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That I make haste to live, and cannot hold
Patiently out till I grow rich and old.
Life for delays and doubts no time does give,
None ever yet made haste enough to live.
Let him defer it, whose preposterous care
Omits himself, and reaches to his heir;
Who does his father's bounded stores despise,
And whom his own too never can suffice:
My humble thoughts no glittering roofs require,
Or rooms that shine with aught but constant fire,
I well content the avarice of my sight
With the fair gildings of reflected light:
Pleasures abroad, the sport of nature yields,
Her living fountains, and her smiling fields;
And then at home, what pleasure is 't to see
A little, cleanly, cheerful, family!
Which if a chaste wife crown, no less in her
Than fortune, I the golden mean prefer.
Too noble, nor too wise, she should not be,
No, nor too rich, too fair, too fond of me.
Thus let my life slide silently away,
With sleep all night, and quiet all the day.
IT is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself; it grates his own heart to say any thing of disparagement, and the reader's ears to hear any thing of praise from him. There is no danger from me of offending him in this kind; neither my mind, nor my body; nor my fortune, allow me any materials for that vanity, It is sufficient for my own contentment, that they have preserved me from ber ing scandalous pr remarkable on the defective side. But, besides that, I shall here speak of myself only in relation to the subject of these precedent discourses, and shall be likelier thereby to fall into the contempt, than rise up to the estimation, of most people.
As far as my memory can return back into my past Jife, before I knew, or was capable of guessing, what the world or the glories or business of it were, the natural affections of my soul gave me a secret bent of aversion from them, as some plants are said to turn away from others, by an antipathy imperceptible to themselves, and inscrutable to man's understanding. Even when I was a very young boy at school, instead of running about on holy-days and playing with my fellows, I was wont to steal from them, and walk into the fields, either alone with a book, or with some one companion, if I could find any of the same temper. I was then, too, so much an enemy to all constraint, that my masters could never prevail on me, by any persuasions or encouragements, to learn without book the common rules of grammar; in which they dispensed with me alone, because they found I made a shift to do the usual exercise out of my own reading and observation. That I was then of the same mind as I am now (which, I confess, I wonder at myself) may appear by the latter end of an ode, which I made when I was but thirteen years old, and which was then printed with many other verses. The beginning of it is boyish; but of this part, which I here set down (if a very little were corrected), I should hardly now be much ashamed.
This only grant me, that my means may lie
Some honour.I would have,
Rumour can ope the grave.
Books should, not business, entertain the light,
My house a cottage more Than palace; and should fitting be For all my use, no luxury.
My garden painted o'er
Thus would I double my life's fading space;
And in this true delight,
But boldly say each night,
You may see by it, I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace*); and perhaps it was the immature and immoderate love of them, which stamped first, or rather engraved, these characters in me: they were like letters cut into the bark of a young tree, which with the tree still grow proportionably. But, how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question: I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse, as have never since left ringing there; for I remember, when I began to read, and
# 3 Od. xxix. 41.
to take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read any book but of devotion)—but there was wont to lie Spenser's works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses, which I found every-where there (though my understanding had little to do with all this); and, by degrees, with the tinkling of the rhyme .and dance of the numbers; so that, I think, l had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as immediately as a child is made an eunuch.
With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university; but was soon torn from thence by that violent publick storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant, even from the princely cedars to me the hyssop. Yet, I had as good fortune as could have befallen me in such a tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses, of the world. Now, though l was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life, that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant (for that was the state then of the English and French courts); yet all this was so far from altering my opinion,