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** Nihil est dictum quod non sit dictum prius," railed severely at the ancients, for taking from him his best thoughts; "Pereant qui ante nos, nostra dixerunt."*
Menage makes these observations on occasion of a passage in the Poetics of Vida, intended to justify borrowing the thoughts, and even expressions, of others, which passage is very applicable to the subject before us;
Aspice ut exurias, veterumque insignia, nobis
Menage adds, that he intended to compile a regular treatise on the thefts and imitations of the poets. As his reading was very extensive, his work would probably have been very entertaining. For surely it is no trivial amusement, to trace an applauded sentiment or description to its
* Anti-Baillet, torn. ii. pag. 207.
source, and to remark, with what* judgment and art it is adapted and inserted; provided this be done with such a spirit of modesty and candour, as evidently shews, the critic intends merely to gratify curiosity, and not to indulge envy, malignity, and a petulant desire of dethroning established! reputations. Thus, for instance, says the Rambler, "It can scarcely be doubted, that in the first of the following passages, Pope remembered Ovid; and that in the second,% he copied Crashaw; because there is a concurrence of more resemblances than can be imagined to have happened by chance.
Ssepe pater dixit, studium quid inutile tentas?
Maeonides nullas ipse reliquit opes
Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos,
Et quod conabar scribere, versus erat.
* Dryden says prettily of Ben Jonson's many imitations •f the ancients, "You track him every where in their Snow."
f See the fruitless and impudent attack of Lauder on Milton.
% The Works of Cardinal Bembo, and of Casa, of Annibal Caro, and Tasso himself, are full of entire lines taken from Dante and Petrarch. 1
I left no calling for this idle trade,
No duty broke, no father disobeyM;
While yet a child, e'er yet a fool to fame,
I lisp'd in numbers, for the numbers came. Popb.
- This plain floor,
This modest stone, what few vain marbles can,
Two other critics have also remarked some farther remarkable coincidences of Pope's thought and expressions, with those of other writers, Avhich are here inserted, as they cannot fail of entertaining the curious.
Pride, malice, folly, against Dryden rose,
In various shapes of parsons, critics, beaus. Pope.
L'ignorance, et 1' erreur a ses naissantes pieces, f
* Rambler, No. 143.
Superior beings, when of late they saw
Simla coelicolum risusque jocusque deorum est, Tunc homo, quum tenjere ingenio confidit, et audet Abdita naturae scrutari, arcanaque divum. / \ Palingenius.
— — — Happily to steer
From grave to gay, from lively to severe.
— — — D' une voix legere
Passer du grave au doux, du plaisant au severe.
The conclusion of the epitaph on Gay, where he observes, that his honour consists not in being entombed among kings and heroes,
But that the worthy and the good may say,
is adopted from an old Latin elegy on the death of Prince Henry. This conceit of his1 friend's being enshrined in the hearts of the virtuous, is,
by the way, one of the most forced, and farfetched, that Pope has fallen into.*
Jonson, as another critic has remarked, wrote an Elegy on the Lady Anne Pawlet, Marchioness of Winton; the beginning of which Pope seems to have thought of, when he wrote his Verses to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady. Jonson begins his elegy,
'C^What gentle ghost, besprent with April dew,
In which strain Pope beautifully breaks out,
What beck'ning ghost along the moonlight shade,
As Jonson now lies before me, I may, perhaps, be pardoned for pointing out another passage in
* See the Adventurer, No. 63, where other borrowed passages are pointed out, particularly from Pascal, Charron, and Wollaston.
f In the underwood.