PERMIT me to break into your retirement, the residence of virtue and literature, and to trouble you with a few reflections on the merits and real character of an admired author, and on other collateral subjects, that will naturally arise. No love of singularity, no affectation of paradoxical opinions, gave rise to the following work. I re­vere the memory of POPE, I respect and honour his abilities; but I do not think him at the head of his profession. In other words, in that species of poetry wherein POPE excelled, he is superior [Page iv] to all mankind: and I only say, that this species of poetry is not the most excel­lent one of the art. We do not, it should seem, sufficiently attend to the difference there is, betwixt a MAN OF WIT, a MAN OF SENSE, and a TRUE POET. Donne and Swift, were un­doubtedly men of wit, and men of sense: but what traces have they left of PURE POETRY? Fontenelle and La Motte are entitled to the former character; but what can they urge to gain the latter? Which of these characters is the most valuable and useful, is entirely out of the question: all I plead for, is, to have their several provinces kept distinct from each other; and to impress on the rea­der, that a clear head, and acute under­standing are not sufficient, alone, to [Page v] make a POET; that the most solid obser­vations on human life, expressed with the utmost elegance and brevity, are MORALITY, and not POETRY; that the EPISTLES of Boileau in RHYME, are no more poetical, than the CHARACTERS of Bruyere in PROSE; and that it is a creative and glowing IMAGINATION, ‘"acer spiritus ac vis,"’ and that alone, that can stamp a writer with this exalted and very uncommon character, which so few possess, and of which so few can pro­perly judge.

FOR one person, who can adequately relish, and enjoy, a work of imagination, twenty are to be found who can taste and judge of, observations on familiar life, and the manners of the age. The [Page vi] satires of Ariosto, are more read than the Orlando Furioso, or even Dante. Are there so many cordial admirers of Spenser and Milton, as of Hudibras?—If we strike out of the number of these sup­posed admirers, those who appear such out of fashion, and not of feeling. Swift's rhapsody on poetry is far more popular, than Akenside's noble ode to Lord Huntingdon. The EPISTLES on the Cha­racters of men and women, and your sprightly satires, my good friend, are more frequently perused, and quoted, than L'Allegro and Il Penseroso of Milton. Had you written only these satires, you would indeed have gained the title of a man of wit, and a man of sense; but, I am confident, would not insist on being denominated a POET, MERELY on their account.

[Page vii]

IT is amazing this matter should ever have been mistaken, when Horace has taken particular and repeated pains, to settle and adjust the opinion in question. He has more than once disclaimed all right and title to the name of POET, on the score of his ethic and satiric pieces.


are lines, often repeated, but whose mean­ing is not extended and weighed as it ought to be. Nothing can be more judicious than the method he prescribes, of trying whether any composition be essentially poetical or not; which is, to drop entirely the measures and numbers, and transpose and invert the order of the [Page viii] words: and in this unadorned manner to peruse the passage. If there be really in it a true poetical spirit, all your inver­sions and transpositions will not disguise and extinguish it; but it will retain its lustre, like a diamond, unset, and thrown back into the rubbish of the mine. Let us make a little experiment on the fol­lowing well-known lines; ‘"Yes, you despise the man that is confined to books, who rails at human kind from his study; tho' what he learns, he speaks; and may perhaps advance some general maxims, or may be right by chance. The coxcomb bird, so grave and so talk­ative, that cries whore, knave, and cuckold, from his cage, tho' he rightly call many a passenger, you hold him no philosopher. And yet, such is the fate [Page ix] of all extremes, men may be read too much, as well as books. We grow more partial, for the sake of the observer, to observations which we ourselves make; less, so, to written wisdom, because another's. Maxims are drawn from no­tions, and those from guess."’ What shall we say of this passage?—Why, that it is most excellent sense, but just as poetical as the ‘"Qui fit Maecenas"’ of the author who recom­mends this method of trial. Take any ten lines of the Iliad, Paradise Lost, or even of the Georgics of Virgil, and see whe­ther by any process of critical chymistry, you can lower and reduce them to the tameness of prose. You will find that they will appear like Ulysses in his dis­guise [Page x] of rags, still a hero, tho' lodged in the cottage of the herdsman Eumaeus.

THE Sublime and the Pathetic are the two chief nerves of all genuine poesy. What is there very sublime or very Pathetic in POPE? In his works there is indeed, ‘"nihil inane, nihil arcessitum;—puro tamen fonti quam magno flumini propior;"’ as the excellent Quintilian remarks of Lysias. And because I am perhaps ashamed or afraid to speak out in plain English, I will adopt the follow­ing passage of Voltaire, which, in my opinion, as exactly characterizes POPE, as it does his model Boileau, for whom it was originally designed. ‘"INCAPABLE PEUTETRE DU SUBLIME QUI ELEVE L'AME, ET DU SENTIMENT QUI L'ATTENDRIT, MAIS FAIT POUR ECLAIRER CEUX A QUI LA NATURE ACCORDA L'UN [Page xi] ET L'AUTRE, LABORIEUX, SEVERE, PRECIS, PUR, HARMONIEUX, IL DEVINT, ENFIN, LE POETE DE LA RAISON."’

OUR English poets may, I think, be be disposed in four different classes and degrees. In the first class, I would place, first, our only three sublime and pathetic poets; SPENSER, SHAKESPEARE, MILTON; and then, at proper intervals, OTWAY and LEE. In the second class should be placed, such as possessed the true poetical genius, in a more moderate de­gree, but had noble talents for moral and ethical poesy. At the head of these are DRYDEN, DONNE, DENHAM, COWLEY, CONGREVE. In the third class may be placed, men of wit, of elegant taste, and some fancy in describing familiar life. Here may be numbered, PRIOR, [Page xii] WALLER, PARNELL, SWIFT, FENTON. In the fourth class, the mere versifiers, however smooth and mellifluous some of them may be thought, should be ranked. Such as PITT, SANDYS, FAIR­FAX, BROOME, BUCKINGHAM, LANS­DOWN. In which of these classes POPE deserves to be placed, the following work is intended to determine.

Your affectionate And faithful servant


SECT. I. Of the PASTORALS, and the MESSIAH an Eclogue.

PRINCES and Authors are seldom spoken of, during their lives, with jus­tice and impartiality. Admiration and envy, their constant attendants, like two unskilful artists, are apt to overcharge their pieces with too great a quantity of light or of shade; and are disqualified happily to hit upon that middle colour, that mixture of [Page 2] error and excellence, which alone renders every representation of man just and natural. This perhaps may be one reason, among o­thers, why we have never yet seen a fair and candid criticism on the character and merits of our last great poet, Mr. POPE. I have therefore thought, that it would be no unpleasing amusement, or uninstructive employment to examine at large, without blind panegyric, or petulant invective, the writings of this English Classic, in the order in which they are arranged in the elegant edition of Mr. Warburton. As I shall nei­ther censure nor commend, without alleging the reason on which my opinion is founded, I shall be entirely unmoved at the impu­tation of malignity, or the clamours of po­pular prejudice.

IT is something strange, that in the pas­torals of a young poet there should not be found a single rural image that is new: but this I am afraid is the case in the PASTORALS before us. The ideas of Theocritus, Vir­gil, [Page 3] and Spenser, are indeed here exhibited in language equally mellifluous and pure; but the descriptions and sentiments are trite and common. That the design of pastoral poesy is, to represent the undisturbed felicity of the golden age, is an empty notion, which, though supported by a Rapin and a Fonte­nelle, I think, all rational critics have agreed to exstirpate and explode. But I do not re­member, that even these last-mentioned cri­tics have remarked the circumstance that gave origin to the opinion that any golden age was intended. Theocritus, the father and the model of this enchanting species of composition, lived and wrote in Sicily. The climate of Sicily was delicious, and the face of the country various, and beautiful: it's vallies and it's precipices, it's grot­tos and cascades were SWEETLY INTER­CHANGED, and it's fruits and flowers were lavish and luscious. The poet described what he saw and felt: and had no need to have recourse to those artificial assemblages of pleasing objects, which are not to be found [Page 4] in nature. The figs and the honey which he assigns as a reward to a victorious shep­herd were in themselves exquisite, and are therefore assigned with great propriety*: and the beauties of that luxurious land­schape so richly and circumstantially deline­ated in the close of the seventh idyllium, where all things smelt of summer and smelt of autumn,


were present and real. Succeeding writers supposing these beauties too great and a­bundant to be real, referred them to the fictitious and imaginary scenes of a golden age.

A MIXTURE of British and Grecian ideas may justly be deemed a blemish in the PAS­TORALS of POPE: and propriety is certainly violated, when he couples Pactolus with Thames, and Windsor with Hybla. Com­plaints of IMMODERATE heat, and wishes to be conveyed to cooling caverns, when uttered [Page 5] by the inhabitants of Greece, have a deco­rum and consistency, which they totally lose in the character of a British shepherd: and Theocritus, during the ardors of Sirius, must have heard the murmurings of a brook, and the whispers of a pine, * with more home­felt pleasure, than Pope could possibly ex­perience upon the same occasion. We can never completely relish, or adequately under­stand any author, especially any Ancient, ex­cept we constantly keep in our eye his cli­mate, his country, and his age. POPE him­self informs us, in a note, that he judiciously omitted the following verse,

And list'ning wolves grow milder as they hear

on account of the absurdity, which Spenser overlooked, of introducing wolves into Eng­land. But on this principle, which is cer­tainly a just one, may it not be asked, why he should speak, the scene lying in Windsor- [Page 6] Forest, of the SULTRY SIRIUS, * of the GRATEFUL CLUSTERS of grapes, of a pipe of reeds, the antique fistula, of thanking Ceres for a plentiful harvest, § of the sacri­fice of lambs, | with many other instances that might be adduced to this purpose. That POPE however was sensible of the importance of adapting images to the scene of action, is obvious from the following example of his judgment; for in translating,

Audiit EUROTAS, jussitque ediscere LAUROS

he has dextrously dropt the laurels appropri­ated to Eurotas, as he is speaking of the river Thames, and has rendered it,

THAMES heard the numbers, as he flow'd along,
And bade his willows learn the moving song. §§

IN the passages which POPE has imitated from Theocritus, and from his Latin tran­slator Virgil, he has merited but little ap­plause. It may not be unentertaining to see [Page 7] how coldly and unpoetically POPE has copied the subsequent appeal to the nymphs on the death of Daphnis, in comparison of Milton on LYCIDAS, one of his juvenile pieces.

[...] *

Where stray, ye muses, in what lawn or grove,
While your Alexis pines in hopeless love?
In those fair fields where sacred Isis glides,
Or else where Cam his winding vales divides.

Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep
Clos'd o'er the head of your lov'd Lycidas?
For neither were ye playing on the steep
Where your old bards, the famous Druids, lie;
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream.

THE mention of places remarkably roman­tic, the supposed habitation of Druids, bards, and wizards, is far more pleasing to the ima­gination, than the obvious introduction of Cam and Isis, as seats of the Muses.

[Page 8] A SHEPHERD in Theocritus wishes with much tenderness and elegance, both which must suffer in a literal translation, ‘"Would I could become a murmuring bee, fly into your grotto, and be permitted to creep a­mong the leaves of ivy and fern that com­pose the chaplet which adorns your head."’ *

POPE has thus altered this image,

Oh! were I made by some transforming pow'r,
The captive bird that sings within thy bow'r!
Then might my voice thy list'ning ears employ;
And I, those kisses he receives, enjoy.

On three accounts the former image is pre­ferable to the latter: for the pastoral wild­ness, the delicacy, and the uncommonness of the thought. I cannot forbear adding, that the riddle of the Royal Oak, in the first Pas­toral, invented in imitation of the Virgilian aenigmas in the third eclogue, savours of pun, and puerile conceit.

[Page 9]
Say, Daphnis, say in what glad soil appears
A wondrous tree, that sacred monarchs bears? *

With what propriety could the tree, whose shade protected the king, be said to be pro­lific of princes?

THAT POPE has not equalled Theocritus, will indeed appear less surprising, if we re­flect, that no original writer ever remained so unrivalled by succeeding copyists, as this Sici­lian master.

IF it should be objected, that the barren­ness of invention imputed to POPE from a view of his PASTORALS, is equally imputable to the Bucolics of Virgil, it may be answered, that whatever may be determined of the rest, yet the first and last Eclogues of Virgil are indisputable proofs of true genius, and power of fancy. The influence of war on the tran­quillity of rural life, rendered the subject [Page 10] of the first new, and interesting: its compo­sition is truly dramatic; and the characters of it's two shepherds are well supported, and happily contrasted: and the last has expres­sively painted the changeful resolutions, the wild wishes, the passionate and abrupt ex­clamations, of a disappointed and despairing lover.

UPON the whole, the principal merit of the PASTORALS of POPE consists, in their cor­rect and musical versification; musical, to a degree of which rhyme could hardly be thought capable: and in giving the first spe­cimen of that harmony in English verse, which is now become indispensably necessary; and which has so forcibly and universally in­fluenced the publick ear, as to have rendered every moderate rhymer melodious. POPE lengthened the abruptness of Waller, and at the same time contracted the exuberance of Dryden.

[Page 11] I REMEMBER to have been informed, by an intimate friend of POPE, that he had once laid a design of writing AMERICAN ECLOGUES: The subject would have been fruitful of the most poetical imagery; and, if properly executed, would have rescued the author from the accusation here urged, of having written Eclogues without invention.

OUR author, who had received an early tincture of religion, a reverence for which he preserved to the last, was with justice con­vinced, that the scriptures of God contained not only the purest precepts of morality, but the most elevated and sublime strokes of ge­nuine poesy; strokes as much superior to any thing Heathenism can produce, as is Jehovah to Jupiter. This is the case more particularly in the exalted prophesy of Isaiah, which POPE has so successfully versified in an Ec­logue, that incontestably surpasses the Pollio of Virgil: although perhaps the dignity, the energy, and the simplicity of the original are [Page 12] in a few passages weakened and diminished by florid epithets, and useless circumlocutions.

See nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring. *

are lines which have too much prettiness, and too modern an air. The judicious addi­tion of circumstances and adjuncts is what renders poesy a more lively imitation of nature than prose. POPE has been happy in introducing the following circumstance: the prophet says, ‘"The parched ground shall become a pool;"’ Our author ex­presses this idea by saying, that the shepherd,

shall START amid the thirsty wild to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.

A striking example of a similar beauty may be added from Thompson. Melisander, in the Tragedy of AGAMEMNON, after telling us he was conveyed in a vessel, at mid-night, to the wildest of the Cyclades, adds, when the pitiless mariners had left him in that dread­ful solitude,

[Page 13]
—I never heard
A sound so dismal as their parting oars.

ON the other hand, the prophet has been sometimes particular, when POPE has been only general. ‘"Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee:—The multitude of CAMELS shall cover thee: the DROMEDARIES of Median and Ephah: all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. All the FLOCKS of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee; the RAMS of Ne­baioth shall minister unto thee."* In imitating this passage, POPE has omitted the different beasts that in so picturesque a man­ner characterize the different countries which were to be gathered together on this impor­tant event, and says only in undistinguishing terms,

[Page 14]
See, barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend;
See thy bright altars throng'd with prostrate kings,
And heap'd with products of Sabaean springs. *

AS prosperity and happiness are described in this Eclogue by a combination of the most pleasing and agreeable objects, so misery and destruction are as forcibly delineated in the same Isaiah, by the circumstances of distress and desolation, that were to attend the fall of that magnificent city, Babylon: and the latter is perhaps a more proper and interesting subject for poetry than the former; as such kinds of objects make the deepest impression on the mind: pity being a stronger sensation than complacency. Accordingly a noble ode on the destruction of Babylon, taken from the fourteenth chapter of Isaiah, has been written by Mr. Lowth, whose latin prelec­tions on the inimitable poesy of the Hebrews, abounding in remarks entirely new, deli­vered in the purest and most expressive lan­guage, are the richest augmentation literature [Page 15] has lately received; and from which the fol­lowing passage gradually unfolding the singu­lar beauties of this prophecy, is here closely, though faintly, translated, and inserted as a pattern of just criticism.

"THE prophet having predicted the deli­verance of the Jews, and their return into their own country from their rigorous Baby­lonish captivity, instantly introduces them singing a certain triumphal song on the fall of the king of Babylon; a song abounding in the most splendid images, and carried on by perpetual, and those very beautiful, per­sonifications. The song begins with a sudden exclamation of the Jews, expressing their joy and wonder at the unexpected change of their condition, and death of the tyrant. Earth with her inhabitants triumphs; the firs and cedars of Libanus, under which images the allegoric style frequently shadows the kings and princes of the Gentiles, rejoice, and in­sult with reproaches the broken power of their most implacable foe.

[Page 16]
She is at rest, the whole earth is quiet: they break forth into singing.
Even the firs rejoice at thee, the cedars of Libanus:
Since thou art laid low, no feller is come up against us.

There follows a most daring prosopopeia of ORCUS, or the infernal regions: he rouzes his inhabitants, the manes of princes, and the shades of departed kings: immediately all of them arise from their thrones, and walk forward to meet the king of Babylon; they insult and deride him, and gather con­solation from his calamity.

Art thou also made weak as we? art thou made like unto us?
Is thy pride dashed down to Orcus, the noise of thy harps?
The worm is strewn under thee, the earth-worm is thy covering!

The Jews are again represented speaking: they most strongly exaggerate his remarkable fall, by an exclamation formed in the manner of funeral lamentations:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
[Page 17] Thou art dashed down to the earth, thou that didst crush the nations!

They next represent the king himself speaking, and madly boasting of his unbounded power, whence the prodigiousness of his ruin is won­derfully aggravated. Nor is this enough; a new personage is immediately formed: Those are introduced who found the body of the king of Babylon cast out: they survey it it closely and attentively, and at last hardly know it.

Is this the man who made earth tremble, who shook the kingdoms?
Who made the world a solitude, and destroyed it's cities?

They reproach him with the loss of the com­mon rite of sepulture, which was deservedly denied to him for his cruelty and oppression, and curse his name, his race, and posterity. The scene is closed by a most awful speech of God himself, menacing a perpetual extir­pation to the king of Babylon, to his de­scendants, and to his city; and confirm­ing [Page 18] the immutability of his councils by the ratification of a solemn oath.

WHAT images, how various, how thick­sown, how sublime, exalted with what ener­gy, what expressions, figures, and sentiments, are here accumulated together! we hear the Jews, the cedars of Libanus, the shades of the departed kings, the king of Babylon, those who find his body, and lastly Jehovah himself, all speaking in order; and behold them acting their several parts, as it were in a drama. One continued action is carried on; or rather a various and manifold series of dif­ferent actions is connected. Every excellence, more peculiarly appropriated to the sublimer ode, is consummatley displayed in this poem of Isaiah, which is the most perfect and unex­ampled model, among all the monuments of antiquity. The personages are frequent, but not confused; are bold but not affected; a free, lofty, and truly divine spirit predomi­nates through the whole. Nor is any thing wanting to crown and complete the sublimity [Page 19] of this ode with absolute beauty; nor can the Greek or Roman poesy produce any thing that is similar, or second, to this ode.*"

IT cannot be thought strange, that he who could so judiciously explain, could as poetically express, the ideas of Isaiah: the latter he has performed in many instances; but in none more strikingly than in the fol­lowing, which magnificently represents the Messiah treading the wine-press in his anger, and which and impartial judge, not blinded by the charms of antiquity, will think equal to any description in Virgil, in point of ele­gance and energy:

—Ille patris vires indutus et iram
Dira rubens graditur, per stragem et fracta potentum
Agmina, prona solo; prostratisque hostibus ultor
Insultat; ceu praela novo spumantia musto
Exercens, salit attritas calcator in uvas,
Congestamque struem subigit: caede atra recenti
Crura madent, rorantque inspersae sanguine vestes.


DESCRIPTIVE Poetry was by no means the shining talent of POPE. This as­sertion may be manifested by the few images introduced in the poem before us, which are not equally applicable to any place whatso­ever. Rural beauty in general, and not the peculiar beauties of the forest of Windsor, are here described. Nor are the sports of setting, shooting, and fishing, included between the ninety-third and one hundred and forty-sixth verses, to which the reader is referred, at all more appropriated. The stag-chase, that im­mediately follows, although some of the lines are incomparably good, * is not so full, so animated, and so circumstantiated, as that of Somerville.

THE digression that describes the demoli­tion [Page 21] of the thirty villages by William the Conqueror, is well imagined; particularly,

Round broken columns clasping ivy twin'd,
O'er heaps of ruin stalk'd the stately hind;
The fox obscene to gaping tombs retires,
And savage howlings fill the sacred quires. *

Though I cannot forbear thinking, that the following picture of the ruins of Godstow­Nunnery, drawn, it should seem, on the spot, and worthy the hand of Paul Brill, is by no means excelled by the foregoing.

Qua nudo Rosamonda humilis sub culmine tecti
Marmoris obscuri servat inane decus,
Rara intermissae circum vestigia molis,
Et sola in vacuo tramite porta labat:
Sacrae olim sedes riguae convallis, in umbra,
Et veteri pavidum religione nemus.
Pallentes nocturna ciens campana sorores
Hinc matutinum saepe monebat avem;
Hinc procul in media tardae caliginis hora
Prodidit arcanas arcta fenestra faces:
Nunc muscosa extant sparsim de cespite saxa,
Nunc muro avellunt germen agreste boves.

[Page 22] VOLTAIRE, that lively maintainer of many a paradox, is inclined to dispute the truth of the devastation imputed to William I. ‘"Une telle action, says he, est trop insensée pour etre vraisemblable. Les historiens ne font pas attention qu'il faut au moins vingt an­nées pour qu'un nouveau plan d'arbres devi­enne une forêt propre a là chasse. On lui fait semer cette forêt en 1080, il avoit alors 63 ans. Quelle apparence y a-t-il qu'un homme raisonable ait à cet âge détruit des villages pour semer quinze lieues en bois dans l'espérance d'y chasser un jour?"* There is indeed some probability that, the character of this prince has been misrepre­sented, and his oppressions magnified. The law of the curfeu-bell, by which every in­habitant of England was obliged to extinguish his fire and candles at eight in the evening, has been usually alleged as the institution of a capricious tyrant. But this law, as Vol­taire rightly observes, was so far from being [Page 23] absurdly tyrannical, that it was an ancient ecclesiastical custom established among all the monasteries of the north. Their houses were built of wood, and so cautious a method to prevent fire, was an object worthy a prudent legislator. A more amiable idea than POPE has here exhibited of the Conqueror, is given us of the same prince, by that diligent en­enquirer into antiquity the President Henault, in a passage that contains some curious parti­culars, characteristical of the manner of that age. ‘"This monarch protected letters, at a time, when books were so rare and un­common, that a countess of Anjou gave for a collection of homilies, two hundred sheep, a measure of wheat, another of rye, a third of millet, and a certain number of the skins of martens." But to return. The story of Lodona is prettily Ovidian; but there is scarcely a single incident in it, [Page 24] but what is borrowed from some transformation of Ovid. The picture of a virtuous and learn­ed man in retirement * is highly finished, as it flowed from the soul of our poet, who was here in his proper element, recommending integrity and science. He has no where dis­covered more poetic enthusiasm, than where, speaking of the poets who lived or died near this spot, he breaks out,

I seem through consecrated walks to rove,
I hear soft music die along the grove;
Led by the sound I roam from shade to shade,
By godlike poets venerable made.

The enumeration of the princes who were either born or interred at Windsor is judi­ciously introduced. Yet I have frequently wondered that he should have omitted the opportunity of describing at length it's vene­rable ancient castle, and the fruitful and ex­tensive prospects which it commands. He [Page 25] slides with dexterity and address from speak­ing of the miseries of the civil war to the blessings of peace.* OLD FATHER THAMES is raised, and acts, and speaks, with becoming dignity. And though the trite and obvious insignia of a river god are attributed, yet there is one circumstance in his appearance highly picturesque,

His sea-green mantle waving with the wind.

The relievo of his urn also is finely imagined,

The figur'd streams in waves of silver roll'd,
And on their banks Augusta rose in gold.

He has with exquisite skill selected only those rivers as attendants of Thames, who are his subjects, his tributaries, or neighbours. I cannot resist the pleasure of transcribing the passage.

First the fam'd authors of his ancient name,
The winding Isis, and the fruitful Tame:
The Kennet swift, for silver eels renown'd,
The Loddon slow, with verdant osiers crown'd:
Cole, whose dark streams his flowery islands lave,
And chalky Wey, that rolls a milky wave:
[Page 26] The blue transparent Vandalis appears;
The gulphy Lee his sedgy tresses rears;
And sullen Mole that hides his diving flood,
And silent Darent stain'd with British blood. *

AS I before produced a passage of Mil­ton which I thought superior to a similar one of POPE, I shall, in order to preserve impartiality, produce another from Milton, in which I think him inferior to the last quoted passage, except perhaps in the third line; first remarking that both authors are much in­debted to Spenser.

Rivers arise! whether thou be the son
Of utmost Tweed, or Oose, or gulphy Dun,
Or Trent, who like some earth-born giant spreads
His thirty arms along th' indented meads,
Or sullen Mole, that runneth underneath,
Or Severn swift, guilty of maiden's death,
Or rocky Avon, or of sedgy Lee,
Or coaly Tine, or ancient hallow'd Dee,
Or Humber loud that keeps the Scythian's name,
Or Medway smooth, or royal-towred Thame.

[Page 27] THE poets, both ancient and modern, are obliged to the rivers for some of their most most striking descriptions. The Tiber, and the Nile of Virgil, the Aufidus of Horace, the Sabrina of Milton, and the Scamander of Homer, are among their capital figures.

THE influences and effects of peace, and its consequence, a diffusive commerce, are expres­sed by selecting such circumstances, as are best adapted to strike the imagination by lively pictures; the selection of which chiefly con­stitutes true poetry. An historian or prose­writer might say, ‘"Then shall the most distant nations crowd into my port:"’ a poet sets before your eyes ‘"the ships of uncouth form,"’ that shall arrive in the Thames; *

And feather'd people croud my wealthy side;
And naked youths, and painted chiefs admire
Our speech, our colour, and our strange attire.

And the benevolence and poetry of the suc­ceeding wish, are worthy admiration,

[Page 28]
Till the freed Indians, in their native groves,
Reap their own fruits, and woo their sable loves;
Peru once more a race of kings behold,
And other Mexicos be roof'd with gold. *

The two epithets native and sable have pecu­liar elegance and force; and as Peru was particularly famous for its long succession of Incas, and Mexico for many magnificent works of massy gold, there is great propriety in fixing the restoration of the grandeur of each to that object, for which each was once so remarkable.

THE groupe of allegorical personages that succeeds the last mentioned lines, are worthy the pencil of Rubens or Julio Romano: it may, perhaps, however be wished that the epithets barbarous (discord), mad (ambition), hateful (envy), had been particular and pic­turesque, instead of general and indiscrimi­nating; though it may possibly be urged, that in describing the dreadful inhabitants of the portal of hell, Virgil has not always used [Page 29] such adjuncts and epithets as a painter or sta­tuary might work after; he says only ultrices CURAE, mortiferum BELLUM, mala MENTIS GAUDIA; particularly, malesuada is only ap­plied to FAMES, instead of a word that might represent the meagre and ghastly figure in­tended. I make no scruple of adding, that in this famous passage, Virgil has exhibited no images so lively and distinct, as these living figures painted by POPE, each of them with their proper insignia and attributes.

—ENVY her own snakes shall feel, *
And PERSECUTION mourn his broken wheel;
There FACTION roar, REBELLION bite her chain,
And gasping FURIES thirst for blood in vain.

A PERSON of no small rank has informed me, that Mr. Addison was inexpressibly cha­grined at this noble conclusion of WINDSOR-FOREST, both as a politician and as a poet. As a politician, because it so highly celebrated that treaty of peace which he deemed so perni­cious to the liberties of Europe; and as a [Page 30] poet, because he was deeply conscious that his own CAMPAIGN, that gazette in rhyme, contained no strokes of such genuine and sublime poetry as the conclusion before us.

IT is one of the greatest and most pleasing arts of descriptive poetry, to introduce moral sentences and instructions in an oblique and indirect manner, in places where one natu­rally expects only painting and amusement. We have virtue, as Mr. POPE remarks, * put upon us by surprize, and are pleased to find a thing where we should never have looked to meet with it. I must do a noble En­glish poet the justice to observe, that it is this particular art that is the very distinguishing excellence of COOPERS-HILL; throughout which, the descriptions of places, and images raised by the poet, are still tending to some hint, or leading into some reflection, upon moral life, or political institution; much in the same manner as the real sight of such scenes and prospects is apt to give the mind a [Page 31] composed turn, and incline it to thoughts and contemplations that have a relation to the object. This is the great charm of the in­comparable ELEGY written in a Country Church-Yard. Having mentioned the rustic monuments and simple epitaphs of the swains, the amiable poet falls into a very natural re­flection:

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the chearful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

OF this art Mr. POPE has exhibited some specimens in the poem we are examining, but not so many as might be expected from a mind so strongly inclined to a moral way of writing. After speaking of hunting the hare, he immediately subjoins, much in the spirit of Denham,

Beasts urg'd by us their fellow beasts pursue,
And learn of man each other to undo. *

[Page 32] Where he is describing the tyrannies formerly exercised in this kingdom,

Cities laid waste, they storm'd the dens and caves,

He instantly adds with an indignation becom­ing a true lover of liberty, as such he was,

For wiser brutes were backward to be slaves. *

But I am afraid our author in the following passage has fallen into a fault very uncommon in his writings, into a reflection that is very far-fetched and forced;

Here waving groves a chequer'd scene display,
And part admit, and part exclude the day;
As some coy nymph her lover's warm address
Nor quite indulges, nor can quite repress.

BOHOURS would rank this comparison among false thoughts and Italian conceits; such particularly as abound in the works of Marino. The fallacy consists in giving design and artifice to the wood, as well as to the [Page 33] coquette; and in putting the light of the sun and the warmth of a lover on a level.

A PATHETIC reflection, properly intro­duced into a descriptive poem, will have a still greater force and beauty, and more deep­ly interest a reader, than a moral one. When POPE therefore has described a pheasant shot, he breaks out into a very masterly excla­mation;

Ah! what avail his glossy varying dyes,
His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes,
The vivid green his shining plumes unfold,
His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold! *

where this exquisite picture heightens the distress, and powerfully excites the commi­seration, of the reader. To this purpose I may add a passage in an ODE to Fancy, which I have heard commended for a simi­lar stroke of a pathetic nature. After passing through various scenes, the poet leads us,

—To some abby's mouldering towers,
Where to avoid cold wintry showers,
[Page 34] The naked beggar shivering lies,
While whistling tempests round her rise,
And trembles, least the tottering wall
Should on her sleeping infants fall.

The object of fear indicated in the two last lines, is, I believe, new and unborrowed, and interests us in the scene described. Under this head it would be unpardonable to omit a capital, and, I think, the most excellent ex­ample extant, of the beauty here intended, in the third Georgic of Virgil: * The poet having mournfully described a heifer struck with a pestilence, and falling down dead in the middle of his work, artfully reminds us of his former services;

Quid labor aut benefacta juvant? quid vomere terras
Invertisse graves?

This circumstance would have been sufficient, as it raised our pity from a motive of grati­tude; but with this circumstance the tender [Page 35] Virgil was not content; what he adds there­fore of the natural undeviating temperance of the animal, who cannot have contracted dis­ease by excess, and who for that reason de­served a better fate, is moving beyond com­pare:

—Atqui non massica Bacchi
Munera, non illis epulae nocuere repostae!
Frondibus et vitu pascuntur simplicis herbae;
Pocula sunt fontes liquidi, atque exercita cursu
Flumina, nec somnos abrumpit cura salubres.

OF English poets, perhaps, none have excel­led the ingenious Mr. Dyer in this oblique instruction, into which he frequently steals imperceptibly, in his little descriptive poem entitled GRONGAR HILL, where he disposes every object so as it may give occasion for some observation on human life. Denham himself is not superiour to this neglected author, in this particular. After painting a landschape very extensive and diversified, he adds;

Thus is nature's vesture wrought
To instruct our wandring thought,
[Page 36] Thus she dresses green and gay,
To disperse our cares away!

