Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

on this Writer, we shall confine ourselves chiefly to that part of it which is allotted to his sacred poems, which do not please, we are told, like some of his or her works.

" It has been the frequent lamentation of good men, that verse has been too little applied to the purposes of worthip, and many attempts have been made to animare devotion by pious poetry ; that they have very seldom attained their end is sufficiently known, and it may not be improper to enquire why they have miscarried.

· Let no pious ear be offended if I advance, in opposition to many authorities, ihat poetical devotion cannot often please. The doctrines of religion may indeed be defended in a didactic poem ; and he who has the happy power of arguing in verse, will not lose it because his subject is sacred. A poet may describe the beauty and the gran. deur of Nature, the flowers of the Spring, and the harvefts of Autumn, the vicisitudes of the Tide, and the revolutions of the Sky, and praise the Maker for his works in lines which no reader thalt Jay aside. The subject of the disputation is not piety, but the motives to piety ; that of the description is not God, but the works of God.

• Contemplative piety, or the intercourse between God and the human soul, cannot be poetical. Man admitted to implore the mercy of his Creator, and plead the merits of his Redeemer, is als ready in a higher state than poetry can confer.

"The essence of poetry is invention ; such invention as, by producing something unexpected, surprises and delights. The topics of devotion are few, and being few are universally koown; but few as they are, they can be made no more ; they can receive no grace from novelty of sentiment, and very little from novelty of expression.

• Poetry pleases by exhibiting an idea more grateful to the mind than things themselves afford. This effect proceeds from the display · of those parts of nature which attract, and the concealment of those

which repel the imagination: but religion must be shewn as it is ; suppression and addition equally corrupt it; and such as it is, it is known already,

• From poetry the reader juftly expects, and from good poetry always obtains, the enlargement of his comprehension and elevation of his fancy ; but this is rarely to be hoped by Christians from metrical devotion. Whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name of the Supreme Being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted ; Infinity cannot be amplified; Perfection cannot be improved.

• The employments of pious meditation are Faith, Thanksgiving, Repentance, and Supplication. Faith, invariably uniform, cannot be invested by fancy with decorations. Thanksgiving, the most joyful of all holy effufions, yet addressed to a Being without passions, is confined to a few modes, and is to be felt rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling in the presence of the Judge, is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. Supplication of man to man may diffufe itself through many topics of persuasion ; but fupplication to God can only cry for mercy,

: OF

"Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that the most fim. ple exprellion is the most sublime. Poetry loses iis lustre and its power, because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than itself. All that verse can do is to help the memory, and delight the ear, and for these purposes it may be very useful; but it supplies nothing to the mind. The ideas of Christian TheoJogy are ico simple for eloquence, too sacied for fiction, and too majelitic for ornament; to recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave mirror the sidereal hemisphere.'

It is thus that he very properly accounts for the failure of Waller in his facred poems, and not their being written, as his former Edicor supposes, after his genius had passed the zenith.

" That natural jealousy which makes every man unwilling to allow much exceilence in another, always produces a disposition to be. lieve ihat the mind grows old with the body; and that he, whom we are now forced to confess superior, is hasiening daily to a level with ourselves. By delighting to think this of the living, we learn to think it of the dead; and Fenton, with all his kindness for Waller, has the luck to mark the exact time when his genius passed the zenith, which he places at his fifty-fifth year. This is to allot the mind but a small portion. Intellectual decay is doubtless not uncommon; but it seems not to be universal. Newton was in his eighty-fifth year improving his Chronology, a few days before his death; and Waller appears nat, in my opinion, to have lost at eightytwo any part of his poetical powers.

Some writers carry this fanciful idea of Fenton's still farther, afferting that, though judgment may retain its vigour to a more distant period, imagination gradually decays at thirty-fix. Were arguments wanting to confute such groundless assertions, we need only adduce the instance of the learned and ingenious Critic whose observations are now before us. He, certainly, has passed the zenith allotted to imagination, and probably the farther term which Fenton assigns to the genius of Waller, and yet his writings betray no abatement of intellectual abilities : his imagination still retains the full vigour of youth. But enough of this trifling; let us return to Waller.

• The general character of his poetry, says his biographer, 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 conversarion 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 enquire who produced them first. This treatment is unjust. Let not the original author lose by his imitators,

" 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 di&tion, and something to our propriety of thought; and to him may be applied what Tasso said, with equal fpiris and justice, of himself and Guarini, when, having perused the

Paflor Pastor Fido, he cried out, “ If he had not read Aminta, he had not excelled it.”

[The other Lives in our next.]

Art. II. The Antiquarian Repertory. 2 Vols. 4to. Continued. UR Readers have learned from the former Article * rela

tive to this work, that the Editor did not propose to exhibit subjects wholly new, but chiefly intended his volumes as a depofitory for such antiquities, &c. as, though known, yet through neglect, or length of time, may fink into obícurity, or of which little knowledge can be obtained without difficulty. Some of the first kind, we apprehend, may be here intersper sed, but the latter form the principal part of this publication.

A remarkable anecdote of Judge Jefferys is said never before to have appeared in print:

• At a contested election for a member to serve in parliament for the town of Arundel, in Sussex, government ftrenuously interfered, and that so openly as to find Jefferys, then Lord Chancellor, with initructions to use every method to procure the return of the Court candidate. On the day of eledion, in order to intimidate the electors, he placed himself on the huttings close by the returning officer, the mayor, who had been an attorney, but was retired from business, with an ample for une and fair character. This officer well knew the Chancellor, but for prudencial realons acted as if he was a stranger both to his person and rank.

