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Cremona now shall ever boast thy name,
made on such an occasion, when Christ was brought before the tribunal of Pilate, to be judged and condemned to death. The Poetics are, perhaps, the most perfect of his compositions; they are excellently translated by Pitt. Vida had formed himself upon Virgil, who is therefore his hero; he has too much depreciated Homer, and also Dante. Although his precepts principally regard epic poetry, yet many of them are applicable to every species of composition. This poem has the praise of being one of the * first, if not the very first, pieces of criticism, that appeared in Italy since the revival of learning : for it was finished, as is evident from a short advertisement prefixed to it, in the year 1520. It is remarkable, that most of the great poets, about this time, wrote an Art of Poetry. Trissino, a name respected for giving to Europe the first regular epic poem, and for first daring to throw off the bondage of rhyme, published at Vicenza, in the year 1529, Della Poetica, divisioni quattro, several years before his Italia Liberata. We have of Fracastorius, Naugerius, sive de arte poeticâ dialogus, Venetiis, 1555. Minturnus, De Poeta, libri sex, appeared at Venice 1559. Bernardo Tasso, the father of Torquato, and author of an epic poem, entitled, L'Amadigi, wrote Raggionamento della Poesia, printed at Venice, 1562. And to pay the highest honour to criticism, the great Torquato Tasso himself wrote Discorsi del poema Eroico, printed at Venice, 1587.
These discourses are full of learning and taste. But I must not Vomit a curious anecdote, which Menage has given us in his Anti
Baillet; namely, that Sperone claimed these discourses as his own; for he thus speaks of them, in one of his Letters to Felice
Ver. 708. As next in place to Mantua,] Alluding to
“ Mantua væ miseræ nimium vicina Cremonæ.” Virg. This application is made in Kennet's edition of Vida. Warton.
* Victorius's Latin translation of Aristotle's Poetics was published at Florence, 1560. Castelvetro's Italian one at Vienna, 1570.
But soon by impious arms from Latium chas'd, Their ancient bounds the banish'd Muses pass'd.
Ver. 709. But soon by impious arms, ģc.] This brings us to the third period, after learning had travelled still farther West ; when the arms of the Emperor, in the sack of Rome by the duke
Paciotto; “ Laudo voi infinitamente di voler scrivere della poetica; della quale interrogato molto fiate dal Tasso, e rispondendogli io liberamente, si come soglio, egli n'a fatto un volume, e mandato al Signor Scipio Gonzago per cosa sua, e non mia; ma io ne chiarirò il mondo."
Hence it appears, that our author was mistaken in saying, line 712, that “ Critic-learning flourished most in France.” For these critical works here mentioned, by so many capital writers in Italy, far exceed any which the French, at that period of time, had produced. “ 'Tis hard (said Akenside) to conceive by what means the French acquired this character of superior correctness. We have classic authors in English, older than in any modern language, except the Italian ; and Spenser and Sidney wrote with the truest taste, when the French had not one great poet they can bear to read. Milton and Chapelain were contemporaries; the Pucelle and Paradise Lost were in hand, perhaps frequently, at the selfsame hour. One of them was executed in such a manner, that an Athenian of Menander's age would have turned his eyes
from the Minerva of Phidias, or the Venus of Apelles, to obtain more perfect conceptions of beauty from the English Poet ; the other, though fostered by the French court for twenty years with the utmost indulgence, does honour to the Leonine, and the Runic
poetry. It was too great an attention to French criticism, that hindered our poets, in Charles the Second's time, from comprehending the genius, and acknowledging the authority of Milton ; else, without looking abroad, they might have acquired a manner more correct and perfect, than French authors could or can teach them. In short, unless correctness signify a freedom from little faults, without inquiring after the most essential beauties, it scarce appears on what foundation the French claim to that character is established.”
Thence Arts o'er all the northern world advance,
of Bourbon, had driven it out of Italy, and forced it to pass the Mountains. The examples he gives in this period, are of Boileau in France, and of the Lord Roscommon and the Duke of Buckingham in England : And these were all Poets, as well as Critics in verse.
