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Tho' sages and bards judge but ill of a brother,
While matter incumbers the spirit of each,
When they soar out of human infirmity's reach.
E'en on canvas thy Seward has virtue to draw
A philosopher's soul from the regions of bliss,
All the secret sublime of the starry abyss.
Then on me, I beseech you, this charge to confer ;
Of Seward's attendants I justly am one :
Whose fancy has all the rich hues of the sun.”
William HAYLEY, Esg.
Lichfield, March 15, 1785. ABSORBED by considerations yet more interesting than even your beautiful writings, I believe
the agreeable hope, extended in the epistle to which it replied, viz. that of seeing a new emanation from our bright fountain of poetic light. Till I feel more assured hope of your restoration to health, I shall look forward to the gratification of this curiosity in that sort of languor with which a sick man expects his friend to undraw his curtains, after he has been told that morning is arisen in all the summer's glory.
Cruel! Why would you not send me the trimming epigram upon the mitred pedant, who has so despicably criticized your Sargents beauteous dramatic poem? Not less welcome to me is the gall than the honey of Mr Hayley's pen, since sure I am, that when it flows, it is the hand of justice which lifts the flood-gates. Beattie commends, and calls the indignation generous, with which we smile'over the chastisement of the malevolent.
Miss Weston has sent me a most interesting extract from a letter lately received from Mr Whalley, and dated December 1784. There is no resisting the temptation of copying it here for your amusement.
.*I have this month visited the celebrated fountain of VAUCLUSE. It is the fullest, purest, and most beautiful source imaginable. So serenely does it sleep in a vast cavern, at the foot of a lofty' rock, that not one intruding breath ruffles its azure surface, even while it is sending out an hundred limpid streams from its secret and immeasureable depth. These streams gush out from beneath a shelving bed of huge mossy
stones, in various directions, and unite themselves at once in a little river.
But this is its state only when the waters are low. As soon as the first ardent beams of the sun penetrate into the storehouses of the mountain-snows, and send them dissolving through the rocky crevices to replenish the springs, the Fountain of Vaucluse swells, and fills completely the ample cavern in which it now slumbers; and then, scorning even that mound, its waters rush out with impetuous fury at the mouth of the cave, and foam over the rough crags, which now seem to tower far above their reach. Then it is that this overflowing fountain increases the now gentle Sorgue into a wide and rapid torrent, that often deluges the vale.
“ While I sat and leaned on a rock, what a soft melancholy did the striking scene of tender poe. tic consecration breathe over my soul! mine, which was so much less affected than that of Petrarch by relative objects and concatenated ideas; but you must not talk of the laurels around this fountain, for there are none, or rather it is abundant in poetic, because imaginary bowers. There can be little doubt, however, that such laurel bowers were contemporary with the poet, planted probably in lavish plenty by his hand, from their similarity to the name of his mistress, and
to his consciousness of the future fame of his verse; but they were not natives of the scene, and time has withered and destroyed every vestige of the aliens. The scenery in reality is that of bare and broken rocks; broken into a thousand fantastic angles, and offering picturesque figures more grand than beautiful. A few straggling olive trees, nitched here and there among the cliffs, seem to strive, with their niggard and insignificant foliage, against the general image of awful barrenness; as a partial ray of light serves only to render more sensible the general blackness of the surrounding clouds. A fig-tree, however, had much interest for me. It grows wild out of the crevice of the principal rock, and immediately over the cavern. The fountain never rises above its roots, which seem planted there as a boundary to its ambition, and as an olive of peace to the affrighted valley when it shrinks beneath the overwhelming waters.
“ We purpose staying at Avignon till March, and then removing to some pleasant villa in the neighbourhood of Vaucluse : that, if it can be procured, in which Sterne resided.
“ You will ask me if I have seen the original pictures of Petrarch and Laura. Yes, I have seen them, and am almost sorry for it, so agreeable do we find the illusions of our fancy.
Petrarch appears with a rusty doctor's hood; with a sanguine high-fed face, a harsh eye, and, I had almost said, with a libidinous countenance. Laura sticks up, stiff as an hedge-stake, with red locks, stiff top gloves, and smelling at a scarlet poppy, which she holds mincing betwixt her finger and thumb. I have hunted out three couple of their portraits; - but found it vain to search for images more congenial to my idea of those charming beings : yet I console myself with exclaiming, “These are but the painter's daubs ; and it was the meanness and grossness of the art, in those early days, that thus disgraced the appearance of the interesting lovers, which far superior pencils would have vainly strove to represent justly.”
Is not this very interesting description, my dear Mr Hayley? And now I must tell you how highly I am gratified by the beautiful impromptu upon the mistake of the sculptor, in sending down the busts of Newton and Pope, instead of Pope and Prior, which you did me the honour to purpose placing on each side Romney's picture of me. Such intoxicating flattery has your muse put into the mouth of the supreme philosopher, that I feel more delight to know that my portrait is near him, than even that it should be placed by the brilliant and harmonious Pope. How charm