• In the course of the poll, that magistrate, who scrutinized every man before he admitted him to voie, rejected one of the court party; at which tferys rising in a heat, after several indecent reflections, declared the man should poll, adding, “ I am the Lord Chancellor of this realm.' The mayor, regarding him with a look of the higheit contempt, replied, “ Your ungentlemanlike behaviour convinces me, it is impossible you should be the person you pretend; was you the Chancellor, you would know that you have nothing 10 do here, where I alone preside ;' then turning to the crier, “ Offi. cer,” said he,“ turn that fellow out of court.' His commands were obeyed without hesitation; the Chancellor retired to his inn, in great confufion, and the election terminated in favour of the popu. lar candidate.

"In the evening, the mayor, to his great surprise, received a message from Jefferys, defining the favour of his coinpany at the inn; which he declining, the Chancellor came to his house, and being introduced to him, made the following compliment: “ Sir, notwithstanding we are in different interests, I cannot help revering one who so well knows, and dares so nobly execute, the law; and though I myself was somewhat degraded thereby, you did but your duty. You, as I have learned, are independent, but you may have some relation who is not so well provided for; if you have, let me have the plea* Review for April,

furç sure of presenting him with a considerable place in my gift, just now vacant.” Such an offer, and so handlomely made, could not fail of drawing the acknowledgments of the party to whom it was made; he having a nephew in no very affluent circumstances, named him to the Chancellor, who immediately tigned the necessary inftrument for his appointment to a very lucrative and honourable emplovmene.'

The Writer's remark on the above narration is, that no character is completely consistent; as appears in the conduct of this judge, who seems to have approved the virtue which he did not practise : however, we may learn from it that a bullying, tyrannical tool of a party may sometimes at least be pretty easily humbled and confounded by a man of sense, integrity, and honour: it is perhaps to be wished that this worthy magiftrate had yet (arried his firmness a degree farther, by declining any connection with an arbitrary and corrupt administration.

Pont Y Prid bridge cannot fail to attract the notice of the traveller in Wales. It is built over the river Taafe in Glamorganshire, six miles from Cardiff, in a most romantic country. For lightness, and the width of its span, it is said to stand unrivalled, not only by any bridge in England, but even in Europe, and perhaps the whole world ; exceeding the arch of the Rialto at Venice by 50 feet, and that of the centre of Blackfriars by 40 feet.

This bridge, says the writer, is a proof that extraordinary genius will rise superior to every impediment or disadvantage. Both the mason who deligned and executed it, and the workman who formed the centre, were common country artificers, unpatronized by the great, and neither graduated in any university, nor fellows of any academy; and so far were they from having visited Italy, in order to avail themselves of the knowledge of the ancients, or to view the works of the moderns, that they probably were hardly ever out of their native country, were perhaps strangers to the names of Vitruvius and Palladio, and never heard of the Rialto. However, in compensation for these deficiencies, they poseste 1 good fense, which, as Mr. Pope observes, “ although no science, is fairly worth the seven."

· The name of the maron is William Edward; he contrated with the county for a certain fum of money to build them a bridge which should stand at leaft fix years, and accordingly built one of three arches ; but a flood happening, which is no uncommon event in this mountainous country, it was carried away by the impetuolity of the river.

• He next conceived the design of constructing his bridge of one Single arch, and accordingly completed it; but here he was again foiled; for the pressure of the abutment not being in equilibrio with that of the crown of the arch, squeezed it out at the top. Not dirheartened at this, he fet about contriving how that fault might be avoided, and hit on the present method, by making three cylindrical apertures through each side, thereby not only considerably lessening the weight of lateral pressure, but adding greatly to the picturesque form and elegance of the bridge, which bids fair to transmit his fame to future generations. The name of the artist, who formed the centre, is Thomas Williams, by trade a millwright.'

We think it a neglect in the Editor not to have informed his readers, at least, of the year when this bridge was finished. The plate, which is a very pretty one, is engraved, he tells us, from a drawing, made anno 1774. ,

We have been diverted by reading, “A Description of England and Scotland," written in French by one Stephen Perlin, an ecclesiastic, and published at Paris, anno 1558. The ima perfect, or erroneous, account which he often gives, and the small accidental circumstances from whence, in some instances, he forms his judgment, made us recollect a much superior author, M. Grosley, who, a few years ago, published, “ A Tour to London *, &c.” A very indifferent and sometimes greatly offensive picture is drawn of the English by Stephen Per. lin, the ecclesiastic. To the Scotch he is more favourable : speaking of the latter he says, ' This country, although it is in a bad neighbourhood, being near a haughty, treacherous, and proud enemy, has nevertheless sustained itself in a manly fort by the means and affistance of the most noble king of France, who has many times let the English know what were the consequences of the anger of so great a monarch and emperor. But thanks to God, the affairs of this country have been regulated, and every thing goes on well, and for their benefit and that of their kingdom. How happy oughtest thou to esteem thyself, O kingdom of Scotland, to be favoured, fed, and maintained, like an infant, on the breaft of the most puissant and magnanimous king of France, the greatest lord in the whole world, and future monarch of that round machine, for without him thou wouldest have been laid in ashes, thy country wasted and ruined by the English, utterly accursed of God.' So much for Master Perlin!

The English are treated with greater respect by the Sieur de la Serre, Historiographer of France. His • History of the Entry of Mary de Medicis, the Queen-mother of France, into England, Anno 1638,' is here translated from the French. The original was published in 1639. La Serre's subject leads him to speak the more honourably of the English, that he may magnify the Queen-mother and royal family of France : and this, Frenchman-like, he does with the most disguftful servility and flattery.

Among other prints, a view of Old London, from Blackheath, is very pleasing:

• Vid. Review, vol. xlvii, p. 165,

• The

« VorigeDoorgaan »