Another view from his favourite spot, gives him an opportunity, for sliding into the fol­lowing moralities.

* How close and small the hedges lie!
What streaks of meadows cross the eye!
A step methinks may pass the stream,
So little distant dangers seem;
So we mistake the future's face
Ey'd through Hope's deluding glass.
As yon summits soft and fair,
Clad in colours of the air,
Which to those who journey near,
Barren and brown and rough appear,
Still we tread the same coarse way,
The present's still a cloudy day.

THE unexpected insertion of such reflections, imparts to us the same pleasure that we feel, when in wandering through a wilderness or grove, we suddenly behold in the turning of the walk, a statue of some VIRTUE or MUSE.

[Page 37] IT may be observed in general, that des­cription of the external beauties of nature, is usually the first effort of a young genius, before he hath studied manners and passions. Some of Milton's most early, as well as most exquisite pieces, are his Lycidas, L'Allegro, and Il Penseroso; if we may except his Ode on the Nativity of Christ, which is indeed prior in the order of time, and in which a penetrating critic might have discovered the seeds of that boundless imagination, which was one day to produce the Paradise Lost. This ode, which, by the way, is not sufficiently read, or admired, is also of the descriptive kind; but the objects of his description are great, and striking to the imagination; the false gods and goddesses of the Heathen forsaking their temples on the birth of our saviour, divina­tion and oracles at an end! which facts though perhaps not historically true, are poetically beautiful.

The lonely mountains o'er,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament!
[Page 38] From haunted spring, and dale
Edg'd with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flower-enwoven tresses torn
The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thicket mourn. *

The lovers of poetry, and to such only I write, will not be displeased at my presenting them also with the following image, which is so strongly conceived, that methinks I see at this instant the daemon it represents;

And sullen Moloch fled
Hath left in shadows dread,
His burning idol all of blackest hue;
In vain with cimbals ring
They call the griesly king,
In dismal dance about the furnace blue.

Attention is irresistibly awoke and engaged by that air of solemnity, and enthusiasm, that reigns in the following stanzas:

[Page 39]
The oracles are dumb, *
No voice or hideous hum,
Runs through the arched roof in words deceiving;
No nightly trance, or breathed spell,
Inspires the pale-ey'd priest from the prophetic cell.

Such is the power of true poetry, that one is almost inclined to believe the superstitions here alluded to, to be real; and the succeed­ing circumstances make one start and look around;

In consecrated earth,
And on the holy hearth,
The lars and lemurs moan with midnight plaint;
In urns and altars round
A drear and dying sound
Affrights the flamens at their service quaint!

Methinks we behold the priests interrupted in the middle of the secret ceremonies they were performing, ‘"in their temples dim,"’ gazing with ghastly eyes on each other, and terrified and wondering from whence these aërial voices should proceed! I have dwelt [Page 40] chiefly on this ode as much less celebrated than L'Allegro and Il Pensoroso, which are now universally known, but which by a strange fatality lay in a sort of obscurity, the private enjoyment of a few curious readers, till they were set to admirable music by Mr. Handel. And indeed this Volume of Milton's miscellaneous poems has not till very lately met with suitable regard. Shall I offend any rational admirer of POPE by remarking, that these juvenile descriptive poems of Milton, as well as his latin elegies, are of a strain far more exalted than any the former author can boast? Let me add at the same time, what justice obliges me to add, that they are far more incorrect. For in the very ode before us, occur one or two passages, that are pue­rile and affected, to a degree not to be paral­lelled in the purer, but less elevated, composi­tions of POPE. The season being winter, Mil­ton has said, that in honour to Jesus,

Nature in awe to him
Had dofft her gawdy trim.

[Page 41] And afterwards observes, in a very epigram­matic and very forced thought, unsuitable to the dignity of the subject and of the rest of the ode, that, ‘"she wooed the air, to hide her guilty front with innocent show,"’

And on her naked shame, *
Pollute with sinful blame,
The saintly veil of maiden white to throw,
Confounded that her maker's eyes
Should look so near upon her foul deformities.

‘"C'est assez, to apply the words of the sensible Voltaire, d'avoir cru appercevoir quelques er­reurs d'invention dans ce grand genie; c'est une consolation pour un esprit aussi bornè que le mien, d'etre bien persuadé que les plus grands hommes se trompent comme le vulgaire."’

IT would be unpardonable to conclude these remarks on descriptive poesy, without taking notice of the SEASONS of Thomson, who had peculiar and powerful talents for [Page 42] this species of composition. Let the reader therefore pardon a digression, if such it be, on his merits and character. Thomson was blessed with a strong and copious fancy; he hath enriched poetry with a variety of new and original images, which he painted from nature itself, and from his own actual obser­vations: his descriptions have therefore a dis­tinctness and truth, which are utterly wanting to those, of poets who have only copied from each other, and have never looked abroad on the objects themselves. Thomson was accus­tomed to wander away into the country for days and for weeks, attentive to, ‘"each rural sight, each rural sound;"’ while many a poet who has dwelt for years in the Strand, has attempted to describe fields and rivers, and generally succeeded accordingly. Hence that nauseous repetition of the same circum­stances; hence that disgusting impropriety of introducing what may be called a set of here­ditary images, without proper regard to the age, or climate, or occasion, in which they were formerly used. Though the diction of [Page 43] the SEASONS is sometimes harsh and inharmo­nious, and sometimes turgid and obscure, and though in many instances, the numbers are not sufficiently diversified by different pauses, yet is this poem on the whole, from the num­berless strokes of nature in which it abounds, one of the most captivating and amusing in our language, and which, as its beauties are not of a fugacious kind, as depending on par­ticular customs and manners, will ever be perused with delight. The scenes of Thom­son are frequently as wild and romantic as those of Salvator Rosa, pleasingly varied with precipices and torrents, and ‘"castled cliffs,"’ and deep vallies, with piny mountains, and the gloomiest caverns. Innumerable are the little circumstances in his descriptions, totally unobserved by all his predecessors. What poet hath ever taken notice of the leaf, that towards the end of autumn,

Incessant rustles from the mournful grove, *
[Page 44] Oft startling such as, studious, walk below,
And slowly circles through the waving air?

Or who, in speaking of a summer evening, hath ever mentioned,

The quail that clamours for his running mate?

Or the following natural image, at the same time of the year?

Wide o'er the thistly lawn, as swells the breeze,
A whitening shower of vegetable down
Amusive floats. *

Where do we find the silence and expecta­tion that precedes an April shower insisted on, as in ver. 165 of SPRING, or where,

The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard
By such as wander through the forest walks,
Beneath th'umbrageous multitude of leaves.

How full, particular and picturesque is this assemblage of circumstances that attend a very keen frost in a night of winter!

[Page 45]
Loud rings the frozen earth, and hard reflects
A double noise; while at his evening watch
The village dog deters the nightly thief;
The heifer lows; the distant water-fall
Swells in the breeze; and with the hasty tread
Of traveller, the hollow-sounding plain
Shakes from afar. *

In no one subject are common poets more confused and unmeaning, than in their descrip­tions of rivers, which are generally said only to wind and to murmur, while their qualities and courses are seldom accurately marked; examine the exactness of the ensuing descrip­tion, and consider what a perfect idea it com­municates to the mind.

Around th' adjoining brook, that purls along
The vocal grove, now fretting o'er a rock,
Now scarcely moving through a reedy pool,
Now starting to a sudden stream, and now
Gently diffus'd into a limpid plain;
A various groupe the herds and flocks compose,
Rural confusion!

[Page 46] A groupe worthy the pencil of Giacomo da Bassano, and so minutely delineated, that he might have worked from this sketch;

—On the grassy bank
Some ruminating lie; while others stand
Half in the flood, and often bending sip
The circling surface.—

He adds, that the ox in the middle of them,

—From his sides
The troublous insects lashes, to his sides
Returning still. *

A natural circumstance, that to the best of my remembrance hath escaped even the natural Theocritus. Nor do I recollect that any poet hath been struck with the murmurs of the numberless insects, that swarm abroad at the noon of a summer's day; as attendants of the evening indeed, they have been mentioned;

Resounds the living surface of the ground:
Nor undelightful is the ceaseless hum
[Page 47] To him who muses through the woods at noon;
Or drowsy shepherd, as he lies reclin'd
With half-shut eyes. *

But the novelty and nature we admire in the descriptions of Thomson is by no means his only excellence; he is equally to be praised, for impressing on our minds the effects, which the scene delineated would have on the pre­sent spectator or hearer. Thus having spoken of the roaring of the savages in the wilderness of Africa, he introduces a captive, who though just escaped from prison and slavery under the tyrant of Morocco, is so terrified and astonished at the dreadful uproar, that

The wretch half wishes for his bonds again.

Thus also having described a caravan lost and overwhelmed in one of those whirlwinds that so frequently agitate and lift up the whole sands of the desart, he finishes his picture by adding that,

[Page 48]
—In Cairo's crouded street *
Th'impatient merchant, wondering waits in vain,
And Mecca saddens at the long delay.

And thus, lastly, in describing the pestilence that destroyed the British troops at the siege of Carthagena, he has used a circumstance inimitably lively, picturesque, and striking to the imagination; for he says that the admiral not only heard the groans of the sick that echoed from ship to ship, but that he also pen­sively stood, and listened at midnight to the dashing of the waters, occasioned by throw­ing the dead bodies into the sea;

Heard, nightly, plung'd into the sullen waves,
The frequent corse.

A minute and particular enumeration of cir­cumstances judiciously selected, is what chief­ly discriminates poetry from history, and ren­ders the former, for that reason, a more close and faithful representation of nature than the [Page 49] latter. And if our poets would accustom themselves to contemplate fully every object, before they attempted to describe it, they would not fail of giving their readers more new images than they generally do. *

[Page 50] THESE observations on Thomson, which however would not have been so large, if there had been already any considerable cri­ticism on his character, might be still aug­mented by an examination and developement of the beauties in the Loves of the birds, in SPRING, verse 580. A view of the torrid zone in SUMMER, verse 626. The rise of fountains and rivers in AUTUMN, verse 781. A man perishing in the snows, in WINTER, verse 277, and the wolves descending from the Alps, and and a view of winter within the polar circle, verse 809, which are all of them highly finished originals, excepting a few of those blemishes intimated above. WINTER is in my apprehension the most valuable of these four poems, the scenes of it, like those of Il Pen­seroso of Milton, being of that awful, and [Page 51] solemn, and pensive kind, on which a great genius best delights to dwell.

MR. POPE it seems was of opinion, that descriptive poetry is a composition as absurd as a feast made up of sauces: and I know many other persons that think meanly of it. I will not presume to say it is equal, either in dignity or utility, to those compositions that lay open the internal constitution of man, and that IMITATE characters, manners, and sen­timents. I may however remind such con­temners of it, that, in a sister-art, landschape­painting claims the very next rank to history­painting; being ever preferred to single por­traits, to pieces of still-life, to droll figures, to fruit and flower-pieces; that Titian thought it no diminution of his genius, to spend much of his time in works of the former species; and that, if their principles lead them to condemn Thomson, they must also condemn the Georgics of Virgil, and the greatest part of the noblest descriptive poem extant, I mean, that of Lucretius.

[Page 52] WE are next to speak of the LYRIC pieces of POPE. He used to declare, that if Mr. Dry­den had finished a translation of the Iliad, he would not have attempted one after so great a master; he might have said with more pro­priety, I will not write a music-ode after Alexander's Feast, which the variety and har­mony of its numbers, and the beauty and force of its images, have conspired to place at the head of modern lyric compositions. This of Mr. POPE is, however, indisputably the second of the kind, * ‘"propior tamen primo quam [Page 53] tertio,"’ to use an expression of Quintilian. The first stanza is almost a perfect concert of itself; every different instrument is described [Page 54] and illustrated, in numbers, that admirably represent, and correspond to its different qua­lities and genius. The beginning of the se­cond stanza, on the power which music ex­erts over the passions, is a little flat, and by no means equal to the conclusion of that stanza. The animating song that Orpheus sung to the Argonauts, copied from Valerius Flaccus, for that of Apollonius is of a different nature, is the happily chosen subject of the fourth. On hearing which,

Each chief his sevenfold shield display'd,
And half unsheath'd the shining blade;

Which effects of the song, however lively, do not equal the force and spirit of what Dryden ascribes to the song of his Grecian artist; for when Timotheus cries out REVENGE, raises the furies, and calls up to Alexander's view a troop of Grecian ghosts that were slain and left unburied, inglorious and forgotten, each of them waving a torch in his hand, and pointing to the hostile temples of the Persians, and demanding vengeance of their prince, he [Page 55] instantly started from his throne,

—Seiz'd a flambeau with zeal to destroy,

while Thais and the attendant princes rushed out with him, to set fire to the city. The whole train of imagery in this stanza is alive, sublime, and animated to an unparallelled degree; the poet had so strongly possessed himself of the action described, that he places it fully before the eyes of the reader.

THE descent of Orpheus into hell is grace­fully introduced in the fourth stanza, as it naturally flowed from the subject of the pre­ceding one; the description of the infernal regions is well imagined, and the effects of the musician's lyre on the inhabitants of hell, are elegantly translated from the fourth Geor­gic of Virgil, * and happily adapted to the subject in question. The supplicating song at the beginning of the sixth stanza, is highly pathetic and poetical, especially when he con­jures the powers below,

[Page 56]
By the hero's armed shades
Glittering through the gloomy glades,
By the youths that dy'd for love
Wand'ring in the myrtle grove;

These images are picturesque and appro­priated; and these are such notes as might,

Draw iron tears down Pluto's cheek, *
And make hell grant what love did seek.

But the numbers that conclude this stanza are of so burlesque and ridiculous a kind, and have so much the air of an Hudibrastic song at a county election, that one is amazed and con­cerned to find them in a serious ode, and in an ode of a writer eminently skilled, in gene­ral, in accommodating his sounds to his sen­timents.

Thus song could prevail
O'er death and o'er hell,
A conquest how hard and how glorious!
Tho' fate had fast bound her
With Styx nine times round her,
Yet music and love were victorious.

[Page 57] One would imagine that John Dennis, or some hero of the Dunciad, had been here attempting to travesty this description of the restoration of Eurydice to life. It is observable, that this is the very measure, Addison thought was pro­per to use in the comic character of Sir Trusty; by the introduction of which he has so strange­ly debased and degraded his opera of Rosa­mond.

How unhappy is he
That is ty'd to a she,
And fam'd for his wit and his beauty;
For of us pretty fellows,
Our wives are so jealous,
They ne'er have enough of our duty. *

These numbers therefore, according to Ad­dison's ear, conveyed a low and ludicrous idea, instead of being expressive of triumph and exultation, the images here intended to be impressed by POPE.

VIRGIL is again imitated throughout the [Page 58] sixth stanza, which describes the behaviour of Orpheus on the second loss of Eurydice. I wish POPE had inserted that striking circum­stance, so strongly imagined, of a certain me­lancholy murmur, or rather dismal shriek, that was heard all around the lakes of Aver­nus, the moment Orpheus looked back on his wife;

—Terque fragor stagnis auditus Avernis. *

And as prosopopeias are a great beauty in lyric poetry, surely he should not have omit­ted those natural and pathetic exclamations of Eurydice, the moment she was snatched back, and which she uttered as she was gra­dually sinking to the shades, especially where she movingly takes her last adieu,

Jamque vale!—

And adds, that she is now surrounded with a vast darkness, ‘"feror ingenti circumdata [Page 59] nocte,"’ and in vain stretching out her feeble arms towards him,

Invalidasque tibi tendens, heu! non tua, palmas. *

This lively and pathetic attitude would have shone under the hands of POPE. The reader, I presume, feels the effect of the judi­cious placing in the verse, heu! non tua, and of its repetition after tibi. The places in which Orpheus, according to POPE, made his lamentations, are not so wild, so savage and dismal, as those mentioned by Virgil; to introduce him ‘"beside the falls of foun­tains,"’ conveys not such an image of deso­lation and despair, as the caverns on the banks of Strymon and Tanais, the Hyperborean desarts, and the Riphaean solitudes. And to say of Hebrus, only, that it ‘"rolls in mean­ders,"’ is flat and frigid, and does not heighten the melancholy of the place. There is an antithesis in the succeeding lines, ‘"he glows amid Rhodope's snows,"’ which I hope the [Page 60] poet did not intend, as it would be a trivial and puerile conceit. The death of Orpheus is expressed with a beautiful brevity and ab­ruptness, suitable to the nature of the ode;

Hark! Haemus resounds with the Bacchanals cries,
Ah! see he dies!
Yet ev'n in death Eurydice he sung.

Where instead of sung, Virgil says vocabat, which is more natural and tender; and Virgil adds a very moving epithet, that he called miseram Eurydicen. I am sensible POPE never intended an exact translation of the passages of the Georgics here alleged; I only hint, that in my humble judgment he has omitted some of the most striking incidents in the story. I have lately seen a manuscript ode, entitled, ‘"On the Use and Abuse of Po­etry,"’ in which Orpheus in considered in ano­ther, and a higher light, according to ancient mythology, as the first legislator and civilizer of mankind. I shall here insert a stanza of it, containing part of what relates to this subject.

[Page 61]
Such was wise Orpheus' moral song,
The lonely cliffs and caves among;
From hollow oak, or mountain-den,
He drew the naked, gazing men,
Or where in turf-built sheds, or rushy bowers,
They shiver'd in cold wintry showers,
Or sunk in heapy snows;
Then sudden, while his melting music stole
With powerful magic o'er each softening soul,
Society, and law, and sacred order rose.
Father of peace and arts! he first the city built;
No more the neighbour's blood was by his neighbour spilt;
He taught to till, and separate the lands;
He fix'd the roving youths in Hymen's myrtle bands;
Whence dear domestic life began,
And all the charities that soften'd man:
The babes that in their father's faces smil'd,
With lisping blandishments their rage beguil'd,
And tender thoughts inspir'd!—&c.

I am not permitted to transcribe any more, and therefore return to POPE again.

THE beginning of the last stanza of the ode here examined, seems to be a repetition of the [Page 62] subject of the second, the power of music over the passions, which may perhaps be reckoned a blameable tautology; especially as these lines,

Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate's severest rage disarm;
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please;

are inferior, I am afraid, to the former on the same subject, which contain beautiful and po­etical personifications;

Melancholy lifts her head,
Morpheus rouses from his bed,
Sloth unfolds her arms and wakes,
Listning Envy drops her snakes;
Intestine war no more our passions wage,
And giddy factions hear away their rage.

It is observable that this ode of POPE, and the Alexander's Feast of Dryden, both of them conclude with an epigram of four lines; a species of wit as flagrantly unsuitable to the dignity, and as foreign to the nature, of the lyric, as it is of the epic muse.

[Page 63] IT is to be regretted, that Mr. Handel has not set to music the former, as well as the latter, of these celebrated odes, in which he has displayed the combined powers of verse and voice, to a wonderful degree. No poem indeed, affords so much various matter for a composer to work upon; as Dryden has here introduced and expressed all the greater passi­ons, and as the transitions from one to the other are sudden and impetuous. Of which we feel the effects, in the pathetic description of the fall of Darius, that immediately succeeds the joyous praises of Bacchus. The symphony, and air particularly, that accompanies the four words, ‘"fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,"’ is strangely moving, * and consists of a few [Page 64] simple and touching notes, without any of those intricate variations, and affected divi­sions, into which, in compliance with a vici­ous and vulgar taste, this great master hath sometimes descended. Even this piece of Handel, so excellent on the whole, is not free from one or two blemishes of this sort, particularly in the air, ‘"with ravish'd ears,"’ &c.

THE moderns have perhaps practised no species of poetry with so little success, and with such indisputable inferiority to the anci­ents, [Page 65] as the ODE; which seems owing to the harshness and untuneableness of modern languages, abounding in monosyllables, and crowded with consonants. This particularly is the case of the English, whose original is Teutonic, and which therefore, is not so mu­sical as the Italian, the Spanish, or even the French, as not having so great a quantity of words derived from the Latin. But the Latin language itself, as well as all others, must yield to the unparalled sweetness and copious­ness of the Greek. ‘"Tantò est sermo graecus latino jucundior, says Quintilian, in his twelfth book, ut nostri poetae, quoties dulce carmen esse voluerunt, illorum id nominibus exornent."’ * [Page 66] What line even in the Italian poets is so soft and mellifluous, as *


or as in the tender Bion,


to instance in no more? If we cast a tran­sient view over the most celebrated of the mo­dren lyrics, we may observe, that the stanza of Petrarch, which has been adopted by all his successors, displeases the ear, by its tedi­ous uniformity, and by the number of iden­tical cadences. And indeed to speak truth, there appears to be little valuable in Petrarch, except the purity of his diction. His senti­ments even of love, are metaphysical and far fetched, neither is there much variety in his subjects, or fancy in his method of treating them; Metastasio is a much better lyric poet. When Boileau attempted an ode, he exhibited a glaring proof, of what will be more fully insisted on in the course of this Essay, that the writer whose grand, characteristical talent, is [Page 67] satyric or moral poetry, will never succeed, with equal merit, in the higher branches of this art. In his ode on the taking Namur, are instances of the * BOMBASTIC, of the PROSAIC, and of the PUERILE. And it is no small confirmation of the ruling passion of this author, that he could not conclude his ode, but with a severe stroke on his old anta­gonist Perrault, though the majesty of this species of compositions is so much injured, by descending to personal satire. The name of Malherbe is respectable, as he was the first re­former of the French poesy, and the first who gave his countrymen any idea of a legi­timate ode, though his own pieces have hardly any thing but harmony to recommend them. The odes of la Motte, are fuller of delicate [Page 68] sentiment, and philosophical reflection, than of imagery, of figures, and poetry. There are particular stanzas eminently good, but not one entire ode. Some of Rousseau, particu­larly that to Fortune, and some of his psalms; and one or two of Voltaire, particularly, to the king of Prussia, on his accession to the throne, and on Meaupertuis's travels to the north, to measure the degrees of the meridian towards the equator, seem to rise above that correct mediocrity which distinguishes the lyric poetry of the French. In this ode of Voltaire, we find a prosopopeia of Americus, and afterwards a speech of Newton, on the design of this traveller and his companions, that approach to the sublime,

Comme ils parloient ainsi, Newton dans l'empirée,
Newton les regardoit, et du ciel entr'ouvert
Confirmez, disoit il, a la terre eclairée
Ce que j'ai decouvert.

I hope I shall not transgress a very sensible observation of Mr. POPE, who would have a true critic be

[Page 69]
Still pleas'd to praise, yet not afraid to blame,

if I should say we have lately seen two or three lyric pieces, superiour to any he has left us; I mean an Ode on Lyric Poetry, and another to Lord Huntingdon, by Doctor Aken­side; and a Chorus of British Bards, by Mr. Gilbert West, at the end of the Institution of the Order of the Garter. Both these are written with regular returns of the Strophe, Antistrophe. and Epode, which gives a truely Pindaric variety to the numbers, that is want­ing not only to the best French and Italian, but even to the best Latin odes. In the pieces here commended, the figures are strong, and the transitions bold, and there is a just mix­ture of sentiment and imagery: and particularly, they are animated with a noble spirit of liber­ty. I must refer the reader to the characters of Alcaeus and of Milton in the two first, and to the stanza of Mr. West's ode on the barons procuring magna charta, which I chuse to give at length, because it contains almost all [Page 70] the different measures of which the English language seems capable. *

THE next LYRIC compositions of Pope, are two choruses inserted in a very heavy tragedy, altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buck­ingham; in which we see, that the most accu­rate observation of dramatic rules without genius, is of no effect. These choruses are [Page 71] extremely elegant and harmonious; but are they not chargeable with the fault, which Aristotle imputes to many of Euripides, that they are foreign and adventitious to the sub­ject, and contribute nothing towards the ad­vancement of the main action? Whereas the chorus ought, [...],* to be a part or member of the one Whole, cooperate with it, and help to accela­rate the intended event; as is constantly, adds the philosopher, the practise of Sophocles. Whereas these reflections of POPE on the baneful influences of war, on the arts and learning, and on the universal power of love, seem to be too general, are not sufficiently appropriated, do not rise from the subject and occasion, and might be inserted with e­qual propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Aristotle, tho he does not himself produce any examples, may be verified from the following among many others. In the Phoenicians of Euripides, they sing [Page 72] a long and very beautiful, but ill placed, hymn to Mars; I speak of that which begins so nobly,

[...] *

‘"O woeful Mars! why art thou still delight­ed with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feasts of Bacchus?"’ And a still more glaring instance may be brought from the end of the third act of the Troades, in which the story of Ganymede is introduced not very artificially. To these may be added that exquisite ode in praise of Apollo, de­scriptive of his birth and victories, which we find about the middle of the last act of the Iphigenia in Tauris.

ON the other hand, the choruses of Sopho­cles never desert the subject of each particular drama, and all their sentiments and reflections are drawn from the situation of the principal personage of the fable. Nay Sophocles hath [Page 73] artfully found a method of making those poetical descriptions, with which the choruses of the ancients abound, carry on the chief design of the peice, and has by these means accomplished what is a great difficulty in writ­ing tragedy, has united poetry with propriety. In the * Philoctetes the chorus takes a natural occasion, at verse 694, to give a minute and moving picture of the solitary life of that unfortunate hero; and when afterwards at verse 855, pain has totally exhausted the strength and spirits of Philoctetes, and it is necessary for the plot of the tragedy that he should fall asleep, it is then, that the chorus breaks out into an exquisite ode to sleep. As in the Antigone, with equal beauty and decorum in an address to the god of love, at verse 791 of that play. And thus lastly, when [Page 74] the birth of Edipus is doubtful, and his pa­rents unknown, the chorus suddenly exclaims, ‘" [...]; From which, O my son, of the immortal gods didst thou spring? Was it some nymph afavourite of Pan that haunts the mountains, or some daughter of Apollo, for this god loves the remote rocks and caverns; or was it Mercury who reigns in Cyllene; or did Bacchus, [...], a god who dwells on the tops of the mountains, beget you, on any of the nymphs that fre­quent Helicon, with whom he frequently sports?"*

THE judicious author of the tragedy of Elfrida, hath given occasion to a kind of controversy among the more curious critics, concerning the utility of the chorus, which, after the model of the ancients, he hath en­deavoured to revive. To imagine, that the great Grecian masters retained it only out of respect to its antiquity, and from no intrin­sic [Page 75] valuableness or propriety of the thing, can scarcely be imagined. The sentiments of the excellent Brumoy are moderate and rational, and seem to comprehend all that is necessary to be said on this subject. ‘"I know says he, the chorus is attended with inconve­niences, and that it has sometimes com­pelled the ancients to violate probability; but it notwithstanding is apparent by the use they sometimes made of it, that its advantages exceed its inconveniences. Sophocles had the address to withdraw his chorus for a few moments, when their absence was necessary, as in the Ajax. If the chorus therefore incommodes the poet, and puts him under difficulties, he must charge it solely to his own want of dexterity. What advantage, on the other hand, may he not reap, from a body of actors that fill the stage; that render more lively, striking, and sensible, the continuity of the action, and give it the air of greater PROBABILITY, since it is not natural or con­ceivable, that a great and illustrious action, [Page 76] such as a revolution in a state, should pass without witnesses. We perceive and feel a kind of void on our stage, on account of the ab­sence of choruses; and the successful attempt of Racine, who adopted and revived the use of them in his ATHALIA and ESTHER, were sufficient, one would imagine, to undeceive and convince us, of their importance, and utility. The banishment of the chorus has been the necessary consequence of the cus­tom of the moderns, to take for their repre­sentations, ALL kinds of subjects; whereas the ancients treated only such actions as were publicly transacted: and to fill, and indeed overcharge the action with incidents and surprizes. For how could these sub­jects, and these various crowded events and incidents, have been possibly introduced in a public place, exposed to the view of cour­tiers and the people, while the generality of our tragedies turn on particular and pri­vate affairs, ou la cour et le peuple n'en­trent souvent pour rien? the Athenian spec­tators were ever accustomed to concern [Page 77] themselves in all public affairs, and to be witnesses and judges of them. The modern stage, by its disuse of the chorus, may per­haps have gained a great number of fine subjects for tragedy; yet, in return, it is burthened with confidents, it looses the continuity of action, and is deprived of the magnificent spectacle that serves to support that action, and which is, if I may be al­lowed the expression, le fonds, ou l 'accom­pagnement du tableau."*

I THOUGHT it more equitable, as well as more convincing, to quote at large the words of this admirable critic, whose work is one of the most valuable that his elegant nation hath produced, than to adopt, as some have done with small variations, his opinion, with­out acknowledging the debt. An apology would be necessary for this digression, if it was not my professed design in this Essay, to expatiate into such occasional disquisitions, as [Page 78] naturally arise from the subject; it has how­ever kept us too long from surveying a valuable literary curiosity, I mean the earliest produc­tion of POPE, written when he was not twelve years old, his ODE ON SOLITUDE. The first sketches of such an artist ought highly to be prized. Different geniuses unfold them­selves, at different periods of life. In some minds the ore is a long time in ripening. Not only inclination, but opportunity and encou­ragement, a proper subject, or a proper pa­tron, influence the exertion or the suppression of genius. These stanzas on Solitude, are a strong instance of that contemplative and mo­ral turn, which was the distinguishing charac­teristic of our poet's mind. An ode of Cowley which he produced at the age of thirteen years, is of the same cast, and perhaps not in the least inferior to this of POPE. The voluminous Lopez de Vega, is commonly, but I fear incredibly, reported by the Spani­ards, to have composed verses when he was five years old; and Torquato Tasso, the se­cond [Page 79] of the Italian poets, for that wonderful original Dante is the first, is said to have re­cited poems and orations of his writing, when he was seven. It is however certain, which is more extraordinary, that he produced his Rinaldo in his eighteenth year, no bad pre­cursor to the Gierusalemma Liberata, and no small effort of that genius, which was one day to shew, how fine an epic poem the Ita­lian language, notwithstanding the vulgar imputation of effeminacy, was capable of producing.

THOSE who are fond of biographical anec­dotes, which are some of the most amusive and instructive parts of history, will be per­haps pleased with the following particulars in the life of POPE. He frequently declared, that the time of his beginning to write verses, was so very early in his life, that he could scarcely recal it to his memory. When he was yet a child, his father, who had been a mer­chant in London, and retired to Binfield with about twenty thousand pounds, would fre­quently [Page 80] order him to make English verses. It seems he was difficult to be pleased, * and would make the lad correct them again and again. When at last he approved them, he took great pleasure in perusing them, and would say, ‘"these are good RHYMES."’ These early praises of a tender and respected parent, cooperating with the natural inclina­tion of the son, may possibly be the causes that fixed our young bard in a resolution of becoming eminent in this art. He was taught to read very early by an aunt; and of his own indefatigable industry learned to write, by copying printed books, which he executed with great neatness and exactness. When he was eight years old, he was put under the direction of one Taverner, a priest, who taught him the rudiments of the latin and greek tongues together. About this time he accidentally met with Ogilby's translation of Homer, which, notwithstanding the deadness and insipidity of the versification, arrested [Page 81] his attention by the force of the story. The Ovid of Sandys fell next in his way; and it is said, that the raptures these translations gave him were so strong, that he spoke of them with pleasure to the period of his life. About ten, being now at school at Hide-park corner, whither he went from a popish semi­nary at Twiford, near Winchester, he was carried sometimes to the playhouse; and be­ing struck, we may imagine, with theatrical representations, he turned the chief events into a kind of play, made up of a number of speeches from Ogilby's translation, connected with verses of his own. He persuaded the upper boys to act this piece, which, from its curiosity, one would have been glad to have beheld. The master's gardener represented the character of Ajax; and the actors were dressed after the pictures of his favourite Ogil­by, far the best part of that book, as they were designed and engraved by artists of note. At twelve, he retired with his father into Windsor-Forest; and it was there he first perused the writings of Waller, of Spenser, [Page 82] and of Dryden. The second is said to have made a poet of Cowley; that Ogilby should give our author his first poetic pleasures, is a remarkable circumstance. On the first sight of Dryden he abandoned the rest, having now found an author, whose cast was exactly con­genial with his own. His works therefore he studied, with equal pleasure and attention: he placed them before his eyes as a model; of which more will be said in the course of these papers. He copied not only his harmo­nious versification, but the very turns of his periods. It was hence he was enabled to give to rhyme all the harmony of which it is capable. *

ABOUT this time, that is about fifteen years old, he began to write his ALCANDER, an epic poem, of which he himself speaks with so much amiable frankness and ingenuity, in a passage restored to his excellent preface to his works. ‘"I confess there was a time when [Page 83] I was in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of self-lvoe upon innocence. I had made an epic poem, and panegyrics on all the princes of Europe, and I thought myself the greatest genius that ever was. I cannot but regret these delightful visions of my childhood, which, like the fine colours we see when our eyes are shut, are vanished for ever."’ Atterbury had perused this early piece, and, we may gather from one of his letters, advised him to burn it; though he adds, ‘"I would have interceeded for the first page, and put it, with your leave, among my curiosities."* I have been credibly informed, that some of the anonymous verses, quoted as examples of the Art of Sinking in Poetry, in the incom­parable satire so called, were such as our poet remembered from his own ALCANDER. So sensible of its own errors and imperfections is a mind truly great.

