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That “ The Messiah" excels the “ Pollio'' is Exercise, which Cobb had presented, refuted no great praise, if it be considered from what one after another by Pindar's authority, cried original the improvements are derived.
out at last" Pindar was a bold fellow, but The “ Verses on the unfortunate Lady” have thou art an impudent one. drawn much attention by the illaudable singu- If Pope's ode be particularly inspected, it will larity of treating suicide with respect; and they be found that the first stanza consists of sounds, must be allowed to be written in some parts well chosen indeed, but only sounds. with vigorous animation, and in others with The second consists of hyperbolical commongentle tenderness; nor has Pope produced any places, easily to be found, and perhaps without poem in which the sense predominates more over much difficulty to be as well expressed. the diction. But the tale is not skilfully told; In the third, however, there are numbers, it is not easy to discover the character of either images, harmony, and vigour, not unworthy the the Lady or her Guardian. History relates antagonist of Dryden. Had all been like this that she was about to disparage herself by a but every part cannot be the best. marriage with an inferior ; Pope praises her for The next stanzas place and detain us in the the dignity of ambition, and yet condemns the dark and dismal regions of mythology, where uncle to detestation for his pride; the ambitious neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow, love of a niece may be opposed by the interest, can be found : the poet however faithfully at.. malice, or envy, of an uncle, but never by his tends us: we have all that can be performed by pride. On such an occasion a poet may be al- elegance of diction, or sweetness of versification; lowed to be obscure, but inconsistency never can but what can form avail without better matter? be right. **
The last stanza recurs again to common-places. The “ Ode for St. Cecilia's Day" was under- The conclusion is too evidently modelled by that taken at the desire of Steele. In this the author of Dryden ; and it may be remarked that both is generally confessed to have miscarried; yet he end with the same fault; the comparison of each has miscarried only as compared with Dryden, is literal on one side, and metaphorical on the for he has far outgone other competitors. Dry- | other. den's plan is better chosen; history will always Poets do not always express their uwn take stronger hold of the attention than fable: thoughts; Pope, with all this labour in the the passions excited by Dryden are the pleasures praise of Music, was ignorant of its principles, and pains of real life; the scene of Pope is laid and insensible of its effects. in imaginary existence; Pope is read with calm One of his greatest, though of his earliest acquiescence, Dryden with turbulent delight; works, is the “ Essay on Criticism ;" which, if Pope hangs upon the ear, and Dryden finds the he had written nothing else, would have placed passes of the mind.
him among the first critics and the first poets, as Both the odes want the essential constituent it exhibits every mode of excellence that can emof metrical compositions, the stated recurrence bellish or dignify didactic composition, selection of settled numbers. It may be alleged that Pin- of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of dar is said by Horace to have written numeris precept, splendour of illustration, and propriety lege solutis ; but, as no such lax performances of digression. I know not whether it be pleashave been transmitted to us, the meaning of that ing to consider that he produced this piece at expression cannot be fixed; and perhaps the like twenty, and never afterwards excelled it: he return might properly be made to a modern that delights himself with observing that such Pindarist, as Mr. Cobb received from Bentley, powers may be soon attained, cannot but grieve who, when he found his criticisms upon a Greek to think that life was ever at a stand.
To mention the particular beauties of the Es
say would be unprofitably tedious; but I cannot * The account herein before given of this lady and forbear to observe, that the comparison of a stuher catastrophe, cited by Johnson from Ruffhead dent's progress in the sciences with the journey with a kind of acquiescence in the truth thereof, of a traveller in the Alps, is perhaps the best seems no other than might have been extracted from that English poetry can show. A simile, to be the verses themselves. I have in my possession a letter to Dr. Johnson coutaining the name of the perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the lady; and a reference to a gentleman well known in subject; must show it to the understanding in a the literary world for her history. Him I have seen ;
clearer view, and display it to the fancy with and, from a memorandum of some particulars to the greater dignity, but either of these qualities may purpose, communicated to him by a lady of quality, be sufficient to recommend it.
