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It has been remarked, by curious observers, that poets are generally long-lived, and run beyond the usual age of man, if not cut off by some accident or excess, as Anacreon, in the midst of a very merry old age, was choaked with a grape-stone. The same redundancy of spirits, that produces the poetical flame, keeps up the vital warmth, and administers uncommon fewel to life. I question not but several instances will occur to my reader's memory, from Homer down to Mr. Dryden. I shall only take notice of two who have excelled in lyrics, the one an ancient and the other a modern. The first gained an immortal repu. : tation by celebrating several jockeys in the Olympic games; the last has signalised himself on the same occasion, by the ode that begins with To horse, brave boys, to Newmarket, to horse. My reader will, by this time, know that the two poets I have mentioned, are Pindar and Mr. d'Urfey. The former of these is long since laid in his urn, after having, many years together, endeared himself to all Greece by his tuneful compositions. Our countryman is still living, and in a blooming old age, that still promises many musical productions; for, if I am not mistaken, our British swan will sing to the last. The best judges, who have
perused his last song on the Moderate Man, do not discover any decay in his parts, but think it deserves a place among the works with which he obliged the tvorld in his more early years.
I am led into this subject by a visit which I lately received from my good old friend and contemporary. As we both flourished together in King Charles the Second's reign, we diverted ourselves with the remembrance of several particulars, that passed in the world before the greatest part of my readers were born, and could not but smile to think how insensibly we were grown into a couple of venerable, old gentle
Tom observed to me, that after having written more odes than Horace, and about four times as many comedies as Terence, he was reduced to great difficulties by the importunities of a set of men, who, of late years, have furnished him with the accommodations of life, and would not, as we say, be paid with à song. In order to extricate my old friend, I immediately sent for the three directors of the playhouse, and desired them that they would, in their turn, do a good office for a man, who, in Shakespear's phrase, had often filled their mouths, I mean with pleasantry and popular conceits. They very generously listened to my proposal, and agreed to act the Plotting-Sisters, (a very taking play of my old friend's composing) on the 15th of the next month, for the benefit of the author.
My kindness to the agreeable Mr. d'Urfey will be imperfect, if, after having engaged the players in his favor, I do not get the town to come into it. I must therefore heartily recommend to all the young ladies, my disciples, the case of my old friend, who has often made their grandmothers merry, and whose sonnets have perhaps lulled asleep many a present toast, when she lay in her cradle.
I have already prevailed upon my Lady Lizard to be at the house in one of the front boxes, and design, if I am in town, to lead her in myself at the head of her daughters. The gentleman I am speaking of has laid obligations on so many of his countrymen, that I hope they will think this but a just return to the good service of a veteran poet.
I myself remember King Charles the Second leaning on Tom d'Urfey's shoulder more than once, and humming over a song with him. It is certain that monarch was not a little supported by, Joy to great Cæsar, which gave the whigs such a blow as they were not able to recover that whole reign. My friend afterwards attacked popery with the same success, having, exposed Bellarmine and Porto-Carrero more than once in short satirical compositions, which have been in every body's mouth. He has made use of Italian tunes and sonata's for promoting the Protestant interest, and turned a considerable part of the pope's music against himself. In short, he has obliged the court with political sonnets, the country with dialogues and pastorals, the city with descriptions of a lord-mayor's feast, not to mention his little ode upon Stool-ball, with many others of the like nature.
Should the very individuals he has celebrated make their appearance together, they would be sufficient to fill the play-house. Pretty Peg of Windsor, Gillian of Croydon, with Dolly and Molly, and Tommy and Johnny, with many others to be met with in the musical miscellanies, entitled Pills to purge Melancholy, would make a good benefit night.
As my friend, after the manner of the old lyrics, accompanies his works with his own voice, he has been the delight of the most polite companies and conversations from the beginning of King Charles the Second's reign to our present times. Many an honest gentleman has got a reputation in his country, by pretending to have been in company with Tom d'Urfey.
I might here mention several other merits in my friend; as his enriching our language with a multitude of rhymes, and bringing words together that, without his good offices, would never have been acquainted with one another, so long as it had been a tongue. But I must not omit, that my old friend angles for a trout the best of any man in England. May flies come in late this season, or I myself should, before now, have had a trout of his hooking.
After what I have said, and much more that I might say, on this subject, I question not but the world will think that my old friend ought not to pass the remainder of his life in a cage like a singing bird, but enjoy all that Pindaric liberty which is suitable to a man of his genius. He has made the world merry, and I hope they will make him easy so long as he stays among us. This I will take upon me to say, they cannot do a kindness to a more diverting companion, or a more cheerful, honest, and good-natured man,
No. 71. TUESDAY, JUNE 2.
Quale portentum neque militaris
QUESTION not but my country customers will be surprised to here me complain that this town is, of late years, very much infested with lions; and will, perhaps, look upon it as a strange piece of news, when I assure them that there are many of these beasts of prey who walk our streets, in broad day-light, beating about from coffee-house to coffee-house, and seeking whom they may devour.
To unriddle this paradox, I must acquaint my rural reader, that we polite men of the town give the name of a lion to any one that is a great man's spy. And whereas I cannot discharge my office of Guardian without setting a mark on such a noxious animal, and