Page images

His turns too closely on the reader press :
He more had pleas'd us, had he pleas'd us less.
One glittering thought no sooner strikes our eyes
With silent wonder, but new wonders rise,
As in the milky-way a shining white

O'er-flows the heav'ns with one continu'd light;
That not a single star can shew his rays,
Whilst jointly all promote the common blaze.
Pardon, great poet, that I dare to name

Th' unnumber'd beauties of thy verse with blame;
Thy fault is only wit in its excess,

But wit like thine in any shape will please.
What muse but thine can equal hints inspire,
And fit the deep-mouth'd Pindar to thy lyre:a
Pindar, whom others in a labour'd strain,
And forc'd expression imitate in vain?
Well-pleas'd in thee he soars with new delight,
And plays in more unbounded verse, and takes a nobler flight.
Blest man whose spotless life and charming lays
Employ'd the tuneful prelate in thy praise:
Blest man! who now shalt be for ever known

In Sprat's successful labours and thy own.

But Milton, next, with high and haughty stalks,
Unfetter'd in majestick numbers walks;

No vulgar hero can his muse ingage ;

Nor earth's wide scene confine his hallow'd rage.
See! see, he upward springs, and tow'ring high
Spurns the dull province of mortality,

verse. Parts of his criticism are admirable; but the unfortunate line"He more had pleased us," has been severely ridiculed.-G.


Cowley had great merit, but nature had formed him to manage Anacreon's lute, and not Pindar's lyre

Shakes heaven's eternal throne with dire alarms,
And sets the Almighty thunderer in arms.
What-e'er his pen describes I more than see,
Whilst ev'ry verse arrayed in majesty,
Bold, and sublime, my whole attention draws,
And seems above the critick's nicer laws.a
How are you struck with terror and delight,
When angel with arch-angel copes in fight!
When great Messiah's out-spread banner shines,
How does the chariot rattle in his lines!
What sounds of brazen wheels, what thunder, scare,
And stun the reader with the din of war!

With fear my spirits and my blood retire,
To see the seraphs sunk in clouds of fire;
But when, with eager steps, from hence I rise,
And view the first gay scenes of Paradise;
What tongue, what words of rapture can express

A vision so profuse of pleasantness.

Oh had the poet ne'er profan'd his pen,

To varnish o'er the guilt of faithless men;
His other works might have deserv'd applause!
But now the language can't support the cause;
While the clean current, tho' serene and bright,
Betrays a bottom odious to the sight.

* I wonder what these laws could be. Nobody understood the critic's nicest laws, better than Milton, or observed them with more respect. The observation might be true of Shakspeare; but, by illhap, we do not so much as find his name in this account of English poets.

↳ A vision so profuse of pleasantness. A prettily turned line. The expression (originally Milton's, P. L. iv. 243. viii. 286) pleased our poet so much, that we have it again in the letter from Italy-profuse of bliss, and


© Serene and bright. This is a strange description of Milton's language, if he means the language of his prose works. The panegyric seems made at random.

But now my muse a softer strain rehearse,
Turn every line with art, and smooth thy verse
The courtly Waller next commands thy lays :
Muse tune thy verse, with art, to Waller's praise.
While tender airs and lovely dames inspire
Soft melting thoughts, and propagate desire,
So long shall Waller's strains our passions move,
And Sacharissa's beauties kindle love.

[ocr errors]


Thy verse, harmonious bard, and flatt'ring song,
Can make the vanquish'd great, the coward strong,
Thy verse can show ev'n Cromwell's innocence,
And compliment the storms that bore him hence.
Oh had thy muse not come an age too soon,
But seen great Nassau on the British throne!
How had his triumphs glitter'd in thy page,
And warm'd thee to a more exalted rage!
What scenes of death and horror had we view'd,
And how had Boyne's wide current reek'd in blood!
Or, if Maria's charms thou would'st rehearse,
In smoother numbers and a softer verse
Thy pen had well describ'd her graceful air,
And Gloriana wou'd have seem'd more fair.

Nor must Roscommon pass neglected by,
That makes ev'n rules a noble poetry :
Rules, whose deep sense, and heav'nly numbers show

The best of criticks, and of poets too.

Nor, Denham, must we e'er forget thy strains,

While Cooper's Hill commands the neighb'ring plains.

Thy verse can show. Of this and the four next lines, Johnson says, "What is this but to say, that he who would compliment Cromwell had been the proper poet for King William?"-G.

VOL. 1.-7

But see where artful Dryden next appears
Grown old in rhyme, but charming ev'n in years.
Great Dryden next, whose tuneful muse affords
The sweetest numbers, and the fittest words.
Whether in comick sounds or tragick airs a
She forms her voice, she moves our smiles or tears.
If satire or heroic strains she writes,

Her hero pleases, and her satire bites.

From her no harsh unartful numbers fall,

She wears. all dresses, and she charms in all.
How might we fear our English poetry,
That long has flourish'd, shou'd decay with thee;
Did not the muses other hope appear,
Harmonious Congreve, and forbid our fear:
Congreve! whose fancy's unexhausted store.
Has given already much, and promis'd more.
Congreve shall still preserve thy fame alive,
And Dryden's muse shall in his friend survive.


I'm tir'd with rhyming, and would fain give o'er,

But justice still demands one labour more:
The noble Montague' remains unnam'd,


For wit, for humour, and for judgment fam'd;
To Dorset he directs his artful muse,

In numbers such as Dorset's self might use.

1 The noble Montague. It is of Montague that Pope says,--" he was fed with dedications," and Tickell, that he rewarded them all.-G.

a Whether in comic sounds or tragick airs. A writer in fashion, like the stoical wise man, is every thing he has a mind to be. Dryden's comeies are very indifferent, and his tragedies still worse.

b Congreve shall still. Another poet in fashion: but it is not safe to phecy of such. All he had of Dryden's muse was only his quaint and il-applied wit.

How negligently graceful he unreins
His verse, and writes in loose familiar strains;
How Nassau's godlike acts adorn his lines,
And all the hero in full glory shines.

We see his army set in just array,

And Boyne's dy'd waves run purple to the sea.
Nor Simois choak'd with men, and arms, and blood;

Nor rapid Xanthus' celebrated flood,

Shall longer be the poet's highest themes,

Tho' gods and heroes fought promiscuous in their streams.

But now, to Nassau's secret councils rais'd,

He aids the hero, whom before he prais'd.

I've done at length; and now, dear friend, receive

The last poor present that my muse can give.
I leave the arts of poetry and verse


To them that practise 'em with more success.
greater truths 2 I'll now prepare to tell,
And so at once, dear friend and muse, farewell.


1 I leave the arts, &c. These lines have found a place in the twelfth chapter of "The art of sinking in poetry." "Let verses run in this manner, just to be a vehicle to the words. (I take them from my last cited author, who, though otherwise by no means of our rank, seemed, once in his life, to have a mind to be simple, &c.) "—G.

2 Of greater truths. Addison, at this time, thought of taking orders.

« EelmineJätka »