[Page 84] QUINTILIAN, whose knowledge of human nature was consummate, has observed, that nothing very correct and faultless, is to be ex­pected in very early years, from a truly ele­vated genius: that a generous extravagance and exuberance are its proper marks, and that a premature exactness is a certain evi­dence of future flatness and sterility. His words are incomparable, and worthy conside­ration. * ‘"Audeat haec aetas plura, et INVE­NIAT, et inventis gaudeat, sint licet illa non satis interim sicca et severa. Facile remedium est ubertatis, sterilia nullo labore vincuntur. Illa mihi in pueris natura nimi­um spei dabit, in quâ INGENIUM judicio praesumitur. Materiam esse primum volo vel abundantiorem, atque ultra quam opor­tet fusam. Multum inde decoquent anni, multum ratio limabit, aliquid velut usu ip­so deteretur, sit modo unde excidi possit et quod exculpi: erit autem, si non ab ini­tio tenuem laminam duxerimus, et quam [Page 85] caelatura altior rumpat.—Quare mihi ne maturitas quidem ipsa festinet, nec musta in lacu statim austera sint; sic et annos ferent, et vetustate proficient."’ This is very strong and masculine sense, expressed and enlivened by a train of metaphors, all of them elegant, and well preserved. Whether these early productions of POPE, would not have appeared to Quintilian to be rather too finished, correct, and pure, and what he would have inferred concerning them, is too delicate a subject for me to enlarge upon. Let me rather add an entertaining anecdote. When Guido and Domenichino had each of them painted a picture in the Church of Saint Andrew, Annibal Carrache, their master, was pressed to declare, which of his two pupils had excelled. The picture of Guido represented Saint Andrew on his knees before the cross, that of Domenichino represented the flagel­lation of that apostle. Both of them in their different kinds were capital pieces, and were painted in fresco, opposite each other, to eter­nize, as it were, their rivalship and conten­tion [Page 86] Guido, said Carrache, has performed as a master, and Domenichino as a scholar. But, added he, the worth of the scholar is more valuable than that of the master. In truth, one may perceive faults in the picture of Domenichino that Guido has avoided; but then there are noble strokes, not to be found in that of his rival. It was easy to discern a genius that promised to produce beauties, to which the sweet, the gentle, and the grace­ful Guido would never aspire.

The last piece that belongs to this Section, is the ODE entitled, THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL, written in imitation of the well known sonnet of Hadrian, addrest to his departing spirit; concerning which it was our author's judicious opinion, that the dimi­nutive epithets with which it abounds, such as Vagula, Blandula, were by no means expressions of levity and indifference, but rather of endear­ment, of tenderness and concern. This ode was written we find at the desire of Steele; and our poet in a letter to him on that oc­casion, [Page 87] says—‘"You have it, as Cowley calls it, just warm from the brain; it came to me the first moment I waked this morn­ing; yet you'll see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verses of Hadrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho."*

IT appears however that our author had another composition in his head, besides those he here refers to, for there is a close and sur­prising resemblance between this ode of POPE, and one of a very obscure and justly forgotten rhymer of the age of Charles the second, namely Thomas Flatman; from whose dunghill, as well as from the dregs of Crashaw, of Carew, of Herbert, and others, (for it is well known he was a great [Page 88] reader of all those poets) POPE has very judiciously collected gold. And the follow­ing stanza is perhaps the only valuable one Flatman * has produced.

When on my sick bed I languish,
Full of sorrow, full of anguish,
Fainting, gasping, trembling, crying,
Panting, groaning, speechless, dying;
Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say,
Be not fearful come away!

The third and fourth lines are eminently good and pathetic, and the climax well preserved; the very turn of them is closely copied by POPE; as is likewise the striking circum­stance of the dying man's imagining he hears a voice calling him away;

Vital spark of heavenly flame
Quit, O quit, this mortal frame;
Trembling, hoping, lingring, flying,
O the pain, the bliss of dying!
[Page 89] Hark! they whisper! angels say,
Sister spirit, come away!

I AM sensible of the difficulty of distin­guishing resemblances from thefts; and of what a late critic has urged, that a want of seeming originality arises frequently, not from a barrenness and timidity of genius, but from invincible necessity, and the nature of things: that the works of those who profess an art, whose essence is imitation, must needs be stamped with a close resemblance to each other, since the objects material or animate, extraneous or internal, which they all imi­tate, lie equally open to the observation of all, and are perfectly similar. Descriptions there­fore that are faithful and just, MUST BE UNI­FORM AND ALIKE; the first copier may be perhaps entitled to the praise of priority, but a succeeding one ought not certainly to be condemned for plagiarism.

THESE general observations however true, do not, I think, extend to the case before us, because not only the thoughts, but even the [Page 90] words are copied; and because the images, especially the last, are such, as are not imme­diately impressed by sensible objects, and which therefore, on account of their SINGU­LARITY, did not lie in common for any poet to seize. Let us however moderate the matter, and say, what perhaps is the real fact, that POPE fell into the thoughts of Flatman una­wares, and without design; and having for­merly read him, imperceptibly adopted this passage, even without knowing that he had borrowed it. That this will frequently hap­pen, is evident from the following curious particulars related by Menage, * which, be­cause much has been said of late on this head by many writers of criticism, I shall here insert. ‘"I have often heard M. Chapelain, and M. Dandilly declare, that they wrote the following line,"’

D'arbires de la paix, de foudres de la guerre;

without knowing it was in Malherbe; and the moment I am making this remark, recollect [Page 91] that the same thing happened to M. Furetiere. I have often heard Corneille declare, that he inserted in his Polyeucte, two celebrated lines concerning fortune, without knowing they were the property of M. Godeau bishop of Vence;

Et comme elle a l'eclat du Verre
Elle en a la fragilitè—

GODEAU had inserted them in an ode to Car­dinal Richleiu, fifteen years before Polyeucte was written. Porphyry in a fragment of his book on Philology, quoted by Euse­bius, in the tenth book of his Evangelical preparation, makes mention of an author named Aretatedes, who composed an entire treatise on this sort of resemblances. And St. Jerom relates, that his preceptor Do­natus, explaining that sensible passage in Terence, ‘"Nihil est dictum quod non dictum suit prius,"’ railed severely at the ancients, for taking from his his best thoughts; ‘"Pereant qui ante nos, nostra dixerunt."’

[Page 92] MENAGE makes these observations on oc­casion of a passage in the Poetics of Vida, intended to justify borrowing the thoughts and even expressions of others, which passage is very applicable to the subject before us:

Aspice ut exuvias, veterumque insignia nobis
Aptemus; rerum accipimus nunc clara reperta,
Nunc seriem at (que) animum verborum, verba quoque ipsa;
Nec pudet interdum alterius nos ore locutos. *

Menage adds, that he intended to compile a regular treatise on the thefts and imitations of the poets. As his reading was very exten­sive, his work would probably have been very entertaining. For surely it is no trivial amusement, to trace an applauded sentiment or description to its source, and to remark, with what judgment and art it is adapted and inserted; provided this be done with such a spirit of modesty and candour, as evidently shews, the critic intends merely to gratify [Page 93] curiosity, and not to indulge envy, malig­nity, and a petulant desire of dethroning established reputations. Thus for instance, says the Rambler, ‘"it can scarcely be doubt­ed, that in the first of the following pas­sages POPE remembered OVID, and that in the second * he copied CRASHAW, because there is a concurrence of more re­semblances, than can be imagined to have happened by chance."’

Saepe pater dixit, studium quid inutile tentas?
Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes—
Sponte suâ carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
Et quod conabar scribere, versus erat.

I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father disobey'd;
While yet a child, e'er yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came.

—This plain floor,
[Page 94] Believe me reader, can say more
Than many a braver marble can,
Here lies a truly honest man.

This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
May truly say, "here lies an honest man."

Two other critics have also remarked some farther remarkable coincidencies of POPE's thought and expressions, with those of other writers, which are here inserted, as they can­not fail of entertaining the curious.

Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden rose
In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaus.

L'ignorance, & l'erreur a ses naissantes peices, *
En habits de marquis, en robes de comtesses,
Venoient pour diffamer son chef-d-oevre nouveau.

Superior beings when of late they saw,
A mortal man unfold all nature's law;
Admir'd such wisdom in an earthly shape,
And shew'd a Newton as we shew an ape.

Simia coelicolum risusque jocusque deorum est,
[Page 95] Tunc homo, quum temerè ingenio confidit, & audet
Abdita naturae scrutari, arcanaque divum.

—Happily to steer
From grave to gay, from lively to severe.

—D'une voix legere
Passer du grave au doux, du plaisant au severe.

The conclusion of the epitaph on Gay, where he observes, that his honour consists not in being entombed among kings and heroes,

But that the worthy and the good may say,
Striking their pensive bosoms, here lies GAY,

is adopted from an old Latin elegy on the death of prince Henry; this conceit of his friend's being enshrined in the hearts of the virtuous, is, by the way, one of the most forced and far-fetched, that POPE has fallen into.

BEN JOHNSON, as another ingenious critic has remarked, wrote an elegy on the lady [Page 96] Anne Pawlet, Marchioness of Winton; the beginning of which POPE seems to have thought of, when he wrote his verses, to the Memory of an unfortunate lady. Johnson begins his elegy,

What gentle ghost, besprent with April dew,
Hayles me so solemnly to yonder yew?
And beckoning woes me — *

In which strain POPE beautifully breaks out,

What beck'ning ghost along the moonlight shade,
Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
'Tis she!—

as Johnson now lies before me, I may perhaps be pardoned for pointing out another passage in him, which POPE probably remem­bered, when he wrote the following:

From shelves to shelves, see greedy Vulcan roll,
And lick up all their physic of the soul;

Thus Johnson speaking of a parcel of books,

[Page 97]
These, hadst thou pleas'd either to dine or sup,
Had made a meale for Vulcan to lick up. *

I SHOULD be sensibly touched at the injuri­ous imputation of so ungenerous, and indeed impotent a design, as that of attempting to diminish, or fully the reputation of so valu­able a writer as POPE, by the most distant hint, or accusation of his being a plagiary; a writer, to whom the English poesy, and the English language is everlastingly indebted: but we may say of his imitations, what his poetical father Dryden said of another, who deserved not such a panegyric so justly as our author: ‘"HE INVADES AUTHORS LIKE A MONARCH, AND WHAT WOULD BE THEFT IN OTHER POETS, IS ONLY VICTORY IN HIM." For indeed he never works on the same subject with another, without heightening the piece with more masterly strokes, and a more artful pencil. And, as was observed of Augustus, what he finds [Page 98] merely coarse brick, he leaves magnificent marble. Those who flattered themselves, that they should diminish the reputation of Boi­leau, by printing, in the manner of a com­mentary at the bottom of each page of his works, the many lines he has borrowed from Horace and Juvenal, were grossly deceived. The verses of the ancients, which this poet hath turned into French with so much ad­dress, and which he hath happily made so homogeneous, and of a piece with the rest of the work, that every thing seems to have been conceived in a continued train of thought, by the very same person, confer as much honour on M. Despreaux, as the verses which are purely his own. The original turn which he gives to his translations, the bold­ness [Page 99] of his expressions, so little forced and unnatural, that they seem to be born, as it were with, his thoughts, display almost as much invention, as the first production of a thought entirely new. This induced La Bruyere to say, ‘"que Despreaux paroissoit creer les pensees d'autruy."’ Both he and POPE might have answered to their * accusers, in the words with which Virgil is said to have replied, to those who accused him of borrowing all that was valuable in his Aeneid from Homer; ‘CUR NON ILLI QUOQUE EADEM FURTA TENTARENT? VERUM INTELLECTUROS, FACILIUS ESSE HERCULI CLAVUM, QUAM HOMERO VERSUM SURRIPERE.

SECT. III. Of the ESSAY on Criticism.

WE are now arrived at a poem of that species, for which our author's ge­nius was particularly turned, the DIDACTIC and the MORAL; it is therefore, as might be expected, a master-piece in its kind. I have been sometimes inclined to think, that the praises Addison has bestowed on it, * were a little partial and invidious. ‘"The observa­tions, says he, follow one another, like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity which would have been requisite in a prose writer."’ It is however certain, that the poem before us is by no means destitute of a just integrity, and a lucid order: each of the precepts and re­marks naturally introduce the succeeding ones, so as to form an entire whole. The ingeni­ous Mr. Hurd, hath also usefully shewn, that [Page 101] Horace observed a strict method, and unity of design, in his epistle to the Pisones, and that altho the connexions are delicately fine and almost imperceptible, like the secret hinges of a well-wrought box, yet they art­fully and closely unite each part together, and give coherence, uniformity, and beauty to the work. The Spectator adds; ‘"The ob­servations in this essay are some of them un­common;"’ there is, I fear, a small mixture of ill-nature in these words; for this ESSAY tho' on a beaten subject, abounds in many new remarks, and original rules, as well as in many happy and beautiful illustrations, and applications of the old ones. We are indeed amazed to find such a knowledge of the world, such a maturity of judgment, and such a penetration into human nature, as are here displayed, in so very young a writer as was POPE, when he produced this ESSAY; for he was not twenty years old. Correct­ness and a just taste, are usually not attained but by long practice and experience in any art; but a clear head, and strong sense were [Page 102] the characteristical qualities of our author, and every man soonest displays his radical excellencies. If his predominant talent be warmth and vigor of imagination, it will break out in fanciful and luxuriant descrip­tions, the colouring of which will perhaps be too rich and glowing. If his chief force lies in the understanding rather than in the imagination, it will soon appear by solid and manly observations on life or learning, ex­pressed in a more chast and subdued style. The former will frequently be hurried into obscurity or turgidity, and a false grandeur of diction; the latter will seldom hazard a figure, whose usage is not already established, or an image beyond common life; will always be perspicuous if not elevated; will never dis­gust, if not transport his readers; will avoid the grosser faults, if not arrive at the greater beauties of composition; The ‘"eloquentiae genus,"’ for which he will be distinguished, will not be the ‘"plenum, & erectum, & audax, & praecultum,"’ but the ‘"pressum, [Page 103] & mite, & limatum."* In the earliest letters of POPE to Wycherly, to Walsh, and Cromwell, we find many admirable and acute judgments of men and books, and an intimate acquaintance not only with some of the best Greek and Roman, particularly the latter, but the most celebrated of the French and Italian classics.

DU BOS fixes the period of time, at which, generally speaking, the poets and the painters have arrived at as high a pitch of perfection, as their geniuses will permit, to be the age of thirty years, or a few years more or less. Virgil was near thirty when he composed his first Eclogue; Horace was a grown man when he began to be talked of at Rome as a poet, having been formerly engaged in a busy military life. Racine was about the same age when his ANDROMACHE, which may be regarded as his first good tragedy, was played. Corneille was more than thirty [Page 104] when his CID appeared. Despreaux was full thirty when he published his satires, such as we now have them; Moliere was full forty when he wrote the first of those comedies, on which his reputation is founded. But to excell in this species of composition, it was not sufficient for Moliere to be only a great poet; but it was more necessary for him to gain a thorough knowledge of men and the world, which is seldom attained so early in life, but without which, the best poet would be able to write but very indifferent comedies. Raphael was about thirty years old also, when he displayed the beauty and sublimity of his genius in the Vatican. For it is there we be­hold the first of his works, that are worthy the great name he at present so deservedly pos­sesses. When our Shakespear wrote his LEAR, Milton his PARADISE LOST, Spenser his FAIRY QUEEN, and Dryden his MUSIC ODE, they were all of them past the middle age of man. From this short review it ap­pears, that few poets ripened so early as POPE; who seems literally and strictly to have [Page 105] fulfilled the precept of Horace in each of it's circumstances;

Multa tulit, fecitque PUER;

he was laborious and indefatigable in his pur­suits of learning;

—Sudavit et alsit;

and above all, what is of the greatest conse­quence in preserving each faculty of the mind in due vigour,

Abstinuit venere et vino;

these are the two temptations to which a youthful bard is principally subject, and into whose snares he generally falls. If the ima­gination be lively, the passions will be strong. True genius seldom resides in a cold and phleg­matic constitution. The same temperament, and the same sensibility that makes a poet or a painter, will be apt to make a man a lover and a debauchee. POPE was happily secured from falling into these common failings, the bane of so many others, by the weakness and [Page 106] delicacy of his body, and the bad state of his health. The sensual vices were too violent for so tender a frame; he never fell into intemperance and dissipation. May I add, that even his bodily make was of use to him as a writer; for one who was acquainted with the heart of man, and the secret springs of our actions, has observed with great penetra­tion; ‘"*It is good to consider deformity, not as a signe, which is more deceivable, but as a cause, which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person, that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himselfe, to rescue and deliver himself from scorne."’ I do not think it improbable, that this circum­stance might animate our poet, to double his diligence to make himself distinguished, and hope I shall not be accused, by those who have a knowledge of human nature, of assign­ing his desire of excellence to a motive too mean and sordid, as well as too weak and inefficacious, to operate such an effect.

[Page 107]
What crops of wit and honesty appear,
From spleen, from obstinacy, hate or fear!
See anger, zeal and fortitude, supply,
Ev'n avarice, prudence; sloth, philosophy;
Nor virtue male or female can we name,
But what will grow on pride or grow on shame. *

It was another circumstance equally propi­tious to the studies of POPE, in this early part of his life, that he inherited a fortune that was a decent competence, and sufficient to supply the small expences, which both by constitution and reflection he required. He had no occasion to distract his thoughts by being sollicitous, ‘"de lodice paranda;"’ he needed not to wait,

—Pour diner, le success d'un sonnet.

his father retired from business, at the revo­lution, to a little convenient box, at Binfield, near Oakingham, in Berkshire, and having converted his effects into money, is said to have brought with him into the country al­most [Page 108] twenty thousand pounds. As he was a papist he could not purchase, nor put his money to interest on real security; and as he adhered to the interests of King James, he he made a point of conscience not to lend it to the new government;

For right hereditary tax'd and fin'd,
He stuck to poverty with peace of mind,

he therefore kept this sum in his chest, and lived upon the principal; till by that time his son came to the succession, it was almost all fairly spent. There was however enough left to supply the occasions of our author, * and to keep him from the two most destruc­tive [Page 109] enemies to a young genius, want and dependence. ‘"I can easily conceive, says a late moralist, that a mind occupied and overwhelmed with the weight and immen­sity of its own conceptions, glancing with astonishing rapidity from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, cannot willingly submit to the dull drudgery, of examining the justness and accuracy of a butcher's bill. To descend from the widest and comprehensive views of nature, and weigh out hops for a brewing, must be invincibly disgusting to a true genius; to be able to build imaginary palaces of the most exqui­site architecture, but yet not to pay a car­penter's bill, is a cutting mortification and disgrace."*

ON the other hand, opulence, and high station would be equally pernicious and un­favourable to a young genius; as they would almost unavoidably embarrass and immerse him, in the cares, the pleasures, the indo­lence, [Page 110] and the dissipation, that accompany abundance. And perhaps the fortune most truly desireable, and the situation most pre­cisely proper for a young poet, are marked out in that celebrated saying of Charles the ninth of France; ‘"equi et poetae ALENDI sunt, non SAGINANDI."’

THE ESSAY ON CRITICISM, which occa­sioned the introduction of these reflections, was first, I am well informed, written in prose, according to the precept of Vida, and the practice of Racine.

Quinetiam, prius effigiem formare, SOLUTIS,
Totiusque operis simulacrum fingere, verbis,
Proderit; atque omnes ex ordine nectere partes,
Et seriem rerum, et certos sibi ponere fines,
Per quos tuta regens vestigia tendere pergas. *

When Racine had fixed on a subject for a play, he wrote down in plain prose, not on­ly the subject of each of the five acts, but of every scene and every speech; so that he [Page 111] could take a view of the whole at once, and see whether every part cohered, and coopera­ted to produce the intended event: when his matter was thus regularly disposed, he was used to say, ‘"My Tragedy is finished."’

I NOW propose to make some observations on, and illustrations of such passages and precepts in this ESSAY, as, on account of their utility, novelty, or elegance, deserve particular atten­tion; and perhaps I may take the freedom to hint at a few imperfections, in this SEN­SIBLE performance. I shall cite the passages in the natural order, in which they succes­sively occur.

  • 1.
    In poets as true genius is but rare

    It is indeed so extremely rare, that no country in the succession of many ages has produced above three or four persons that deserve the title. The ‘"man of rhymes"’ may be easily found; but the genuine poet, of a lively plastic imagination, the true MAKER [Page 112] or CREATOR, is so uncommon a progidy, that one is almost tempted to subscribe to the opi­nion of Sir William Temple, where he says, ‘"That of all the numbers of mankind, that live within the compass of a thousand years, for one man that is born capable of making a great poet, there may be a thousand born capable of making as great generals, or ministers of state, as the most renowned in story."* There are indeed more causes required to concur to the formation of the former than of the latter, which necessarily render it's production more difficult.

  • 2.
    True taste as seldom is the critic's share.

    La Bruyere says very sensibly, I will allow the good writers are scarce enough; but then I ask, where are the people that know how to read?

  • 3.
    Let such teach others who themselves excel,
    And censure freely who have written well.

    [Page 113] It is somewhere remarked by Dryden, I think, that none but a poet is qualified to judge of a poet. The maxim is however contradicted by experience. Aristotle is said indeed to have written one ode; but neither Bossu nor Hurd, are poets. The penetrating author of the Reflexions on Poetry, Painting, and Music, will for ever be read with delight, and with profit by all ingenious artists; il ne savait pourtant pas la musique, says Voltaire, * il n'avoit jamais pu faire de vers, & n'avoit pas un tableau: mais il avoit beaucoup lû, vû, entendû, & reflechi. And Lord Shaftes­bury speaks with some indignation on this subject; if a musician performs his part well in the hardest symphonies, he must necessa­rily know the notes, and understand the rules of harmony and music. But must a man, therefore, who has an ear, and has studied the rules of music, of necessity have a voice or hand? can no one possibly judge a fiddle, but who is himself a fidler? can no [Page 114] one judge a picture, but who is himself a layer of colours? Quintilian and Pliny, who speak of the works of the ancient pain­ters and statuaries, with so much taste and sentiment, handled not themselves either the pencil or the chissel, nor Longinus nor Dio­nysius, the harp. But altho' such as have actually performed nothing in the art itself, may not on that account, be totally disquali­fied to judge with accuracy of any piece of workmanship, yet perhaps a judgment will come with more authority and force from an artist himself. Hence the connoisseurs highly prize the treatise of Rubens, concerning the imitation of antique statues, the art of paint­ing by Leonardo da Vinci, and the lives of the painters by Vasari. As for the same rea­sons, Rameau's dissertation on the thorough bass, and the introduction to a good taste in music by the excellent, but neglected, Ge­miniani, demand a particular regard. The prefaces of Dryden would be equally valu­able, [Page 115] if he did not so frequently contradict himself, and advance opinions diametrically opposite to each other. Some of Corneille's discourses on his own tragedies are admirably just. And one of the best pieces of modern criticism, the academy's observations on the Cid, was we know the work of persons who had themselves written well. And our au­thor's own excellent preface to his translation of the Iliad, one of the best pieces of prose in the English language, is an example how well poets are qualified to be critics.

  • 4.
    Some neither can for wits nor critics pass,
    As heavy mules are neither horse or ass;
    Those half-learn'd witlings, numerous in our isle,
    As half form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
    Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
    Their generation's so equivocal. *

    These lines and those preceding, and follow­ing them, are excellently satirical; and were, I think, the first we find in his works, that give an indication of that species of poetry to [Page 116] which his talent was most powerfully bent, and in which, tho' not, as we shall see, in others, he excelled all mankind. The simile of the mule heightens the satire, and is new; as is the application of the insects of the Nile. POPE never shines so brightly as when he is proscribing bad authors.

  • 5.
    In the soul while MEMORY prevails,
    The solid pow'r of UNDERSTANDING fails;
    Where beams of bright imagination play,
    The memory's soft figures melt away. *

    I hardly believe there is in any language a metaphor more appositely applied, or more elegantly expressed, than this of the effects of the warmth of fancy. Locke who has embellished his dry subject with a vast variety of pleasing similitudes and allusions, has a passage relating to the retentiveness of the memory so very like this before us, and so happily worded, that I cannot forbear giving the reader the pleasure of comparing them together; only premising that these two pas­sages [Page 117] are patterns of the manner in which the metaphor should be used, and of the method of preserving it unmixed with any other idea, and not continuing it too far. Our minds re­present to us those tombs to which we are approaching; where though the brass and marble remain, yet the inscriptions are effa­ced by time, and the imagery moulders away. How much the constitution of our bodies are concerned in this, and whether the temper of the brain makes this difference, that in some, it retains the characters drawn on it like marble, in others like freestone, and in others little better than sand, I shall not here en­quire; though it may seem probable that the constitution of the body does sometimes in­fluence the memory; since we sometimes find, a disease quite strip the mind of all its ideas, and the flames of a fever, in a few days CALCINE all those images to dust and confu­sion, which seemed to be as lasting as if graved in marble. *

    [Page 118] WITH respect to the truth of this obser­vation of POPE, experience abundantly evinc­eth, that the three great faculties of the foul here spoken of are seldom found united in the same person. There have yet existed, but a few transcendant geniuses, who have been singularly blest with this rare assemblage of different talents. All that I can at present recollect, who have at once enjoyed in full vigour, a sublime and splendid imagination, a solid and profound understanding, an exact and tenacious memory, are Herodotus, Plato, Tully, Livy, Tacitus, Galilaeo, Bacon, Des Cartes, Malebranche, Milton, Burnet of the Charterhouse, Berkley and Montesqueiu. Ba­con in his Novum Organum, divides the hu­man genius into two sorts; men of dry di­stinct heads, cool imaginations, and keen ap­plication; they easily apprehend the diffe­rences of things, are masters in controversy, and excell in confutation; and these are the most common. The second sort are men of warm fancies, elevated thought, and wide knowledge: they instantly perceive the re­semblances [Page 119] of things, and are poets or makers in science, invent arts, and strike out new light wherever they * carry their views. This general observation has in it all that acuteness, comprehension, and knowledge of man, which so eminently distinguished this philosopher.

  • 6.
    One science only will one genius fit;
    So vast is art, so narrow human wit.—
    Not only bounded to peculiar arts,
    But oft in those confin'd to single parts.

    When Tully attempted poetry, he became as ridiculous as Bolingbroke when he attempted philosophy and divinity; we look in vain for that genius which produced the Dissertation on Parties, in the tedious philosophical works; of which it is no exaggerated satire to say, that the reasoning of them is sophistical and inconclusive, the style diffuse and verbose, and the learning seemingly contained in them not drawn from the originals, but picked up [Page 120] and purloined from French critics and transla­tions, and particularly from Bayle, from Rapin, and Thomassin, (as perhaps may be one day minutely shewn) together with the assistances that our Cudworth and Stanley, happily af­forded a writer confessedly ignorant of the Greek tongue, who has yet the insufferable * arrogance to vilify and censure, and to think [Page 121] he can confute the best writers in that best language.

    WHEN Fontaine, whose tales indicated a truly comic genius, brought a comedy on the stage, it was received with a contempt equally unexpected and undeserved. Terence has left us no tragedy, and the Mourning Bride of Congreve, notwithstanding the praises be­stowed on it by POPE, in the Dunciad, * is certainly a despicable performance; the plot is unnaturally intricate, and overcharged with incidents, the sentiments trite, and the lan­guage turgid and bombast. Heemskirk and Teniers could not succeed in a serious and sublime subject of history-painting. The latter, it is well known, designed cartoons for tapestry, representing the history of the Tur­riani of Lombardy. Both the composition and [Page 122] the expression are extremely indifferent; and some nicer virtuosi have remarked, that in the serious pieces, into which Hogarth has deviated from the natural biass of his genius, there are some strokes of the Ridiculous di­scernible, which suit not with the dignity of his subject. In his PREACHING OF St. PAUL, a dog snarling at a cat; and in his PHARAOH's DAUGHTER, the figure of the infant Moses, who expresses rather archness than timidity, are alleged as instances, that this artist, unrivalled in his own walk, could not resist the impulse of his imagination to­wards drollery. His picture, however, of Richard III. is pure and unmixed with any ridiculous circumstances, and strongly impresses terror and amazement. The mo­desty and good sense of the ancients is, in this particular, as in others, remarkable. The same writer never presumed to undertake more than one kind of dramatic poetry, if we except the CYCLOPS of Euripides. A poet never presumed to plead in public, or to write history, or indeed any considerable [Page 123] work in prose. The same actors never reci­ted tragedy and comedy; this was observed so long ago, as by Plato, in the third book of his REPUBLIC. They seem to have held that diversity, nay universality, of excellence, at which the moderns frequently aim, to be a gift unattainable by man. We therefore of Great-Britain have perhaps more reason to congratulate ourselves, on two very singular phenomena; I mean, Shakespear's being able to pourtray characters so very different as FALSTAFF, and MACKBETH; and Garrick's being able to personate so inimitably a LEAR, or an ABEL DRUGGER. Nothing can more fully demonstrate the extent and versatility of these two original geniuses. Corneille, whom the French are so fond of opposing to Shake­spear, produced very contemptible comedies; and the PLAIDEURS of Racine is so close a resemblance of Aristophanes, as it ought not to be here urged. The most universal of authors seems to be Voltaire; who has writ­ten almost equally well, both in prose and verse; and whom either the tragedy of ME­ROPE, [Page 124] or the history of LOUIS XIV, would alone have immortalized.

  • 7.
    Those rules of old, discover'd not devis'd,
    Are nature still, but nature methodiz'd;
    Nature, like liberty, is but restrain'd
    By the same laws which first herself ordain'd. *

    THE precepts of the art of poesy, were po­sterior to practise; the rules of the Epopea were all drawn from the Iliad and the Odys­sey; and of Tragedy, from the EDIPUS of Sophocles. A petulant rejection, and an im­plicit veneration, of the rules of the ancient critics, are equally destructive of true taste. ‘"It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer, says the excellent RAMBLER, to distinguish nature from custom, or that which is established, because it is right, from that which is right, only because it is established; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of [Page 125] any beauties within his view, by a need­less fear of breaking rules, where no liter­ary dictator had authority to prescribe."’ The same penetrating and judicious author, who always thinks for himself, has also ano­ther passage too full of strong sense, and too apposite to the subject before us, to be here omitted.

    "CRITICISM, though dignified, from the earliest ages, by the labours of men emi­nent for knowledge and sagacity, and since the revival of polite literature, the favorite study of European scholars, has not yet attained the certainty and stability of sci­ence. The rules, that have been hitherto received, are seldom drawn from any set­tled principle, or self-evident postulate; nor are adapted to the natural and invariable constitution of things: but will be found upon examination, to be the arbitrary edicts of dictators exalted by their own authority, who out of many means by which the same end may be attained, selected those which [Page 126] happened to occur to their own reflection; and then by an edict, which idleness and timidity were willing to obey, prohibited any new experiments of wit, restrained fancy from the indulgence of her innate inclination to hazard and adventure, and condemned all the future flights of genius, to persue the path of the Maeonian eagle."

