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Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine. Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of slow-paced majesty, exhibited by the same poet in the same sequence of syllables, except that the exact prosodist will find the line of swiftness by one time longer than that of tardiness.
Beauties of this kind are commonly fancied; and, when real, are technical and nugatory, not to be rejected, and not to be solicited.
To the praises which have been accumulated on "The Rape of the Lock," by readers of every class, from the critic to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any addition. Of that which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now inquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived.
Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked, that the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain attention; we should have turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana. The employment of allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own absurdity; they may produce effects, but cannot conduct actions: when the phantom is put in motion, it dissolves: thus Discord may raise a mutiny; but Discord cannot conduct a march, nor besiege a town.Pope brought into view a new race of beings, with powers and passions proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act at the toilet and the tea-table, what more terrific and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean or the field of battle; they give their proper help, and do their proper mischief.
Pope is said, by an objector, not to have been the inventor of this petty nation; a charge which might, with more justice, have been brought against the author of the "Iliad," who doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for what is there but the names of his agents, which Pope has not invented? Has he not assigned them characters and operations never heard of before? Has he not, at least, given them their first poetical existence? If this is not sufficient to denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be written.
In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits; loves a Sylph, and detests a Gnome.
That familiar things are made new, every paragraph will prove. The subject of the poem is an event below the common incidents of common life; nothing real is introduced that is not seen so often as to be no longer regarded; yet the whole detail of a female day is here brought before us, invested with so much art of decoration, that, though nothing is disguised, every thing is striking, and we feel all the appetite of curiosity for that from which we have a thousand times turned fastidiously away.
The purpose of the poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at "the little unguarded follies of the female sex." It is therefore without justice that Dennis charges "The Rape of the Lock" with the want of a moral, and for that reason sets it below the "Lutrin," which exposes the pride and discord of the clergy. Perhaps neither Pope nor Boileau has made the world much better than he found it; but if they had both succeeded, it were easy to tell who would have deserved most from public gratitude. The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity, of women, as they embroil families in discord, and fill houses with disquiet, do more to obstruct the happiness of life in a year than the ambition of the clergy in many centuries. It has been well observed, that the misery of man proceeds not from any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexations continually repeated.
It is remarked by Dennis, likewise, that the machinery is superfluous; that, by all the bustle of preternatural operation, the main event is neither hastened nor retarded. To this charge an efficacious answer is not easily made. The Sylphs cannot be said to help or to oppose; and it must be allowed to imply some want of art, that their power has not been sufficiently intermingled with the action. Other parts may likewise be charged with want of connexion; the game at ombre might be spared; but, if the lady had lost her hair while she was intent upon her cards, it might have been inferred, that those who are too fond of play will be in danger of neglecting more important interests. Those perhaps are faults; but what are such faults to so much excellence!
The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is one of the most happy productions of human wit: the subject is so judiciously chosen, that it would be difficult, in turning over the annals of the world, to find another which so many circumstances concur to recommend. We regularly interest ourselves most in the fortune of those who most deserve our notice. Abelard and Eloise were conspicuous in their days for eminence of merit. The heart naturally loves truth. The adventures and misfortunes of this illustrious pair are known from undisputed history. Their fate does not leave the mind in hopeless dejection; for they both found quiet and consolation in retirement and piety. So new and so affecting is their story, that it supersedes invention; and imagination ranges at full liberty without straggling into scenes of fable.
The story thus skilfully adopted, has been diligently improved. Pope has left nothing behind him which seems more the effect of studious perseverance and laborious revisal. Here is particularly observable the curiosa felicitas, a fruitful soil and careful cultivation. Here is no crudeness of sense, nor asperity of language.
The sources from which sentiments which have so much vigour and efficacy have been drawn are shown to be the mystic writers, by the learned author of the " Essay on the Life and Writings of Pope;" a book which teaches how the brow of Criticism may be smoothed, and how she may be enabled, with all her severity, to attract and to delight.
