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Lost; with a noble encomium of which, and a rational recommendation of blank verse, he concludes his performance. Fenton, in his Observations on Waller, has accurately delineated his character: "His imagination might have probably been more fruitful and sprightly, if his judgment had been less severe: but that severity, delivered in a masculine, clear, succinct style, contributed to make him so Jeminent in the didactical manner, that no man with justice can affirm, he was ever equalled by any of our own nation, without confessing at the same time, that he is inferior to none. In some other kinds of writing, his genius seems to have wanted fire to attain the point of perfection: but who can attain it ?"*
the year 1688, he wrote the six celebrated lines to be prefixed to the first folio edition with cuts; which were all designed by an Italian artist, named Medina, except that for the 9th Book, which was drawn by B. Lens, senior; and that for the 12th Book, designed by Dr. Aldrich. Dr. Metcalf, of Oxford, had in his possession the original drawings for all those prints. It is also observable, that in a copy of verses entitled, Decretum Oxoniense, in the 2d vol. of the Musae Anglicanae, written in the year 1683, this poem is greatly extolled, at the same time that the author's political principles are severely handled.
* Edit. 12mo. page 136.
52. Such late was Walsh, the muse's judge and friend.*
If Pope has here given too magnificent an eulogy to Walsh, it must be attributed to friendship, rather than to judgment. Walsh was in general a flimsy and frigid writer. The Rambler calls his works Pages Of Inanity. His three letters to Pope, however, are well written. His remarks on the nature of pastoral poetry, on borrowing from the ancients, and against florid conceits, are worthy perusal.f Pope owed much to ^ Walsh: it was he who gave him a very important piece of advice in his early youth; for he used to tell our author, that there was one way still left open for him, by which he might excel any of his predecessors, which was, by CorrectNess; that though, indeed, we had several great poets, we as yet could boast of none that were perfectly Correct; and that, therefore, he advised him to make this quality his particular study.
O 2 Correctness
Correctness is a vague term, frequently used without meaning and precision. It is perpetually the nauseous cant of the French critics, and of their advocates and pupils, that the English writers are generally Incorrect. If CORRECTNESS implies an absence of petty faults, this perhaps may be granted. If it means, that, because their tragedians have avoided the irregularities of Shakespeare, and have observed a juster oeconomy in their fables, therefore the Athalia, for instance, is preferable to Lear, the notion is groundless and absurd. Though the Henriade*
* An epic poem in couplets! In the Geneva edition of the Henriade, we are informed of a curious anecdote: when it was printed at London, in 1726, in quarto, by subscription, Mr. Dadiky, a Greek, and native' of Smyrna, who at that time resided in London, saw, by chance, the first leaf as it was printing, where was the following line:
Qui forca les Francois a devenir heureux:
he immediately paid a visit to the author, and said to him, "I am of the country of Homer; he did not begin his poems by a stroke of wit, by an enigma." The author immediately corrected the line: but I beg leave to add, that he did not correct many others of the same modern kind. Voltaire has dropt a remark in the last edition of his Essay on Epic Poetry, which is not, indeed, very favourable to the taste of his countrymen, should be allowed to be free from any very gross absurdities, yet who will dare to rank it with the Paradise Lost? Some of their most perfect tragedies abound in faults as contrary to the nature of that species of poetry, and as destructive of its end, as the fools or grave-diggers of Shakespeare. That the French may boast some excellent critics, particularly Bossu, Boileau, Fenelott, and Brumoy, cannot be denied; but that these are sufficient to form a taste upon, without having recourse to the genuine fountains of all poO 3 lite
trymen, but is perfectly true and just, and which he seems to liave forgotten in some of his late assertions:
"It must be owned, that it is more difficult for a Frenchman to succeed in epic poetry, than for any other person; but neither the constraint of rhyme, nor the dryness of our language, is the cause of this difficulty. Shall I venture to name the cause? It is, because of all polished nations, oufs is the least poetic. The works in verse, which are most in vogue in France, are pieces for the Theatre. These pieces must be written in a style that approaches to that of conversation. Despreaux has treated only Didactic subjects, which require simplicity. It is well known, that exactness and elegance constitute the chief merit of his verses and those of Racine; and when Despreaux attempted a sublime ode, he was no longer Despreaux. These examples have accustomed the French tq too uniform a march—;—
lite literature, I mean the Grecian writers, no one but a superficial reader can allow.
conclude these reflections with a remarkable jfact In no polished nation, after criticism has jbeen much studied, and the rules of writing esta,blished, has any very extraordinary work ever appeared. This has visibly been the case in -ipreece, in Rome, and in France, after Aristotle, Horace, and Boileau, had written their Arts Of ^oetry. In our own country, the rules of the drama, for instance, were never more completely understood than at present: yet what UninteResting, though Faultless, tragedies, have we lately seen! So much better is our judgment than our execution. How to account for the fact here mentioned, adequately and justly, would be attended with all those difficulties that await discussions relative to the productions of the human mind; and to the delicate and secret causes that influence them. Whether or no, the natural powers be not confined and debilitated by that timidity and caution which is occasioned by a rigid regard to the dictates of art; or whether that philosophical, that geometrical, and systema1 tical,