[ocr errors]

assign it, though we cannot place it in of the extent of his genius, as well as the same rank with Alexander's Feaft. with warmth and friendship. The sentence which would crush Yal- By the next paragraph, we should denás unjust. By the Doctor he is too suppose that Mr. Potter had exposed much elevated; by Mr. Potter he is himself to some personal affront from too much depreised.

Johnson. For he writes thus: We then find a criticism on a passage The want of good taste in a proin the Rambler. But, surely, it is per- fessed critic is a mental blindness, formed in a very unfcholar-like man- which totally incapacitates him from

Dr. Johnfon talks of the first the discharge of the high otlice (which) lyric poets, and Mr. Potter talks of he has assumed; but the want of good the firft lyric poets, whose fine produc- manners is an offence against those laws tions have escaped the devastations of of decorum, which, by guarding the time. Not but many of Pindar's Odes charities of society, render our interfall under the Doctor's description. We course with each other agreeable: yet fometimes find in them thort sentences, there is in some persons a blunt and and striking thoughts, rather than re- furly humour, which prides itself in gular argumentation, and can fcarcely despising these laws of civility; and with difficulty investigate the interne- often, with an awkward affectation of diate ideas.

pleasantry, they play their rude gamWhat Mr. Potter says of the origin bols to make mirih, and of the Ode, and its employment on

Wallowing unwieldy, enormous in their gait, facred subjects, is but little to the pur- Tempeft the ocean.” pofe in the prefent initance. Dr. John

Now, we do not know Mr. Potter's fon does not speak of the use of the figure, but if he had the person of a Ode, but of its structure. What the Veftris, or the graces of a Chesterfield, author of the Rambler calls glaring he could never perfuade us to think ideas, and striking thoughts, our critic such language, the language of politeterms rapture; and thinks, because he ness. Nor could the eloquence of a has changed the name, he has given a Chatham so far influence our undernew idea. At last also, he concludes standings, as to make us allow that that sudden and bold transitions are perfonal reflections can be inserted with not only allowed, but even demanded in these compofitions. While the Doctor propriety in critical inquiries.

What follows in many passages mesays, “ they loosed their genius to its rits commendation. The critique on own course, passed from one sentiment the Ode on Spring is very admirably to another without exprefling the inter- written, and is in general juft. But mediate ideas, and roved at large over what can we say to the following palthe ideal world, with such lightness fage: “ Had the language been lefs and agility, that their footsteps are luxuriant, the Ode had been lefs beauscarcely to be traced.” So that the tiful, and less adapted to the smiling only point, in which the opinions of season." Are we to conclude that an the two critics are materially different, ode on winter, in order to please Mr. is the quantity of judgement and me

Potter, should be written in the plainthod which was necetary to constitute eft language, as if it would be an ancient lyric poet. Sometimes Mr. Potter agrees with

" When unadorn'd, adorn'd the most!” the Doctor, without seeming to be Mr. Potter attempts to defend the conscious of it, and sometimes tu dif- word honied; but he must pardon us, fer from him, because he has not tho- as we are sure the world will, if he roughly understood him.

does not, when we condemn it on the Collins is a favourite with us, and principles and authority of Johnson, in poetical imagery he had not many whose observation we think just and equals. We think that Dr. Johnson's acute; nor are we in the smallest decharacter of him is written with an ac- gree inclined to change our opinion, curate knowledge of his powers, and from Mr. Potter's observation.



The former part of our critic's ac- gant; he seems not to understand the count of the Ode, on a distant view of word. Milton thought the word az Eton College, deferves attention. least not inelegant; he has used it

But mark the sequel: “ The af- twice, perhaps, in different senses. I fectation of new thoughts is too apt leave Dr. Johnson to fettle its precise to divert the mind from the simple and meaning with that respectable dealer genuine appearances of things, and in words Dr. Adam Littleton.” Here usually produces quaint and far-fetched Mr. Potter, in order to bring our great exprellions.” So, because Dr. Johnson lexicographer nearer his own level, says, that “ the prospect of Eton Col- wishes the world to view oim in the lege suggests nothing to Gray, which same light as they would Littleton. every beholder does not equally think But, pray, what is this to the purpose? and feel,” Mr. Potter wishes to teach Does this vindicate Gray's usage of us that norelty is neither requisite nor buxom? But Mr. Potter thought he ornamental in poetry.