    "THE authority claimed by critics may be more justly opposed, as it is apparently derived from them whom they endeavour to controul; for we are indebted for a very small part of the rules of writing to the acuteness of those by whom they are delivered. The critics have generally no other merit, than that of having read the works of great authors with attention; they have observed the arrangement of their matter, and the graces of their expression, and then expect honour and reverence for precepts, which they never could have inven­ted; so that practice has introduced rules, rather than rules have directed practice."

    [Page 127] "FOR this reason, the laws of every species of writing have been settled by the ideas of him by whom it was first raised to reputa­tion; without much enquiry, whether his performances were not yet susceptible of improvement. The excellencies and the faults of celebrated writers have been equally recommended to posterity; and so far has blind reverence prevailed, that the NUMBER of their BOOKS has been thought worthy of imitation."*

    THIS liberal and manly censure of critical bigotry, extends not to those fundamental and indispensable rules, which nature and necessity dictate, and demand to be observed; such, for instance, in the higher kinds of poetry, that the action of the epopea be one, great, and entire; that the hero be eminently distin­guished, move our concern, and deeply in­terest us; that the episodes arise easily out of the main fable; that the action commence as near the catastrophe as possible: and in the [Page 128] drama, that no more events be crowded to­gether, than can be justly supposed to happen during the time of representation, or to be transacted on one individual spot, and the like. But the absurdity here animadverted on, is the scrupulous nicety of those, who bind them­selves to obey frivolous and unimportant laws; such as, that an epic poem should consist not of less than twelve books; that it should end fortunately; that in the first book there should be no simile; that the exordium should be very simple and unadorned: that in a tragedy, only three personages should ap­pear at once upon the stage; and that a tragedy must consist of five acts; by the rigid observati­on of which last unnecessary precept, the poet is deprived of using many a moving story, that would furnish matter enough for three per­haps, but not for five acts; with others of the like nature. For the rest, as Voltaire ob­serves, * whether the action of an epopea be simple or complex, completed in a month or in a year, or a longer time, whether the [Page 129] scene be fixed to one spot, as in the Iliad; or that the hero voyages from sea to sea, as in the Odyssey; whether he be furious like Achilles, or pious like Eneas; whether the action pass on land or sea; on the coast of Africa, as in the Luziada of Camoens; in America, as in the Araucana of Alonzo D'Ercilla; in heaven, in hell, beyond the limits of our world, as in the Paradise Lost; all these circumstances are of no consequence: the poem will be for ever an Epic poem, an Heroic poem, at least till another new title be found proportioned to its merit. If you scruple, says Addison, to give the title of an Epic poem to the Paradise Lost of Milton, call it, if you chuse, a DIVINE poem, give it whatever name you please, provided you confess, that it is a work as admirable in its kind as the Iliad. ‘"Ne disputons jamais sur les noms, c'est une puerilitè impardonable."’

  • 8.
    Hear how learn'd Greece her useful rules indites,
    When to repress, and when indulge our flights. *

    [Page 130] IN the second part of Shaftesbury's ADVICE to an Author, is a judicious and elegant ac­count of the rise and progress of arts and sciences, in ancient Greece; to subjects of which sort, it were to be wished this author had always confined himself, as he indisputably understood them well, rather than that he had blemished and belied his patriotism, by writing against the religion of his country. I shall give the reader a passage that relates to the origin of criticism, which is curious and just. ‘"When the persuasive arts, which were necessary to be cultivated among a people that were to be convinced before they acted, were grown thus into repute; and the power of moving the affections become the study and emulation of the forward wits and aspiring geniuses of the times; it would necessarily happen, that many geniuses of equal size and strength, though less covetous of public ap­plause, of power, or of influence over man­kind, would content themselves with the contemplation merely of these enchanting arts. These they would the better enjoy, the more [Page 131] they refined their taste, and cultivated their ear.—Hence was the origin of CRITICS; who, as arts and sciences advanced, would necessarily come withal into repute; and be­ing heard with satisfaction in their turn, were at length tempted to become authors, and ap­pear in public. These were honoured with the name of Sophists; a character which in early times was highly respected. Nor did the gravest philosophers, who were censors of manners, and critics of a higher degree, disdain to exert their criticism on the inferior arts; especially in those relating to speech, and the power of argument and persuasion. When such a race as this was once risen, 'twas no longer possible to impose on mankind, by what was specious and pretending. The pub­lic would be paid in no false wit, or jingling eloquence. Where the learned critics were so well received, and philosophers themselves dis­dained not to be of the number; there could not fail to arise critics of an inferior order, who would subdivide the several provinces of this empire."*

  • [Page 132]9.
    Know well each Ancient's proper character;
    His fable, subject, scope, in every page;
    Religion, country, genius of his age. *

    FROM their inattention to these particulars, many critics, and particularly the French, have been guilty of great absurdities. When Perrault impotently attempted to ridicule the first stanza of the first Olympic of Pindar, he was ignorant that the poet, in beginning with the praises of WATER, alluded to the philosophy of Thales, who taught that water was the principle of all things; and which philosophy, Empedocles the Sicilian, a co­temporary of Pindar, and a subject of Hiero to whom Pindar wrote, had adopted in his beautiful poem. Homer and the Greek tra­gedians have been likewise censured, the for­mer for protracting the Iliad after the death of Hector; and the latter, for continuing the AJAX and PHOENISSAE, after the deaths of their respective heroes. But the censurers did not consider the importance of burial among [Page 133] the ancients: and that the action of the Iliad would have been imperfect without a de­scription of the funeral rites for Hector and Patroclus; as the two tragedies, without those of Polynices and Eteocles: for the an­cients esteemed a deprivation of sepulture to be a more severe calamity than death itself. It is observable that this circumstance did not occur to POPE*, when he endeavoured to justify this conduct of Homer, by only say­ing, that as the anger of Achilles does not die with Hector, but persecutes his very re­mains, the poet still keeps up to his subject by describing the many effects of that anger, 'till it is fully satisfied: and that for this reason, the two last books of the Iliad may be thought not to be excrescencies, but essential to the poem. I will only add, that I do not know an author whose capital excellence suffers more from the reader's not regarding his climate and country, than the incomparable Cer­vantes. There is a striking propriety in the madness of Don Quixote, not frequently [Page 134] taken notice of; for Thuanus informs us, that MADNESS is a common disorder among the Spaniards at the latter part of life, about the age of which the knight is represented. ‘"Sur la fin de ses jours Mendozza devint furieux, comme font d'ordinaire les Espagnols."

  • 10.
    Still with itself compar'd, his text peruse,
    And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.

    ALTHOUGH perhaps it may seem impossible to produce any new observations on Homer and Virgil, after so many volumes of criticism as have been spent upon them, yet the fol­lowing remarks have a novelty and penetra­tion in them that may entertain; especially as the treatise from which they are taken is ex­tremely scarce. ‘"Quae variae inter se notae atque imagines animorum, a principibus utriusque populi poetis, Homero & Virgilio, mirificè exprimuntur. Siquidem Homeri duces & reges rapacitate, libidine, atque [Page 135] anilibus questibus, lacrymisque puerilibus, Graecam levitatem & inconstantiam referunt. Virgiliani vero principes, ab eximio poeta, qui Romanae severitatis fastidium, & Latinum supercilium verebatur, & ad heroum popu­lum loquebatur, ita componuntur ad majesta­tem consularem, ut quamvis ab Asiatica mol­litie luxuque venerint, inter Furios atque Clau­dios nati educatique videantur. Neque suam, ullo actu, Aeneas originem prodidisset, nisi a praefactiore aliquanto pietate, fudisset crebro copiam lacrymarum.—Qua meliorum ex­pressione morum hac aetate, non modo Vir­gilius Latinorum poetarum princeps, sed qui­vis inflatissimus vernaculorum, Homero prae­fertur: cum hic animos proceribus induerit suos, ille verò alienos.—Quamobrem va­rietas morum, qui carmine reddebantur, & hominum ad quos ea dirigebantur, inter Lati­nam Graecamque poesin, non inventionis tan­tum attulit, sed & elocutionis discrimen illud, quod praecipue inter Homerum & Virgilium deprehenditur; cum sententias & ornamenta quae Homerus sparserat, Virgilius, Romano­rum [Page 136] aurium causa, contraxerit; atque ad mores & ingenia retulerit eorum, qui a poesi non petebant publicam aut privatam institu­tionem, quam ipsi Marte suo invenerant; sed tantùm delectationem."* Blackwell, in his Enquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer, has taken many observations from this valu­able book, particularly in his twelfth Section.

  • 11.
    Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,
    For there's a happiness, as well as care.
    Music resembles poetry; in each
    Are nameless graces, which no methods teach,
    And which a master-hand alone can reach.

    POPE in this passage seems to have re­membered one of the Essays of Bacon, of which he is known to have been remarkably fond. ‘"There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion. A man cannot tell whether Apelles or Albert Durer, were the more trifler: whereof the one would make a personage by geometrical [Page 137] proportions; the other, by taking the best parts out of divers faces, to make one excel­lent. Such personages, I think, would please nobody but the painter that made them. Not but I think, a painter may make a better face than ever was; but he must do it by a kind of felicity, as a musician that maketh an excellent ayre in music, and not by rule. A man shall see faces, that if you examine them, part by part, you shall find never a good one; and yet altogether doe well."*

  • 12.
    Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
    May boldly deviate from the common track;
    From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
    And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art,
    Which, without passing through the judgment, gains
    The heart, and all it's ends at once obtains.

    HERE is evidently a blameable mixture of metaphors, where the attributes of the horse and the writer are confounded. The former may justly be said to ‘"take a nearer way, and, to deviate from a track;"’ but how can a horse ‘"snatch a grace,"’ or ‘"gain the heart?"’

  • [Page 138]13.
    Some figures monstrous and mishap'd appear,
    Consider'd singly, or beheld too near,
    Which, but proportion'd to their light, or place,
    Due distance reconciles to time and place. *

    BY this excellent observation, delivered in a beautiful metaphor, all the faults imputed to Homer may be justified. Those who cen­sure what is called the GROSSNESS of some of his images, may please to attend to the follow­ing remark of a writer, by no means pre­judiced in favour of the ancients. ‘"Quant a ce qu'on appelle GROSSIERETE dans les héros d'Homére, on peut rire tant qu'on voudra de voir Patrocle, au neuviéme livre de l'Iliade, mette trois gigots de mouton dans une marmite, allumer & fousser le feu, & préparer le diner avec Achille: Achille & Pa­trocle n'ent sont pas moins éclatans. Charles XII. Roi de Suéde, a fait six mois sa cuisine a Demir-Tocca, sans perdre rien de son he­roisme, & la plûpart de nos generaux qui portent dans une campe tout le luxe d'une [Page 139] cour effeminée, auront bien de la pein a egaler ces heros, qui faisoient leur cuisine aux-memes.—En un mot, Homere avoit a representer un Ajax & un Hector; non un courtisan de Versailles, ou de saint James."*

  • 13.
    A prudent chief not always must display
    His pow'rs in equal rank, and fair array.

    THE same may be said of music: concern­ing which a discerning judge has lately made the following observation. ‘"I do not mean to affirm, that in this extensive work [of Marcello] every recitative, air, or chorus, is of equal excellence. A continued elevation of this kind no author ever came up to. Nay, if we consider that variety, which in all arts is necessary to keep up attention, we may per­haps affirm with truth, that INEQUALITY makes a part of the character of excellence: that something ought to be thrown into shades, in order to make the lights more [Page 140] striking. And, in this respect, Marcello is truly excellent: if ever he seems to FALL, it is only to RISE with more astonishing majesty and greatness."* It may be pertinent to subjoin Roscommon's remark on the same subject.

    —Far the greatest part
    Of what some call neglect, is study'd art.
    When Virgil seems to trifle in a line,
    'Tis but a warning piece, which gives the sign
    To wake your fancy, and prepare your sight
    To reach the noble height of some unusual flight.
  • 14.
    Hail Bards triumphant born in happier days.

    DOCTOR Warburton is of opinion, that ‘"there is a pleasantry in this title, which al­ludes to the state of WARFARE, that all true genius must undergo while here on earth."’ Is not this interpretation of the word trium­phant very far-fetched, and foreign to the author's meaning? Who, I conceive, used the word, to denote merely the TRIUMPH, which arose from superiority.

  • [Page 141]15.
    The last, the meanest of your sons inspire. *

    ‘"THIS word last, says the same commen­tator, spoken in his early youth, as it were by chance, seems to have been OMINOUS."’ I am not persuaded that all true genius died with POPE: and presume that the Seasons of Thomson, the Pleasures of Imagination, and Odes, of Akenside, the Night-thoughts of Young, the Leonidas of Glover, the Elegy of Gray, together with many pieces in Dodsley's Miscellanies, were not published when Dr. Warburton delivered this insinuation of a failure of poetical abilities.

  • 16.
    So pleas'd at first the towring Alps we try,
    Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky,
    Th' eternal snows appear already past,
    And the first clouds, and mountains seem the last:
    But, those attain'd, we tremble to survey
    The growing labours of the lengthen'd way;
    Th' increasing prospect tires our wand'ring eyes,
    Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise.

    [Page 142] THIS comparison is frequently mentioned, as an instance of the strength of fancy. The images however appear too general and indis­tinct, and the last line conveys no new idea to the mind. The following picture in Shaftesbury, on the same sort of subject, ap­pears to be more full and striking. ‘"Beneath the mountain's foot, the rocky country rises into hills, a proper basis of the ponderous mass above: where huge embodied rocks lie piled on one another, and seem to prop the high arch of heaven. See! with what trem­bling steps poor mankind tread the narrow brink of the deep precipices! From whence with giddy horror they look down, mistrust­ing even the ground that bears them; whilst they hear the hollow sound of torrents under­neath, and see the ruin of the impending rock; with falling trees, which hang with their roots upwards, and seem to draw more ruin after them."* See Livy's picturesque description of Annibal passing the Alps.

  • [Page 143]17.
    A perfect judge will read each work of wit,
    With the same spirit, that it's author writ. *

    To be able to judge of poetry, says Vol­taire, a man must feel strongly, must be born with some sparks of that fire, which animates the poet whom he criticises. As in deciding upon the merit of a piece of music, it is not enough, it is indeed nothing, to calculate the proportion of sounds as a mathematician, but we must have an ear and a soul for music.

  • 18.
    Thus when we view some well-proportion'd dome,
    (The world's just wonder, and ev'n thine, O Rome!)
    No single parts unequally surprise,
    All comes united to th' admiring eyes;
    No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear,
    The Whole at once is bold, and regular.

    THIS is justly and elegantly expressed; and though it may seem difficult to speak of the same subject after such a description, yet Akenside has ventured, and nobly succeeded.

    [Page 144]
    Mark, how the dread PANTHEON stands,
    Amid the domes of modern hands!
    Amid the toys of idle state,
    How simply, how severely great!
    Then pause! *
  • 19.
    Once on a time, La Mancha's knight, they say,
    A certain bard encountring on the way. §

    BY this short tale POPE has shewed us, how much he could have excelled in telling a story of humour. The incident is taken from the se­cond part of Don Quixote, first written by Don Alonzo Fernandez de Avellanada, and after­wards translated, or rather imitated and new­modelled, by no less an author than the cele­brated Le Sage. The book is not so con­temptible as some authors insinuate; it was well received in France, and abounds in many [Page 145] of humour and character worthy Cervantes himself. The brevity to which POPE's narration was confined, would not permit him to insert the following humorous dialogue at length. ‘"I am satisfied you'll compass your design, said the other scholar, provided you omit the combat in the lists. Let him have a care of that, said Don Quixote interrupting him, that is the best part of the plot. But Sir, quoth the Batchelor, if you would have me adhere to Aristotle's rules, I must omit the combat. Aristotle, replied the Knight, I grant was a man of some parts; but his capacity was not unbounded: and give me leave to tell you, his authority does not extend over combats in the list, which are far above his narrow rules. Would you suffer the chaste Queen of Bohe­mia to perish? For how can you clear her in­nocence? Believe me, COMBAT is the most honourable method you can pursue; and, besides, it will add such grace to your play, that all the rules in the universe must not stand in competition with it. Well, Sir Knight, replied the Batchelor, for your sake, and for [Page 146] the honour of chivalry, I will not leave out the combat: and that it may appear the more glorious, all the court of Bohemia shall be present at it, from the princes of the blood, to the very footmen. But still one difficulty remains, which is, that our common theatres are not large enough for it. There must be one erected on purpose, answered the Knight; and, in a word, rather than leave out the combat, the play had better be acted in a field or plain."*

  • 20.
    Some to conceit alone their taste confine,
    And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at every line.

    SIMPLICITY, with elegance and propriety, is the perfection of style in every composition. Let us, on this occasion, compare two passages from Theocritus and Ovid upon the same subject. The Cyclops, in the former, addresses Galatea with comparisons, natural, obvious, and drawn from his situation.

    [Page 147]
    [...] §

    These simple and pastoral images were the most proper that could occur to a Cyclops, and to an inhabitant of Sicily. Ovid could not restrain the luxuriancy of his genius, on the same occasion, from wandering into an endless variety of flowery and unappropriated similitudes, and equally applicable to any other person or place.

    Candidior nivei folio, Galatea, ligustri;
    Floridior pratis; longâ procerior alno;
    Splendidior vitro; tenero lascivior haedo;
    Laevior assiduo detritis aequore conchis;
    Solibus hybernis, aestivâ gratior umbrâ;
    Nobilior pomis; platano conspectior altâ;
    Lucidior glacie; maturâ dulcior uvâ;
    Mollior & cygni plumis, & lacte coacto;
    Et, si non fugias, riguo formosior horto. *

    There are seven more lines of comparison.

  • 21.
    False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
    In gaudy colours spreads on every place:
    The face of nature we no more survey,
    All glares alike without distinction gay.

    [Page 148] THE nauseous affectation of expressing every thing pompously and poetically, is no where more visible, than in a poem lately published, entitled AMYNTOR and THEO­DORA. The following instance may be al­leged amongst many others. Amyntor hav­ing a pathetic tale to discover, and being at a loss for utterance, uses these ornamental and unnatural images.

    —O could I steal
    From harmony her softest warbled strain
    Of melting air! or Zephire's vernal voice!
    Or Philomela's song, when love dissolves
    To liquid blandishment his evening lay,
    All nature smiling round. *

    Voltaire says very comprehensively, with re­spect to every species of composition, ‘"Il ne faut rechereher, ni les penseés, ni les tours, ni les expressions, & que l'art, dans tous les grand ovrages, est de bien raisonner, sans trop faire d'argumens; de bien peindre, sans vouloir tout peindre; d'émouvoir, sans vouloir toujours exciter les passions."

  • [Page 149]22.
    Some by old words to fame have made pretence. *

    QUINTILIAN's advice on this subject is as follows. ‘"Cùm sint autem verba propria, ficta, translata; propriis dignitatem dat anti­quitas. Namque & sanctiorem, & magis admirabilem reddunt orationem, quibus non quilibet fuit usurus: eoque ornamento acer­rimi judicii Virgilius unice est usus. Olli enim, & quianam, & mis, & pone, pellu­cent, & aspergunt illam, quae etiam in pictu­ris est gratissima, vetustatis inimitabilem arti auctoritatem. Sed utendum modo, nec ex ultimis tenebris repetenda."

  • 23.
    Where'er you find the cooling western breeze,
    In the next line it whispers through the trees. §

    UNVARIED rhymes highly disgust readers of a good ear. We have not many composi­tions where NEW and uncommon rhymes are introduced. One or two writers however I cannot forbear mentioning, who have been studious of this beauty. They are Parnelle, [Page 150] Pitt in his Translations from Vida, West in his Pindar, Thomson in the Castle of Indo­lence, and the author of an elegant Ode TO SUMMER, published in a Miscellany entitled the UNION." *

  • 24.
    A needless Alexandrine ends the song.

    ALTHOUGH the Alexandrine may be sup­posed to be a modern measure, yet I would remark, that it was first used or invented by Robert of Glocester, whose poem consists entirely of Alexandrine verses, with the addi­tion of two syllables; as does that of Warner's ALBION's ENGLAND, with many of the lives in the MIRROR of MAGISTRATES, and Dray­ton's POLYOLBION. Most of the psalms of Sternhold and Hopkins are really written § in this measure, though commonly printed other­wise. Dryden was the first who introduced it in our English heroic, for we do not ever find it in Sandys or Waller.

  • [Page 151]25.
    And praise the easy vigor of a line,
    Where Denham's strength and Waller's sweetness join. *

    FENTON, in his entertaining observations on Waller, has given us a curious anecdote concerning the great industry and exactness with which Waller published even his smallest compositions. ‘"When the court was at Windsor, these verses were writ in Tasso of her Royal Highness, at Mr. Waller's request, by the late Duke of Buckingham­shire; and I very well remember to have heard his Grace say, that the author employed the GREATEST PART OF A SUMMER, in com­posing, and correcting them. So that how­ever he is generally reputed the parent of those swarms of insect-wits, who affect to be thought easy writers, it is evident that he be­stowed much time and care on his poems, before he ventured them out of his hands."

  • [Page 152]26.
    True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
    As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance. *

    IT is well known, that the writings of Voi­ture, of Sarassin, and Fontaine, cost them much pains, and were laboured into that fa­cility for which they are so famous, with re­peated alterations, and many rasures. Moliere is reported to have past whole days in fixing upon a proper epithet or rhyme, although his verses have all the flow and freedom of conversation. This happy facility, said a man of wit, may be compared to garden­terraces: the expence of which does not ap­pear; and which, after the cost of several millions, yet seem to be a mere work of chance and nature. I have been informed, that Addison was so extremely nice in polish­ing his prose compositions, that, when almost a whole impression of a Spectator was worked off, he would stop the press, to insert a new preposition or conjunction.

  • [Page 153]27.
    Soft is the stream, when Zephyr gently blows,
    And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
    But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
    The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar;
    When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
    The line too labours, and the words move slow;
    Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
    Flies o'er th'unbending corn, and skims along the main. *

    THESE lines are usually cited as fine ex­amples of adapting the sound to the sense. But that POPE has failed in this endeavour, has been lately demonstrated by the RAM­BLER. ‘"The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze must surely be confessed not much to excell in softness or volubility; and the smooth stream runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants. The noise and turbulence of the torrent, is indeed, distinctly imaged; for it requires very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of Ajax, there is no particular heaviness or delay. The swiftness of Camilla is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be [Page 154] lengthened to express speed, will not easily de discovered. In the dactyls, used for that purpose by the ancients, two short syllables were pronounced with such rapidity, as to be equal only to one long; they therefore natu­rally exhibit the act of passing through a long space in a short time. But the Alexandrine, by its pause in the midst, is a tardy and stately measure; and the word unbending, one of the most sluggish and slow which our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion."

  • 28.
    Be thou the first true merit to befriend,
    His praise is lost, who stays 'till all commend.

    WHEN Thomson published his WINTER, it lay a long time neglected, 'till Mr. Spense made honourable mention of it in his Essay on the Odyssey; which becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known. Thomson always acknowledged the use of this early recommendation; and from this circum­stance, an intimacy commenced between the [Page 155] critic and the poet, which lasted 'till the la­mented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable benevolent temper.

  • 29.
    And such as Chaucer is shall Dryden be. *

    WALLER has an elegant copy of verses on the mutability of the English tongue, which bears a strong resemblance to this passage of POPE.

    Poets that lasting marble seek,
    Must carve in Latin or in Greek;
    We write in sand; our language grows,
    And like the tide, our work o'erflows.
    Chaucer his SENSE can only boast,
    The glory of his numbers lost!
    Years have defac'd his matchless strain,

    TO fix a language has been found, among the most able undertakers, to be a fruitless project. The style of the present French Novels and Memoirs, for the French at pre­sent produce little besides, is visibly different [Page 156] from that of Boileau and Bossuet, notwith­standing the strict and seasonable injunctions of the Academy: and the diction, even of such a writer as Maffei, is corrupted with many words, not to be found in Machiavel or Ariosto.

  • 30.
    So when the faithful pencil has design'd
    Some bright idea of the master's mind,
    When a new world leaps out at his command,
    And ready nature waits upon his hand;
    When the ripe colours soften and unite,
    And sweetly melt into just shade and light;
    Where mellowing years their full perfection give,
    And each bold figure just begins to live,
    The treacherous colours the fair art betray,
    And all the bright creation fades away. *

    I HAVE quoted these beautiful lines at lenth, as I believe nothing was ever so happily expressed on the art of painting: a subject of which POPE always speaks con amore. Of all poets whatever, Milton has spoken most feelingly of music, and POPE of painting. [Page 157] The reader may however compare the fol­lowing passage of Dryden, on the same subject.

    More cannot be by mortal art express'd,
    But venerable age shall add the rest,
    For Time shall with his ready pencil stand,
    Retouch your figures with his ripening hand;
    Mellow your colours, and imbrown the tint,
    Add ev'ry grace, which Time alone can grant.
    To future ages shall your same convey,
    And give more beauties than he takes away. *

    IF POPE has so much excelled in speaking in the properest terms of this art, it may per­haps be ascribed to his having practised it; the same may be said of Milton, with respect to music. It may perhaps be wondered at, that a proficiency in these arts is not now frequently found in the same person. I can­not at present recollect any painters that were good poets; except Salvator Rosa, and Charles Vermander of Mulbrac in Flanders, whose comedies are much esteemed. But the satires of the former contain no strokes of that fervid and wild imagination, so visible in his landschapes.

  • [Page 158]31.
    If wit so much from ign'rance undergo. *

    THE inconveniencies that attend wit are well enumerated in this excellent passage. Poets, who imagine they are known and admired, are frequently mortified and hum­bled. Boileau going one day to receive his pension, and the treasurer reading these words in his Order, ‘"The pension we have granted to Boileau, on account of the satisfaction his works have given us,"’ asked him, of what kind were his works: ‘"Of Masonry, replied the poet, I am a BUILDER."’ Racine always reckoned the praises of the ignorant among the chief sources of chagrin: and used to relate, that an old magistrate, who had never been at a play, was carried, one day, to his Andromaque. This magistrate was very attentive to the tragedy, to which was added the Plaideurs; and going out of the theatre, he said to the author, ‘"I am extremely pleased, Sir, with your Andro­maque, I am only amazed that it ends so [Page 159] gaily; J'avois d'abord en quelque envie de pleurer, mais la vue des petits chiens m'a fait rire."’

  • 32.
    Now they who reach Parnassus' lofty crown,
    Employ their pains to spurn some others down. *

    THE arts used by Addison to suppress the rising merit of POPE, which are now fully laid open, give one pain to behold, to what mean artifices envy and malignity will com­pel a gentleman and a genius to descend. It is certain, that Addison discouraged POPE from inserting the machinery in the Rape of the Lock: that he privately insinuated that POPE was a Tory and a Jacobite; and had a hand in writing the Examiners: that Addison himself translated the first book of Homer, published under Tickel's name: and that he secretly encouraged Gildon to abuse POPE in a virulent pamphlet, for which Addison paid Gildon ten guineas. This usage extorted from POPE the famous character of Atticus, [Page 160] which is perhaps the finest piece of satire extant. It is said, that when Racine read his tragedy of Alexander to Corneille, the latter gave him many general commendations, but advised him to apply his genius, as not being adapted to the drama, to some other species of poetry. Corneille, one would hope, was incapable of a mean jealousy, and if he gave this advice, thought it really proper to be given.

  • 33.
    When love was all an easy monarch's care,
    Seldom at council, never in a war. *

    THE dissolute reign of Charles II. justly deserved the satirical proscription in this pas­sage. Under the notion of laughing at the absurd austerities of the Puritans, it became the mode to run into the contrary extreme, and to ridicule real religion and unaffected virtue. The King, during his exile, had seen and admired the splendor of the court of Louis XIV. and endeavoured to introduce the same luxury into the English court. The [Page 161] common opinion, that this was the Augustan age in England, is excessively false. A just taste was by no means yet formed. What was called SHEER WIT, was alone studied and applauded. Rochester, it is said, had no idea that there could be a better poet than Cowley. The King was perpetually quoting HUDIBRAS. The neglect of such a poem as the Paradise Lost, will for ever remain a monu­ment of the bad taste that prevailed. It may be added, that the progress of philological learning, and of what is called the belle lettres, was perhaps obstructed by the insti­tution of the Royal Society; which turned the thoughts of men of genius to physical enquiries. Our style in prose was but begin­ning to be polished: although the diction of Hobbes is sufficiently pure; which philoso­pher, and not the FLORID Spratt, was the classic of that age. If I was to name a time, when the arts and polite literature, were at their height in this nation, I should mention the latter end of King William, and the reign of Queen Anne.

  • [Page 162]34.
    With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust,
    Nor be so civil as to prove unjust. *

    OUR poet practised this excellent precept, in his conduct towards Wycherley; whose pieces he corrected, with equal freedom and judgment. But Wycherley, who had a bad heart, and an insufferable share of vanity, and who was one of the professed WITS of the last-mentioned age, was soon disgusted at this candour and ingenuity of POPE; in­somuch, that he came to an open and unge­nerous rupture with him.

  • 35.
    Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
    Those best can bear reproof who merit praise.

    THE freedom and unreservedness, with which Boileau and Racine communicated their works to each other, is hardly to be pa­rallelled: of which many amiable instances appear in their letters, lately published by the son of the latter: particularly in the follow­ing. ‘"J'ai trouve que la TROMPETTE & [Page 163] LES SOURDS etoient trop joues, & qu'il ne falloit point trop appuyer sur votre incommo­dite, moins encore chercher de l'esprit sur ce sujet."* Boileau communicated to his friend the first sketch of his ode on the Taking Na­mur. It is entertaining to contemplate a rude draught by such a master; and is no less pleasing to observe the temper, with which he receives the objections of Racine. ‘"J'ai deja retouche a tout cela; mais je ne veux point l'achever que ja n'aie reçû vos re­marques, qui surement m'eclaireront encore l'esprit."’ The same volume informs us of a curious anecdote, that Boileau generally made the second verse of a couplet before the first; that he declared it was one of the grand secrets of poetry to give, by this means, a greater energy and meaning to his verses; that he advised Racine to follow the same method, and said on this occasion, ‘"I have taught him to rhyme difficilement."’

  • [Page 164]36.
    No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd,
    Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church-yard;
    Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead:
    For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. *

    THIS stroke of satire is literally taken from Boileau.

    Gardez-vous d'imiter ce rimeur furieux,
    Qui de ses vains ecrits lecteur harmonieux
    Aborde en recitant quiconque le salüe,
    Et poursuit de ses vers les passans dans la rüe,
    Il n'est Temple si saint des Anges respecte,
    Qui soit contre sa muse un lieu du surete.

    Which lines allude to the impertinence of a French poet, called Du Perrier; who, find­ing Boileau one day at church, insisted upon repeating to him an ode, during the elevation of the host; and desired his opinion, whe­ther or no it was in the manner of Malherbe. Without this anecdote, the pleasantry of the satire would be overlooked. It may here be occasionally observed, how many beauties in this species of writing are lost, for want of [Page 165] knowing the facts to which they allude. The following passage may be produced as a proof. Boileau, in his excellent Epistle to his Gar­dener at Anteuil, says,

    Mon maitre, dirois-tu, passe pour un Docteur,
    Et parle quelquefois mieux qu'un Predicateur.

    IT seems, our * author and Racine returned one day in high spirits from Versailles with two honest citizens of Paris. As their con­versation [Page 166] was full of gaiety and humour, the two citizens were vastly delighted: and one of them, at parting, stopt Boileau with this compliment, ‘"I have travelled with Doctors of the Sorbonne, and even with Religious; but I never heard so many fine things said before; en verite vous parlez cent fois mieux qu'un PREDICATEUR."’

    [Page 167] IT is but justice to add, that the fourteen succeeding verses in the poem before us, con­taining the character of a TRUE CRITIC, are superior to any thing in Boileau's Art of Poetry: from which, however, POPE has borrowed many observations.

