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North and the plains of Chili are not the residences of " Glory and generous « Shame." But that Poetry and Virtue go always together is an opinion so pleasing, that I can forgive him who resolves to think it true.
The third stanza sounds big with “ Delphi,” and “Egean,” and “ Ilissus," and · Meander,” and “hallowed fountain," and " solemn sound; but in all Gray's odes there is a kind of cumbrous splendour which we wish away. His position is at last faise : in the time of Dante and Petrarch, from whom he derives our first school of Poetry, Italy was over run by“ tyrant power" and · coward vice;" nor was our state much better when we first borrowed the Italian arts.
Of the third ternary, the first gives a mythological birth of Shakspeare. What is said of that mighty genius is true; but it is not said happily: the real effects of this poetical power are put out of sight by the pomp of machinery. Where truth is sufficient to fill the mind, fiction is worse than useless; the counterfeit de bases the genuine.
His account of Milton's blindness, if we suppose it caused by study in the formation of his poem, a supposition surely allowable, is poetically true, and happily imagined. But the car of Dryden, with his two coursers, has nothing in it peculiar: it is, a car in which any other rider may be placed....
“ The Bard" appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and others have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus. Algarotti thinks it superior to its original, and, if preference depends only on the imagery and animation of the two poems, his judgment is righ:. There is in “The “ Bard” more force, more thought, and more variety. But to copy is less than to invent, and the copy has been unhappily produced at a wrong time. The fiction of Horace was to the Romans credible; but its revival disgusts us with apparent and unconquerable falsehood. Incredulis odi.
To select a singular event, and swell it to a giant's bulk by fabulous appendages of spectres and predictions, has little difficulty; for he that forsakes the probable may always find the marvellous. And it has little use ; we are affected only as we believe; we are improved only as we find some thing to be imitated or declined. I do not see that “The Bard” promotes any truth, moral or political:
His stanzas are too long, especially his epodes; the ode is finished before the ear has learned its measures, and consequently before it can receive pleasure from their consonance and recurrence.
Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated; but technical beauties can give praise only to the inventor. It is in the power of any man to rush abruptly upon his subject, that has read the ballad of Johnny Arm. strong,
Is there ever a man in all Scotland
The initial resemblances, or alliterations, “ ruin, ruthless, helm or kau“ berk,” are below the grandeur of a poem that endeavours at sublimity.
In the second stanza the Bard is well described; but in the third we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When we are told that “ Cadwallo “hush'd the storniy main," and that -- Modred made huge Plinlimmon s bow his cloud-top'd head,” attention recoils from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was first heard, was heard with scorn.
The weaving of the winding sheet he borrowed, as he owns, from the northern hards; but their texture, however, was very properly the work of female
powers, as the act of spinning the thread of life in another mythology. Theft is always dangerous; Gray has made weavers of slaughtered bards, by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then called upon to “ Weave the warp, and weave the woof,” perhaps with no great propriety; for it is by crossing the woof with the warp that men weave the web or piece; and the first line was dearly bought by the admission of its wretched correspondent, “ Give ample room and verge enough*.” He has, however, no other line as bad.
Th. third stanza of the second ternary is commended, I think, beyond its merit. The personification is indistinct. Thirst and Hunger are not alike; and their features, to make the imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. We are told, in the same stanza, how “ towers are fed.” But I will no longer look for particular faults, yet let it be observed that the ode inight have been concluded with an action of better example; but suicide is always to be had without expence of thought.
These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful ornaments; they strike, rather than please: the images are magnified by affectation; the language is laboured into harshnes. The mind of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. “Double, double, toil, and trouble." He has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. His ar: and his struggle are too visible, and there is too little appearance of ease and nature.
To say that he has no beauties, would be unjust: a man like him, of great learning and great industry, could not but produce something valuable. When he pleases least, it can only be said that a good design was ill directed.
His translations of Northern and Welsh poetry deserve praise; the imagery is preserved, perhaps often improved; but the language is unlike the language of other poets.
