Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

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 spriteliness of poetry.

The “ strength of Denham,” which Pope fo emphatically 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.

6. Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
• Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold;
“ His genuine and less guilty wealth t'explore,
“ Search not his bottom, but survey his thore."

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,
" And none was more a looker-on than he;
“ So did he move our passions, some were known
“ To with, for the defence, the crime their own.
“ Now private pity frove with public hate,
“ Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate.”

On Cowley. To him no author was unknown, " Yet what he wrote was all his own; " Horace's wit, and Virgil's state, He did not steal, but emulate ! “ And, when he would like them appear, " Their garb, but not theit cloaths, did wear."

As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of pofterity arises from his improvement of our numbers; his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the oblervation of a man of judgement, naturally right, forlaking 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 out tiventy-one years old, may be still found the old id irianner of continuing the sense ungracefully from

i

verse to verse :

[ocr errors]

" 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 ; tiri Choræbeus fell

Before Minerva’s altar; next did bleed
“ Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed
" In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed.
4. Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by
"Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus, thy piety,
"Nor confecrated mitre, from the fame
" Ill fare could save; my country's funeral filame
<< And Troy's cold ashes I attest, and call
Ss To witness for myself, that in their fall

"Na

VOL. IX.

[graphic]

“ No foes, no deatlı, nor danger, I declin'd, " Did and desery'd no less, my fate to find.”

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 judgement disapproved, fince in his latter works he has totally forborn them.

His rhymes are such as seem found without difficulty, 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 transformd!
- How inuch unlike that Hector, who return'd
. “ Clad in Achilles' spoils !"

And again :
“ From thence a thousand lefser poets sprung
“ Like petty princes from the fall of Rome.

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 fou'd. 6. — And though my outward state misfortune hath " Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith.” 6 — Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome, “ A feigned tear destroys us, against whom “ Tydides nor Achilles could prevail, “ Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand fail."

He He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses ; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in fix.

Most of these petty faults are in his first produce tions, where he was less skilful, or at least less dextrous 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 therefore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

MIL Τ ο Ν.

THE life of Milton has been already written in so many forms, and with such minute enquiry, that I might perhaps more properly have contented myself with the addition of a few notes on Mr. Fenton's elegant Abridgement, but that a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniformity of this edition.

JOHN MILTON was by birth a gentleman, descended 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 fon, because he had forsaken the religion of his ancestors.

His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had recourse for his support to the profession of a fcrivener. He was a man eminent for his skill in musick, many of his compositions being still to be fo:ind; and his reputation in his profession was such, that he grew

« VorigeDoorgaan »