« PreviousContinue »
and I place them laft, as I think them the most lofty of any part of Dryden's works.
Whilft lift'ning to the murm'ring leaves he ftood,
The fenfations of a man upon the approach of fome ftrange and fupernatural danger, can scarcely be reprefented more feelingly. All nature is thus faid to fympathize at the fecond appearance of
The felon on his fable fteed
Arm'd with his naked sword that urg'd his dogs to speed.
Thus it runs
The fiend's alarm began; the hollow found
BUT to conclude this digreffion on Dryden. It must be owned, that his ode on the power of mufic, which is the chief ornament of this volume, is the most unrivalled
rivalled of his compofitions. By that ftrange fatality which feems to difqualify authors from judging of their own works, he does not appear to have valued this piece, because he totally omits it in the enumeration and criticifm he has given, of the reft, in his preface to the volume. I shall add nothing to what I have already faid on this fubject; but only relate the occafion and manner of his writing it. Mr. St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a morning visit to Dryden, whom he always refpected†, found him in an unusual agitation of fpirits, even to a trembling. On enquiring the cause, "I have been up all night, replied the old bard; my mufical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cæcilia: I have been fo ftruck with the
*Vol. I. pag. 51.
+ See his verfes to Dryden, prefixed to the tranflation of Virgil. Lord Bolingbroke affured POPE, that Dryden aften declared to him, that he got more from the Spanish critics alone, than from the Italian, French, and all other critics put together; which appears ftrange. This from Mr. Spence.
fubject which occurred to me, that I could.
THE TRANSLATION of the first book of Statius, is the next piece that belongs to this Section. It was in his childhood only, that he could make choice of fo injudicious a writer. It were to be wished that no youth of genius were suffered ever to look
* Richard Berenger, Efq.
into Statius*, Lucan, Claudian, or Seneca the tragedian; authors, who by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their fwelling epithets, by their want of a juft decorum, have a strong tendency to dazzle, and to mislead inexperienced minds, and taftes unformed, from the true relish of poffibility, propriety, fimplicity and nature. Statius had undoubtedly invention, ability and fpirit; but his images are gigantic and outrageous, and his fentiments tortured and hyperbolical. It can hardly, I think, be doubted, but that Juvenal intended a fevere fatire on him, in thefe well known lines which have been commonly interpreted as a panegyric.
Curritur ad vocem jucundam et carmen amica
* Writers of this ftamp are always on the ftretch. They difdain the natural. They are perpetually grasping at the vaft, the wonderful, and the terrible. “ Καν έκαςον αυτών προς αυτας ανασκοπης, εκ τε φοβερό κατ' ολίγον ὑπονος ει προς το ευκαταφρόνητον.--Κακοι δε ογκοι, και επι σωμάτων και λόγων, οι χαυνοι και αναληθείς, και μηποτε περίπς αντες ήμας εις τεναντιον υδεν γαρ φασι, ξηρότερον υδρωπικό. Longinus, we fas ru. y. Sect. iii. They should read the fenfible difcourfe of S. Wedrenfels, of Balle, De Meteoris Orationis.
Promifitque diem; tanta dulcedine captos
In these verses are many expreffions, here marked with italics, which feem 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 expreffion, 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 fortyfeven years; and if I might venture to pronounce fo rigorous a sentence, I would fay, that the Romans can boaft 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 C 4 and