1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anonymous, "On the late Dr. Johnson" London Chronicle (16 Feburary 1786) 159.



When Johnson died, with learning deeply stor'd,
His death, by all who knew him, was deplor'd;
And those who saw him "quietly inurn'd,"
The man, the scholar, and the Christian mourn'd.
Whene'er the Rambler's pages I explore,
Of Greece and Rome I see the purest ore
With English bullion mixt, which brightly shines,
By him work'd up in highly-finish'd lines.
On themes sublime, which lofty thoughts create,
His nervous language has peculiar weight.
While his well-chosen words arrang'd with art,
Stamp the important precepts on the heart.
Thro' Allegoric Tales he pours along,
In measur'd prose, the melody of song;
And in each moral, Oriental page,
Discernment beams attention to engage.
Profound logician with distinctions nice,
Whene'er he virtue separates from vice,
Closely he reasons, and in numerous ways
His pow'rs polemic forcibly displays.
In all his writings pleasing proofs appear,
Of morals strict and piety sincere;
Firm in religion's cause, in her defence
He drew his pen; and, arm'd with sterling sense,
Against loose infidels in diction bold,
His lightning pointed, and his thunder roll'd.
With wit and argument combin'd he ne'er
Would those who combated his system spare.
To make us wiser, or in age in youth,
He stands before us with the "torch of truth;"
To make us "wise unto salvation," strives,
By strongly urging us to mend our lives;
To live while here we sojourn free from blame,
That we, hereafter, bliss supreme may claim,
With firmness trusting to the words of grace,
Reveal'd with clearness to the human race;
Words which will deep impression make on those,
Who are not, reas'ners false, Religion's foes.
Behold him, not an Idler, with the train,
Dramatic beauties studious to explain!
By his well-form'd conjectures, curious, keen,
We find new charms in Shakespeare's matchless scene,
To num'rous passages we, struck, attend,
By reading these conjectures shrewdly penn'd,
We're told by one who well our author knew,
(By one, who closely studied him, whose hand,
With all a master's freedom at command,
Has giv'n his picture, happily at length,
Correctly drawn, with elegance and strength,)
That he, descending to the meanest trade,
Such skill professional with ease display'd,
And so much knowledge by description prov'd,
You might have thought he had a tradesman mov'd
In the selected line; so just, so clear
Did every part exhibited appear.
In ev'ry walk of lit'rature he chose,
Superior to the writing herd he rose;
Who Learning's surface skim, with curious care,
And give their works a fashionable air;
But from beneath its depths no treasures bring
From which scholastic satisfactions spring;
Nor pearls produce, with classic lustre bright,
To charm the letter'd Amateur, at sight.
"Take him for all in all," we shall not find
A more acute, more clear, more copious mind;
A mind with richer erudition fraught,
More force of fancy, and more reach of thought;
How rare the union! but the scene is o'er,
And the sweet voice of Fame delights no more
The ear of him who oft that voice has heard,
For Learning honour'd, for his life rever'd.