Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

it chiefly to consist in the delightful imaging of persons, actions, passions, or things. 'Tis not the jerk or sting of an epigram, nor the seeming contradiction of a poor antithesis (the delight of an ill-judging audience in a play of rhyme), nor the jingle of a more poor paronomasia; neither is it so much 5 the morality of a grave sentence, affected by Lucan, but more sparingly used by Virgil; but it is some lively and apt description, dressed in such colours of speech, that it sets before your eyes the absent object as perfectly and more delightfully than nature. So then the first happiness of the 10 poet's imagination is properly invention, or finding of the thought; the second is fancy, or the variation, driving, or moulding of that thought as the judgment represents it proper to the subject; the third is elocution, or the art of clothing and adorning that thought so found and varied, in 15 apt, significant, and sounding words. The quickness of the imagination is seen in the invention, the fertility in the fancy, and the accuracy in the expression. For the two first of these Ovid is famous amongst the poets; for the latter, Virgil. Ovid images more often the movements and 20 affections of the mind, either combating between two contrary passions, or extremely discomposed by one; his words, therefore, are the least part of his care; for he pictures nature in disorder, with which the study and choice of words is inconsistent. This is the proper wit of dialogue or discourse, 25 and consequently of the drama, where all that is said is to be supposed the effect of sudden thought; which, though it excludes not the quickness of wit in repartees, yet admits not a too curious election of words, too frequent allusions or use of tropes, or in fine anything that shows remoteness 30 of thought or labour in the writer. On the other side, Virgil speaks not so often to us in the person of another, like Ovid, but in his own : he relates almost all things as from himself, and thereby gains more liberty than the other to express his thoughts with all the graces of elocution, to write more 35 figuratively, and to confess as well the labour as the force of his imagination. Though he describes his Dido well and naturally, in the violence of her passions, yet he must yield

in that to the Myrrha, the Byblis, the Althæa of Ovid. For as great an admirer of him as I am, I must acknowledge that, if I see not more of their souls than I see of Dido's, at

least I have a greater concernment for them: and that con5 vinces me that Ovid has touched those tender strokes more

delicately than Virgil could. But when action or persons are to be described, when any such image is to be set before us, how bold, how masterly are the strokes of Virgil ! We see

the objects he represents us within their native figures, in 10 their proper motions; but we so see them as our own eyes

could never have beheld them, so beautiful in themselves. We see the soul of the poet, like that universal one of which he speaks, informing and moving through all his pictures:

"Totamque infusa per artus Mens agitat molem et magno se corpore miscet.'

We behold him embellishing his images, as he makes Venus breathing beauty upon her son Æneas:

•Lumenque juventæ
Purpureum et lætos oculis afflarat honores:
Quale manus addunt ebori decus, aut ubi flavo
Argentum Pariusve lapis circumdatur auro.

20

See his Tempest, his Funeral Sports, his Combat of Turnus and Æneas, and in his Georgics, which I esteem the divinest

part of all his writings, the Plague, the Country, the Battle 25 of Bulls, the Labour of the Bees, and those many other

excellent images of nature, most of which are neither great in themselves nor have any natural ornament to bear them up; but the words wherewith he describes them are so

excellent, that it might be well applied to him which was 30 said by Ovid, Materiam superabat opus: the very sound of

nis words has often somewhat that is connatural to the subject; and while we read him, we sit, as in a play, beholding the scenes of what he represents. To perform this, he made frequent use of tropes, which you know change the 35 nature of a known word by applying it to some other signi

fication; and this is it which Horace means in his Epistle to the Pisos:

*Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum.'

