Page images
[ocr errors]

Call Tibbald Shakespear, and he'll swear the Nine, Dear Cibber! never match'd one Ode of thine. Lord! how we strut through Merlin's cave, to see No poets there, but Stephen, you, and me. 140 Walk with respect behind, while we at ease Weave laurel crowns, and take what names we

please. My dear Tibullus !” if that will not do, “ Let me be Horace, and be Ovid you : Or, I'm content, allow me Dryden's strains, 145 And you shall rise up Otway for your pains.” Much do I suffer, much, to keep in peace This jealous, waspish, wrong-head, rhyming race; And much must flatter, if the whim should bite To court applause by printing what I write : 150 But let the fit pass o'er, I'm wise enough To stop my ears to their confounded stuff,


Stephen Duck, whose life he wrote, and published his poems, he obtained the living of Byfleet in Surrey. He was unfortunately drowned at Reading, 1756.

Warton. Ver. 145. allow me Dryden's strains,] The older he grew, the better Dryden wrote. We may apply to him, what Oppian says of the spirited horses of Cappadocia: χραίπτοτεροι δε πελάσιν όσω μαλά γήρασκεσι. .

Lib. i. Cynegytic, ver. 201. It has been imagined that Horace laughs at Propertius in that line of the original : “ Quis, nisi Callimachus ?”

Warton. Ver. 147. Much do I suffer,] Multa fero, in the original, has been idly interpreted to mean: “I carry with me a great many compliments, soothing speeches,” &c.

Warton, VOL. VI.


Obturem patulas impunè legentibus aures.

‘Ridentur mala qui componunt carmina : verum Gaudent scribentes ; et se venerantur, et ultro, Si taceas, laudant quidquid scripsere beati. At qui legitimum cupiet fecisse poëma, Cum tabulis animum censoris sumet honesti: Audebit, quæcunque parum splendoris habebunt, Et sine pondere erunt, et honore indigna ferentur. Verba movere loco, quamvis invita recedant, Et versentur adhuc intra penetralia Vestæ : P Obscurata diu populo bonus eruet, atque


Ver. 154. They treat themselves] Literary history scarce affords a more ridiculous example of the vanity and self-applause of authors, than what is related of Cardinal Richlieu, (in the Mélanges d'Histoire of M. de Vigneul Marville,) whose tragedy of Europa having been censured by the French Academy, who did not know the author, the Cardinal, in a fit of indignation, tore the copy into a thousand pieces, scattered it about his chamber, and retired full of rage to his bed. But at midnight, called for light and for his attendant, and with great pains and difficulty gathered up the fragments of his beloved play, and carefully pasted them together.

Warton, Ver. 162. Nay, thoat Court] Not happily turned from intra penetralia Vesta.—But he could not forbear a Aling at the Court. In ver. 164, why,“ in downright charity ?"

Warton. Ver. 167. Command old words that long have slept, to wake,] The imagery is here very sublime. It turns the poet to a magician, evoking the dead from their sepulchres :

Et mugire solum, manesque exire sepulchris.Horace has not the same force: “ Proferet in lucem speciosa vocabula rerum.”

Warburton. Ver. 167. old words] Mr. Harte told me, he had often talked on this subject with his friend Pope, and the following was the


'In vain bad rhymers all mankind reject, They treat themselves with most profound respect; 'Tis to small



your tongue,
Each praised within, is happy all day long.
But how severely with themselves proceed
The men, who write such verse as we can read ?
Their own strict judges, not a word they spare
That wants or force, or light, or weight, or care ;
Howe'er unwillingly it quits its place,
Nay, though at Court, perhaps, it may find grace,
Such they'll degrade; and sometimes in its stead,
PIn downright charity revive the dead;
Mark where a bold expressive phrase appears, 165
Bright through the rubbish of some hundred years;
Command old words that long have slept, to wake,
Words that wise Bacon, or brave Raleigh spake;


result of their conversations : " That language of ours may be called classical English, which is to be found in a few chosen writers inclusively from the times of Spenser till the death of Mr. Pope; for false refinements, after a language has arisen to a certain degree of perfection, give reasons to suspect that a language is upon the decline. The same circumstances have happened formerly, and the event has been almost invariably the same. Compare Statius and Claudian with Virgil and Horace; and yet the former was, if one may so speak, immediate heir at law to the latter. -“I have known some of my contemporary poets, (and those not very voluminous writers,) who have coined their one or two hundred words a man; whereas Dryden and Pope devised only about threescore words between them; many of which were compound-epithets. But most of the words which they introduced into our language, proved in the event to be vigorous and perennial plants, being chosen and raised from excellent offsets. In

