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written by Georgius Sabinus, a poet now little known or read, though once the friend of Luther and Melancthon :
“ De Sacerdote Furem consolante.
Huc ubi dat sontes carnificina neci.
Jam cum coelitibus (si modo credis) eris.
gemens, si vera mihi solatia præbes,
Ducere, jejunas hac edo luce nihil.” What he has valuable he owes to his diligence and his judgment. His diligence has justly placed him amongst the most correct of the English poets ; and he was one of the first that resolutely endeavoured at correctness. He never sacrifices accuracy to haste, nor indulges himself in contemptuous negligence, or impatient idleness; he has no careless lines, or entangled sentiments; his words are nicely selected, and his thoughts fully expanded. If this part of his character suffers an abatement, it must be from the disproportion of his rhymes, which have not always sufficient consonance, and from the admission of broken lines into his “Solomon ;' but perhaps he thought, like Cowley, that hemistichs ought to be admitted into heroic poetry.
He had apparently such rectitude of judgment as secured him from everything that approached to the ridiculous or absurd ; but as law operates in civil agency, not to the excitement of virtue, but the repression of wickedness, so judgment in the operations of intellect can hinder faults, but not produce excellence. Prior is never lo nor very often sublime. It is said by Longinus of Euripides, that he forces himself sometimes into grandeur by violence of effort, as the lion kindles his fury by the lashes of his own tail. Whatever Prior obtains above mediocrity seems the effort of struggle and of toil. He has many vigorous, but few happy lines; he has everything
by purchase, and nothing by gift; he had no nightly visitations of the Muse, no infusions of sentiment or felicities of fancy. His diction, however, is more his own than of any among the successors of Dryden; he borrows no lucky turns, or commodious modes of language, from his predecessors. His phrases are original, but they are sometimes harsh ; as he inherited no elegances, none has he bequeathed. His expression has every mark of labor. ious study, the line seldom seems to have been formed at once; the words did not come till they were called, and were then put by constraint into their places, where they do their duty, but do it sullenly. In his greater compositions there may be found more rigid stateliness than graceful dignity.
Of versification he was not negligent. What he received from Dryden he did not lose ; neither did he increase the difficulty of writing by unnecessary severity, but uses triplets and alexandrines without scruple. In his preface to “Solomon” he proposes some improvements by extending the sense from one couplet to another with variety of pauses. This he has attempted, but without success ; his interrupted lines are unpleasing, and his sense, as less distinct, is less striking. He has altered the stanza of Spenser as a house is altered by building another in its place of a different form. With how little resemblance he has formed his new stanza to that of his master these specimens will show :
By this new structure of his lines he has avoided diffi. culties ; nor am I sure that he has lost any of the power of pleasing, but he no longer imitates Spenser. Some of his poems are written without regularity of measures ; for, when he commenced poet, he had not recovered from our Pindaric infatuation; but he probably lived to be convinced that the essence of verse is order and con.
His numbers are such as mere diligence may attain; they seldom offend the ear, and seldom soothe it; they commonly want airiness, lightness, and facility. What is smooth is not soft. His verses always roll, but they seldom flow.
A survey of the life and writings of Prior may exem. plify a sentence which he doubtless understood well when he read Horace at his uncle's, “ The vessel long retains the scent which it first receives.” In his private relaxation he revived the tavern, and in his amorous pedantry he exhibited the college. But on higher occasions and nobler subjects, when habit was overpowered by the necessity of reflection, he wanted not wisdom as a statesman, or elegance as a poet.
WILLIAM CONGREVE descended from a family in Staffordshire of so great antiquity, that it claims a place among the few that extend their line beyond the Norman Conquest, and was the son of William Congreve, second son of Richard Congreve, of Congreve and Stratton. He visited, once at least, the residence of his ancestors ; and, I believe, more places than one are still shown in groves and gardens, where he is related to have written his Old Bachelor.
Neither the time nor place of his birth is certainly known. If the inscription upon his monument be true, he was born in 1672. For the place, it was said by him. self that he owed his nativity to England, and by every. body else that he was born in Ireland. Southern men. tioned him with sharp censure as a man that meanly disowned his native country. The biographers assigned his nativity to Bardsa, near Leeds, in Yorkshire, from the account given by himself, as they suppose, to Jacob. To doubt whether a man of eminence has told the truth about his own birth is, in appearance, to be very deficient in candour ; yet nobody can live long without knowing that falsehoods of convenience or vanity, falsehoods from which no evil immediately visible ensues, except the general degradation of human testimony, are very lightly uttered, and once uttered are sullenly supported. Boileau, who desired to be thought a rigorous and steady moralist, having told a pretty lie to Louis XIV., continued it afterwards by false dates ; thinking himself obliged in honour, Bays his admirer, to maintain what, when he said it, was
so well received. [Congreve was baptised at Bardsey, February 10, 1670.]
Wherever Congreve was born, he was, educated first at Kilkenny, and afterwards at Dublin, his father having some military employment that stationed him in Ireland; but after having passed through the usual preparatory studies, as may be reasonably supposed, with great celerity and success, his father thought it proper to assign him a profession, by which something might be gotten, and about the time of the Revolution sent him, at the age of sixteen, to study law in the Middle Temple, where he lived for several years, but with very little attention to statutes or reports. His disposition to become an author appeared very early, as -he very early felt that force of imagination, and possessed that copiousness of sentiment, by which intellectual pleasure can be given. His first performance was a novel called “Incognita ; or, Love and Duty Reconciled;" it is praised by the biographers, who quote some part of the preface, that is, indeed, for such a time of life, :uncommonly judicious. I would rather praise it than read it.
His first dramatic labour was The Old Bachelor, of which he says, in his defence against Collier, « That comedy was written, as several know, some years before it was acted. When I wrote it I had little thoughts of the stage ; but did it to amuse myself in a slow recovery from a fit of sickness. Afterwards, through my indiscretion it was seen, and in some little time more it was acted ; and I, through the remainder of my indiscretion, suffered myself to be drawn into the prosecution of a difficult and thankless study, and to be involved in a perpetual war with knaves and fools."
There seems to be a strange affectation in authors of appearing to have done everything by chance. The Old Bachelor was written for amusement in the languor of convalescence. Yet it is apparently composed with