« PreviousContinue »
sink into sense, and the doctrine of the Essay, men; what is said of Philomede was true of disrobed of its ornaments, is left to the powers Prior. of its naked excellence, what shall we discover ? In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord - That we are, in comparison with our Creator, Burlington, Dr. Warburton has endeavoured to very weak and ignorant; that we do not up-, find a train of thought which was never in the hold the chain of existence; and that we could writer's head, and to support his hypothesis, not make one another with more skill than we has printed that first which was published last. are made. We may learn yet more ; that the In one, the most valuable passage is perhaps the arts of human life were copied from the instinc- Elegy ou “ Good Sense;" and the other, the tive operations of other animals; that, if the “ End of the Duke of Buckingham.” world be made for man, it may be said that man The epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily was made for geese. To those profound princi- called “ The Prologue to the Satires,” is a perples of natural knowledge are added some moral formance consisting, as it seems, of many fraginstructions equally new; that self-interest, ments wrought into one design, which by this well understood, will produce social concord; union of scattered beauties contains more strikthat men are mutual gainers by mutual bene- ing paragraphs than could probably have been fits; that evil is sometimes balanced by good ; brought together into an occasional work. As that human advantages are unstable and falla- there is no stronger motive to exertion than selfcious, of uncertain duration and doubtful effect; defence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or that our true honour is, not to have a great dignity, than the poet's vindication of his own part, but to act it well; that virtue only is character. The meanest passage is the satire our own; and that happiness is always in our upon Sporus. power.
Of the two poems which derived their names Surely a man of no very comprehensive search from the year, and which are called “ The may venture to say that he has heard all this be- Epilogue to the Satires," it was very justly refore; but it was never till now recommended marked by Savage, that the second was in the by such a blaze of embellishments, or such whole more strongly conceived, and more sweetness of melody. The vigorous contraction equally supported, but that it had no single of some thoughts, the luxuriant amplification of passage equal to the contention in the first for others, the incidental illustrations, and some- the dignity of vice and the celebration of the times the dignity, sometimes the softness, of triumph of corruption. the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend cri- The imitations of Horace seem to have been ticism, and oppress judgment by overpowering written as relaxations of his genius. This empleasure.
ployment became his favourite by its facility; This is true of many paragraphs; yet, if I the plan was ready to his hand, and nothing had undertaken to exemplify Pope's felicity of was required but to accommodate as he could composition before a rigid critic, I should not the sentiments of an old author to recent facts select the " Essay on Man;" for it contains or familiar images ; but what is easy is seldom more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more harsh- excellent : such imitations cannot give pleasure ness of diction, more thoughts imperfectly ex- to common readers: the man of learning may pressed, more levity without elegance, and more be sometimes surprised and delighted by an unheaviness without strength, than will easily be expected parallel ; but the comparison requires found in all his other works.
