« AnteriorContinuar »
Now with Furies surrounded,
Amidst Rhodope's snows:
Ah see, he dies ! Yet ev’n in death Eurydice he sung, Eurydice still trembled on his tongue, Eurydice the woods,
115 Eurydice the floods, Eurydice the rocks, and hollow mountains rung.
NOTES. Ver. 108.] I am afraid there is a trivial antithesis in these lines betwixt the words snows and glows, unworthy our author.
Ver. 112.] The death is expressed with a brevity and abruptness suitable to the nature of the ode. Instead of he sung, Virgil says, vocabat, which is more natural and tender, and adds a moving epithet, that he called miseram Eurydicen. The repetition of Eurydice in two very short lines hurts the ear, which Virgil escaped by interposing several other words ; and the name itself happens not to be harmonious enough to suffer such repetition.
Ver. 118. Music the fiercest] This is such a close repetition of the subject of the second stanza, that it must be thought a blamable tautology.
This the divine Cecilia found,
Th' immortal pow’rs incline their ear;
And Angels lean from heav'n to hear. Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell,
To bright Cecilia greater pow'r is giv’n ; His numbers rais'd a shade from hell,
Her's lift the soul to heav'n.
Ver. 131.] It is observable that this ode, as well as that of Dryden, concludes with an epigram of four lines; a species of witty writing as flagrantly unsuitable to the dignity, and as foreign to the nature of the lyric, as it is of the epic muse.
IF we cast a transient view over the most celebrated of the modern lyrics, we may observe that the stanza of Petrarch, which has been adopted by all his successors, displeases the ear, by its tedious uniformity, and by the number of identical cadences. And, indeed, to speak truth, there appears to be little valuable in Petrarch, except the purity of his diction. His sentiments, even of love, are metaphysical and far-fetched. Neither is there much variety in his subjects, or fancy in his method of treating them. Fulvio Testi, Chiabrera, and Metastasio, are much better lyric poets. When Boileau attempted an ode, he exhibited a glaring proof of what will frequently be hinted in the course of these notes, that the writer, whose grand characteristical talent is satiric or moral poetry, will never succeed, with equal merit, in the higher branches of his art. In his ode on the taking Namur, are instances of the bombastic, of the prosaic, and of the puerile; and it is no small confirmation of the ruling passion of this author, that he could not conclude his ode, but with a severe stroke on his old antagonist Perrault, though the majesty of this species of composition is so much injured by descending to personal satire. The name of Malherbe is respectable, as he was the first reformer of the French poesy, and the first who gave his countrymen any idea of a legitimate ode, though his own pieces have hardly any thing but harmony to recommend them. The odes of La Motte, though so highly praised by Sanadon, and by Fontenelle, are fuller of delicate sentiment, and philosophical reflection, than of imagery, figures, and poetry. There are particular stanzas eminently good, but not one entire ode. Some of Rousseau's, particularly that to Fortune, and some of his Psalms; and one or two of Voltaire's, particularly, to the King of Prussia on his accession to the throne, and on Maeupertuis's travels to the North, to measure the degrees of the meridian toward the equator, seem to rise above that exact mediocrity which distinguishes the lyric poetry of the French.
“We have had (says Mr. Gray) in our language, no other odes of the sublime kind, than that of Dryden on St. Cecilia's Day: for Cowley, who had his merit, yet wanted judgment, style, and harmony, for such a task. That of Pope is not worthy of so great a master. Mr. Mason, indeed, of late days, has touched the true chords, and with a masterly hand, in some of his choruses; above all in the last of Caractacus ; “ Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread?" &c.
Gray's Works, 4to. page 25. TWO CHORUSES
THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUSI.
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
YE shades, where sacred truth is sought;
Unspotted long with human blood.
Altered from Shakspeare by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Choruses were composed to supply as many, wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckinghamhouse. P.
Ver. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir'd, And, Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the Old Academy; and Cassius, the other, was an Epicurean. W
I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy.
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?
When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
And Athens rising near the pole !
Ver. 12. Moral Truth, and mystic Song !) The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? As Hesiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either construction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Mystic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the Heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.
The metre is unskilfully broken by the want of a syllable in this line.