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The first fix verfes afford a fpecimen both of the poem and the notes, which will fufficiently determine the merit of both:
Father Omnipotent! whofe nod fupreme
Whose pow'rs are languid, and whofe talk is hard.
NOTE." We cannot but be of opinion, without the leaft adulation, (which we hope to approve ourselves above in the following ftrictures,) that this exordium is great, folemn, and truly poetical. It fomewhat refembles Milton's invocation in the first book of his Paradife I oft.
"That poet has alfo fomething fimilar to it elsewhere; and, afterwards, does not fcruple to call upon Urania, one of the pagan deities, to infpire him."
This Poet alfo, without fcruple, joins the Almighty, and feraphs, with pagan deities:
We fwear, fays he, to celebrate all who fell at Minden:
-Would the Almighty deign
To hear his fuppliant, nor to hear in vain.
And gently touch'd him with their magic wand.
This, as to the mixture of paganifm with revelation, is a much nearer imitation of Milton than the exordium, yet of this the annotators take no notice.
They have alfo neglected to remark, that though Swinney has adopted Milton's perfonification of Chaos, yet, to affert his prerogative as an original writer, he has totally differed from him in the cha racteristics of that imaginary being. Milton reprefents him as "holding eternal anarchy, amidst the noife of endlefs wars, and fubfifting by confufion." Swinney, as in a state of torpid inactivity; fleeping with fuch a native propenfity to reft, in mind as well as body, that his very dreams are fluggish.
There is a qualification which the Spectator fomewhere calls a madeft affurance; this must certainly be a compound of affurance and modefty. Dr. Swinney feems to have put in his claim to both; in the pasfage juft quoted we fee his affurance. He tells us, that he is the nurfling of the mufes and the graces, that they have taken him by the hand, and communicated to him a portion of their divine energy and ease by a magic touch.'
He grieves that no indignant bard
This was certainly intended as a teftimony of his modefty; but his modesty and affurance are not mixed, they do not concur to produce one fentiment; these paffages can no more coalefce than oil and wa
ter; for if he is an inferior poet whom not only the mufes but the graces infpire, what is it that gives fuperiority?
Dr. Swinney, indeed, whoever he has invoked, feems to have been wholly under the influence of pagan deities, for he reprefents thunder as levelled against the gospel, in defence of which nobody stood up but the king of Prufia:
Juftice bids us fing
Of dubious faith, of ftudied difrefpect,
Better things might have been expected from a Christian divine, who seems however to be as ignorant of the Old Teftament, as he is negligent of the New. He reprefents David after having put off Saul's armour, as killing, not a fingle giant called Goliath, but ten thousand men with a fling and a stone. The whole paffage is curious.
Thus when the Lord's annointed did invest
He flew ten thousand with a fling and flone.
But it is now time we should acquaint our Readers that, except in the title page, there is not one fyllable concerning the battle of Minden in this publication. It relates no military action but the affair of Berghen, in which the hero of the poem, Prince Ferdinand, was beaten : with refpect to public events it it lefs than a Gazette in rhime, yet in other refpects it is more, it gives an account of the Author's pulling three Frenchmen from a hay-loft by the heels, and of his attendance upon a black trumpeter that died for love. The hiftory of this trumpeter, and of his unhappy paffion, as it forms a kind of episode, may be detached from this work without lofing any of its beauty or force: it is only necefiary to premife that the Author folicited the permilion of Count de Gondola, bishop of Paderburn, to marry the trumpeter to his inamorata, but without fuccefs:
Or ere he march d, Euphrenus tends the call
As the fond fhepherd tends his dying lamb,
There the fow-gelder's art and trade he learn'd,
The brazen kettle-drums, with folemn sound,
eft, Ofmin, reft! well fhall thy fuff'rings here
Upon this epifode, furely, no critical remarks can be expected. Upen the whole, this performance, without the cuts promifed, printed only on one fide, the other being reserved for notes, which might all be printed in 6 of the 37 pages left for them, is one of the moft fhameful impofitions we have ever feen. It is, befide, a mere rhapfod of incongruous images, and barbarous language, without order or connection, poetry or fenfe.
Art. 26. Elegy written at Amwell, in Herefordshire. MDCCLXIX. 4to. Printed by Dryden Leach, for the author *.
