Page images

chuse rather to account for Ovid's falling into so blameable a species of writing, in the words of a fenfible critic *; who after


• Francisci Vavassoris de Epigrammate Liber. Pariĝis 1672. Pag. 47, edit. 8vo.

About this time it became fashionable among the wits at Button's, the mob of gentlemen that wrote with ease, to translate Ovid. Their united performances were pube lished in form by Garth, with a preface written in a flowing and lively style, but full of Atrange opinions. He declares, that none of the clasic poets had the talent of expressing himself with more force and perfpicuity than Ovid; that the Fiat of the Hebrew law-giver is not more sublime than the Juffit et extendi campos, of the latin poet; that he excels in the propriety of his fimiles and epithets, the perfpicuity of his allegories, and the instructive excellence of his morals. Above all, he commends him for his unforced transitions, and for the ease with which he slides into some new circumstance, without any violation of the unity of the story; the texture, says he, is so artful that it


be pared to the work of his own Arachne, where the shade dies so gradually, and the light revives so imperceptibly, that it is hard to tell where the one ceases and the other begins. But it is remarkable that Quintilian thought very differently on this subject of the transitions, and the admirers of Ovid would do well to consider his opinion. " Illa vero frigide et pucrilis eft in fcholis affectatio, ut ipfe tranfitus efficiat aliquam utique sententiam, et hujus velut præftigiæ plausum petat: ut Ovidius lascivire in Metamorphosi solet, quem tamen excusare necesitas poteft, res diversiffimas in speciem unius corporis colligentem.” Garth was a most amiablc, and benevolent man. It was said of him, that “. no Phyfician knew his Art more, nor his Trade less.” Pope told Mr. Richardson, " that there was hardly an alteration,


he has censured, what he calls, the pigmenta, the lascivias, and aucupia fermonum of PATERCULUS, of VALERIUS MAXIMUS, of PLINY the naturalist, and Pliny the consul, of FLORUS, and Tacitus, proceeds as follows: “ Apud Ovidium, cum in Heroidum epistolis, tum vero præcipue in libris Metamorphoseon, deprehendunt qui ifta curant, multa solerter et acute dicta. Sed advertit nemo, quod fciam, unde exorta hæc ei prætor cætoros libido,

causa festivitatis novæ, et prioribus inusitatæ poetis, efle potuerit. Natus Ovidius eodem, quo Cicero mortuus, anno, in hæc incidit tempora, ut ita dicam, declamatoria, hoc est, ea, quibus inductus primum est, et valere cæpit, et in honore effe, ftrictior is habitus et comptior scripturæ; ubi color sententiarum, plurimi ac densi fenfus, et qui cum quodam lumine terminarentur, non tarda nec inerti struc

et quæ

of the innumerable, that were made throughout every edi. tion of the Dispensary, that was not for the better." The vivacity of his conversation made Garth an universal favourite both with Whigs and Torics, when party-rage ran high,


tura, Sic enim nove loqui cæptum est de novo genere loquendi. Itaque ejus adolefcentia iis maxime studiis ac disciplinis declamitandi traducta, exercitaque tunc, cum Portio Latroni et Arellio Fusco rhetoribus daret operam, cumque sese non ad forum, a quo laboris fuga abhorrebat, fed ad poeticam, in quam erat natura propenfior, contuliffet: detulit una secum figuram hanc et formam sermonis, cui affueverat aliquandiu, et institutum jam oratione foluta morem retinuit in versibus."

We are now advanced, through many digressions, that I would hope are not wholly impertinent, to Pope's IMITATIONS of Seven English Poets, some of which were done at fourteen or fifteen years old. His early bent to poetry has been already taken notice of in the first volume*, to which the following anecdote must be added, which I lately received from one of his intimate friends, " I wrote things, said Pope, I am ashamed to

[blocks in formation]

say how soon ; part of my epic poem AlCANDER, when about twelve. The scene of it lay at Rhodes, and some of the neighbouring illands; and the poem opened under the water, with a description of the court of Neptune. That couplet on the circulation of the blood, which I afterwards inserted in the Dunciad,

As man's meanders, to the vital spring
“ Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring,

was originally in this poem, word for word.”

[ocr errors]

The first of these Imitations is of Chauçer; as it paints neither characters nor manners like his original, as it is the only piece of our author's works that is loose and indecent, and as therefore I wish it had been omitted in the present edition, I shall speak no more of it.


The Imitation of Spenser is the second; it is a description of an alley of fishwomen. He that was unacquainted with Spenser, and was to form his ideas of the turn and manner of his genius from this piece,


would undoubtedly suppose that he abounded in filthy images, and excelled in describing the lower scenes of life. But the characteristics of this sweet and amiable allegorical poet, are, not only strong and circumstantial imagery, but tender and pathetic feeling, a most melodious flow of versification, and a certain pleasing melancholy in his sentiments, the constant companion of an elegant taste, that casts a delicacy and grace over all his compositions. To imitate Spenser on a subject that does not partake of the pathos, is not giving a true reprcsentation of him, for he seems to be more awake and alive to all the softnesses of nature, than almost any writer I can recollect. There is an assemblage of disgusting and disagreeable sounds, in the following stanza of Pope, which one is almost tempted to think, if it were possible, had been contrived as a contrast, or rather burlesque, of a most exquisite stanza in the Faery QUEEN.

The snappilh cır, (the passengers annoy)
Close at my heel with yelping treble Nics;


« PreviousContinue »