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entitled, Le Pazzie dei Savi, ovvero, Il Lambertaccio, in which the Modenese are spoken of with much contempt. The Italians have a fine turn for works of humour, in which they abound. They have another poem of this species, called Malmantile Racquistato, written by Lorenzo Lippi, in the year 1676, which Crescembini highly commends, calling it, “Spiritosissimo e leggiadrissimo poema giocoso." It was afterwards reprinted at Florence, 1688, with the useful annotations of Puccio Lamoni, a Florentine painter, who was himself no contemptible poet. To these must be added, the lively and amusing poem called Ricciardetto. In the Adventurer, No. 133, I formerly endeavoured to shew the superiority of the moderns over the ancients, in all the species of ridicule, and to point out some of the reasons for this supposed superiority. It is ä subject that deserves a much longer discussion. Among other reasons given, it is there said, that though democracies may be the nurses of true sublimity, yet monarchy and courts are more productive of politeness. Hence the arts of civility, and the decencies of conversation, as they unite men more closely, and bring them together more frequently, multiply opportunities of observing those incongruities and absurdities of behaviour, on which ridicule is founded. The ancients had more liberty and seriousness; the moderns more luxury and laughter In a word, our forms of government, the various consequent ranks in society, our commerce, manners, habits, riches, courts, religious controversies, intercourse with women, late age of the world in which we live, and new arts, have opened sources of ridicule unavoidably unknown to the ancients.
The Rape of the Lock is the fourth, and most excellent of the heroi-comic poems. The subject was a quarrel, occasioned by a little piece of gallantry of Lord Petre, who, in a party of pleasure, found means to cut off a favourite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair. On so slight a foundation has he raised this beautiful superstructure; like a Fairy palace in a desart. Pope was accustomed
“ what I wrote fastest always pleased most.” The first sketch of this exquisite piece, which Addison called Merum Sal, was written in less than a fortnight, in two Cantos only; but it was so universally applauded, that, in the next year, our poet enriched it with the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five Cantos ; when it was printed, with a Letter to Mrs. Fermor, far superior to any of Voiture. The insertion of the machinery of the
Sylphs in proper places, without the least appearance of its being aukwardly stitched in, is one of the happiest efforts of judgment and art. He took the idea of these invisible beings, so proper to be employed in a poem of this nature, from a little French book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis, of which is given the following account, in an entertaining writer : “ The Abbé Villars, who came from Thoulouse to Paris, to make his fortune by preaching, is the author of this diverting work. The five dialogues of which it consists, are the result of those gay conversations, in which the Abbé was engaged, with a small circle of men, of fine wit and humour, like himself. When this book first appeared, it was universally read, as innocent and amusing. But at length its consequences were perceived, and reckoned dangerous, at a time when this sort of curiosities began to gain credit. Our devout preacher was denied the chair, and his book forbidden to be read. It was not clear whether the author intended to be ironical, or spoke all seriously. The second volume, which he promised, would have decided the question; but the unfortunate Abbé was soon afterwards assassinated by ruffians, on the road to Lyons. The laughers gave out, that the Gnomes and Sylphs, disguised like ruffians, had shot him, as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the Cabala ; a crime not to be pardoned by these jealous spirits, as Villars himself has declared in his book.”
That poetry does not depend on the nature or choice of the subject, is a truth that never was more fully exemplified than in the following production. A circumstance of the most trivial kind- -a lock of hair cut in familiar sport from the head of a Lady by one of her admirers; what are the materials for poetry that such an event affords? To Cowley it might have suggested some quaint witticisms or forced allusions ; to Waller or Suckling a metaphysical song; Dryden would have celebrated it in some strong lines, remarkable for their poetical spirit, and perhaps not less so for their indelicacy; whilst by the general tribe of poets, it never could have been extended further than to a smart epigram, or a frigid sonnet. What is it in the hands of Pope ? an animated and moving picture of human life and manners ; a lively representation of the whims and follies of the times ; an important contest, in which we find ourselves deeply engaged; for the interest is so supported, the manner so ludicrously serious, the characters so marked and distinguished, the resentment of the heroine so natural, and the triumph of the conqueror so complete, that we unavoidably partake the emotions of the parties, and alternately sympathize, approve, or condemn. We mount with the poet upon
his Hippogryph, and resign ourselves to his guidance; till after conducting us through imaginary skies, and realms of fairy-land, he sets us down once more on the borders of reality; and we feel only surprize at the extent, the beauty, and the variety of the regions through which we have passed.
