« 前へ次へ »
fuch lax performances have been transmitted to us, the meaning of that expression cannot be fixed; and perhaps the like return might properly be made to a modern Pindarist, as Mr. Cobb received from Bentley, who, when he found his criticisms upon a Greek Exercise, which Cobb had presented, refuted one after another by Pindar's authority, cried out at last, Pindar was a bold fellow, but thou art an impudent one.
If Pope's ode be particularly inspected, it will be found that the first stanza consists of sounds well chosen indeed, but only founds.
The second consists of hyperbolical common-places, easily to be found, and perhaps without much difficulty to be as well expressed.
In the third, however, there are numbers, images, harmony, and vigour, not unworthy the antagonist of Dryden. Had all been like this—but every part cannot be the best.
The next stanzas place and detain us in the dark and dismal regions of mythology, where neither hope nor fear, neither joy nor sorrow, can be found : the poet however faithfully attends us; we have all that can be performed by elegance of diction, or sweetness of versification; but what can form avail without better matter?
The last stanza recurs again to common-places. The conclusion is too evidently modelled by that of Dryden; and it may be remarked that both end with the same fault, the coinparison of each is literal on one fide, and metaphorical on the other.
Poets do not always express their own thoughts; Pope, with all this labour in the praise of Musick, was ignorant of its principles, and insensible of its effects,
One of his greatest though of his earliest works is the Ejay on Criticism, which, if he had written nothing else, would have placed hiin ‘among the first criticks and the first poets, as it exhibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify didactick composition, selection of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendour of illustration, and propriety of digreffion. I know not whether it be pleasing to consider that he produced this piece at twenty, and never afterwards excelled it: he that delights himself with observing that such powers may be soon attained, cannot but grieve to think that life was ever after at a stand.
To mention the particular beauties of the Efsay would be unprofitably tedious: but I cannot forbear to obferve, that the comparison of a student's progress in the sciences with the journey of a traveller in the Alps, is perhaps the best that English poetry can thew. A simile, to be perfect, must both illustrate and ennoble the subject; must shew it to the understanding in a | clearer view, and display it to the fancy with greater
dignity; but either of these qualities may be sufficient to recommend it. - In didactick poetry, of which the great purpose is instruction, a simile may be praised which illuftrates, though it does not ennoble; in heroicks, that may be admitted which ennobles, though it does not illustrate. That it may be complete, it is required to exhibit, independently of its references, a pleasing image; for a simile is said to be a short episode. To this antiquity was so attentive, that circumstances were fornetimes added, which, having no parallels, served only to fill the imagination, and produced what Perrault ludicrously called comparisons with a long tail.
In their fimilies the greatest writers have sometimes failed; the ship-race, compared with the chariot-race, is neither illustrated nor aggrandised; land and water make all the difference: when Apollo, running after Daphne, is likened to a greyhound chasing a hare, there is nothing gained; the ideas of pursuit and flight are too plain to be made plainer; and a god and the daughter of a god are not represented much to their advantage by a hare and dog. The simile of the Alps has no useless parts, yet affords a striking picture by itself; it makes the foregoing position better underftood, and enables it to take faster hold on the attention; it assists the apprehension, and elevates the fancy.
Let me likewise dwell a little on the celebrated paragraph, in which it is directed that the found should seem an echo to the sense; a precept which Pope is allowed to have observed beyond any other English poet.
This notion of representative metre, and the desire of discovering frequent adaptations of the found to the sense, have produced, in my opinion, many wild conceits and imaginary beauties. All that can furnish this representation are the sounds of the words considered singly, and the time in which they are pronounced. Every language has some words framed to exhibit the noises which they express, as thump, rattle, grozi, 5:17. These however are but few, and the poet cannot make them more, nor can they be of any use but when found is to be mentioned. The time of pronunciation was in the dactylick measures of the learned languages capable of considerable variety; bur that variety could be accommodated only to motion or duration, and different degrees of motion were perhaps expressed by verses
rapid or flow, without much attention of the writer, when the image had full poffeffion of his fancy; but our language having little flexibility, our verses : can differ very little in their cadence. The fancied resemblances, I fear, arise sometimes merely from the am, biguity of words; there is supposed to be some relation between a soft line and a soft couch, or between bard syllables and hard fortune,
Motion, however, may be in some sort exemplified; and yet
may be suspected that even in such refemblances the mind often governs the ear, and the sounds are estimated by their meaning. One of the most successful attempts has been to describe the labour of Sisyphus:
With many a weary step, and many a groan,
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound, Thunders impetuous down, and smoaks along the ground. Who does not perceive the stone to move flowly upward, and roll violently back? But set the same numbers to another sense;
While many a merry tale, and many a song,
long. The rough road then, returning in a round, Mock'd our impatient steps, for all was fạiry ground. We have now surely lost much of the delay, and inuch of the rapidity,
But, to Thew how little the greatest master of numþers can fix the principles of representative harmony, it will be sufficient to remark that the poet, who tells us, that
When Ajax ftrives—the words move slow.
when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the praise of Camilla's lightness of foot, tried another experiment upon found and time, and produced this memorable triplet;
Waller was smooth, but Dryden taught to join
The long majestick march, and energy divine. Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of Now-paced majesty, exhibited by the same poet in the same sequence of syllables, except that the exact prosodist will find the line of swiftness by one time longer than that of tardiness.
Beauties of this kind are commonly fancied; and when real are technical and nugatory, not to be rejected, and not to be solicited.
To the praises which have been accumulated on The Rape of the Lock by readers of every class, from the critick to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to inake any addition. Of that which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now enquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived.
Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked that the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain attention: we should have turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana. The employment of allegorical persons al