On The Death Of Mr. Robert Levet, A Practiser In Physick by Samuel Johnson

ON THE DEATH OF
MR. ROBERT LEVET[a],
A PRACTISER IN PHYSICK.

Condemn’d to hope’s delusive mine,
As on we toil, from day to day,
By sudden blasts, or slow decline,
Our social comforts drop away.

Well try’d, through many a varying year,
See Levet to the grave descend,
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of ev’ry friendless name the friend.

Yet still he fills affection’s eye,
Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind;
Nor, letter’d arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined.

When fainting nature call’d for aid,
And hov’ring death prepar’d the blow,
His vig’rous remedy display’d
The pow’r of art, without the show.

In mis’ry’s darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
Where hopeless anguish pour’d his groan,
And lonely want retir’d to die.

No summons, mock’d by chill delay,
No petty gain, disdain’d by pride;
The modest wants of ev’ry day
The toil of ev’ry day supply’d.

His virtues walk’d their narrow round,
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure the eternal master found
The single talent well-employ’d.

The busy day–the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by;
His frame was firm–his pow’rs were bright,
Though now his eightieth year was nigh.

Then, with no fiery throbbing pain,
No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke, at once, the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.

NOTE:
[a] These stanzas, to adopt the words of Dr. Drake, “are warm from the heart; and this is the only poem, from the pen of Johnson, that has been bathed with tears.” Levet was Johnson’s constant and attentive companion, for near forty years; he was a practitioner in physic, among the lower class of people, in London. Humanity, rather than desire of gain, seems to have actuated this single hearted and amiable being; and never were the virtues of charity recorded in more touching strains. “I am acquainted,” says Dr. Drake, “with nothing superior to them in the productions of the moral muse.” See Drake’s Literary Life of Johnson; and Boswell, i. ii. iii. iv.–ED.