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more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope;* after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme or blank' verse.
“Cooper's Hill,” if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.
The four verses, which, since Dryden has comunended them, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:
O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
The lines are in themselves not perfect: for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the compari. son, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language that does not express intellectual operations by material images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprised in so few words; the particulars of resemblance are so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adja. cent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately ad. justed; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beau. ty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be produced at will
• By Garth, in his “Poem on Claremont;" and by Pope, in his “ Windsor Forest."
by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in soine hour propitious to poetry.
He appears to have been one of the first that us. derstood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions; some of them are the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.
Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His versions of Virgil are not pleasing; but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on Old Age" has neither the clearness of prose, nor the sprightliness of poetry.
The “strength of Denham,” which Pope so em. phatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk,
On the Thames.
On Strafford. His wisdom such, at once it did appear Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear. While single he stood forth, and seem'd, although Each had an army, as an equal foe, Such was his force of eloquence, to make The hearers more concern'd than he that spake :
Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to be consi-, dered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment, naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice as he gains more confidence in himself.
In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to verse :
Then all those Who in the dark our fury did escape, Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape, And differing dialect; then their numbers swell And grow upon us; first Choræbeus fell Before Minerva's altar; next did bleed Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed. Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus, thy piety, Nor consecrated mitre, from the same Ill fate could save, my country's funeral flame
And Troy's cold ashes I attest, and call
From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his followers the art of concluding their sense in couplets; which has perhaps been with rather too much constancy pursued.
This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his latter works he has totally forborn them.
His rhymes are such as seem found without dif. ficulty, by following the sense ; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can get :
O how transform'd!
From thence a thousand lesser poets sprung
Sometimes the weight of rhyme is laid upon a word too feeble to sustain it:
- Troy confounded falls From all her glories : if it might have stood By any power, by this right hand it shou'd... -And though my outward state misfortune hath Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith. - Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome, A feigned tear destroys us, against whom
Tydides por Achilles could prevail,
He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses ; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in six.
Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, where he was less skilful, or at least less dex. terous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the grace, not the strength, of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language; and whom we ought there fore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.
T:e life of Milton has been already written in so
many forms, and with such minute inquiry, that I might perhaps more properly have contented my. self with the addition of a few notes on Mr. Fen. ton's elegant Abridgment, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniforinity of this edition,
• JOHN MILTON was by birth a gentleman, de. scended from the proprietors of Milton, near Thame, in Oxfordshire, one of whom forfeited his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. Which side he took I know not; his descendant inherited no veneration for the White Rose.
His grandfather, John, was keeper of the forest of Shotover, a zealous papist, who disinherited his VOL. 1.