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of efforts: he is familiar, he is gross; but he is never inerry, unless the " Speech * against peace in the close Committee” be excepted. For grave burlesque,
, however, his imitation of Davenant shews him to have been well qualified.
Of liis more elevated occasional poems there is perhaps none that does not deserve commendation. In the verses to Fletcher, we have an image that has since been adopted :
« But whither am I stray do I need not raise
Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise ;
“ Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain." After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues,
“ Poets are suitans, if they had their will ;
" For every author would his brother kill." And Pope,
" Shoald such a man, too fond to rule alonė;
u Bear like the Turk no brother near the throne.'' But this is not the best of his little pieces: it is excelled by his poem to Fanshaw, and his elegy on Cowley.
His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini, contains a very sprightly and judicious character of a good translator:
“That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
They büt preserve the ashes, thou the flame,
“ True to his sense, but truer to his fame." The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they contain was not at that time generally known.
His poem on the death of Cowley was his last, and, among lois shorter works, his best performance: the numbers are musical, and the thoughts are just.
Cooper's Hile?? is the work tliat confers upon him the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that nay be denominated local poetry; of which the fundamental subject is some particular landschape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation. G2
To trate a new scheme of poetry has in itself a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope *; after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarce a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme, or blank verse.
“ Cooper's Hill,” if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous enquiry.
The four verses, which, since Dryden has conimended thein, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:
• O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme !
Strong without rage, without o’erflowing full.” The lines are in themselves not perfect; for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language which does not express intellectual operations by niaterial images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much ineaning is comprized in few words; the particulars of sesemblance arc so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted ; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet; that the passage, however celebrated, has 130t been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be produced at will by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in some hour propitious to poetry.
He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How inuch this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a peñusal of our earlier versions; some of them the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.
Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His versions of Virgil are not pleasing; but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on “Old Age" has neither the clearness of prose nor the spritghtliness of poetry.
The “ strength of Denham,” which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much nieaning in few words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.
By Garth, in his “Poem on Claremont," and by Pope, in his “ Windsor Forest." H.
On the Thames.
“ Their garb, but not their cloachs, did wear. As one of Denhamn's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from, his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice, as he gains more confidence in himself.
In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to verse.
« Then all those
And differing dialect : then their numbers swell
“ Nor corsi crated mitre, from the same
•š Did and deserv'd no less, my fate to find." From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his followers the art of concluding their sense in coupllets; which has perhaps been with rather too much constancy pursued. · This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not infrequent in this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his latter works he has totally forborn them.
His rhymes are such as seen found without difficulty, by following the sense; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can get.
" O how transform'd!
“ Clad in Achilles' spoils ! And again :
- From thence a thousand lesser poets sprung,
“ Like petty princes from the fall of Rome." Sometimes the weight of thyme is laid upon a word too feeble to sustain it:
Troy confounded falls
-And though my outward state misfortune hath
“ Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand sail.” He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses: in one passage the word die rhimes three couplets in six.
Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, when he was less skilful, or at least less dexterous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent they could only have lessened the grace, not the strength of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language, and whom we ought therefore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.
MI L Τ Ο Ν.
such minute enquiry, that I might perhaps more properly have contented myself with the addition of a few notes to Mr. senton's elegant Abridgement, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniformity of this edition.
JOHN MILTON was by birth a gentleman, descended from the proprietors of Milion near Thame in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. Which side he took I know not; his descendant inherited no veneration for the White Rose.
His grandfather John was keeper of the forest of Shotover, a zealous papist, who disinherited his son, because he had forsaken the religion of his ancestors.
His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had secourse for his support to the profession of a scrivener. He was a man eminent for his skill in music, inany of his compositions being still to be found; and his reputation in his profession was such, that he grew rich, and retired to a 1 estate. He had probably more than common literature, as his son addresies him in one of his most elaborate Latin poems. He married a gentlewoman o fthe name of Caston, a Welsh family, by whom he had two sons, John the poet, and Christopher who studied the law, and adhered, as the law taught hi n, to the King's party, for which he was awhile persecuted; but having, by his brother's interest, obtained permission to live in quiet, he supported himself so honourably by chamber-practice, that, soon after the accession of King Jai es, he was knighted and made a Judge'; but, his constitution being too weak for business, he retired before any disreputable compliances becanie necessar y.
He had likewise a daughter Anne, whom he married with a considerable fortune to Edward Philips, who came from Shrewsbury, and rose in the Crownoffice to be secondary: by him she had two sons, John; and Edward, who were educated by the poet, and from whom is derived the only authentic account of his domestic manners.
John, the Poet, was born in his father's house, at the Spread-Eagle in Breadstreet, Dec. 9, 1608, between six and seven in tlie morning. His father appears to have been very solicitous about his education; for he was instructed at first by