knowledge of the original, which will likewise The Characters of Men and Women are the often detect strained applications. Between product of diligent speculation upon human Roman images and English manners, there life; much labour has been bestowed upon them, will be an irreconcileable dissimilitude, and the and Pope very seldom laboured in vain. That work will be generally uncouth and party-cohis excellence may be properly estimated, I re- loured, neither original nor translated, neither commend a comparison of his Characters of Wo- ancient nor modern. * men with Boileau's satire; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity female nature is investigated and female excellence selected;
* In one of these poems is a couplet, to which and he surely is no mean writer to whom Boi- belongs a story that I once heard the Reverend Dr leau should be found inferior. The Characters Ridley relate: of Men, however, are written with more, if not with deeper thought, and exhibit many passages
« Slander or poison dread from Delia's rage; exquisitely beautiful. The “ Gem and the
Harsh words, or hanging, if your judge be ****." Flower” will not easily be equalled. In the women's part are some defects; the character conceiving that luis name was meant to fill up the
Sir Francis Page, a judge well knowu in his time, of Atossa is not so neatly finished as that of blank, sent his clerk to Mr. Pope, to complain of the Clodio ; and some of the female characters may insult. Pope told the young man that the blank be found perhaps more frequently amông might be supplied by many monosyllables (ther
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted drines and triplets he paid little regard; he adto each other, all the qualities that constitute mitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton, too genius. He had invention, by which new trains rarely; he uses them more liberally in his transof events are formed, and new scenes of imagery lation than his poems. displayed, as in.the “ Rape of the Lock;' and He has a few double rhymes; and always, I by which extrinsic and adventitious embellish- think, unsuccessfully, except once in the “ Rape ments and illustrations are connected with a of the Lock.” known subject, as in the “ Essay on Criticism.” Expletives he very early ejected from his He had imagination, which strongly impresses verses; but he now and then admits an epithet on the writer's mind, and enables him to convey rather commodious than important. Each of to the reader, the various forms of nature, inci- the six tirst lines of the “ Iliad” might lose two dents of life, and energies of passion, as in his syllables with very little diminution of the mean“ Eloisa,'
," " Windsor Forest," and the “ Ethic ing; and sometimes, after all his art and labour', Epistles.” He had judgment, which selects one verse seems to be made for the sake of anfrom life or nature what the present purpose other. In his latter productions the diction is requires, and, by separating the essence of things sometimes vitiated by French idioms, with from its concomitants, often makes the repre- which Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him. sentation more powerful than the reality; and I have been told that the couplet by which he he had colours of language always before him, declared his own ear to be most gratified was ready to decorate his matter with every grace of this : elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of
Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows. Poetical expression includes sound as well as But the reason of this preference I cannot dismeaning: “ Music,” says Dryden, “is inar- cover. ticulate poetry;" among the excellences of It is remarked by Watts, that there is scarcely Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the melody a happy combination of words, or a phrase poof his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden etically elegant in the English language, which he discovered the most perfect fabric of English Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. verse, and habituated himself to that only which How he obtained possession of so many beauties he found the best ; in consequence of which re- of speech, it were desirable to know. That he straint, his poetry has been censured as too uni- gleaned from authors, obscure as well as emiformly musical, and as glutting the ear with nent, what he thought brilliant or useful, and unvaried sweetness. I suspect this objection to preserved it all in a regular collection, is not be the cant of those who judge by principles unlikely. When, in his last years, Hall's Sarather than perception; and who would even tires were shown him, he wished that he had themselves have less pleasure in his works, if he seen them sooner. had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, New sentiments and new images others may or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses. produce; but to attempt any further improve
But though he was thus careful of his versifi- ment of versification will be dangerous. Art cation, he did not oppress his powers with and diligence have now done their best, and superfluous rigour. He seems to have thought what shall be added will be the effort of tedious with Boileau, that the practice of writing might toil and needless curiosity. be refined till the difficulty should overbalance After all this, it is surely superfluous to anthe advantage. The construction of his language swer the question that has once been asked, is not always strictly grammatical: with those whether Pope was a poet ? otherwise than by rhymes which prescription had conjoined, he asking, in return, If Pope be not a poet, where contented himself, without regard to Swift's re- is poetry to be found ? To circumscribe poetry monstrances, though there was no striking con- by a definition will only show the narrowness sonance; nor was he very careful to vary his of the definer, though a definition which shall terminations, or to refuse admission, at a small exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us distance, to the same rhymes.
look round upon the present time, and back To Swift's edict for the exclusion of Alexan- upon the past ; let us inquire to whom the voice
of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry;
let their productions be examined, and their than the judge's name:-“But, Sir,” said the clerk, claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will " the judge says that no other word will make sense be no more disputed. Had be given the world of the passage." “ So then it seems,' says Pope,
your master is not only a judge, but a poet: as that only his version, the name of poet must have is the case, the odds are against me. Give my re
been allowed him; if the writer of the “Iliad” spects to the judge, and tell him, I will not contend
were to class his successors, he would assign a with one that has the advantage of me, and he may very high place to his translator, without reW up the blank as he pleases."-H.
quiring any othei evidence of genius.
