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To all their dated backs he turns you round; 135
And now the Chapel's silver bell you hear,
it so far, as to cause the upper shelves to be filled with painted books of wood; others pique themselves so much upon books in a language they do not understand, as to exclude the most useful in one they do. P.
Ver. 138. but they are IVood.] There is a flatness and insipidity in this couplet, much below the usual manner of our Author. Young has been more sprightly and poignant on the same subject. Universal Passion, Sat. 3.
Ver. 139. or Milton] This is one of the few places in which our Author seems to speak highly of Milton.
Ver. 142. The false taste in Music, improper to the subjects, as of light airs in churches, often practised by the organist, &c. P.
Ver. 142. That summons you to all the Pride of Pray'r :) This absurdity is very happily expressed ; Pride, of all human follies, being the first we should leave behind us when we approach the sacred altar.-But he who could take Meanness for Magnificence, might easily mistake Humility for meanness. W.
Ver. 145.-And in Painting (from which even Italy is not free) of naked figures in churches, &c. which has obliged some Popes to put draperies on some of those of the best masters. P.
Ver. 146. There sprawl the Saints of Verrio or Lagucrre,] This was not only said to deride the indecency and awkward position
On gilded clouds in fair expansion lie,
of the figures, but to insinuate the want of dignity in the subjects. Raphael's pagans, as the devils in Milton, act a nobler part than the Gods and Saints of ordinary poets and painters. The cartoons at Hampton-Court are talked of by every body; they have been copied, engraved, and criticised; and yet so little studied or considered, that in the noblest of them, of which likewise more has been said than of all the rest, we are as much strangers to St. Paul's audience in the Areopagus, as to those before whom he preached at Thessalonica or Berea.
The story from whence the painter took his subject is this :“St. Paul came to Athens,-was encountered by the Epicureans and Stoics,-taken up by them to the court of Areopagus,-before which he made his apology; and amongst his converts at this time were, Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris.” On this simple plan he exercises his invention. Paul is placed on an eminence in the act of speaking, the audience round him in a circle: and a statue of Mars, in the front of his temple, denotes the Scene of Action.
The first figure has been taken notice of for the force of its expression. We see all the marks of conviction and resignation to the direction of the divine Messenger. But I do not know that it has been suspected that a particular character was here represented. And yet the Platonic countenance, and the female attendant, shew plainly, that the painter designed DIONYSIUS, whom Ecclesiastical story makes of this sect; and to whom sacred history has given this companion. For the woman is DAMARIS, mentioned with him, in the Acts, as a joint convert. Ei. ther the Artist mistook his text, and supposed her to be converted with him at this audience; or, what is more likely, he purposely committed the indecorum of bringing a woman into the Areopagus, the better to mark out his Dionysius ; a character of great fame in the Romish Church, from a mystic voluminous impostor, who has assumed his titles. Next to this PLATONIST of open mien, is a figure deeply collected within himself, immersed in thought, and ruminating on what he hears. Conformable to his state, his arms are buried in his garment, and his chin reposing on his bosom ; in a word, all his lineaments denote the Stoic; he says as plainly, Ne te quæsiveris extra, as if the Painter had
To rest, the Cushion and soft Dean invite,
drawn this Symbol of his Sect out of his mouth on a label. Adjoining to him is an old man, with a squalid beard and habit, leaning on his crouch, and turning his eyes upwards on the Apostle ; but with a countenance so sour and canine, that one cannot hesitate a moment in pronouncing him a Cynic. The next who follows, by his elegance of dress, and placid air of raillery and neglect, proclaims himself an EPICUREAN: as the other which stands close by him, with his finger on his lips, denoting silence, plainly marks out a follower of PYTHAGORAS. After these come a group of figures, cavilling in all the rage of disputation, as criticising the divine Speaker. These plainly design the ACADEMICS, the genius of whose school was to debate de quolibet ente, and never come to a conclusion. Without the Circle, and behind the principal figures, are a number of young faces, to represent the scholars and disciples of the several sects. These are all fronting the Apostle. Behind him are two other figures: one regarding the Apostle's action, with his face turned upwards : in which the passions of malicious zeal and disappointed rage are so strongly marked, that we needed not the red bonnet, to see he was a Jewish Rabbi. The other is a pagan priest, full of anxiety for the danger of the established Worship. 1
Thus has this great Master, in order to heighten the dignity of his subject, brought in the heads of every sect of philosophy and religion which were most averse to the principles, and most opposite to the success, of the Gospel ; so that one may truly esteem this cartoon as the greatest effort of his divine genius. W.
