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LIFE OF STEPNEY,
BY DR. JOHNSON.
George Stepney, descended from the Stepneys of Pendigrast in Pembrokeshire, was born at Westminster in 1663. Of his father's condition or fortune I have no account'. Having received the first part of his education at Westminster, where he passed six years in the college, he went at nineteen to Cambridge', where he continued a friendship begun at school with Mr. Montague, afterwards earl of Halifax. They came to London together, and are said to have been invited into public life by the duke of Dorset. His qualifications recommended him to many foreign employments, so that his time seems to have been spent in negociations. In 1692 he was sent envoy to the elector of Brandenburgh; in 1693, to the imperial court; in 1694, to the elector of Saxony; in 1696, to the electors of Mentz and Cologne, and the congress at Frankfort; in 1698, a second time to Brandenburgh; in 1699, to the king of Poland; in 1701, again to the emperor; and in 1706, to the states general. In 1697 he was made one of the commissioners of trade. His life was busy, and not long. He died in 1707; and is buried in Westminster Abbey, with this epitaph, which Jacob transcribed:
H. S. E.
* It has been conjectured, that our poet was either son or grandson of Charles, third son of sir John Stepney, the first baronet of that family. See Granger's History, vol. ii. p. 396, edit. 8vo. 1775. Mr. Cole says, the poet's father was a grocer. Cole's MSS. in Brit. Mus. C.
* He was entered of Trinity College, and took his master's degree in 1689. H.
Plurimas Legationes obiit
On the left hand,
It is reported that the juvenile compositions of Stepney “made grey authors blush.” I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely, that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers, because the authors yet lay no claim to public honours, and are therefore not considered as rivals by the distributors of fame.
He apparently professed himself a poet, and added his name to those of the other wits in the version of Juvenal; but he is a very licentious translator, and does not recompense his neglect of the author by beauties of his own. In his original poems, now and then, a happy line may perhaps be found, and now and then a short composition may give pleasure. But there is, in the whole, little either of the grace of wit, or the vigour of nature.
* From the Hymenaeus Cantabrigiensis. Cantabrigiae, 1683. “It is reported,” says Dr. Johnson, “that the juvenile compositions of Stepney made grey authors blush. I know not whether his poems will appear such wonders to the present age. One cannot always easily find the reason for which the world has sometimes conspired to squander praise. It is not very unlikely, that he wrote very early as well as he ever wrote; and the performances of youth have many favourers.” The present poem is earlier than any one by Stepney hitherto printed; and will therefore without doubt be acceptable to the public. J. N.
Illustriori stemmate regiam Ditabit aulam nobilior Parens; Virtute et Fnean Nepotes, Viribus et superent Achillem.
Quin bellicosae gloria Cimbria,
Cessate lites; spicula, machinae
Dormite lethi; libret et unicus, Praebent puellae quas ocelli,
Armiger innocuus sagittas'
Quam dulce vultu virgineo rubet
Liquisset Evan Gnosida, floridam
Lacana nunquam damna modestiae
Flammasque viles crederet Ilii. Mercede tali quis stadium piger Fatale vitet? quis timeret Oenomai fremitum sequentis 2
Te praeda nullo parta periculo,
AFtas ut aptis vernet amoribus, Blando fideles murmure turtures, Nexuque vites arctioni, et Basiolis superate conchass
Cum dextra Coeli prodiga Carolum
Te, spes ruentis faustior imperi,
Infans Parenti laudibus aemulus
TO KING JAMES II. upon his accession to the ThroNE, 1684-5.
As victors lose the trouble they sustain
ON THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBIPIDGE'S Burning the
Duke of MonMouth's Picture, 1685, who was Fort M. Er LY their chancellor.
IN ANswer to This question,
--------------------------------------- Sed quid Turba Remi’ sequitur fortunam, et semper, etodit Damnatos ............ -----------------------
Yes, fickle Cambridge, Perkins found this true,
But all in vain, since the wise house conspire To damn the canvass-traitor to the fire, Lest it, like bones of Scanderbeg, incite Scythe-men next harvest to renew the fight. Then in comes mayor Eagle, and does gravely allege, He'll subscribe, if he can, for a bundle of Sedge; But the man of Clare-hall that proffer refuses, 'Snigs, he'll be beholden to none but the Muses; And orders ten porters to bring the dull reams On the death of good Charles, and crowning of James; And swears he will borrow of the provost more stuff On the marriage of Ame, if that be not enough. The heads, lest he get all the profit t” himself, Too greedy of honour, too lavish of pels, This motion deny, and vote thet Tite Tillet Should gather from each noble doctor a billet. The kindness was common, and so they'd returnit, The gift was to all, all therefore would burn it: Thus joining their stocks for a bonfire together, As they club for a cheese in the parish of Chedder; Confusedly crowd on the sophs and the doctors, The hangman, the townsmen, their wives, and the proctors, [ale While the troops from each part of the countries in Come to quaff his confusion in bumpers of stale; But Rosalin, never unkind to a duke, Does by her absence their folly rebuke, The tender creature could not see his fate, With whom she 'ad danc'd a minuet so late. The heads, who never could hope for such frames, Out of envy condemn'd sixscore pounds to the flames, Then his air was too proud, and his features amiss, As if being a traitor had alter'd his phiz: So the rabble of Rome, whose favour ne'er settles, Melt down their Sejanus to pots and brass kettkes.