  • [Page 168]37.
    The mighty STAGYRITE first left the shore,
    Spread all his sails, and durst the deep explore.
    He steer'd securely, and discover'd far,
    Led by the light of the Maeonian star. *

    A NOBLE and just character of the first and the best of critics! And sufficient to repress the fashionable and nauseous petulance of se­veral impertinent moderns, who have at­tempted to discredit this great and useful writer! Whoever surveys the variety and per­fection of his productions, all delivered in the chastest style, in the clearest order, and the most pregnant brevity, is amazed at the im­mensity of his genius. His logic, however at present neglected for those redundant and verbose systems, which took their rise from Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, is a mighty effort of the mind: in which are discovered the principal sources of the art of reasoning, and the dependencies of one thought on another; and where, by the different combinations he hath made of all the forms [Page 169] the understanding can assume in reasoning, which he hath traced for it, he hath so closely confined it, that it cannot depart from them, without arguing inconsequentially. His Physics contain many useful observations, particularly his History of Animals; to assist him in which, Alexander gave orders, that creatures of different climates and countries should, at a great expence, be brought to him, to pass under his inspection. His Mo­rals are perhaps the purest system in antiquity. His Politics are a most valuable monument of the civil wisdom of the ancients; as they preserve to us the description of several go­vernments, and particularly of Crete and Car­thage, that otherwise would have been un­known. But of all his compositions, his Rhetoric and Poetics are most complete. No writer has shewn a greater penetration into recesses of the human heart, than this philoso­pher, in the second book of his Rhetoric; where he treats of the different manners and passions, that distinguish each different age and condition of man; and from whence Horace [Page 170] plainly took his famous description, in the Art of Poetry. * La Bruyere, Rochefoucault, and Montaigne himself, are not to be com­pared to him in this respect. No succeeding writer on eloquence, not even Tully, has added any thing new or important on this subject. His Poetics, which I suppose are here by POPE chiefly referred to, seem to have been written for the use of that prince, with whose education Aristotle was honoured, to give him a just taste in reading Homer and the tragedians: to judge properly of which, was then thought no unnecessary accomplish­ment in the character of a prince. To at­tempt to understand poetry without having diligently digested this treatise, would be as absurd and impossible, as to pretend to a skill in geometry, without having studied Euclid. The fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chap­ters, wherein he has pointed out the properest methods of exciting TERROR and PITY, con­vince us, that he was intimately acquainted with those objects, which most forcibly affect the [Page 171] heart. The prime excellence of this precious treatise is the scholastic precision, and philo­sophical closeness, with which the subject is handled, without any address to the passions, or imagination. It is to be lamented, that the part of the Poetics in which he had given precepts for comedy, did not likewise descend to posterity.

  • 38.
    HORACE still charms with graceful negligence,
    And without method talks us into sense. *

    THE vulgar notion, that Horace wrote his Epistle to the Pisos without method, has been lately confuted, as we hinted before. It is equally false that, that epistle contains a com­plete Art of Poetry; it being solely confined to the state and defects of the Roman drama. The transitions in the writings of Horace, are some of the most exquisite strokes of his art: many of them pass at present unobserved; and that his cotemporaries were equally blind to this beauty, he himself complains, though with a seeming irony,

    [Page 172]
    Cum lamentamur, non APPARERE labores
    Nostros, et TENUI deducta poemata filo. *

    It seems also to be another common mistake, that one of Horace's characteristics is the SUBLIME: of which indeed he has given a very few strokes, and those taken from Pin­dar, and, probably, from Alcaeus. His excel­lence lay in exquisite observations on human life, and in touching the foibles of mankind with delicacy and urbanity. 'Tis easy to perceive this moral turn in all his compo­sitions: the writer of the epistles is discerned in the odes. Elegance, not sublimity, was his grand characteristic. Horace is the most popular author of all antiquity; the reason is, because he abounds in images drawn from familiar life, and in remarks, that ‘"come home to mens business and bosoms."’ Hence he is more frequently quoted and alluded to, than any poet of a higher cast.

  • 39.
    See DIONYSIUS Homer's thoughts refine,
    And call new beauties forth from ev'ry line.

    [Page 173] THESE prosaic lines, this spiritless elogy, are much below the merit of the critic whom they are intended to celebrate. POPE seems here rather to have considered Dionysius, as the author only of his little Treatise concern­ing Homer; and to have in some measure overlooked, or at least not to have sufficiently insisted on, his most excellent book, ΠΕΡΙ ΣΥΝΘΗΣΕΩΣ ΟΝΟΜΑΤΩΝ, in which he has unfolded all the secret arts that render composition harmonious. One part of this discourse, I mean from the beginning of the twenty-first to the end of the twenty­fourth Section, is perhaps one of the most useful pieces of criticism extant. He there discusses the three different species of compo­sition; which he divides into the NERVOUS and AUSTERE, the SMOOTH and FLORID, and the MIDDLE, which partakes of the nature of the two others. As examples of the first species, he mentions Antimachus and Empe­docles in heroics, Pindar in lyric, Aeschylus in tragic poetry, and Thucydides in history. As examples of the second, he produces Hesiod [Page 174] as a writer in heroics; Sappho, Anacreon, and Simonides, in lyric; Euripides ONLY, among tragic writers; among the historians, Ephorus, and Theopompus; and Isocrates among the rhetoricians: all these, says he, have used words that are ΛΕΙΑ, χαι ΜΑΛΑΚΑ, χαι ΠΑΡΘΕΝΩΠΑ. The writers which he al­leges as instances of the third species, who have happily blended the two other species of composition, and who are the most complete models of style, are Homer, in epic poetry; Stesichorus and Alcaeus in lyric; in tragic, Sophocles; in history, Herodotus; in elo­quence, Demosthenes; in philosophy, Demo­critus, Plato, and Aristotle.

  • 40.
    Fancy and art in gay PETRONIUS please,
    The scholar's learning with the courtier's ease. *

    FOR what merit Petronius should be placed among useful critics, I could never discern. There are not above two or three pages, con­taining critical remarks, in his work: the chief merit of which is that of telling a story [Page 175] with grace and ease. His own style is more affected than even that of his cotemporaries, when the Augustan simplicity was laid aside. Many of his metaphors are far-fetched, and mixed; of which this glaring instance may be alleged. ‘"Neque concipere aut edere partum mens potest, nisi ingenti flumine literarum inundata:"* where animal con­ception and delivery, are confounded with vegetable production. His character of Ho­race however celebrated, ‘"Horatii curiosa fae­licitas,"’ is surely a very unclassical in­version; for he ought to have called it the happy carefulness of Horace, rather than his careful happiness. I shall observe by the way, that the copy of this author found some years ago, bears many signatures of its spuriousness, and particularly of its being forged by a French­man. For we have this expression, ‘"ad CAS­TELLA sese receperunt,"’ that is, ‘"to their CHATEAUX,"’ instead of ‘"ad Villas."’

  • 41.
    In grave QUINTILIAN's copious work we find
    The justest rules, and clearest method join'd.

    [Page 176] TO commend Quintilian barely for his me­thod, and to insist merely on this excellence, is below the merit of one of the most rational and elegant of Roman writers. Considering the nature of Quintilian's subject, he afforded copious matter, for a more appropriated and poetical character. No author ever adorned a scientifical treatise with so many beautiful metaphors. Quintilian was found in the bot­tom of a tower of the monastery of St. Gal, by Poggius; as appears by one of his letters dated 1417, written from Constance, when the council was then sitting. The mo­nastery was about twenty miles from that city. Silius Italicus was found at the same time and place.

  • 42.
    Thee bold LONGINUS all the Nine inspire,
    And bless their critic with a poet's fire. *

    THIS abrupt address to Longinus is more spirited and striking, and more suitable to the character of the person addressed, than if he had coldly spoken of him in the third person. [Page 177] The taste and sensibility of Longinus were exquisite, but his observations are too general, and his method too loose. The precision of the true philosophical critic is lost in the decla­mation of the florid rhetorician. Instead of shewing for what reason a sentiment or image is SUBLIME, and discovering the secret power by which they affect a reader with pleasure, he is ever intent on producing something SUBLIME himself, and strokes of his own elo­quence. Instead of pointing out the founda­tion of the grandeur of Homer's imagery, where he describes the motion of Neptune, the critic is endeavouring to rival the poet, by saying that, ‘"there was not room enough in the whole earth, to take such another step."’ He should have shewn why the speech of Phaeton to his son, in a fragment of Euripides, was so lively and picturesque: in­stead of which, he ardently exclaims, ‘"would not you say, that the soul of the writer as­cended the chariot with the driver, and waS whirled along in the same flight and danger with the rapid horses?"’ We have lately [Page 178] seen a just specimen of the genuine method of criticising, in Mr. Harris's accurate Discourse on Poetry, Painting, and Music. I have fre­quently wondered, that Longinus, who men­tions Tully, should have taken no notice of Virgil. I suppose he thought him only a servile copier of the Greeks.

  • 43.
    From the same foes, at last, both felt their doom,
    And the same age saw learning fall and Rome. *

    ‘"'TWAS the fate of Rome to have scarce an intermediate age, or single period of time, between the rise of arts and fall of liberty. No sooner had that nation begun to lose the roughness and barbarity of their manners, and learn of Greece to form their heroes, their orators, and poets on a right model, than by their unjust attempt upon the liberty of the world, they justly lost their own. With their liberty, they lost not only their force of eloquence, but even their style and language itself. The poets who afterwards [Page 179] arose among them, were mere unnatural and forced plants. Their TWO most finished, who came last, and closed the scene, were plainly such as had seen the days of liberty, ann felt the sad effects of its departure."*

    SHAFTESBURY proceeds to observe, that when despotism was fully established, not a statue, picture, or medal, not a tolerable piece of architecture, afterwards appeared.—And it was, I may add, the opinion of Lon­ginus, and Addison, who adopted it from him, that arbitrary governments were perni­cious to the fine arts, as well as to the sci­ences. Modern history, however, has afford­ed an example to the contrary. Painting sculpture, and music, have been seen to ar­rive to a high perfection in Rome, notwith­standing the slavery and superstition that reign there: nay, superstition itself has been highly productive of these fine arts; for with what enthusiasm must a popish painter work for an altar-piece? Neither Dante, Ariosto, or [Page 180] Tasso, flourished in free governments; and it seems * chimerical to assert, that Milton would never have written his Paradise Lost, if monar­chy had then remained. Michael Angelo, Ra­phael, and Julio Romano, lived in despotic states. The fine arts, in short, are naturally attendant upon power and luxury. But the sciences require unlimited freedom, to raise them to their full vigour and growth. In a MONARCHY, there may be poets, painters, and musicians; but orators, historians, and philosophers, can exist in a REPUBLIC alone.

  • 44.
    A second deluge learning thus o'er-run,
    And the monks finish'd what the Goths begun.

    EVERY custom and opinion that can de­grade and deform humanity, was to be found in the times here alluded to. The most cruel tyranny, and the grossest superstition, reigned without controul. Men seemed to have lost not only the light of learning, but [Page 181] of their common reason. Duels, divinations, the ordeal, and all the oppressive customs of the feudal laws, were universally practiced: witchcraft, possessions, revelations, and astro­logy, * were generally believed. The cler­gy were so ignorant, that in some of the most solemn acts of synods, such words as these are to be found. ‘"As my lord bishop cannot write himself, at his request I have subscribed."’ They were at that time so profligate, as to publish Absolutions for any one who had killed his father, mother, sister, or wife; or had committed the most enormous pollutions. On a survey of these absurd abominations, one is apt to cry out in the emphatical words of Lucretius,

    [Page 182]
    Quae procul a NOBIS flectat Fortuna gubernans!

    But we may rest secure, if the observation of an acute writer be true, who says, ‘"Europe will perhaps behold ages of a bad taste, but will never again relapse into barbarism. The sole invention of printing has forbidden that event."* The only sparks of literature that then remained, were to be found among the mahometans, and not the christians. It was from the ARABIANS that we received astro­nomy, chemistry, medicine, algebra, and arithmetic. Albategni, a Saracen, made astro­nomical observations in the 880. Our Alma­nack, AL-MANAC, is an Arabic word. The great church at Cordova in Spain, where the Saracens kept a magnificent court, is a monu­ment of their skill in architecture. The game of chess, that admirable effort of the human mind, was by them invented; as were tilts and turnaments. Averroes translated, and com­mented upon, the greatest part of Aristotle's works, and was the introducer of that au­thor's [Page 183] philosophy into the * west. It was Gerbert, who in the reign of Hugh Capet, is said to have introduced into France, the Arabian or Indian cypher: for the Arabians had borrowed from the Indians this manner of computing, and Gerbert learned it from the Saracens, when he made a journey into Spain. Gerbert also undertook to make the first clock, the motion of which was regu­lated by a balance; which method was made use of till the year 1650, when they began to place a pendulum instead of the balance. ‘"Can it scarcely be believed, says Mr. He­nault, that there ever was so little intercourse between the provinces of France, that an abbot of Clugni, being invited by Bouchard Count of Paris, to bring his Religious to St Maur­des-Fossés, excused himself from making so long a journey, into a country UNKNOWN, and to which he was so much a STRANGER?"’ Charlemagne, indeed, two centuries before this last mentioned time, had endeavoured to [Page 184] bring civility and learning into France: he introduced the Gregorian chant, and esta­blished a * school in his palace, where the fa­mous Alcuin, whom he invited from England, instructed the Youth. Each of the members of this academy took a particular name; and Charlemagne himself, who did it the honour to become one of it's members, assumed that of David. This attempt to civilize his bar­barous subjects, was as arduous, and worthy his great genius, as his noble project to open a communication between the Ocean and the Euxine Sea, and to join the Rhine to the Da­nube by a canal.

  • 45.
    At length ERASMUS, that great, injur'd name,
    (The glory of the priesthood, and the shame!)
    Stem'd the wild torrent of a barb'rous age,
    And drove those holy Vandals off the stage.

    IT were to be wished, our author had drawn a larger and fuller portrait of this won­derful man, of whom he appears to have been [Page 185] so fond, as to declare in the Letters, * that he had some design of writing his life in latin. I call Erasmus a wonderful man, not only on account of the variety, and classical purity of his works, but of that penetration, that strong and acute sense, which enabled him to pierce through the absurdities of the times, and expose them with such poignant ridicule, and attic elegance. A work of hu­mour, and of humour directed to expose the priests, in that age, was indeed a prodigy. The irony of the Encomium on Folly has never been excelled. Erasmus, though a commentator, had taste; and though a catho­lic, had charity. His learning was enlivened with wit; and his orthodoxy was tempered with moderation. He was never dazzled with what was called ERUDITION; or misled by that blind and undistinguishing veneration which was naturally paid to the antients, on the first discovery of their writings. By his CICERONIANUS, he repressed the affectation of imitating Tully's manner of expression, in [Page 186] every species of composition. In his ECCLE­SIASTES, very excellent rules are laid down for preaching. In his DIALOGUES, the super­stitions of the Romish church are exposed with all the pleasantry of Lucian: an author, to whom his genius bore great resemblance; and some of whose dialogues he has translated with their original spirit. Indeed, among the many translators of Greek authors who flou­rished at that time, Erasmus seems to have been in all respects the most eminent. To him was the restoration of literature princi­pally owing. More than one prince sollicited his friendship, and invited him to their courts. We see in a letter of Erasmus, written in the year 1516, that Francis I. who shared with Leo X. the glory of reviving sciences and arts in Europe, having declared to Petit his con­fessor, that he intended to bring into France the most learned men he could find, Petit had charged Budaeus, and Cop the royal physician, to write to Erasmus, to engage him to settle in France: that Stephen Poncher, embassador from the king at Brussels, pres­sed [Page 187] him still more; but that Erasmus made his excuses, because his catholic majesty Charles V. had retained him in the Low-countries. The life of Erasmus, which deserves the finest pen, has been wretchedly and frigidly written by Knight; although, indeed, the materials he has collected are curious and useful.

  • 46.
    But see! each muse in Leo's golden days,
    Starts from her trance, and trims her wither'd bays:
    Rome's ancient Genius, o'er its ruins spread,
    Shakes off the dust, and rears his rev'rend head. *

    HISTORY has recorded five ages of the world, in which the human mind has ex­erted itself in an extraordinary manner; and in which it's productions in literature and the fine arts have arrived at a perfection, not equalled in other periods. The FIRST, is the age of Philip and Alexander; about which time flourished Socrates, Plato, Demosthenes, Aristotle, Lysippus, Apelles, Phidias, Prax­iteles, Thucydides, Xenophon, Aeschylus, Eu­ripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Menander, [Page 188] Philemon. The SECOND age, which has ne­ver yet been sufficiently taken notice of, was that of Ptolomy Philadelphus, king of Aegypt; in which appeared Lycophron, Aratus, Ni­cander, Apollonius Rhodius, Theocritus, Cal­limachus, Eratosthenes, Philichus, Erisistratus the physician, Timaeus the historian, Clean­thes, Diogenes the painter, and Sostrates the architect. This prince, from his love of learning, commanded the Old Testament to be translated into Greek. The THIRD age is that of Julius Caesar, and Augustus; marked with the illustrious names of Laberius, Ca­tullus, Lucretius, Cicero, Livy, Varro, Vir­gil, Horace, Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid, Phae­drus, Vitruvius, Dioscorides. The FOURTH age was that of Julius II. and Leo X. which produced, Ariosto, Tasso, Fracastorius, San­nazarius, Vida, Bembo, Sadolet, Machiavel, Guiccardin, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titian. The FIFTH age, is that of Louis XIV. in France, and of king William and queen Anne in England: in which, or thereabouts, are to be found, Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Boi­leau, [Page 189] Fontaine, Bossuet, Rochefoucault, Pas­chal, Bourdaloüe, Patru, Malbranche, De Retz, Bruyere, St. Real, Fenelon, Lully, Le Saeur, Poussin, Le Brun, Puget, Theo­don, Gerardon, Edelinck, Nanteuill, * Per­rault, Dryden, Tillotson, Temple, POPE, Addison, Garth, Congreve, Rowe, Prior, Lee, Swift, Bolingbroke, Atterbury, Boyle, Locke, Newton, Clarke, Kneller, Thornill, Jervas, Dahl, Purcell, Mead, Friend.

    CONCERNING the particular encouragement given by Leo X. to polite literature, and the fine arts, I forbear to enlarge; because a friend of mine is at present engaged in writing, THE HISTORY OF THE AGE OF LEO X. It is a noble period, and full of those most important events, which have had the greatest influence on human affairs. Such as the discovery of the West-Indies, by the Spaniards, and of a passage to the East, by the Portugueze; the invention of printing; the reformation of reli­ligion; with many others: all which will be [Page 190] insisted upon at large, and their consequences displayed. I shall only here transiently ob­serve, that some efforts to emerge from bar­barity had long before this time appeared in Italy. Dante wrote his sublime * and origi­nal poem, which is a kind of satirical epic, and which abounds in images and senti­ments equal to the best of Homer, but whose works he had never seen, about the year 1310. Giotto the disciple of Cimabue, the friend of Dante, and subject of his praises, was employed, about the same time, by Benedict XI.; and a picture of mosaic work done by him, over the gate of St. Peter's church at Rome, is still remaining. A Tuscan, called Guy of Arezzo, invented the musical notes in use at present: and Bruneleschi built palaces at Florence, in the style of ancient architecture. Soon afterwards, Boccace and Petrarch polished, and fixed the standard of the Italian language. To Petrarch the ho­nour [Page 191] is generally attributed of having resto­red the elegance of the Latin tongue; parti­cularly in poetry. But a late acute searcher into antiquity, whose death is justly lamented, the learned Scipio Maffei, has informed us * in a curious passage, that this was not so much owing to Petrarch, as to Albertino Mussato, a native of Padua: with whose me­rit the learned seem not to be sufficiently ac­quainted. Mussato died very old, after having borne the greatest offices in his country, in the year 1329, that is to say, thirty-five years before Petrarch. He wrote not only many books of a history of his own times, but also an heroic poem on the siege of Padua by the [Page 192] Veronese, under the great Can; together with eclogues, elegies, epistles in verse, and an Ovidian Cento. However, to form a full judgment in this case, one need only peruse his two latin tragedies entitled ECCERINIS, and ACHILLES, which he composed in the style and manner of Seneca: and which were the first regular and perfect dramas, that are to be found since the barbarous and obscure ages.

  • 47.
    Immortal VIDA; on whose honour'd brow
    The Poet's bays, and Critic's ivy grow. *

    THE merits of Vida seem not to have been particularly attended to in England, 'till POPE had bestowed this commendation upon him: although the Poetics had been correctly pub­lished at Oxford, by Basil Kennet, some time before. The SILKWORMS of Vida are written with classical purity, and with a just mixture of the styles of Lucretius and Virgil. It was a happy choice to write a poem on [Page 193] CHESS*; nor is the execution less happy. The various stratagems, and manifold intri­cacies of this ingenious game, so difficult to be described in latin, are here expressed with the greatest perspicuity and elegance; so that perhaps the game might be learnt from this description. Amidst many prosaic flat­nesses, there are many fine strokes in the CHRISTIAD: particularly, his angels, with respect to their persons and insignia, are drawn with that dignity which we so much admire in Milton, who seems to have had his eye on those passages. Gravina applauds Vida, for having found out a method to introduce the whole history of our Saviour's life, by putting it into the mouth of St. Joseph and St. John, who relate it to Pilate. But surely this speech, consisting of as many lines as that of Dido to Aeneas, was too long to be made on such an occasion; when Christ was brought before [Page 194] the tribunal of Pilate, to be judged and con­demned to death. The Poetics are perhaps the most perfect of his compositions: they are excellently translated by Pitt. Vida had formed himself upon Virgil, who is therefore his hero: he has too much depreciated Homer. Although his precepts principally regard epic poetry, yet many of them are applicable to every species of composition. This poem has the praise of being one of the first, if not the very first, pieces of criticism, that appeared in Italy, since the revival of learning: for it was finished, as is evident from a short adver­tisement prefixed to it, in the year MDXX. It is remarkable, that most of the great poets about this time, wrote an Art of Poetry. Trissino, a name respected for giving to Eu­rope the first regular epic poem, and for first daring to throw off the bondage of rhyme, published at Vicenza, in the year MDXXIX, DELLA POETICA, divisioni quattro, several [Page 195] years before his Italia Liberata. We have of Fracastorius, NAUGERIUS, sive de Poetica dialogus, Venetiis MDLV. Minturnus, DE POETA, libri sex, appeared at Venice, MDLIX. Bernardo Tasso, the father of Torquato, and author of an epic poem entitled L'Amadigi, wrote RAGIONAMENTO della Poesia, printed at Venice, MDLXII. And to pay the highest honour to criticism, the great Torquato Tasso himself wrote DISCORSI del Poema Eroico, printed at Venice, MDLXXXVII. These dis­courses are full of learning and taste. But I must not omit a curious anecdote, which * Menage has given us in his Anti-Baillet; namely, that Sperone claimed these discourses as his own: for he thus speaks of them in one of his letters to Felice Paciotto; ‘"Laudo voi infinitamente di voler scrivere della poetica; della quale interrogato molte fiate dal Tasso, e rispondendogli io liberamente, si come sog­lio, [Page 196] egli n'a fatto un volume, e mandato al Signior Scipio Gonzaga per cosa sua, e non mia: ma io ne chiarirò il mondo."’

  • 48.
    And BOILEAU still in right of Horace sways.

    MAY I be pardoned for declaring it as my opinion, that Boileau's is the best * Art of Poetry extant? The brevity of his precepts, enlivened by proper imagery, the justness of his metaphors, the harmony of his numbers, as far as alexandrine lines will admit, the ex­actness of his method, the perspicacity of his remarks, and the energy of his style, all duly considered, may render this opinion not unreasonable. It is scarcely to be conceived, how much is comprehended in four short cantos. He that has well digested these, cannot be said to be ignorant of any important rule of poetry. The tale of the physician turn­ing architect, in the fourth canto, is told with vast pleasantry. It is to this work Boileau [Page 197] owes his immortality: which was of the high­est utility to his nation, in diffusing a just way of thinking and writing, banishing every spe­cies of false wit, and introducing a general taste for the manly simplicity of the ancients, on whose writings this poet had formed his taste. Boileau's chief talent was the DIDACTIC. His fancy was not the predominant faculty of his mind. Fontenelle has thus characterised him. ‘"Il etoit grand et excellent versificateur, pourvû cependant que cette louange se ren­ferme dans ses beaux jours, dont la difference avec les autres est bien marquée, et faisoit souvent dire Helas! et Hola! mais il n'etoit pas grand poete, si l'entend par ce mot, comme on le doit, celui qui FAIT, qui IN­VENTE, qui CREE."*

  • 49.
    Such was the muse, whose rules and practice tell,
    " Nature's chief master-piece is writing well."

    THIS high panegyric procured to POPE the acquaintance, and afterwards, the con­stant [Page 198] friendship of the duke of Buckingham: who, in his ESSAY here alluded to, has fol­lowed the method of Boileau, in discoursing on the various species of poetry, to no other purpose than to manifest his own inferiority. The piece is, indeed, of the satyric, rather than of the preceptive, kind. The coldness and neglect with which this writer, formed only on the French critics, speaks of Milton, must be considered as proofs of his want of critical discernment, or of critical courage. I can recollect no performance of Buck­ingham, that stamps him a true genius. His reputation was owing to his rank. In read­ing his poems, one is apt to exclaim with our author,

    What woful stuff this madrigal would be,
    In some starv'd hackney sonnetteer or me?
    But let a LORD ONCE OWN the happy lines,
    How the wit brightens! how the style refines!
    Before his sacred name flies every fault,
    And each exalted stanza teems with thought.

    THE best part of Buckingham's ESSAY is that, in which he gives a ludicrous account [Page 199] of the plan of a modern tragedy. I should add, that his compliment to POPE, prefixed to his poems, contains a pleasing picture of the sedateness and retirement proper to age, after the tumults of public life; and by it's moral turn, breathes the spirit, if not of a poet, yet of an amiable old man.

  • 50.
    Such was ROSCOMMON. *

    AN ESSAY on Translated Verse seems at first sight to be a barren subject; yet Ros­common has decorated it with may precepts of utility and taste, and enlivened it with a tale in imitation of Boileau. It is indisputably better written than the last-mentioned ESSAY. Roscommon was more learned than Buck­ingham. He was bred under Bochart at Caen in Normandy. He had laid a design of forming a society for the refining, and fixing the standard of, our language: in which project, his intimate friend Dryden was a principal assistant. This was the first attempt of that sort; and, I fear, we shall never see [Page 200] another set on foot in our days: even though Mr. Johnson has lately given us so excellent a dictionary. It may be remarked to the praise of Roscommon, that he was the first critic who had taste and spirit enough, pub­licly to praise the Paradise Lost; with a noble encomium of which, and a rational recommendation of blank verse, he concludes his performance. Fenton, in his Observations on Waller, has accurately delineated his cha­racter. ‘"His imagination might have pro­bably been more fruitful, and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe: but that severity, delivered in a masculine, clear, suc­cinct style, contributed to make him so emi­nent in the didactical manner, that no man with justice can affirm, he was ever equalled by any of our own nation, without confessing, at the same time, that he is inferior to none. In some other kinds of writing his genius seems to have wanted fire to attain the point of perfection: but who can attain it?"*

  • [Page 201]51.
    Such late was WALSH, the muse's judge and friend. *

    IF POPE has here given too magnificent an elogy to Walsh, it must pardonably be attri­buted to friendship, rather than to judgment. Walsh was in general a flimzy and frigid writer. The Rambler calls his works PAGES OF INANITY. His three letters to POPE, however, are well written. His remarks on the nature of pastoral poetry, on borrowing from the ancients, and against florid conceits, are worthy perusal. POPE owed much to Walsh: it was he who gave him a very im­portant piece of advice, in his early youth; for he used to tell our author, that there was one way still left open for him, by which he might excell any of his predecessors, which was, by CORRECTNESS; that though indeed we had several great poets, we as yet could boast of none that were perfectly CORRECT; and that therefore, he advised him to make this quality his particular study.

    [Page 202] CORRECTNESS is a vague term, frequently used without meaning and precision. It is per­petually the nauseous cant of the French cri­tics, and of their advocates and pupils, that the English writers are generally INCORRECT. If CORRECTNESS implies an absence of petty faults, this perhaps may be granted. If it means, that because their tragedians have avoided the irregularities of Shakespeare, and have observed a juster oeconomy in their fables, that therefore the Athalia, for instance, is preferable to Lear, the notion is groundless and absurd. The Henriade is free from any very gross faults; but who will dare to rank it with the Paradise Lost? The declamations with which some of their most perfect trage­dies abound, may be reckoned as contrary to the nature of that species of poetry, and as destructive of it's end, as the fools or grave­diggers of Shakespeare. That the French may boast some excellent critics, particularly, Bossu, Boileau, Fenelon, and Brumoy, cannot be denied; but that they are sufficient to form a taste upon, without having recourse to the [Page 203] genuine fountains of all polite literature, I mean the Grecian writers, no one but a super­ficial sciolist can allow.

I CONCLUDE these reflections with a remark­able fact. In no polished nation, after criticism has been much studied, and the rules of wri­ting established, has any very extraordinary work ever appeared. This has visibly been the case, in Greece, in Rome, and in France, after Aristotle, Horace, and Boileau, had writ­ten their ARTS OF POETRY. In our own country, the rules of the drama, for instance, were never more completely understood than at present: yet what UNINTERESTING, though FAULTLESS, tragedies, have we lately seen? So much better is our judgment than our exe­cution. How to account for the fact here mentioned, adequately and justly, would be attended with all those difficulties that await discussions relative to the productions of the human mind, and to the delicate and secret causes that influence them. Whether or no, the natural powers be not confined and debi­litated [Page 204] by that timidity and caution which is occasioned by a regard to the dictates of art: or whether, that philosophical, that geome­trical, and systematical spirit so much in vogue, which has spread itself from the sciences even into polite literature, by consulting only REASON, has not diminished and destroyed SENTIMENT; and made our poets write from and to the HEAD rather than the HEART: or whether, lastly, when just models, from which the rules have necessarily been drawn, have once appeared, succeeding writers, by ambitiously endeavouring to surpass those just models, and to be original and new, do not become distorted and unnatural, in their thoughts and diction.

SECT. IV. Of the RAPE of the LOCK.

IF the Moderns have excelled the Ancients in any species of writing, it seems to be in satire: and, particularly in that kind of satire, which is conveyed in the form of the epopee, a pleasing vehicle of satire never used by the ancients. As the poet disappears in this way of writing, and does not deliver the intended censure in his own proper person, the satire becomes more delicate, because more oblique. Add to this, that a tale or story more strongly engages and interests the reader, than a series of precepts or reproofs, or even of characters themselves, however lively and natural. An heroi-comic poem may there­fore be justly esteemed the most excellent kind of satire.

THE invention of it is usually ascribed to Alessandro Tassoni; who in the year 1622, published at Paris, a poem composed by him, [Page 206] in a few months of the year 1611, entitled LA SECCHIA RAPITA, or The Rape of the Bucket. To avoid giving offence, it was first printed under the name of Androvini Melisoni. It was afterwards reprinted at Venice, cor­rected, with the name of the author, and with some illustrations of Gasparo Salviani. But the learned and curious Crescembini, in his Istoria della Volgar Poesia, * informs us, that it is doubtful whether the invention of the heroi-comic poem ought to be ascribed to Tassoni, or to Francesco Bracciolini, who wrote LO SCHERNO DE GLI DEI, which perfor­mance, though it was printed four years after LA SECCHIA, is nevertheless declared in an epistle prefixed, to have been written many years sooner. The real subject of Tassoni's poem, was the war which the inhabitants of Modena declared against those of Bologna, on the refu­sal of the latter to restore to them some towns, which had been detained ever since the time [Page 207] of the emperor Frederic II. The author artfully made use of a popular tradition, according to which it was believed, that a certain woodden bucket, which is kept at Modena in the treasury of the cathedral, came from Bologna, and that it had been forcibly taken away by the Mode­nese. Crescembini adds, that because Tassoni had severely ridiculed the Bolognese, Barto­lomeo Bocchini, to revenge his countrymen, printed at Venice MDCXLI, a tragico-heroi­comic poem, entitled LE PAZZIE DE SAVI, overo, IL LAMBERTACCIO, in which the Modenese are spoken of with much contempt. The Italians have a fine turn for works of hu­mour, in which they abound. They have another poem of this species, called MAL­MANTILE RACQUISTATO, written by Lo­renzo Lippi, in the year MDCLXXVI, which Crescembini* highly commends, calling it, ‘"Spiritosisimo e legiadrissimo poema gia­coso."’ It was afterwards reprinted at Flo­rence MDCLXXXVIII, with the useful anno­tations [Page 208] of Puccio Lamoni, a Florentine painter, who was himself no contemptible poet.

