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Where-e'er you find "the cooling western breeze," In the next line, it" whispers through the trees :" If crystal streams " with pleasing murmurs creep," The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with “ sleep :" Then, at the last and only couplet fraught
With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length along.
Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow; And praise the easy vigour of a line,
Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness join.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
356. A needless Alexandrine, &c.] Dr. Johnson requires in an Alexandrine a pause invariably at the sixth syllable, and objects to a line of Dryden, where this rule is neglected. Johnson did not perceive that the very line he objected to was as striking an instance of the sound being an echo to the sense, as the English language perhaps produces, in as much as it represents the thing described, has not the least appearance of studied art, and is full, majestic, and sonorous. The line is
"And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne." And its effect is owing to the violation of that very rule which Johnson thinks essential to lines of this description. Bowles.
Ver. 362. True case] Writers who seem to have composed with the greatest ease, have exerted much labour in attaining this facility. Virgil took more pains than Lucan, though the style of the former appears so natural; and Guarini and Ariosto spent much time in making their poems so seemingly natural and easy. Even Voiture wrote with extreme difficulty, though apparently without
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence, The sound must seem an Echo to the sense.
any effort; what Tasso says of one of his heroines may be applied to such writers;
"Non so ben dir s'adorna, o se negletta,
Se caso, od arte, il bel volto compose:
Le negligenze sue sono artifici."
It is well known, that the writings of Voiture, of Sarassin, and La Fontaine, were laboured into that facility for which they are so famous, with repeated alterations and many rasures. Moliere is reported to have past whole days in fixing upon a proper epithet or rhyme, although his verses have all the flow and freedom of conversation. "This happy facility (said a man of wit) may be compared to garden-terraces, the expense of which does not appear; and which, after the cost of several millions, yet seem to be a mere work of chance and nature." I have been informed, that Addison was so extremely nice in polishing his prose compositions, that when almost a whole impression of a Spectator was worked off, he would stop the press, to insert a new preposition or conjunction. Warton.
Ver. 364. 'Tis not enough, &c.] The judicious introduction of this precept is remarkable. The poets, and even some of the best of them, have been so fond of the beauty arising from this trivial observance, that their practice has violated the very END of the precept, which is the increase of harmony; and so they could but raise an echo, did not care whose ears they offended by its dissoTo remedy this abuse, therefore, our poet, by the introductory line, would insinuate, that harmony is always to be presupposed as observed, though it may and ought to be perpetually varied, so as to produce the effect here recommended.
Ver. 364. no harshness gives offence,] We are surprised to see the constant attention of the ancients, to give melody to their periods, both in prose and verse; of which so many instances are given in Tully De Oratore, in Dionysius, and Quintilian. Plato
many times altered the order of the four first words of his Republic. Cicero records the approbation he met with for finishing
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
a sentence with the word comprobavit, being a dichoreè. Had he finished it otherwise, he says, it might have been animo satis auribus non satis. We may be equally mortified in finding Quintilian condemning the inharmoniousness of many letters with which our language abounds; particularly the letters F, M, B, D; and Dionysius reprobates the letter S. Warton. Ver. 365. The sound must seem an Echo to the sense.] Lord Roscommon says,
"The sound is still a Comment to the sense." These are both well expressed, although so differently; for Lord R. is shewing how the sense is assisted by the sound; Mr. P. how the sound is assisted by the sense. Warburton.
Ver. 366. Soft is the strain] See examples in Clarke's Homer, Iliad i. v. 430; ii. v. 102; iii. v. 337; vi. v. 510; vii. v. 157; viii. v. 210, 551; xi. v. 687, 697, 766; and many others.
These lines are usually cited as fine examples of adapting the sound to the sense. But that Pope has failed in this endeavour has been clearly demonstrated by the Rambler. "The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze must surely be confessed not much to excel in softness or volubility; and the smooth stream runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants. The noise and turbulence of the torrent is, indeed, distinctly imaged; for it requires very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of Ajax, there is no particular heaviness or delay. The swiftness of Camilla is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be lengthened to express speed, will not easily be discovered. In the dactyls, used for that purpose by the ancients, two short syllables were pronounced with such rapidity, as to be equal only to one long; they therefore naturally exhibit the act of passing through a long space in a short time. But the Alexandrine, by its pause in the midst, is a tardy and stately measure; and the word unbending,
Ver. 366. Soft is the strain, &c.]
Tum si læta canunt," &c. Vida, Poet. l. iii. ver. 403.
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore, The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd lays surprize,
And bid alternate passions fall and rise!
While at each change, the son of Libyan Jove Now burns with glory, and then melts with love;
one of the most sluggish and slow which our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion." Aaron Hill, long before this was published by the Rambler, wrote a letter to Pope, pointing out the many instances in which he had failed to accommodate the sound to the sense, in this famous passage. This rule of making the sound an echo to the sense, as well as alliteration, has been carried to a ridiculous extreme by several late writers. It is worth observing, that it is treated of at length, and recommended by Tasso, p. 168 of his Discorsi del Poema Eroico.
Ver. 374. Hear how Timotheus', &c.] See Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music; an Ode by Mr. Dryden.
Ver. 368. But when loud surges, &c.]
"Tum longe sale saxa sonant," &c. Vida, Poet. l. iii. v. Ver. 370. When Ajax strives, &c.]
Atque ideo si quid geritur molimine magno," &c.
Ver. 372. Not so, when swift Camilla, &c.]
Vida, ib. 417.
"At mora si fuerit damno, properare jubebo," &c.
Vida, ib. 420.
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
Ver. 384. Avoid extremes, &c.] Our Author is now come to the last cause of wrong Judgment, PARTIALITY; the parent of the immediately preceding cause, a bounded capacity: nothing so much narrowing and contracting the mind as prejudices entertained for or against things or persons. This, therefore, as the main root of all the foregoing, he prosecutes at large [from ver. 383 to 474.] First, to ver. 394. he previously exposes that capricious turn of mind, which, by running into Extremes, either of praise or dispraise, lays the foundation of an habitual partiality. He cautions therefore both against one and the other; and with reason; for excess of Praise is the mark of a bad taste; and excess of Censure, of a bad digestion.
Ver. 391. fools admire, but men of sense approve :] dish sentence has probably made as many formal coxcombs in literature, as Lord Chesterfield's opinion on the vulgarity of laughter, has among men of high breeding. As a general maxim, it has no foundation whatever in truth.
"Proneness to admiration is a quality rather of temper than of