Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

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,
With rev'rence, hope, and love.




Hence, guilty joys, distastes, surmises,
Hence, false tears, deceits, disguises,
Dangers, doubts, delays, surprises ;

Fires that scorch, yet dare not shine:
Purest love's unwasting treasure,
Constant faith, fair hope, long leisure,
Days of ease, and nights of pleasure ;

Sacred Hymen! these are thine?


Ver. 31. Or meets] Recalling to our minds that pathetic stroke in Lucretius;

." dulces occurrunt oscula nati Præripere, et tacita pectus dulcedine tangunt."

Lib. iii. 909. Ver. 42.] Not to the purpose; long leisure.

• These two Choruses are enough to shew us his great talents for this species of Poetry, and to make us lament he did not prosecute his purpose in executing some plans he had chalked out; but the Character of the Managers of Playhouses at that time, was what (he said) soon determined him to lay aside all thoughts of that nature. Nor did his morals, less than the just sense of his own importance, deter him from having any thing to do with the Theatre. He remembered that an ancient Author hath acquainted us with this extraordinary circumstance; that, in the construction of Pompey's magnificent Theatre, the seats of it were so contrived, as to serve, at the same time, for steps to a temple of Venus, which he had joined to his Theatre. The moral Poet could not but be struck with a story where the lóyos and the pūloc of it ran as imperceptibly into one another, as the Theatre and the Temple. W.

How lamentable is it, that a writer of great talents, should misemploy them in striving to discover new meanings, and analogies, in things not alike, and not founded on plain truth and reason! Thus, the Vine in Lycidas is called gadding, because, though married to the Elm, like bad wives she goes abroad. Thus, in Shakspeare, the flower called Love-in-idleness intimates that this passion has its chief power when people are idle. Thus, in Macbeth, screams of death and prophesying, should be read, Aunts, prophesying, old women. And thus, in Midsummer Night's Dream, instead of Cupid all-arm’d, read Cupid alarm'd; that is, alarmed at the chastity of Lady Elizabeth, which lessened his



Happy the man, whose wish and care

A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air,

In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,

Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade,

In winter fire.

slide soft away,

Blest, who can unconcern'dly find

Hours, days, and years,
In health of body, peace of mind,

Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,

Together mixt, sweet recreation :
And innocence, which most does please

With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,

Thus unlamented let me die,
Steal from the world, and not a stone

Tell where I lie.

• This was a very early production of our Author, written at about twelve years old. P.

Scaliger, Voltaire, and Grotius, were but eighteen years old when they produced, the two first their Edipuses, and the last his Adamus Exul. But the most extraordinary instance of early excellence is The Old Bachelor of Congreve, written at nineteen only; as comedy implies and requires a knowledge of life and characters, which are here displayed with accuracy and truth. Mr. Spence informed me that Pope once said to him, “I wrote things I am ashamed to say how soon ; part of my epic poem Alcander when about twelve. The scene of it lay in Rhodes, and some of the neighbouring islands; and the poem opened under the water, with the description of the court of Neptune; that couplet on the circulation of the blood, which I afterward inserted in the Dunciad,

As man's meanders, to the vital spring

Roll all their tides, then back their circles bring, was originally in this poem, word for word.” After he had burnt this very early composition, Atterbury told him, he much wished some parts of it, as a specimen, had been more carefully preserved.

Quintilian, whose knowledge of human nature was consummate, has observed, that nothing quite correct and faultless is to be expected in very early years, from a truly elevated genius ; that a generous extravagance and exuberance are its proper marks, and that a premature exactness is a certain evidence of future flatness and sterility. His words are incomparable, and worthy consideration. “ Audeat hæc ætas plura, et inveniat, et inventis gaudeat, sint licet illa non satis interim sicca et severa. Facile remedium est ubertatis: sterilia nullo labore vincuntur. Illa mihi in pueris natura minimum spei dederit, in qua ingenium judicio præsumitur. Materiam esse primum volo vel abundantiorem, atque ultra quam oportet fusam. Multum inde decoquent anni, multum ratio limabit, aliquid velut usu ipso deteretur, sit modo unde excidi possit et quod exculpi: erit autem, si non ab initio tenuem nimium laminam duxerimus, et quam cælatura altior rumpat.-Quare mihi ne maturitas quidem ipsa festinet, nec musta in lacu statim austera sint ; sic et annos ferent, et vetustate proficient," This is very strong and masculine sense, expressed and enlivened by a train of metaphors all of them elegant, and well preserved. Whether these early productions of Pope, would not have appeared to Quintilian to be rather too finished, correct, and pure, and what he would have inferred concerning them, is too delicate a subject for me

[ocr errors]

to enlarge upon. Let me rather add an entertaining anecdote. When Guido and Dominichino had each of them painted a picture in the church of Saint Andrew, Annibal Carrache, their master, was pressed to declare which of his two pupils had excelled. The picture of Guido represented Saint Andrew on his knees before the cross; that of Dominichino represented the flagellation of the same Apostle. Both of them in their different kinds were capital pieces, and were painted in fresco, opposite each other, to eternize, as it were, their rivalship and contention. “Guido (said Carrache) has performed as a master, and Dominichino as a scholar. But (added he) the work of the scholar is more valuable than that of the master. In truth one may perceive faults in the picture of Dominichino that Guido has avoided, but then there are noble strokes, not to be found, in that of his rival.” It was easy to discern a genius that promised to produce beauties, to which the sweet, the gentle, and the graceful Guido would never aspire.

The first sketches of such an artist ought highly to be prized. Different geniuses unfold themselves at different periods of life. In some minds the ore is a long time in ripening. Not only inclination, but opportunity and encouragement, a proper subject, or a proper patron, influence the exertion or the suppression of genius. These stanzas on Solitude are a strong instance of that contemplation and moral turn, which was the distinguishing characteristic of our Poet's mind. An ode of Cowley, which he produced at the age of thirteen years, is of the same cast, and perhaps not in the least inferior to this of Pope. The voluminous Lopez de Vega is commonly, but perhaps incredibly, reported by the Spaniards to have composed verses when he was five years old; and Torquato Tasso, the second or third of the Italian poets, for that wonderful original Dante is the first, is said to have recited poems and orations of his own writing, when he was seven. It is however certain, which is more extraordinary, that he produced his Rinaldo in his eighteenth year, no bad precursor to the Gerusalemma Liberata, and no small effort of that genius, which was in due time to shew, how fine an epic poem the Italian language, notwithstanding the vulgar imputation of effeminacy, was capable of supporting.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »