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Motion, however, may be in some sort exemplified; and yet it may be suspected that in such resemblances the mind often governs the ear, and the sounds are estimated by their meaning. One of their most successful attempts has been to describe the labour of Sisyphus:
^ i With many a weary step, and many a groan,
Up a high hill he heaves a huge round stone;
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound,
Thunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground.
Who does not perceive the stone to move slowly upward, and roll violently back? But set the same numbers to another sense;
While many a merry tale, and many a song, Chear'd the rough road, we wish'd the rough road long. The rough road then, returning in a round, Mock'd our impatient steps, for all was fairly ground.
We have now surely lost much of the delay, and much of the rapidity.
But to shew how little the greatest master of numbers can fix the principles of representative harmony, it will be sufficient to remark that the poet, who tells us, that
When Ajax strives, some rock's vast weight to throw,
when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the praise of Camilla's lightness of foot, he tried another experiment upon sountl and and time, produced this memorable triplet:
Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to joia .
Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of slow-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 critic to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make 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 always 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, or besiege a town. Pope brought into view a new race of Beings; with powers and passions proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act, at the toilet and the tea-table, what more terrific 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 said, by an objector, not to have been the inventor 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 system 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 exhibited, 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 number so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further informa-' tion, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a Sylph,. and detests 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 disguised, 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 little 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 sets 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 public gratitude. The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity of women, as they embroil families in discord, and fiH 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 singtle 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 hastened 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 lost 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 dan
ger 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 adventures 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 curiota felicitas, a fruitful soil 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 mystic Writers by the learned author of the "Essay on the Life and Writings of "Pope." a book which teaches how the brow of Criticism may be smoothed, and how she may be