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« Clementina, in Grandison, is the most deeply interesting. « I know not whether even the madness of Lear is wrought up • and expreffed by so many little strokes of nature, and genuine • paffion. It is absolute pedantry to prefer and compare the - madness of Orestes in Euripides, to this of Clementina.'We are glad our Author did not, in the heat of his panegyrical strain, boldly, at once, tack the Cassandra of Lycophron to Oreftes, the more completely to fill the triumph of the Neapolitan lady.
He fupposes, that Jane Shore is the most popular of Row's plays, from its being founded in our history, and from thence judiciously takes occasion to recommend to our tragic writers, our domestica fa&ta, if not too antient, nor too recent, as subjects the most interesting and ufeful.
This brings our Critic back to Pope, who, he informs us, is said to have framed a design of writing an epic poem, on
a fact recorded in our old annalists, and therefore more engaging to an Englishman: the arrival of Brutus, the sup
posed grandson of Æneas, in our island, and the settlement 6 of the first foundation of the British monarchy. A full « scope might have been given to a vigorous imagination, to 6 embellish a fiction drawn from the bosom of the remoteft
antiquity.-But shall I be pardoned for suspecting that Pope 6 would not have succeeded in this design ; that so didactic a • genius would have been deficient in that sublime and pa• thetic, which are the main nerves of the Epopea; that he 6 would have given us many elegant descriptions, and many • general characters, well drawn, but would have failed to set
before our eyes, the reality of these objects, and the actions • of these characters: for Homer professedly draws no charac• ters, but gives us to collect them from the looks and behaviour
of each person he introduces; that Pope's close and constant ' reafoning had impaired and crushed the faculty of imagina
tion; that the political refle&tions in this piece, would, in all • probability, have been more numerous than the affecting
Arokes of nature; that iż would have more resembled the • Henriade than the Iliad, or even the Gierusalemme liberata ; • that it would have appeared, how much, and for what rea
fons, the man skilful in painting modern life, and the most secret foibles and follies of his cotemporaries, is therefore
disqualified for representing the ages of heroism, and that . fimple life, which alone epic poetry can gracefully describe ; « in a word, that his composition would have shewn more of • the philosopher than of the poet. Add to all this, that it was to have been written in rhyme; a circumstance fufficient of
itself alone, to extinguish all enthusiasm, and produce endless
tautologies and circumlocutions? Are not these fuppofi« tions strengthened by what Dr. Warburton has informed us, « namely, that Pope, in this poem, intended to have treated •
amply “ of all that regarded civil regimen, or the science of “ politics ; that the several forms of a republic were here to « have been examined and explained, together with the seve• ral modes of religious worship, so far as they affect society :''
Than which surely there could not have been a more im« proper subjet for an epic poem.'
We hope, however, that this premature bespeaking the discourtesy of the world, will not prevent the gentleman who is said to be in possession of Mr. Pope's plan, from obliging us with this expected poem. If it prove not so pleasing to the fancy, it may at least be more useful to the judgment, than the Iliad, or even the Odysley. The Author of the Ellay on Satire *, appears to have fufficient abilities for the task.
The Critic concludes the section with informing us, that the first poem that appeared in France, 1155, any thing like an epic, was the Roman de Brut by Master Eustache; and that the second poem now remaining in the French language, was entitled, The Romance of Alexander the Great. Every piece of poetry at that time (the twelfth century) was denominated a Romance. This last was the confederated work of four Au, thors, famous in their time. Lambert le Court, and Alexander of Paris, sung the exploits of Alexander; Peter de Saint Clost wrote his will in verse; the writing the will of a hero being then a common topic of verse; and John de Nivelois added a book upon the manner in which his death was revenged. It is remarkable, that before this time, all the ros mans had been composed in verses of eight syllables ; but in this piece the four Authors first used verses of twelve syllables, as more folemn and majestic. And this was the origin, tho' þut little known, of those verses which we now call Alexans drines, the French heroic measure; the name being derived from Alexander, the hero of the piece; or from Alexander the most celebrated of the four poets concerned in this work,
Nor should the quotation from Henault's history of France, at the end of the section, be forgatten, as it more immediately concerns our country. About the year 1160, says that truly learned Antiquary, a monk called Geoffry, (who was afterwards Abbot of St. Albans) employed in the education of youth, made his pupils represent, with proper scenes and dresses,
* Vid. Warburton's edition of Pope.
tragedies of piéty. The subject of the first dramatic piece, was the miracles of St. Catherine, which appeared long before any of our representations of the mysteries.
The last section considers the epiftle of Sappho to Phaon, and of Eloisa to Abelard.