THE LUTRIN of Boileau was the second remarkable poem, in which the Serious and Comic were happily blended. Boileau him­self has given a circumstantial account of what gave occasion to this poem; which account, because it is entertaining, and not printed in the common editions of his works, I will insert at length. ‘"I shall not here act like Ariosto, who frequently when he is going to relate the most absurd story in the world, solemnly protests it to be true, and supports it by the authority of archbishop Turpin. For my part I freely declare, the whole poem of the DESK is nothing but pure fiction; that it is all invented, even to the name itself of the place where the action passes. An odd occasion gave rise to this poem. In a company I was lately engaged in, the conver­sation turned upon epic poetry: every one delivered his opinion, according to his abili­ties; when mine was asked, I confirmed [Page 209] what I had advanced in my Art of Poetry, that an heroic poem, to be truly excellent, ought to be charged with little MATTER, which it was the business of invention to support and extend. The opinion was warmly contested: but after many reasons for and against, it happened, as it generally does in this sort of disputes, that nobody was con­vinced, and that each continued in his own opinion. The heat of dispute being over, we talked on other subjects; and laughed at the violence into which we had been betrayed, in discussing a question of so little consequence. We moralized on the folly of men who pass almost their whole lives, in treating the greatest trifles in a serious manner, and in making to themselves an important affair of something quite indifferent. To this purpose, a country gentleman related a famous quarrel, that had lately happened in a little church in his province, between the treasurer and the chantor, the two principal dignitaries of that church, about the place in which a reading­desk was to stand. We thought it a droll [Page 210] affair. Upon this, one of the critics in com­pany, who could not so soon forget our late dispute, asked me, if I, who thought so little MATTER necessary for an heroic poem, would undertake to write one on a quarrel so little abounding in incidents, as this of the two ecclesiastics. ‘"J'eus plutôt dit, pourquoi non? que je n'eus fait reflexion sur ce qu'il me demandoit."’ This made the company laugh, and I could not help laughing with them; not in the least imagining, that I should ever be able to keep my word. But finding myself at leisure in the evening, I re­volved the subject in my mind, and having considered in every view the pleasantry that it would admit of, I made twenty verses which I shewed to my friends. They were diverted with this beginning. The pleasure which I saw these gave them, induced me to write twenty more. Thus, from twenty verses to twenty, I lengthened the work to near nine hundred. This is the whole history of the trifle I now offer to the public.—This is a new kind of burlesque, which I have intro­duced [Page 211] into our language: for, as in the other kind of burlesque, that of Scarron, Dido and Aeneas spoke like fish-women and porters, in this of mine, a * clock-maker and his wife talk like Dido and Aeneas. I do not know whether my poem will have all the qualities requisite to satisfy a reader: but I dare flatter myself, that it will at least be allowed to have the grace of novelty; because I do not con­ceive, that there are any works of this nature in our language; the DEFAITES DES BOUTS RIMES of Sarasin being rather a mere allegory than a poem, as this is."’

ON a subject seemingly so unpromising and incapable of ornament, has Boileau found a method of raising a poem full of beautiful imagery; which appears like that magnificent city, which the greatest of princes caused to be built in a morass. Boileau has en­livened this piece with many unexpected inci­dents and entertaining episodes;

Maxima de nihilo nascitur historia.

[Page 212] Particularly that of the Perruquier, in the se­cond canto, and of the Battle of the Books, in the fifth. The satire throughout is poig­nant, though polite, to the last degree. The indolence and luxury of the priests are ridi­culed with the most artful delicacy. What a picture has he drawn of the chamber and bed of the treasurer, where every thing was calculated to promote and preserve inactivity and ease!

Dans le reduit obscur d'un alcove enfoncée *
S'eleve un lit de plume a grand frais amassée.
Quatre rideaux pompeux, par un double contour,
En defendent l'entrée a la clartè du jour.
La, parmi les douceurs d'un tranquille silence,
Regne sur le duvet un heureuse Indolence.
C'est la que Prelat muni d'un déjeûner,
Dormant d'un leger somme, attendoit le dIner.
La jeunesse en sa fleur brille sur son visage,
Son menton sur son sein descend a double étage:
Et son corps ramassé dans sa courte grosseur,
Faits gémir les cousins sous sa molle épaisseur.

The astonishment of Gilotin, the treasurer's almoner, to find that his master intends to go [Page 213] out before dinner, is extremely natural; and his remonstrances are inimitably droll and pertinent.

Lui montre le peril: Que midi va sonner:
Qu'il va faire, s'il sort, refroidir le dîner.
Quelle fureur, dit-il, quel aveugle caprice,
Quand la dîner est prît, vous appelle a l'Office?
De votre dignitè soûtener mieux l'eclat
Est-ce pour travailler que vous êtes Prélat?
A quoi bon ce dégoût et ce zele inutile?
Est-il donc pour jeuner Quatre temps, ou Vigile?
Reprinez vos esprit, et souvenez vous bien,
Qu'un dîner rechauffé ne valut jamais rien.

How admirably, is the character of an igno­rant and eating priest, preserved in this speech of the sleek and pampered Canon Evrard, one of the drones, who,

—In that exhaustless hive
On fat pluralities supinely thrive! *

Moi? dit-il, qu'a mon âge Ecolier tout noveau,
J'aille pour un Lutrin me troubler le cerveau?
O le plaisant conseil! non, non, songeons a vivre,
Va maigrir, si tu veux, et secher sur un Livre.
Pour moi je lis la Bible autant que l'Alcoran.
Je sai ce qu'un Fermier nous doit rendre par an:
[Page 214] Sur quelle vigne a Rheims nous avons hypotheque;
Vignt muids rangez chez moi sont ma Bibliotheque.
En plaçant un Pupitre on croit nous rabbaisser,
Mon bras seul sans Latin saura le renverser.
Que m'importe qu'Arnauld me condamne ou m'approuve?
J'abbats ce qui me nuit par tout oú je le trouve.
C'est la mon sentiment. A quoi bon tant d'apprêts?
Du reste déjeunons, Messieurs, et beuvons frais. *

HIS knowledge of the rents of his church, and of the mortgages belonging to it, his scorn of the pious and laborious Arnauld, his contempt of learning, and, above all, his ruling passion of good-eating, are strokes high­ly comic. It is wonderful the ecclesiastics of France were not as much irritated by the publi­cation of the LUTRIN, as by the TARTUFFE of Moliere; which was suppressed by their in­terest, after it had been acted a few nights: although at the same time, a very profane farce was permitted to have a long run. When Louis XIV. expressed to the Prince of Condè, his wonder at the different fates of these two pieces, and asked the reason of it, the prince answered, [Page 215]"In the farce, RELIGION only is ridiculed; but, Moliere in the TARTUFFE, has attack­ed even the PRIESTS."’

BOILEAU has raised his subjects by many personifications; particularly, in the begin­ning of the sixth canto, PIETY who had re­tired to the great Carthusian monastery on the Alps, is introduced as repairing to Paris, accompanied by FAITH, HOPE, and CHA­RITY, in order to make her complaint to THEMIS: to which may be added, the mon­strous figure of CHICANERY, attended by FAMINE, WANT, SORROW, and RUIN, in the beginning of the fifth canto. The chief divinity that acts throughout the poem, is DISCORD; which goddess is represented as coming from a convent of Cordeliers. A fine stroke of satire; but imitated from the satyrical Ariosto, who makes Michael find DISCORD in a cloister, instead of SILENCE, whom he there searched for in vain. NIGHT is also introduced as an actress with great propriety, in the third canto; where she repairs to the [Page 216] famous old tower at Montlery, in order to find out an owl which she may convey into the DESK, and which afterwards produces so ridiculous a consternation. SLOTH is another principal personage: she also is discovered in the dormitory of a monastery.

Les Plaisirs nonchalans solêtrent a l'entour.
L'un pâitrit dans un coin l'embonpoint des Chanoines;
L'autre broie en riant le vermillon des Moines. *

The speech she afterwards makes has a pecu­liar beauty, as it ends in the middle of a line, and by that means shews her inability to proceed.

THE third heroi-comic poem was the DISPENSARY of Garth: a palpable imitation of the LUTRIN, and the best satire on the phisicians extant, except the SANGRADO of Le Sage, who have indeed been the object of almost every satirist. The behaviour and sentiment of SLOTH, the first imaginary being that occurs, are almost literally translated from Boileau: particularly the compliment [Page 217] that SLOTH pays to king William, whose actions disturb her repose:

Or if some cloyster's refuge I implore,
Where holy drones o'er dying tapers s [...]ore;
The peals of Nassau's arms these eyes unclose,
Mine he molests, to give the world repose. *

Je croyois, loin des lieux d'on ce prince m'exile,
Que l'Eglise du moins m'assùroit un azile.
Mais envain j'esperois y regner sans effroi:
Moines, Abbes, Prieurs, tout s'arme contre moi.

Garth, in ridiculing the clergy, speaks of that order with more acrimony than Boileau, who merely laughs at them. But Garth was one of the free-thinking WITS at Button's. He has introduced many excellent parodies of the classics: among which I cannot forbear quoting one, which is an imitation of some passages, which the reader will remember, in Virgil's sixth book, and where the circum­stances are happily inverted.

Since, said the ghost, with pity you'll attend,
Know, I'm Guiacum, once your firmest friend.
[Page 218] And on this barren beach, in discontent
Am doom'd to stay, 'till th' angry pow'rs relent.
These spectres seam'd with scars that threaten here,
The victims of my late ill conduct are.
They vex with endless clamours my repose,
This wants his palate, that demands his nose;
And here they execute stern Pluto's will,
And ply me ev'ry moment with a pill. *

THIS author has been guilty of a strange im­propriety, which cannot be excused, in making the fury DISEASE talk like a critic, give rules of writing, and a panegyric on the best poets of the age. The descent into the earth in the sixth canto, is a fine mixture of poetry and philosophy; the hint is taken from the SYPHILIS of Fracastorius. Garth's versification is flowing and musical; his style perspicuous, and neat; and the poem in gene­ral abounds with sallies of wit, and nervous satire.

THE RAPE OF THE LOCK, now before us, is the fourth, and most excellent of the heroi­comic poems. The subject was a quarrel [Page 219] occasioned by a little piece of gallantry of Lord Petre, who, in a party of pleasure, found means to cut off a favorite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermour's hair. POPE was desired to write it, in order to put an end to the quarrel it produced, by Mr. Caryl, who had been secretary to queen Mary, author of Sir Solomon Single a comedy, and of some translations in Dryden's Miscellanies. POPE was accustomed to say, ‘"What I wrote fastest always pleased most."’ The first sketch of this exquisite piece, which Addison called MERUM SAL, was written in less than a fortnight, in two cantos only: but it was so universally applauded, that, in the next year, our poet enriched it with the machinery of the sylphs, and extended it to five cantos; when it was printed with a letter to Mrs. Fer­mour, far superior to any of Voiture. The insertion of the machinery of the sylphs in proper places, without the least appearance of it's being aukwardly stitched in, is one of the happiest efforts of judgment and art. He took the idea of these invisible beings, so pro­per [Page 220] to be employed in a poem of this nature, from a little french book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis, of which I have lately met with an account, in an entertaining writer. ‘"The Abbe Villars, who came from Thoulouse to Paris, to make his fortune by preaching, is the author of this diverting work. The five dialogues of which it consists, are the result of those gay conversations, in which the Abbe was engaged á la porte de Richelieu, with a set of men, of fine wit and humour, like himself. When this book first appeared, it was universally read, as innocent and amusing. But at length, it's consequences were perceived, and reckoned dangerous, at a time when this sort of curiosities began to gain credit. Our devout preacher was denied the chair, and his book forbidden to be read. It was not clear whether the author intended to be ironical, or spoke all seriously. The second volume which he promised, would have decided the que­stion: but the unfortunate Abbe was soon after­wards assassinated by ruffians, on the road to Lyons. The laughers gave out, that the [Page 221] gnomes and sylphs, disguised like ruffians, had shot him, as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the Cabala; a crime not to be pardoned by these jealous spirits, as Villars himself has declared in his book*."’ It may not be improper to give a specimen of this authors manner, who has lately been well imitated in the way of mixing jest with earnest, in an elegant piece called HERMIPPUS REDI­VIVUS. The Comte de Gabalis being about to initiate his pupils into the most profound mysteries of the Rosicrusian philosophy, ad­vises him to consider seriously, whether or no he had courage and resolution sufficient to RENOUNCE all those obstacles, which might prevent his arising to that height, which the figure of his nativity promised. ‘"Le mot de RENONCER, says the scholar, m'effraya, et je ne doutay point qu'il n'allast me proposer de renoncer au baptesme ou au paradis. Ainsi ne sçachant comme me tirer de ce mauvais [Page 222] pas; Renoncer, luy dis-je, Monsieur, quoi faut il renoncer a quelque chose? Urayement, reprit il, il le faut bien; & il le faut si neces­sairement, qu'il faut commencer par là. Je ne sçay si vous pourrez vous resoudre: mais je sçay bien que la sagesse l'habite point dans un corps sujet au pechè, comme elle n'entre point dans une ame prevenüe d'erreur ou de malice. Les sages ne vous admittront jamais a leur compagnie, si vous ne renoncez dés á present á un chose qui ne peut compatir avec la sagesse. Il faut, aujoûta-it t-il tout bas en se baissant a mon oreille, il faut renoncer á tout commerce charnel avec les femmes *."’ On a di­ligent perusal of this book, I cannot find that POPE has borrowed any particular circum­stances relating to these spirits, but merely the general idea of their existence.

THESE machines are vastly superior to the allegorical personages of Boileau and Garth; not only on account of their novelty, but for the exquisite poetry, and oblique satire, which [Page 223] they have given the poet an opportunity to display. The business and petty concerns of a fine lady, receive an air of importance from the notion of their being perpetually over­looked and conducted, by the interposition of celestial agents.

IT is judicious to open the poem, by in­troducing the Guardian Sylph, warning Be­linda against some secret impending danger. The account which Ariel * gives of the nature, office, and employment of these inhabitants of air, is finely fancied: into which several strokes of satire are thrown with great delicacy and address.

Think what an equipage thou hast in air,
And view with scorn two pages and a chair.

The transformation of women of different tempers into different kinds of spirits, cannot be too much applauded.

The sprites of fiery Termagants, in flame
Mount up, and take a salamander's name.
[Page 224] Soft yielding minds to water glide away,
And sip with Nymphs, their elemental tea.
The graver Prude sinks downward to a gnome,
In search of mischief still on earth to roam.
The light Coquettes in sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air.

The description of the toilette, which suc­ceeds, is judiciously given in such magni­ficent turns, as dignify the offices performed at it. Belinda dressing is painted in as pom­pous a manner, as Achilles arming. The canto ends with a circumstance, artfully con­trived to keep this beautiful machinery in [Page 225] the readers eye: for after the poet has said, that the fair heroine

Repairs her smiles, awakens ev'ry grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face, *

He immediately subjoins,

The busy sylphs surround their darling care,
These set the head, and those divide the hair:
Some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown,
And Betty's prais'd for labours not her own.

THE mention of the LOCK, on which the poem turns, is rightly reserved to the second canto. The sacrifice of the baron to implore success to his undertaking, is ano­ther instance of our poet's judgement, in heightening the subject. The succeeding scene of sailing upon the Thames is most gay and riant; and impresses the most pleasing pictures upon the imagination. Here too the machinery is again introduced with much propriety. Ariel summons his denizens [Page 226] of air; who are thus painted with a rich exuberance of fancy.

Some to the sun their insect wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold:
Transparent forms, too thin for mortal sight,
Their fluid bodies half dissolv'd in light.
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew.
Thin glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes;
While every beam new transient colours flings,
Colours, that change whene'er they wave their wings. *

Ariel afterwards enumerates the functions and employments of the sylphs, in the fol­lowing manner: where some are supposed to delight in more gross, and others in more refined occupations.

Ye know the spheres and various tasks, assign'd
By laws eternal to th'aerial kind.
Some in the fields of purest aether play,
And bask and brighten in the blaze of day;
Some guide the course of wandring orbs on high,
Or roll the planets through the boundless sky;
Some, less refin'd, beneath the moon's pale light,
Pursue the stars, that shoot across the night;
[Page 227] Or suck the mists in grosser air below;
Or dip their pinions in the painted bow:
Or brew fierce tempests on the wintry main,
Or o'er the glebe distill the kindly rain. *

Those who are fond of tracing images and sentiments to their source, may perhaps be inclined to think, that the hint of ascribing tasks and offices to such imaginary beings, is taken from the Fairies and the Ariel of Shake­speare: let the impartial critic determine, which has the superiority of fancy. The employment of Ariel in the TEMPEST, is said to be,

—To tread the ooze
Of the salt deep;
To run upon the sharp wind of the north;
To do—business in the veins of th'earth,
When it is bak'd with frost;
—To dive into the fire; to ride
On the curl'd clouds.

And again,

—In the deep nook, where once
Thou calld'st me up at midnight, to fetch dew
[Page 228] From the still-vext Bermoothes.—

Nor must I omit that exquisite song, in which his favorite pastime is expressed.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly,
After sun-set, merrily;
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

With what wildness of imagination, but yet, with what propriety, are the amusements of the fairies pointed out, in the MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM: amusements proper for none but fairies?

—'Fore the third part of a minute, hence:
Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds:
Some war with rear-mice for their leathern wings,
To make my small elves coats; and some keep back
The clamorous owl, that nightly hoots, and wonders
At our queint spirits.—

Shakespeare only could have thought of the following gratifications for Titania's lover; and [Page 229] they are fit only to be offered, to her lover, by a fairy-queen.

Be kind, and courteous to this gentleman,
Hop in his walks, and gambol in his eyes;
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
The honey-bags stral from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed, and to arise:
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,
To fan the moon-beams from his sleeping eyes.

If it should be thought, that Shakespeare has the merit of being the first who assigned pro­per employments to imaginary persons, in the foregoing lines, yet it must be granted, that by the addition of the most delicate satire to the most lively fancy, POPE, in the following passage, has excelled any thing in Shakespeare, or in any other author,

Our humbler province is to tend the fair,
Not a less pleasing, though less glorious care;
To save the powder from too rough a gale,
Nor let th'imprison'd essences exhale;
[Page 230] To draw fresh colours from the vernal flow'rs;
To steal from rainbows, e'er they drop in show'rs,
A brighter wash; to curl their waving hairs,
Assist their blushes, and inspire their airs;
Nay oft, in dreams invention we bestow,
To change a flounce, or add a furbelow. *

THE seeming importance given to every part of female dress, each of which is com­mitted to the care and protection of a different sylph, with all the solemnity of a general appointing the several posts in his army, ren­ders the following passage admirable, on account of it's politeness, poignancy, and poetry.

Haste then ye spirits, to your charge repair;
The fluttering fan be Zephyretta's care;
The drops to thee, Brillante we consign;
And, Momentilla, let the watch be thine;
Do thou, Crispissa, tend the fav'rite lock;
Ariel himself shall be the guard of Shock.

The celebrated raillery of Addison on the hoop-petticoat, has nothing equal to the fol­lowing [Page 231] circumstance; which marks the diffi­culty of guarding a part of dress of such high consequence.

To fifty chosen sylphs, of special note,
We trust th'important charge the PETTICOAT:
Oft have we known that sevenfold fence to fail,
Though stiff with hoops, and arm'd with ribs of mail;
Form a strong line about the silver bound,
And guard the wide circumference around. *


OUR poet still rises in the delicacy of his satire, where he employs, with the utmost judgment and elegance, all the implements and furniture of the toilette, as instruments of punishment to those spirits, who shall be careless of their charge: of punishment such as sylphs alone could undergo. Each of the delinquents,

Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o'ertake his sins,
Be stop'd in vials, or transfix'd with pins;
Or plung'd in lakes of bitter washes lie;
Or wedg'd whole ages in a bodkin's eye;
[Page 232] Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain,
While clog'd he beats his silver wings in vain;
Or alum-styptics with contracting pow'r,
Shrink his thin essence like a rivell'd flow'r,
Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling mill;
In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the sea that froths below. *

If Virgil has merited such perpetual commen­mendation for exalting his bees, by the ma­jesty and magnificence of his diction, does not POPE deserve equal praises, for the pomp and lustre of his language, on so trivial a subject?

THE same mastery of language, appears in the lively and elegant description of the game at Ombre; which is certainly imitated from the Scacchia of Vida, and as certainly equal to it, if not superiour. Both of them have elevated and enlivened their subjects, by such similes as the epic poets use; but as chess is a play of a far higher order than Ombre, [Page 233] POPE had a more difficult task than Vida, to raise this his inferior subject, into equal dignity and gracefulness. Here again our poet artfully introduces his machinery:

Soon as she spreads her hand, th'aërial guard
Descend, and sit on each important card;
First Ariel perch'd upon a mattadore. *

The majesty with which the kings of spades and clubs, and the knaves of diamonds and clubs, are spoken of, is very amusing to the imagination: and the whole game is con­ducted with great art and judgment. I question whether Hoyle could have played it better than Belinda. It is finely contrived that she should be victorious; as it occasions a change of fortune in the dreadful loss she was speedily to undergo, and gives occasion to the poet to introduce a moral reflection from Virgil, which adds to the pleasantry of the story. In one of the passages where POPE has copied Vida, he has lost the propriety of the original, [Page 234] which arises from the different colours of the men, at chess.

Thus, when dispers'd a routed army runs, &c. *

Non aliter, campis legio se buxea utrinque
Composuit, duplici digestis ordine turmis,
Adversisque ambae fulsere coloribus alae;
Quam Gallorum acies, Alpino frigore lactea
Corpora, si tendant albis in praelia signis,
Aurorae populos contra, et Phaetonte perustos
Insano Aethiopas, et nigri Memnonis alas.

To this scene succeeds the tea-table. It is doubtless, as hard to make a coffee-pot shine in poetry as a plough: yet POPE has suc­ceeded in giving elegance to so familiar an object, as well as Virgil. The guardian spirits are again active, and importantly em­ployed;

Strait hover round the fair her airy band;
Some, as she sipp'd, the fuming liquor fann'd.

Then follows an instance of assiduity, fan­cied with great delicacy,

[Page 235]
Some o'er her lap their careful plumes display'd,
Trembling, and conscious of the rich brocade.

But nothing can excell the behaviour of the sylphs, and their wakeful sollicitude for their charge, when the danger grows more immi­nent, and the catastrophe approaches.

Swift to the lock a thousand sprites repair.

The methods by which they endeavoured to preserve her from the intended mischief, are such only as could be executed by a sylph; and have therefore an admirable propriety, as well as the utmost elegance.

A thousand wings by turns blow back the hair; *
And thrice they TWITCH'D the diamond in her ear,
Thrice she look'd back, and thrice the foe drew near.

Still farther to heighten the piece, and to pre­serve the characters of his machines to the last, just when the fatal forfex was spread,

[Page 236]
Ev'n then, before the fatal engine clos'd, *
A wretched sylph too fondly interpos'd;

Fate urg'd the sheers, and cut the sylph in twain,
(But airy substance soon unites again.)—

Which last line is an admirable parody on that passage of Milton, which, perhaps oddly enough, describes Satan wounded:

The griding sword, with discontinuous wound,
Pass'd through him; but th'etherial substance clos'd
Not long divisible.

The parodies are some of the most exquisite parts of this poem. That which follows from the ‘"Dum juga montis aper,"’ of Vir­gil, contains some of the most artful strokes of satire, and the most poignant ridicule ima­ginable.

While fish in streams, or birds delight in air,
Or in a coach and six the British fair,
As long as Atalantis shall be read,
Or the small pillow grace a lady's bed,
While visits shall be paid on solemn days,
When numerous wax-lights in bright order blaze,
[Page 237] While nymphs take treats, or assignations give,
So long my honour, name and praise, shall live. *

The introduction of frequent parodies on se­rious and solemn passages of Homer and Virgil, give much life and spirit to heroi­comic poetry. ‘"Tu dors, Prelat? tu dors?"’ in Boileau, is the ‘" [...]"’ of Homer, and is full of humour. The wife of the barber, talks in the language of Dido in her expostulations to her Aeneas, at the beginning of the second canto of the Lutrin. POPE's parodies of the speech of Sarpedon in Homer, canto v. verse 9, and of the description of Achilles's scepter, canto iv. verse 133, and the description of the scales of Jupiter from Ho­mer, Virgil, and Milton, canto v. verse 72, are judiciously introduced in their several places, are perhaps superiour to those Boi­leau or Garth have used, and are worked up with peculiar pleasantry. The mind of the reader is engaged by novelty, when it so unexpectedly finds a thought or object it [Page 238] had been accustomed to survey in another form, suddenly arrayed in a ridiculous garb. A mixture of comic and ridiculous images, with serious and important ones, is also, no small beauty to this species of poetry. As in the following passages, where real and imaginary distresses are coupled together.

Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive, 278
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss,
Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,

Nay, to carry the climax still higher,

Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment and despair.

This is much superiour to a similar passage in the Dispensary, which POPE might have had in his eye;

At this the victors own such ecstasies,
As Memphian priests if their Osiris sneeze;
Or champions with Olympic clangor fir'd,
Or simp'ring prudes with spritely Nantz inspir'd,
[Page 239] Or Sultans rais'd from dungeons to a crown,
Or fasting zealots when the sermon's done.

These objects have no reference to Garth's subject, as almost all of POPE's have, in the passage in question, where some female foible is glanced at. In this same canto, the cave of SPLEEN, the pictures of her attendants, ILL­NATURE and AFFECTATION, the effects of the vapour that hung over her palace, the imaginary diseases she occasions, the * speech of Umbriel, a gnome, to this malignant deity, the vial of female sorrows, the speech of Thalestris to aggravate the misfortune, the breaking the vial with its direful effects, and the speech of the disconsolate Belinda; all [Page 240] these circumstances are poetically imagined, and are far superiour to any of Boileau and Garth. How much in character is it for Belinda to mark a very dismal and solitary situation, by wishing to be conveyed,

Where the gilt chariot never marks the way,
Where none learn Ombre, none e'er taste Bohea! *

Nothing is more common in the poets than to introduce omens as preceeding some im­portant and dreadful event. Virgil has nobly described those that preceded the death of Dido. The rape of Belinda's LOCK must necessarily also be attended with alarming prodigies. With what exquisite satire are they enumerated;

Thrice from my trembling hand the patch-box fell;
The tottering china shook without a wind.

And still more to aggravate the direfulness of the impending evil,

Nay Poll sate mute, and Shock was most unkind!

[Page 241] THE chief subject of the fifth and last canto, is the battle that ensues, and the en­deavours of the ladies to recover the hair. This battle is described, as it ought to be, in very lofty and pompous terms: a game of romps was never so well dignified before. The weapons made use of are the most pro­per imaginable: the lightening of the ladies eyes, intolerable frowns, a pinch of snuff, and a bodkin. The machinery is not forgot:

Triumphant Umbriel on a sconce's height,
Clapp'd his glad wings, and sate to view the fight. *

Again, when the snuff is given to the baron,

The gnomes direct, to ev'ry atom just,
The pungent grains of titillating dust.

Boileau and Garth have also each of them enlivened their pieces with a mock-fight. But Boileau has laid the scene of his action in a bookseller's shop; where the combatants happen to encounter each other by chance. This conduct is a little inartificial; but has [Page 242] given the satyrist an opportunity of indulging his ruling passion, the exposing the bad poets, with which France at that time abounded. Swift's Battle of the Books, at the end of the Tale of a Tub, is evidently taken from this * battle of Boileau, which is excellent in its kind. The fight of the physicians, in the Dispensary, is one of its most shining parts. There is a vast deal of propriety, as well as pleasantry, in the weapons Garth has given to his warriours. They are armed, much in character, with caustics, emetics, and cathar­tics; with buckthorn, and steel-pills; with syringes, bed-pans and urinals. The execu­tion is exactly proportioned to the deadliness of such irresistible weapons; and the wounds inflicted, are suitable to the nature of each different instrument, said to inflict them.

WE are now arrived to the grand catas­trophe of the poem; the invaluable Lock which is so eagerly sought, is irrecoverably lost! And here our poet has made a judicious [Page 243] use of that celebrated fiction of Ariosto; that all things lost on earth are treasured in the moon. How such a fiction can have place in an epic poem, it becomes the defenders of this extravagant and lawless rhapsodist to just­tify; but in a comic one, it appears with grace and consistency. The whole passage in Ariosto is full of wit and satire; for wit and satire were the chief and characteristical excellencies of Ariosto*. In this repository in the lunar sphere, says the SPRIGHTLY Italian, were to be found,

Le lachrime, e i sospiri de gli amanti,
L'inutil' tempo, che si perde a gioco,
E l'otio lungo d'huomini ignoranti,
Vani disegni, che non han mai loco,
I vani desiderii sono tanti,
Che la piu parte ingombra di quel loco,
Cio che in summa qua glu perdesti mai,
La su saltendo ritrovar potrai.

It is very remarkable, that the poet had the boldness to place among these imaginary trea­sures, [Page 244] the famous deed of gift of Constantine to Pope Silvester, ‘"If, says he, I may be al­lowed to say this,"’

Questo era il dono (se pero dir lece)
Che Constantino al buon Silvestre fece.

It may be observed in general, to the honour of the poets, both ancient and modern, that they have ever been some of the first, who have detected and opposed the false claims, and mischievous usurpations, of superstition and slavery. Nor can this be wondered at, since these two are the greatest enemies, not only to all true happiness, but to all true genius.

THE denouement, as a pedantic disciple of Bossu would call it, of this poem, is well con­ducted. What is become of this important LOCK OF HAIR? It is made a constellation with that of Berenice, so celebrated by Cal­limachus. As it rises to heaven,

The sylphs behold it kindling as it flies, *
And pleas'd pursue its progress through the skies.

[Page 245] One cannot sufficiently applaud the art of the poet, in constantly keeping in the reader's view, the machinery of the poem, to the very last. Even when the Lock is transformed, the sylphs, who had so carefully guarded it, are here once again artfully mentioned, as finally rejoicing in it's honourable transfor­mation.

IN reading the Lutrin, I have always been struck with the impropriety of so serious a conclusion, as Boileau has given to so ludi­crous a poem. PIETY and JUSTICE are beings rather too awful, to have any concern in the celebrated desk. They appear as much out of place and season, as would the arch­bishop of Paris in his pontifical robes, in an harlequin entertainment.

POPE does not desert his favorite Lock, even after it becomes a constellation; and the uses he assigns to it are indeed admirable.

This the beau monde shall from the mall survey, *
And hail with music it's propitious ray;
[Page 246] This the blest lover shall for Venus take,
And send up prayers from Rosamunda's lake;
This Partridge soon shall view in cloudless skies,
When next he looks through Galileo's eyes;
And hence th' egregious wizard shall foredoom,
The fate of Louis, and the fall of Rome.

This is at once, DULCE LOQUI, and RIDERE DECORUM.

UPON the whole, I hope it will not be thought an exaggerated panegyric to say, that the RAPE OF THE LOCK, is the BEST SA­TIRE extant; that it contains the truest and liveliest picture of modern life; and that the subject is of a more elegant nature, as well as more artfully conducted, than that of any other heroi-comic poem. POPE here appears in the light of a man of gallantry, and of a thorough knowledge of the world; and in­deed, he had nothing, in his carriage and deportment, of that affected singularity, which has induced some men of genius to despise, and depart from, the established rules of polite­ness and civil life. For all poets have not prac­ticed the sober and rational advice of Boileau.