Since you oft invite me to renew
But think not that I vainly do aspire
Yet since his every act may well infuse Some happy rapture in the humblest Muse, Though mine despairs to reach the wondrous height, She prunes her pinions, eager of the flight; The king 's the theme, and I’ve a subject's right
When William's deeds, and rescued Europe's joy, Do every tongue and every pen employ, 'Tis to think treason sure, to show no zeal, And not to write, is almost to rebel. Let Albion then forgive her meanest son, Who would continue what her best begun; Who, leaving conquests and the pomp of war, Would sing the pious king's divided care; How eagerly he flew, when Europe's fate Did for the seed of future actions wait; And how two nations did with transport boast, Which was belov'd, and lov'd the victor most: How joyful Belgia gratefully prepard Trophies and vows for her returning lord; How the fair Isle with rival passion strove, How by her sorrow she express'd her love, When he withdrew from what his arm had freed, And how she bless'd his way, yet sigh'd, and said: “Is it decreed my hero ne'er shall rest, Ne'er be of me, and I of him possess'd : Scarce had I met his virtue with my throne, By right, by merit, and by arms his own, But Ireland's freedom, and the war's alarms, Call'd him from me and his Maria's charms. O generous prince, too prodigally kind Can the diffusive goodness of your mind Be in no bounds, but of the world, confin'd? Should sinking nations summon you away, Maria's love might justify your stay. Imperfectly the many vows are paid, Which for your safety to the gods were made, While on the Boyne they labour'd to outdo Your zeal for Albion by their care for you; When, too impatient of a glorious ease, You tempt new dangers on the winter seas. The Belgic state has rested long secure Within the circle of thy guardian power; Rear'd by thy care, that noble lion, grown Mature in strength, can range the woods alone; When to my arms they did the prince resign, I bless'd, the change, and thought him wholly mine; Conceiv'd long hopes I jointly should obey His stronger, and Maria's gentle sway; He fierce as thunder, she as lightning bright; One my defence, and tother my delight: Yet go—where honour calls the hero, go; Nor let your eyes behold how mine do flow: Go meet your country's joy, your virtue's due; Receive their triumphs, and prepare for new; Enlarge my empire, and let France afford The next large harvest to thy prosperous sword: Again in Crescy let my arms be rear'd, And o'er the continent Britannia fear'd : While under Mary's tutelary care, Far from the danger, or the noise of war, In honourable pleasure I possess The spoils of conquest, and the charms of peace. As the great lamp by which the globe is bless'd, Constant in toil, and ignorant of rest, Through different regions does his course pursue, And leaves one world but to revive a new; While, by a pleasing change, the queen of Night Relieves his lustre with a milder light: So when your beams do distant nations cheer, The partner of your crown shall mount the sphere, Able alone my empire to sustain, And carry on the glories of thy reign— #. why has Fate maliciously decreed, t greatest blessings must by turns succeed?” WOHL. VIII. Y.
Here she relented, and would urge his stay By all that fondness and that grief could say; But soon did her presaging thoughts employ On scenes of triumphs and returning joy. Thus, like the tide, while her unconstant breast Was swell'd with rapture, by despair depress'd, Fate call'd ; the hero must his way pursue, And her cries lessen'd as the shore withdrew. The winds were silent, and the gentle main Bore an auspicious omen of his reign; When Neptune, owning whom those seas obey, Nodded, and bade the cheerful Tritons play. Khch chose a different subject for their lays, But Orange was the burthen of their praise: Some in their strains up to the fountain ran, From whence this stream of virtue first began : Others chose heroes of a later date, And sung the founder' of the neighbouring state ; How daringly he tyranny withstood, And seal’d his country's freedom with his blood; Then to the two illustrious brethren ‘ came, The glorious rivals of their father's fame; And to the youth 3, whose pregnant hopes outran The steps of Time, and early show'd the man; For whose alliance monarchs did contend, And gave a daughter to secure a friend. But as by Nature's law the Phenix dies, That from its urn a nobler bird may rise, So Fate ordain'd the parent 4 soon should set, To make the glories of his heir complete. At William's name each fill'd his vocal shell, And on the happy sound rejoie'd to dwell: Some sung his birth, and how discerning Fate . Sav'd infant Virtue against powerful Hate; Of poisonous snakes by young Alcides quel!'d, And palms that spread the more, the more withheld Some sung Senefie, and early wonders done By the bold youth, himself a war alone; And how his firmer courage did oppose His country's foreign and intestine foes; The lion he, who held their arrows close. Others sung Perseus, and the injur'd maid, Redeem'd by the wing'd warrior's timely aid; Or in mysterious numbers did unfold Sad modern truths, wrapt up in tales of old; How Saturn, flush'd with arbitrary power, Design'd his lawful issue to devour; But Jove, reserv'd for better fate, withstood The black contrivance of the doating god; With arms he came, his guilty father fled, "Twas Italy secur'd his frighted head, And by his flight resign'd his empty throne And triple empire to his worthier son. Then in one note their artful force they join, Eager to reach the victor and the Boyne; How on the wondering bank the hero stood, Lavishly bold and desperately good: Till Fate, designing to convince the brave, That they can dare no more than Heaven can save, Let Death approach, and yet withheld the sting, Wounded the man, distinguishing the king. They had enlarg’d, but found the strain too strong, And in soft notes allay’d the bolder song: “Flow, gentle Boyne,” they cry’d, “and round thy bed For ever may victorious wreaths be spread;