We have lately met with feveral very pleafing productions, in this fweet and melancholy walk of poetry; for which the reader may turn to the volumes of our Review for the two or three last years.
We will not fay that there is more of poetry in this elegy, than in Lord Lyttelton's Monody, or of paffion than in Shaw's t, or of the harmony of numbers, than in the verfes written at Sandgate Caftle 1, but there is in it that beautiful strain of genuine fimplicity, which is nature's trueft elegance..
The affecting occurrence which produced this poetic effufion of tenderness, is communicated to the Reader in the following stanzas: after a fhort introduction, in which the Poet defcribes his favourite plan of private life, his fequeftered and peaceful fituation, and his happy connection with the fair partner of his rural retirement:
Foe to the futile manners of the proud,
He chofe an humble Virgin for his own:
Ditto, Dec, 1768.
Her hand fhe gave, and with it gave her heart,
With wit accomplish'd, and with virtue bleft:
Ere twice the fur perform'd his annual round,
In one fad fpot where kindred ashes lie,'
O'er Wife, and Child, and Parents, clos'd the ground;
The lofs of fo much excellence and innocence is pathetically deplored in the following extremely tender, yet animated ftrains:
-My thoughts rov'd frantic round,
No hope, no with, beneath the fun remain'd;
With pity, meekness, charity infpir'd.
The face with rapture view'd, I view no more,
Yet the lov'd accents fall on Mem'ry's ear.
Should the Author's anguish of mind permit him ever to revise this little piece, and give it any farther polish and finishing, we should be glad to fee, in a fecond edition, that the last line but one hath undergone the file:
To virtue's path our vague fteps to controul.
The public was, a few years ago, obliged to the mufe of Amwell, for Elegies Defcriptive and Moral.' See Review, vol. xxiii.
Art. 27. Original Poems on feveral Occafions. By C. R. 4to. 55. fewed. Harris. 1769.
The fair Author of thefe poems is undoubtedly a woman of fenfe; for there is nothing very filly in her whole collection. She writes a pretty fong.
Art. 23. Poemata, Auctore Oxon. nuper Alumno, 12mo. 1 s. 6 d. Bathurst. 1769.
Thefe Latin poems are moftly tranflations, from fome of our best English poets; but they are unfaithful in the worst fenfe of the word; for they not only fail, very often, to give us the beauties of the original, but they even change the ideas. Thus that picturesque line in the Church-yard Elegy,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
is rendered by
Lata domum flectit veftigia feffus arator.
This is faying quite another thing. And of that fine line, Slow thro' the church-way path we saw him borne, no notice is taken.
Useless epithets are often introduced to fill up the verse :
Finitimis læté vox repetita jugis.
Anheli would not have made its entrance here, had it not confifted of one short fyllable and two long ones.
Nor is the Author more correct in his original poems. Thus he talks of feeing the cries of children:
Aft ego jam video rixas, variofque tumultus,
The collection concludes with a puerile poem on the birth of the Prince of Wales, which was justly refused a place in the Oxford poems on that occafion.
Art. 29. Temora, Liber primus, Verfibus Latinis expressus. Auctore Roberto Macfarlan, A. M.. 4to. I S Becket. 1769.
There is fomething in the genius and ftyle of Offian's poetry fo very different from the fubdued fpirit and unadventurous manner of the Roman claffics, particularly the chafter claffic poets, that Mr. Macfarlan has, certainly, no very easy task in this verfion of Temora: for to fucceed in his attempt, it is neceffary that he should unite the native ease and perfpicuity of Virgil with the fire of Lucan and the luxuriance of Claudian. How he has thus far fucceeded, the following description of the Evening and of a Celtic Spectre will give our Readers some idea:
Occidui folis jam fumma cacumina Dora
Atque mihi tenebras et pectus trifte relinquit.
This poem is intended as a specimen of a Latin translation of all the poems of Offian, which will be published by subscription, with Mr. Macpherfon's notes.
Art. 30. The melancholy Student. A Poem. Written at Queen's College, Oxford, in the Year 1765. 4to. 6d. Rivington. This little piece, which is written in ftanzas of four verses, each confifting of ten fyllables, deplores the Writer's great weakness of body, and dejection of mind: it was written during a lingering illness, when the.