poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry by a definition will oply shew the narrowness of the definer, though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look around upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed. Had he given the world only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him; if the writer of the 'Iliad' were to class his successors, he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.

The following letter, of which the original is in the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was communicated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell.

• To Mr. BRIDGES, at the Bishop of London's,

at Fulham. “SIR, • The favour of your letter, with your remark, can never be enough acknowledged ; and the speed with which you discharged so troublesome a task doubles the obligation.

'I must own, you have pleased me very much by com. mendations so ill bestowed upon me; but, I assure you, much more by the frankness of your censure, which I ougbt to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advanta. geous to a scribbler to be improved in his judgment rather than to be soothed in his vanity. The greater part of those deviations from the Greek which you have observed, I was led into by Chapman and Hobbes; who are, it seems, as much celebrated for their knowledge of the original, as they are decried for the badness of their translations. Chapman pretends to have restored the genuine sense of the author, from the mistakes of all former explainers, in several hun. dred places; and the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they confess they have corrected the old Latin interpretation very often by his version. For my part, I generally took the author's meaning to be as you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfectness in the language, overruled me. However, Sir,

0 2

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

you may be confident I think you in the right, because you happen to be of my opinion; for men (let them say what they will) never approve any other's sense, but as it squares with their own. But you have made me much more prond of, and positive in my judgment, since it is strengthened by yours. I think your criticisms which regard the expression very just, and shall make my profit of them; to give you some proof that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your bare objection, though I have Mr. Dryden's example for each of them. And this, I hope, you will account no small piece of obedience from one who values the authority of one true poet above that of twenty critics or commentators. But, though I speak thus of commentators, I will continue to read carefully all I can procure, to make up, that way, for my own want of critical understanding in the original beauties of Homer. Though the greatest of them are certainly those of invention and design, which are not at all confined to the language; for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are (by the consent of the best critics of all nations) first in the manners (which include all the speeches, as being no other than the representations of each persou’s manners by his words); and then in that rapture and fire which carries you away with him, with that wonderful force, that no man who has a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads him. Homer makes you interested and concerned before you are aware, all at once, whereas Virgil does it by soft degrees. This, I believe, is what a translator of Homer ought principally to imitate; and it is very hard for any translator to come up to it, because the chief reason why all translations fall short of their originals is, that the very constraint they are obliged to renders them heavy and dispirited.

The great beauty of Homer's language, as I take it, consists in that noble simplicity which runs through all his works; (and yet his diction, contrary to what one would imagine consistent with simplicity, is at the same time very copious.) I don't know how I have run into this pedantry in a letter, but I find I have said too much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately: what farther thoughts I have upon this subject I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my own improvement) when we meet; which is a happiness I very earnestly desire, as I do like.

wise some opportunity of proving how much I think myself obliged to your friendship, and how truly I am, Sir, Your most faithful, humble servant,

"A. POPE.' The criticism upon Pope's Epitaphs, which was printed in The Universal Visitor,' is placed here, being too minute and particular to be inserted in his Life.

EVERY art is best taught by example. Nothing contributes more to the cultivation of propriety than remarks on the works of those who have most excelled. I shall there. fore endeavour, at this visit, to entertain the young students in poetry with an examination of Pope's Epitaphs.

To define an epitaph is useless ; every one knows that it is an inscription on a tomb. An epitaph, therefore, implies no particular character of writing, but may be composed in verse or prose.

It is indeed commonly panegyrical; because we are seldom distinguished with a stone but by our friends; but it has no rule to restrain or modify it, except this, that it ought not to be longer than common beholders may be expected to have leisure and patience to peruse.


