« 前へ次へ »
ways excites conviction of its own absurdity; they may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions ; when the phantom is put in motion, it dissolves : thus Discord may raise a mutiny; but Discord cannot conduct a march, nor besiege a' town. Pope brought into view a new race of Beings, with powers and pas, sions proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act at the toilet and the tea-table ; what more terrifick and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean, or the field of battle, they give their proper help, and do their proper mischief.
Pope is faid, by an objector, not to have been the inventer of this petty nation; a charge which might with more justice have been brought against the author of the Iliad, who doubtless adopted the religious fystem of his country; for what is there but the names of his agents which Pope has not invented ? Has he not assigned them characters and operations never heard of before? Has he not, at least, given them their first poetical existence ? If this is not sufficient to denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be written.
In this work are exlibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a Sylph, and detefts a Gnome.
That familiar things are made new, every paragraph will prove. The subject of the poem is an event below the common incidents of common life ;
nothing real is introduced that is not seen so often as to be no longer regarded ; yet the whole detail of a female-day is here brought before us invested with so much art of decoration, that, though nothing is difguised, every thing is striking, and we feel all the appetite of curiosity for that from which we have a. thousand times turned fastidiously away.
The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at the litile unguarded follies of the female sex. It is therefore without justice that Dennis charges the Rape of the Lock with the want of a moral, and for that reason fets it below the Lutrin, which exposes the pride and discord of the clergy. Perhaps neither Pope nor Boileau has made the world much better than he found it; but, if they had both succeeded, it were easy to tell who would have deserved most from pubĮick gratitude. The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity of women, as they embroil families in difcord, and fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct the happiness of life in a year than the ambition of the clergy in many centuries. It has been well observed, that the misery of man proceeds not from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexations continually repeated.
It is remarked by Dennis likewise, that the machinery is superfluous; that, by all the bustle of preternatural operation, the main event is neither haftened nor retarded. To this charge an efficacious answer is not easily made. The Sylphs cannot be said to help or to oppose; and it must be allowed to imply some want of art, that their power has not been sufficiently intermingled with the action. Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connection; the game at ombre might be spared, but if the Lady had
loft her hair while she was intent upon her cards, it might have been inferred that those who are too fond of play will be in danger of neglecting more important interests. Those perhaps are faults; but what are such faults to so much excellence !
The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is one of the most, happy productions of human wit : the subject is so judiciously chosen, that it would be difficult, in turning over the annals of the world, to find another which so many circumstances concur to recommend. We regularly interest ourselves most in the fortune of those who most deserve our notice. Abelard and Eloise were conspicuous in their days for eminence of merit. The heart naturally loves truth. The ad ventures and misfortunes of this illustrious pair are known from undisputed history. Their fate does not leave the mind in hopeless dejection; for they both found quiet and consolation in retirement and piety. So new and so affecting is their story, that it supersedes invention, and imagination ranges at full liberty without straggling into scenes of fable.
The story, thus skilfully adopted, has been diligently improved. Pope has left nothing behind him, which seems more the effect of studious perseverance and laborious revisal. Here is particularly observable the curiosa felicitas, a fruitful foil, and careful cultivation. Here is no crudeness of sense, nor asperity of language.
The sources from which sentiments, which have so much vigour and efficacy, have been drawn, are shewn to be the mystick writers by the learned author of the EsJay on the Life and Writings of Pope; a book which teaches how the brow of Criticisin may be
smoothed, and how she may be enabled, with all her severity, to attract and to delight.
T'he train of my disquisition has now conducted me to that poetical wonder, the translation of the Iliad; a performance which no age or nation can pretend to equal. To the Greeks translation was almost unknown; it was totally unknown to the inhabitants of Greece. They had no recourse to the Barbarians for poetical beauties, but fought for every thing in Homer, where, indeed, there is but little which they might not find
The Italians have been very diligent translators ; but I can hear of no version, unless perhaps Anguillara's Ovid may be excepted, which is read with eagerness. The Iliad of Salvini every reader may discover to be punctiliously exact; but it seems to be the work of a linguist skilfully pedantick ; and his countrymen, the proper judges of its power to please, reject it with disgust.
Their predecessors the Romans have left fome specimens of translation behind them, and that employment must have had some credit in which Tully and Germanicus engaged; but unless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that the plays of Terence were versions of Menander, nothing translated seems ever to have risen to high reputation. The French, in the meridian hour of their learning, were very laudably industrious to enrich their own language with the wisdom of the ancients; but found themselves reduced, by whatever necessity, to turn the Greek and Roman poetry into prose. Whoever could read an author, could translate him. From such rivals little can be feared.
The chief help of Pope in this arduous undertaking was drawn from the versions of Dryden. Virgil had borrowed much of his imagery from Homer ; and part of the debt was now paid by his translator. Pope searched the pages of Dryden for happy combinations of heroic diction ; but it will not be denied that he added much to what he found. He cultivated our language with so much diligence and art, that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the English tongue ; for since its appearance no writer, however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of lines so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly modulated, took poffession of the publick ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation,
But in the most general applause discordant voices will always be heard. It has been objected by some, who wish to be numbered among the sons of learning, that Pope's version of Homer is not Homerical ; that it exhibits no resemblance of the original and characteristick manner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants his awful simplicity, his artless grandeur, his unaffected majesty *. This cannot be totally denied; but it must be remembered that necesitas quod cogit defendit;
* Bentley was one of these. He and Pope, foon after the publication of Homer, met at Dr. Mead's at dinner ; when Pope, desirous of his opinion of the translation, addressed him thus : “ Dr. Bent“ ley, I ordered my bookseller to fend you your books; I hope you “ received them." Bentley, who had purposely avoided saying any thing about Homer, pretended not to understand him, and asked, • Books! books! what books?'. My Homer,' replied Pope, 'which you did me the honour to subscribe for.~'Oh,' said Beatley, ay, now I recollect--your translation :-it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; o but you must not call it Homer,'