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Fen Ton, in his entertaining observations on Waller, has given us a curious anecdote concerning the great industry and exactness with which Waller polished even his smallest compositions/ "When the court was at Windsor, these verses * were writ in the Tasso of her Royal Highness, at Mr. Waller's request, by the late Duke of Buckinghamshire; and I very well remember to have heard his Grace say, that the author employed the Greatest Part Of A Summer in composing and correcting them. So that, however he is generally reputed the parent of those swarms of insect wits who affect to be thought easy writers, it is evident that he bestowed much time and care on his poems, before he ventured them out of his hands."f
27. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
It is well known that the writings of Voiture, of Sarassin, and La Fontaine, cost them
* Only ten in number, f Fenton's Waller, edit. 12mo. Observations, p. 148. J Ver. 362.
much pains, and were laboured into that facility for which they are so famous, with repeated alf terations, and many rasures. Moliere is reported to have past whole days in fixing upon a proper epithet or rhyme, although his verses have all the flow and freedom of conversation. This happy facility, said a man of wit, may be compared to garden-terraces, the expense of which does not appear; and which, after the cost of several millions, yet seem to be a mere work of chance and nature. I have been informed, that Addison was so extremely nice in polishing his. prose compositions, that, when almost a whole impression of a Spectator was worked off, he would stop the press, to insert a new preposition or conjunction. ^^iV^^t y-r\ c» - t
28. Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse rough verse should like the torrent roar:
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow;
Not so, when swift Camilla Scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.*
. ..vol. i L These
These lines are usually cited as fine examples of adapting the sound to the sense. But that Pope has failed in this endeavour, has been lately demonstrated by the Rambleh. "The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze, must surely be confessed not much to excel in softness or volubility; and the smooth stream runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants. The noise and turbulence of the torrent is, . indeed, distinctly imaged; for it requires Very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of Ajax, •there is no particular heaviness or delay. The swiftness of Camilla is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be lengthened to express speed, will not easily be discovered. In the dactyls, used for that purpose by the ancients, two short syllables were pronounced with such rapidity, as to be equal only to one long; they therefore naturally exhibit the act of passing through a long space in a short time. But the Alexandrine, by its pause in the midst, is a tardy and stately measure; and the word unbending,, one of the most sluggish and slow which 2 our our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion. "*
29. Be thou the first true merit to befriend;
His praise is lost who stays till all commend.f
When Thomson published his Winter, 1726, it lay a long time neglected, till Mr. Spence made honourable mention of it in his Essay on the Odyssey; which becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known. Thomson always acknowledged the use of this recommendation; and from this circumstance, an intimacy commenced between the critic and the poet, which lasted till the lamented death of the latter, who was of a most amiable and benevolent temper. . .' '. t •
30. And such as Chaucer is shall Dryden be.i
Waller has an elegant copy of verses on the mutability of the English tongue, which bears a strong resemblance to this passage of Pope.
L 2 . Poets
* No. 92. fVer. 474. $Ver. 483.
Poets that lasting marble seek,
To fix a language has been found, among the most able undertakers, to be a fruitless project. The style of the present French writers, of Crebillon, Helvetius, and Buffon, for instance, is visibly different from that of Boileau and Bossuet, notwithstanding the strict and seasonable injunctions of the Academy: and the diction even of such a writer as Maffei, is corrupted with many words, not to be found in Machiavel or Ariosto.
31. So when the faithful pencil has design'd
* Of English Verse. 'Fenton's edit. p. 147. 12mo.