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“ Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built,
After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues,
“ Poets are Sultans, if they had their will;
“ Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
But this is not the best of his little pieces : it is excelled by his poem to Fanshaw, and his elegy on Cowley.
His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini contains a very spritely and judicious character of a good translator :
" That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
They but preserve the ashes; thou the flame,
The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they contain was not at that time generally known. His poem
on the death of Cowley was his last, and, among his shorter works, his best perform
ance: the numbers are musical, and the thoughts are just.
“ Cooper's Hill" is the work that confers upon him the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation.
To trace a new scheme of poetry has in itself a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope; after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme, or blank verse.
“ Cooper's HILL," if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.
The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:
" O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
The lines are in themselves not perfect; for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be un
derstood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language which does not express intellectual operations by material images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprized in so few words ; the particulars of resemblance are so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its ajacent fauli by so nice a line of limitation ; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet ; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be produced at will by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in some hour propitious to poetry.
He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions ; some of them are the works of men weil qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and them. selves.
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 op « Old Age” has neither the clearness of prosė, nor the spriteliness of poetry.
The “strength of Denham,” which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few words, end exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.
On the Thames.
« Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
On Stafford. « 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 wish, for the defence, the crime their own. " Now private pity strove with public hate, “ Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate."
$6 To him no author was unknown,
As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his iinprovement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment, naturally right, forsaking 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 about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to verse :
« Then all those
From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his followers the art of conlcuding their sense in couplets ; which has perhaps been with rather too much constancy pursued.
This passage exhibits one of those triplets which