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Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine. Here at 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 inquired 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, nor 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.
The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at "the little unguarded follies of the female sex." It is therefore wi.hout 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 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 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 in:ermingled with the action. Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connexion; 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 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 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 de-story, that it supersedes invention; and imagination ranges at full liberty without straggling into scenes of fable.
In this work are exhibited, in a very high gree, 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 detests a Gnome.
That fimiliar 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 scen 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 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 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 shown 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 enabled, with all her severity, to attract and to delight.
The train of my disquisition has now conduct ed me to that poetical wonder, the translation of the "Iliad," a performance which no age or na
tion can pretend to equal. To the Greeks trans- | consideration must be had of the nature of out lation was almost unknown; it was totally un-language, the form of our metre, ard, above all, known to the inhabitants of Greece. They had of the change which two thousand years have no recourse to the barbarians for poetical beau- made in the modes of life and the habits of ties, but sought for every thing in Homer, where, thought. Virgil wrote in a language of the same indeed, there is but little which they might not general fabric with that of Homer, in verses of find. the same measure, and in an age nearer to HoThe Italians have been very diligent_transla-mer's time by eighteen hundred years; yet he tors; but I can hear of no version, unless per- found, even then, the state of the world so much haps Anguilara's Ovid may be excepted, which altered, and the demand for elegance so much is read with eagerness. The "Iliad" of Salvini increased, that mere nature would be endured every reader may discover to be punctiliously no longer; and perhaps in the multitude of borexact; but it seems to be the work of a linguist rowed passages, very few can be shown which skilfully pedantic; and his countrymen, the pro- he has not embellished. per judges of its power to please, reject it with disgust.
Their predecessors, the Romans, have left some specimens of translations 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.
There is a time when nations, emerging from barbarity, and falling into regular subordination, gain leisure to grow wise, and feel the shame of ignorance and the craving pain of unsatisfied curiosity. To this hunger of the mind plain sense is grateful; that which fills the void removes uneasiness, and to be free from pain for a while is pleasure; but repletion generates fas tidiousness; a saturated intellect soon becomes luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reception till it is recommended by artificial dic tion. Thus it will be found, in the progress of learning, that in all nations the first writers are simple, and that every age improves in elegance. One refinement always makes way for another; and what was expedient to Virgil was necessary to Pope.
The chief help of Pope in this arduous under- I suppose many readers of the English "Iliad," taking was drawn from the versions of Dryden. when they have been touched with some unexVirgil had borrowed much of his imagery from pected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried to Homer, and part of the debt was now paid by enjoy it in the original, where, alas! it was not his translator. Pope searched the pages of to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his transDryden for happy combinations of heroic dic-lator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable tion; but it will not be denied that he added to his character; but to have added can be no much to what he found. He cultivated our lan- great crime, if nothing be taken away. Elegance guage with so much diligence and art, that he is surely to be desired, if it be not gained at the has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical ele-expense of dignity. A hero would wish to be gances to posterity. His version may be said loved, as well as to be reverenced. to have tuned the English tongue; for since its To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; appearance no writer, however deficient in other the purpose of a writer is to be read, and the cripowers, has wanted melody. Such a series of ticism which would destroy the power of pleaslines, so elaborately corrected, and so sweetlying must be blown aside. Pope wrote for his modulated, took possession of the public ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the Icarned wondered at the translation.
own age and his own nation: he knew that it was necessary to colour the images and point the sentiments of his author; he therefore made him graceful, but lost him some of his sub
But, in the most general applause, discordant voices will always be heard. It has been object-limity. ed by some, who wish to be numbered among The copious notes with which the version is the sons of learning, that Pope's version of accompanied, and by which it is recommended Homer is not Homerical; that it exhibits no re- to many readers, though they were undoubtedly semblance of the original and characteristic man- written to swell the volumes, ought not to pass ner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants his without praise: commentaries which attract the awful simplicity, his artless grandeur,* his un-reader by the pleasure of perusal have not often affected majesty. This cannot be totally denied; but it must be remembered, that necessitas quod cogit def n lit; that may be lawfully done which cannot be forborne. Time and place will always enforce regd. In estimating this translation, Bentley was one of these. He and Pope, soon 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. Bentley, I ordered my book seller to send 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 hooks?" My Homer," r plied Pope," which you did me the honour to subscribe for. Oh," said Bentley, "ay, now I recollect-your Ianslation it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; but you must not call it Horner H.
appeared; the notes of others are read to clear difficulties, those of Pope to vary entertainment. It has however been objected with sufficient reason, that there is in the commentary too much of unseasonable levity and affected gayety; that too many appeals are made to the ladies, and the case which is so carefully preserved is sometimes the ease of a trifler. Every at has its terms, and every kind of instruction its proper style; the gravity of common critics may be tedious, but is less despicable than childish merriment.
