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When Xerxes, at the head of his numerous army, saw all his troops arranged in order before him, he burst into tears at the thought, that in a short time they would be sweeped from the face of the earth, and be removed to give place to those who would fill other armies, and rank under other generals.
Something of what Xerxes felt, from the consideration that those who then were should cease to be, it is equally natural to feel from the reflection, that all who have formerly lived have ceased to live, and that nothing more remains but the memory of a very few, who have left some memorial which keeps alive their names, and the fame with which those names are accompanied.
But, serious as this reflection may be, it is not so deep as the thought, that, even of those persons who were possessed of talents for distinguishing themselves in the world, for having their memory handed down from age to age, much the greater part, it is likely, from hard necessity, or by some of the various fatal accidents of life, have been excluded from the possibility of exerting themselves, or of being useful either to those who lived in the same age, or to posterity. Poverty in many, and untoward calamity in others, have "chilled the genial current of the soul;" and numbers have been cut off by premature death, in the midst of project and ambition. How many may there have been, in the ages that are past, how many may exist at this very moment, who, with all the talents fitted to shine in the world,
to guide or to instruct it, may, by some secret misfortune, have had their minds depressed, or the fire of their genius extinguished!
I have been led into these reflections, from the perusal of a small volume of poems, which happens now to lie before me, which, though possessed of very considerable merit, and composed in this country, are, I believe, very little known. In a well written preface, the reader is told, That most of them are the production of Michael Bruce; that this Michael Bruce was born in a remote village in Kinrosshire, and descended from parents remarkable for nothing but the innocence and simplicity of their lives; that in the twenty-first year of his age he was seized with a consumption, which put an end to his life.
Nothing, methinks, has inore the power of awakening benevolence, than the consideration of genius thus depressed by situation, suffered to pine in obscurity, and sometimes, as in the case of this unfortunate young man, to perish, it may be, for want of those comforts and conveniences which might have fostered a delicacy of frame or of mind ill calculated to bear the hardships which poverty lays on both. For my own part, I never pass the place (a little hanilet, skirted with a circle of old ash trees, about two miles on this side of Kinross) where Michael Bruce resided;-I never look on his dwelling, (a small thatched house, distinguished from the cottages of the other inhabitants only by a sashed win
dow at the end, instead of a lattice, fringed with a honeysuckle plant, which the poor youth had trained around it);—I never find myself in that spot, but I stop my horse involuntarily, and, looking on the window, which the honeysuckle has now almost covered, in the dream of the moment, I picture out a figure for the gentle tenant of the mansion. I wish, and my heart swells while I do so, that he were alive, and that I were a great man, to have the luxury of visiting him there, and of bidding him be happy.I cannot carry my readers thither; but, that they may share some of my feelings, I will present them with an extract from a poem in the little volume before me, which from the subject, and the manner in which it is written, cannot fail of touching the heart of every man who reads it.
A young man of genius, in a deep consumption, at the age of twenty-one, feeling himself every moment going faster to decline, is an object sufficiently interesting; but how much must every feeling on the occasion be heightened when we know, that this person possessed so much dignity and composure of mind, as not only to contemplate his approaching fate, but even to write a poem on the subject!
One of the most beautiful poems in any language, is that of the Abbé de Chaulieu, written in expectation of his own death, to the Marquis de la Ferre, lamenting his approaching separation from his friend. Michael Bruce, who, it is probable, never heard of the Abbé de Chaulieu, has also written a poem on
his death; with the latter part of which I shall con
clude this paper.
[The poem is here given entire.]
ELEGY TO SPRING.
'Tis past the iron North has spent his rage;
Of genial heat and cheerful light the source,
Far to the north grim Winter draws his train,
Loos'd from the bands of frost, the verdant ground
Behold! the trees new-deck their wither'd boughs,
The blooming hawthorn variegates the scene,
The lily of the vale, of flow'rs the queen,
Puts on the robe she neither sew'd nor spun: The birds on ground, or on the branches green, Hop to and fro, and glitter in the sun.
Soon as o'er eastern hills the morning peers,
On the green furze, cloth'd o'er with golden blooms That fill the air with fragrance all around,
The linnet sits, and tricks his glossy plumes, While o'er the wild his broken notes resound.
While the sun journeys down the western sky,