OR CHARLES Earl of DORSET, in the Church of

Wythyham in Sussex.
Dorset, the grace of courts, the muse's pride,
Patron of arts, and judge of nature, died,
The scourge of pride, though sanctify'd or great;
Of fops in learning, and of knaves in state;
Yet soft his nature, though severe his lay,
His anger moral, and his wisdom gay,
Blest satirist! who touch'd the means so true,
As shew'd Vice, had his hate and pity too.
Blest courtier! who could king and country please,
Yet sacred kept his friendships and his ease.
Blest peer! hís great forefather's every grace
Reflecting, and reflected on his race;
Where other Buckhursts, other Dorsets shine,

And patriots still, or poets, deck the line. The first distich of this epitaph contains a kind of information which few would want, that the man for whom the tomb was erected died. There are indeed some qualities worthy of praise ascribed to the dead, but uone that were likely to exempt him from the lot of man, or incline us much to wonder that he should die. What is meant by

judge of nature,' is not easy to say. Nature is not the object of human judgment; for it is vain to judge where we cannot alter. If by naure is meant what is commonly called nature by the critics, a just representation of things really existing and actions really performed, nature cannot be properly opposed to art; nature being, in this sense, only the best effect of art.

The scourge of pride Of this couplet, the second line is not, what is intended, an illustration of the former. Pride in the great is indeed well enough connected with knaves of state, thougb knaves is a word rather too ludicrous and light; but the mention of sanctified pride will not lead the thoughts to fops in learning, but rather to some species of tyranny or oppression, something more gloomy and more formid. able than foppery.

Yet soft his natureThis is a high compliment, but was not first bestowed on Dorset by Pope. The next verse is extremely beautiful.

Blest satirist! In this distich is another line of which Pope was not the author. I do not mean to blame these imitations with much harshness; in long performances they are scarcely to be avoided, and in shorter they may be indulged, because the train of the composition may naturally involve them, or the scantiness of the subject allow little choice. However, what is borrowed is not to be enjoyed as our own; and it is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the muses his proper feather.

Biest courtier! Whether a courtier can properly be commended for keeping his ease sacred, may perhaps be disputable. To please king and country, without sacrificing friendship to any change of times, was a very uncommon instance of prudence or felicity, and deserved to be kept separate from so poor'a commendation as care of his ease. I wish our poets would attend a little more accurately to the use of the word sacred, which surely should never be ap

[ocr errors]

plied in a serious composition but where some reference may be made to a higher Being, or where some duty is exacted or implied. A man may keep his friendship sacred, because promises of friendship are very awful ties; but methinks he cannot, but in a burlesque sense, be said to keep his ease sacred.

Blest peer! The blessings ascribed to the peer have no connexion with his peerage; they might happen to any other man whose ancestors were remembered, or whose posterity are likely to be regarded.

I kpow not whether this epitaph be worthy either of the writer or the man entombed.


On Sir WILLIAM TRUMBULL, one of the principal

Secretaries of State to King WILLIAM III. who,
having resigned his place, died in his retirement at
Easthamstead in Berkshire, 1716.

A pleasing form; a firm, yet cautious mind;
Sincere, though prudent, constant, yet resign'd;
Honour unchang'a, a principle profest,
Fix'd to one side, but moderate to the rest;
An honest courtier, yet a patriot too;
Just to his prince, and to his country true ;
Fill’d with the sense of age, the fire of youth,
A scorn of wrangling, yet a zeal for truth;
A generous faith, from superstition free;
A love to peace, and hate of tyranny,
Such this man was; who, now from earth remov'd,

At length enjoys that liberty he lov'd.
In this epitaph, as in many others, there appears, at the
first view, a fault which I think scarcely any beauty can
compensate. The name is omitted. The end of an epitaph
is to convey some account of the dead ; and to what pur-
pose is any thing told of him whose name is concealed ?'
An epitaph, and a history of a nameless hero, are equally
absurd, since the virtues and qualities so recounted in
either are scattered at the mercy of forture to be appro.
priated by guess. The name, it is true, may be read upon
the stone; but what obligation has it to the poet, whose
verses wander over the earth and leave their subject be-
hind them, and who is forced, like an unskilful painter, to
make his purpose known by adventitious help?

« 前へ次へ »