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an enthusiasm that breaks out from amidst encumbering faults. The invocation of the Druids to Snowdon, for which the mind is so well prepared by the preceding scene, begins with peculiar harmony,
“ Mona on Snowdon calls :
“ Hear, thou king of mountains, hear!" and the ode, on which Gray bestowed so much approbation, opens with a noble personification, and an impetuous spirit
“ Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread, “ That shook the earth with thundering tread? " 'Twas Death. In haste the warrior past,
High tower'd his helmed head."
In 1764 he published a collection of his works in one volume, containing four elegies, which had been written since the appearance of Caractacus. The language of those elegies is certainly less stifly embroidered than that of his odes; and they contain some agreeable passages, such as Dryden's character in the first; the description of a friend's happiness in country retirement in the second; and of Lady Coventry's beauty in the fourth; but they are not altogether free from the “ buckram," and are studies of the head more than the heart.
In 1762 he had been appointed to the canonry and prebend of Driffield, in the cathedral of York, together with the precentorship of the church; but his principal residence continued still to be at Aston, where he indulged his taste in adorning the grounds near his parsonage, and was still more honourably distinguished by an exemplary fulfilment of his clerical duties. In 1765 he married a Miss Sherman, the daughter of William Sherman, Esq. of Kingstonupon-Hull. From the time of his marriage with this amiable woman, he had unhappily little intermission from anxiety in watching the progress of a consumption, which carried her off at the end of two years. He has commemorated her virtues in a well-known and elegant sepulchral inscription.
By the death of his beloved friend Gray, he was left a legacy of £500, together with the books and MSS. of the poet. His “ Memoirs and Letters of Gray" were published in 1775, upon a new plan of biography, which has since been followed in several instances. The first book of his - English Garden" made its appearance in 1772; the three subsequent parts came out in 1777, 1779, and 1782. The first book contains a few lines beautifully descriptive of woodland scenery.
“Many a glade is found, “ The haunt of wood-gods only; where, if Art “ E'er dared to tread, 'twas with unsandal'd foot,
“ Printless, as if the place were holy ground.” There may be other fine passages in this poem; but if there be, I confess that the somniferous effect of the whole has occasioned to me the fault or misfor. tune of overlooking them. What value it may possess, as an “ Art of Ornamental Gardening,” I do not presume to judge; but if this be the perfection of didactic poetry, as Warton pronounced it, it would seem to be as difficult to teach art by poetry, as to teach poetry by art. He begins the poem by invoking Simplicity; but she never comes. Had her power condescended to visit him, I think she would have thrown a less “ dilettante” air upon his principal episode, in which the tragic event of a woman expiring suddenly of a broken heart, is introduced by a conversation between her rival lovers about “Palladian bridges, Panini's pencil, and Piranesi's hand." At all events, Simplicity would not have allowed the hero of the story to construct his barns in imitation of a Norman fortress; and to give his dairy the resemblance of an ancient abbey; nor the poet himself to address a flock of sheep with as much solemnity as if he had been haranguing a senate.
During the whole progress of the American war, Mason continued unchanged in his Whig principles; and took an active share in the association for parliamentary reform, which began to be formed in the year 1779. Finding that his principles gave offence at court, he resigned his office of chaplainship to the king. His Muse was indebted to those politics for a new and lively change in her character. In the pieces which he wrote under the name of Malcolm Mac Gregor, there is a pleasantry that we should little expect from the solemn hand which had touched the harp of the Druids. Thomas Warton was the first to discover, or at least to announce him as the author of the “ Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers;"' and Mason's explanation left the suspicion uncontradicted.
Among his accomplishments, his critical knowledge of painting must have been considerable, for his translation of Du Fresnoy's poem on that art, which appeared in 1783, was finished at the particular suggestion of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who furnished it with illustrative notes. One of his last publications was, 6 An Ode on the Commemoration of the British Revolution.” It was his
in praise of Liberty. Had Soame Jennyns, whom our poet rallies so facetiously for his Toryism, lived to read his palinode after the French revolution, he might have retorted on him the lines which Mason put in the mouth of Dean Tucker, in his “ Dialogue of the Dean and the Squire."
Squire Jennyns, since with like intent
We both have writ of government.” But he shewed that his philanthropy had suffered no abatement from the change of his politics, by delivering and publishing an eloquent sermon against the slave trade. In the same year that gave occasion to his Secular Ode, he condescended to be the biographer of his friend Whitehead, and the editor of his works.
Mason's learning in the arts was of no ordinary kind. He composed several devotional pieces of music for the choir of York cathedral; and Dr. Burney speaks of an "Historical and Critical Essay
on English Church Music," which he published in 1795, in very respectful terms. It is singular, however, that the fault ascribed by the same authority to his musical theory, should be that of Calvinistical plainness. In verse he was my Lord Peter; in his taste for sacred music, Dr. Burney compares him to Jack, in the “ Tale of a Tub."
His death was occasioned, in his seventy-second year, by an accidental hurt on his leg, which he received in stepping out of a carriage, and which produced an incurable mortification.
OPENING SCENE OF CARACTACUS.
Aulus Didius, with Romans; Vellinus and Elidurus, sons of the
British Queen Cartismandua.
Au. Did. This is the secret centre of the isle: Here, Romans, pause, and let the eye of wonder Gaze on the solemn scene; behold yon oak, How stern he frowns, and with his broad brown arms Chills the pale plain beneath him: mark yon altar, The dark stream brawling round its rugged base, These cliffs, these yawning caverns, this wide circus, Skirted with unhewn stone: they awe my soul, As if the very genius of the place Himself appear'd, and with terrific tread Stalk'd thro' his drear domain. And yet, my friends, (If shapes like his be but the fancy's coinage) Surely there is a hidden power, that reigns