« PreviousContinue »
Dedication (writer not specified).
What a whimsical task, my dear friends, you impose
We mean not our book for the public inspection,
Preface, by Mrs. Piozzi.* PREFACES to Books, like Prologues to Plays, will seldom be found to invite readers, and still less often to convey importance. Excuses for mean Performances add only the baseness of submission to poverty of sentiment, and take from insipidity the praise of being inoffensive. We do not however by this little address mean to deprecate public Criticism, or solicit Regard ; why we wrote the verses may be easily explain'd, we wrote them to divert ourselves, and to say kind things of each other; we collected them that our reciprocal expressions of kindness might not be lost, and we printed them because we had no reason to be ashamed of our mutual partiality.
Portrait Painting, though unadorn’d by allegorical allusions and unsupported by recollection of events or places, will be esteem'd for ever as one of the most durable methods to keep Ten
* See ante, p. 90.
derness alive and preserve Friendship from decay ; nor do I observe that the room here where Artists of many Ages have contributed their own likenesses to the Royal Gallery is less frequented than that which contains the statue of a slave and the picture of a Sybil. Our little Book can scarcely be less important to Readers of a distant Age or Nation than we ourselves are ready to acknowledge it; the waters of a mineral spring which sparkle in the glass, and exhilarate the spirits of those who drink them on the spot, grow vapid and tasteless by carriage and keeping; and though we have perhaps transgress'd the Persian Rule of sitting silent till we could find something important or instructive to say, we shall at least be allow'd to have glisten’d innocently in Italian sunshine, and to have imbibed from its rays the warmth of mutual Benevolence, though we have miss'd the hardness and polish that some coarser Metal might have obtain’d by heat of equal force. I will not however lengthen out my Preface ; if the Book is but a feather, tying a stone to it can be no good policy, though it were a precious one; the lighter body would not make the heavy one swim, but the heavy body would inevitably make the light one sink.
On Tuesday evening, the 26th December, 1815 (writes Mr. Fellowes), we met at the Vineyards, our conversation led to the House of Commons, and my father expressed a wish that I had been a member, adding that he believed I should have followed that line with more pleasure than physic. Mrs. Piozzi assented to this, in her usual good-humored complimentary manner. I made an observation about illusion, &c., and something was said about Spain, and the beauties of the language, and I read the following Spanish verses to her, which pleased from their simplicity and neatness :
• La otra noche soñaba,
Que feliz sueño,
Pero no quieso.
Que algun dia tu sueñes,
Lo que soné yo.”
“ The amorous Spaniard's glowing dream,
Caused in my brain confusion;
Say, was that all illusion ?
Was fancied all and vain :
And turn to dream again.
H. L. P.”
During her stay in Italy (writes Sir J. Fellowes) in this delightful society, upon the banks of the Arno, which was duly enlivened by brilliant wit and classic taste, the conversation often turned upon more serious subjects, and one day it was proposed to write an impromptu upon the fatal monosyllable now, the present passing away even before the word is written that explains it. This pretty quatrain was produced by Della Crusca, who had been asserting that all past actions are nihilitic, and that the immediate moment was the whole of human existence:
“ One endless Now stands o'er th' eventful stream
Of all that may be with colossal stride;
To this H. L. P. replied:
“ 'Tis yours the present moment to redeem,
And powerful snatch from Time's too rapid stream ;
LINES WRITTEN JULY 28Th, 1815.
That man is vain ?
Of such the infant shows no sign,
As mental pain.
Still less when passion bears the sway,
With scorn avowed.
For twenty years she reigns at most,
Above the crowd.
Sickness then fills the uneasy chair,
Wishing to die.
Till the farce ends as it began,
ON A WEEPING WILLOW PLACED OVER AGAINST THE SUNDIAL
AT BRYNBELLA, NOV. 28TH, 1802.
Mark how the weeping willow stands
Near the recording stone;
And mourn the moments flown.
Thus conscience holds our fancy fast,
With care too oft affected,
The present still neglected.
Yet shall the swift improving plant
With spring her leaves resume,
Descend on winter's gloom.
Loiter no more, then, near the tree,
Nor on the dial gaze;
Act right while yet it stays.
ON A WATCH.
When Pleasure marks each hour that flies,
And Youth rejoyces in his prime,
To watch with care the flight of time.