« ZurückWeiter »
philosopher, and not the Florid Spratt, was the classic of that age. If I was to name a time when the arts, and polite literature, were at their height in this nation, I should mention the latter end of King William, and the reign of Queen Anne.
35. With mean complacence ne'er betray your trust.
Our poet practised this excellent precept in his conduct towards Wycherley, whose pieces he .corrected with equal freedom and judgment. But Wycherley, who had a bad heart, and an insufferable share of vanity, and who was one of the professed Wits of the last-mentioned age, was soon disgusted at this candour and ingenuity of Pope; insomuch, that he came to an open and ungenerous rupture with him.
36. Fear not the anger of the wise to raise;
The freedom and unreservedness, with which Boileau and Racine communicated their works to
. ■ . . : each
* Ver, 580. t Ver. 582. >'
each other, is hardly to be paralleled: of which many amiable instances appear in their letters, lately published by the son of the latter: particularly in the following. "J'ai trouvé que la Trompette & Les Sourds etoient trop joues, & qu'il ne falloit point trop appuyer sur votre incommodité, moins encore chercher de l'esprit sur ce sujet." Boileau communicated to his friend the first sketch of his Ode on the Taking Namur. It is entertaining to contemplate a rude draught by such a master; and is no less pleasing to observe the temper with which he receives the objections of Racine.* "J'ai deja retouché à tout cela; mais je ne veux point l'achever que je n'aie reçu vos remarques, qui surément m' éclaireront encore l'esprit." The same volume informs us of a curious anecdote, that Boileauf generally made the second verse of a couplet before the first; that he declared it was one of the grand secrets of poetry, to give, by this means, a
* Pag. 197. See also pag. 245. 191.
f A strong argument against rhyme in general, might be drawn from this strange practice of even so correct a writer as Boileau.
greater energy and meaning to his verses; that he advised Racine to follow the same method; and said on this occasion, "I have taught him to rhyme with difficulty." .
37. No place so sacred from such fops is barr'd.
Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church-yard:
This stroke of satire is literally taken from Boileau.
Gardez-vous d' imiter ce rimeur furieux,
Which lines allude to the impertinence of a French poet, called Du Perrier; who, finding Boileau one day at church, insisted upon repeating to him an ode during the elevation of the host; and desired his opinion, whether or no it
* Ver. 622.
t Art. Poet. Chant, iv,
was in the manner of Malherbe. Without this anecdote, the pleasantry of the satire would be overlooked. It may here be occasionally observed, how many beauties in this species of writing are lost, for want of knowing the facts to which they allude. The following passage may be produced as a proof. Boileau, in his excellent Epistle to his Gardener at Anteuil, says,
Mon maitre, dirois-tu, passe pour un Docteur,
It seems ourf author and Racine returned one day in high spirits from Versailles, with two honest
* Epitre 11.
f The names of Racine, and Corneille, being often mentioned in this work, it will not be improper to add an ingenious parallel of their respective merits, written by Fontenelle.
I. Corneille had no excellent author before his eyes, whom he could follow: Racine had Corneille.
II. Corneilje found the French stage in a barbarous state, and advanced it to great Perfection: Racine has not supported it in the perfection in which he found it.
III. The characters of Corneille are true, though they are not common: The characters of Racine are not true, but only in proportion as they are common.
IV. nest citizens of Paris. As their conversation was full of gaiety and humour, the two citizens were
%- ■ •'. Sreatl7
IV. Sometimes the characters of Corneille are, in some respects, false and ui.natural, because they are noble and singular: Those of Racine are often, in some respects, low, on account of their being natural and ordinary.
V. He that has a noble heart, 'would chuse to resemble the heroes of Corneille: He that has a little heart, is pleased to lind his own resemblance in the heroes of Racine.
VI. We carry, from hearing the pieces of the One, a desire to be virtuous: And we carry the pleasure of finding men like ourselves in foibles and weaknesses, from the pieces of the Other.
. • r
. i'' . '' i 'i . .
VII. The Tender and the Graceful of Racine is sometimes to be found in Corneille: The Grand and Sublime of Corneille is never to be found in Racine. .'
VIII. Racine has painted only the French and the present age, even when he designed to paint another age, and other nations: We see in Corneille, all those ages, and all those nations, that he intended to paint.
IX. The number of the pieces of Corneille is much greater than that of Racine: Corneille, notwithstanding, has made fewer tautologies and repetitions than Racine has made.
X. In the passages where the versification of Corneille is good, it is more bold, more noble, and, at the same time, as pure and as finished as that of Racine: but it is hot preserved in this degree of beauty; and that of Racine is always equally supported. \ •