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Milton, she has in this produced sueh poets as we have the happiness to see flourish now together, I mean Mr. Pope, and Mr. Glover. The first of these has no superior, if an equal, in all the various parts of poetry, to which his elegant and extensive genius has applied itself; no, not among the greatest of the ancients : but an epic poem he has not yet given of his own; I mean, distinct from his translations ; and certainly, Sir, in that species of writing, it is enough to have given Homer to us, with a force of style not inferior to his own: the bounds of human life are too contracted for a second work so difficult as this; I might add, perhaps, the bounds of human glory. There was therefore a path left clear for Mr. Glover; and to what a height it has carried him, will all who have eyes good enough to reach so far; for your judges of epigrams and songs can see no farther than the bottom of the hill, and both he and Mr. Pope are out of their sight. But it must be owned, that the latter had made the way much less difficult for Mr. Glover to ascend, by smoothing the roughness, and rooting up the thorns and briars which the English Parnassus was encumbered with before; so that if the diction of Leonidas be softer, and the general flow of the numbers more harmonious,
appear to than that of Milton himself, it may in part be ascribed to Mr. Pope, as the great polisher and improver of our verse.
I have not the honour to know either of these gentlemen ; but, as they are both men of great and real merit, I make no doubt they wish well to one another; and nothing, I am sure, can be of such advantage to a rising genius as the praise of Mr. Pope.
COMMON SENSE, Apr. 9, 1737.
The Leonidas of Glover was, on its first publication, considered too much in the light of a party poem; the consequence of which was, that for a period it received the most extravagant praise, and then undeservedly experienced an almost utter neglect. It has lately, however, been reprinted in an elegant form; and though not meriting the lavish encomia which were originally bestowed upon it, must be pronounced worthy of descending to posterity, accompanied as it is with more subdued, and therefore more just, applause. The present paper partakes, in some degree, of the enthusiasm of the day, especially where it declares the versification of Glover to be superior to that of Milton! Now, one of the defects of Lee onidas is the monotony of its numbers.
In vultu color est sine sanguine ; lumina moestis
Her cheeks still redd’ning, but their colour dead;
A FRIEND came yesterday evening to visit me, very firm in the belief of that stone city, whereof a certain ambassador has lately given an account to the virtuosi. I told him, that I had read a story somewhat like it in the Arabian Tales formerly,and was mightily surprised to find what had all along been judged a fable should be so easily received for truth; and that too in an age of scepticism, and at the same time when the miracles of Christ himself, which, for many centuries, had been held as unquestioned truths, were boldly charged with being fabulous! He answered, that the book I mentioned was no objection, but rather might be made an argument in his favour, since it seemed to prove that the author had heard something of this story, though, for want of learning the particulars, he might, perhaps, himself believe it to be a fiction, as all his readers hitherto had done ; but that now the matter was cleared up, and would scarce admit a doubt. He began to be so positive, I did not think it proper to dispute with him; and he went on to tell me, that, many ages past, the people of this city (who were all pagans), as a punishment for their sins, had suffered a general petrifaction, in the same manner as Lot's wife did formerly, and still remained in the same place and posture as they were when this judgment fell upon them: that not the human species only, but likewise the animals, the trees, the houses, and the very clothes upon their backs, were turned to stone. That the ambassador had several of these curiosities brought from thence; and, in particular, a dog, which being opened to prevent any cheat or imposition, the heart, the lungs, the blood-vessels, and all the bowels, were found in their exact order and true colour: that he had likewise some of the fruits and plants; and also several pieces of their coin, with strange characters thereon, not to be understood. He assured me this city is not above fourteen days journey from Tripoli, but in a sandy desert now, though formerly it was the metropolis of a populous and fruitful country: that the difficulty and danger of coming at it makes it so little known; but, however, several people had been there at different times, who all agree in their account; and that the members of our Royal Society intend to collect a handsome purse among themselves, to be employed in making a full discovery. Withal he told me, that at Tripoli the truth of it was never doubted : that it is generally believed, a time will come when their former state shall be restored; when the stone will, in an instant, soften and be flesh again, the blood flow through its vessels as before, new life return, and all the people go on to finish whatever they were about when first they became statues. But whatever injuries they receive during this petrifaction, by cutting or de facing them, will remain when they live again; and those who are maimed or wounded in such a manner as would be mortal in a living body, at the general thaw will be found dead carcases.