Page images

tura. Sic enim nove loqui cæptum eft de novo genere loquendi. Itaque ejus adolefcentia iis maxime ftudiis ac difciplinis declamitandi traducta, exercitaque tunc, cum Portio Latroni et Arellio Fufco rhetoribus daret operam, cumque fefe non ad forum, a quo laboris fuga abhorrebat, fed ad poeticam, in quam erat natura propenfior, contuliffet: detulit una fecum figuram hanc et formam fermonis, cui affueverat aliquandiu, et inftitutum jam oratione fobuta morem retinuit in verfibus."

WE are now advanced, through many digreffions, that I would hope are not wholly impertinent, to POPE'S IMITATIONS of Seven English Poets, fome 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, faid POPE, I am ashamed to

[blocks in formation]

fay how foon; part of my epic poem ALCANDER, when about twelve. The scene of it lay at Rhodes, and some of the neighbouring iflands; 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 inferted 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."

THE first of these Imitations is of Chaucer; 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 prefent edition, I shall speak no more of it.

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

would undoubtedly suppose that he abounded in filthy images, and excelled in defcribing the lower fcenes of life. But the characteristics of this fweet and amiable allegorical poet, are, not only ftrong and circumftantial imagery, but tender and pathetic feeling, a most melodious flow of verfification, and a certain pleafing melancholy in his fentiments, the conftant companion of an elegant taste, that cafts a delicacy and grace over all his compofitions. To imitate Spenfer on a subject that does not partake of the pathos, is not giving a true representation of him, for he seems to be more awake and alive to all the foftneffes of nature, than almost any writer I can recollect. There is an affemblage of disgusting and difagreeable founds, in the following ftanza of POPE, which one is almoft tempted to think, if it were poffible, had been contrived as a contraft, or rather burlefque, of a most exquisite stanza in the FAERY QUEEN.

The fnappifh cur, (the paffengers annoy)
Clofe at my heel with yelping treble flies;


The whimp'ring girl, and hoarser-screaming boy,
Join to the yelping treble, fhrilling cries;

The fcolding quean to louder notes doth rife,
And her full pipes those fhrilling cries confound;
To her full pipes the grunting hog replies;
The grunting hogs alarm the neighbours round,
And curs, girls, boys, in the deep base are drown'd.

The very turn of thefe numbers, bears the closest resemblance with the following, which are of themselves a complete concert of the most delicious mufic.

The joyous birds fhrouded in chearful shade,
Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet;
Th' angelical, foft trembling voices made
To th' inftruments divine refpondence meet;
The filver-founding inftruments did meet
With the base murmure of the water's fall;
The water's fall with difference discreet,
Now foft, now loud unto the wind did call;
The gentle warbling wind low anfwered to all *.

These images, one would have thought, were peculiarly calculated to have struck the fancy of our young imitator with fo much admiration, as not to have fuffered him to make a kind of travefty of them.

* Book II. Canto 12. Stanza 71.


[ocr errors]

THE next ftanza of POPE reprefents fome allegorical figures, of which his original was fo fond.

Hard by a fly, beneath a roof of thatch
Dwelt OBLOQUY, who in her early days,
Baskets of fish at Billinfgate did watch,

Cod, whiting, oyfter, mackarel, sprat or plaice:
There learn'd fhe fpeech from tongues that never cease.
SLANDER befide her, like a magpie chatters,
With ENVY (spitting cat) dread foe to peace;
Like a curs'd cur, MALICE before her clatters,
And vexing every wight, tears cloaths and all to


But these perfonages of Obloquy, Slander, Envy and Malice, are not marked with any distinct attributes, they are not thofe living figures*, whofe attitudes and behaviour


* Mr. Hume is of opinion, that the perufal of Spenfer becomes tedious to almoft all his readers. "This effect, fays he, [Hiftory of England, pag. 738.] of which every one is conscious, is ufually afcribed to the change of manners ; but manners have more changed fince Homer's age, yet that poet remains ftill the favourite of every reader of tafte and judgment. Homer copied true natural manners, which, however rough and uncultivated, will always form an agreeable and pleasing picture; but the pencil of the English poet was employed in drawing the affectations, and conceits, and fopperies of chivalry, which appear ridiculous as foon as they lofe the recommendation of the mode." But they had not ceafed to be the mode in Spenfer's time.


[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »