« VorigeDoorgaan »
model; and he might have studied with advantage the poem of Davies', which, though merely philosophical, yet seldom leaves the ear ungratified.
But he was rather smooth than strong: of “the full resounding line," which Pope attributes to Dryden, he has given very few examples. The critical decision has given the praise of strength to Denham, and of sweetness to Waller.
His excellence of versification has some abatements. He uses the expletive do very frequently; and, though he lived to see it almost universally ejected, was not more careful to avoid it in his last compositions than in his first. Praise had given him confidence; and finding the world satisfied, he satisfied himself.
His rhymes are sometimes weak words: 80 is found to make the rhyme twice in ten lines, and occurs often as a rhyme through his book.
His double rhymes, in heroic verse, have been censured by Mrs. Phillips, who was his rival in the translation of Corneille's Pompey; and more faults might be found, were not the inquiry below attention.
He sometimes uses the obsolete termination of verbs, as waxeth, affecteth ; and sometimes retains the final syllable of the preterite, as amazed, supposed, of which I know not whether it is not to the detriment of our language, that we have totally rejected them.
Of triplets he is sparing; but he did not wholly forbear them; of an Alexandrine he has given no example.
The general character of his poetry is elegance and gaiety. He is never pathetic, and very rarely sublime. He seems neither to have had a mind much elevated by nature, nor amplified by learning. His thoughts are such as a liberal conversation and large acquaintance with life would easily supply. They had however then, perhaps, that grace of novelty, which they are now often supposed to want by those, who, having already found them in later books, do not know or inquire who produced them first. This treatment is unjust. Let not the original author lose by his imitators.
Praise, however, should be due before it is given. The author of Waller's Life ascribes to him the first practice of what Erythræus and some late critics call alliteration, of using in the same verse many words beginning with the same letter. But this knack, whatever be its value, was so frequent among early writers, that Gascoigne, a writer of the sixteenth century, warns the young poet against affecting it: Shakspeare, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, is supposed to ridicule it; and in another play the sonnet of Holofernes fully displays it.
He borrows too many of his sentiments and illustrations from the old mythology, for which it is vain to plead the example of ancient poets; the deities, which they introduced so frequently, were considered as realities, so far as to be received by the imagination, whatever sober reason might even then determine. But of these images time has tarnished the splendour. A fiction, not only detected but despised, can never afford a solid basis to any position, though sometimes it may furnish a transient allusion, or slight illustration. No modern monarch can be much exalted by hearing, that, as Hercules had his club, he has his navy.
But of the praise of Waller, though much may be taken away, much will remain ; for it cannot be denied, that he added something to our elegance of diction, and something
s Sir John Davies, intituled, “ Nosce teipsum. This Oracle expounded in two Elegies; I. Of Humane " Knowledge; II. Of the Soule of Man and the Immortalitie thereof, 1599.” R.
to our propriety of thought; and to him may be applied what Tasso said, with equal spirit and justice, of himself and Guarini, when, having perused the Pastor Fido, he cried out, “ If he had not read Aminta, he had not excelled it.”
AS Waller professed himself to have learned the art of versification from Fairfax, it has been thought proper to subjoin a specimen of his work, which, after Mr. Hoole's translation, will perhaps not be soon reprinted. By knowing the state in which Waller found our poetry, the reader may judge how much he improved it.
Erminia's steed (this while) his mistresse bore
Of her strong foes, that chas'd her through the plaine,
And still pursu’d, but still pursu'd in vaine.
Yet still the fearfull dame fled, swift as winde,
Nor euer staid, nor euer lookt behinde.
On Iordans sandie banks her course she staid,
At last, there downe she light, and downe she laid.
And loue, his mother, and the graces kept
Strong watch and warde, while this faire ladie slept.
And that sweet noise, birds, winds, and waters sent,
Prouokt again the virgin to lament.
Sat making baskets, his three sonnes among,
Beholding one in shining armes appeare
These dreadfull armes I beare no warfare bring
To your sweet toile, nor those sweet tunes you sing. But father, since this land, these townes and towres, Destroied are with sword, with fire and spoile, How may it be, unhurt that you and yours In safetie thus, applie your harmelesse toile? My sonne (quoth he) this pore estate of ours Is euer safe from storm of warlike broile;
This wildernesse doth vs in saftie keepe,
No thundring drum, no trumpet breakes our sleepe. Haply iust heau'us defence and shield of right, Doth loue the innocence of simple swains, The thunderbolts on highest mountains light, And seld or neuer strike the lower plaines : So kings have cause to feare Bellonaes might, Not they whose sweat and toile their dinner gaines,
Nor euer greedie soldier was entised
By pouertie, neglected and despised.
These little flocks of sheepe and tender goates
We little wish, we need but little wealth,
Ilow they are fed, in forrest, spring, and lake,
And their contentment for ensample take.
And though I but a simple gardner weare,
Entised on with hope of future gaine,
I bod the court farewell, and with content
While thus he spake, Erminia, husht and still,
Till fortune should occasion new afford,
To tume her home to her desired lord.
Within these pleasant groues perchance my hart,
Of her discomforts, may vnload some part.
Part of her sad misfortunes than she told,
And wept, and with her wept that shepherd old.
But yet her gestures and her lookes (I gesse)
Were such, as ill beseem'd a shepherdesse.
Both cheese and butter could she make, and frame