ver. 10. 'Tis but] Immediately after this line were these four following, in the original :
“ If there's no hope, with kind, tho' fainter ray,
The same dull story, Mordaunt, thou didst well !" Colonel Mordaunt, who destroyed himself, though not under the pressure of any ill or misfortune.
Let day improve on day, and year on year,
Ver. 15. Originally thus in the MS.
And oh since Death must that fair frame destroy,
TO MR. THOMAS SOUTHERN,
ON HIS BIRTH-DAY, 1742.
RESIGN'D to live, prepar’d to die,
Ver. 3. This day Tom's] This amiable writer lived the longest, and died one of the richest, of all our poets. In 1737, Mr. Gray, writing to a friend, says very agreeably, “We have here old Mr. Southern, who often comes to see us; he is now seventy-seven years old, and has almost wholly lost his memory; but is as agreeable an old man as can be, at least I persuade myself so, when I look at him, and think of Isabella and Oroonoko." He was certainly a great master of the pathetic; and in the latter part of his life became sensible of the impropriety he had been guilty of in mixing Tragedy with Comedy. He was the first play-writer that had the benefit of a third night. He told Dryden that he once had cleared seven hundred pounds by one of his plays.
Ver.6. A table,] Mr. Southern was invited to dine on his birthday with this nobleman (Lord Orrery), who had prepared for him the entertainment of which the bill of fare is here set down. W.
Ver. 8. Presents her harp] The harp is generally wove on the Irish linen; such as table cloths, &c. W.
The mushrooms shew his wit was sudden!
grace, altho' a bard devout. .
Ver. 16. The price of prologues and of plays,] This alludes to a story Mr. Southern told of Dryden, about the same time, to Mr. P. and Mr. W.-When Southern first wrote for the stage, Dryden was so famous for his prologues, that the players would act nothing without that decoration. His usual price till then had been four guineas; but when Southern came to him for the prologue he had bespoke, Dryden told him he must have six guineas for it; “which (said he) young man, is out of no disrespect to you, but the players have had my goods too cheap."—We now look
upon these prologues with the same admiration that the virtuosi do on the apothecaries' pots painted by Raphael. W.