Of the "Odyssey" nothing remains to be ob served; the same general praise may be given to both translations, and a particular examination of either would require a large volume.
Of the "Dunciad" the hint is confessedly taken from Dryden's "Mac Flecknoe;" but the plan is so enlarged and diversified as justly to claim the praise of an original, and affords the hest specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous.
That the design was moral, whatever the author might tell either his readers or himself, I am not convinced. The first motive was the desire of revenging the contempt in which Theobald had treated his Shakspeare, and regaining the honour which he had lost, by crushing his opponent. Theobald was not of bulk enough to fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to find other enemies with other names, at whose expense he might divert the public.
In this design there was petulance and malignity enough; but I cannot think it very criminal. An author places himself uncalled before the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace. Dulness or deformity are not culpable in themselves, but may be very justly reproached when they pretend to the honour of wit or the influence of beauty. If bad writers were to pass without reprehension, what should restrain them? impune diem consumpserit ingens Telephus; and upon bad writers only will censure have much effect. The satire which brought Theobald and Moore into contempt dropped impotent from Bentley, like the javelin of Priam.
All truth is valuable, and satirical criticism may be considered as useful when it rectifies error and improves judgment: he that refines the public taste is a public benefactor.
The beauties of this poem are well known; its chief fault is the grossness of its images. Pope and Swift had an unnatural delight in ideas physically impure, such as every other tongue utters with unwillingness, and of which every ear shrinks from the mention.
But even this fault, offensive as it is, may be forgiven for the excellence of other passages; such as the formation and dissolution of Moore, the account of the traveller, the misfortune of the florist, and the crowded thoughts and stately numbers which dignify the concluding paragraph.
The alterations which have been made in the "Dunciad," not always for the better, require that it should be published, with all its variations.
The "Essay on Man" was a work of great labour and long consideration, but certainly not the happiest of Pope's performances. The subject is perhaps not very proper for poetry, and the poet was not sufficiently master of his subject; metaphysical morality was to him a new study he was proud of his acquisitions, and, supposing himself master of great secrets, was in haste to teach what he had not learned. Thus he tells us, in the first epistle, that from the nature of the supreme Being may be deduced an order of beings such as mankind, because infinite excellence can do only what is best. He finds out that these beings must be "somewhere;" and that "all the question is, whether man be in a wrong place." Surely if, according to the poet's Leibnitian reasoning, we may infer
that man ought to be, only because he is; we may allow that this place is the right place, because he has it. Supreme Wisdom is not less infallible in disposing than in creating. But what is meant by somewhere and place, and wrong place, it had been vain to ask Pope, who probably had never asked himself.
Having exalted himself into the chair of wis dom, he tells us much that every man knows, and much that he does not know himself; that we see but little, and that the order of the universe is beyond our comprehension; an opinion not very uncommon; and that there is a chain of subordinate beings "from infinite to nothing," of which himself and his readers are equally ignorant. But he gives us one comfort, which without his help he supposes unattainable, in the position, "that though we are fools, yet God is wise."
The Essay affords an egregious instance of the predominance of genius, the dazzling splendour of imagery, and the seductive powers of eloquence. Never were penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised. The reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing; and, when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and his nurse. When these wonder-working sounds sink into sense, and the doctrine of the Essay, disrobed of its ornaments, is left to the powers of its naked excellence, what shall we discover?That we are, in comparison with our Creator, very weak and ignorant; that we do not uphold the chain of existence, and that we could not make one another with more skill than we are made. We may learn yet more; that the arts of human life were copied from the instinctive operations of other animals; that, if the world be made for man, it may be said that man was made for geese. To those profound principles of natural knowledge are added some moral instructions equally new: that self-interest, well understood, will produce social concord; that men are mutual gainers by mutual benefits; that evil is sometimes balanced by good; that human advantages are unstable and fallacious, of uncertain duration and doubtful effect; that our true honour is, not to have a great part, but to act it well; that virtue only is our own; and that hap piness is always in our power.
