Page images

sure effects of genuine poetry, όταν α λεγης, υπ ενθεσιασμό και παθες βλεπεις δοκής, και υπ' όψιν τιθης τους

Longinus. *

[ocr errors]

It has been fashionable of late to imitate Spenser; but the likeness of most of these copies hath consisted rather in using a few of his ancient expressions, than in catching his real manner. Some, however, have been executed with happiness, and with attention to that simplicity, that tenderness of sentiment, and those little touches of nature, that constitute Spenser's cha

I have a peculiar pleasure in mentioning two of them, t The School-MISTRESS, by Mr. Shenstone ; and the EDUCATION of ACHILLES, by Mr. Bedingfield. To these must be added that exquisite piece of wild and romantic imagery, Thomson's Castle of Indolence; the first canto of which, in particular, is marvellously pleasing, D2



[blocks in formation]

Dodsley's Miscellanies, Vol. I. pag. 247, and Vol. III.

pag. 119.

And also Dr. Beattie's charming Minstrel.

and the stanzas have a greater flow and freedom than his blank-verse.

Pope* has imitated WALLER in the third place, and has done it with elegance; especially in the verses on a fan of his own design; for he designed with dexterity and taste. The application of the story of Cephalus and Procris, is as ingenious as Waller's Phæbus and Daphne. Waller abounds, perhaps to excess, in allusions to mythology, and the ancient classics. The French, as may be imagined, complain that he is too learned for the ladies. The following twelve lines contain three allusions, delicate indeed, but some may deem them to be too far-fetched, too much crouded, and not obvious to the Lady to whom they were addressed, on her singing a song of his composing :

Chloris, yourself you so excell,
When you vouchsafe to breathe my thought,
That like a spirit with this spell,
Of my own teaching I am caught.


* Speaking of his imitations, Pope said to Mr. Spence,." I had once a design of giving a taste of all the Greek poets; I would have translated a hymn of Homer, an ode of Pindar, an idyllium of Theocritus, &c. so that I would have exhibited a general view of their poesie, throughout its different ages."

That eagle's fate and mine are one,
Which on the shaft that made him die,
Espy'd a feather of his own,
Wherewith he wont to soar so high.
Had Echo, with so sweet a grace,
Narcissus' loud complaints return’d,
Not for reflexion of his face,
But of his voice, the boy had burn'd.

Here is matter enough compressed together for Voiture to have spun out into fifty lines. If I was to name my favourite among Waller's smaller pieces, it should be his apology for having loved before. He begins by saying, that “

they who never had been used to the surprising juice of the grape, render up their reason to the first delicious cup :" this is sufficiently gallant; but what he adds has much of the sublime, and is like a thought of Milton's :


To man that was i' th evening made,

Stars gave the first delight;
Admiring, in the gloomy shade,
Those little drops of light.

D 3


* Spenser and Waller were Pope's great favourites, as he told Mr. Spence, in the order they are named, in his early reading

Then at Aurora, whose fair hand

Remov'd them from the skies,
He gazing tow'rds the East did stand,

She entertain'd his eyes.
But when the bright sun did appear,

All those he'gan despise ;
His wonder was determin’d there,

And could no higher rise.

Which of the French writers has produced any thing at once so gallant and so lofty? The English versification was much sinoothed by Waller, who used to own that he derived the harmony of his numbers from Fairfax's Tasso, who wellvowelled his lines ; though Sandys was a melodious versifier; and Spenser has, perhaps, more variety of music than either of them.* A poet who addresses his pieces to living characters, and confines himself to the subjects and anecdotes of his own times, like this courtly author, bids fairer to become popular, than he that is em


* “ Even little poems (said Pope) should be written by a plan. This method is evident in Tibullus, and Ovid's Elegies, and almost all the pieces of the ancients. A poem on a slight subject requires the greater care, to make it considerable enough to be read.”

ployed in the higher scenes of poetry and fiction, which are more remote from common manners. It may be remarked, lastly, of Waller, that there is no passion in his love verses ; and that one elegy of Tibullus, so well imitated by Hammond, excels a volume of the most refined panegyric.

The next imitation is of COWLEY, in two pieces, on a garden, and on weeping, in which Pope has properly enough, in conformity to his original, extorted some moral, or darted forth some witticism, on every object he mentions. It is not enough to say that the laurels sheltered the fountain from the heat of the day, but this idea must be accompanied with a conceit.

-Daphne, now a tree, as once a maid,
Still from Apollo vindicates her shade.

The flowers that grow on the water-side, could not be sufficiently described without saying, that

The pale Narcissus on the bank, in vain,
Transformed, gazes on himself again.



« PreviousContinue »