« 前へ次へ »
to subside, and the novelties of invention to
familiar. He knew that the mind is always enamoured of its own productions, and did not trust his first fondness. He consulted his friends, and listened with great willingness to criticism; and, what was of more importance, he consulted himself, and let nothing pass against his own judgement.
He professed to have learned his poetry from Dryden, whom, wheneves an opportunity was presented, he praised through his whole life with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his character may receive some illustration, if he be compared with his master.
Integrity of understanding and nicety of discernment were not allotted in a less proportion to Drydent thaq to Pope, The rectitude of Dryden's mind was sufficiently shewn by the dismission of his poetical prejudices, and the rejection of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers. But Dryden never desired to apply all the judgement that he had. He wrote, and profeffed to write, merely for the people; and when he pleased others, he contented himself. He spent no time in struggles to royse latent powers ; he never attempted to make that better which was already good, nor often to mend what he must have known to be faulty: He wrote, as he tells us, with very little consideration ; when occasion or necessity called upon him, he poured out what the present moment happened to supply, and, when once it had passed the press, ejected it from his mind; for when he had no pecuniary interest, he had no further solicitude.
Pope was not content to satisfy; he desired to ex. cel, and therefore always endeavoured to do his beft: he did not court the candour, but dared the judge
ment of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he shewed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observa. tion, and retouched every part with indefatigable di, ligence till he had left nothing to be forgiven.
For this reason he kept his pieces very long in his hands, while he considered and reconsidered them. The only poems which can be supposed to have been written with such regard to the times as might hasten their publication, were the two satires of Thirty-eight; of which Dodfley told me, that they were brought to him by the author, that they might be fairly copied, “ Almost every line,” he said, “ was then « written twice over ; I gave him a clean transcript, « which he fent some time afterwards to me for the " press, with almost every line writteni twice over a « fecond time.”
His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their publication, was not strictly true. His parental attention never abandoned them; what he found amiss in the first edition, he filently corrected in those that followed. He appears to have revised the fliad, and freed it from some of its imperfections, and the Ejay on Criticism received many improvements after its first appeamance, It will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance, or vigour. Pope had perhaps the judgement of Dryden ; but Drya den certainly wanted the diligence of Pape.
In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more fcholastick, and who before he became an author had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images
and illustrations from a more extenfive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation ; and those of Pope by minute attention There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.
Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied; that of Pope is cautious and uniform; Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind ; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet; that quality without which judgement is cold, and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, comþines, amplifies, and animates; the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more ; for every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope; and even of Dryden it must be said, that, if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dry: den's performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion, că extorted by domestick necessity; he composed without conGderation, and published without correction. What his inind could
fupply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he fought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, tò multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight:
This parallel will, I hope, when it is well confidered, be found just; and if the reader should suspect me, as I suspect myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, let him not too fiaftily condemn me ; for meditacion and enquiry may, perhaps, fhew him the reasonableness of my determination.
THE Works of Pope are now to be distinctly examined, not so much with attention to flight faults or petty beauties, as to the general character and effect of each performance.
It seems natural for a young poet to initiate himself by Pastorals, which, not profeffing to imitate real life, require no experience, and, exhibiting only the Simple operation of unmingled paffions, admit no subtle reasoning or deep enquiry. Pope's pastorals are not however composed but with clofe thought ; they have reference to the times of the day, the seasons of the year, and the periods of human life. The last, that which turns the attention upon age and death, , was the author's favourite. To tell of disappointment and misery, to thicken the darkness of futurity, and
perplex the labyrinth of uncertainty, has been always a delicious employment of the poets. His preference was probably just. I wish, however, that his fond. ness had not overlooked a line in which the Zephyrs are made to lament in filence.
To charge these pastorals with want of invention, is to require what never was intended. The imitations are so ambitiously frequent, that the writer evidently means rather to thew his literature than his wit. It is surely sufficient for an author of sixteen not only to be able to copy the poems of antiquity with judicious selection, but to have obtained fufficient power of language, and kill in metre, to exhibit a series of versification, which had in English poetry no precedent, nor has since had an imitation.
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 princi. pal and original design. There is this want in most descriptive poeins, because as the scenes, which they must exhibit fucceffively, are all subfisting at the same time, the order in which they are thewn must by neceffity 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 his poem offers to its reader. But the desire of diversity may be too much indulged;
of Windsor Forest which deferve least praise