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His apology for the use of this simile, and his concluding with Lord Roscommon's satisfaction at his remark, betray, I think, an anxiety to pass for original, under the consciousness of being but an imitator. So that if we were to meet with a passage, very like this, in a celebrated ancient, we could hardly doubt of its being copied by Mr. Dryden. What think you then of this observation in one of Pliny's Letters, “ Ut quasdam artes, “ità eloquentiam nihil magis quàm ancipitia a commendant. Vides qui fune in summa " nituntur, quantos soleant excitare clamores, “cùm jam jamque casuri videntur.” L. ix. Ep. 26.
PRIOR, one may observe, has acted more naturally in his Alma, and by so doing, though the resemblance be full as great, one is not so certain of his being an Imitator. The verses are, of BUTLER:
He perfect Dancer climbs the Rope,
With wonder you approve his slight;
i C. 11.
Though the two last lines seem taken from the application of this similitude in Pliny, “ Sunt enim maximè mirabilia, quæ maximè “ inexpectata, et maximè periculosa." :
XI. Writers are, sometimes, sollicitous to conceal themselves : At others, they are fond to proclaim their Imitation." “ It is when “ they have a mind to shew their dexterity in " contending with a great original.”..
You remember these lines of Milton in hís Comus,
. Wisdom's self ',.is Oft seeks to sweet retired Solitude,'..; Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation, She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her . wings, That in the various bustle of resort Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impair’d.
On which Dr. Warburton has the following note. “Mr. Pope has imitated this thought
and (as was always his way when he imitated) improved it. ,,“ Bear me, some Gods! oh, quickly bear me
"hence .“ To wholesome Solitude, the nurse of Sense; " Where Contemplation prunes her ruffled
.“ wings, “ And the free Soul looks down to pity Kings. “ Mr. Pope has not only improved the har" mony, but the sense. . In Milton, Contem“ plation is called the Nurse; in Pope, more, " properly Solitude: In Milton, Wisdom is “ said to prune her wings; in Pope, Contem“plation is said to do it, and with much greater “ propriety, as she is of a soaring nature, and “ on that account is called by Milton himself, “ the Cherub Contemplation.”
One sees that Mr. Pope's view was to surpass his original; “ which, it is said, was always his “ way when he imitated.” The meaning is, when he purposely and professedly bent himself to Imitation ; for then his fine genius taught him to seize every beauty, and his wonderful judgment, to avoid every defect or impropriety, in his author. And this distinction is very material to our passing a right judgment on the merit of Imitators. It is
commonly said, that their imitations fall short of their originals. And they will do so, whatever the Genius of the Imitator be, if they are formed only on a general resemblance of the thought imitated. For an Inventor comprehends his own idea more distinctly and fully, and of course expresses his purpose better, than a casual Imitator. But the case is different, when a good writer studies the passage from which he borrows. For then he not only copies, but improves on the first idea; and thus there will frequently (as in the case of Pope) be greater merit in the Copyist, than the original.
XII. We sometimes catch an Imitation lurking “in a licentious Paraphrase.” The ground of suspicion lies in the very complacency with which a writer expatiates on a bors' rowed sentiment. He is usually more reserved in adorning one of his own.
. 1. AURELIUS Victor observes of Fabricius, “ quòd difficiliùs ab honestate, quàm Sol à sua se curšu, averti posset.”
Tasso flourishes a little on this thought;
Mr. Waller rises upon the Italian,
66 where her love was due, So fast, so faithful, loyal, and so true, That a bold hand as soon might hope to force The rowling lights of heav’n, as change her ..course."
On the Death of Lady Rich.'
But Mr. Cowley, knowing what authority
The gentle vigorous influence
In all their contrarietie.