The train of my disquisition has now conducted me to that poetical wonder, the translation of the "Iliad," a performance which no age or na
tion can pretend to equal. To the Greeks trans- | consideration must be had of the nature of our lation was almost unknown; it was totally un-language, the form of our metre, and, above all, known to the inhabitants of Greece. They had of the change which two thousand years have no recourse to the barbarians for poetical beau- made in the modes of life and the habits of ties, but sought for every thing in Homer, where, thought. Virgil wrote in a language of the same indeed, there is but little which they might not general fabric with that of Homer, in verses of find. the same measure, and in an age nearer to HoThe Italians have been very diligent transla-mer's time by eighteen hundred years; yet he tors; but I can hear of no version, unless per- found, even then, the state of the world so much haps Anguilara's Ovid may be excepted, which altered, and the demand for elegance so much is read with eagerness. The "Iliad" of Salvini increased, that mere nature would be endured every reader may discover to be punctiliously no longer; and perhaps in the multitude of borexact; but it seems to be the work of a linguist rowed passages, very few can be shown which skilfully pedantic; and his countrymen, the pro- he has not embellished. per judges of its power to please, reject it with disgust.
Their predecessors, the Romans, have left some specimens of translations behind them, and that employment must have had some credit in which Tully and Germanicus engaged; but, unless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that the plays of Terence were versions of Menander, nothing translated seems ever to have risen to high reputation. The French, in the meridian hour of their learning, were very laudably industrious to enrich their own language with the wisdom of the ancients; but found themselves reduced, by whatever necessity, to turn the Greek and Roman poetry into prose. Whoever could read an author could translate him. From such rivals little can be feared.
There is a time when nations, emerging from barbarity, and falling into regular subordination, gain leisure to grow wise, and feel the shame of ignorance and the craving pair of unsatisfied curiosity. To this hunger the mind plain sense is grateful; that which fill the void removes uneasiness, and to be free from pain for a while is pleasure; but repletion generates fastidiousness; a saturated intellect soon becomes luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reception till it is recommended by artificial diction. Thus it will be found, in the progress of learning, that in all nations the first writers are simple, and that every age improves in elegance. One refinement always makes way for another; and what was expedient to Virgil was necessary to Pope.
to his character; but to have added can be no great crime, if nothing be taken away. Elegance is surely to be desired, if it be not gained at the expense of dignity. A hero would wish to be loved, as well as to be reverenced.
The chief help of Pope in this arduous underI suppose many readers of the English "Iliad," taking was drawn from the versions of Dryden. when they have been touched with some unexVirgil had borrowed much of his imagery from pected beauty of the lighter kind, have tried to Homer, and part of the debt was now paid by enjoy it in the original, where, alas! it was not his translator. Pope searched the pages of to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his transDryden for happy combinations of heroic dic-lator many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable tion; but it will not be denied that he added much to what he found. He cultivated our language with so much diligence and art, that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the English tongue; for since its appearance no writer, however deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series of lines, so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly modulated, took possession of the public ear; the vulgar was enamoured of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation.
To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient; the purpose of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy the power of pleasing must be blown aside. Pope wrote for his own age and his own nation: he knew that it was necessary to colour the images and point the sentiments of his author; he therefore made him graceful, but lost him some of his sub
But, in the most general applause, discordant voices will always be heard. It has been object-limity. ed by some, who wish to be numbered among The copious notes with which the version is the sons of learning, that Pope's version of accompanied, and by which it is recommended Homer is not Homerical; that it exhibits no re-to many readers, though they were undoubtedly semblance of the original and characteristic man- written to swell the volumes, ought not to pass ner of the Father of Poetry, as it wants his without praise: commentaries which attract the awful simplicity, his artless grandeur, his un-reader by the pleasure of perusal have not often affected majesty. This cannot be totally denied; appeared; the notes of others are read to clear but it must be remembered, that necessitas quod difficulties, those of Pope to vary entertainment. cogit defendit; that may be lawfully done which It has however been objected with sufficient cannot be forborne. Time and place will always reason, that there is in the commentary too much enforce regard. In estimating this translation, of unseasonable levity and affected gayety; that Bentley was one of these. He and Pope, soon after too many appeals are made to the ladies, and the the publication of Homer, met at Dr. Mead's at dinner; ease which is so carefully preserved is sometimes when Pope, desirous of his opinion of the translation, ad- the ease of a trifler. Every art has its terms, dressed him thus: "Dr. Bentley, I ordered my book- and every kind of instruction its proper style; seller to send you your bocks; I hope you received them." Bentley, who had purposely avoided saying any thing the gravity of common critics may be tedious, about Homer, pretended not to understand him, and but is less despicable than childish merriment. asked, "Books! books! what books?"-" My Homer," replied Pope, which you did me the honour to subscribe for."-"Oh," said Bentley, " ay, now I recollect-your translation:-it is a pretty poem, Mr. Pope; but you
must not call it Homer." H.
Of the "Odyssey" nothing remains to be observed; the same general praise may be given to both translations, and a particular examination of either would require a large volume.