It is true, the last instance is of one who was no eminent poet, the late Mr. Walsh. This small deviation might be well overlooked, were it only for its being a pious office to the memory of his friend. But it may be further justified, as it was an homage paid in particular to the Morals of the Critic, nothing being more amiable than the character here drawn of this excellent person. He being our Author's Judge and Censor, as well as Friend, it gives him a graceful opportunity to add himself to the number of the later Critics; and with a character of his own genius and temper, sustained by that modesty and dignity which it is so difficult to make consistent, this performance concludes.
I have here given a short and plain account of the Essay ON CRITICISM ; concerning which, I have but one thing more to say: That when the Reader considers the Regularity of the plan, the masterly Conduct of each part, the penetration into Nature, and the compass of Learning throughout, he should at the same time know, it was the work of an Author who had not attained the twentieth
of his age.
Ver. 714. And Boileau still in right of Horace sways.) May I be pardoned for declaring it as my opinion, that Boileau's is the best Art of Poetry* extant. The brevity of his precepts, enlivened by proper imagery, the justness of his metaphors, the harmony of his numbers, as far as Alexandrine lines will admit, the exactness
* It was translated into Portuguese verse by Count d'Ericeyra. VOL. III.
Fierce for the liberties of wit, and bold,
of his method, the perspicacity of his remarks, and the energy of his style, all duly considered, may render this opinion not unreasonable. It is scarcely to be conceived, how much is comprehended in four short cantos. He that has well digested these, cannot be said to be ignorant of any important rule of poetry. The tale of the Physician turning Architect, in the fourth canto, is told with true pleasantry. It is to this work Boileau owes his immortality; which was of the highest utility to this nation, in diffusing a just way of thinking and writing ; banishing every species of false wit, and introducing a general taste for the manly simplicity of the ancients, on whose writings this poet had formed his taste.
Warton. Ver. 723. Such was the Muse,] Essay on Poetry by the Duke of Buckingham. Our Poet is not the only one of his time who complimented this Essay, and its noble Author. Mr. Dryden had done it very largely in the Dedication to his translation of the Æneid; and Dr. Garth in the first edition of his Dispensary says,
“ The Tyber now no courtly Gallus sees,
But smiling Thames enjoys his Normanbys ;" though afterwards omitted, when parties were carried so high in the reign of Queen Anne, as to allow no commendation to an opposite in politics. The Duke was all his life a steady adherent to the Church of England Party, yet an enemy to the extravagant Measures of the Court in the reign of Charles II. On which account, after having strongly patronized Mr. Dryden, a coolness succeeded between them on that Poet's absolute attachment to the Court, which carried him some length beyond what the Duke could approve of. This nobleman's true character had been very well marked by Mr. Dryden before :
Such was Roscommon, not more learn’d than good,
« The Muse's friend,
Abs. and Achit. Our Author was more happy; he was honoured very young with his friendship, and it continued till his death in all the circumstances of a familiar esteem.
P.' Ver. 723. Such was the Muse, whose rules and practice tell,
“ Nature's chief Master-piece is writing well."] This high panegyric, which was not in the first edition, procured to Pope the acquaintance, and afterwards the constant friendship, of the Duke of Buckingham; who, in his essay here alluded to, has followed the method of Boileau, in discoursing on the various species of poetry in their different gradations, to no other purpose than to manifest his own inferiority.
Warton. Ver. 725. Such was Roscommon,] An Essay on Translated Verse seems, at first sight, to be a barren subject; yet Roscommon has decorated it with many precepts of utility and taste, and enlivened it with a tale in imitation of Boileau. It is indisputably better written, in a closer and more vigorous style, than the lastmentioned essay. Roscommon was more learned than Buckingham. He was bred under Bochart, at Caen in Normandy. He had laid a design of forming a society for the refining, and fixing the standard of our language; in which project, his intimate friend Dryden was a principal assistan It may
be remarked, to the praise of Roscommon, that he was the first critic who had taste and spirit publicly to praise the Paradise Lost; with a noble encomium of which, and a rational recommendation of blank verse, he concludes his performance, though this passage was not in the first edition. Fenton, in his Observations on Waller, has accurately delineated his character. “ His imagination might have, probably, been more fruitful, and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe; but that severity, delivered in a masculine, clear, succinct style, contributed to make