« VorigeDoorgaan »
say, “I am apprehensive, however, that bis gallantries may seem to you somewhat farfetched, and his compliments over-strained, and that, for your part, you would prefer tenderness to deification. Love, in its highest tone, is, indeed, favourable to poetry, which scorns the limits of truth and nature, and in every thing affects hyperbole. But in such cases, the fancy is gratified at the expense of the feeling, and fiction occupies the place of reality. There are three topics which poets (and often the same poets) treat in a similar manner; devotion, love, and loyalty: or rather, they apply to the two latter, expressions and sentiments borrowed from the former. Thus Waller, speaking of his Saccharissa;
Scarce can I to Heaveo excuse
Which I thither ought to send." Letter vii. p. 82. Speaking of Pope's Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, as I have before noticed (p. 18.) you say that, it " is faulty in giving too forcible an expression to sentiments inconsistent with female purity”. *
* The British Critic for April 1805. Vol. xxv. p. 411. speaking of Dr. A.'s Letters on Poetry, and what he has said OD
I have also, (p. 43.) noticed your reference to the beautiful picture of connubial love in Hammond's thirteenth Elegy.
Letter ix. p. 121. Speaking of the Comus of Milton, you say “ As a recompense for the humiliation you may have felt on viewing the female Character as pourtrayed by Pope and Swift, you may justly pride yourself on the lustre thrown around it in its virgin purity, by this superior genius.”_" No one can peruse this piece without being sensible of an elevation of soul wbich, for a time, lifts it above the allurements of sensuality, and sanctifies all its emotions.” P. 122,
Letter xyii. p. 233. On Cowley, you say 66 The set of poems connected by the title of “ The Mistress," though termed “ love verses,' have as little real love in them as if they were written on a system of logic. They are, in fact, cxercises of wit upon certain given topics, which might have been composed by an academic or monk in a cloyster, who had never known the fair sex but from books. They are not proper to be presented to a young lady in the mass”. Letter xviii. p. 258.
258. You say
You say “ The poems
this poem, says that he has “ too far palliated the immorality of a most seductive poem”.
of Lord Lyttelton may be recommended to you, as certain to afford some pleasure, and free from every thing that can offend.”_" He appears to have felt the tender passion with equal ardour and purity, and to have fulfilled every duty both of a lover and a husband.”_" I must, however, enter a protest against the following maxim:
One only care your gentle breasts should move,
Th’important business of your life is love. Unless love be here used in the extended sense of all the charities of life, all that is endearing and attaching in human society, I should say that he degrades the female character by his limitation.” P. 260.
In concluding these quotations, I must not neglect to recall your attention to your praise of Shenstone's Pastoral Ballad in four Parts, where you say that it “ has given much pleasure to all who were capable of entering into the delicacies of the soft passion in its purest form.” (Essay on Song-writing. P. xxviii. and p. 5. of this Volume.)
To proceed, then, Sir, to the consideration of the Songs themselves.
The first (p. 70.) is Ambrose Phillips' translation from Sappho, “ Blest as th' immortal Gods is he,” to which I object, both as it is
heathen, and as it compares the happiness of a mere mortal lover to that of immortals. And the conclusion introduces death with levity, as the effect of love. (See before 53.) I shall not make any farther objection against the Song, but I certainly should not have thought it, merely for the sake of a smooth versification, deserving a place in a Collection.
Much the same may be said of the next, (p. 71.)
“ Thy fatal shafts unerring move,
I bow before thy altar, Love;" The bowing before the altar of love is idolatry.
Cowper, in his Poem on Charity, acknowledges how wrong it is to worship or give divine praise to any object below the Deity himself:
Oh, could I worship aught beneath the skies
me to go too far. He seems to acknowledge the willingness of his soul to render thanks and praise to Liberty, but for the prohibition; and the describing the altar and mode of worship, both in these and the following lines, with so much minuteness, is dwelling upon the subject, and that with so much delight, as looks like a proneness to it, which I should be sorry to encourage in my own mind.
I find another Poet going, as I conceive, a step beyond Cowper :
Build me a shrine, and I could kneel
To Rural Gods, or prostrate fall ;
That one GREAT SPIRIT governs all.
With kindred feelings press my grave.
Condemn'd to nurse eternal care,
And ever drop the silent tear, seems to savour of fatalism.
In "Ah! the shepherd's mournful fate !" (p. 72.) the Lover's' mistress has a form so heavenly fair, and he determines to pursue her with hope till death, and
Then, when my tedious hours are past,
Be this last blessing given,