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THE TEMPLE OF FAME.
In that soft season, when descending showers
O’er the wide prospect as I gazed around, Sudden I heard a wild promiscuous sound,
Like broken thunders that at distance roar, Or billows murmuring on the hollow shore: Then, gazing up, a glorious pile beheld, 25 Whose towering summit ambient clouds conceald. High on a rock of ice the structure lay; Steep its ascent, and slippery was the way; The wondrous rock like Parian marble shone, And seem'd, to distant sight, of solid stone. Inscriptions here of various names I view'd, The greater part by hostile time subdued : Yet wide was spread their fame in ages past, And poets once had promised they should last. Some fresh engraved appear'd of wits renown'd; I look'd again, nor could their trace be found. 36 Critics I saw, that other names deface, And fix their own, with labor, in their place: Their own, like others, soon their place resign'd; Or disappear'd, and left the first behind. Nor was the work impair'd by storms alone, But felt the approaches of too warm a sun; For Fame, impatient of extremes, decays Not more by envy than excess of praise. Yet part no injuries of heaven could feel, 45 Like crystal, faithful to the graving steel : The rock’s high summit, in the temple's shade, Nor heat could melt, nor beating storm invade. Their names inscribed unnumber'd ages past From time's first birth, with time itself shall last;
27 High on a rock of ice. In Milton's poem on the fifth of November, a description of the tower of Fame is given, from the twelfth book of the Metamorphoses.' The icy ascent to the temple in the text implies the insecurity and chilness of the first efforts for human distinction. The image, like all the principal features of the poem, is from Chaucer.
These ever new, nor subject to decays, 51 Spread and grow brighter with the length of days.
So Zembla's rocks, the beauteous work of frost, Rise white in air and glitter o'er the coast; Pale suns, unfelt, at distance roll away, 55 And on the impassive ice the lightnings play; Eternal snows the growing mass supply, Till the bright mountains prop the incumbent : sky: As Atlas fix'd, each hoary pile appears, The gather'd winter of a thousand years. 60 On this foundation, Fame's high temple stands; Stupendous pile; not rear'd by mortal hands. Whate'er proud Rome or artful Greece beheld, Or elder Babylon, its fame excell’d. Four faces had the dome, and every face Of various structure, but of equal grace :
53 So Zembla's rocks. It gives some insight into the nature of poetical impression to observe, that nearly all those passages in our greater authors which have become popular, are distinguished by beauty of epithet. The charm of the finest fragments of Shakspeare and the poets of the Elizabethan age, beyond all rivalry the first age of the first order of poetry, lies chiefly in their epithets; the hardness and dryness of the French school which followed is largely traceable to their absence; they are the chiaro oscuro, the softening lights, the rich shadows, the whole rainbow coloring, of poetry. Pope is always happiest, where he gives way to epithet: in this passage he lavishes them on every line.
65 Four faces had the dome. The temple is described to be square, the four fronts with open gates facing the different quarters of the world, as an intimation that all nations of the earth may alike be received into it. The western front is of Grecian architecture : the Doric order was peculiarly sacred to heroes and worthies. Those whose statues are after men. tioned, were the first names of old Greece in arms and arts.Pope.
Four brazen gates, on columns lifted high,
Westward, a sumptuous frontispiece appear’d,
81 There great Alcides. This figure of Hercules is drawn with an eye to the position of the famous statue of Farnese.-Pope.
Warton, the most matter-of-fact of critics, laments that Pope did not here introduce a regular detail of the characteristic excellences of the Farnese Hercules, which he conceives to have consisted in the uncommon breadth of the shoulders; the knottiness and spaciousness of the chest; the firmness and protuberance of the muscles in each limb, particularly the legs; and the majestic vastness of the whole figure :'
-a detail worthy of a stone-cutter. Pope, more like a poet, has despatched the whole in two vigorous lines. Warton, in the same taste, objects to the mention of the Hesperian spoil,' the golden apples, which,' he says, 'the artist flung backwards and almost concealed, as an inconsiderable object.' But they are a prominent object, and were properly made prominent by the artist, as fixing the point of time to the most consummate triumph of his hero; the achievement in which the romance of adventure was most combined with the romance of intrepidity. Yet the artist is open to severer criticism than the poet : he has lost all the higher features of the character: his victorious hero is exhibited to us in the
Here Orpheus sings; trees moving to the sound Start from their roots, and form a shade around : Amphion there the loud-creating lyre
85 Strikes, and beholds a sudden Thebes aspire : Citharon's echoes answer to his call, And half the mountain rolls into a wall : There might you see the lengthening spires ascend, The domes swell up, the widening arches bend, attitude of utter exhaustion; his giant is an emblem of fatigue ; his earth-tamer, the conqueror of land and seas, the lion-hunter, is a mass of bone and muscle, too ponderous for activity; his son of Jove is a mere mortal ; his future demigod is ready to sink on the ground.
88 And half the mountain rolls. The power of painting or sculpture to express motion has here given rise to some curious criticism :-Dennis,' says Warton, objects to those lines, because motion cannot be represented in sculpture.' Warton evidently thinks that it can, and shelters himself under Virgil's description of the shield of Æneas : Motion,' he adds, may be represented, but not change of motion.' Bowles rebukes Warton, for having forgotten the description of the woman on the bowl of Theocritus. The truth is, that all alike are wrong; neither motion nor change of motion can be represented by the fixed figures of sculpture or the fixed colors of painting; for nothing fixed can directly give more than the action of the moment. On the other hand, the opinion is palpably wrong, that those arts cannot virtually give an impression of motion : for all our pictures of battles, tempests, huntings, &c. are obviously constructed on the principle that they can. The operation is half physical, half mental: the artist places his warriors, his waves, his trees, his hunters, in positions, which in actual existence would be instantly changed: the warrior is seen on the point of striking ; the billow is ready to tumble; the tree is bowed to that point from which it must either instantly recover or break; the hunters and their dogs are in full spring on the lion or the boar; the mind thus instinctively completes the action. The artist suggests the idea; the mind follows it up with the inevitable conclusion,