The following letter, of which the original is manners by his words ;) and then in that rap in the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was commu- ture and fire which carries you away with him, nicated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell. with that wonderful force, that no man who
has a true poetical spirit is master of himself “ 'To Mr. Bridges, at the Bishop of London's, while he reads him. Homer makes you inat Fulham.
terested and concerned before you are aware, all
at once, whereas Virgil does it by soft degrees. “ The favour of your letter, with your re- This, I believe, is what a translator of Homer mark, can never be enough acknowledged; and ought principally to imitate; and it is very the speed with which you discharged so trouble-hard for any translator to come up to it, besome a task doubles the obligation.
cause the chief reason why all translations fall “ I must own, you have pleased me very short of their originals is, that thé very conmuch by commendations so ill bestowed upon straint they are obliged to renders them heavy me; but, I assure you, much more by the and dispirited. frankness of your censure, which I ought to “ The great beauty of Homer's language, as take the more kindly of the two, as it is more I take it, consists in that noble simplicity which advantageous to a scribbler to be improved in runs through all his works; (and yet his dichis judgment than to be soothed in his vanity. tion, contrary to what one would imagine conThe greater part of those deviations from the sistent with simplicity, is at the same time very Greek which you have observed, ed into copious.) I don't know how I have ran into by Chapman and Hobbes; who are, it seems, this pedantry in a letter, but I find I have said as much celebrated for their knowledge of the too much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately: original, as they are decried for the badness of what farther thoughts I have upon this subject their translations. Chapman pretends to have I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my restored the genuine sense of the author, from own improvement) when we meet; which is a the mistakes of all former explainers, in several happiness I very earnestly desire, as I do likehundred places; and the Cambridge editors of wise some opportunity of proving how much I the large Homer, in Greek and Latin, attri- think myself obliged to your friendship, and buted so much to Hobbes, that they confess how truly I am, Sir, they have corrected the old Latin interpreta- “ Your most faithful, humble servant, tion very often by his version. For my part, I
“ A. Pope." generally took the author's meaning to be us you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfect
The criticism upon Pope's Epitaphs, which ness in the language, overruled me. However,
was printed in “ The Universal Visitor,” is Sir, you may be confident I think you in the placed here, being too minute aud particular to right, because you happen to be of my opinion ; be inserted in the Life. for men (let them say what they will) never approve any other's sense, but as it squares Every art is best taught by example. Nowith their own. But you have made me much thing contributes more to the cultivation of more proud of, and positive in my judgment, propriety than remarks on the works of those since it is strengthened by yours. I think your who have most excelled. I shall therefore encriticisms which regard the expression very deavour, at this visit, to entertain the young stujust, and shall make my profit of them; to give dents in poetry with an examination of Pope's you some proof that I am in earnest, I will Epitaphs. alter three verses on your bare objection, though To define an epitaph is useless; every one I have Mr. Dryden's example for each of them knows that it is an inscription on a tomb. An And this, I hope, you will account no small epitaph, therefore, implies no particular characpiece of obedience from one who values the au- ter of writing, but may be composed in verse thority of one true poet above that of twenty or prose. It is indeed commonly panegyrical; critics or commentators. But, though I speak because we are seldom distinguished with a thus of commentators, I will continue to read stone but by our friends; but it has no rule carefully all I can procure, to make up, that to restrain or modify it, except this, that it way, for my own want of critical understand- ought not to be longer than common beholders ing in the original beauties of Homer. Though may be expected to have leisure and patience to the greatest of them are certainly those of in- peruse. vention and design, which are not at all con
I. fined to the language; for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are (by the consent of the On CHARLES Earl of Dokset, in the Church of best critics of all nations) first in the manners
Wythyham in Sussex. (which include all the speeches, as being no
Dorset, the grace of courts, the muse's pride, other than the representations of each person's Patron of arts, and judge of nature, died
The scourge of pride, though sanctified or great ; Whether a courtier can properly be commendOf fops in learning, and of knaves in state; ed for keeping his ease sacred, may perhaps be Yet soft in nature, though severe his lay,
disputable. To please king and country, withHis anger moral, and his wisdom gay. Blest satirist! who touch'd the means so true,
out sacrificing friendship to any change of times, As show'd, Vice had his hate and pity too.
