1785 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anonymous, "To James Boswell, Esq." St. James's Chronicle (22 February 1785).



Unlucky Johnson! hard thy Lot indeed,
Pursued beyond thy Life by Fortune's Spite!
Buried by one who never learn'd to read,
Publish'd by one who ne'er was meant to write!

The Prebend's Avarice, the mutter'd Pray'r,
But for a Moment could disgrace thy Tomb;
The Thanks of Nations shall these Wrongs repair,
And spotless Laurel round thy Ashes bloom!

But oh, thy Life! — Can Boswell's careful Hand
To save that Trust from lasting Shame delay?
Haste, gentle Scot, desert thy native Land!
Thy Johnson's Shade invites thee, come away!

Though London gaz'd on his meridian Sun,
Within these Walls its Morning Beam arose:—
At last his Giant Strength its Course has run,
And all his Virtues in the Grave repose;

All, but what scatter'd o'er his honest Page,
Enforce our Duties while on Earth we dwell,
Or, warm with hallow'd Fire, our Thoughts engage
To seek the God whose Cause he serv'd so well.

Of varied Learning every Path he knew;
Be thou the Guardian of his varied Fame!
Oh! give to sacred Gratitude its Due,
Nor leave to Dulness what from Genius came!
Pembroke-College, Oxford, Feb. 16.