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Plots his destruction, which he thus effects.
Their voice and tread, oft seen them as they pass'd,
Full in the midst of his high front there gap'd
Ran through each nerve, and thrill'd in ev'ry vein,
We sped away; he heard us in our course,
TO HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH.
Rheni pacator et istri.
Omnis in hoc uno variis discordia cessit
CLAUD. de Laud. Stilic.
Esse aliquam in terris gentem quæ suâ impensâ, suo labore ac periculo bella gerat pro libertate aliorum. Nec hoc finitimis, aut propinquæ vicinitatis hominibus, aut terris continenti junctis præstet. Maria trajiciat: ne quod toto orbe terrarum injustum imperium sit, et ubique jus, fas, lex, potentissima sint. LIV. Hist. lib. 33.
THE battle of Blenheim, which shines so gloriously in British annals, is the chief subject of the following poem. Addison, however, did not undertake it of his own accord but that decisive victory having spread triumph and confidence over the nation, lord Godolphin, then at the head of the treasury, was desirous that it should be celebrated in a manner equal to its importance. He was lamenting to lord Halifax that this had not been done, and requested him to point out some poet more capable of the task. Halifax told him that there was no encouragement for genius; that worthless men were unprofitably enriched with public money, without any care to find or employ those whose labours might do honour to their country. Godolphin replied, that such abuses should be rectified in time; and that if a man could now be found who would do justice to the great action to be celebrated, he should not want an ample recompense. Halifax then named Addison, but required that the treasurer should apply to him in his own person. Godolphin sent the message to Mr. Boyle, afterwards lord Carleton; and Addison, having undertaken the work, communicated it to the treasurer while it was yet advanced no farther than the simile of the angel, and was immediately rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in the place of Commissioner of Appeals'.
The execution of this poem is better than the plan. Indeed the subject was fit only for an ode, and might have furnished materials for a very fine one, if Mr. Addison had possessed the talents of a lyric poet. However, particular passages are wrought up into much life and beauty; and the apology in the concluding lines is gracefully enough made for the prosaic manner of the poem: for though the author's invention had not supplied him with a better, his true taste could not but tell him this was defective 2.
1 See JOHNSON's Lives of the Poets.
2 Bp. Hurd.