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TO TE Rour HONOURABLE GEORGE, LORD LANDSDOWN.
BY MR. POPE.
Non injussi cano: te nostrae, Vare, myriez,
London : Printed for BERNARD LINTOTT, at the Cross-keys,
in Fleet Street.
The work appeared before March 9, 1713, on which day Swist writes to Stella," Mr. Pope has published a fine poem, called Windsor Forest. Read it.” In his manuscript Pope says, “It was first printed in folio in Again in folio the same year, and in octavo the next. It was included in the quarto of 1717, in the second edition of Lintot's Miscellany in 1714, and in the four succeeding editions of 1720, 17:22, 1727 and 1732.
This poem was written at two different times. The first part of it, which relates to the country, in the year 1704, at the same time with the Pastorals. The latter part was not added till the year 1713, in which it was published. — Pope.
In 1713 Pope published Windsor Forest ; of which part was, as he relates, written at sixteen, about the same time as his Pastorals ; and the latter part was added afterwards : where the addition begins we are not told.' The lines relating to the Peace confess their own date. It is dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, who was then in high reputation and influence among the tories; and it is said, that the conclusion of the poem gave great pain to Addison, both as a poet and a politician. Reports like this are often spread with boldness very disproportionate to their evidence. Why should Addison receive any particular disturbarice from the last lines of Windsor Forest ? If contrariety of opinion could poison a politician, he would not live a day ; and, as a poet, he must have felt Pope's force of genius much more from many other parts of his works. The pain that Addison might feel, it is not likely that he would confess ; and it is certain that he so well suppressed his discontent, that Pope now thought himself his favourite.
The design of Windsor Forest is evidently derived from Cooper's Hill, with some attention to Waller's poem on the Park ; but Pope cannot be denied to excel his masters in variety and elegance, and the art of interchanging description, narrative, and morality. The objection made by Dennis is the want of plan, of a regular subordination of parts, terminating in the principal and original design. There is this want in most descriptive poems, because
as the scenes, which they must exhibit sively, are all subsisting at the same time, the order in which they are shown must, by necessity, be arbitrary, and more is not to be expected from the last part than from the first. The attention, therefore, which cannot be detained by suspense, must be excited by diversity, such as this poem offers to its reader. But the desire of diversity may be too much indulgel. The parts of Windsor Forest which deserve least praise are those which were added to euliven the stillness of the scene—the appearance of Father Thames, and the
1 Johnson was mistaken. Pope states in a note that the addition commenced at ver. 291.
VOL. I. - POETRY.
transformation of Lodona. Addison had, in his Campaign, derided the rivers, that “rise from their oozy beds” to tell stories of heroes ;' and it is therefore strange that Pope should adopt a fiction not only unnatural, but lately censured. The story of Lodona is told with sweetness ; but a new metamorphosis is a ready and puerile expedient. Nothing is easier than to tell how a flower was once a blooming virgin, or a rock an obdurate tyrant. --Johnson.
Descriptive poetry was by no means the shining talent of Pope. This assertiou may be manifested by the few images introduced in the poem before us which are not equally applicable to any place whatsoever. Rural beauty in general, and not the peculiar beauties of the forest of Windsor, are here described. Nor are the sports of setting, shooting, and fishing, at all more appropriated. The stagchase, that immediately follows, although some of the lines are incomparably good, is not so full, so animated, anů so circumstantial, as that of Somerville. – WARTON.
Johnson remarks that this poem was written after the model of Denham's Cooper's Hill, with, perhaps, an eye on Waller's poem of the Park. Marvel has also written a poem on local scenery?—upon the hill and grove at Billborow, and another on Appleton House (now Nurappleton), in Yorkshire. Marvel abounds with conceits and false thoughts, but some of the descriptive touches are picturesque and beautiful. He sometimes observes little circumstances of rural nature with the eye and feeling of a true poet :
Then as I careless on the bed
The hatching thrustle's shining eye. The last circumstance is new, highly poetical, and could only have been described by one who was a real lover of nature, and a witness of her beauties in her most solitary retirements. Before this descriptive poem on Wiudsor Forest, I do not recollect any other professed composition on local scenery, except the poems of the authors already mentioned. Denhau's is certainly the best prior to Pope's : his description of Loudon at a distance is sublime : 3
1 When actions, unadorned, are faint and weak,
Cities and countries must be taught to speak ;
And rivers from their oozy beds arise. 2 “Denham," says Johnson, seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of wbich the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such ein bellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation."
3 Critics differ. “Nothing,” says Warton, can be colder and more prosaic
Under his proud survey the city lies,
Pope, by the expression of “ majestic,” has justly characterised the flow of Denham's couplets. It is extraordinary that Pope, who, by this expression, seems to have appreciated the general cast of harmony in Cooper's Hill, should have made his own cadences so regular and almost unvaried. Denham's couplets are often irregular, but the effect of the pauses in the following lines was obviously the result of a fine ear. The languaye truly suits the subject :
But his proud head the airy mountain hides
The occasional ivtroduction of such passages should be managed with great care, but I appeal to any judge of poetry whether he does not feel the effect intended to be raised by the pauses of the lines just quoted ?
He who has not an eye to observe erery external appearance that nature may exhibit in every change of seasori, and who cannot with a glance distinguish every diversity of every hue in her variety of beauties, must so far be deficient in one of the essential qualities of a poet. Here Pope, from infirmities and from physical causes, was particularly deficient. When he left his own laurel circus at Twickenhain, he was lifted into his chariot or his barge ; and with weak eyes and tottering strength, it is physically impossible he could be a descriptive bard. Where description has been introduced among his poems, as far as bis observation could go, he excelled ; more could not be expecter. It is for this reason that his Windsor Forest, and his Pastorals, must ever appear so defective to a lover of nature. In his Windsor Forest he has description, incident, and history. The descriptive part is too general, and unappropriate ; the incident, or story part, is such as only would have been adopted by a young man who had just read Ovid ; but the historical part is very judiciously and skilfully blended, and the conclusion highly animated and poetical : nor can we be insensible to its more lofty tone of versification.BOWLES.
Richardson transcribed the various readings of Windsor Forest into his copy of the quarto of 1717, and added this note :-“ Altered from the first copy of the author's own hand, written out beautifully,
than the manner in which Denham has spoken of the distant prospect of London and St. Paul's.”