In didactic poebe informs me, that the unfortunate lady's name was try, of which the great purpose is instruction, a Withinbury, corruptly pronounced Winbury; that simile may be praised which illustrates, though she was in love with Pope, and would have married it does not ennoble; in heroics, that may be adhim; that her guardian, though she was deformed in person, looking upon such a match as beneath her,
mitted which ennobles, though it does not illussent her to a convent; and that a noose, and not a
trate. That it may be complete it is required to xword, put an end to her life.-H.
exbibit, independently of its referrences, a pleas
ing image; for a simile is said to be a short epi- The huge round stone, resulting with a bound, sode. To this antiquity was so attentive, that Thunders impetuvus down, and smokes along the circumstances were sometimes added, which,
ground. having no parallels, served only to fill the imagination, and produced what Perrault ludicrously Who does not perceive the stone to move slowly called “comparisons with a long tail.” In their upward, and roll violently back? But set the similes the greatest writers have sometimes same numbers to another sense : failed; the ship-race, compared with the chariotrace, is neither illustrated nor aggrandized; land While many a merry 'ale, and many a song, and water make all the difference: when A pol- Cheer'd the rough roaả, we wish'd the rough road lo, running after Daphne, is likened to a grey
long. hound chasing a hare, there is nothing gained; Mock'd our impatient steps, for all was fai y
The rough road then returning in a round, the ideas of pursuit and flight are too plain to be
ground. made plainer; and a god, and the daughter of a god, are not represented much to their advantage by a bare and dog. The simile of the Alps has We have now surely lost much of the delay, and no useless parts, yet affords a striking picture by much of the rapidity. itself; it makes the foregoing position better un- But, to show how little the greatest master of derstood, and enables it to take faster hold on numbers can fix the principles of representative the attention; it assists the apprehension, and harmony, it will be sufficient to remark that the elevates the fancy.
poet who tells us, that Let me likewise dwell a little on the celebrated paragraph, in which it is directed that when Ajax strives some rock's Fast weight to throw, “ the sound should seem an echo to the sense;" The live too labours, and the words move slow : a precept which Pope is allowed to have ob- Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain, served beyond any other English poet.
Flies o'er the unbending corn, and skims along the
mainThis notion of representative metre, and the desire of discovering frequent adaptations of the souifd to the sense, have produced, in my opi- when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the nion, many wild conceits and imaginary beau- praise of Camilla's lightness of foot, be tried anties. All that can furnish this representation other experiment upon sound and time, and pro. are the sounds of the words considered singly, duced this memorable triplet: and the time in which they are pronounced. Every language has some words framed to ex
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught tu join hibit the noises which they express, as thump, The varying verse, the full resounding line, rattle, growl, hiss. These, however, are but few, The long majestic march, and energy divine. and the poet cannot make them more, nor can they be of any use but when sound is to be men- Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and tioned. The time of pronunciation was in the the march of slow-paced majesty, exhibited by dactylic measures of the learned languages cap- the same poet in the same sequence of syllables, able of considerable variety ; but that variety except that the exact prosodist will find the line could be accommodated only to motion or dura- of swiftness by one time longer that that of tardition, and different degrees of motion were per- ness. haps expressed by verses rapid or slow, without Beauties of this kind are commonly fancied ; much attention of the writer, when the image and, when real, are technical and nugatory, not had full possession of his fancy; but our lan- to be rejected, and not to be solicited. guage having little flexibility, our verses can dif- To the praises which have been accumulated fer very little in their cadence.
The fancied re- on “ The Rape of the Lock,” by readers of semblances, I fear, arise sometimes merely from every class, from the critic to the waiting-maid, the ambiguity of words; there is supposed to be it is difficult to make any addition. Of that some relation between a soft line and a soft which is universally allowed to be the most atcouch, or between hard syllables and hard for- tractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it tune.