I have the authority of two such eminent artists as Sir Joshua Reynolds and Nathaniel Dance, Esq. to say, that this whole criticism, on the cartoons of Raphael, is ill-grounded, and fanciful to the last degree.
Ver. 146. Where sprawl] This single verb has marked with felicity and force the distorted attitudes, the indecent subjects, thewant of nature and grace, so visible in the pieces of these two artists, employed to adorn our royal palaces and chapels. “I cannot help thinking,” says Pope to Mr. Allen, in Letter lxxxix. vol. ix. " and I know you will join with me, who have been making an altar-piece, that the zeal of the first reformers was illplaced, in removing pictures that is to say, examples) out of
But hark! the chiming Clocks to dinner call;
churches ; and yet suffering epitaphs (that is to say, flatteries and false history) to be a burden to church-walls, and the shame as well as derision of all honest men.” This is a sentiment, it may be said, of a papistical poet; and yet it appears to be founded on good sense, and religion well understood. Notwithstanding the many just and well-founded arguments against popery, yet
1 hope we may still, one day, see our places of worship beautified with proper ornaments, and the generosity and talents of our living artists perpetuated on the naked walls of St. Paul's.
Ver. 146. Verrio or Laguerre,] Verrio (Antonio) painted many cielings, &c. at Windsor, Hampton Court, &c. and Laguerre at Blenheim-castle, and other places. P.
Ver. 150. Who nerer mentions Hell to ears polite.] This is a fact: a reverend Dean, preaching at Court, threatened the sinner with punishment in “a place which he thought it not decent to name in so polite an assembly.” P.
Ver. 153. Taxes the incongruity of Ornaments (though sometimes practised by the ancients), where an open mouth ejects the water into a fountain, or where the shocking images of serpents, &c. are introduced into Grottos or Buffets. P.
Ver. 155. Is this a dinner? &c.] The proud Festivals of some men are here set forth to ridicule, where pride destroys the ease, and formal regularity all the pleasurable enjoyment, of the entertainment. P. Ver. 156. a Hecatomb.] Alluding to the hundred footsteps be
W.---This observation is very ridiculously strained. Ver. 160. Sancho's dread Doctor, See Don Quixote, chap. xlvii. P.
Between each Act the trembling salvers ring, 161
Yet hence the Poor are clothod, the hungry fed ;
Another Age shall see the golden Ear Imbrown the Slope, and nod on the Parterre, Deep Harvests bury all his pride has plann'd, 175 And laughing Ceres reassume the land.
Ver. 169. Yet hence the Poor, &c.] This is the Moral of the whole; where PROVIDENCE is justified in giving Riches to those who squander them in this manner. A bad Taste employs more hands, and diffuses wealth more usefully, than a good one. This recurs to what is laid down in Book I. Ep. ii. Ver. 23047, and in the Epistle preceding this, Ver. 161, &c. P.
This reflection is very different from the flagitious principle of Mandeville, that private vices are public benefits. Of whom, says Hume very shrewdly, “Is it not very inconsistent for an author to assert in one page, that moral distinctions are inventions of politicians for public interest; and in the next page maintain, that vice is advantageous to the public ?”
Ver. 173. Another Age, &c.] Had the Poet lived but three years longer, he had seen his general prophecy against all illjudged magnificence fulfilled in a very particular instance. W.
In the edition of 1751, this note ran thus : “ Had the Poet lived three years longer he had seen this prophecy fulfilled :" which so plainly pointed at what had happened at Canons, that it was altered as it here stands.
Ver. 176. And laughing Ceres reassume the land.] The great