The notes were written by Broome, who endeavoured, not unsuccessfully, to imitate his
Of the "Dunciad" the hint is confessedly taken from Dryden's "Mac Flecknoe;" but the plan is so enlarged and diversified as justly to claim the praise of an original, and affords the best specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire ludicrously pompous.
That the design was moral, whatever the author might tell either his readers or himself, I am not convinced. The first motive was the desire of revenging the contempt in which Theobald had treated his Shakspeare, and regaining the honour which he had lost, by crushing his opponent. Theobald was not of bulk enough to fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to find other enemies with other names, at whose expense he might divert the public.
In this design there was petulance and malignity enough; but I cannot think it very criminal. An author places himself uncalled before the tribunal of criticism, and solicits fame at the hazard of disgrace. Dulness or deformity are not culpable in themselves, but may be very justly reproached when they pretend to the honour of wit or the influence of beauty. If bad writers were to pass without reprehension, what should restrain them? impune diem consumpserit ingens Telephus; and upon bad writers only will censure have much effect. The satire which brought Theobald and Moore into contempt dropped impotent from Bentley, like the javelin of Priam.
All truth is valuable, and satirical criticism may be considered as useful when it rectifies error and improves judgment: he that refines the public taste is a public benefactor.
The beauties of this poem are well known; Its chief fault is the grossness of its images. Pope and Swift had an unnatural delight in ideas physically impure, such as every other tongue utters with unwillingness, and of which every ear shrinks from the mention.
that man ought to be, only because he is; we may allow that this place is the right place, be cause he has it. Supreme Wisdom is not less infallible in disposing than in creating. But what is meant by somewhere and place, and wrong place, it had been vain to ask Pope, who probably had never asked himself.
Having exalted himself into the chair of wisdom, he tells us much that every man knows, and much that he does not know himself; that we see but little, and that the order of the universe is beyond our comprehension; an opinion not very uncommon; and that there is a chain of subordinate beings "from infinite to nothing,” of which himself and his readers are equally ignorant. But he gives us one comfort, which without his help he supposes unattainable, in the position, "that though we are fools, yet God is
The Essay affords an egregious instance of the predominance of genius, the dazzling splendour of imagery, and the seductive powers of eloquence. Never were penury of knowledge and vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised. The reader feels his mind full, though he learns nothing; and, when he meets it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and his nurse. When these wonder-working sounds sink into sense, and the doctrine of the Essay, disrobed of its ornaments, is left to the powers of its naked excellence, what shall we discover?That we are, in comparison with our Creator, very weak and ignorant; that we do not uphold the chain of existence, and that we could not make one another with more skill than we are made. We may learn yet more; that the arts of human life were copied from the instinctive operations of other animals; that, if the world be made for man, it may be said that man was made for geese. To those profound principles of natural knowledge are added some moral instructions equally new: that self-interest, well understood, will produce social concord; that men are mutual gainers by mutual benefits; that evil is sometimes balanced by good; that human advantages are unstable and fallacious, of uncertain duration and doubtful effect; that our true honour is, not to have a great part, but to act it well; that virtue only is our own; and that hap
But even this fault, offensive as it is, may be forgiven for the excellence of other passages; such as the formation and dissolution of Moore, the account of the traveller, the misfortune of the florist, and the crowded thoughts and stately numbers which dignify the concluding para-piness is always in our power. graph.
The alterations which have been made in the "Dunciad," not always for the better, require that it should be published, with all its variations.
The "Essay on Man" was a work of great labour and long consideration, but certainly not the happiest of Pope's performances. The subject is perhaps not very proper for poetry, and the poet was not sufficiently master of his subject; metaphysical morality was to him a new study: he was proud of his acquisitions, and, supposing himself master of great secrets, was in haste to teach what he had not learned. Thus he tells us, in the first epistle, that from the nature of the supreme Being may be deduced an order of beings such as mankind, because infinite excellence can do only what is best. He finds out that these beings must be "somewhere;" and that "all the question is, whether man be in a wrong place." Surely if, according to the poet's Leibnitian reasoning, we may infer
Surely a man of no very comprehensive search may venture to say that he has heard all this be fore; but it was never till now recommended by such a blaze of embellishments, or such sweetness of melody. The vigorous contraction of some thoughts, the luxuriant amplification of others, the incidental illustrations, and sometimes the dignity, sometimes the softness, of the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend criticism, and oppress judgment by overpowering pleasure.
