Johnson's word 'merit' is carefully chosen. The claim of merit is that it exists outside of the social context in which its' worth to other people may be determined; the OED's oldest sense of the word is 'The quality [...] of being entitled to reward from God.' The merit of a work of poetry, in this traditional view, is therefore separate from and discontinuous with its' social worth or economic value; Milton would have been truly entitled to more or less esteem if Paradise Lost had sold 10,000 copies or 10 copies in the first two years.The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry
-Levi Bishop, "Teuchsa Grondie A Legendary Poem- The Funeral"
Nothing speaks grief so well as to speak nothing
There is a pang that spurns all soothing cares:
The pang the mourner feels. It matters not
If worldly goods and social worth be there,
Refinement and the cultivated man.
The case they meet not. Strong but tender cords
That link the heart to heart, the soul to soul,
Are rudely snapt; and this by Hand that gives
And takes at pleasure. When His rod afflicts,
And He the trembling soul wrings from the lump
Of vanquished clay, and dark and desolate
The scene, nor tears nor moans nor magic wand
Can change the stern, the final dread decree .
In vain our sympathetic nature weeps ;
And all that we can say or do is vain:
Dead silence is by far the better part.
The heart that still survives is struck as with
The hand of death. In moans and tears it may
Relief obtain, but comfort none; no more
Than can the pulseless heart for which it sighs.
The rupture far too deep for aught but balm
That comes from God direct, 'Tis He alone
Can soothe our woe; and He can soothe it well.
Who thus can wound, the pain can well allay;
And time, in power to heal, stands next to Him.
His instrument is time, and this He wields
For wisest purposes. And time, old time
Eternal is, except so far as He
Shall cut it short. And time shall bear away
Our woes, our pains, our sufferings, our name,
Our memory -- all, as on a gentle, sweet,
Delicious stream, to dark oblivion.
And as we thus glide on, the pangs we felt
We feel them less and less. The wounds are healed
To rigid scars; and all by kindly means
Which God vouchsafes and sends to our relief.
Forever more adored His holy name!