had an opportunity of degrading JohnThe following sentiments, in ge- fon; and with that he was contented. neral appears juit, though we He really writes contents very well. doubtful, whether Father Thames is We wish he would prefix his arguments not invoked on too trivial an occa- to fome future edition of Gray's Odes, fion;

as they would then, perhaps, appear “ The critic proceeds, His fuppli- to more advantage, or at lealt of more cation to Father Thames, to tell him service than they do in the present who drives the hoop or tofles the ball, work, where they feem to contribute is useless and puerile. Father Thanes very little to promote enquiries into has no better means of knowing than' Johnson's Lives. himself.' Criticism of this nature What he says of Ełchylus ard Pinbreathes a frigid air, which chills all dar is juft, and his observations are the the faculties of genius. These imper- observations of a scholar: fonations and addresses to woods, moun

“ I have before said that the Ode on tains, and streams,

Spring is in the brighiteit manner of

Pindar; and the Hymn to Adversity is Omnia quæ Phæho quondam meditante, beatus Audiit Eurotas, jutlitque ediicere laurus,

in the true spirit of Eschylus: this may

the latter writer give to poetry a peculiar animation, and require an explanation. The odes of constitute one of her greatest beauties; ments to his Tragic Muse, and as they

accompani every thing hears her voice. Of that atrend her through the aweful scenes

' tender apoltrophe of Eneas to the ashes of misery, terror, vengeance, and blood, of Troy,

they take their colouring from thence: Iliaci cineres, et lamma cxtrema morum,

they become religious inquiries into Teftor, in occatü veltro nec tla, ne ullos the dispensations of the gods, or meVitaville vices Danaum, &c.

lancholy reflections on the instability fhall it be faid that they could bear no of human greatness, or obscure pretestimony to his pious valour, and had no dictions or gloomy presages of the better means of knowing it than Dido dreadful cata trophc of the drama: the herself? Shall we lop from Milton that clerated genius of the author has often sublime address of Satan to the sun as use- given them a terrible sublimity. The less and puerile, because the sun had no English reader is now, or may be, weil means of hearing his call? Or rather ac painted with this great writer; it Thall we not, without regard to the op- is therefore unnecessary to extend this position of this arbitrary critic, leave observation further. Pindar was emthe free people of Parnaffus theirantient ployed in a more pleasing, at least in a right of addrefling the kings of the more chearful tak; his Mufe was floods, and other poetical fovereigns?" courted to celebrate the victors in the

The following passage is really cu- public games of Greece; his Odes are rious: “ His epithet buxom hcalth, feftal fongs recounting glories, conSays the critic (Dr. Johnson) is not ele. quests, and joy; they take their co




louring from their subject; every thing had a certain poem, called CYNTHIA, in them is fplendid, animated, and in his mind, when he wrote this degay; or if at any time he is led to con- fence. For there we read a speech of lider adverse fortune, or the vanity of Jove enthron'd,” to “ the fynod of human life, the reflection is generally the sky," in which Sol and Venus, the short, he soon returns to his usual Graces and Cupid, the tuneful Nine, chearfulness, and every thing around, and Minerva, are ordered to confer like the face of Nature after a shower, their respective favours on the happy becomes more fresh, more bright, and Cynthia; and the event is: more smiling: his genius at the same --Applause rings through the courts of heav'n; tilne was impetuous and rapid, and And Cynthia to the wond'ring world is giv’n. carried him to the noblest heights of Dr. Johnson says, “ Idalia velvet the sublime. 'That the English reader green, has fomething of cant. An epimay be enabled to form some idea of thet or metaphor drawn from nature this poet's manner, however imperfect, ennobles art; an epithet drawn from I have ventured to give a translation art degrades nature.” On this pafof one of his Odes; those, who are fage, Mr. Potter observes, with justice acquainted with the original, will be and real acuteness, that “ Dr. Johnsensible of the difficulty of the task.” fon will perhaps pay fome deference to

There are, however, two passages the authority of the learned critic, who, bere that deserve particular notice: comparing the style of Dryden with “ The English reader is now, or may that of Pope, says, “ Dryden's page be well acquainted with this great wri- is a natural field, rising into inequali-. ter (Eschylus); it is, therefore, unne- ties, and diversified by the varied exucessary to extend this observation fur- berance of abundant vegetation; Pope's ther." Lest any man hould be so un- is a velvet lawn, Thaven by the scythe fortunately ignorant as to ask how he and levelled by the roller." might get so well acquainted with Ef- There is really humour and pleasan

chylus, it is a pity that he did not try in this passage. Mr. Potter, how· add, froin my translatim, with the ad- eier, inquires, if the Doctor's opinion

dition of some suitable epithet. Again, about the application of such epithets in order to give his countrymen some to natural objects be just, what is to idea of Pindar's manner, he translates become of all “ those beautiful images an ode. This is really a prodigious in- drawn from art, with which the beit ftance of kindness, as nobody could writers, ancient and modern, have empollibly acquire fuch knowledge from 'bellithed nature?" As instances in West's PINDAR.