The critic, after praising Ovid for his invention of this amiable species of writing, which he prefers to the Greek Elegy, on account of its dramatic nature, and to the Soliloquy, from its superior propriety in being addressed to one person; very justly extols this translation of Pope's, for its elegance and faithfulness, above any in Dryden's tranflation of the Heroids. He also cenfures Ovid for a fameness in the subjects of these epistles, and for being too long, which certainly forces him into a repetition and languor in the sentiments. Wit and fancy are, indeed, every where predominant, but he is sometimes deficient in judgment, and not always natural. In particular Ovid puts into the mouth of Sappho inore pretty panegyrical epigrams, than those tender and passionate sentiments which suited her character, and made her sensibility in amours so famous. Our Author gives a short account of the Lesbian Poetess, and praises the translations of her two odes in the Spectator, but takes no notice of the different turn that Dr. Pearce gives to the
αι μοι κείνος ιςος θεοισιν. . which, however, seems to be the just one, and which, if so, makes most of the expressions, both in Boileau's and Phillip's, extremely improper. He also gives us two fragments of the fame Poetess, which are, indeed, highly beautiful and tender; but he has omitted some, which, we imagine, are no less ex. pressive of her character (a): for, not to mention her other fragment on the evening, from the Scholiaft on Euripides, can any thing be more descriptive, or passionate, than the following lines, for the preservation of which we are indebted to Hephæstion, as quoted by Henry Stephens:
μεν α σελανα Και Πλειάδες, μεσαι
ds Νυκτες παρα δ' ερχεθ' ώρα Εγω
μωνα καθευδώ ().
fw) Vid. Henric. Heph. Poct. Lyr. Vol. II.
(b) Jam pulcra quidem Diana
Jam Pleiades occiderunt
ο ληξιμελης δονει
Φροντις δην επι δ' Ανδρομεδαν ποτε (c). Nor can we deny ourselves the pleasure of repeating the following pathetic funeral inseription :
Τιμαδις αδε κονις, ταν δε προγαμοιο θανoισαν
Δεξατο φερσεφονας κυανεος θαλαμος: :
noser. which Politian has thus excellently imitated.
Timadis hic pulvis, quæ dulces ante hymenæos
Excepta est nigro Perfephones thalamo :
Æquales ferro subsecuere comam.
former from an old mariner to a beautiful youth, is well < told. Fenton was an elegant scholar, and had an exquisite • taste. The books he translated for Pope in the Odyssey are • superior to Brume's. In bis miscellanies are some pieces ' worthy of notice, particularly his epiftle to Mr. Southern; < the Fair Nun, imitated from Fontaine; Olivia, a character; s and an ode to Lord Gower, written in the true spirit of ly
ric poetry? This last piece, we are informed, Pope thought the best ode in the English language, next to Dryden's Alexander's Feaft. Fenton's ode to the sun is very little inferior to the other, and his kifles of Secundus, Venus herself (to talk in the language of mythology) has imbued with the fifth part of her nectar.
His [Fenton's ] tragedy of Mariamne, continuesourAuthor, has merit, tho'the action be too figurative and ornamental. It • fuperabounds in the richest poetic images; except this may • be palliated by urging, that it suits the character of oriental “ heroes to talk in to high a strain, and to use such a luxu
riance of metaphor.'
(c) Amor me autem diffolutor versat,
This is a proper apology for the poetic ornaments of that well-conducted play. Perhaps, however, the passions raised by this piece, are not so violent as those excited by Josephus, in his account of that unfortune Beauty.
From this epistle of Sappho to Phaon, our Author takes occafion to observe, that this species of writing, beautiful as it is,
has not been much cultivated among us. Drayton endeavoursed to revive it. He has left us some good subjects, unartfully s handled. We have also a few of this sort of epistles by • the late Lord' Hervey, in the fourth volume of Dodsley's miscellanies' (d).
In page 305. our Author begins his observations on the epistle from Eloisa to Abelard. By comparing it with passages from the original epistles, he shews how finely Pope has. worked up the little hints of distress that are scattered up
and down these; which, tho’highly passionate, are happily delicate: as the struggles between religion and love are exquisite. The following lines he thinks superior, in point of poetry and strong painting, to any other parts of the epistle, or, indeed, to any of Pope's productions. Be that as it will, we may venture, with the critic, to pronounce those destitute of any taste, either for poetry or painting, who shall be disgusted with their length.
In these lone walls (their days eternal bound)
Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray.
The darksome pines, that o'er yon rocks reclind,
The image of the goddess of Melancholy * fitting over the s convent, and, as it were, expanding her dreadful wings s over its whole circuit, and diffusing her gloom all around it, s is truly sublime, and strongly conceived, as the figurative ex
(d) Might we not here also mention an epistle from Abelard to Philantus, and from Abelard to Eloisa ? • Vid. line 165-feq.