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JOHNSON'S YOUTHFUL COMPOSITIONS

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Translation of part of the Dialogue between HECTOR and ANDROMACHE; from the Sixth Book of HOMER'S ILIAD.

SHE ceas'd then godlike Hector answer'd kind,
(His various plumage sporting in the wind) -
That post, and all the rest, shall be my care;
But shall I, then, forsake the unfinished war?
How would the Trojans brand great Hector's name!
And one base action sully all my fame,

Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought!
Oh how my soul abhors so mean a thought.
Long since I learn'd to slight this fleeting breath,
And view with cheerful eyes approaching death
The inexorable sisters have decreed

That Priam's house, and Priam's self shall bleed :
The day will come, in which proud Troy shall yield,
And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field.
Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age,

Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty rage,
Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground,
Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastly wound,
Can in my bosom half that grief create,

As the sad thought of your impending fate:

When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose,
Mimick your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy !

Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes.
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs!
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand.

To a YOUNG LADY on her BIRTH-DAY 1.

THIS tributary verse receive my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest pray'r.
May this returning day for ever find

Thy form more lovely, more adorn'd thy mind;
All pains, all cares, may favouring heav'n remove,
All but the sweet solicitudes of love!

May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart!
O then, when conquered crouds confess thy sway,
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey,
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust,

Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just.

Those sovereign charms with strictest care employ ;
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy:

1 Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost impromptu, in his presence.

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JOHNSON'S YOUTHFUL COMPOSITIONS

With his own form acquaint the forward fool,
Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule;

Teach mimick censure her own faults to find,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.

THE YOUNG AUTHOUR1.

WHEN first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam,
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home,
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields,
He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields;
Then dances jocund o'er the watery way,

While the breeze whispers, and the streamers play:
Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll,
And future millions lift his rising soul;
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine,
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine.
Joys insincere! thick clouds invade the skies,
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise;
Sick'ning with fear, he longs to view the shore,
And vows to trust the faithless deep no more.
So the young Authour, panting after fame,
And the long honours of a lasting name,
Entrusts his happiness to human kind,

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More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind.

Toil on, dull croud, in extacies he cries,

For wealth or title, perishable prize;

While I those transitory blessings scorn,
Secure of praise from ages yet unborn.'

This thought once form'd, all council comes too late,
He flies to press, and hurries on his fate;
Swiftly he sees the imagin'd laurels spread,

And feels the unfading wreath surround his head.
Warn'd by another's fate, vain youth be wise,
Those dreams were Settle's once, and Ogilby's:
The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise,
To some retreat the baffled writer flies;
Where no sour criticks snarl, no sneers molest,
Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest ;
There begs of heaven a less distinguish'd lot,
Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot.

EPILOGUE, intended to have been spoken by a LADY who was to personate the Ghost of HERMIONE 2.

YE blooming train, who give despair or joy,
Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy;

1 This he inserted, with many alterations, in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1743 [p. 378].

Some young ladies at Lichfield having proposed to act The Distressed Mother, Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr. Hector to convey it privately to them.

JOHNSON'S YOUTHFUL COMPOSITIONS

In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait,
And with unerring shafts distribute fate;
Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes,
Each youth admires, though each admirer dies;
Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play,
Unpitying see them weep, and hear them pray,
And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away;
For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains;
Where sable night in all her horrour reigns;
No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades,
Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids.
For kind, for tender nymphs the myrtle blooms,
And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing glooms:
Perennial roses deck each purple vale,

And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale:
Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears,
Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs :
No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys
The balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies;
Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms,
Nor torturing whalebones pinch them into charms;
No conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame,
For those who feel no guilt can know no shame ;
Unfaded still their former charms they shew,
Around them pleasures wait, and joys for ever new.
But cruel virgins meet severer fates;

Expell'd and exil'd from the blissful seats,
To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
Where furies ever howl, and serpents hiss.
O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh,
And pois'nous vapours, black'ning all the sky,
With livid hue the fairest face o'ercast,
And every beauty withers at the blast:
Where e'er they fly their lover's ghosts pursue,
Inflicting all those ills which once they knew;
Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair,

Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear;
Their foul deformities by all descry'd,

No maid to flatter, and no paint to hide.

Then melt, ye fair, while crouds around you sigh,
Nor let disdain sit lowring in your eye;

With pity soften every awful grace,

And beauty smile auspicious in each face;

To ease their pains exert your milder power,

So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind adore.'

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The two years which he spent at home, after his return from Stourbridge, he passed in what he thought idleness, and was scolded by his father for his want of steady application. He had no settled plan of life, nor looked forward at

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HIS WIDE READING

[1728 all, but merely lived from day to day. Yet he read a great deal in a desultory manner, without any scheme of study, as chance threw books in his way, and inclination directed him through them. He used to mention one curious instance of his casual reading, when but a boy. Having imagined that his brother had hid some apples behind a large folio upon an upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed up to search for them. There were no apples; but the large folio proved to be Petrarch, whom he had seen mentioned in some preface, as one of the restorers of learning. His curiosity having been thus excited, he sat down with avidity, and read a great part of the book. What he read during these two years he told me, was not works of mere amusement, 'not voyages and travels, but all literature, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly: though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod; but in this irregular manner (added he) I had looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the Universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me I was the best qualified for the University that he had ever known come there.'

In estimating the progress of his mind during these two years, as well as in future periods of his life, we must not regard his own hasty confession of idleness; for we see, when he explains himself, that he was acquiring various stores; and, indeed he himself concluded the account with saying, 'I would not have you think I was doing nothing then.' He might, perhaps, have studied more assiduously; but it may be doubted whether such a mind as his was not more enriched by roaming at large in the fields of literature than if it had been confined to any single spot. The analogy between body and mind is very general, and the parallel will hold as to their food, as well as any other particular. The flesh of animals who feed excursively, is allowed to have a higher flavour than that of those who are cooped up. May there not be the same difference between men who read as their taste prompts and men who are confined in cells and colleges to stated tasks?

That a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's circumstances

1728] JOHNSON ENTERS OXFORD

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should think of sending his son to the expensive University of Oxford, at his own charge, seems very improbable. The subject was too delicate to question Johnson upon. But

I have been assured by Dr. Taylor that the scheme never would have taken place had not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of his schoolfellows, spontaneously undertaken to support him at Oxford, in the character of his companion; though, in fact, he never received any assistance whatever from that gentleman.

He, however, went to Oxford, and was entered a Commoner of Pembroke College on the 31st of October, 1728, being then in his nineteenth year.

The Reverend Dr. Adams, who afterwards presided over Pembroke College with universal esteem, told me he was present, and gave me some account of what passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford. On that evening, his father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to have him introduced to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His being put under any tutor reminds us of what Wood says of Robert Burton, authour of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy,' when elected student of Christ Church: for form's sake, though he wanted not a tutor, he was put under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterwards Bishop of Oxon1.'

His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, and told the company he was a good scholar, and a poet, and wrote Latin verses. His figure and manner appeared strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till upon something which occurred in the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in and quoted Macrobius; and thus he gave the first impression of that more extensive reading in which he had indulged himself.

His tutor, Mr. Jorden, fellow of Pembroke, was not, it seems, a man of such abilities as we should conceive requisite for the instructor of Samuel Johnson, who gave me the following account of him. 'He was a very worthy man, but a heavy man, and I did not profit much by his instructions. Indeed, I did not attend him much. The first day after I came to college I waited upon him, and then staid away four. On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why I had not attended. I answered I had been sliding in ChristAthen. Oxon. edit. 1721, i. 627.

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