English he enumerates the gay enamelWe do not think that what Mr. led colours of blossoms and fruits, the Potter calls “ so much for the critic's embroidered vale, and the fringed: charge of confufion, nonsense, and banks. We have fortunately discoimpertinence,” in the first ftanza of vered the pasages to which he alludes: the Progress of Poetry, can be consi- “ No breathing hedge-row form'd the brvidir o

bound." dered as an explanation. We wish he

And had been more perspicuous.

« The rich embroidery of yon velvet mead, The paffage is too long to extract,

and and is, perhaps, scarcely worthy of

And to the boughs that fringe its crisped fides,'' transcription. The critic who pleads All which may be found in a poem infor the introduction of the ancient my- tituled Holkham, and addrested to the thology into modern poctry merits no

Earl of Leicester; and in an ode to answer. We must cry, with Johnson, Philoclea, in the verses which we have that " criticism disdains to chase a before quoted, we read school-boy to his common places."

- The power inat glows Mr. Potter, however, in all probability Upon th' cnamel'd ficidi,

Tho If the reader is blessed with a Job-like patience, he may peruse the whole of these pain, int some others cqually admirable, among which is Cynthia, in a bouk intituled · Poems by R. l'otter,' publithed by Wikie.

[ocr errors]


The introduction of Hyperion, who favoured by both those kings. This by the way, should be called Hyperion, justifies the truth of Mr. Gray's poficannot be defended. Part of Mr. Pot- tion; his conclusion no friend to virtue ter's remarks, however, on this Ode and literature will controvert. afforded us pleasure. They display “ The first English poet here mentaste and judgement.

tioned is Shakespear. What the critic We are not at all convinced that the fays of the mythological birth girea poems of Ofian ever “ cheared the him arises from a miltake: Milton inÎnivering native's dull abode,” what- deed has done this, where he calls him ever may be Mr. Potter's opinion. Fancy's Child: Mr. Gray says nothing

The passages which are introduced to of his birth; he styles him Nature's defend the stanza, which Dr. Johnson Darling, and says that the Mighty Motells us“ sounds big with Delphi, and ther unveiled her aweful face to him Egean, and Ilijius, and Meander, and when a child; to signify the giow of ballowed fountain, and folemn found," can- his imagination, she is represented as not be considered as avindication. They giving him a pencil; whose colours feem brought to the bar, to receive richly paint the vernal year; and, to the same sentence. We are rather sur- express his power over the passions prized that Mr. Potter did not admit two golden keys, one of which unwith them the eighth stanza of Lord locks the gates of joy, the other those Littleton's monody.

of terror and pity: this is happily conMr. Potter's observations on the con- ceived, and expressed with clear and cluding stanzas of this ode shall fpeak elegant fimplicity. The seraphic subfor themselves,

limity of Milton is greatly characteAn heavier charge is next pre- rised. • The car of Dryden, says the pared against the poet: his pofition is critic, with his two courfers, has noat last falle: in the time of Dante and thing in it peculiar; it is a car in Petrarch, from whom he derives our which any other rider may be placed.' first school of poetry, Italy was over- More judgement as well as candour had run by tyrant power and coward vice; been thown in pointing out the Pindanor was our itate much better when ric imagery, and observing that this we firit borrowed the Italian arts.' car is borne wide over the fields of This could not have been said but glory by through a total misconception of the Two couriers of ethereal race, poet's historical deduction, which, in With necks in thunder cloth’d, and long-rofew words, is this-When Conftantinople submitted to the arms of Ma- The mention of Dryden's Ode in hohomet the Great, Athens and all Greece

nour of St. Cecilia's day is unnoticed: were enfiaved by the conquering Turks; the richness of imagination, the felithis fatal event drove many of the most city of expression, and the sweetness learned Greeks into Italy, where they of numbers, with which that noble were liberally encouraged by the Popes, torrent of enthufiasm is celebrated, and the illuitricus House of Medici, could not extort praise, but they strike under whose patronage literature and cenfure dumb. The latter part of this the fine arts flourished for av bile: thus concluding stanza shows at least that the Mules

Mr. Gray had the uncommon happiness Lelt their Pamulus for the Lotien pluins : to speak of himself with grace; but it but, finding them orer-run with tyrant is the province of the critic to place power and coward vice, they disdained him in that high station in the realms to fix their refidence there, and ionght of poetry which his own modesty a refuge in England: happily they would not allow him to allume."

