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by its facility; the plan was ready to his hand, and nothing was required but to accommodate as he could the sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar images; but what is easy is seldom excellent : such imitations cannot give pleasure to common readers. The man of learning may be sometimes surprised and delighted by an unexpected parallel ; but the comparison requires knowledge of the original, which will likewise often detect strained applications'. Between Roman images and English manners there will be an irreconcileable dissimilitude, and the work will be generally uncouth and party-coloured ; neither original nor translated, neither ancient nor modern 3.
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, 373 all the qualities that constitute genius. He had Invention, by which new trains of events are formed and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in The Rape of the Lock, and by which extrinsick and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known subject, as in the Essay on Criticism; he had Imagination, which strongly impresses on the writer's mind and enables him to convey to the reader the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his Eloisa, Windsor Forest, and the Ethick Epistles * ; he had Judgement, which selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
whereas that to Lord Bathurst was the work of two years by intervals.' Pope's Works (Elwin and Courthope), vi. 338.
"I am mistaken if a common reader may not enjoy these imitations nearly as much as any of Pope's more original satires.' CONINGTON, Misc. Writings, i. 69.
2 In the proof-sheet, Roman sentiments.
Post, WEST, 14. 'I will venture this piece of classical blasphemy, which is that, however Pope may be supposed to be obliged to Horace, Horace is more obliged to him.'
CHESTERFIELD, Misc. Works, iv.
These verses in Pope's Imitations
thing every day;
Rogers's Table-Talk, p. 28.
374 Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning.
'Musick,' says Dryden, is inarticulate poetry"'; among the excellences of Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden he discovered the most perfect fabrick of English verse ?, and habituated himself to that only which he found the best; in consequence of which restraint his poetry has been censured as too uniformly musical ?, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness ‘. I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception; and who would even themselves have less pleasure in his works if he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses
5. ''By the harmony of words we And every warbler has his tune by elevate the mind to a sense of devo- heart.' tion, as our solemn music, which is
COWPER, Works, viii. 141. inarticulate poesy, does in churches.' In a letter Cowper says : -Unless DRYDEN, Works, iii. 377.
we could imitate Pope in the closeAnte, POPE, 13, 348. 'In the ness and compactness of his numbers school of Dryden Pope is an original we had better drop the imitation, master. Dryden is, properly speak- which serves no other purpose than ing, without imitators. His manner to emasculate and weaken all we ... baffles transcribers. But Pope
write. Ib. vi. 347. completed an art which could be Wordsworth describes his versificalearnt, and he left a world full of tion as 'too timidly balanced.' Mecopyists.' 'CHRISTOPHER NORTH,' moirs, 1851, ii. 221. Blackwood, 1845, p. 380.
“Tennyson felt what Cowper calls "The
great rule of verse is to be the “musical finesse" of Pope, and musical.' POPE, Spence's Anec. p. admired single lines and couplets 316.
very much; but he found “the regu4 "There is this difference, among lar da da, da da" of his heroic metre others, between soft and sweet monotonous. He quoted verses: that the former may be very
“ What dire offence from amorous effeminate, whereas the latter are not causes springs." at all so.' 16. p. 155.
“Amorus causiz springs,' horrible! “There is a sweetness that is the I would sooner die than write such distinguishing character of pastoral a line." Tennyson's Life, ii. 286. versification. The fourth and fifth 5 • The want of pauses is the main syllables, and the last but two, are blemish in Pope's versification. I chiefly to be minded; and one must cannot recollect at this moment any tune each line over in one's head to pause he has except that in his fine try whether they go right or not.' Prologue to Cato :
“The triumph ceas'd; tears gush'd • Ī1 [Pope) a réduit les sifflements from ev'ry eye; aigres de la trompette anglaise aux The world's great victor pass'd unsons doux de la flûte.' VOLTAIRE, heeded by.” Euvres, xxiv. 134.