was a very uncommon instance of prudence or Blest courtier! who could king and country please, felicity, and deserved to be kept separate from Yet sacred kept his friendships and his ease. so poor a commendation as care of his ease. I Blest peer! his great forefather's every grace wish our poets would attend a little more accurReflecting, and reflected on his race;
ately to the use of the word sacred, which sureWhere other Buckhursts, other Dorsets shine,
ly should never be applied in a serious composiAnd patriots still, or poets, deck the line.
tion but where some reference may be made to
a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted The first distich of this epitaph contains a or implied. A man may keep his friendship kind of information which few would want, sacred, because promises of friendship are very that the man for whom the tomb was erected awful ties; but methinks he cannot, but in a died. There are indeed some qualities worthy burlesque sense, be said to keep his ease sacred. of praise ascribed to the dead, but none that were likely to exempt him from the lot of man, or in
Blest peer! cline us much to wonder that he should die. What is meant by “ judge of nature,” is not The blessing ascribed to the peer has no coneasy to say. Nature is not the object of human nection with his peerage; they might happen to judgment; for it is vain to judge where we can any other man whose ancestors were remembernot alter. If by nature is meant what is com-ed, or whose posterity are likely to be regarded. monly called nature by the critics, a just repre
I know not whether this epitaph be worthy sentation of things really existing and actions either of the writer or the man entombed. really performed, nature cannot be properly opposed to art; nature being, in this sense, only
11. the best effect of art.
On SIR WILLIAM TRUMBULL, one of the principal The scourge of pride
Secretaries of State to King William III. who,
having resigned his place, died in his retirement Of this couplet, the second line is not, wbat is at Easthamstead in Berkshire, 1716. intended, an illustration of the former. Pride in the great is indeed well enough connected A pleasing form; a firm, yet cautious mind; with knaves in state, though knaves is a word Sincere, though prudent, constant, yet resign’d; rather too ludicrous and light; but the mention Honour unchanged, a principle profest, of sanctified pride will not lead the thoughts to
Fix'd to one side, but moderate to the rest; fops in learning, but rather to some species of
An honest courtier, yet a patriot too;
Just to his prince, and to his country true; tyranny or oppression, something more gloomy
Fill'd with the sense of age, the fire of youth, and more formidable than foppery.
A scorn of wrangling, yet a zeal for truth;
A generous faith, from superstition free;
A love to peace, and hate of tyranny;
Such this man was; who, now from earth removed, This is a high compliment, but was not first
At length enjoys that liberty he loved. bestowed on Dorset by Pope. The next verse is extremely beautiful.
In this epitaph, as in many others, there ap
pears, at the first view, a fault which I think Blest satirist!
scarcely any beauty can compensate. The name
is omitted. The end of an epitaph is to convey In this distich is another line of which Pope some account of the dead; and to what purpose was not the author. I do not mean to blame is any thing told of him whose name is concealthese imitations with much harshness ; in long ed? An epitaph, and a history of a nameless performances they are scarcely to be avoided, hero, are equally absurd, since the virtues and and in shorter they may be indulged, because qualities so recounted in either are scattered at the train of the composition may naturally in the mercy of fortune to be appropriated by guess. volve them, or the scantiness of the subject allow The name, it is true, may be read upon the little choice. However, what is borrowed is stone; but what obligation has it to the poet, not to be enjoyed as our own; and it is the busi- whose verses wander over the earth and leave ness of critical justice to give every bird of the their subject behind them, and who is forced, muses his proper feather.
like an unskilful painter, to make his purpose
known by adventitious help? Blest conrtier!
