« PreviousContinue »
in Prose; and that it is a creative and glowing IMAGINATION, acer spiritus ac vis," and that alone, that can stamp a writer with this exalted and very uncommon character, which so few poffefs, and of which so few can properly judge.
For one person who can adequately relish and enjoy a work of imagination, twenty are to be found who can taste, and judge of, obfervations on familiar life, and the manners of the age. The Satires of Ariosto are more read than the Orlando Furioso, or even Dante. Are there so many cordial admirers of Spenser and Milton, as of Hudibras, if we strike out of the number of these supposed admirers, those who appear such out of fashion, and not of feeling ? Swift's Rhapsody on Poetry is far more popular than Akenside's noble Ode to Lord Huntingdon. The Epistles on the Characters of Men and Women, and your sprightly Satires, my good friend, are more frequently perused, and quoted, than L’Allegro
and Il Penseroso of Milton. written only these Satires, you would, indeed, have gained the title of a man of wit, and a
man of sense; but, I am confident, would not insist on being denominated a poet MERELY on their account.
Non sATIS EST PURIS VERSUM PERSCRIBERE VERBIS.
It is amazing this matter should ever have been mistaken, when Horace has taken particular and repeated pains to settle and adjust the opinion in question. He has more than once disclaimed all right and title to the name of POET on the score of his ethic and satiric pieces.
NEQUE ENIM CONCLUDERE VERSUM
are lines often repeated, but whose meaning is not extended and weighed as it ought to be. Nothing can be more judicious than the method he prescribes, of trying whether any com- . position be essentially poetical or not; which is, to drop entirely the measures and numbers, and transpose and invert the order of the
words: and in this unadorned manner to pe-
the Georgics of Virgil, and see whether, by any process of critical chemistry, you can lower and reduce them to the tameness of prose. You will find that they will appear like Ulysses in his disguise of rags, still a hero, , though lodged in the cottage of the herdsman Eumæus. .
The sublime and the pathetic are the two chief nerves of all genuine poesy. What is there transcendently sublime or pathetic in POPE? In his works there is, indeed, “nihil inane, nihil arcessitum; puro tamen fonti quam magno flumini proprior;" as the excellent Quintilian remarks of Lysias. And because I am, perhaps, unwilling to speak out in plain English, I will adopt the following passage of Voltaire, which, in my opinion, as exactly characterizes Pope as it does his model Boileau, for whom it was originally designed : “ INCAPABLE PEUT-ETRE DU SUBLIME QUI ELEVE L’AME, ET DU SENTIMENT QUI L'ATTENDRIT, MAIS FAIT POUR ECLAIRER CEUX A QUI LA NATURE ACCORDA L'UN ET L'AUTRE, LABORIEUX, SEVERE, PRECIS, PUR,
HARMONIEUX, IL DEVINT, ENFIN, LE POETE
Our English Poets may, I think, be disposed in four different classes and degrees. In the first class I would place our only three fublime and pathetic poets ; Spenser, SHAKESPEARE, Milton. In the second class should be ranked such as possessed the true poetical genius, in a more moderate degree, but who had noble talents for moral, ethical, and
panegyrical poefy. At the head of these are Dryden, PRIOR, Addison, Cowley, WalLER, GARTH, FENTON, GAY, Denham, Parnell. In the third class
be placed men of wit, of elegant taste, and lively fancy in describing familiar life, though not the higher scenes of poetry. Here may be numbered, BUTLER, Swift, ROCHESTER, Donne, DORSET, OLDHAM. In the fourth class, the mere versifiers, however smooth and melliflu. ous some of them may be thought, should be disposed. Such as Pitt, Sandys, FAIRFAX, Broome, BUCKINGHAM, LANSDOWN. This enumeration is not intended as a complete catalogue of writers, and in their proper order,