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SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
Dear. Sir :
I can have no expectations, in an address of this kind, either to add to your reputation or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my admiration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel; and I may lose much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a juster taste in poetry than you. Setting interest therefore aside, to which I never paid much attention, I must be indulged at present in following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Per. mit me to inscribe this Poem to you.
How far you may be pleased with the versification and mere mechanical parts of this attempt, I do not pretend to inquire; but I know you will object (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur in the opinion), that the depopulation it deplores is nowhere to be seen, and the disorders it laments are only to be found in the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarcely make any other answer than that I sincerely believe what I have written ; that I have taken all possible pains, in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I allege, and that all my views and inquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display. But this is not the place to enter into an inquiry, whether the country be depopulating or not; the discussion would take up much room, and I should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader with a long preface, when I want his unfatigued attention to a long poem.
In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past, it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity in that particular, as crroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states by which so many vices are introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed, so much has been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right.
I am, dear Sir,
Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain, Where health and plenty cheer'd the laboring swain, Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid, And parting summer's ling'ring blooms delay'd : Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, Seats of my youth, when every sport could please, How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green, Where humble happiness endear'd each scene ! How often have I paus'd on every charm, The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, The never-failing brook, the busy mill, The decent church that topt the nighboring hill, The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whispering lovers made!*
* só Lissoy, near Ballymahon, where the poet's brother, the clergyman, had his living, claims the honor of being the spot from which the localities of the Deserted Village were derived. The church which tops the neighboring hill, the mili, and the brook, are still pointed out; and a hawthorn has suffered the penalty of poetical celebrity, being cut to pieces by those admirers of the bard, who desired to have classical tooth-pick cases and tobacco-stoppers. Much of this supposed locality may be fanciful, but it is a pleasing tribute 10 the poet in the land of bis fathers."-Sir WALTER SETT, Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 250, edit. 183-4. See alsı Life, ch xix )
How often have I bless'd the coming day,*
Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
* (Supposed to allude to the number of Saints' days in Ireland, kept by he Roman Catholic peasantry]
+ [The character said to be intended in this and other passages, was General Robert Napier, an Engli-h gonileman, who is well remembered to have ruled the village with a “ Tyrani's hand."-See Life, ch ris ]
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
["* Those who have walked in an evening by the sedgy sides of unfrequented rivers, must remember a variety of notes from different water-fowl: the loud scream of the wild-goose, the croaking of the mallard, the whining of the lapwing, and the tremulous neighing of the jacksnipe: but of all these sounds, there is none so dismally hollow as the booming of the bittern. It is impossible for words to give those who have not heard this evening call an adequate idea of its solemnity. It is like an interrupted bellowing of a bull, but hollower and louder, and is heard at a mile's distance, as if issuing from some formidable being that resided at the bottom of the waters. I remember in the place where I was a boy with what terror this bird's note affected the whole village : they considered it as a presage of some sad event, and generally found or made one to succeed it." - Animated Nature, vol. vi. p. 24.]
+ [“ De Caux, an old French poet, in one of his moral poems, comparing the world to his hour-glass, says
"C'est un verre qui luit,