. found it: the long reign of Edward III. In several parts, however, of this exwas an vera of glory; that of his un- tract, the reader will observe that the Old happy for was itrongly marked with Geth had gotten possession of the the high spirit of liberty; in those times author's imagination. Chaucer lived and flourished, greatly The observations on the Bard, like



founding pace.

[ocr errors]



wise, if we except a few touches of the amore, says, perhaps, too much. It Vandal, are conceived and delivered says it, however, well, and we tranwith spirit and ability. But when seribe it with pleasure. Mr. Potter thinks to defend the length “ The language of Gray is always of Gray's ftanza, by telling us, that pure, peculiarly compact, and nervous, Pindar has many longer, we are, indeed, ever appropriated to his subject; when surprised. False taste, whether it pro- that is gay and smiling his di&tion is ceed from imitation, or be original, is elegant and glittering; in the sober equally indefensible.

reflections of saintly melancholy it is With the same feeble argument does grave and solemn; and it rises with an Mr. Potter defend honied and buxom, elevated dignity along with the boldest because they are to be found in the wri- Aights of his sublime imagination; and tings of Milton. Mr. Potter endeavours, his numbers, regulated by a fine taste by the introduction of some passages from and a nice car, have through all their the Doctor's own writings, to confute his various modulations a rich and copious opinion of initial resemblances or allite- harmony. Gray inherited the ample rations. We muft, however, always con- pinion of the Theban eagle, and faile fider them as feeble efforts to harmonize with supreme dominion through the poetry, though the learned and inge- 'azure deep of air; but he never finks nious Harris has defended them, and to that humiliating lowness to which they have been used by the author of not want of genius, but the poverty of the second ode to Philoclea, where we his subject, often depresses the Thefind,

ban's futtering pennons: he, therefore, Keen cuts the cold, with bitter biting hate, has a claim to the highest rank in the And fad th’unfighty season's stormy faté, realms of Lyric Poetry." and innumerable instances of the same He then tells us, that this testimony prettinels.

of his merit from the translator of Mr. Gray's confeßion, that he bor- Eschylus, who owes so much to him rows the weaving of the winding sheet is a debt of gratitude. Much indeed from the Northern bards, does not he does owe him, but we are afraid, render it less a theft, though Mr. that this pamphlet will not be judged by Potter would persuade us it does. He many a sufficient payment. certainly would have made an excellent Some of Doctor Johnson's censures judge. A second Daniel! The thief were, perhaps, unjuft, and several of who confessed, would never be con- them were too severe. In answering demned for theft, when he presided at these objections the utmost coolness and the trial! We freely grant, however, moderation were recessary.---The that the word theft is a very harsh term, Doctor's literary reputation is too firmand much harsher than the fact seems ly established to be easily thaken; and to have deserved.

violence spends its force in vain. In We are then again teazed with the many instances Mr. Potter bas weakmention of Dictionary-makers, who, ened the cause he wished to defend; we are taught fuppofé, have not pre except the lives of Cowley and Savage, cisely settled the meaning of warp and he scarcely allows that there is any poet woof; but it is certain that Gray's in the whole collection who receives nsage of these words is improper; and the Biographer's commendations. the idea of assigning the task of weav- To transcribe the numerous passages, ing to the slaughtered bards, we must which controvert so mistaken a notion, reprobate, whether it proceeded from is unnecessary. The lives are very well mistake, or from the wild ideas of the known, and we should only point out bards of those times.

to readers what every man can with The argument to the Bard is well case select for himself. written, but it was unnecessary. His We shall, on some future occasion, description of Gray's language, which examine the translation of the ninth every production of Mr. Potter assures Pythian Ode of Pindar, annexed to us chat he has ftudied deeply, and son these enquiries. Before we close this LUND, Mag, Aug. 1783.



« VorigeDoorgaan »