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allowed to be written in some parts with vigorous animation, and in others with gentle tenderness; nor has Pope produced any poem in which the sense predominates more over the diction. But the tale is not skilfully told; it is not easy to discover the character of either the Lady or her Guardian. History relates that she was about to disparage herself by a marriage with an inferior; Pope praises her for the dignity of ambition, and yet condemns the uncle to detestation for his pride; the ambitious love of a niece may be opposed by the interest, malice, or envy of an uncle, but never by his pride. On such an occasion a poet may be allowed to be obscure, but inconsistency never can be right*.
The “ Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" was undertaken at the desire of Steele: in this the author is generally confessed to have miscarried, yet he has miscarried only as compared with Dryden; for he has far outgone other com petitors. Dryden's plan is better chosen; history will always take stronger hold of the attention than fable; the passions excited by Dryden are the pleasures and pains of real life, the scene of Pope is laid in imaginary existence; Pope is read with calm acquiescence, Dryden with turbulent delight; Pope hangs upon the ear, and Dryden finds the passes of the mind.
Both the odes want the essential constituent of metrical compositions the stated recurrence of settled numbers. It may be alledged, that Pindar is said by Horace to have written numeris lege solutis; but as no such lax performances have been transmitted to us, the meaning of that expression cannot be fixed : and perhaps the like return might properly be made to a modern Pindarist, as Mr. Cobb received from Bentley, who, when he found his Criticisms upou a Greek Exercise, which Cobb had presented, refuted one after another by Pindar's authority, cried out at last, “ Pindar was a bold fellow, but thou art an impudent one."
If Pope's ode be particularly inspected, it will be found that the first stanza consists of sounds well chosen indeed, but only sounds.
The second consists of hyperbolical common-places, easily to be found, and perhaps without much difficulty to be as well expressed.
In the third, however, there are numbers, images, harmony, and vigour, not unworthy the antagonist of Dryden. Had all been like this—but every part cannot be the best.
The account herein before given of this Lady and her catastrophe, cited by Johnson from Ruff head with a kind of acquiescence in the truth thereof, seems no other than might have been extracted from the verses themselves. I have in my possession a letter to Dr. Johnson, containing the name of the Lady, and a reference to a gentleman well known in the literary world for her bistory. Him I have seen; and from a memorandum of some particulars to the purpose communicated to him by a lady of quality, he informs me, that the unfortunate lady's name was Withinbury, corruptly pronounced Winbury; that she was in love with Pope, and would have married him; that her guardian, though she was deformed in bier person, looking upon such a ņiatch as bencath her, sent her to a convent, and that a noose, and not a sword, put an end to her life, H,
The next stanzas place and detain us in the dark and dismal regions of mythology, where neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow, can be found: the poet however faithfully attends us; we have all that can be performed by elegance of diction, or sweetness of versification; but what can form avail without better matter?
The last stanza recurs again to cominon-places. The conclusion is too evidently modelled by that of Dryden; and it may be remarked that both end with the same fault; the comparison of each is literal on one side, and metaphorical on the other.
Poets do not always express their own thoughts: Pope, with all this lakour in the praise of Musick, was ignorant of its principles, and insensible of its effects.
One of his greatest though of his earliest works, is the “ Essay on Criti“ cism,” which, if he had written nothing else, would have placed him among the first criticks and the first poets, as it exhibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactick composition, selection of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendour of illustration, and propriety of digression. I know not whether it be pleasing to consider that he produced this piece at twenty, and never afterwards ex. celled it: he that delights himself with observing that such powers may be soon attained, cannot but grieve to think that life was ever after at a stand.
To mention the particular beauties of the Essay would be unprofitably tedious; but I cannot forbear to observe, that the comparison of a student's progress in the sciences with the journey of a traveller in the Alps, is perhaps the best that English poetry can shew. “A similie, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject; must shew it to the understanding in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with greater dignity : but either of these qualities may be sufficient to recommend it. In didactick poetry, of which the great purpose is instruction, a simile may be praised which illustrates, though it does not ennoble; in heroicks, that may be admitted which ennobles, though it does not illustrate. That it may be complete, it is required to exhibit, independently of its references, a pleasing image; for a simile is said to be a short episode, To this antiquity was so attentive, that circumstances were scmetimes added, which, having no parallels, served only to fill the imagination, and produced what Perrault ludicrously called “ comparisons with a long tạil.” In their similies the greatest writers have sometimes failed; the ship-race, compared with the chariotrace, is neither illustrated nor aggrandised ; land and water make all the difference : when Apollo, running after Daphne, is likened to a greyhound chasing a hare, there is nothing gained; the ideas of pursuit and fight are too plain to be made plainer; and a god and the daughter of a god are not represented much to their advantage by a hare and dog. The simile of the
Alps Alps has no useless parts, yet affords a striking picture by itself; it makes the foregoing position better understood, and enables it to take faster hold on the attention; it assists the apprehension, and elevates the fancy.
