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into Statius *, Lucan, Claudian, or Seneca the tragedian ; authors, who by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their swelling epithets, by their want of a just decorum, have a strong tendency to dazzle, and to mislead inexperienced minds, and tastes unformed, from the true relish of possibility, propriety, fimplicity and nature. Statius had undoubtedly invention, ability and spirit; but his images are gigantic and outrageous, and his sentiments tortured and hyperbolical. It can hardly, I think, be doubted, but that Juvenal intended a severe satire on him, in these well known lines which have been commonly interpreted as a panegyric.
Curritur ad vocem jucundam et carmen amica
* Writers of this stamp are always on the stretch. They disdain the natural. They are perpetually grasping at the vait, the wonderful, and the terrible. « Καν έκας ον αυτων προς αυγας ανασκοπης, εκ το φοβερή κατ' ολιγον υπονος προς το ευκαταφρονητοι.-Κακοι δε ογκοι, και επι σωματων και λογων, οι χαυνοι και αναληθεις, και μηποτε περιις αντις vings els 78varten oder gap 0101, Enpozefov üfpwonexs.” Longinus, repoutts 71. y Sect. iii. They Mould read the fenfible discourse of S. Wcirenfels, of Baile, Dc Mrteoris Orationis.
Promifitque diem; tanta dulcedine captos
In these verses are many expressions, here marked with italics, which seem to hint obliquely, that Statius was the favourite poet of the vulgar, who were easily captivated with a wild and inartificial tale, and with an empty magnificence of numbers ; the noisy roughness of which, may be particularly alluded to in the expression, fregit fubfellia verfu. One cannot forbear reflecting on the short duration of a true taste in poetry, among the Romans. From the time of Lucretius, to that of Statius, was no more than about one hundred and fortyseven years;
and if I might venture to pronounce so rigorous a sentence, I would say, that the Romans can boast of but eight poets who are unexceptionably excellent; namely, Terence, LUCRETIUS, CATULLUS, VIRGIL, Horace, TIBULLUS, PROPERTIUS, PHÆDRUS. These only can be called legitimate models of just thinking
and writing, Succeeding anthors, as it happens in all countries, resolving to be original and new, and to avoid the imputation of copying, became distorted and unnatural; by endeavouring to open an unbeaten path, they deserted fimplicity and truth; weary of common and obvious beauties, they must needs hunt for remote and artificial decorations Thus was it that the age of Demetrius Phalerëus fucceeded that of Demosthenes, and the false şelish of Tiberius's court, the chaste one of Augustus. Among the various causes how, ever that have been assigned, why poetry and the arts have more eminently flourished in some particular ages and nations, than in others, few have been satisfactory and adequate. What solid reason can we give why the Romans, who 10 happily imitated the Grecks in many respects, and breathed a truly tragic spirit, could yet never excel in tragedy, though io fond uf theatrical spectacles ? Or why the Greeks, fo fruitful in every species of poetry, yet never produced but one great epic poet? While on
the other hand, modern Italy, can shew two or three illustrious epic writers, yet has no Sophocles, Euripides, or Menander. And France, without having formed a fingle Epopia, has carried dramatic poetry to so high a pitch of perfection in Corneille, Racine, and Moliere.
For a confirmation of the foregoing remark on Statius, and for a proof of the strength and spirit of Pope's youthful translation, I shall select the following passage.
He sends a monster horrible and fell,
Dedipus, in Statius, behaves with the fury
. B. I, ver. 701.
of a bluftering bully; in Sophocles*, with that patient submission, and pathetic remorse, which are suited to his lamentable condition.
Art thou a father, unregarding Jove !
Ovid is also ancther writer of a bad taste, on whom Pope employed some of his youthful hours ; in translating the stories of Dryope and Pomona. Were it not for the useful mythological knowledge they contain, the works of Ovid ought not to be so diligently read. The puerilities and affectations with which they abound, are too well known to be here insisted on. I
See his addrefs to the furies in the Edipus Coloneus of Sophocles, beginning at the words, 2 FOTVICI SEYWTIS, at verse 85, down to verse 117. And afterwards, when be becomes more particularly acquainted with the unnatural cruelty of his sons, yet his resentment is more temperate. See verse 433 down to verse 472, of the same most en. chanting tragedy.