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TO THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS.*
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
YE shades, where sacred truth is sought;
In vain your guiltless laurels stood
War, horrid war, your thoughtful Walks invades,
Oh heav'n-born sisters! source of art!
Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Choruses were composed, to supply as many wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward, by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckingham-house.
Ver. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir'd, And Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the old Academy ; and Cassius, the other, was an Epicurean. Warburton.
I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy. Warton.
Who lead fair Virtue's train along,
To what new chime, what distant sky,
When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
Shall cease to blush with strangers' gore. 20
And Athens rising near the pole !
Till some new Tyrant lifts his purple hand,
Ye Gods! what justice rules the ball?
Ver. 12. Moral Truth and mystic Song] The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? as Hesiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either construction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Mystic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the Heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.
Ver. 26. Freedom and Art] A sentiment worthy of Alcæus! Throughout
Fools grant whate'er Ambition craves,
In ev'ry age, in ev'ry state!
Still, when the lust of tyrant pow'r succeeds,
Throughout all his works our author constantly shews himself a
true lover of true liberty.
Ver. 32. Some Athens]
-When brutal force
Usurps the throne of justice, turns the pomp
Of guardian power, the majesty of rule,
To poor, dishonest pageants!
Pleasures of Imagination, B. ii.
This ode is of the kind which M. D'Alembert, judging like a mathematician, prefers to odes that abound with imagery and figures, namely, what he calls the Didactic ode; and then proceeds to give reasons for preferring Horace to Pindar, as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetics opposes him, Warton.
CHORUS OF YOUTHS AND VIRGINS.*
OH Tyrant Love! hast thou possest
The prudent, learn'd, and virtuous breast?
And Arts but soften us to feel thy flame.
Love, soft intruder, enters here,
But ent'ring learns to be sincere.
Why, Virtue, dost thou blame desire,
Which Nature has imprest,
Love's purer flames the Gods approve;
* Some of Dryden's short lyrical odes and songs are wonderfully harmonious; and not sufficiently noticed; particularly in King Arthur, Act III.
"O Sight! the mother of Desire," &c.
The song also of the Syrens in Act IV: and the Incantations in the Third Act of Edipus, put in the mouth of Tiresias ;
"Chuse the darkest part o' th' grove,
Such as ghosts at noon-day love," &c.
Nor must his first ode for St. Cecilia's Day be forgotten, in which are passages almost equal to any of the second: especially its
Brutus for absent Portia sighs,
And sterner Cassius melts at Junia's eyes.
What is loose love? a transient gust,
A vapour fed from wild desire,
And burn for ever one;
Chaste as cold Cynthia's virgin light,
Productive as the Sun.
Oh source of ev'ry social tye,
United wish, and mutual joy!
What various joys on one attend,
As son, as father, brother, husband, friend?
While thousand grateful thoughts arise;
Or meets his spouse's fonder eye;
Or views his smiling progeny:
What tender passions take their turns,
What home-felt raptures move!
His heart now melts, now leaps, now burns, 35 With reverence, hope, and love.
opening, and the second stanza that describes Tubal and his brethren.
Ver. 31. Or meets] Recalling to our minds that pathetic stroke in Lucretius;
"dulces occurrant oscula nati
Præripere, et tacità pectus dulcedine tangunt."
Lib. iii. 909.