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Let me likewise dwell a little on the celebrated paragraph, in which it is directed that the “ sound should seem an echo to the sense;" a precept which Pope is allowed to have observed beyond any other English poet.
This notion of representative metre, and the desire of discovering frequent adaptations of the sound to the sense, have produced, in my opinion, many wild conceits and imaginary beauties. All that can furnish this represeutation are the sounds of the words considered singly, and the time in which they are pronounced. Every language has some words framed to exhibit the noises which they express, as thump, rattle, growl, hiss. These however are but few, and the poet cannot make them more, nor can they be of any use but when sound is to be mentioned. The time of pronunciation was in the dactylyck measures of the learned languages capable of considerable variety; but that variety could be accommodated only to motion or duration, and different degrees of motion were perhaps expressed by verses rapid or slow, without much attention of the writer, when the image had full possession of his fancy; but our language having little flexibility, our verses can differ very little in their cadence. The fancied resemblances, I fear, arise sometimes merely from the ambiguity of words; there is supposed to be some relation between a soft line and soft couch, or between hard syllables and hard fortune.
Motion however, may be in some sort exemplified ; and yet it may be suspected that in such resemblances the mind often governs the ear, and the sounds are estimated by their meaning. One of their most successful attempts has been to describe the labour of Sisyphus:
With many a weary step,' and many a groan,
The buge round stone, resulting with a bound,
Thunders impetuous down, and smoaks along the ground. Who does not perceive the stone to move slowly upward, and roll violently back? But set the same numbers to another sense.
While many a merry tale, and many a song,
The rough road then, returning in a round,
Mock'd our impatient steps, for all was fairy ground. We have now surely lost much of the delay, and much of the rapidity.
But, to şhew how little the greatest master of numbers can fix the principles of representative harmony, it will be sufficient to remark that the poet who tells us, that
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
Flies o’er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main ; when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the praise of Camilla's lightness of foot, he tried another experiment upon sound and time, and produced this memorable triplet :
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
The long majestick march, and energy divine. Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of slow-paced majesty, exhibited by the same poet in the same sequence of syllables, except that the exact prosodist will find the line of swiftness by one time longer than that of tardines's.
Beauties of this kind are commonly fancied; and when real are technical and nugatory, not to be rejected, and not to be solicited.
To the praises which have been accumulated on “ The Rape of the Lock" by readers of every class, from the critick to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any addition. Of that which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now enquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived.
Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked that the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain attention : we should have turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana The employment of allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own absurdity; they may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions: when the phantom is put in motion, it dissolves; thus Discord may raise a mutiny; but Discord cannot conduct a march, nor besiege a town. Pope brought in view a new race of Beings, with powers and passions proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act at the toilet and the tea-table, what more terrifick and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean, or the field of battle; they give their proper help, and do their proper mischief.
Pope is said, hy an objector, not to have been the inventor of this petty nation; a charge which might with more justice have been brought against the author of the “Iliad," who doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for what is there but the names of his agents which Pope has not invented ? Has he not assigned them characters and operations never heard of before ? Has he not, at least, given them their first poetical existence? If this is not sufficient to denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be written.
In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a Sylph, and detests a Gnome.
That familiar things are made new, every paragraph will prove. The subject of the poem is an event below the common incidents of common life, nothing real is introduced that is not seen so often as to be no longer regarded ; yet the whole detail of a female-day is here brought before us, invested with so much art' of decoration, that, though nothing is disguised, every thing is striking, and we feel all the appetite of curiosity for that from which we have a thousand times turned fastidiously away.
The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at “ the little unguarded “ follies of the female sex.” It is therefore without justice that Dennis charges the “ Rape of the Lock” with the want of a moral, and for that reason sets it below the “ Lutrin," which exposes the pride and discord of the clergy. Perhaps neither Pope nor Boileau has made the world much better than he found it; but, if they had both succeeded, it were easy to tell who would have deserved most from publick gratitude. The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity of women, as they embroil families in discord, and fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct the happiness of life in a year than the ambition of the clergy in many centuries. It has been well observed, that the misery of man proceeds not from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from sinall vexations continually repeated.
It is remarked by Dennis likewise, that the machinery is superfluous; that, by all the buftle of preternatural operation, the main event is neither haftened nor retarded.' To this charge an efficacious answer is not easily made. The Sylphs cannot be said to help or to oppose; and it must be allowed to imply some want of art, that their power has not been sufficiently intermingled with the action. Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connection; the game at ombre might be spared, but if the Lady had lost her hair while she was intent upon her cards, it might have been inferred that those who are too fond of play will be in danger of neglecting more important interests. Those perhaps are faults; but what are such faults to so much excellence !
The Epiftle of “ Eloise to Abelard" is one of the most happy productions of human wit: the subject is so judiciously chosen, that it would be difficult, in turning over the annals of the world, to find another which so many circumstances concur to recommend. We regularly interest ourselves most in the fortune of those who most deserve our notice. Abelard and Eloise were conspicuous in their days for eminence of merit. The heart naturally loves