[Page 247]
Que les vers ne soient pas votre eternel emploi:
Cultivez vos amis, soyez homme de foi.
C'est peu d'etre agréeable et charmant dans un livre;
Il fait savoir encore, et converser, et vivre. *

OUR nation can boast also, of having produced one or two more poems of the bur­lesque kind, that are excellent; particularly the SPLENDID SHILLING, that admirable copy of the solemn irony of Cervantes; who is the father and unrivalled model of the true mock-heroic: and the MUSCIPULA, written with the purity of Virgil, whom the author so perfectly under­stood, and with the pleasantry of Lucian: to which I cannot forbear adding, the SCRIB­LERIAD of Mr. Cambridge.

IF some of the most candid among the French critics begin to acknowledge, that [Page 248] they have produced nothing in point of SUBLIMITY and MAJESTY equal to the Para­dise Lost, we may also venture to affirm, that in point of DELICACY, ELEGANCE, and fine-turned RAILLERY, on which they have so much valued themselves, they have produced nothing equal to the RAPE OF THE LOCK. It is in this composition, POPE prin­cipally appears a POET; in which he has dis­played more imagination than in all his other works taken together. It should however be remembered, that he was not the FIRST former and creator of those beautiful machines, the sylphs; on which his claim to imagination is chiefly founded. He found them existing ready to his hand; but has, indeed, employed them with singular judgment and artifice.

SECT. V. Of The ELEGY to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, The PROLOGUE to Cato, and The EPI­LOGUE to Jane Shore.

THE ELEGY to the Memory of an Unfor­tunate Lady, which is next to be spo­ken of, as it came from the heart, is very tender and pathetic; more so, I think, than any other copy of verses of our author. We are unacquainted with her history, and with that series of misfortunes, which seems to have drawn on the melancholy catastrophe, alluded to in the beginning of this ELEGY. She is said to be the same person, to whom the Duke of Buckingham has addressed some lines, viz. ‘"To a Lady designing to retire into a Monastery."’ This design is also hinted at in POPE's Letters*, where he says in a letter addressed, I presume, to this very per­son, ‘"If you are resolved, in revenge, to rob the world of so much example as you may [Page 250] afford it, I believe your design will be vain: for even, in a monastery, your devotions cannot carry you so far towards the next world, as to make this lose sight of you: but you will be like a star, that, while it is fixed in hea­ven, shines over all the earth. Wheresoever providence shall dispose of the most valuable thing I know, I shall ever follow you with my sincerest wishes; and my best thoughts will be perpetually waiting upon you, when you never hear of me or them. Your own guardian angels cannot be more constant, nor more silent."’

THIS ELEGY opens with a striking abrupt­ness, and a strong image; the poet fancies he beholds suddenly the phantom of his mur­dered friend;

What beck'ning ghost along, the moonlight shade,
Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?
'Tis she!—but why that bleeding bosom gor'd,
Why dimly gleams the visionary sword?

This question alarms the reader; and puts one in mind of that lively and affecting image [Page 251] in the prophecy of Isaiah, so vigorously conceived, that it places the object full in one's eyes. ‘"Who is this that cometh from Edom? With dyed garments from Bosra*?"’ Akenside has begun one of his odes in the like manner;

O fly! 'tis dire SUSPICION's mein;
And meditating plagues unseen,
The sorc'ress hither bends!
Behold her torch in gall imbru'd;
Behold, her garments drop with blood
Of lovers and of friends!

The execrations on the cruelties of this lady's relations, which had driven her to this deplorable extremity, are very spirited and forcible; especially where the poet says emphatically,

Thus, if eternal justice rules the ball,
Thus shall your wives, and thus your children fall.

He describes afterwards the desolation of this family, by the following lively circumstance and prosopopoeia:

[Page 252]
There passengers shall stand, and pointing say,
(While the long funerals blacken all the way)
Lo! these were they, whose souls the furies steel'd,
And curst with hearts unknowing how to yield!
So perish all, whose breast ne'er learn'd to glow
For others good, or melt at others woe.

The incident of her dying in a country re­mote from her relations and acquaintance, is touched with great tenderness, and intro­duced with propriety, to aggravate and heighten her lamentable fate;

No friend's complaint, no kind domestic tear, *
Pleas'd thy pale ghost, or grac'd thy mournful bier;
By foreign hands thy dying eyes were clos'd,
By foreign hands thy decent limbs compos'd,
By foreign hands thy humble grave adorn'd,
By strangers honour'd, and by strangers mourn'd!

The force of the repetition of the significant epithet foreign, need not be pointed out to any reader of sensibility. The rite of sepul­ture of which she was deprived, from the [Page 253] manner of her death, is glanced at with great delicacy; nay, and a very poetical use is made of it.

What though no sacred earth allow thee room,
Nor hallow'd dirge be mutter'd o'er thy tomb?
Yet shall thy grave with rising flowers be drest,
And the green turf lie lightly on thy breast;
There shall the morn her earliest tears bestow,
There the first roses of the year shall blow.

IF this ELEGY be so excellent, it may be ascribed to this cause; that the occasion of it was real; for it is certainly an indisputable maxim, ‘"That nature is more powerful than fancy; that we can always feel more than we can imagine; and that the most artful fiction must give way to truth."’ When Polus the celebrated actor, once affected his audience with more than ordinary emotions, it was ‘"luctû et lamentis veris,"’ by bursting out into real cries and tears; for in personating Electra weep­ing over the supposed urn of her brother Orestes, he held in his hands the real ashes of his own son lately dead*. Events that have actu­ally [Page 254] happened are, after all, the properest sub­jects for poetry. The best eclogue of Virgil, the best ode of Horace, are founded on real incidents. If we briefly cast our eyes over the most interesting and affecting stories, ancient or modern, we shall find that they are such, as however adorned and a little diversified, are yet grounded on true history, and on real matters of fact. Such, for in­stance, among the ancients, are the stories, of Joseph, of Edipus, the Trojan war and and its consequences, of Virginia and the Horatii; such, among the moderns, are the stories of king Lear, the Cid, Romeo and Juliet, and Oronooko. The series of events contained in these stories, seem far to surpass the utmost powers of human imagination. In the best-conducted fiction, some mark of im­probability and incoherence will still appear.

I SHALL only add to these, a tale literally true, which the admirable DANTE has intro­duced [Page 255] in his Inferno, and which is not suf­ficiently known; I cannot recollect any pas­sage, in any writer whatever, so truly pathetic. Ugolino a Florentine Count is giving the description of his being imprisoned with his children by the archbishop Ruggieri. ‘"The hour approached when we expected to have something brought us to eat. But instead of seeing any food appear, * I heard the doors of that horrible dungeon more closely barred. I beheld my little children in silence, and could not weep. My heart was petrified! the little wretches wept, and my dear Anselm said; Tu guardi sì, padre: che hai? father you look on us! what ails you? I could neither weep nor answer, and continued swallowed up in silent agony, all that day, and the following night, even till the dawn of day. As soon as a glimmering ray darted through the dole­ful prison, that I could view again those four faces, in which my own image was impressed, [Page 256] I gnawed both my hands, with grief and rage. My children believing I did this through eagerness to eat, raising themselves suddenly up, said to me, My father! our torments would be less, if you would allay the rage of your hunger upon us. I restrained myself, that I might not encrease their misery. We were all mute that day and, the following. Quel di, e l'altro stemmo tutti muti! Ah cruel earth why dost not thou swallow us up at once? The fourth day being come, Gaddo falling extended at my feet, cryed; Padre mio, che non m'ajuti! My father, why do not you help me? and died. The other three expi­red one after the other between the fifth and sixth days, famished as thou seest me now! And I, being seized with blindness, began to go groping upon them with my hands and Feet: and continued calling them by their names three days after they were dead. Etre di li chiamai poichè fur morti: then hunger vanquished my grief!"’

IF this inimitable description had been to be found in Homer, the Greek tragedies, or [Page 257] Virgil, how many commentaries and pane­gyrics would it have given rise to? What shall shall we say, or think, of the genius able to produce it? There are many of the same nature; and perhaps the Inferno of Dante is the next composition to the Iliad, in point of originality and sublimity. And with re­gard to the Pathetic, let this tale stand a testimony of his abilities: for my own part, I truly believe it was never carried to a greater heighth. It is remarkable, that Chaucer ap­pears to have been particularly struck with this tale in Dante, having highly commended this, ‘"grete poete of Italie,"’ for this narra­tion; with a summary of which he concludes the Monke's Tale. *

THE PROLOGUE to Addison's Tragedy of Cato, is superiour to any prologue of Dryden; who, notwithstanding, is so justly celebrated for this species of writing. The prologues of Dryden are satyrical and facetious; this of POPE is solemn and sublime, as the subject [Page 258] required. Those of Dryden contain general topics of criticism and wit, and may pre­cede any play whatsoever, even tragedy or comedy. This of POPE is particular, and appropriated to the tragedy alone, which it was designed to introduce. The most striking images and allusions it contains, are taken, with judgment, from some passages in the life of Cato himself. Such is that fine stroke, more lofty than any thing in the tragedy itself, where the poet says, that when Caesar amid the pomp and magnificence of a triumph,

Shew'd Rome her Cato's figure drawn in state;
As her dead father's reverend image past,
The pomp was darkned and the day o'ercast;
The triumph ceas'd.—Tears gush'd from ev'ry eye,
The world's great victor pass'd unheeded by;
Her last good man dejected Rome ador'd,
And honour'd Caesar's less than Cato's sword.

Such, again, is the happy allusion to an old story mentioned in Martial, of this sage going into the theatre, and immediately com­ing out of it again:

Such plays alone should win a British ear,
As Cato's self had not disdain'd to hear:

[Page 259] From which he draws an artful panegyric, on the purity and excellence of the play he was celebrating.

WITH respect to sprightly turns and poig­nancy of wit, the prologues of Dryden have not been equalled. The curious reader may consult, particularly, a collection of twenty of them together, in the first edition of the first volume of Tonson's Miscellanies*; many of them, and the most excellent, written on occasion of the players going to Oxford; a custom, for the neglect of which, no good reason can be assigned; except, perhaps, that even the players must now forsooth follow the contemptible cant of decrying that most learned university, and of doing nothing that may contribute to its pleasure and emolument. At this time Dryden was so famous for his prologues, that no piece was relished, nor would the theatres scarcely venture to produce it, if it wanted this fashionable ornament. To this purpose, an anecdote is recorded of [Page 260] Southerne; who, on bringing his first play on the stage, did not fail to bespeak a pro­logue of the artist in vogue. The usual price had ever been four guineas. In the present case, Dryden insisted that he must have six for his work; ‘"which, said the mercantile bard, is out of no disrespect to you, young man; but the players have had my goods too cheap."’

THE tragedy of Cato itself, is a glaring in­stance of the force of party*; so heavy and declamatory a drama would never have met with such rapid and amazing success, if every [Page 261] line and sentiment had not been particularly tortured, and applied, to recent events, and the reigning disputes of the times. The purity and energy of the diction, and the loftiness of the sentiments, copied in a great measure from Lucan, Tacitus, and Seneca the phi­losopher, merit approbation. But I have always thought, that those pompous Roman sentiments are not so difficult to be produced, as is vulgarly imagined; and which, indeed, dazzle only the vulgar. A stroke of nature is, in my opinion, worth a hundred such thoughts, as,

When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station.

CATO is a fine dialogue on liberty, and the love of one's country; but considered as a dramatic performance, nay as a model of a just tragedy, as some have affectedly repre­sented it, it must be owned to want, ACTION and PATHOS; the two hinges, I presume, on which a just tragedy ought necessarily to turn, and without which it cannot subsist. It wants [Page 262] also CHARACTER, although that be not so essentially necessary to a tragedy as ACTION. Syphax, indeed, in his * interview with Juba, bears some marks of a rough African: the speeches of the rest may be transferred to any of the personages concerned. The simile drawn from mount Atlas, and the description of the Numidian traveller smothered in the desart, are indeed in character, but suffici­ently obvious. How Addison could fall into the false and unnatural custom of ending his three first acts with similes, is amazing in so chast and correct a writer. The loves of Juba and Marcia, of Portius and Lucia, are vicious and insipid episodes, debase the dig­nity, and destroy the unity, of the fable.

ONE would imagine, from the practice of our modern play-wrights, that love was the only pas­sion, capable of producing any great calamities in human life: for this passion has engrossed, and been impertinently introduced into, § all subjects. [Page 263] In the Cinna of Corneille, which the prince of Condé called ‘"the Breviary of kings,"’ Maxi­mus whines like a shepherd in the Pastor Fido, amidst profound political reflections, that excel those of Tacitus and Machiavel; and while the most important event, that could happen to the empire of the world, was debating. In his imitation of the Orestes of Sophocles, Crebillon has introduced a frigid love-intrigue. Achilles must be in love in the Iphigenia of Racine; and the rough Mithridates must be involved in this all-subduing passion. A pas­sion however it is, that will always shine upon the stage, where it is introduced as the chief subject, but not subordinate and [Page 264] secondary*. Thus, perhaps, there cannot be finer subjects for a drama, than Phaedra, Romeo, Othello, and Monimia. The whole distress in these pieces arises singly from this unfortunate passion, carried to an extreme. The GREATER passions were the constant subjects of the Grecian, the TENDERER ones of the French and English theatres. Terror reigned in the former; pity occupies the latter. The moderns may yet boast of some pieces, that are not emasculated with this epi­demical effeminacy. Racine was at last con­vinced of its impropriety, and gave the pub­lic his Athaliah; in which were no parts, commonly called by the French l'amoreux [Page 265] et de l'amoreuse, which were always given to their two capital actors. The Merope and Orestes of Voltaire, are likewise free from any ill-placed tenderness, and romantic gal­lantry. For which he has merited the praises of the learned father Tournemine, in a let­ter to his friend father Brumoy.* But LEAR and MACBETH are also striking instances what interesting tragedies may be written, without having recourse to a love-story. It is pity, that the tragedy of Cato in which all the rules of the drama, as far as the mechanism of writing reaches, is not exact with respect to the unity of time. There was no occasion to extend the time of the fable longer than the mere representation takes up; all might have pas­sed in the compass of three hours from the morning, with a description of which the play opens; if the poet in the fourth scene of the fifth act, had not talked of the setting sun playing on the armour of the soldiers.

HAVING been imperceptibly led into this [Page 266] little criticism on the tragedy of Cato, I beg leave to speak a few words on some other of Addison's pieces. The * first of his poems addrest to Dryden, Sir John Somers, and king William, are languid, prosaic, and void of any poetical imagery or spirit. The Let­ter from Italy, is by no means equal to a sub­ject so fruitful of genuine poetry, and which might have warmed the most cold and cor­rect imagination. One would have expected, a young traveller in the height of his genius and judgment, would have broke out into some strokes of enthusiasm. With what flat­ness and unfeelingness has he spoken of statu­ary and painting! Raphäel never received a more flegmatic elogy. The slavery and su­perstition of the present Romans, are well touched upon towards the conclusion; but I will venture to name a little piece, on a pa­rallel subject, that greatly excells this celebra­ted [Page 267] Letter; and in which are as much lively and original imagery, strong painting, and manly sentiments of freedom, as I have ever read in our language. It is a Copy of Verses written at Virgil's Tomb, and printed in Dodsley's * Miscellanies.

THAT there are many well wrought de­scriptions, and even pathetic strokes, in the Campaign, it would be stupidity and malignity to deny. But surely the regular march which the poet has observed from one town to ano­ther, as if he had been a commissary of the army, cannot well be excused. There is a passage in Boileau, so remarkably opposite to this fault of Addison, that one would almost be tempted to think he had the Campaign in his eye, when he wrote it, if the time would admit it.

Loin ces rimeurs craintiss, dont l'esprit phlegmatique
Garde dans ses fureurs un ordre didactique;
[Page 268] Qui chantant d'un heros les progrés éclatans,
Ils n'osent un moment prendre un sujet de vüe,
Pour prendre Dole, il faut que Lille soit rendüe;
Et que leur vers exact, ainsi que Mezerai,
Ait fait déja tomber—les remparts de * Coutrai.

The most spirited verses Addison has written, are, an Imitation of the third ode of the third book of Horace which is indeed performed with energy and vigour; and his compliment to Kneller, on the picture of king George the first. The occasion of this last poem is peculi­arly happy; for among the works of Phidias which he enumerates, he selects such statues as exactly mark, and characterise, the last six British kings and queens.

Great Pan who wont to chase the fair,
And lov'd the spreading OAK, was there;
[Page 269] Old Saturn too, with upcast eyes,
Beheld his ABDICATED skies;
And mighty Mars for war renown'd,
In adamantine armor frown'd:
By him the child goddess rose,
Minerva, studious to compose
Her twisted threads; the web she strung,
And o'er a loom of marble hung;
Thetis the troubled ocean's queen,
Match'd with a MORTAL, next was seen,
Reclining on a funeral urn,
Her short liv'd darling son to mourn.
The last was HE, whose thunder slew
The Titan race, a rebel crew,
That from a HUNDRED HILLS ally'd,
In impious league their king defy'd.

There is scarcely, I believe, any instance, where mythology has been applied with so much delicacy and dexterity, and has been contrived to answer in its application, so mi­nutely, exactly, and in so many correspond­ing circumstances.

WHATEVER censures we have here, too [Page 270] boldly, perhaps, ventured to deliver on the pro­fessed poetry of Addison, yet must we candidly own, that in various parts of his prose-essays, are to be found many strokes of genuine and sublime poetry; many marks of a vigorous and exuberant imagination. Particularly, in the noble allegory of Pain and Pleasure, the Vision of Mirza, the story of Maraton and Yaratilda, of Constantia and Theodosius, and the beautiful eastern tale of Abdallah and Balsora; and many others: together with several strokes in the Essay on the pleasures of imagination. It has been the lot of many great names, not to have been able to express themselves with beauty and propriety in the fetters of verse, in their respective languages; who have yet manifested the force, fertility, and creative power of a most poetic genius, in prose. * This was the case of Plato, of [Page 271] Lucian, of Fenelon, of Sir Philip Sidney, and of Dr. T. Burnet, who in his Theory of the Earth, has displayed an imagination, very nearly equal to that of Milton.

—Maenia mundi
Discedunt! totum video per Inane geri res!

After all, the chief and characteristical excel­lency of Addison, was his HUMOUR; for in humour no mortal has excelled him except Moliere. Witness the character of Sir Roger de Coverly, so original, so natural, and so in­violably preserved; particularly, in the month, which the Spectator spends at his hall in the country. Witness also the Drummer, that excellent and neglected comedy, that just picture of life and real manners, where the poet never speaks in his own person, or totally drops or forgets a character, for the sake of introducing a brilliant simile, or acute [Page 272] remark: where no train is laid for wit; no JEREMYS, or BENS, are suffer'd to appear.

THE EPILOGUE to Jane Shore, is the last piece that belongs to this Section; the title of which by this time the reader may have possibly forgot. It is written with the air of gallantry and raillery, which, by a strange perversion of taste, the audience expects in all epilogues to the most serious and pathetic pieces. To recommend cuckoldom and palliate adultery, is their usual intent. I wonder Mrs. Oldfield was not suffered to speak it; for it is superiour to that which was used on the oc­casion. In this taste Garrick has written some, that abound in spirit and drollery. Rowe's genius * was rather delicate and tender, than strong and pathetic; his compositions sooth us with a tranquill and tender sort of com­placency, rather than cleave the heart with [Page 273] pangs of commiseration. His distresses are entirely founded on the passion of love. His diction is extremely elegant and chaste, and his versification highly melodious. His plays are declamations, rather than dialogues, and his characters are general, and undistinguished from each other. Such a furious character as that of Bajazet, is easily drawn; and, let me add, easily acted. There is a want of unity in the fable of Tamerlane. The death's head, dead body, and stage hung in mourning, in the Fair Penitent, are inartificial and mecha­nical methods of affecting an audience. In a word, his plays are musical and pleasing poems, but inactive and unmoving trage­dies. This of Jane Shore is, I think, the most interesting and affecting of any he has given us: but probability is sadly violated in it by the neglect of the unity of time. For a per­son to be supposed to be starved, during the representation of five acts, is a striking in­stance of the absurdity of this violation. In this piece, as in all of Rowe's, are many florid speeches, utterly inconsistent with the state [Page 274] situation of the distressful personages who speak them. When Shore first meets with her hus­band, she says,

* Art thou not risen by miracle from death?
Thy shroud is fall'n from off thee, and the grave
Was bid to give thee up, that thou might'st come,
The messenger of grace and goodness to me.—

He has then added some lines, intolerably flowery and unnatural;

Give me your drops, ye soft descending rains,
Give me your streams, ye never-ceasing springs,
That my sad eyes may still supply my duty,
And feed an everlasting flood of sorrow.

This is of a far distant strain from those ten­der and simple exclamations she uses, when her husband offers her some rich conserves;

How can you be so good?

And again;

—Have you forgot
The costly string of pearl you brought me home,
And ty'd about my neck? how could I leave you?

[Page 275] She continues to gaze on him with earnestness, and instead of eating as he entreats her, she observes,

—You're strangely alter'd—
Say, gentle Belmour, is he not? how pale
Your visage is become? Your eyes are hollow,—
Nay, you are wrinkled too—

To which she instantly subjoins, struck with the idea that she herself was the unhappy cause of this alteration;

—Alas the day!
My wretchedness has cost you many a tear,
And many a bitter pang since last we parted.

What she answers to her husband, when he asks her movingly,

Why dost thou fix thy dying eyes upon me
With such an earnest, such a piteous look,
As if thy heart was full of some sad meaning,
Thou couldst not speak!—

Is pathetic to a great degree: and,

Forgive me! but forgive me!—

These few words far exceed the most pompous [Page 276] declamations of Cato. The interview betwixt Jane Shore and Alicia, in the middle of this act, is also very affecting: where the madness of Alicia is well painted. But of all repre­sentations of madness, that of Clementina, in the History of Sir Charles Grandison, is the most deeply interesting. I know not whether even the madness of Lear is wrought up, and expressed by so many little strokes of nature, and genuine passion. It is absolute pedantry to prefer and compare, the madness of Orestes in Euripides, to this of Clementina.

IT is probable, that this is become the most popular and pleasing tragedy of all Rowe's works, because it is founded on our own hi­story. It is to be wished, that our writers would more frequently search for subjects, in the annals of England, which afford many striking and pathetic events, proper for the stage. We have been too long attached to Grecian and Roman stories. In truth, the DOMESTICA FACTA, are more interesting, as well as more useful: more interesting, be­cause [Page 277] we all think ourselves concerned in the actions and fates of our countrymen; more useful, because the characters and manners, bid the fairest to be true and natural, when they are drawn from models with which we are exactly acquainted. The Turks, the Persians, and Americans, of our poets, are in reality distinguished from Englishmen, only by their turbans and feathers; and think, and act, as if they were born and edu­cated within the bills of mortality. The hi­storical plays of * Shakespeare, are always particularly grateful to the spectator, who loves to see and hear our own Harrys and Edwards, better than all the Achille'ss or Brutus's that ever existed. In the choice of a domestic story, however, much judgment and circumspection must be exerted, to select one of a proper aera; neither of too ancient, or [Page 278] of too modern a date. The manners of times very ancient, we shall be as apt to falsify, as those of the Greeks and Romans. And re­cent events, with which we are thoroughly acquainted, are deprived of the power of im­pressing solemnity and awe, by their notoriety and familiarity. Age softens and wears away all those disgracing and depreciating circum­stances, which attend modern transactions, merely because they are modern. Lucan was much embarrassed by the proximity of the times he treated of. On this very ac­count, as well as others, the best tragedy that could be possibly written on the murder of Charles I. would be coldly received. Racine ventured to write on a recent history, in his Bajazet; but would not have attempted it, had he not thought, that the distance of his hero's country repaired, in some measure, the nearness of the time in which he lived. ‘"Major a longinquo reverentia."’

POPE, it is said, had framed a design of writing an epic poem, on a fact recorded in [Page 279] our old annalists, and therefore more engaging to an Englishman; on the ARRIVAL of BRUTUS, the supposed grandson of Aeneas, in our island, and the settlement of the first foundations of the British monarchy. A full scope might have been given to a vigorous imagination, to embellish a fiction drawn from the bosom of the remotest antiquity. Some tale, equally venerable and ancient, it was also the pur­pose of Milton * to adorn; for he says, in his [Page 280] Reason of church government, * ‘"I am me­ditating what king or knight BEFORE THE CONQUEST might be chosen, in whom to lay the pattern of a christian hero."’ But shall I be pardoned for suspecting, that POPE would not have succeeded in this design; that so DIDACTIC a genius would have been deficient in that SUBLIME and PATHETIC, which are the main nerves of the epopea; that he would have given us many elegant de­scriptions, and many GENERAL characters, well drawn; but would have failed to set be­fore our eyes the REALITY of these objects, and the ACTIONS of these characters: for Homer professedly draws no characters, but gives us to collect them from the looks and behaviour of each person he introduces; that POPE's close and constant reasoning had im­paired and crushed the faculty of imagination; that the political reflections, in this piece, would, in all probability, have been more nu­merous, than the affecting strokes of nature; that it would have more resembled the HEN­RIADE, [Page 281] than the ILIAD, or even the GIERU­SALEMME LIBERATA; that it would have appeared, (if this scheme had been executed) how much, and for what reasons, the man that is skilful in painting modern life, and the most secret foibles and follies of his co­temporaries, is, THEREFORE disqualified for representing the ages of heroism, and that simple life, which alone epic poetry can grace­fully describe; in a word, that this composi­tion would have shewn more of the PHILO­SOPHER than of the POET. Add to all this, that it was to have been written in rhyme; a circumstance, sufficient of itself alone to overwhelm and extinguish all enthusiasm, and produce endless tautologies and circumlocu­tions. Are not these suppositions strength­ened by what Dr. Warburton * has informed us, namely, that POPE in this poem intended to have treated amply, ‘"of all that regarded civil regimen, or the science of politics, that the several forms of a republic were here to have been examined and explained; together [Page 282] with the several modes of religious worship, as far forth as they affect society;"’ than which, surely there could not have been a more improper subject for an epic poem.

IT is not impertinent to observe, for the sake of those who are fond of the history, of literature, and of the human mind in the pro­gress of it, that the very first poem that ap­peared in France, any thing like an epic poem, was on this identical subject, of Brutus ar­riving in England. It was written by Ma­ster EUSTACHE, so early as in the reign of Louis the seventh, sirnamed the Young, who ascended the throne in the year 1137, and who was the husband of the celebrated Ele­onora, afterwards divorced, and married to our Henry the second. The author called it, Le ROMAN de Brut. Every piece of poetry was at that time denominated a romance. The latin language ceased to be regularly spoken in France, about the ninth century; and was succeeded by what was called the Romance-tongue, a mixture of the language [Page 283] of the Francs, and of bad Latin. The species of writing, called Romans, began in the tenth century, according to the opinion of the Be­nedictine fathers*, who have well refuted, M. Fleuri and Calmet, who make them less ancient by two hundred years. The poem, or Roman, we are speaking of, is full of won­derful and improbable tales, and supernatural adventures, suited to the taste of so barbarous an age. It is matter of some curiosity, to see a specimen of the style of this eldest of the French poets. This is his exordium:

Qui veut ouir, qui veut scavoir,
De roi en roi, & d'hoir en hoir,
Qui cils furent, & d'où cils vinrent,
Qui Angleterre primes tinrent.

We may judge, from this passage, of the state of the language. Master Eustache has been particularly careful to mark the time in which he lived and wrote, by his two concluding lines:

L'an mil cent cinquante—cinq ans
Fit Maistre Eustache ces Romans.

[Page 284] I will take leave to add, that the second poem now remaining in the French language, was entitled, The Romance of Alexander the Great. It was the confederated work of four authors, famous in their time. Lambert le Court, and Alexander of Paris, sung the ex­ploits of Alexander; Peter de Saint Clost, wrote his will in verse; the writing the will of a hero being then a common topic; and John le Nivelois, added a book concerning the manner in which his death was revenged. It is remarkable, that before this time, all the Romans had been composed in verses of eight syllables: but in this piece, the four authors first used verses of TWELVE syllables, as more solemn and majestic. And this was the origin, tho' but little known, of those verses, which we now call ALEXANDRINES; the French heroic measure: the name being derived from Alexander, the hero of the piece, or from Alexander, the most celebrated of the four poets concerned in this work. These were the most applauded poets of that age. Fauchet highly commends this poem: par­ticularly [Page 285] a passage where a Cavalier is struck to the ground with a lance, who, says the old bard,

Du long, comme il etoit, mesura la campagne.

Which is not inferior to Virgil's,

Hesperiam metire jacens.—

One would not imagine this line had been written, so early as the middle of the twelfth century. A great and truly learned anti­quary * has remarked, for the honour of our country, that about this time, 1160, appeared the first traces of any theatre. ‘"A monk called Geoffry, who was afterwards abbot of St. Albans in England, employed in the edu­cation of youth, made his pupils represent, with proper scenes and dresses, tragedies of piety. The subject of the first dramatic piece, was, the miracles of saint Catharine, which, says my author, appeared long before any of our representations of the MYSTERIES."’

SECT. VI. Of the Epistle of SAPPHO to PHAON, and of ELOISA to ABELARD.

IT is no small merit in Ovid, to have in­vented this beautiful species of writing epistles under feigned characters. It is a high improvement on the Greek elegy; to which its dramatic nature renders it greatly superior. It is indeed no other than a passionate solilo­quy; in which, the mind gives vent to the distresses and emotions under which it la­bours: but by being directed and addressed to a particular person, it gains a degree of propriety, that the best-conducted soliloquy, in a tragedy, must ever want. Our impatience under any pressures of grief, and disorder of mind, makes such passionate expostulations with the persons supposed to cause such un­easinesses, very natural. Judgment is chiefly shewn, by opening the interesting complaint just at such a period of time, as will give oc­casion [Page 287] for the most tender sentiments, and the most sudden and violent turns of passion to be displayed. Ovid may, perhaps, be blamed for a sameness of subjects, in these epistles of his heroines; whose distresses are almost all occasioned by their lovers forsaking them. His epistles are likewise too long; which circumstance has forced him into a repetition and languor in the sentiments. It would be a pleasing task, and conduce to the formation of a good taste, to shew how differently Ovid and the Greek tragedians, have made Medea, Phaedra, and Deianira speak, on the very same occasions. Such a comparison would abun­dantly manifest, the FANCY and WIT of Ovid, and the JUDGMENT and NATURE of Euripides and Sophocles. If the character of Medea was not better supported in the tragedy, which Ovid is said to have produced, and of which Quintilian speaks so advantageously, than it is in her epistle to Jason, one may venture to declare, that, if this drama had survived, the Ro­mans would not yet have been vindicated, from their inferiority to the Greeks, in tragic poesy.

[Page 288] THE EPISTLE before us is translated by POPE, with faithfulness and with elegance; and much excells any that Dryden translated in the volume he published: many of which were done by some ‘"of the mob of gentle­men that wrote with ease;"’ that is, Sir C. Scroop, Caryl, Pooly, Wright, Tate, Buck­ingham, Cooper, and other careless rhymers. A good translation of these epistles, is as much wanted, as one of Juvenal; for, out of six­teen satires of that poet, Dryden himself tran­slated but six. We can now boast of happy translations in verse, of almost all the great poets of antiquity; whilst the French have been poorly contented with only prose trans­lations of Homer and Horace, which, says Cervantes, can no more resemble the original, than the wrong side of tapestry can represent the right. The inability of the French tongue to express many Greek or Roman ideas with facility and grace, is here visible: but the Italians have Horace translated by Pallavacini, Theocritus by Ricolotti, Ovid by Anguillara, the Aeneid, admirably well, in blank verse, by [Page 289] Annibal Caro, and the Georgics, in blank verse also, by Daniello.

I return to Ovid, by observing, that he has put into the mouth of his heroine, a greater number of pretty panegyrical epigrams, than of those tender and passionate sentiments, which suited her character, and made her SENSIBILITY in amours so famous. What can be more elegantly gallant than this compli­ment to Phaon?

Sume fidem & pharetram; fies manifestus Apollo;
Accedant capiti cornua; Bacchus eris.