rather be now inquired from what sources the Motion, however, may be in some sort exem- power of pleasing is derived. plified ; and yet it may be suspected that, in Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical persu ch resemblances, the mind often governs the spicacity, has remarked, that the preternatural ear, and the sounds are estimated by their mean- agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of ing. One of their most successful attempts has the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain been to describe the labour of Sisyphus:
attention; we should have turned away from a
contest between Venus and Diana. The emWith many a weary step, and many a groan,
ployment of allegorical persons always excites Up a high bill he beaves a huge round stone ; conviction of its own absurdity; they may pro
dice effects, but cannot conduct actions : when ceeds not from any single crush of overwhelmthe phantom is put in motion, it dissolves : thus ing evil, but from small vexations continually Discord may raise a mutiny; but Discord can- repeated. not conduct a march, nor besiege a town. Pope It is remarked by Dennis, likewise, that the brought into view a new race of beings, with machinery is superfluous; that, by a!l the bustle powers and passions proportionate to their oper- of preternatural operation, the main event is ation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act at the neither hastened nor retarded. To this charge toilet and the tea-table, what more terrific and an efficacious answer is not easily made. The more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy Sylphs cannot be said to help or to oppose ; and ocean or the tield of battle; they give their it must be allowed to imply some want of art, proper help, and do their proper mischief. that their power has not been sufficiently interPope is said, by an objector, not to have been mingled with the action.
Other parts may the inventor of this petty nation; a charge likewise be charged with want of connection; which might, with more justice, have been the game at ombre might be spared; but, if the brought against the author of the “ Iliad,” who lady had lost her hair while she was intent doubtless adopted the religious system of his upon her cards, it might have been inferred, country; for what is there but the names of that those who are too fond of play will be in his agents, which Pope has not invented ? Has danger of neglecting more important interests. he not assigned them characters and operations Those perhaps are faults; but what are such never heard of before? Has he not, at least, faults to so much excellence! given them their first poetical existence? If The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is one of the this is not sufficient to denominate his work most happy productions of human wit: the original, nothing original ever can be written. subject is so judiciously chosen, that it would
In this work are exhibited, in a very high be difficult, in turning over the annals of the degree, the two most engaging powers of an world, to find another which so many circumauthor. New things are made familiar, and stances concur to recommend. We regularly familiar things are made new. A race of aërial interest ourselves most in the fortune of those people, never heard of before, is presented to us who most deserve our notice. Abelard and in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader Eloise were conspicuous in their days for emiseeks for no further information, but immedi- nence of merit.
The heart naturally loves ately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts truth. The adventures and misfortunes of this their interests, and attends their pursuits ; loves illustrious pair are known from undisputed a Sylph, and detests a Gnome.
history. Their fate does not leave the mind in That familiar things are made new, every hopeless dejection ; for they both found quiet paragraph will prove. The subject of the poem and consolation in retirement and piety. So is an event below the common incidents of com- new and so affecting is their story, that it mon life; nothing real is introduced that is not supersedes invention; and imagination ranges seen so often as to be no longer regarded; yet at full liberty without straggling into scenes the whole detail of a female day is here brought of fable. before
us, invested with so much art of decora- The story thus skilfully adopted, has been tion, that, though nothing is disguised, every diligently improved. Pope has left nothing bething is striking, and we feel all the appetite of hind him which seems more the effect of studicuriosity for that from which we have a thou- ous perseverance and laborious revisal. Here sand times turned fastidiously away.
is particularly observable the curiosa felicitas, a The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to fruitful soil and careful cultivation. Here is laugh at “ the little unguarded follies of the fe- no crudeness of sense, nor asperity of language. male sex. It is therefcre without justice that The sources from which sentiments which Dennis charges “ The Rape of the Lock” with have so much vigour and efficacy have been the want of a moral, and for that reason sets it drawn are shown to be the mystic writers by below the “ Lutrin,” which exposes the pride the learned author of the “ Essay on the Life and discord of the clergy. Perhaps neither and Writings of Pope ;” a book which teaches Pope nor Boileau has made the world much how the brow of Criticism may be smoothed, better than he found it; but if they had both and how she may be enabled, with all her sesucceeded, it were easy to tell who would have verity, to attract and to delight. deserved most from public gratitude. The The train of my disquisition has now confreaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity, of ducted me to that poetical wonder, the translawomen, as they embroil families in discord, and tion of the “ Iliad,” a performance which no fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct age or nation can pretend to equal. To the the happiness of life in a year than the ambi- Greeks translation was almost unknown; it tion of the clergy in many centuries. It has was totally unknown to the inhabitants of been well observed, that the misery of man pro- Greece. They had no recourse to the barbariaus
for poeti al beauties, but sought for every thing 'affected majesty. This cannot be totally denied; in Homer, where, indeed, there is. but little but it must be remembered, that necessitas quod which they might not find.
