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with him, and indifference was gradually converted into repugnance ; yet he allowed himself no voluntary neglect; and in the office surpassed every other clerk in the celerity and correctness of his transcripts ; but as he had the faculty of abstracting his thoughts from the parchment submitted to his pen, he perpetually digressed to ideas unconnected with business, and by this mental evasion completely frustrated the object for which he had been placed in a solicitor's office. Unfortunately, the sacrifice of his worldly interests was without advantage to his literary pursuits. So many hours were consumed in a superficial devotion to business, that no leisure remained for any regular plan of study, or enlarged views of mental improvement. Left to himself, he contracted a taste for desultory reading. His early predilection for satire was confirmed by the conversation of professional associates; and thus was he led to waste his time and
talents in ungraceful efforts to lash the vices and follies of the age. To this circumstance must it be imputed that during the first years of his residence in London he produced so little poetry worthy even of his juvenile pen. To those who desire to trace the germs of literary talent, the following verses, composed in or before 1788, may be acceptable.
Epitaph on Maria P
A prey to grief and pain no more,
Maria sleeps beneath this tomb, Whose virtue could no higher sour,
Whose beauty could no sweeter bloom.
Heaven viewed with care its darling pride,
Too spotless for a world like this ; Left her awhile to sweeten here,
Then snatch'd her for the realm of bliss.
At morn, in pride of youth, she shone,
So shines the dew-drop on the rose; At eve, she withered, pale and wan,
So sinks the dew-drop to repose,
on her Birth-day,
To hail this bright auspicious day,
The following extract from a cotemporaneous poem is in a better strain, and exhibits the rudiments of the author's dramatic blank verse. The hero of this piece is an unfortunate man who languishes in prison by the fiat of a remorseless creditor. After an exordium, in which he feelingly reproves the careless sons of luxury, he thus apostrophizes the author of his calamity. And thou, presumptuous wretch! whose iron soul Has bound these fetters round my aged limbs, And laid thy gripe where misery's pressing load Sore gal”d before; what urg'd thy daring hand To cramp a spirit freeborn as thy own ? A soul that bears the image of thy God, Passions that rise as high, and cry as loud For quick enjoyment:-- appetites as keen, And hopes as daring ; – an ear as finely form’d To catch the mingled melody of sound From harmony's full choir ; — an eye as keen To drink from beauty's glance the ray of hope, Or skim o'er nature's variegated hues, Till fancy surfeits on the fairy scene Herself has drawn. Thinkest thou yon bed of sweets Sheds not as sweet a perfume to my sense As e'er it did to thine; or that yon board, With daintiest viands spread, with equal zest Regales not him that murmurs in this cell?.
Yon shiv'ring wretch, That wears the ragged livery of woe, On whose wan cheek black melancholy sits To steal the rose away, and sable o'er The lilly's sick’ning bloom, whose famish'd sense Feeds on the superfluities of pride, And luxury's scant gleanings, oft withheld From wantonness of waste -- ask thou of her, For she has chronicled each hour of woe, When wildest raged the storm, and the rude wind Has loudest roar'd with desolating sweep; And she will point to yonder refted tower, Beneath whose brow she brav'd the batt'ring storin, That shrunk with hideous crush the crumbling pile; Ask thou of her, where sorrow saddest reigns, And she will tell thee of some church-yard's gloom, Where oft, in concert with the drizzling dew, At night's sad hour she shed the idle tear On some rude stone, and envied the cold dust That slept beneath. Yet she's a queen to me. The tempest past, her eye can wander o'er All nature's chequer'd tints and blooning hues, Mingled in sweet confusion; and when the sun Gilds her wan cheek, drinking the falling tear, And Alings a warm beam thro' her tatter'd cloak, Smiles, such as glimmer thro' a wintry cloud, Illumie her hollow cheek, as the pale lamp Lightens the gloomy aspect of the tomb.
And thou, fair village, 'erst my fond retreat,