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Vol. III.] APRIL, 1889. [No. 2.
WILLIAM BLACKSTONE," whose name has become, perhaps, more familiar than any other in the mouths of English [and American] lawyers, was the fourth son of Mr. Charles Blackstone, a silkman and citizen of London, by Mary the eldest daughter of Lovelace Bigg, Esquire, of Chilton Foliot, in the
county of Wilts. He was born on the 10th of July, 1723, after the death of his father, and he had also the misfortune to lose his mother before he was twelve years of age. His uncle, Mr. Thomas Bigg, an eminent surgeon of London, took charge of his education, and at the age of seven years he was admitted on the foundation of the Charter House. When he attained the age of fifteen he had risen to the head of the school, and was at that early period of life admitted a commoner of Pembroke College, Oxford. His progress both at the Charter House and at Oxford was distinguished, and he was elected to an exhibition both at the school and at the college. Having selected the law as his profession, he became a member of the Middle Temple on the 20th of November, 1741.
Hitherto he had applied himself exclusively to literary and scientific pursuits; but in entering upon the severer studies of his profession, he conceived it necessary to abandon the more pleasing avocations to which he had devoted himself. The feelings which this change induced he has expressed in some lines, remarkable for elegance both in style and sentiment:
THE LAwYER's FAREWELL To HIS MUSE.
“As, by some tyrant's stern command,
A wretch forsakes his native land,
In foreign climes condemn'd to roam,
An endless exile from his home;
Pensive he treads the destined way,
And dreads to go, nor dares to stay;
Till on some neighboring mountain's brow
He stops, and turns his eye below;
There, melting at the well-known view,
Drops a last tear, and bids adieu:
So I, thus doom'd from thee to part,
Gay queen of fancy and of art,
Reluctant move with doubtful mind,
Oft stop, and often look behind.
“Companion of my tender age,
Serenely gay, and sweetly sage,
How blithesome were we wont to rove
By verdant hill, or shady grove,
Where fervent bees with humming voice
Around the honey'd oak rejoice,
And aged elms, with awful bend,
In long cathedral walks extend.
Lull'd by the lapse of gliding floods,
Cheer'd by the warbling of the woods,
How blest my days, my thoughts how free,
In sweet society with thee!
Then all was joyous, all was young,
And years unheeded roll'd along:
But now the pleasing dream is o'er,
These scenes must charm me now no more:
Lost to the field, and torn from you,
Farewell!—a long, a last adieu!
“The wrangling courts, and stubborn law,
To smoke, and crowds, and cities draw;
There selfish Faction rules the day,
And Pride and Avarice throng the way;
Diseases taint the murky air,
And midnight conflagrations glare;
Loose Revelry and Riot bold,
In frighted streets their orgies hold;"
Or when in silence all is drown'd,
Fell Murder walks her lonely round;
No room for peace, no room for you—
Adieu, celestial Nymph, adieu!
“Shakespeare no more, thy sylvan son,
Nor all the art of Addison,
Pope's heaven-strung lyre, nor Waller's ease
Nor Milton's mighty self must please:
Instead of these, a formal band
In furs and coifs around me stand,
With sounds uncouth, and accents dry,
That grate the soul of harmony.
Each pedant sage unlocks his store
Of mystic, dark, discordant lore;
And points with tottering hand the ways
That lead me to the thorny maze.
“There, in a winding, close retreat,
Is Justice doom'd to fix her seat;
There, fenced by bulwarks of the law,
She keeps the wondering world in awe;
And there, from vulgar sight retired,
Like eastern queens, is much admired.
“Oh! let me pierce the secret shade,
Where dwells the venerable maid!
There humbly mark, with reverent awe,
The guardian of Britannia's law;
Unfold with joy her sacred page
(The united boast of many an age,
Where mix’d though uniform appears
The wisdom of a thousand years),
In that pure spring the bottom view,
Clear, deep, aud regularly true,
And other doctrines thence imbibe.
Than lurk within the sordid scribe;
Observe how parts with parts unite
In one harmonious rule of right;
See countless wheels distinctly tend,
By various laws, to one great end:
While mighty Alfred's piercing soul
Pervades and regulates the whole.
“Then welcome business, welcome strife,
Welcome the cares, the thorns of life,
The visage wan, the purblind sight,