Surely a man of no very comprehensive search may venture to say that he has heard all this before; but it was never till now recommended by such a blaze of embellishments, or such sweetness of melody. The vigorous contraction of some thoughts, the luxuriant amplification of others, the incidental illustrations, and sometimes the dignity, sometimes the softness, of the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend criticism,. and oppress judgment by overpowering pleasure.
This is true of many paragraphs; yet, if I had undertaken to exemplify Pope's felicity of composition before a rigid critic, I should not select the "Essay on Man;" for it contains more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more harshness of diction, more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without elegance, and more heaviness without etrength, than will easily be found in all his other works.
The Characters of Men and Women are the product of diligent speculation upon human life; much labour has been bestowed upon them, and
Pope very seldom laboured in vain. That his excellence may be properly estimated, I recommend a comparison of his Characters of Women with Boileau's satire; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity female nature is investigated and female excellence selected; and he surely is no mean writer to whom Boileau should be found inferior. The Characters of Men, however, are written with more, if not with deeper thought, and exhibit many passages exquisitely beautiful. The "Gem and the Flower" will not easily be equalled. In the women's part are some defects; the character of Atossa is not so neatly finished as that of Clodio; and some of the female characters may be found perhaps more frequently among men; what is said of Philomede was true of Prior.
In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, Dr. Warburton has endeavoured to find a train of thought which was never in the writer's head, and to support his hypothesis, has printed that first which was published last. In one, the most valuable passage is perhaps the Elegy on "Good Sense;" and the other, the "End of the Duke of Buckingham."
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the qualities that constitute genius. He had invention, by which new trains of events are formed, and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in the "Rape of the Lock;" and by which extrinsic and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are connected with a known subject, as in the "Essay on Criticism." He had imagination which strongly impresses on the writer's mind, and enables him to convey to the reader, the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his "Eloisa," "Windsor Forest," and the "Ethic Epistles." He had judgment which selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him, ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning: "Music," says Dryden, "is inarticulate poetry;" among the excellences of Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden he discovered the most perfect fabric of English
The epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily called "The Prologue to the Satires," is a performance consisting, as it seems, of many fragments wrought into one design, which by this union of scattered beauties contains more strik-verse, and habituated himself to that only which ing paragraphs than could probably have been brought together into an occasional work. As there is no stronger motive to exertion than selfdefence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or dignity, than the poet's vindication of his own character. The meanest passage is the satire upon Sporus.
he found the best; in consequence of which restraint, his poetry has been censured as too uniformly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness. I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception; and who would even themselves have less pleasure in his works, it he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses.
Of the two poems which derived their names from the year, and which are called "The Epilogue to the Satires," it was very justly remarked by Savage, that the second was in the whole But though he was thus careful of his versi more strongly conceived, and more equally sup-fication, he did not oppress his powers with ported, but that it had no single passage equal superfluous rigour. He seems to have thought to the contention in the first for the dignity of with Boileau, that the practice of writing might vice and the celebration of the triumph of cor- be refined till the difficulty should overbalance ruption. the advantage. The construction of his language is not always strictly grammatical: with those rhymes which prescription had conjoined, he contented himself, without regard to Swift's remonstrances, though there was no striking consonance; nor was he very careful to vary his terminations, or to refuse admission, at a small distance, to the same rhymes.
The imitations of Horace seem to have been written as relaxations of his genius. This employment became his favourite by its facility; the plan was ready to his hand, and nothing was required but to accommodate as he could the sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar images; but what is easy is seldom excellent: such imitations cannot give pleasure To Swift's edict for the exclusion of Alexanto common readers: the man of learning may drines and triplets he paid little regard; he adbe sometimes surprised and delighted by an un-mitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton, too expected parallel; but the comparison requires rarely; he uses them more liberally in his transknowledge of the original, which will likewise lation than his poems. often detect strained applications. Between Roman images and English manners, there will be an irreconcileable dissimilitude, and the work will be generally uncouth and party-coloured, neither original nor translated, neither ancient
In one of these poems is a couplet, to which belongs a story that I once heard the Reverend Dr. Ridley relate :
"Slander or poison dread from Delia's rage; Harsh words, or hanging, if your judge be ****.” Bir Francis Page, a judge well known in his time, conceiving that his name was meant to fill up the blank, sent hia clerk to Mr. Pope, to complain of the insult. Pope
He has a few double rhymes; and always, I think, unsuccessfully, except once in the "Rape of the Lock."