Rogers's Table- Talk, p. 28. * But he (his musical finesse was Rogers might have instanced also such,
the pause in the Essay on Man, ii. 101: So nice his ear, so delicate his 'In lazy apathy let Stoics boast touch)
Their virtue fix'd; 'tis fix'd as in Made poetry a mere mechanic art, a frost.'
Ib. p. 312.
But though he was thus careful of his versification he did not 375 oppress his powers with superfluous rigour! He seems to have
'. thought with Boileau that the practice of writing might be refined till the difficulty should overbalance the advantage. The construction of his language is not always strictly grammatical?; with those rhymes which prescription had conjoined he contented himself, without regard to Swift's remonstrances, though there was no striking consonance; nor was he very careful to vary his terminations or to refuse admission at a small distance to the same rhymes.
To Swift's edict for the exclusion of alexandrines and triplets 376 he paid little regard 3; he admitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton, too rarely: he uses them more liberally in his translation than his poems*.
See Pope's Works (Elwin and Court- Pope wrote to him in 1733 :hope), vi. 51, for Pope's letter to These things (some poems] shall Walsh in 1706 on versification ; see lie by till you come to carp at them, also The Rambler, No. 86.
and alter rhymes, and grammar, and In the proof-sheet, "unremitted triplets, and cacophonies of all kinds.' rigour.'
Ib. p. 307. 2 The late Archbishop of Armagh, In 1735 Swift wrote:-'I absoobjecting one day, in Swift's com- lutely did prevail with Mr. Pope, and pany, to an expression of Pope, as Gay, and Dr. Young, and one or two not being the purest English, Swift more to reject them (triplets and answered with his usual roughness: alexandrines). Mr. Pope never used “ I could never get the blockhead to them till he translated Homer ... study his grammar." WARTON, and I think in one or two of his last Essay on Pope, ii. 116.
poems he has, out of laziness, done In The Rape of the Lock, iv. 57, he the same thing, though very seldom.' begins:
Swift's Works, xviii. 270. Swift * Hail, wayward queen! objected particularly to delight being Who rule the sex to fifty from made to rhyme with wit in the fifteen';
Essay on Criticism. Warton, iv. and continues :"A nymph there is that all thy pow'r - He has an early alexandrine in disdains.'
Windsor Forest, l. 218. 'He has The editor says in a note:—'Bishop not,' writes Warton, 'admitted one Lowth notices Pope's frequent viola- alexandrine or triple rhyme into his tion of grammar in joining a pronoun Essay on Man, Ethic Epistles, Eloisa in the singular to a verb in the plural. or Dunciad; and but rarely, too See Messiah, 11. 5-6.' Pope's Works rarely Fenton thought, into his Iliad; (Elwin and Courthope), iii. 169. the ear, in so long a work, wanting
3 Swift wrote to Pope in 1715:- some variety. Warton, vii. 79. See I borrowed your Homer from the also Warton's Essay, i. 147. For bishop-mine is not yet landed-and other alexandrines see ante, POPE, read it out in two evenings. . . . I am 332, 333. See also ante, COWLEY, angry at some bad rhymes and 196, 199; DRYDEN, 344, 349. Johntriplets; and pray in your next do has one triplet in London not let me have so many unjustifiable [11. 129-32), and none in The Vanity rhymes to war and gods. 16. vii. 10. of Human Wishes.
377 He has a few double rhymes, and always, I think, unsuccess
fully, except once in The Rape of the Lock'. 378 Expletives he very early ejected from his verses ?; but he now
and then admits an epithet rather commodious than important. Each of the six first lines of the Iliad might lose two syllables with very little diminution of the meaning ?; and sometimes, after all his art and labour, one verse seems to be made for . the sake of another. In his latter productions the diction is sometimes vitiated by French idioms, with which Bolingbroke had
perhaps infected him 5. 379 I have been told that the couplet by which he declared his own ear to be most gratified was this:
• Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows
The freezing Tanais thro' a waste of snows 6.'
''The meeting points the sacred Chapeau parmi mes vers.
iii. 196 n. See also ib. i. 46 n.
edition. There are double rhymes in some ‘LORD MARCHMONT. “Do you of Pope's lighter pieces, such as Macer know the history of Dr. Johnson's and Umbra. See also ante, BUTLER, aversion to the word transpire?" 50 n. 2.