cogit defendit ; that may be lawfully done which The Italians have been very diligent transla- cannot be forborne. Time and place will always tors; but I can hear of no version, unless per- enforce regard. In estimating this translation, haps Anguilara's Ovid may be excepted, which consideration must be had of the nature of our s read with eagerness. The “Iliad” of Salvini language, the form of our metre, and, above all, every reader may discover to be punctiliously of the change which two thousand years have exact; but it seems to be the work of a linguist made in the modes of life and the habits of skilfully pedantic; and his countrymen, the thought. Virgil wrote in a language of the proper judges of its power to please, reject it same general fabric with that of Homer, in with disgust.
verses of the same measure, and in an age nearer Their predecessors, the Romans, have left to Homer's time by eighteen hundred years; yet some specimens of translations behind them, and he found, even then, the state of the world so that employment must have had some credit in much altered, and the demand for elegance so which Tully and Germanicus engaged; but, much increased, that mere nature would be enunless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that dured no longer; and perhaps, in the multitude the plays of Terence were versions of Menander, of borrowed passages, very few can be shown nothing translated seems ever to have risen to which he has not embellished. high reputation. The French, in the meridian There is a time when nations, emerging from hour of their learning, were very laudably in- barbarity, and falling into regular subordination, dustrious to enrich their own language with the gain leisure to grow wise, and feel the shame of wisdom of the ancients; but found themselves ignorance and the craving pain of unsatisfied reduced, by whatever necessity, to turn the curiosity. To this hunger of the mind plain Greek and Roman poetry into prose. Whoever sense is grateful; that which fills the void recould read an author could translate him. From moves uneasiness, and to be free from pain for a such rivals little can be feared.
while is pleasure; but repletion generates fasThe chief help of Pope in this arduous under. tidiousness; a saturated intellect soon becomes taking was drawn from the versions of Dryden. luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reVirgil had borrowed much of his imagery from ception till it is recommended by artificial dicHomer, and part of the debt was now paid by tion. Thus it will be found, in the progress of his translator. Pope searched the pages of Dry- learning, that in all nations the first writers are den for happy combinations of heroic diction; simple, and that every age improves in elegance. but it will not be denied that he added much to One refinement always makes way for another ; what he found. He cultivated our language and what was expedient to Virgil was necessary with so much diligence and art, that he has left to Pope. in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to I suppose many readers of the English “ Iliposterity. His version may be said to have ad,” when they have been touched with some tuned the English tongue; for since its appear- unexpected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried ance no writer, however deficient in other to enjoy it in the original, where, alas! it was powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of not to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his lines, so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly translator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitmodulated, took possession of the public ear; the able to his character ; but to have added can be vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the no great crime, if nothing be takan away. Elelearned wondered at the translation.
gance is surely to be desired, if it be not gained But, in the most general applause, discordant at the expense of dignity. A hero would wish voices will always be heard. It has been object- to be loved, as well as to be reverenced. ed by some, who wish to be numbered among To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; the sons of learning, that Pope's version of the purpose of a writer is to be read, and the Homer is not Homerical ; that it exhibits no criticism which would destroy the power of resemblance of the original and characteristic pleasing must be blown aside. Pope wrote for manner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants his his own age and his own nation : he knew that awful simplicity, bis artless grandeur, * his un- it was necessary to colour the images and point
the sentiments of his author; he therefore
* Bentley was one of these. He and Pope, soon af:er the publication of Homer, met at Dr. Mead's at dipuer; when Pope, desirous of his opinion of the translation, addressed him thus: “ Dr. Bentley, I ordered my bookseller to send you your books; I loupe you received them.” Bentley, who had pur. pusely avoided saying any thing about Homer, pre
tended not to understand him, and asked, Books! books! what books ?"_“My Homer," repried Pope, “ which you did me the honour to subscribe for."“ Oh,” said Beutley, “ ay, now I récollect-yon translation :-it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pore; but you must not call it Homer.”-H.
made him graceful, but lost him some of his The beauties of this poem are well known; sublimity.
