« ZurückWeiter »
aje far more incorrect. For in the very ode before us, occur one or two passages, that are puerile and affected to a degree not to be paralleled in the purer, but less devated, compositions of Pope. The season being winter when Jesus.was born, Milton says,
. Nature, in awe to Him,*
And afterwards observes, in a very epigrammatic and forced thought, unsuitable to the dignity of the subject, and of the rest of the ode, that, " she wooed the air, to hide her guilty front with innocent snow,''
And on her naked shame, +
Pollute with sinful blame,
Confounded that her Maker's eyes
D 4 "It
* This conceit, with the rest, however, is more excusable, if we recollect how great a reader, especially at this time, Milton was of the Italian Poets. It is certain that Milton, in the beginning of the ode, had the third sonnet of Petrarch strong in his fancy.
Era '1 giorno, ch' al sol si scoloraro
Per la pieta del suo fattore i rai;
t Milton's Miscellaneous Poems, vol. ii. page 19.
u It is enough," in the words of Voltaire, "to think one perceives some errors in this great genius; and it is a sort of consolation to a mind so bounded ancl limited as mine, to be persuaded, that the greatest men are sometimes deceived like the vulgar." •
It would be unpardonable to conclude these \Jremarks on descriptive poesy, without taking notice of the Seasons of Thomson, who had peculiar and powerful talents for this species of composition. Let the reader, therefore, par-? don a digression, if such it be, on his merits and character,
Thomson was blessed with a strong and Copious fancy; he hath enriched poetry with p. variety of new and original images, which I he painted from nature itself, and from his i ojyn_actu3JLjob^e^^ his descriptions have, therefore, a distinctness and truth, which are utterly wanting to those of poets who have ^- only copied from each other, and have never looked abroad on thq objects themselves, Thomson was accustomed to wander away into,
the the country for clays, and for weeks, attentive to "each rural sight, each rural sound;" while many a poet, who has dwelt for years in the Strand, has attempted to describe fields and rivers, and generally succeeded accordingly. Hence that nauseous repetition of the same circumstances; hence that disgusting impropriety of introducing what may be called a set of hereditary images, without proper regard to the age, or climate, or occasion, in which they were formerly used. Though the diction of the Seasons is sometimes harsh and inharmonious, and sometimes turgid and obscure, and though, in many instances, the numbers are not sufficiently diversified by different pauses, yet is this poem, on the whole, from the numberless strokes of nature in which it abounds, one of the most captivating and amusing in our language; and which, as its beauties are not of a transitory kind, as depending on particular customs and manners, will ever be perused-; with delight. The scenes of Thomson are fre- \ quently as wild and r^mjaiiiic_j?s those of Sal- l> vator Rosa, varied with precipices and torrents, and (t castled cliffs," and deep -vallies, with j
piny mountains, and the gloomiest caverns. Innumerable are the little circumstances in his descriptions, totally unobserved by all his predecessors. What poet hath ever taken notice of the leaf, that, towards the end of autumn,
Incessant rustles from the mournful grove,*
Or who, in speaking of a summer evening, hath ever mentioned
''•. i '•
• ?" The quail that clamours for his running mate?
• »• • •
Or the following natural image at the same time of the year?
, . Wide o'er the thistly lawn, as swells the breeze, A whitening shower of vegetable down Amusive floats. + — — — i
In what other poet do we find the silence and expectation that precedes an April shower insisted on, as in ver. 165 of Spring? Or where,
.. "i: * Ver. 1004. f Ver. 1657.
The stealing shower is scarce to patter heard,
How full, particular, and picturesque, is this assemblage of circumstances that attend a very keen frost in a night of winter!
Loud rings the frozen earth, and hard reflects
In no one subject are common writers more confused and unmeaning, than, in their descriptions of rivers, which are generally said only to wind and to murmur, , while their qualities and courses are seldom accurately marked. Examine the exactness of the ensuing description, and consider what a perfect idea it communicates to the mind.
Around th' adjoining brook, that purls along
* Ver. 176.
f Winter, ver. 731,