Then taking down the folio Dic* "While expletives their feeble aid tionary, he showed it with this censure do join.'
on its secondary sense: “To escape Essay on Criticism, l. 346. from secrecy to notice; a 3 Warton says that Pope was led lately innovated from France, withinto this .over-laboured ornament by out necessity.” “ The truth was the difficulty of translating Homer Lord Bolingbroke, who left the Jacointo rhyme. He never falls into it bites, first used it; therefore, it was in his other works, which are re- to be condemned."' Boswell's Johnmarkable for brevity of style.' War- son, iii. 343. ton, vi. 212.
Johnson in his Dictionaryunder Owe For Goldsmith's 'mending Gray's has the following:— A practice has Elegy by leaving out an idle word long prevailed among writers to use in every line’see Boswell's Johnson, owing, the active participle of owe, i. 404 n.
in a passive sense, for owed or due. • ' A good poet never establishes Of this impropriety Bolingbroke was the first line till he has sought out aware, and, having no quick sense of such a rhyme as may fit the sense, the force of English words, has used already prepared to heighten the due, in the sense of consequence or second.' DRYDEN, Works, xv. 363. imputation, which by other writers
. Quand le second vers était plus is used only of debt. We say, the faible que le premier M. Despréaux money is due to me; Bolingbroke (Boileau) l'appelait le Frère-Chapeau, says, the effect is due to the cause.' faisant allusion à l'usage des moines • Dunciad, iii. 87. For Johnson's qui sont accompagnés d'un Frère, favourite line in his Latin version of quand ils sortent du couvent. “On Pope's Messiah see Boswell's Johnne verra point,” disait-il, “ de Frère- son, i. 272.
It is remarked by Watts that there is scarcely a happy com- 380 bination of words or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties of speech it were desirable to know. That he gleaned from authors, obscure as well as eminent, what he thought brilliant or useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not unlikely. When, in his last years, Hall's Satires were shewn him he wished that he had seen them sooner 2.
New sentiments and new images others may produce, but to 381 attempt any further improvement of versification will be dangerous :. Art and diligence have now done their best, and what shall be added will be the effort of tedious toil and needless curiosity.
After all this it is surely superfluous to answer the question 382 that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet ? otherwise than by asking in return, If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found ? To circumscribe poetry by a definition will only shew the narrowness of the definer“, though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us enquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry ; let their productions be examined and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed. Had he
1.If you read his translation of fication equal to that of Pope.”' Homer's Iliad you will find almost Boswell's Johnson, iv. 46. all the terms or phrases in our tongue Pope had no thought, no mind, no that are needful to express anything ideas, but he had the art of rhymed that is grand or magnificent, but if language in a degree in which no you peruse his Odyssey, which de- English poet before or since has posscends much more into common life, sessed it.' PATTISON, Essays, ii. 375. there is scarce any usual subject of * In the proof-sheet, ‘To circumdiscourse or thought, or any ordinary scribe poetry by a definition is the occurrence, which he has not culti- pedantry of a narrow mind.' vated and dressed in the most proper 5 Boswell records the following language; and yet still he has en- talk in 1778:-'RAMSAY. I am old nobled and enlivened even the lower enough to have been a contemporary subjects with the brightest and most of Pope. His poetry was highly agreeable ornaments.' The Improve- admired in his lifetime, more a great ment of the Mind [post, WATTS, 26), deal than after his death. JOHNch. xx. sec. 36.
SON. Sir, it has not been less · Ante, POPE, 211 n. 2. For Hall admired since his death.... It has see ante, MILTON, 46; DRYDEN, only not been as much talked of, but 344.
that is owing to its being more dis3 I remember once to have heard tant. . .. We must read what the Johnson say, “Sir, a thousand years world reads at the moment.' Bosmay elapse before there shall appear well's Johnson, iii. 332. another man with a power of versi- For the reaction which, unperceived