Expletives he very early ejected from his verses; but he now and then admits an epithet rather commodious than important. Each of
told the young man that the blank might be supplied by
the six first lines of the "Iliad" might lose two | Hobbes; who are, it seems, as much celebrated syllables with very little diminution of the meaning; and sometimes, after all his art and labour, one verse seems to be made for the sake of another. In his latter productions the diction is sometimes vitiated by French idioms, with which Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him.
I have been told that the couplet by which he declared his own ear to be most gratified was this:
Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows
for their knowledge of the original, as they are decried for the badness of their translations. Chapman pretends to have restored the genuine sense of the author, from the mistakes of all former explainers, in several hundred places; and the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they confess they have corrected the old Latin interpretation very often by his version. For my part, I generally took the author's meaning to be as you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfectness in the language, overruled me. However, sir, you may be confident I think you in the right, because you happen to be of my opinion; for men (let them say what they will) never approve any other's sense, but as it squares with their own. But you have made me inuch more proud of, and positive in my judgment, since it is strengthened by yours. I think your criticisms which regard the expression very just, and shall make my profit of them; to give you some proof that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your bare objection, though I have Mr. Dryden's example for each of them. And this, New sentiments and new images others may I hope, you will account no small piece of obe produce; but to attempt any further improve-dience from one who values the authority of one ment of versification will be dangerous. Art and diligence have now done their best, and what shall be added will be the effort of tedious toil and needless curiosity.
It is remarked by Watts, that there is scarcely a happy combination of words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties of speech, it were desirable to know. That he gleaned from authors, obscure as well as eminent, what he thought brilliant or useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not unlikely. When, in his last years, Hall's Satires were shown him, he wished that he had seen them sooner.
true poet above that of twenty critics or commentators. But, though I speak thus of commentators, I will continue to read carefully all I can procure, to make up, that way, for my own After all this, it is surely superfluous to anwant of critical understanding in the original swer the question that has once been asked, beauties of Homer. Though the greatest of Whether Pope was a poet? otherwise than by them are certainly those of invention and design, asking, in return, If Pope be not a poet, where which are not at all confined to the language; is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are by a definition will only show the narrowness (by the consent of the best critics of all nations) of the definer, though a definition which shall ex- first in the manners, (which include all the clude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look speeches, as being no other than the representaround upon the present time, and back upon the tions of each person's manners by his words ;) past; let us inquire to whom the voice of man- and then in that rapture and fire which carries kind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their you away with him, with that wonderful force, productions be examined, and their claims stated, that no man who has a true poetical spirit is and the pretensions of Pope will be no more dis-master of himself while he reads him. Homer puted. Had he given the world only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him; if the writer of the "Iliad" were to class his successors, he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.
makes you interested and concerned before you are aware, all at once; whereas Virgil does it by soft degrees. This, I believe, is what a trans lator of Homer ought principally to imitate; and it is very hard for any translator to come up to it, because the chief reason why all translations The following letter, of which the original is fall short of their originals is, that the very conin the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was communi-straint they are obliged to renders them heavy cated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell.
"To Mr. BRIDGES, at the Bishop of London's, at Fulham.
"SIR, "The favour of your letter, with your remark, can never be enough acknowledged; and the speed with which you discharged so troublesome a task doubles the obligation.
"I must own, you have pleased me very much by cornmendations so ill bestowed upon me; but, I assure you, much more by the frankness of your censure, which I ought to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advantageous to a scribbler to be improved in his judgment than to be soothed in his vanity. The greater part of those deviations from the Greek which you have observed, I was led into by Chapman and
"The great beauty of Homer's language, as I take it, consists in that noble simplicity which runs through all his works; (and yet his diction, contrary to what one would imagine consistent with simplicity, is at the same time very copious.) I don't know how I have run into this pedantry in a letter, but I find I have said too much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately: what farther thoughts I have upon this subject I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my own improvement) when we meet; which is a hap piness I very earnestly desire, as I do likewise some opportunity of proving how much I think myself obliged to your friendship, and how truly I am, sir,
"Your most faithful, humble servant,