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Specimens' has given an eloquent estimate of the general powers of Pope, with reference to liis position as a poet: “That Pope was neither so insensible to the beauties of nature, nor so indistinct in describing them, as to forget the character of a genuine poet, is what I mean to urge, without exaggerating his picturesqueness. But before speaking of that quality in his writings, I would beg leave to observe, in the first place, that the faculty by which a poet luminously describes objects of art, is essentially the same faculty which enables him to be a faithful describer of simple nature; in the second place, that nature and art are to a greater degree relative terms in poetical description than is generally recollected; and, thirdly, that artificial objects and manners are of so much importance in fiction, as to make the exquisite description of them no less characterisiic of genius than therlescription of simple physical appearances. The poet is "creation's heir.” He deepens our social interest in existence. It is surely by the liveliness of the interest which he excites in existence, and not by the class of subjects which he chooses, that we most fairly appreciate the genius or the life of life which is in him. It is no irreverence to the ex. ternal charms of nature to say, that they are not more important to a poet's study than the manners and affections of his species. Nature is the poet's goddess ; butby nature, no one rightly understands her mere in inimate face, however charming it may be, or the simple landscape painting of trees, clouds, precipices, and flowers. Why, then, try Pope, or any other poet, exclusively by his powers of describing inanimate phenomena? Nature, in the wide and proper sense of the word, means life in all its circumstances-nature, moral as well as external. As the subject of inspired fiction, nature includes artificial forms and manners. Richardson is no less a painter of nature than Homer. H. mer himsell' is a minute describer of works of art; and Milton is full of imagery derived from it. Satan's spear is compared to the pine that makes “the mast of some great ammiral;” and his shield is like the moon, but like the moon artificially seen through the glass of the Tuscan artist. The “spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife, the royal banner, and all the quality, pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war,” are all artificial images. When Shakspeare groups into one vicw the most sublime objects of the; universo, le fixes on “the cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples.” Those who have ever witnessed the spectacle of the launching of a ship-of-the-line, will perhaps forgive me for adding this to the examples of the sublime objects of artificial life. Of that spectacle I can never forget the impression, and of having witnessed it reflected from the faces of ten ibousand spectators. They seem yet before me. I sympathise with their deep and silent expectation, and with their final burst of enthusiasm. It was not a vulgar joy, but an affecting national solemnity. When the vist bulwark sprang from her cradle, the calm water on which she swung majestically round, gave the imagination a contrast
of the stormy element in which she was soon to ride. All the days of battle and nights of danger which she had to encounter, all the ends of the earth which she bad to visit, and all that she had to do and to suffer for her country, rose in awful presentiment before the mind; and when the heart gave her a benediction, it was like one pronounced on a living being.'
Pope has had numerous editors and annotators. Warburton's authorized edition, containing the poet's last corrections, was published in nine volumes, 1751. In 1797, appeared an enlarged edition, with memoir, notes, and illustrations, by Joseph Warton, in nine volumes; in 1806, the Rev. W. Lisle Bowles edited another edition, in ten volumes, which contained some additional letters and notes, and an original memoir of the poet, which led to some controversy ; and in 1871, the Rev. Whitwell Elwin commenced an edition, also to extend to ten volumes, and to include several hundred unpublished Jotters and other new materials, collected in part by the Right Hon. John Wilson Croker. Of the poetical works (apart from the prose treatises and correspondence) editions have been published by the Rev. A. Dyce (1835), the Rev. Dr. George Croly (1835), the Rev. H. F. Cary (1853), and Adolphus W. Ward, M.A. (1869). Of these, the last is incomparably the best. The_Messiah : A Sacred Eclogue. Composed of Several Passages of Isaiah the Prophet. Written in Imitation of Virgil's 'Pollio.'*
Ye nymphs of Solyma ! begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus and the Aonian maids,
Delight no more-0 thou my voice inspire,
Who touched Isaiah's hallowed lips with fire!
Rapt into future times, the bard begun:
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse's root behold a branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
The ethereal spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descends the mystic Dove.
Ye heavens ! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly shower.
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn!
Oh, spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See, nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring!
See lofty Lebanon his head advance!
See nodding forests on the mountains dance!
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise,
And Carmel's flowery top perfumes the skies !
First published in the Spectator for May 14, 1712.
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears !
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply ;
The rocks proclaim the approaching Deity,
Lo! earth receives him from the bending skies;
Sink down, ye mountains; and ye valleys, rise ;
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage, pay;
Be smooth, ye rocks ; ye rapid floods, give way!
The Saviour comes ! by ancient bards foretold:
Hear hiin, ye deaf, and all ye blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eyeball pour the day :
'Tis he the obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm the unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear;
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And hell's grim tyrant feel the eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture, and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o'ersees them, and by night protects,
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms;
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promised Father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes;
Nor fields with gleaming steel be covered o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more :
But useless lances into ecythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise ; the joyful eon
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sowed, shall reap the field.
