Abbildungen der Seite

which, notwithstanding the deadness and insipidity of the versification, arrested his attention by the force of the story. The Ovid of Sandys fell next in his way; and it is said, that the raptures these translations gave him were so strong, that he spoke of them with pleasure to the period of his life. About ten, being now at school at Hyde-Park-Corner, whither he went from a Popish seminary to Twiford, near Winchester, he was carried sometimes to the playhouse; and being struck, we may imagine, with theatrical representations, he turned the chief events into a kind of play, made up of a number of speeches from Ogilby's translation, connected with verses of his own. He persuaded the upper boys to act this piece, which, from its curiosity, one would have been glad to have beheld. The master's gardener represented the character of Ajax; and the actors were dressed after the pictures of his favourite Ogilby; far the best part of that book, as they were designed and engraved by artists of note. At twelve, he retired with his father into Windsor-Forest; and it was there he first perused the writings of Waller, of

Spenser, Spenser, and of Dryden.* Spenser is said to have made a poet of Cowley: that Ogilby should give our author his first poetic pleasures, is a remarkable circumstance. On the first sight of Dryden, he abandoned the rest, having now found an author whose cast was exactly congenial with his own. His works, therefore, he studied with equal pleasure and attention: he placed them before his eyes as a model; of which more will be said in the course of these papers. He copied not only his harmonious versification, but the very turns of his periods. It was hence he was enabled to give to rhyme all the harmony of which it is capable.

About this time, when he was f fifteen years old, he began to write his Alcander, an epic poem, of which he himself speaks with so much


* I was informed by an intimate friend of Pope, that when he was yet a mere boy, Dryden gave him a shilling, by way of encouragement, for a translation he had made of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from 0?id.

f Nec placet ante annos vates puer: omnia justo Tempore proveniant. — Vidae Poet. 1. i. amiable frankness and ingenuity, in a passage restored to the excellent preface before his works. "I confess there was a time when I was in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of self-love upon innocence. I had made an epic poem, and panegyrics on all the princes of Europe, and I thought myself the greatest genius that ever was. I cannot but regret these delightful visions of my childhood, which, like the fine colours we see when our eyes are shut, are vanished for ever." Atterbury had perused this early piece, and, we may gather from one of his letters, advised him to burn it; though he adds, "I would have interceded for the first page, and put it, with your leave, among my curiosities." I have been credibly informed, that some of the anonymous verses, quoted as examples of the Art of Sinking in Poetry, in the incomparable satire so called, were such as our poet remembered from his own Alcandeu. So sensible of its own errors and imperfections is a mind truly great.

Quintilian, whose knowledge of human nature was consummate, has observed, that novo L. i.. G thing thing quite correct and faultless, is to be expected in veiy early years, from a truly elevated genius; that a generous extravagance and exuberance are its proper marks; and that a premature exactness is a certain evidence of future flatness and sterility. His words are incomparable, and worthy consideration.* "Audeat ha;c astas plura, et Inveniat, et inventis gaudeat, sint licet ilia non satis interim sicca et severa. Facile remedium est ubertatis, sterilia nullo labore vincuntur. Ilia mihi in pueris natura nimium spei dabit, in quk Ingenium judicio praesumitur. Materiam esse primum volo vel abundantiorem, atque ultra quam oportet fusam. Multum inde decoquent anni, multum ratio limabit, aliquid velut usu ipso deteretur, sit modo unde excidi possit et quod exculpi: erit autem, si non ab initio tenuem laminam duxerimus, et quam caslatura altior rumpat—Quare mihi ne maturitas quidem ipsa festinct, nec musta in lacu statim austera sint; sic et annos ferent, et vetustate proficient." This is very strong and masculine sense, expressed and enlivened by a train

* Lib. ii. Instit. Cap. 4. ad iutt.

of metaphors, all of them elegant, and well preserved. Whether these early productions of Pope would not have appeared to Quintilian to he rather too finished, correct, and pure, and Avhat he would have inferred concerning them, is too delicate a subject for me to enlarge upon. Let me rather add an entertaining anecdote. When Guido and Domenichino had each of them painted a picture in the church of Saint Andrew, Annibal Carrache, their master, was pressed to declare which of his two pupils had excelled. The picture of Guido represented Saint Andrew on his knees before the cross; that of Domenichino represented the flagellation of the same apostle. Both of them in their different kinds were capital pieces, and were painted in fresco, opposite each other, to eternize, as it were, their rivalship and contention. "Guido(said Carrache) has performed as a master, and Domenichino as a scholar. But (added he) the work of the scholar is more valuable than that of the master." In truth, one may perceive faults in the pictures of Domenichino that Guido has avoided ;• but then there are noble strokes not to be found in that of his rival. It was easy to discern a genius that

G S promised

« ZurückWeiter »