T 2


Proferet in lucem speciosa vocabula rerum,
Quæ priscis memorata Catonibus atque Cethegis,
Nunc situs informis premit, et deserta vetustas :
Adsciscet nova, quæ genitor produxerit usus:


deed, the former author revived also a great number of ancient words and expressions; and this he did (beginning at Chaucer) with so much delicacy of choice, and in a manner so comprehensive, that he left the latter author (who was in that point equally judicious and sagacious) very little to do, or next to nothing.

“Some few of Dryden's revived words I have presumed to continue ; of which take the following instances : as, grideline, filamet, and carmine, (with reference to colours and mixture of colours,) cymar, eygre, trine, EYPHKA, paruclete, panoply, rood, dorp, eglantine, orisons, aspirations, &c. I mention this lest any one should be angry with me, or pleased with me in particular places, where I discover neither boldness nor invention. I owe also to Fenton the participle meandered; and to Sir W. Davenant the Latinism of funeral ILICET.

“ As to compound-epithets, those ambitiosa ornamenta of modern poetry, Dryden has devised a few of them, with equal diffidence and caution; but those few are exquisitely beautiful. Mr. Pope seized on them as family diamonds, and added thereto an equal number, dug from his own mines, and heightened by his own polishing

Compound-epithets first came into their great vogue about the year 1598. Shakespear and Ben Jonson both ridiculed the ostentatious and immoderate use of them, in their Prologues to Troilus and Cressida, and to Every Man in his Humour. By the above named Prologues it appears that bombast grew fashionable about the same æra. Now in both instances an affected taste is the same as a false taste. The author of Hieronimo (who, I may venture to assure the reader, was one John Smith*) first led up the dance. Then came the bold and self-sufficient translator of Du Bartas,+ who broke down all the flood-gates of the true


• John Smith writ also the Hector of Germany.
+ Joshua Sylvester.

Or bid the new be English, ages hence,
(For use will father what's begot by sense,) 170
Pour the full tide of eloquence along,
Serenely pure, and yet divinely strong,
Rich with the treasures of each foreign tongue;
Prune the luxuriant, the uncouth refine,
But show no mercy to an empty line;



stream of eloquence, (which formerly preserved the river clear, within due bounds, and full to its banks,) and, like the rat in the Low Country dikes, mischievously or wantonly deluged the whole land.”

Warion. Ver. 168. brave Raleigh spake;] The conclusion of his History of the World, is written with uncommon energy and elegance. Among other particulars, Aubrey, in his manuscript notes, relates, that he was accustomed to speak, though so great a master of style, in a broad Devonshire dialect. His voice was small. And he adds a remarkable anecdote, that, at a consultation held at Whitehall, among several considerable personages, just after Queen Elizabeth's death, Raleigh declared his opinion, that it was the wisest way for them to keep the staff in their own hands, and set up a commonwealth, and not to be subject to a needy, beggarly nation. This secret declaration of Raleigh was conveyed by one of the Cabal to King James, who never forgave Raleigh for uttering it.

Warton. Ver. 174. Prune the luxuriant, &c.] Our Poet, at fifteen, got acquainted with Walsh, whose candour and judgment he has celebrated in his Essay on Criticism. Walsh encouraged him greatly ; and used to tell him, there was one road still open for distinction, in which he might excel the rest of his countrymen, and that was correctness ; in which the English poets had been remarkably defective. For though we have had several great geniuses, yet not one of them knew how to prunc his luxuriancies. This, therefore, as he had talents that seemed capable of things worthy to be improved, should be his principal study. Our young author followed his advice, till habit made correcting the most agreeable, as well as useful, of all his poetical exercises : and the delight he


« PreviousContinue »