This is true of many paragraphs; yet, if I had undertaken to exemplify Pope's felicity of composition before a rigid critic, I should not select the "Essay on Man;" for it contains more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more harshness of diction, more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without elegance, and more heaviness without strength, than will easily be found in all his other works.
The Characters of Men and Women are the product of diligent speculation upon human life; much labour has been bestowed upon them, and
Pope very seldom laboured in vain. That his excellence may be properly estimated, I recommend a comparison of his Characters of Women with Boileau's satire; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity female nature is investigated and female excellence selected; and he surely is no mean writer to whom Boi-ments and illustrations are connected with a leau should be found inferior. The Characters of Men, however, are written with more, if not with deeper thought, and exhibit many passages exquisitely beautiful. The "Gem and the Flower" will not easily be equalled. In the women's part are some defects; the character of Atossa is not so neatly finished as that of Clodio; and some of the female characters may be found perhaps more frequently among men; what is said of Philomede was true of Prior.
In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, Dr. Warburton has endeavoured to find a train of thought which was never in the writer's head, and to support his hypothesis, has printed that first which was published last. In one, the most valuable passage is perhaps the Elegy on "Good Sense;" and the other, the "End of the Duke of Buckingham."
Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, all the qualities that constitute genius. He had invention, by which new trains of events are formed, and new scenes of imagery displayed, as in the "Rape of the Lock;" and by which extrinsic and adventitious embellishknown subject, as in the "Essay on Criticism." He had imagination which strongly impresses on the writer's mind, and enables him to convey to the reader, the various forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as in his "Eloisa," "Windsor Forest," and the "Ethic Epistles." He had judgment which selects from life or nature what the present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of things from its concomitants, often makes the representation more powerful than the reality; and he had colours of language always before him, ready to decorate his matter with every grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments and descriptions.
Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning: "Music," says Dryden, "is inartiThe epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily culate poetry;" among the excellences of Pope, called "The Prologue to the Satires," is a per- therefore, must be mentioned the melody of his formance consisting, as it seems, of many frag-metre. By perusing the works of Dryden he ments wrought into one design, which by this discovered the most perfect fabric of English union of scattered beauties contains more strik-verse, and habituated himself to that only which ing paragraphs than could probably have been brought together into an occasional work. As there is no stronger motive to exertion than selfdefence, no part has more elegance, spirit, or dignity, than the poet's vindication of his own character. The meanest passage is the satire upon Sporus.
Of the two poems which derived their names from the year, and which are called "The Epilogue to the Satires," it was very justly remarked by Savage, that the second was in the whole more strongly conceived, and more equally supported, but that it had no single passage equal to the contention in the first for the dignity of vice and the celebration of the triumph of corruption.
The imitations of Horace seem to have been written as relaxations of his genius. This employment became his favourite by its facility; the plan was ready to his hand, and nothing was required but to accommodate as he could the sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar images; but what is easy is seldom excellent: such imitations cannot give pleasure to common readers: the man of learning may be sometimes surprised and delighted by an unexpected parallel; but the comparison requires knowledge of the original, which will likewise often detect strained applications. Between Roman images and English manners, there will be an irreconcileable dissimilitude, and the work will be generally uncouth and party-coloured, neither original nor translated, neither ancient nor modern.*
In one of these poems is a couplet, to which belongs a story that I once heard the Reverend Dr. Ridley relate:
"Slander or poison dread from Delia's rage; Harsh words, or hanging, if your judge be ****." Sir Francis Page, a judge well known in his time, conceiving that his name was meant to fill up the blank, sent his clerk to Mr. Pope, to complain of the insult. Pope
he found the best; in consequence of which restraint, his poetry has been censured as too uniformly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness. I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by principles rather than perception; and who would even themselves have less pleasure in his works, if he had tried to relieve attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines and vary his pauses.
But though he was thus careful of his versification, he did not oppress his powers with superfluous rigour. He seems to have thought with Boileau, that the practice of writing might be refined till the difficulty should overbalance the advantage. The construction of his language is not always strictly grammatical: with those rhymes which prescription had conjoined, he contented himself, without regard to Swift's remonstrances, though there was no striking consonance; nor was he very careful to vary his terminations, or to refuse admission, at a small distance, to the same rhymes.
To Swift's edict for the exclusion of Alexandrines and triplets he paid little regard; he admitted them, but, in the opinion of Fenton, too rarely; he uses them more liberally in his translation than his poems.
He has a few double rhymes; and always, I think, unsuccessfully, except once in the "Rape of the Lock."