“I have a soul, that like an ample shield
In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the common reader for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices, after all the refinements of subtility and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally decided all claim to poetical honours, The “ Church-yard" abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. The four stanzas, beginning Yet even these bones,” are to me original: I have never seen the notions in any other place; yet he that reads them here persuades himself that he has always felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.
L YTTLETO N.
of ley in Worcestershire, was born in 1709. He was educated at Eton, where he was so much distinguished, that his exercises were recommended as models to his school-fellows.
From Eton he went to Christ-church, where he retained the same reputation of superiority, and displayed his abilities to the public in a poem on 66 Blenheim."
He was a very early writer, both in verse and prose. His " Progress of “ Love," and his “ Persian Letters,” were both written when he was very young; and, indeed, the character of a young man is very visible in both. The verses cant of shepherds and Hocks, and crooks dressed with flowers; and the Letters have something of that indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as he passes forward.
He staid not long at Oxford; for in 1728 he began his travels, and saw France and Italy. When he returned, he obtained a seat in parliament, and soon distinguished himself among the most eager opponents of Sir Robert Walpole, though his father, who was Commissioner of the Admiralty, always voted with the Court.
For many years the name of George Lyttleton was seen in every account of every debate in the House of Commons. He opposed the standing army; he opposed the excise; he supported the motion for petitioning the King to remove Walpole. His zeal was considered by the courtiers not only as violent, but as acrimonious and malignant; and when Walpole was at last hunted from his places, every effort was made by his friends, and many friends he had, to exclude Lyttleton from the Secret Committee.
The Prince of Wales, being (1737) driven from St. James's, kept a separate court, and opened his arms to the opponents of the ministry. Mr. Lyttleton became the secretary, and was supposed to have great influence in the direction of his conduct. He persuaded his master, whose business 679
1 Υ Τ Τ Ι Ε Τ ο Ν.
T T L . it was now to be popular, that he would advance his character by patronage. Mallet was made under-secretary, with 200l. and Thomson had a pension of col. a-year. For Thomson Lyttleton always retained his kindness, and was able at last to place him at ease.
Moore courted his favour by an apologetical poem, called “ The Trial “ of Selim,” for which he was paid with kind words, which, as is common, raised great hopes, that were at last disappointed.
Lyttleton now stood in the first rank of opposition : 'and Pope, who was incited, it is not easy to say how, to increase the clamour against the ministry, commended him among the other patriots. This drew upon him. the reproaches of Fox, who, in the house, imputed to him as a crime his intimacy with a lampooner so unjust and licentious. Lyttleton supported his friend, and replied, that he thought it an honour to be received into the familiarity of so great a poet.
WAile he was thus conspicuous, he married (1741) Miss Lucy Fortescue of Devonshire, by whom he had a son, the late lord Lyttleton, and two daughters, and with whom he appears to have lived in the highest degree of connubial felicity: but human pleasures are short; she died in childbed about five years afterwards, and he solaced his grief by writing a long poem to her memory.
He did not however condemn himself to perpetual solitude and sorrow; for, after a while, he was content to seek happiness again by a second marriage with the daughter of Sir Robert Rich; but the experiment was unsuccessful
At length, after a long struggle, Walpole gave way, and honour and profit were distributed among his conquerors. Lyttleton was made (1744) one of the Lords of the Treasury; and from that time was engaged in supporting the schemes of the ininistry.
Politicks did not, however, so much engage him as to withhold his thoughts from things of more importance. He had, in the pride of juvenile confidence, with the help of corrupt conversation, entertained doubts of the truth of Christianity; but he thought the time now come when it was no longer fit to doubt or believe by chance, and applied himself seriously to the great question. His studies, being honest, ended in conviction. He found that religion was true, and what he had learned he endeavoured to teach (1747), by “ Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul;" a treatise to which Infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer. This book his father had the happiness of seeing, and expressed his pleasure in a letter which deserves to be inserted.
“ I have read your religious treatise with infinite pleasure and satisface « tion. The style is fine and clear, the arguments close, cogent, and irre“ sistible. May the King of kings, whose glorious cause you have so well “ defended, reward your pious labours, and grant that I may be found wor“thy, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be an eye-witness of that hap