But I am sensible I have presumed too far to entertain you 5
with a rude discourse of that art which you both know so
well, and put into practice with so much happiness. Yet
before I leave Virgil, I must own the vanity to tell you,
and by you the world, that he has been my master in this
poem: I have followed him everywhere, I know not with 10
what success, but I am sure with diligence enough: my
images are many of them copied from him, and the rest
are imitations of him. My expressions also are as near as
the idioms of the two languages would admit of in translation.
And this, Sir, I have done with that boldness for which I 15
will stand accountable to any of our little critics, who,
perhaps, are not better acquainted with him than I am.
Upon your first perusal of this poem, you have taken notice
of some words which I have innovated (if it be too bold for
me to say refined) upon his Latin; which, as I offer not 20
to introduce into English prose, so I hope they are neither
improper nor altogether unelegant in verse; and in this
Horace will again defend me:

• Et nova fictaque nuper habebunt verba fidem si
Græco fonte cadent parce detorta.

25 The inference is exceeding plain; for if a Roman poet might have liberty to coin a word, supposing only that it was derived from the Greek, was put into a Latin termination, and that he used this liberty but seldom and with modesty; how much more justly may I challenge that privi- 30 lege to do it with the same pre-requisites, from the best and most judicious of Latin writers? In some places, where either the fancy or the words were his or any other's, I have noted it in the margin, that I might not seem a plagiary; in others I have neglected it, to avoid as well tediousness 35 as the affectation of doing it too often. Such descriptions or images, well wrought, which I promise not for mine,

are, as I have said, the adequate delight of heroic poesy; for they beget admiration, which is its proper object; as the images of the burlesque, which is contrary to this, by

the same reason beget laughter; for the one shows nature 5 beautified, as in the picture of a fair woman, which we all admire; the other shows her deformed, as in that of a lazar, or of a fool with distorted face and antic gestures, at which we cannot forbear to laugh, because it is a deviation

from nature. But though the same images serve equally To for the epic poesy, and for the historic and panegyric, which

are branches of it, yet a several sort of sculpture is to be used in them. If some of them are to be like those of Juvenal, Stantes in curribus Æmiliani, heroes drawn in their

triumphal chariots and in their full proportion; others are 15 to be like that of Virgil, Spirantia mollius æra: there is some

what more of softness and tenderness to be shown in them. You will soon find I write not this without concern. Some, who have seen a paper of verses which I wrote last year

to her Highness the Duchess, have accused them of that 20 only thing I could defend in them. They have said, I did

humi serpere, that I wanted not only height of fancy, but dignity of words to set it off. I might well answer with that of Horace, Nunc non erat his locus; I knew I addressed

them to a lady, and accordingly I affected the softness of 25 expression and the smoothness of measure, rather than the

height of thought; and in what I did endeavour, it is no vanity to say I have succeeded. I detest arrogance; but there is some difference betwixt that and a just defence.

But I will not farther bribe your candour, or the reader's. 30 I leave them to speak for me; and, if they can, to make

out that character, not pretending to a greater, which I have given them.

VERSES TO HER ROYAL HIGHNESS THE DUCHESS,

On the Memorable Victory gained by the Duke against the

Hollanders, June 3, 1665, and on her Journey afterwards into the North.

10

MADAM,
WHEN for our sakes your hero you resigned
To swelling seas and every faithless wind,
When you released his courage and set free
A valour fatal to the enemy,
You lodged your country's cares within your breast,
The mansion where soft love should only rest,
And, ere our foes abroad were overcome,
The noblest conquest you had gained at home.
Ah, what concerns did both your souls divide !
Your honour gave us what your love denied:
And 'twas for him much easier to subdue
Those foes he fought with than to part from you.
That glorious day, which two such navies saw
As each unmatched might to the world give law,
Neptune, yet doubtful whom he should obey,
Held to them both the trident of the sea:
The winds were hushed, the waves in ranks were cast
As awfully as when God's people past,
Those yet uncertain on whose sails to blow,
These where the wealth of nations ought to flow.
Then with the Duke your Highness ruled the day;
While all the brave did his command obey,
The fair and pious under you did pray.
How powerful are chaste vows! the wind and tide
You bribed to combat on the English side.
Thus to your much-loved lord you did convey
An unknown succour, sent the nearest way;
New vigour to his wearied arms you brought,
(So Moses was upheld while Israel fought,)
While from afar we heard the cannon play,
Like distant thunder on a shiny day.

25

« ZurückWeiter »