« VorigeDoorgaan »
have collected, but with studied brevity, my miscellaneous remarks into this work now presented to the reader ; where what occur to the extent of my former volume, are merely supplemental to it, that no purchaser might have occasion to complain, nor myself unreasonably suffer by a solitary and unsupported work. These Observations, which are principally employed on our poet's imitations of his predecesfors, but not unaccompanied by an intermixture of other topics arising from the subject, will prove acceptable, I hope, in proportion to their worth, to the lovers of poctic elegance. But, in truth, both my present and past exercitations on this poct, with the future efforts of Dr. Warton, admirable as they may be, are alike frivolous and ineffectual, if no edition of Pope be wanted, according to the professorial edict of those impartial judges and superlative practitioners of universal literature, hight British Critics! From the formidable decision of these mighty dictators I appeal, however, with confidence by this volume to the public.
Those imitations, which others had before discovered, I have not been forward to repeat, from a difinclination to an unreasonable extenfion of the work: what may have been incidentally repeated, I have not appropriated with intentional usurpation. Even in those instances, where the symptoms of imitation are dubious or improbable, to contemplate the efforts of genius on the same sentiment, is of itself a most pleafing occupation to a reader of sensibility.
Besides the immediate, illustration arising to our poet from the specification of his borrowed ornaments, another point of some importance is indirectly enforced; I mean, the unlimited and incalculable obligations of modern Wit to the Genius of Greece and Rome; and the inconceivable benefit of antient learning to those, who wish to appreciate, by a true estimate, the accomplishments of succeeding writers, and to acquire a pure relish even for the beauties of English poetry. Indeed, to the credit of his taste and magnanimity be it spoken, and the more, as he tasted the spirit of antiquity through the dilution of translations only, no man could be more sensible of his obligations, nor more profusely generous in his acknowledgements to the illustrious exemplars of the classic ages, than Pope himself.
That satiety, of which some complain in the poetry of Pope, must be explained in part from his consummate propriety of expression, his sua
vity of numbers, and that inculpable perfection which pervades the whole body of his compositions ; and, in part, from the sickly fastidiousness and hafty misconception of the censurer himself. Occasional harshness of versification, disproportionate expression, and incongruity of thought, act like a foil to a sparkling sentiment, or a tuneful verse; and excite that momentary recreation, which arises from agreable furprize and unexpected felicity of execution. The same excellence, in a galaxy of equal beauties, would have passed over the eye of the mind without discriminate impreilion. It is not the insipidity of viands, but their luscious juices and exquisite flavour, that makes them cloy, and renders palatable even the neutrality of vulgar fare. It was neither the flatness nor poverty of the Archangel's conversation, but his
of conception and his charming voice, that wearied our firit Parent, and opprest his sense,
Our attention, palled by a profusion of unceasing dainties, requires the refreshment of variety ; though that variety be absurdity and dulness.
final disimillion of our accomplished countryman and his enchanting works,
let me be permitted to weigh his qualities in that balance, which the most elegant critic of antiquity has suspended for the adjustment of poetic merit. Horace, in his Satires, i. 4. 39. thus exhibits the criterion of a TRUE POET, in contradistinction to the simple versifier :
Primum ego me illorum, dederim quibus effe poëtis,
Magna fonaturum, des nominis hujus honorem. Three essential qualifications, we see, muft combine to the composition of a genuine bard: 1. Ingenium ; Genius, or native Capability; an endowment, principally displayed, as it regards the poetic character, in “ Creation," or "original
1. Now this “creative,” or “ inventive, Faculty" of Pope may be most commodiously asserted, and with indisputable efficiency, from his Rape of the Lock, and Dunciad ; because a comparison with the great poetical inventors, who preceded him, may be most obviously instituted from these performances. But I thus pronounce, rather in compliance with popular opinion, than in conformity to my own conception of the subject, and, as I think, to Truth itself. Those poets a 3
after Homer, who have gained the highest reputation for creative power in antient and modern days, tread too closely in his steps for a reasonable claim of independent merit in this particular : and, as far as I can discover, no less invention, in proportion to the extent of his performance, is discoverable in our author's Dunciad, than in the Paradise Lost itself, and much more than Virgil's poem can assert. Now, in my judgement, as much original ingenuity, as novel and extensive a creation of excursive fancy, is exhibited in the Moral Essays of Pope, and most of his other pieces, as in the poetry of any artist that could be mentioned. His invention is only less conspicuous in aétual display than that of others, from the paucity of his original productions ; a paucity, not asignable to the poverty of a barren or exhausted intellect, but to an incidental misemployment of his talents on the works of Shakspeare, and to the devotion of fa long a time to translation only :
And Pope's ten years to comment and translate.
2. The second quality specified by Horace is, the mens divinior, “a mind of diviner conftitu". “ tion.” By this I understand that enthusiastic rapture, to which glowing conceptions and ecstatic visions are congenial; which kindles into