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- These observations on Thomson, which, how ever, 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 630; the rise of fountains and rivers in AUTUMN, verse 781; a man perishing in the snows, in WINTER, verse 277 ; the wolves de scending from the Alps, and a view of winter within the polar circle, verse 389; 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, solemn, and pensive kind, on which a great genius best delights to dwell.
Plurimus annosa decussus, ab arbore limax
In putri lentum tramite sulcat iter.
Roscida dum tremula semita luce micat. These are the particular circumstances that usually succeed a shower at that season, and yet these are new, and untouched by any other writer. The Carmina Quadragesimalia, volume the second, printed at Oxford 1748, from whence this is transcribed, (page 14,) contain many copies of exquisite descriptive poetry, in a genuine classical style. See particularly The Rivers, page 4. The Morning, page 12. The House of Care, from Spenser, page 16. The Mahometan Paradise, page 32. The Trees of different soils, page 63. The Bird's Nest, page 82. Geneva, page 89. Virgil's Tomb, page 97. The Indian, page 118. The House of Discord, page 133. Columbus first discovering the land of the West Indies, page 125,
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, landscape-painting claims the very next rank to history-painting ; 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.
We are next to speak of the Lyric pieces of POPE. He used to declare, that if 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, the second of the kind. † In the first stanza, every different instru
* He wrote this Ode at the request of Steele.
+ The inferiority of Addison's Ode to Pope's on this subject, is manifest and remarkable. What prosaic tameness and insipidity do we meet with in the following lines !
Cecilia's name does all our numbers grace,
This almost descends to burlesque. What follows is hardly rhyme, and surely not poetry:
ment is described and illustrated, in numbers that admirably represent and correspond to its diffeE 2
Consecrate the place and day,
There follows in this stanza, which is the third, a description of a subject very trite, Orpheus drawing the beasts about him. Pope shewed his superior judgment in taking no notice of this old story, and selecting a more new, as well as more striking, incident, in the life of Orpheus. It was the custom of this time for almost every rhymer to try his hand in an ode on St. Cecilia ; we find many despicable rhapsodies, so called, in the trash of Tonson's Miscellanies. We have there also preserved another, and an earlier ode, of Dryden on this sub. ject; one stanza of which I cannot forbear inserting in this note. It was set to music, 1687, by I. Baptista Draghi.
What passion cannot music raise and quell !
When Jubal struck the corded shell,
To worship that celestial sound :
Within the hollow of that shell,
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
This is so complete and engaging a history.piece, that I knew a person of taste who was resolved to have it executed on one side of his oon : “ In which case, (said he,) the painter has
rent 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 third ; on hearing which,
Each chief his sevenfold shield display'd,
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
nothing to do, but to substitute colours for words, the design being finished to his hands." The reader doubtless observes the fine effect of the repetition of the last line; as well as the stroke of nature, in making these rude hearers imagine some god lay concealed in this first musician's instrument.
* He might have enriched his piece by copying the fourth
Pythian ode of Pindar.