Nestled among the prosaic commodity prices, legal decisions, and historical chronicles that regularly appear in an issue of Gentleman’s Magazine  is a section that seems surprising to me — “Select Poetry, ancient and modern.” In some ways, this is a reminder that times certainly have changed, and things are not as they always were. A current publication for the leaders of our era, such as Forbes or Bloomberg or The Wall Street Journal would not contain poetry, unless a noteworthy personage deviated from business acquisition long enough to write, or possibly promote a struggling artist in the name of philanthropy, etc.
But, once upon a time, the well-educated person was learned in literary as well as economic matters. As the column title hints, the classical emphasis on education set a background that persisted into all arenas of life. With this in mind, I delved into the section and became even further struck by the subject matter of my sampling in meter and rhyme. The closing refrain to each stanza concludes that nothing in life matters without….love.
But weak is our vaunt
While something we want,
More sweet than the pleasure that Prospects can give.
Come, smile, damsels of Cardigan,
Love can alone make it blissful to live.
The author of this particular poem only provided his (presumably) initials to this listing of Prospects, Nectar, Odours, Music, Friendship, Learning, Riches and Honour. All, the poet asserts, are not sufficient to bring bliss to life — only love can do that. The musings that follow include “Ode to a Goldfinch”, “An Astronomical Thought” and “A Translation of the Epitaph”. Put together, they summarize the principle concerns of the time period — the natural and known world, the world yet to be discovered, happiness within all experiences, and the context provided by knowledge of eventual death.
That is, indeed, a selection of ancient and modern — even the modern of today.