Dr. Warton has endeavoured to shew, that this style of writing was invented by the Italians; and in proof of it, has referred to the Secchia Rapita of Tassoni, and the Malmantile Racquistato of Lorenzo Lippi, with the Annotations of Paolo Minucci, (the real name of the author whom Dr. Warton mentions by his anagrammatic appellation of Puccio Lamoni) as also to the more recent poem of Ricciardetto, by Niccolo Forteguerra, of the first canto of which, Lord Glenbervie has lately favoured us with an English translation; but the truth is, that these poems are in their nature essentially different from the Rape of the Lock, and most probably never once occurred to the author in the course of his labours. The most marked distinction is, that in the Italian poets, the wit and humour consist in the expression; in Pope, they are in the thought or conception. In the Italian poems, the subject is constantly rendered ridiculous, by an unintermitted succession of strange comparisons, singular proverbs, provincial idioms, and whimsical jests ; intended to keep the reader in continual laughter. On the contrary, the poem of Pope is written in a style professedly serious, and with an elegance and propriety of diction not exceeded in any of his works. The reader does not laugh; but he enjoys perhaps an equal, and certainly a more refined and intellectual pleasure, in the delicacy of the allusions, the alternate approach and receding of fiction and reality, the fanciful beings that float upon his imagination, and the ever-shifting scene by which he is surrounded. In short, he is for a time, as it were, carried out of himself; whilst in the perusal of the Italian poems, he feels himself standing on the earth, and listening to a performer, who, by dint of jokes and grimaces, endeavours to keep him in perpetual good humour.
The only production that can, with any propriety, be placed in comparison with the Rape of the Lock, is the Lutrin of Boileau. This poem, which originated from a circumstance as trivial as that which gave rise to the former, affords no less striking a proof of the power of genius, which, like transparent amber, can render a fly or a straw an object of curiosity and admiration. Boileau has himself recorded the motives which induced him to undertake it, and which may serve most decidedly to shew that no limits can be prescribed to the exertions of imagination, and that where the mind is impregnated with genius and fancy, the smallest spark will serve to call them into action. He had asserted in company, what he had before stated in his Art of Poetry,
6 that an heroic poem ought to be charged with little matter, which it is the business of invention to support and extend." This led to a warm contest, in which neither of the parties was convinced, and ended in their moralizing on the warmth with which each had supported his opinions, and on the folly of those who pass their whole lives in making trifles of importance. To exemplify this, one of the company related a story, of a quarrel that had taken place between the two chief dignitaries of a church in his neighbourhood, about the placing a Lutrin, or reading desk, which appearing to the company, to be a very trifling and ridiculous affair, one of them asked Boileau, whether, as he thought so little matter was necessary
for an heroic poem, he could write one on such an incident, " Why not ş” replied the poet; the company laughed, and Boileau with them; but on returning home in the evening he revolved it in his mind, and perceiving it was capable of producing no little amusement, he wrote twenty verses, which he shewed to his friends, and their approbation induced him to proceed, till he had finished the poem. The success of this attempt may be taken as a decisive proof, that he was right in the opinion he had advanced; and may serve to demonstrate, that the mere choice of a subject can never give any pretensions to superiority; but that the genius of the poet is all in all.
To compare the Poems of Pope and of Boileau with each other, in order to decide which of them is entitled to the preference, would be a fruitless attempt. The Lutrin is, strictly speaking, national. The peculiarities, frailties, and follies of luxurious canons and idle monks, and the abuses in French jurisprudence and manners, are not perhaps sufficiently understood in other countries to enable us to perceive, in their full extent, the fine touches of wit and raillery, which doubtless appeared to the contemporaries of the poet to be the most exquisite part of his work. The persons introduced as objects of his animadversion are unknown to us, and the satire is consequently lost. The difference that subsists between
the two countries in point of religion, renders it impossible we should perceive the circumstances and events referred to in the Lutrin in the same light as the countrymen of the poet. The long establishment and splendour of their hierarchy, the number and importance of its ministers, and the respect paid to every thing that related to them, form a strong contrast with the trivial occurrence that gave rise to the poem, which we are not fully able to perceive: nor are the frequent and extravagant compliments which Boileau has introduced to his ostentatious monarch, likely to be felt as the poet intended, either on this, or his own side of the channel.
How far the poem of Pope may be liable to similar observations it is not so easy to determine. Ayre, in reference to the Italian and French translations, observes, that “the Italian ladies can but wonder that so young and fine a creature as Belinda, should be so long unguarded by her mother, aunt, or some one, whose business it should have been to have taken care of her lock, and her reputation too; while the French ladies see nothing to grieve at, and say, what hindered her from wearing a tête with curls as long again." On the whole, however, the subject of it may be regarded as more general, and consequently more capable of being appreciated by strangers, than the poem of Boileau. The common affections and passions of human nature, and even the manners of fashionable life, bear a much nearer resemblance in all countries, than those of any particular profession or sect; and there seems not much in the Rape of the Lock that may not be perceived at Paris, or at Rome, or even at Vienna, or Petersburg, nearly as well as in London.
Nor does the Rape of the Lock differ more from the Lutrin in its nature and subject, than in the execution, or manner of effecting the purpose intended. The object of the one is Satire, that of the other Pleasantry—that of the one is to ridicule and to reprove, of the other to amuse and to reconcile; and the means adopted for those purposes are appropriate and peculiar to each. Boileau has introduced a series of allegorical personages, who according to the prescribed rules for Epic Poetry, are supposed to influence or direct the conduct of the parties. Justice, Piety, Discord, and Chicanery, are strongly characterized, and perform their respec
These personages, as being modifications of human feelings or passions, are well calculated for a poem of a satirical