« AnteriorContinuar »
Where-e'er you find “the cooling western breeze, "
356 That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow. length
along Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth, or languishingly slow; And praise the easy vigour of a line,
360 Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness
Ver. 360. And praise the easy digour] Fenton, in his entertaining observations on Waller, has given us a curious anecdote concerning the great industry and exactness with which Waller polished even his smallest compositions. “When the court was at Windsor, these verses were writ in the Tasso of her Royal Highness, at Mr. Waller's request, by the late Duke of Buckinghamshire; and I very well remember to have heard his Grace say, that the author employed the greatest part of a summer in composing and correcting them.” So that, however he is generally reputed the parent of those swarms of insect wits, who affect to be thought easy writers, it is evident that he bestowed much time and care on his poems, before he ventured them out of his hands.
Ver. 346. Where expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line:] From Dryden. “He creeps along with ten little words in every line, and helps out his numbers with (for) (to) and (unto) and all the pretty expletives he can find, while the sense is left half tired behind it.” Essay on Dram. Poetry.
But there are many lines of monosyllables that have much force and energy; in our author himself, as well as Dryden.
True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
Ver. 361. Denham's strength,] Sufficient justice is not done to Sandys, who did more to polish and tune the English versification, by his Psalms and his Job, than those two writers, who are usually applauded on this subject.
Ver. 362. True ease] Writers who seem to have composed
Se caso, od arte, il bel volto compose,
Le negligenze sue sono artifici."
Ver. 364. no harshness gives offence,] We are surprised to see the constant attention of the ancients, to give melody to their periods, both in prose and verse; of which so many instances are given in Tully De Oratore, in Dionysius, and Quintilian. Plato many times altered the order of the four first words of his Republic. Cicero records the approbation he met with for finishing
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
a sentence with the word comprobāvit, being a dichorce. Had he finished it otherwise, he says, it might have been animo satis, auribus non satis. We may be equally mortified in finding Quintilian condemning the inharmoniousness of many letters with which our language abounds; particularly the letters F, M, B, D, and Dionysius reprobates the letter S.
Ver. 365. The sound must seen an echo to the sense :] Lord Roscommon says,
- The sound is still a comment to the sense.” They are both well expressed, although so differently; for Lord R. is shewing how the sense is assisted by the sound; Mr. P. how the sound is assisted by the sense.
Ver. 366. Soft is the strain] See examples in Clarke's Homer. Iliad i. v. 430; ii. v. 102; iii. v. 357; vi. v. 510; vii. v. 157; viii. v. 210, 551; xi. v. 687, 697, 766; and many others. The judicious Heyne, in his Virgil, thinks this beauty of style, as it is called, very fantastical, and not intended by either Homer or Virgil, so often as hath been imagined.
These lines are usually cited as fine examples of adapting the sound to the sense. But that Pope has failed in this endeavour has been clearly demonstrated by the Rambler. “ The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze must surely be confessed not much to excel in softness or volubility; and the smooth stream runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants. The noise and turbulence of the torrent, is indeed, distinctly imagined; for it requires very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of Ajax, there is no particular heaviness or delay. The swiftness of Camilla, is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be lengthened to express speed, will not easily be discovered. In the dactyls, used for that purpose by the ancients, two short syllables were pronounced with such rapidity, as to be equal only to one long; they therefore naturally exhibit the act of passing through a long space in a short time. But the Alex
Ver. 366. Soft is the strain, &c.]
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
andrine, by its pause in the midst, is a tardy and stately measure ; and the word unbending, one of the most sluggish and slow which our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion.” Aaron Hill, long before this was published by the Rambler, wrote a letter to Pope, pointing out the many instances in which he had failed to accommodate the sound to the sense, in this famous passage. This rule of making the sound an echo to the sense, as well as alliteration, has been carried to a ridiculous extreme by several late writers. It is worth observing, that it is treated of at length, and recommended by Tasso, page 168 of his Discorsi del Poema Eroico.
Ver. 374. Hear how Timotheus, &c.] See Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music; an Ode by Mr. Dryden. P.
“Some of the lines (says Dr. Johnson) are without correspondent rhymes; a defect which the enthusiasm of the writer might hinder him from perceiving."
IMITATIONS. Ver. 368. But when loud surges, &c.] “Tum longe sale saxa sonant,” &c. Vida, Poet. 1. iii. v. 388.., Ver. 370. When Ajar strives, &c.] “Atque ideo si quid geritur molimine magno," &c.
Vida, ib. 417. Ver. 372. Not so when swift Camilla, &c.] “At mora si fuerit damno, properare jubebo,” &c.
Vida, ib. 420.
Now his fierce eyes with sparkling fury glow,
Avoid extremes ; and shun the fault of such,
390 For fools admire, but men of sense approve :
Ver. 391. Fools admire, but men of sense approve :).." This prudish sentence has probably made as many formal coxcombs in literature, as Lord Chesterfield's opinion on the vulgarity of laughter, has among men of high breeding. As a general maxim, it has no foundation whatever in truth.
“ Proneness to admiration is a quality rather of temper, than of understanding; and if it often attends light minds, it is also inseparable from that warmth of imagination which is requisite for the strong perception of what is excellent in art or nature. Innumerable instances might be produced of the rapturous admiration with which men of genius have been struck at the view of great performances. It is enough here to mention the poet's favourite critic, Longinus, who is far from being contented with cool' approbation, but gives free scope to the most enraptured praise. Few things indicate a mind more unfavourably constituted for the fine arts, than a slowness in being moved to the admiration of excellence; and it is certainly better that this passion should at first be excited by objects rather inadequate, than that it should not be excited at all.” These are the words of a sensible observer on this essay, Dr. Aikin, in Letters to his Son.
“What I dislike is, the pedantry of appealing to speculative principles in opposition to the decisions of taste; and what I