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THE JUDGMENT OF THE POETS.
Two nymphs, both nearly of an age,
Of numerous charms possess d,
A warm dispute once chanced to wage,
Whose temper was the best.
The worth of each had been complete
Had both alike been mild :
But one, although her smile was sweet,
Frown'd oftener than she smiled.
And in her humour, when she frown'd,
Would raise her voice, and roar, And shake with fury to the ground
The garland that she wore.
The other was of gentler cast,
From all such frenzy clear,
Her frowns were seldom known to last,
And never proved severe.
To poets of renown in song
The nymphs referr’d the cause, Who, strange to tell, all judg’d it wrong,
And gave misplaced applause. They gentle call’d, and kind and soft,
The Aippant and the scold, And though she changed her mood so oft,
That failing left untold.
No judges, sure, were e'er so mad,
Or so resolved to err-
In short, the charms her sister had
They lavish'd all on her.
Then thus the god, whom fondly they
Their great inspirer call,
Was heard, one genial summer's day,
To reprimand them all.
“ Since thus ye have combined,” he said,
“My favourite nymph to slight,
Adorning May, that peevish maid,
With June's undoubted right,
“ The minx shall, for your folly's sake,
herself a shrew,
Shall make your scribbling fingers ache,
And pinch your noses blue.”
SURVIVOR sole, and hardly such, of all
That once lived here, thy brethren, at my birth,
* This tree had been known by the name of Judith for many ages. Perhaps it received that name on being planted by the Countess Judith, niece to the Conqueror, whom he gave in marriage to the English Earl Waltheof, with the counties of Northampton and Huntingdon as her dower.-Vide Letters, vol. iv. p. 78.
(Since which I number threescore winters past,)
A shatter'd veteran, hollow-trunk'd perhaps,
As now, and with excoriate forks deform,
Relics of ages ! could a mind, imbued
With truth from heaven, created thing adore,
I might with reverence kneel, and worship thee.
It seems idolatry with some excuse,
When our forefather druids in their oaks
Imagined sanctity. The conscience, yet
Unpurified by an authentic act
Of amnesty, the meed of blood divine,
Loved not the light, but, gloomy, into gloom
Of thickest shades, like Adam after taste
Of fruit proscribed, as to a refuge, fled.
Thou wast a bauble once, a cup and ball
Which babes might play with; and the thievish jay,
Seeking her food, with ease might have purloin'd
The auburn nut that held thee, swallowing down
Thy yet close-folded latitude of boughs
And all thine embryo vastness at a gulp.
But fate thy growth decreed ; autumnal rains
Beneath thy parent tree mellow'd the soil
Design'd thy cradle ; and a skipping deer,
With pointed hoof dibbling the glebe, prepared
The soft receptacle, in which, secure,
Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through.
So fancy dreams. Disprove it, if ye can,
Ye reasoners broad awake, whose busy search
Of argument, employ'd too oft amiss,
Sifts half the pleasures of short life away!
Thou fell’st mature; and, in the loamy clod
Swelling with vegetative force instinct,
Didst burst thine egg, as theirs the fabled twins,
Now stars; two lobes, protruding, pair'd exact;
A leaf succeeded, and another leaf,
And, all the elements thy puny growth
Fostering propitious, thou becamest a twig.
Who lived when thou wast such ? Oh, could'st
As in Dodona once thy kindred trees
Oracular, I would not curious ask
The future, best unknown, but at thy mouth
Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.
By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
The clock of history, facts and events
Timing more punctual, unrecorded facts
Recovering, and misstated setting right-
Desperate attempt, till trees shall speak again!
Time made thee what thou wast, king of the
woods ; And time hath made thee what thou art-a cave For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading boughs O’erhung the champaign ; and the numerous flocks That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope Uncrowded, yet safe shelter'd from the storm. No flock frequents thee now. Thou hast outlived Thy popularity, and art become (Unless verse rescue thee awhile) a thing Forgotten, as the foliage of thy youth.
While thus through all the stages thou hast push'd
Of treeship-first a seedling, hid in grass ;
Then twig; then sapling; and, as century rollid
Slow after century, a giant bulk
Of girth enormous, with moss-cushion'd root
Upheaved above the soil, and sides emboss'd
With prominent wens globose—till at the last
The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict
On other mighty ones, found also thee.
What exhibitions various hath the world
Witness'd of mutability in all
That we account most durable below!
Change is the diet on which all subsist,
Created changeable, and change at last
Destroys them. Skies uncertain now the heat
Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam
Now quenching in a boundless sea of clouds—
Calm and alternate storm, moisture, and drought,
Invigorate by turns the springs of life
In all that live, plant, animal, and man,
And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads,
Fine passing thought, e'en in their coarsest works,
Delight in agitation, yet sustain
The force that agitates not unimpair'd;
But worn by frequent impulse, to the cause
Of their best tone their dissolution owe.
Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still
The great and little of thy lot, thy growth
From almost nullity into a state
Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence,
Slow, into such magnificent decay,