This epitaph is wholly without elevation,
REGI MAGNÆ BRITANNIA A SECRETIS
ET CONSILIIS SANCTIORIBVS PRINCIPIS PARITER AC POPVLI AMOR ET DELIGI
VIXIT TITVLIS ET INVIDIA MAJOR
OB. FEB, XVI. MDCCXX.
contains nothing striking or particular; but the poet is not to be blamed for the defects of his subject. He said, perhaps, the best that could
On JAMES CRAGGs, Esq. be said. There are, however, some defects
In Westminster Abbey. which were not made necessary by the character in which he was employed. There is no
JACOBVS CRAGOS, opposition between an honest courtier and a patriot; for, an honest courtier cannot but be a patriot. It was unsuitable to the nicety required in
ANNOS HEV PAVCOS, XXXY. short compositions to close his verse with the word too: every rhyme should be a word of emphasis ; nor can this rule be safely neglected,
Statesman, yet friend to truth! of soul sincere, except where the length of the poem makes
In action faithful, and in honour clear! slight inaccuracies excusable, or allows room Who broke no promise, served no private end, for beauties sufficient to overpower the effects Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend! of petty faults.
Ennobled by himself, by all approved, At the beginning of the seventh line the Praised, wept, and honour'd by the Muse he loved I word filled is weak and prosaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the words that
The lines on Craggs were not originally infollow it.
tended for an epitaph; and therefore some The thought in the last line is impertinent, faults are to be imputed to the violence with having no connection with the foregoing char: which they are torn from the poem that first acter, nor with the condition of the man de-contained them. We may, however, observe scribed. Had the epitaph been written on the some defects. There is a redundancy of words poor conspirator* who died lately in prison af- in the first couplet: it is superfluous to tell of ter a confinement of more than forty years, him who was sincere, true, and faithful, that he without any crime proved against him, the sen
was in honour clear. timent had been just and pathetical; but why
There seems to be an opposition intended in should Trumbull be congratulated upon his li- the fourth line, which is not very obvious: berty, who had never known restraint ?
where is the relation between the two positions, that he gained no title, and lost no friend?
It may be proper here to remark the absurdity III.
of joining in the same inscription Latin and
English, or verse and prose. If either lanOn the Hon. Simon Harcourt, only Son of the guage be preferable to the other, let that only be Lord Chancellor Harcourt, at the Church of used; for no reason can be given why part of Stanlon-Harcourt in Oxfordshire, 1720.
the information should be given in one tongue,
and part in another, on a tomb more than in To this sad shrine, whoe'er thou art, draw near ;
any other place, or any other occasion; and to Here lies the friend most loved, the son most dear: tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, Who de'er knew joy, but friendship might divide, and then to call in the help of prose, has always Or gave his father grief but when he died. the appearance of a very artless expedient, or of
How vain is reason! eloquence how weak! an attempt unaccomplished. Such an epitaph If Popo must tell what Harcourt cannot speak.
resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who Oh ! let thy once-loved friend inscribe thy stone, And with a father's sorrows mix his own!
tells part of his meaning by words, and conveys
part by signs. This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful introduction of the name, which is in
V. serted with a peculiar felicity, to which chance must concur with genius, which no man can
Inlended for Mr. Rowe. hope to attain twice, and which cannot be copied
In Westminster Abbey.* but with servila imitation.
I cannot but wish that of this inscription the Thy relics, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust, two last lines had been omitted, as they take And, sacred, place by Dryden's awful dust; away from the energy what they do not add to Beneath a rude and nameless stone he lies, the sense.
To which thy tomb shall guide inquiring eyes
# This was altered much for the better as it now * Major Bernardi, who died in Newgate, Sept. 20, stands on the monument in the Abbey, erected to 1736. See Gent. Mag. vol. 1. p. 125.--N.
Rowe and his daughter.-WAR B.