Letter to Agnes McLehose, January 14 1788

Monday Even, 11 o’clock
( 14th January 1788 )
Why have I not heard from you, Clarinda!-Today I well expected it; and before supper, when a letter to me was announced, my heart danced with rapture: but behold, ’twas some fool who had taken it into his head to turn Poet, and made me an offering of the first fruits of his nonsense.

“It is not poetry, but prose run mad.” Did I ever repeat to you an epigram I made on a Mr Elphinstone, who has given a translation of Martial, a famous Latin poet? The poetry of Elphinstone can only equal his prose-notes. I was sitting In a merchant’s shop of my acquaintance, waiting somebody; he put Elphinstone into my hand, and asked my opmion of it; I begged leave to write it on a blank leaf, which I did-

To Mr Elphinstone,&c.-
o thou, whom Poesy abhors!
Whom Prose has turned out of doors! Heard’st thou yon groan? proceed no further! ‘Twas laurel’d Martial calling murther!

I am determined to see you, if at all possible, on Saturday evening. Next week I must sing-

The night is my departing night,
The morn’s the day I maun awa’;
There’s neither friend nor foe O’ mine But wishes that I were awa’!
What I hae done for lack O’ wit, I never, never can reca’;
I hope ye’re a’ my friends as yet-
Gudenight, and joy be wi’ you a’!

If I could see you sooner, I would be so much the happier; but I would not purchase the dearest gratification on earth, if It must be at your expence in wordly censure;’far less, inward peace!-

I shall certainly be ashamed of thus scrawling whole sheets of incoherence.- The only unity, (a sad word with Poets & Critics!) in my ideas, is Clarinda.-There my heart “reigns and revels.”-

“What art thou Love! whence are those charms,
“That thus thou bear’st an universal rule!
“For thee the soldier quits his arms,
“The king turns slave, the wise man fool.-
“In vain we chase thee from the field,
“And with cool thoughts resist thy yoke:
“Next tide of blood, Alas! we yield;
“And all those high resolves are broke!”

I like to have quotations ready for every occasion.-They give one’s ideas so pat, and save one the trouble of finding expression adequate to one’s feelings.- I think it is one of the greatest pleasures attending a Poetic genius, that we can give our woes, cares, joys, loves, &c. an embodied form in verse, which, to me, is ever immediate ease. Goldsmith says finely of his Muse-

“Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe,
“Who found’st me poor at first, and keep’st me so”_

My limb has been so well today that I have gone up and down stairs often without my staff.- Tomorrow, I hope to walk once again on my own legs to dmner.-It is only next street.-Adieu!
Sylvander

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Published in: on January 14, 2009 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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