Expletives he very early ejected from his verses; but he now and then admits an epithet rather commodious than important. Each of told the young man that the blank might be supplied by many monosyllables other than the judge's name:"But, sir," said the clerk, "the judge says that no other word will make sense of the passage." "So then it seems," says Pope, "your master is not only a judge, but a poet: as that is the case, the odds are against me. Give my respects to the judge, and tell him, I will not contend with one that has the advantage of me, and he may fill up the blank as he pleases."-H.
I have been told that the couplet by which he declared his own ear to be most gratified was this:
Lo, where Mæotis sleeps, and hardly flows
It is remarked by Watts, that there is scarcely a happy combination of words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties of speech, it were desirable to know. That he gleaned from authors, obscure as well as emiRent, what he thought brilliant or useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not unlikely. When, in his last years, Hall's Satires were shown him, he wished that he had seen them sooner.
the six first lines of the "Iliad" might lose two | Hobbes; who are, it seems, as much celebrated syllables with very little diminution of the mean- for their knowledge of the original, as they are ing; and sometimes, after all his art and labour, decried for the badness of their translations. one verse seems to be made for the sake of an- Chapman pretends to have restored the genuine other. In his latter productions the diction is sense of the author, from the mistakes of all forsometimes vitiated by French idioms, with which mer explainers, in several hundred places; and Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him. the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they confess they have corrected the old Latin interpretation very often by his version. For my part, I generally took the author's meaning to be as you have explained it; yet their authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfectness in the language, overruled me. However, sir, you may be confident I think you in the right, because you happen to be of my opinion; for men (let them say what they will) never approve any other's sense, but as it squares with their own. But you have made me much more proud of, and positive in my judgment, since it is strengthened by yours. I think your criticisms which regard the expression very just, and shall make my profit of them; to give you some proof that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your bare objection, though I have Mr. Dryden's example for each of them. And this, I hope, you will account no small piece of obedience from one who values the authority of one true poet above that of twenty critics or commentators. But, though I speak thus of commentators, I will continue to read carefully all I can procure, to make up, that way, for my own want of critical understanding in the original beautics of Homer. Though the greatest of them are certainly those of invention and design, which are not at all confined to the language; for the distinguishing excellences of Homer are (by the consent of the best critics of all nations) first in the manners, (which include all the speeches, as being no other than the representations of each person's manners by his words;) and then in that rapture and fire which carries you away with him, with that wonderful force, that no man who has a true poetical spirit is master of himself while he reads him. Homer makes you interested and concerned before you are aware, all at once; whereas Virgil does it by soft degrees. This, I believe, is what a translator of Homer ought principally to imitate; and it is very hard for any translator to come up to it, because the chief reason why all translations The following letter, of which the original is fall short of their originals is, that the very conin the hands of Lord Hardwicke, was communi-straint they are obliged to renders them heavy cated to me by the kindness of Mr. Jodrell. and dispirited.
New sentiments and new images others may produce; but to attempt any further improvement of versification will be dangerous. Art and diligence have now done their best, and what shall be added will be the effort of tedious toil and needless curiosity.
After all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet? otherwise than by asking, in return, If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found? To circumscribe poetry by a definition will only show the narrowness of the definer, though a definition which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us look round upon the present time, and back upon the past; let us inquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the wreath of poetry; let their productions be examined, and their claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more disputed. Had he given the world only his version, the name of poet must have been allowed him; if the writer of the “Iliad” were to class his successors, he would assign a very high place to his translator, without requiring any other evidence of genius.
"To Mr. BRIDGES, at the Bishop of London's, at Fulham.
"The favour of your letter, with your remark, can never be enough acknowledged; and the speed with which you discharged so troublesome a task doubles the obligation.
"I must own, you have pleased me very much by commendations so ill bestowed upon me; but, I assure you, much more by the frankness of your censure, which I ought to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advantageous to a scribbler to be improved in his judgment than to be soothed in his vanity. The greater part of those deviations from the Greek which you have observed, I was led into by Chapman and
"The great beauty of Homer's language, as I take it, consists in that noble simplicity which runs through all his works; (and yet his diction, contrary to what one would imagine consistent with simplicity, is at the same time very copious.) I don't know how I have run into this pedantry in a letter, but I find I have said too much, as well as spoken too inconsiderately: what farther thoughts I have upon this subject I shall be glad to communicate to you (for my own improvement) when we meet; which is a happiness I very earnestly desire, as I do likewise some opportunity of proving how much I think myself obliged to your friendship, and how truly I am, sir,
"Your most faithful, humble servant,