Page images
PDF
EPUB

vocantem, non tamen obsecutus, & manum intendentis repulisse.

A celebrated foreigner, the Count Algarotti, has passed the following censure on our poetry, as deficient in this respect :

“ La poesia dei populi settentrionali pare a me, che, generalmente parlando, consista più di pensieri, che d' immagini, si compiaccia delle riflessione equalmente che dei sentimenti: non sia cosi particolareggiata, e pittoresca come e la nostra. Virgilio a cagione d'esempio rappresentando Didone quando esce alla caccia fa una tal descrizione del suo vestimento, che tutti i ritrattisti, leggendo quel passo, la vestirebbono a un modo :

Tandem progreditur, magnâ stipante caterva,
Sidoniam picto chlamydem circumdata limbo;
Cui pharetra ex auro, crines nodantur in aurum,
Aurea purpuream subņectit fibuli vestem.

Non cosi il Miltono quando descrive la nuda bellezza di Eva :

[blocks in formation]

Grace was in all her steps, heav'n in her eyes
In every gesture, dignity and love.

Con quella parole generale, e astratte idee di grazia, cielo, amore, e maestà non pare a lei che ognu o si formi in mente una Eva a posta sua ?"

It must, indeed, be granted, that this

passage gives no distinct and particular idea of the person of Eve; but in how many others has Milton drawn his figures, and expressed his images, with energy and distinctness ?

Under a coronet his flowing hair
In curls on either cheek play'd ; wings he wore
Of many a colour'd plume, sprinkled with gold;
His habit fit for speed succinct, and held
Before his decent steps a silver wand.t

Dire was the tossing, deep the groans ; DESPAIR
Tended the sick, busiest from couch to couch;
And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delay'd to strike.

From

See his works.

Livorno. t. 8.

+ Par. Lost, b. iii. v, 640.

* B. xi. v. 489.

From his slack hand the garland, wreath'd for Eve,
Down dropt, and all the faded roses shed ;
Speechless he stood, and pale!*

And SPENSER, the master of MILTON, so much abounds in portraits peculiarly marked, and strongly created, that it is difficult to know which to select from this copious magazine of the most lively painting. The same may be said of SHAKESPEARE, whose little touches of nature it is no wonder VOLTAIRE could not relish, who affords no example of this beauty in his Henriade, and gives no proofs of a picturesque fancy, in a work that abounds more in declamation, in moral and political reflections, than in poetic images; in which there is little character, and less nature; and in which the author himself appears throughout the piece, and is himself the hero of his poemot

I have dwelt the longer on this subject, because I think I can perceive many symptoms,

M 4

even

* B. ix. v. 892.

+ As much as the author has ventured to censure the epic poem of Voltaire, yet he greatly admires many of his tragedies.

even among writers of eminence, of departing from these true, and lively, and minute representations of Nature, and of dwelling in generalities. To these I oppose the testimony of, perhaps, the most judicious and elegant critic among the ancients. Proculdubio qui dicit expugnatam esse civitatem, complectitur omnia quæcunque talis fortuna recipit : sed in affectus minus penetrat brevis hic velut nuntius. At si aperias hæc quæ verbo uno inclusa erant, apparebunt effusæ per domos ąc templa flammæ, & ruentium tectorum fragor, & ex diversis clamoribus unus quidam sonus; aliorum fuga incerta; alii in extremo complexů suorum cohærentes, & infantium faminarumque ploratus, & malè usque in illum diem servati fato senes; tum illa profanorum sacrorumque direptio, efferentium prædas, repetentiumque discursus, & acti ante suum quisque prædonem catenati, & conata retinere infantem suum mater, & sicubi majus lucrum est, pugna inter victores. Licet enim hæc omnia, ut dixi, complectatur eversio, MINUS EST TAMEN TOTUM DICERE, QUAM OMNIA. *

21. Who

* Quintilian, lib. viii. cap. 3.

And see also a passage of exquisite taste in DEMETRIUS PHALEREUS. Page 122 and 123. Oxon. 1676.

21. Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow?

From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
Not to the * skies in useless columns tost,
Or in proud falls magnificently lost;
But clear and artless, pouring thro' the plain,
Health to the sick, and solace to the swain.
Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
Whose seats the weary traveller repose ?
Who taught that heav'n-directed spire to rise ?
• The Man of Ross,” each lisping babe replies.
Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread!
The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread.

* Has not the learned commentator, in his note on this pas. sage, given an illustration rather hard and far-sought, in the following words?

• The intimation in the first line well ridicules the madness of fashionable magnificence; these columns aspiring to prop the skies, in a very different sense from the heaven-directed spire in the verse that follows; as the expression in the second line exposes the meanness of it, in falling proudly, to no purpose."-Perhaps the same may be said of a note that follows, on verse 333.

“ Cutler and Brutus, dying, both exclaim,
Virtue and wealth! what are ye but a name!

There is a greater beauty in this comparison than the common reader is aware of. Brutus was, in morals at least, a Stoic, like his uncle. Now Stoical virtue was, as our author truly tells us, not exercise, but apathy. Contracted all, retiring to the breast. In a word, like Sir J. Cutler's purse, nothing for use, but kept close shut, and centered all within himself. Now virtue and wealth, thus circumstanced, are, indeed, no other than mere names.”

« PreviousContinue »