its chief fault is the grossness of its images. The copious notes with which the version is Pope and Swift had an unnatural delight in accompanied, and by which it is recommended ideas physically impure, such as every other to many readers, though they were undoubtedly tongue utters with unwillingness, and of which written to swell the volumes, ought not to pass every ear shrinks from the mention. without praise; commentaries which attract the But even this fault, offensive as it is, may be reader by the pleasure of perusal have not often forgiven for the excellence of other passages; appeared; the notes of others are read to cleas such as the formation and dissolution of Moore, difficulties, those of Pope to vary entertainment. the account of the traveller, the misfortune of
It has however been objected with sufficient the florist, and the crowded thoughts and stately reason, that there is in the commentary too numbers which dignify the concluding paramuch of unseasonable levity and affected gayety; graph. that too many appeals are made to the ladies, The alterations which have been made in the and the ease which is so carefully preserved is “ Dunciad,” not always for the better, require sometimes the ease of a trifler. Every art has that it should be published, with all its variaits terms, and every kind of instruction its pro- tions. per style; the gravity of common critics may be The “ Essay on Man" was a work of great tedious, but is less despicable than childish mer- labour and long consideration, but certainly not riment.
the happiest of Pope's performances. The subOf the “ Odyssey” nothing remains to be ob- ject is perhaps not very proper for poetry, and served ; the same general praise may be given the poet was not sufficiently master of his subto both translations, and a particular examina-ject; metaphysical morality was to him a new tion of either would require a large volume. study: he was proud of his acquisitions, and, The notes were written by Broome, who en supposing himself master of great secrets, was in deavoured, not unsuccessfully, to imitate his haste to teach what he had not learned. Thus master.
he tells us, in the first epistle, that from the neOf the “ Dunciad” the hint is confessedly ture of the supreme Being may be deduced an taken from Dryden's “ Mac Flecknoe;" but order of beings such as mankind, because infinite the plan is so enlarged and diversified as justly excellence can do only what is best. He finds to claim the praise of an original, and affords the out that these beings must be “ somewhere;' best specimen that has yet appeared of personal and that “all the question is, whether man be satire ludicrously pompous.
in a wrong place.' Surely if, according to the That the design was moral, whatever the au- poet's Leibnitian reasoning, we may infer that thor might tell either his readers or himself, I man ought to be, only because he is, we may alam not convinced. The first motive was the low that this place is the right place, because he desire of revenging the contempt in which The has it. Supreme Wisdom is not less infallible obald had treated his Shakspeare, and regaining in disposing than in creating. But what is the honour which he had lost, by crushing his meant by somewhere and place, and wrong place, opponent. Theobald was not of bulk enough to it had been vain to ask Pope, who probably had fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to never asked himself. find other enemies with other names, at whose Having exalted himself into the chair of wis. expense he might divert the public.
dom, he tells us much that every man knows, In this design there was petulance and malig- and much that he does not know himself; that nity enough; but I cannot think it very crimi- we see but little, and that the order of the uninal. An author places bimself uncalled before verse is beyond our comprehension; an opinion the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the not very uncommon; and that there is a chain hazard of disgrace. Dulness or deformity are of subordinate beings “from infinite to nonot culpable in themselves, but may be very thing,” of which himself and his readers are justly reproached when they pretend to the hon- equally ignorant. But he gives us one comfort, our of wit or the influence of beauty. If bad which without his help he supposes unattainwriters were to pass without reprehension, able, in the position, “ that though we are fools, what should restrain them ? inprune diem con- yet God is wise." sumpserit ingens Telephus ; and upon bad writers The Essay affords an egregious instance of only will censure have much effect. The satire the predominance of genius, the dazzling splenwhich brought Theobald and Moore into con- dour of imagery, and the seductive powers of tempt dropped impotent from Bentley, like the eloquence. Never were penury of knowledge javelin of Priam.
and vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised. All truth is valuable, and satirical criticism | The reader feels his mind full, though he learns may be considered as useful when it rectifies er- nothing; and, when he meets it in its new arsor and improves judgment: he that refines the ray, no louger knows the talk of his mother and Fublic taste is a public benefactor.
his nurse. When these wonder-working sounds