This thought seems indisputably to have been imitated, in that most justly celebrated of mo­dern epigrams:

Lumine Acon dextro, capta est Leonilla sinistro,
Et potis est forma vincere uterque Deos;
Blande puer, lumen quod habes, concede sorori,
Sic tu coecus AMOR, sic erit illa VENUS.

My chief reason for quoting these delicate lines, was to point out the occasion of them, which seems not to be sufficiently known. [Page 290] They were made on Louis de Maguiron, the most beautiful man of his time, and the great favourite of Henry III. of France, who lost an eye at the siege of Issoire; and on the Princess of Eboli, a great beauty, but who was deprived of the sight of one of her eyes, and who was at the same time mistress of Philip II. King of Spain.

IT was happily imagined to write an epistle in the character of Sapho, who had spoken of the joys of love with more warmth and feeling, than any writer of antiquity; and who described the violent symptoms attending this passion, in so strong and lively a manner, that the physician Erasistratus, is said to have dis­covered the secret malady of the Prince An­tiochus, who was in love with his mother­in-law Stratonice, merely by examining the symptoms of his patient's distemper by this description. Addison has inserted in two of his Spectators*, an elegant character of this poetess; and has given a translation of two of [Page 291] her fragments, that are exquisite in their kind: a translation, which we may presume Addison himself revised, and altered, for his friend Philips. As these two pieces are pretty well­known, by being found in so popular a book as the Spectator, I shall say no more of them; but shall add two more of her fragments, which, though very short, are yet highly beautiful and tender. The first represents the languor and listlessness of a person deeply in love; we may suppose the fair author look­ing up earnestly on her mother, casting down the web on which she was employed, and suddenly exclaiming;


Dulcis mater! non possum texere telum
Amore victa pueri, per acrem Venerem.

The other fragment is of the descriptive kind; and seems to be the beginning of an Ode ad­dressed [Page 292] to EVENING: it is quoted by Deme­trius Phalereus,*


Vesper omnia fers;
Fers [...]um, fers capram,
Fers matri fi [...]am.

From these little fragments, the first of which is an example of the pathetic, and the second of the picturesque, the manner of Sappho might have been gathered, if the two longer odes had not been preserved in the treatises of Dionysius, and of Longinus. I cannot help adopting the application Addison has made, of his two lines of Phoedrus, to these remains of our poetess; which is perhaps one of the most elegant, and happy applica­tions that ever was made from any classic whatever:

O suavis anima! qualem te dicam bonam
Antehac fuisse, tales cum sint reliquiae!
Phaedr. Fab. L. 3. v. 5.

[Page 293] The versification of this translation of POPE, is, in point of melody, next to that of his pastorals. I am of opinion, that the two fol­lowing lines, in which alliteration is success­fully used, are the most harmonious verses, in our language, I mean in rhyme:

Ye gentle gales! beneath my body blow,
And softly lay me on the waves below!

The peculiar musicalness of the first of these lines, in particular, arises principally from it's consisting entirely of iambic feet; which have always a striking, although unperceived, effect in an English verse. As for example;

Yĕ gēntlĕ gāles bĕneāth my̆ bōdy̆ blōw.

Even if the last foot alone be an iambic, it casts a harmony over a whole line:*

Rapt into future times the bard bĕgūn.

There are many niceties in our versification, which few attend to, and which would de­mand [Page 294] a regular treatise fully to discourse: we should surely use every possible art, to render our rough Northern language harmonious.

FENTON also has given us a translation of this epistle to Phaon; but it is in no respect equal to POPE's: he has added another, of his own invention, of Phaon to Sappho, in which the story of the transformation of the former, from an old mariner to a beautiful youth, is well told. Fenton * was an elegant scholar, and had an exquisite taste; the books he translated for POPE in the Odyssey, are supe­rior to Brome's. In his Miscellanies, are [Page 295] some pieces worthy notice; particularly, his Epistle to Southerne; the Fair Nun, imitated from Fontaine; Olivia a Character, and an Ode to Lord Gower, written in the true spirit of Lyric poetry, of which the following allegory is an example:

Enamour'd of the SEINE, celestial fair,
The blooming pride of Thetis azure train,
Bacchus, to win the nymph who caus'd his care,
Lash'd his swift tigers to the celtic plain;
There secret in her saphire cell,
He with the Nais wont to dwell,
Leaving the nectar'd feasts of Jove;
And where her mazy waters flow,
He gave the mantling vine to grow,
A trophy to his love.

His tragedy of Mariamne has merit, tho the diction be too figurative and ornamental; it does indeed superabound in the richest poetic images: except this may be palliated by urg­ing, that it suits the characters of oriental heroes, to talk in so high a strain, and to use such a luxuriance of metaphors.

[Page 296] FROM this EPISTLE of Sappho, I may take occasion to observe, that this species of writing, beautiful as it is, has not been much cultivated among us. Drayton, no despica­ble genius, attempted to revive it, and has left us some good subjects, tho' not very art­fully handled*. We have also a few of this sort of epistles by the late Lord Hervey, in the fourth volume of Dodsley's Miscellanies, Flora to Pompey, Arisbe to Marius, and Monimia to Philocles, in which last are some pathetic strokes, and Roxana to Usbeck, taken from the incomparable letters of the late president Montesquieu; a fine § original work, [Page 297] in which the customs and manners of the Persians are painted with the utmost truth and liveliness, and which have been faintly imitated by the Jewish, Chinese, and other Letters. The beauty of this writer, is his expressive brevity; which Lord Hervey has lengthened to a degree that is unnatural; especially, as Roxana is supposed to write just after she has swallowed a deadly poison, and during it's violent operations. I have lately seen several pieces of this species, which as the subjects are striking, will, I hope, one day see the light. They are entitled, ‘"TASSO to LEONORA; written in an interval of his madness: LUCAN to NERO; just after he was condemned to death: Lady OLIVIA to CLEMENTINA, on her refusing to marry Grandison: CHARLES V. from the monastery he retired to, to the King of France: GALGACUS, general of the Britons, [Page 298] to AGRICOLA that commanded the Romans: MONTEZUMA to CORTEZ: VITIKINDA, the general of the Saxons, to CHARLEMAYNE: and ROSMUNDA to ALBOINUS, King of the Lombards."’

BUT of all stories, ancient or modern, there is not perhaps a more proper one to furnish out an elegiac epistle, than that of ELOISA and ABELARD. Their distresses were of a most SINGULAR and PECULIAR kind; and their names sufficiently known, but not grown trite or common, by too frequent usage. POPE was a most excellent IMPROVER, if no great original INVENTOR; for, as we have seen what an elegant superstructure he has raised on the little dialogues of the Comte de Gabalis, so shall we perceive, in the sequel of this Section, how finely he has worked up the hints of distress, that are scattered up and down in Abelard's and Eloisa's Letters; and, in a little French * history of their lives and [Page 299] misfortunes, which he made great use of. * Abelard was reputed the most handsome, as well as most learned, man, of his time; ac­cording to the kind of learning then in vogue. An old chronicle, quoted by Andrew du Chesne informs us, that scholars flocked to his lectures from all quarters of the latin world. And his contemporary St. Bernard relates, that he numbered among his disciples many principal ecclesiastics, and cardinals, at the court of Rome. Abelard himself boasts, that when he retired into the country, he was followed by such immense crowds of scholars, that they could get neither lodgings nor pro­visions sufficient for them; ‘"ut nec locus [Page 300] hospitiis, nec terra sufficeret alimentis.*"’ He met with the fate of many learned men, to be embroiled in controversy, and accused of heresy; for St. Bernard, whose influence and authority was very great, got his opinion of the Trinity condemned, at a council held at Sens, 1140. But the talents of Abelard were not confined to theology, juris­prudence, philosophy, and the thorny paths of scholasticism: he gave proofs of a lively [Page 301] genius, by many poetical performances; in­somuch, that he was reputed to be the author of the famous Romance of the Rose; which, however, was indisputably written by JOHN OF MEUN, a little city on the banks of the Loire, about four leagues from Orleans; which gave occasion to Marot to exclaim;

De Jean de Meun s'enfle le cours de Loire.

Of this ancient French poet much more will be said, in the course of this work, when we come occasionally to speak of Chaucer; suffice it at present to observe, that he certainly continued and finished the Romance of the Rose, which * William de Lorris had left im­perfect, forty years before. If chronology did not absolutely contradict the notion of Abelard's being the author of this very cele­brated piece, yet are there internal arguments sufficient to confute it. The mistake seems [Page 302] to have flowed, from his having given Eloisa the name of ROSE, in one of the many son­netts he addrest to her. In this * romance, there are many severe and satirical strokes on the character of Eloisa, which the pen of Abelard never would have given. In one passage, she is introduced speaking with in­decency and obscenity; in another, all the vices and bad qualities of women are repre­sented, as assembled together in her alone.

Qui les maeurs feminins savoit,
Car tres-tous en soi les avoit.

In a very old epistle dedicatory, addressed to [Page 303] Philip the fourth of France, by this same John of Meun, and prefixed to a French translation of Boetius, a very popular book at that time, it appears, that he also translated the epistles of Abelard to Heloisa, which were in high vogue at the court. He men­tions also that he had translated Vegetius, on the Art Military, and a book called the Won­ders of Ireland; these works shew us the taste of the age: his words are; ‘"t'envoye ores * Boece de consolation, que j'ai translaté en Francois, jacoit que bien entendes le Latin".’ It is to be regretted, that we have no exact picture of the person and beauty of Eloisa; Abelard himself says, that she was, ‘"facie non infima;"’ her extraordinary learn­ing many circumstances concur to confirm; particularly one, which is, that the nuns of the Paraclete are wont to have the office of Whitsunday read to them in Greek, to per­petuate [Page 304] the memory of her understanding that language. The curious may not be displeased to be informed, that the Paraclete was built in the parish of Quincey, upon the little river Arduzon, near to Nogent, upon the Seine. Happening to be in France a few years ago, I had the curiosity to visit the very spot; which I surveyed with much veneration. A lady, learned as was Eloisa in that age, who indisputably understood the latin, greek, and hebrew tongues, was a kind of prodigy: her literature, says * Abelard, ‘"in toto regno nominatissimam fecerat:"’ and, we may be sure, more thoroughly attached him to her. Bussy Rabutin speaks in high terms of com­mendation, of the purity of Eloisa's latinity: a judgment worthy a French count! There is a force, but not an elegance in her style; which is blemished, as might be expected, by many phrases unknown to the pure ages of the Roman language, and by many Hebra­isms, borrowed from the translation of the bible.

[Page 305] I now propose to pass through the * EPISTLE, in order to give the reader a view of the various turns and tumults of pas­sion, and the different sentiments with which Eloisa is agitated: and at the same time, to point out what passages are borrowed, and how much improved, from the original Let­ters. From this analysis, her struggles and conflicts, between duty and pleasure, between penitence and passion, will more amply and strikingly appear.

[Page 306] SHE begins with declaring, how the peace­fulness of her situation has been disturbed, by a letter of her lover accidentally falling into her hands; this exordium is beautiful, being worked up with an awakening solem­nity: she looks about her, and breaks out at once.

§ In these deep solitudes and awful cells, *
Where heavenly-pensive CONTEMPLATION dwells,
And ever-musing MELANCHOLY reigns;
What means this tumult in a vestal's veins?
Why rove my thoughts beyond this last retreat?
Why feels my heart it's long-forgotten heat?

She then resolves neither to mention or to write the name of Abelard; but suddenly adds, in a dramatic manner,

The name appears
Already written—wash it out my tears!

[Page 307] She then addresses herself to the convent, where she was confined, in fine imagery:

* Relentless walls! whose darksom round contains
Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains,
Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn,
Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn!
Shrines where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep,
And pitying saints whose statues learn to weep!
Tho' cold like you, unmov'd and silent grown,
I have not yet forgot myself to stone! §

She proceeds to enumerate the effects, which Abelard's relation of their misfortunes has had upon her; yet notwithstanding what she suffers from them, she intreats him still to write.

[Page 308]
Yet write, O write me all! that I may join
Griefs to thy griefs, and echo sighs to thine.

This is from the Letters—‘"Per ipsum itaque Christum obsecramus; quatenus ancillulas ipsius & tuas, crebris literis de his, in quibus adhuc fluctuas, naufragiis certificare dig­neris, ut nos saltem quae tibi solae remansimus, doloris vel gaudii participes habeas."’ On the mention of letters, she breaks out into that beautiful account of their use, which is finely improved from the latin.

§ Heaven first taught letters for some wretch's aid,
Some banish'd lover or some captive maid;
They live, they speak, they breathe, what love inspires,
Warm from the soul, and faithful to it's fires; *
The virgins wish without her blush impart,
Excuse the blush and pour out all the heart.

[Page 309]"De quibuscunque autem nobis scribas, non parvum nobis remedium conferes; hoc sal­tem uno, quod te nostri memorem esse mons­trabis."’ She then quotes * an unnecessary passage of Seneca, and adds, ‘"Si imagines nobis amicorum absentium jucundae sunt, quae memoriam renovant, & desiderium absentiae falso atque inani solatio levant; quanto jucun­diores sunt literae, quae amici absentis veras notas afferunt?"’ The origin of Eloisa's pas­sion is, with much art and knowledge of human nature, ascribed to her admiration of her handsome preceptor: this circumstance is particularly poetical, and even sublime;

[Page 310]
* My fancy form'd thee of the angelic kind,
Some emanation of th' all-beauteous mind.

§ How oft when press'd to marriage have I said,
Curse on all laws but those which love has made!
Let wealth let honour wait the wedded dame,
August her deed and sacred be her fame;
Before true passion all these views remove,
Fame wealth and honour, what are you to love?

These sentiments are plainly from the letters, ‘"Nihil unquam, deus scit, in te, nisi te requi­sivi; te purè non tua concupiscens. Non ma­trimonii foedera, non dotes aliquas expectavi. Et si uxoris nomen sanctius ac validius videtur, dulcius mihi semper extitit amicae vocabulum, aut si non indigneris, concubinae vel scorti."’—POPE has added a very injudicious thought,

The jealous God, when we profane his fires,
Those restless passions in revenge inspires,

[Page 311] And again,
* Love free as air, at fight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings and in a moment flies.

It is improper for a person in the situation of Eloisa to mention Cupid; mythology is here out of its place. The Letters also furnished the next thought:

Not Caesar's empress would I deign to prove,
No, make me mistress of the man I love.

‘"DEUM testem invoco, si me Augustus, universo praesidens mundo, matrimonii honore dignaretur, totumque mihi orbem confirmaret in perpetuo praesidendum, charius mihi & dignius videretur, tua dici meretrix, quam illius imperatrix."’ Next she describes their unpa­rallelled happiness in the full and free enjoy­ment of their loves; but all at once stops short, and reclaims with eagerness, as if she at that instant saw the dreadful scene al­luded to,

[Page 312]
* Alass how chang'd! what sudden horrors rise!
A naked lover, bound and bleeding lies!
Where, where was Eloise? her voice, her hand,
Her ponyard had oppos'd the dire command!
Barbarian stay! that bloody stroke restrain,
The crime was common, common be the pain.

[Page 313] One knows not which most to applaud, the lively imagery, the pathetic, or the artful de­cency, with which this trasaction is delicately hinted at, in these most excellent lines: which are the genuine voice of nature and passion, and place the object intended to be imprest on the reader full in his sight.

SHE next reminds Abelard of the solemnity of her taking the veil, from verse one hundred and six, to one hundred and eighty four, which are highly beautiful, particularly these circumstances attending the rite—

* As with cold lips I kiss'd the sacred veil,
The shrines all trembled, and the lamps grew pale!

[Page 314] These two circumstances are fancied with equal force and propriety; and this supposed prognostic of the uneasiness she would un­dergo in the monastic life, is very affecting. But her passion intruded itself even in the midst of this awful act of devotion; the strength of which she represents by this par­ticular,

* Yet then to these dread altars as I drew,
Not on the Cross my eyes were fix'd but You.

Here she gives her fondness leave to expatiate into many luscious ideas;

Still on that breast enamour'd let me lie,
Still drink delicious poison from thy eye,
Pant on thy lip, and to thy heart be prest;

And then follows a line exquisitely passionate, and worthy the sensibility of Sappho or of Eloisa,

Give all thou canst!—and let me dream the rest.

Suddenly she here checks the torrent of this amorous transport—

[Page 315]
* Ah no—instruct me other joys to prize,
With other beauties charm my partial eyes,
Full in my view set all the bright abode,
And make my soul quit Abelard for God.

She puts him in mind of his being the father and founder of the monastery, and entreats him to visit his flock on that account. This topic is taken from the Letters.

From the false world in early youth they fled,
By thee to mountains, wilds, and desarts led;
You rais'd these hallow'd walls; the desart smil'd,
And paradise was open'd in the wild.

‘"Nihil hic super alienum aedificâsti fundamen­tum; totum quod hic est, tua creatio est. Solitudo haec feris tantum, sive latronibus va­cans, nullam hominum habitationem nove­rat, nullam domum habuerat. In ipsis cubili­bus ferarum, in ipsis latibulis latronum, ubi nec nominari deus solet, divinum erexisti tabernaculum, & spiritûs sancti proprium de­dicâsti templum. Nihil ad hoc aedificandum [Page 316] ex regum vel principum opibus intulisti, cum plurima posses & maxima, ut quicquid fieret, tibi soli posset ascribi."’ Which last sentence is finely improved by POPE; being at once heightened with pathos and poetic imagery; and containing an oblique satire on benefac­tions raised by avarice, or extorted by fear;

* No weeping orphan saw his father's stores
Our shrines irradiate or emblaze our floors;
No silver saints by dying misers giv'n,
Here brib'd the rage of ill-requited heav'n;
But such plain roofs as piety could raise.

NO part of this poem, or indeed of any of POPE's productions is so truly poetical, and contains such strong painting, as the passage to which we are now arrived;—The descrip­tion of the convent, where POPE's religion certainly aided his fancy. It is impossible to read it without being struck with a pensive pleasure, and a sacred awe, at the solemnity of the scene; so picturesque are the epithets.

[Page 317]
* In these lone walls, (their days eternal bound)
These moss-grown domes with spiry turrets crown'd,
Where awful arches make a noonday night,
And the dim windows shed a solemn light;
Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray.

All the circumstances that can amuse and sooth the mind of a solitary, are next enume­rated in this expressive manner: and the reader that shall be disgusted at the length of the quotation, I pronounce, has no taste, either for painting or poetry:

The darksome pines that o'er yon rocks reclin'd
Wave high, and murmur to the hollow wind,
The wand'ring streams that shine between the hills,
The grots that echo to the tinckling rills,
The dying gales that pant upon the trees,
The lakes that quiver to the curling breeze;
No more these scenes my meditation aid,
Or lull to rest the visionary maid.

The effect and influence, of MELANCHOLY who is beautifully personified, on every ob­ject that occurs, and on every part of the convent, cannot be too much applauded, or [Page 318] too often read, as it is founded on nature and experience. That temper of mind casts a gloom on all things.

* But o'er the twilight groves and dusky caves,
Long-sounding iles, and intermingled graves,
Black MELANCHOLY sits, and round her throws
A death-like silence, and a dread repose;
Her gloomy presence saddens all the scene,
Shades every flower, and darkens every green,
Deepens the murmur of the falling floods,
And breathes a browner horror on the woods.

The figurative expressions, throws, and breathes, and browner horror, are I verily believe the strongest and boldest in the English language. The IMAGE of the Goddess MELANCHOLY sitting over the convent, and as it were ex­panding her dreadful wings over its whole circuit, and diffusing her gloom all around it, is truely sublime, and strongly conceived.

ELOISA proceeds to give an account of the opposite sentiments, that divide and disturb her soul; these are hinted in the Letters also.

[Page 319]
* Ah wretch! believ'd the spouse of God in vain,
Confess'd within the slave of love and man!
I ought to grieve, but cannot what I ought;
I mourn the lover, not lament the fault.

This however is improved greatly on the ori­ginal. ‘"Castam me praedicant, qui non de­prehendunt hypocritam—Quomodo paeniten­tia peccatorum, quantacunque sit corporis afflictio, si mens adhuc ipsam peccandi retinet voluntatem, & pristinis aestuat desideriis?" She then fondly calls on Abelard for assist­ance,

§ O come! O teach me nature to subdue,
Renounce my love, my life, myself and—you!
Till my fond heart win God alone, for he
Alone can rival, can succeed to thee!

Fired with this idea of religion, she takes oc­casion to dwell on the happiness of a BLAME­LESS vestal, one who has no such sin on her conscience, as she has, to bemoan. The life of such an one is described at length by such sorts of pleasure, as none but a spotless nun [Page 320] can partake of; the climax of her happiness is finely conducted;

* For her the SPOUSE prepares the bridal ring,
For her white virgins hymeneals sing,
For her th' unfading rose of Eden blooms,
And wings of Seraphs shed divine persumes,
To sounds of heavenly harps she dies away,
And melts in visions of eternal day!

What a judicious and poetical use hath POPE here made of the opinions of the mystics and quietists: how would Fenelon have been de­lighted with these lines! True poetry, after all, cannot well subsist, at least is never so striking, without a tincture of enthufiasm: the sudden transition has a fine effect;

Far other dreams my erring soul employ,
Far other raptures of unholy joy.

Which raptures are painted with much sen­sibility, and in very animating colours. ‘"Nec etiam dormienti suis illusionibus parcunt."§ Again,

** Oh curst dear horrors of all-conscious night;
How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight!

[Page 321] This is very forceibly expressed. She pro­ceeds to recount a dream; in which I was always heavily disappointed, because the imagined distress is such, as might attend the dreams of any person whatever. *

—Methinks we wandring go
Thro dreary wastes, and weep each other's woe,
Where round some mouldring tow'r pale ivy creeps,
And low brow'd rocks hang nodding o'er the deeps;
Sudden you mount, you beckon from the skies,
Clouds interpose, &c.

These are, indisputably, picturesque lines; but what I want is a VISION of some such appro­priated, and peculiar distress, as could be in­cident to none but Eloisa; and which should be drawn from, and have reference to, her single story. What distinguishes Homer and Shakespear from all other poets, is, that they do not give their readers GENERAL ideas: every image is the particular and unalienable property of the person who uses it; it is suited to no other; it is made for him or her alone. [Page 322] Even Virgil himself is not free from this fault; but is frequently general and indiscri­minating, where Homer is minutely circum­stantial. She next compares his situation with her own:

* For thee the fates, severely kind, ordain
A cool suspense from pleasure and from pain;
Thy life a long dead calm of fix'd repose,
No pulse that riots, and no blood that glows.

Here Eloisa glances with great modesty and delicacy, at the irreparable misfortune of her mutilated husband, which however she always mentions with regret. I question whether it may be improper to alleviate the dryness of these critical remarks, with the following story; which I wish had fallen into the hands of Fontaine. ‘"The Greeks waged war upon the duke of Benevento, and made him very uneasy. Thedbald, Marquis of Spoleto, his ally, marching to his assistance, and ha­ving taken some prisoners, ordered them to be [Page 323] castrated, and in that condition, sent them back to the Greek general, with orders to tell him, that he had done it to oblige the emperor, whom he knew to be a lover of eunuchs; and that he would endeavour to send him, in a short time, a much greater number of them. The Marquis was preparing to be as good as his word, when one day a woman, whose husband had been taken prisoner, came all in tears to the camp, and begged to speak to Thedbald. The Marquis having asked her the cause of her grief, my Lord, says she, I wonder that such a valiant hero as you should trifle away your time in warring with women, when men are unable to resist you. Thed­bald replied, that, since the days of the Ama­zons, he had never heard that war had been made upon women. My Lord, answered the Greek woman, can a crueller be made upon us, than to deprive our husbands of what gives us health, pleasure, and children? When you make eunuchs of them, it is mutilating us, not them: you have lately taken away our cattle and goods, without any complaint [Page 324] from me: but this being an irreparable loss to several of my neighbours, I could not avoid imploring the compassion of the conqueror. The whole army was so pleased with this woman's ingenuous declaration, that they re­stored her husband to her, and all they had taken from her. As she was going away, Thedbald asked her, what she would be will­ing should be done to her husband, if he was found in arms again. He has eyes, said she, a nose, hands, and feet: these are his OWN, which you may take from HIM if he deserves it; but leave him, if you please, what be­longs to ME."*

A HINT in the Letters has been beautifully heightened, and elevated into exquisite poetry, in the next paragraph. Eloisa says only, ‘"Inter ipsa missarum solemnia, ubi purior esse debeat oratio, obscoena earum voluptatum phantasmata its sibi penitus miserrimam cap­tivant animam, ut turpitudinibus illis, magis quam orationi, vacem. Nec solum quae egimus, [Page 325] sed loca pariter & tempora."’—Let us see how this has been improved.

* What scenes appear, where'er I turn my view,
The dear ideas where I fly pursue,
Rise in the grove, before the altar rise—

Then follows a circumstance peculiarly tender and proper, as it refers to a particular excel­lence of Abelard,

THY VOICE I seem in every hymn to hear,
With every bead I drop too soft a tear.

To which succeeds that sublime description of a high mass, which came from the poet's soul, and is very striking.

§ When from the censer clouds of fragrance roll,
And swelling organs lift the rising soul,
One thought of thee puts all the pomp to flight,
Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight,
In seas of flame my plunging soul is drown'd,
While altars blaze, and angels tremble round.

I BELIEVE few persons have ever been pre­sent at the celebrating a mass in a good choir, [Page 326] but have been extremely affected with awe, if not with devotion; which ought to put us on our guard, against the insinuating nature of so pompous and alluring a religion as popery. Lord Bolingbroke being one day present at this solemnity, in the chapel at Versailles, and seeing the archbishop of Paris elevate the host, whispered his companion the Marquis de *****, ‘"If I were king of France, I would always perform this ceremony myself."’

ELOISA now acknowledges the weakness of her religious efforts, and gives herself up to the prevalence of her passion.

* Come with one glance of those deluding eyes,
Blot out each bright idea of the skies;
Take back that grace, that sorrow, and these tears,
Take back my fruitless penitence and pray'rs;
Snatch me just mounting, from the blest abode,
Assist the fiends, and tear me from my God!

Suddenly, religion rushes back on her mind, and she exclaims eagerly,

[Page 327]
* No fly me, fly me! far as pole to pole!—
Ah, come not, write not, think not once of me,
Nor share one pang of all I felt for thee.
Thy oaths I quit, thy memory resign,
Forget, renounce me, hate whate'er was mine.

This change is judicious and moving. And the following invocation to hope, faith, and christian grace, to come and take full possession of her soul, is solemn, and suited to the con­dition of her mind; for it seems to be the poet's intention to shew the force of religion over passion at last, and to represent her as a little calm and resigned to her destiny, and way of life. To fix her in which holy tem­per, the circumstance that follows may be supposed to contribute. For she relates an incident to Abelard, which had made a very deep impression on her mind, and cannot fail of making an equal one, on the mind of those readers, who can relish true poetry, and strong imagery. The scene she paints is aw­ful: she represents herself lying on a tomb, [Page 328] and thinking she heard some * spirit calling to her in every low wind,—

Here as I watch'd the dying lamps around,
From yonder shrine I heard a hollow found,
Come sister come, (if said, or seem'd to say)
Thy place is here, sad sister, come away!
Once like thyself I trembled, wept and pray'd, §
Love's victim then, but now a sainted maid.

This scene would make a fine subject for the pencil; and is worthy a capital painter. He might place Eloisa in the long ile of a great Gothic church; a lamp should hang over her head, whose dim and dismal ray should afford only light enough to make darkness visible. She herself should be represented in the in­stant, when she first hears this aërial voice, and in the attitude of starting round with astonishment and fear. And this was the [Page 329] method a very great master took, to paint a sound, if I may be allowed the expression. This subject was the baptism of Jesus Christ; and in order to bring into this subject the re­markable incident of the voice from heaven, which cried aloud, ‘"This is my beloved son,"’ he represented all the assembly that attended on the banks of Jordan, gazing up into heaven, with the utmost ardor of amaze­ment.

AT this call of a sister in misfortune, who had been visited with a sad similitude of griefs with her own, Eloisa breaks out in a religious transport,

I come, I come! prepare your roseate bow'rs,
Coelestial palms, and ever-blooming flow'rs;
Thither where sinners may have rest I go!

She then calls on Abelard, to pay her the last sad offices; and to be present with her in the article of death,

See my lips tremble, and my eyeballs roll—

And then a circumstance of personal fondness intervenes,

[Page 330]
Suck my last breath, and catch the flying soul!

But she instantly corrects herself, and would have her Abelard attend her at these last solemn moments, only as a devout priest, and not as a fond lover. The image, in which she represents him coming to administer ex­treme unction, is striking and picturesque;

Ah no—in sacred vest [...]nts mayst thou stand,
The hallow'd taper * trembling in thy hand,
Present the cross before my lifted eye,
Teach me at once, and learn of me, to die!

She adds, that it will be some consolation to behold him once more, tho' even in the ago­nies of death,

Ah then! thy once-lov'd Eloisa see!
It will be then no crime to gaze on me!

Which last line I could never read without great emotion; it is at once so pathetic, and so artfully points back to the whole train and nature of their misfortunes. The cir­cumstances, [Page 331] she wishes may attend the death of Abelard, are poetically imagined, and are also agreeable to the notions of mystic devo­tion. The death of St. Jerome is finely pain­ted by DOMENICHINO, with such attendant particulars.

* In trance ecstatic may thy pangs be drown'd,
Bright clouds descend, and angels watch thee round,
From opening skies may streaming glories shine,
And saints embrace thee with a love like mine.
May one kind grave unite each hapless name,
And graft my love immortal on thy fame!

This wish was fulfilled. The body of Abe­lard, who died twenty years before Eloisa, was sent to Eloisa, who interred it in the mona­stery of the Paraclete, and it was accompa­nied with a very extraordinary form of Abso­lution, from the famous Peter de Clugny; ‘"Ego Petrus Cluniacensis abbas, qui Petrum Abelardum in monachum Cluniacensem re­cepi, & corpus ejus furtim delatum Heloissae Abbatissae, & monialibus Paracleti concessi, [Page 332] auctoritate omnipotentis Dei, & omnium sanc­torum, absolvo eum suo officio, ab omnibus peccatis suis."’‘"Eloisa herself, says * Vigneul Marville, sollicited for this absolution, and Peter de Clugny willingly granted it; on what it could be founded, I leave to our learned theologists to determine. In certain ages, opinions have prevailed, for which no solid reason can be given."’ When Eloisa died in 1163, she was interred by the side of her beloved husband: I must not forget to mention, for the sake of those who are fond of miracles, that when she was put into the grave, Abelard stretched out his arms to re­ceive her, and closely embraced her.

ELOISA, at the conclusion of the EPISTLE to which we are now arrived, is judiciously re­presented as gradually settling into a tranquillity of mind, and seemingly reconciled to her fate. She can bear to speak of their being buried to­gether, without violent emotions. Two lovers are introduced as visiting their celebrated [Page 333] tombs, and the behaviour of these strangers is finely imagined;

* From the full quire when loud Hosannas rise,
And swell the pomp of dreadful sacrifice,
Amid that scene, if some relenting eye,
Glance on the stone where our cold relics lie,
Devotion's self shall steal a thought from heav'n,
One human tear shall drop—and be forgiv'n!

With this line, in my opinion, the poem should have ended, for the eight additional ones, concerning some poet, that haply might arise to sing their misfortunes, are languid and flat, and diminish the pathos of the fore­going sentiments. They might stand for the conclusion of almost any story.

THIS EPISTLE, is, on the whole, one of the most highly finished, and certainly the most interesting, of the pieces of our author; and, together with the ELEGY to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady, is the only instance of the Pathetic POPE has given us. I think [Page 334] one may venture to remark, that the reputa­tion of POPE, as a poet, among posterity, will be principally owing to his WINDSOR­FOREST, his RAPE OF THE LOCK, and his ELOISA TO ABELARD; whilst the facts and characters alluded to and exposed, in his later writings, will be forgotten and un­known, and their poignancy and propriety little relished. For WIT and SATIRE are transitory and perishable, but NATURE and PASSION are eternal.


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