Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

III.
But when our Country's cause provokes to Arms,
How martial music ev'ry bosom warms !
So when the first bold vessel dar'd the seas,
High on the stern the Thracian rais'd his strain,
While Argo saw her kindred trees

40
Descend from Pelion to the main.
Transported demi-gods stood round,
And men grew heroes at the sound,

Enflam'd with glory's charms :

NOTES.

Amphion taught contending kings,

From various discords, to create

The music of a well-tun'd state;
Nor slack, nor strain the tender strings,

Those useful touches to impart,

That strike the subject's answering heart,
And the soft silent harmony that springs

From sacred union and consent of things. And he made another alteration, at the same time, in stanza iv. v. 51, and wrote it thus;

Sad Orpheus sought his consort lost ;
The adamantine gates were barr’d,
And nought was seen and nought was heard,
Around the dreary coast ;

But dreadful gleams, &c.
Ver. 39.] He might have added a beautiful description of the
Argo in Apollonius Rhodius; and if he had been a reader of
Pindar, he might have looked into the fourth Pythian ode, parti-
cularly verse 315 of Orpheus. Oxford edition, folio, 1697.

Ver. 40. While Argo] Few images in any poet, ancient or modern, are more striking than that in Apollonius, where he says, that when the Argo was sailing near the coast where the Centaur Chiron dwelt, he came down to the very margin of the sea, bringing his wife with the young Achilles in her arms, that he might shew the child to his father Peleus, who was on his voyage

with the other Argonauts. Apollonius Rhodius, Lib. v. ver. 553.

45

Each chief his sev’nfold shield display'd,
And half unsheath'd the shining blade :
And seas, and rocks, and skies rebound

To arms, to arms, to arms !

IV.
But when through all th' infernal bounds,
Which flaming Phlegeton surrounds,

Love, strong as Death, the Poet led
To the pale nations of the dead,

50

NOTES.

Ver. 48. To arns, to arms,] Which effects of the song, however lively, do not equal the force and spirit of what Dryden ascribes to the song of his Grecian artist; whose imagery in this passage is so alive, so sublime, and so animated, that the poet himself appears to be strongly possessed of the action described, and consequently places it fully before the eyes of the reader.

Mr. St. John, afterward Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a morning visit to Dryden, whom he always respected, found him in an unusual agitation of spirits, even to a trembling. On inquiring the cause, “ I have been up all night (replied the old bard); my musical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their Feast of St. Cecilia : I have been so struck with the subject which occurred to me, that I could not leave it till I had completed it; here it is finished at one sitting.” And imme. diately he shewed him this ode, which places the British lyric poetry above that of any other nation. This anecdote, as true as it is curious, was imparted by Lord Bolingbroke to Pope, by Pope to Mr. Gilbert West, by him to my ingenious friend Mr. Berenger, who communicated it to me. The rapidity, and yet the perspicuity of the thoughts, the glow and the expressiveness of the images, those certain marks of the first sketch of a master, conspire to corroborate the fact. It is not to be understood, that this piece was not afterward reconsidered, retouched, and corrected.

Ver. 49. But when] See Divine Legation, Book ïi. sect. 1. Where Orpheus is considered as a Philosopher, a Legislator, and a Mystagogue. In vol. v. of the Memoirs of Inscriptions, &c. p.

What sounds were heard,
What scenes appear'd,
O'er all the dreary coast !

55
Dreadful gleams,
Dismal screams,
Fires that glow,
Shrieks of woe,
Sullen moans,

60
Hollow groans,
And cries of tortur'd ghosts !

But hark! he strikes the golden lyre;
And see! the tortur'd ghosts respire,

65
See, shady forms advance!
Thy stone, O Sisyphus, stands still,
Ixion rests upon his wheel,

And the pale spectres dance;
The Furies sink upon their iron beds,
And snakes uncurld hang list’ning round their heads.

71

By the streams that ever flow,
By the fragrant winds that blow

O'er the Elysian flow'rs;

NOTES, 117, is a very curious dissertation upon the Orphic Life, by the Abbé Fraguier. He was the first critic who rightly interpreted the words of Horace, Cædibus et fædo victu, as meaning an abolition of eating human flesh.

Though the Hymns that remain are not the work of the real Orpheus, yet they are extremely ancient, certainly older than the Expedition of Xerxes against Greece.

Ver. 66.] This line is taken from an ode of Cobb.
Ver. 68. dance ;] A most improper because ludicrous image.

75

By those happy souls who dwell
In yellow meads of Asphodel,

Or Amaranthine bow'rs;
By the heroes armed shades,
Glittring through the gloomy glades;
By the youths that dy'd for love,

Wand'ring in the myrtle grove,
Restore, restore Eurydice to life:
Oh take the husband, or return the wife !

80

85

He
sung,

and hell consented
To hear the Poet's prayer :
Stern Proserpine relented,
And
gave

him back the fair.
Thus song could prevail

O’er death, and o'er hell,
A conquest how hard and how glorious !

Tho' fate had fast bound her

With Styx nine times round her, Yet music and love were victorious.

90

NOTES.

Ver. 77.] These images are picturesque and appropriated, and are such notes as might,

Draw iron tears down Pluto's cheek,

And make hell grant what love did seek. Pope being insensible of the effects of music, inquired of Dr. Arbuthnot whether Handel really deserved the applause he met with. The Dutchess of Queensbury told me that Gay could play on the flute, and that this enabled him to adapt so happily some airs in the Beggars' Opera.

Ver. 83.] This measure is unsuited to the subject.

Ver. 87.] These numbers are of so burlesque, so low, and ridiculous a kind, and have so much the air of a vulgar drinking

95

VI.
But soon, too soon, the lover turns his eyes :
Again she falls, again she dies, she dies !
How wilt thou now the fatal sisters move?
No crime was thine, if 'tis no crime to love.

Now under hanging mountains,
Beside the falls of fountains,
Or where Hebrus wanders,
Rolling in Mæanders,

All alone,
Unheard, unknown,
He makes his moan;

And calls her ghost,
For ever, ever, ever lost !

100

105

NOTES.

song, that one is amazed and concerned to find them in a serious ode; and in an ode of a writer eminently skilled, in general, in accommodating his sounds to his sentiments. Addison thought this measure exactly suited to the comic character of Sir Trusty in his Rosamond, by the introduction of which he has so strangely debased that very elegant opera. It is observable that this ludicrous measure is used by Dryden, in a song of evil spirits, in the fourth act of the State of Innocence.

Ver. 97.] These scenes, in which Orpheus is introduced as making his lamentations, are not so wild, so savage, and dismal, as those mentioned by Virgil ; and convey not such images of desolation and deep despair, as the caverns on the banks of Strymon and Tanais, the Hyperborean deserts, and the Riphæan solitudes. And to say of Hebrus, only, that it rolls in meanders, is flat and feeble, and does not heighten the melancholy of the place. He that would have a complete idea of Orpheus's anguish and situation, must look at the exquisite figure of him (now in the possession of Sir Watkin Williams Wynne) painted by Mr. Dance, a work that does honour to the true genius of the artist, and to the age in which it was produced.

« AnteriorContinuar »