Page images
PDF
EPUB

age a Poet

a

If 4 Time improve our Wit as well as Wine,
Say at what

grows
divine ?

50
Shall we, or shall we not, account him so,
Who dy'd, perhaps, an hundred years ago ?
End all dispute; and fix the

year precise When British bards begin t’immortalize?

« Who lasts a century can have no flaw, 55. " I hold that Wit a Claffic, good in law.

Suppose he wants a year, will you compound? And shall we deem him. Ancient, right and sound, Or damn to all eternity at once, At ninety nine, a Modern and a Dunce? 60

“ We shall not quarrel for a year or two ; By courtesy of England, he may

do. Then, by the rule that made the "Horse-tail bare, I pluck out year by year, as hair by hair, And melt wdown Ancients like a heap of snow: 65 While you, to measure merits, look in * Stowe, And estimating authors by the

year, Bestow a Garland only on a' Bier.

a

NOTES. terment) with Garlands. A manly and pious custom, which arose from the ancient practice of rewarding victors; and from thence was brought into the Church, and applied to those who had fought the good fight of the Apostle.

* Ennius et sapiens, et fortis, et alter Homerus,

Ut critici dicunt, leviter curare videtur

Quo a promisa cadant, et fomnia Pythagorea.

a

Naevius in manibus non eft ; at 'mentibus haeret

NOTES.

VER. 69. Shakespear.] Shakespear and Ben Johnson may truly be said not much to have thought of this Immortality; the one in many pieces composed in haite for the Stage; the other in his latter works in general, which Dryden call'd his Dotages. P.

Ibid. Shakespear -- For gain not glory, etc.] SHAKESPEAR knew perfectly well what belonged to a true composition, as appears from the Tempeft, and the Merry Wives of Windsor. But he generally complied with the ignorance, and the ill taste of his Audience. However, in his most irregular plays his wit and sublimity make amends for his transgression of the rules of art; and support him in it. But, happily for the improvement of the Drama, he had a competitor in JOHNSON, who, with a greater temptation to comply with the bad taste of the age, had not the fame force of genius to support him in it. Johnson, therefore, borrowed all he could from art; and like an experienced general, when he could not depend on his natural strength, kept still behind his lines. The consequence. was, that Shakespear having once tried to reform the taste [See Hamlet) and on failing, had complied with it, became the favourite Poet of the People; while Johnson, who, for the rea

- Shakespear (whom you and ev'ry Play-house bill

z Style the divine, the matchless, what you will) 70 For gain, not glory, wing'd his roving flight, And grew

Immortal in his own despight. Ben, old and poor, as little seem'd to heed

The Life to come, in ev'ry Poet's Creed. Who now reads Cowley? if he pleases yet, 75 His Moral pleases, not his pointed wit ; Forgot his Epic, nay Pindaric Art, But still • I love the language of his heart.

2

b

с

Notes.

son given above, could not be so complaisant, was all his life long in a state of war with them. This, and not (as is commonly supposed) the ignorance of one, and the superior knowledge of the other, was the true cause of that difference which we find between these two Capital Writers, in the art and construction of their pieces. So that here, we see, a want of fufficient natural genius accidentally contributed to the refinement of the English stage.

Ibid. and ev'ry Playhouse bill] A ridicule on those who talk of Shakespear, because he is in fashion; who, if they dared to do justice, to their taste or conscience, would own they liked Durfey better. VER. 74. The life to come, in ev'ry Poet's Creed.]

Quo promiffa cadant, et fomnia Pythagorea. The beauty of this arises from a circumstance in Ennius's story. But as this could not be imitated, our Poet endeavoured to equal it; and has succeeded.

VER. 77. Pindaric Art,] Which has much more merit than his Epic, but very unlike the Character, as well as Numbers, of Pindar.

P.

.

Pene recens: d adeo fan&tum eft vetus omne poema.
Ambigitur quoties, uter utro fit prior ; aufert
Pacuvius docti famam senis, Accius alti :
Dicitur Afranî toga conveniffe Menandro ;
Plautus ad exemplar Siculi properare Epicharmi
Vincere Caecilius gravitate, Terentius arte :
Hos ediscit, et hos arcto ftipata theatro
Spectat Roma potens ;' habet hos numeratque poetas
Ad noftrum tempus, Livî scriptoris ab aevo.
& Interdum vulgus rectum videt: est ubi peccat.
Si - veteres ita miratur laudatque poetas,

h

NOTES.

Ver. 81. In all debates etc.] The Poet has here put the bald cant of women and boys into extreme fine verse. This is in strie imitation of his Original, where the fame impertinent and gratuitous criticism is admirably ridiculed.

VER. 85. Wycherly] The chief support of this writer's reputation is his famous comedy of the Plain Dealer; which is taken from Moliere's Misanthrope. But it has so happend that while Moliere's Misanthrope is but a Plain Dealer, Wycherly's Plain Dealer is a downright Misanthrope. Whether this was owing to the different genius of the Nations, or to the different judgments of the Poets, is left for the Critics to determine

Ibid. Shadwell hafly, Wycherly was now.] Nothing was less true than this particular : But the whole paragragh has a mix

1

e

“ Yet surely, ° surely, these were famous men! « What boy but hears the sayings of old Ben ? 80 “ In all e debates where Critics bear a part, “ Not one but nods, and talks of Johnson's Art, “ Of Shakespear's Nature, and of Cowley's Wit;

How Beaumont's judgment check’dwhatFletcher

« writ;

f

“How Shadwell hasty, Wycherly was slow; 85 “ But, for the Passions, Southern fure and Rowe. “ These, f only these, support the crouded stage, “ From eldest Heywood down to Cibber's age.

All this may be; the People's Voice is odd, It is, and it is not, the voice of God. 90 Toh Gammer Gurton if it give the bays, And yet deny the Careless Husband praise,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

NOTES. ture of Irony, and must not altogether be taken for Horace's own Judgment, only the common Chat of the pretenders to Criticism ; in some things right, in others, wrong; as he tells us in his answer, Interdum vulgus rectum videt: est ubi peccat.

P. Gammer Gurton] A piece of very low humour, one of the first printed Plays in English, and therefore much valued by fome Antiquaries.

VER

P. Ibid. To Gammer Gurton, And yet deny, etc.) i. e. If they give the bays to one play because it is old, and deny it to another because it is new; why then, I say, the Public acts a very

91.

foolish part.

« EelmineJätka »