The swain, in barren deserts with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts, amidst the thirsty wilds, to hear
New falls of water murinuring in his ear.
On drifted rocks, the dragon's late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplexed with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn :
To leafless shrubs the flowering palm succeed,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead :
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim's feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocentiy play.
Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise!,
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes !
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn!
See future sons, and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, iinpatieut for the skies !
See barbarous nations'at thy gate attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend !
See thy bright altars thronged with prostrate kings,
And heaped with products of Sabæan springs;
For thee Idume's spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir's mountains glow.
See heaven its
sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day!
No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn ;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
courts : the Light hiinself shall shine
Revealed, and God's eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away ;
But fixed his word, his saving power remains;
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns !
The Toilet.- From The Rape of the Lock.
And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid;
First, robed in white, the nymph intent adores,
With head uncovered, the cosmetic powers.
A heavenly image in the glass appears,
To that she bends, to that her eye she rears;
The inferior priestess, at her altar's side,
Trembling begins the sacred rites of pride.
Unnumbered treasures ope at once, and here
The various offerings of the world appear;
From each she nicely culls with curious toil,
And decks the goddess with the glittering spoil.
This casket India's glowing gems unlocks,
And all Arabia breathes from yonder box.
The tortoise here and elephant unite,
Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white.
Here files of pins extend their shining rows,
Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux.
Now awful beauty puts on all its arms;
The fair each moment rises in her charms,
Repairs her smiles, awakens every grace,
And calls forth all the wonders of her face;
Sees by degrees a purer blush arise,
And keener lightnings quicken in her eyes.
The busy sylphs surround their darling care,
These set the head, and these divide the hair;
some fold the sleeve, whilst others plait the gown,
And Betty 's praised for labours not ber own.
Description of Belinda and the Sylphs.-From the same
Not with more glories, in the ethereal plain,
The sun first rises o'er the purpled main,
Than issuing forth, the rival of ois beams,
Launched on the bosom of the silver Thames.
Fair nymphs and well-drest youths around her shone,
But every eye was fixed on her alone.
On her white breast a sparkling
cross she wore,
Which Jews might kiss, and infidels adore.
Her lively looks a sprightly mind disclose,
Quick as her eyes, and as unfixed as those.
Favours to none, to all she smiles extende;
Oft she rejects, but never once offends.
Bright as the sun, her eyes the gazers strike,
And, like the sun, they shine on all alike.
Yet graceful ease, and sweetness void of pride,
Might hide her faults, if belles had faults to hide;
If to her share some female errors fall,
Look on her face, and you 'll forget them all.
This nymph, to the destruction of mankind,
Nourished two locks, which graceful hung behind
Iu equal curls, and well conspired to deck,
With shining ringlets, the smooth ivory beck.
Love in these labyrinths his slaves detains,
And mighty hearts are held in blender chains.
With hairy springes we the birds betray,
Slight lines of hair surprise the finny prey ;
Fair tresses man's imperial race ensare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.
The advent'rous baron the bright locks admired;
He saw, he wished, and to the prize aspired.
Resolved to win, he meditates the way,
By force to ravish, or by fraud betray;
For when success a lover's toil attends,
Few ask if fraud or force attained his ends.
For this, ere Phæbus rose, he had implored
Propitious heaven, and every power adored ;
But chiefly Love-to Love an altar built,
Of twelve vast French romances, neatly gilt.
There lay three garters, half a pair of glov
And all the trophies of his former loves ;
With tender billet-doux he lights the pyre,
And breathes three amorous sighs to raise the fire.
Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent eyes
Soon to obtain, and long possess the prize;
The powers gave ear, and granted half his prayer;
The rest the winds dispersed in empty air.
But now secure the painted vessel glides
The suubeams trembling on the floating tides :
While melting music steals upon the sky,
And softened sounds along the waters die;
Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently play,
Belinda smiled, and all the world was gay.
All but the Sylph, with careful thoughts oppressedy
The impending woe sat heavy on his breast.
He summons straight his denizens of air;
The lucid squadrons round the sails repair.
Soft'o'er the shrouds aërial whispers breathe,
That seemed but zephyrs to the train beneath.
Sone to the sun their insect wings unfold,
Waft on the breeze, or siuk in clonds of gold;
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight,
Their Suid bodies half dissolved in light,
Loose to the wind their airy garments flew,
Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
Dipped in the ricbest tiucture of the skies,
Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes ;
While every beam new transient colours flings,
Colours íhat change whene'er they wave their wings.
Amid the circle on the gilded mast,
Superior by the icad was Ariel placed;
His purple pinions opening to the sun,
He raised his azure wand, and thus begun:
Ye sylphis and sylphids, to your chici give ear!