1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anonymous, "On reading Rasselas, an Eastern Tale" Lloyd's Evening Post (4 May 1759) 420.



Prior a hum'rous Tale politely tells,
And in a vein of pleasantry excells:
Johnson his oriental pearl displays,
And shines a glory of unsully'd rays;
He best, each avenue, which guards the heart,
Takes by surprize, with ev'ry grace of art;
Pictures of such rich colours he depaints
We bend the knee, as Romans to their Saints;
So pure his diction, and his thoughts so bright,
His language shines an insula of light;
A tide of vivid lustre pours along,
That ev'n his prose is melody and song;
What depth of sentiment, what height of thought,
With what sublime, exalted morals fraught!
So Amazon's vast river rolls his state,
A limpid sea, magnificently great!
A thousand rivers fill his ample stores,
A thousand nations, his extended shores,
Ten thousand fountains, like young Hebes, bring
Translucent cups, from each perennial spring;
Lost in his bosom, torrents rage in vain,
And send, thro' him, their tribute to the main.
Stupendous cataracts, from Andes toss'd,
In his deep wave, are eminently lost,
Like rolling centuries, they pass away,
Sunk in the ocean of eternal day.