Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Back to his bounds their subject Sea command, And roll obedient Rivers through the Land : These Honours, Peace to happy Britain brings, These are Imperial Works, and worthy Kings.

NOTES.

[ocr errors]

our many extensive roads, our inland navigations (some of which excel the boasted canal of Languedoc), the lighting, and the paving, and beautifying, our cities, and our various and magni. ficent edifices. A general good taste has been diffused in gardening, planting, and building. The ruins of Palmyra, the antiquities of Athens and Spalatro, and the Ionian antiquities, by Wood, Stuart, Adam, and Chandler, are such magnificent monuments of learned curiosity as no country in Europe can equal. Let it be remembered, that these fine lines of Pope were written when we had no Wyatt or Brown, Brindley or Reynolds ; no Westminster Bridge, no Pantheon, no Royal Academy, no king that is at once a judge and a patron of all those fine arts which ought to be employed in raising and beautifying a palace equal to his dignity and his taste.

On the whole, this Epistle contains rather strictures on the false taste, than illustrations of the true; which circumstance gave room to Mr. Mason to treat the subject in a more open and ornamental manner, and with more picturesque and poetical imagery in his English Garden.

Ver. 203. These Honours, Peace] One of the chief sources of the great riches of this country was, the long Peace which was enjoyed during the ministry of Sir Robert Walpole; who, however he may have been censured, deserved high praise on this account,

[ocr errors]

EPISTLE V.

TO MR. ADDISON.

OCCASIONED BY HIS DIALOGUES ON MEDALS.

SEE the wild Waste of all-devouring years ! How Rome her own sad Sepulchre appears !

NOTES.

This was originally written in the year 1715, when Mr. Addison intended to publish his book of Medals ; it was some time before he was Secretary of State ; but not published till Mr. Tickell's Edition of his works : at which time the verses on Mr. Craggs, which conclude the poem, were added, viz. in 1720. P.

Ver. 1. See the wild Wuste] This treatise on Medals was written by Addison in that pleasing form of composition, so unsuccessfully attempted by many modern authors, Dialogues. In no one species of writing have the ancients so indisputable a superiority over us. The dialogues of Plato and Cicero, especially

, the former, are perfect dramas; where the characters are supported with consistency and nature, and the reasoning suited to the characters.

“ There are in English three dialogues, and but three,” says a learned and ingenious author, who has himself practised this agreeable way of writing, “ that deserve commendation, namely, , the Moralists in Lord Shaftesbury, Mr. Addison's Treatise on Medals, and the Minute Philosophy of Bishop Berkeley.” Alciphron did, indeed, well deserve to be mentioned on this occasion ; notwithstanding it has been treated with contempt by writers much inferior to Berkeley in learning, genius, and taste. Omitting those passages in the fourth dialogue, where he has introduced his fanciful and whimsical opinions about vision, an attentive reader will find that there is scarce a single argument that can be urged in defence of Revelation, but what is here placed in the clearest light, and in the most beautiful diction. In this work there is a happy union of reasoning and imagination. The two different characters of the two different sorts of

[ocr errors]

With nodding arches, broken temples, spread!
The very Tombs now vanish'd like their dead!

NOTES.

[ocr errors]

free-thinkers, the sensual and the refined, are strongly contrasted with each other, and with the plainness and simplicity of Euphranor.

These dialogues of Addison are written with that sweetness and purity of style which constitute him one of the first of our prose writers. The Pleasures of Imagination, the Essay on the Georgics, and his last papers in the Spectator and Guardian, are models of language. And some late writers, who seem to have mistaken stiffness for strength, and are grown popular by a pompous rotundity of phrase, make one wish that the rising generation may abandon this unnatural, false, inflated, and florid style, and form themselves on the chaster model of Addison. The chief imperfection of his Treatise on Medals, is, the persons introduced as speakers, in direct contradiction to the practice of the ancients, are fictitious not real; for Cynthio*, Philander, Palæmon, Eugenio, and Theocles, cannot equally excite and engage the attention of the reader, with Socrates and Alcibiades, Atticus and Brútus, Cowley and Spratt, Maynard and Somers. It is somewhat singular, that so many of the modern dialoguewriters should have failed in this particular, when so many of the most celebrated wits of modern Italy had given them eminent examples of the contrary proceeding, and closely following the steps of the ancients, constantly introduced living and real persons in their numerous compositions of this sort; in which they were so fond of delivering their sentiments, both on moral and critical subjects; witness the Il Cortegiano of B. Castiglione, the Asolani of P. Bembo, Dialoghi del S. Sperone, and the great Galileo, the Naugerius of Fracastorius, and Lil. Gyraldus de Poetis, and many others. In all which pieces the famous and living geniuses of Italy are introduced discussing the several different topics before them. Ver. 2. her own sad Sepulchre] St. Jerome says,

66 Roma quondam orbis caput, postea populi Romani sepulcrum.”

* How ill the forms, and ceremonies, and compliments, of modern good-breeding, would bear to be exactly represented ; see: Characteristics, vol. i. p. 209.

5

Imperial wonders rais'd on Nations spoil'd,
Where mix'd with Slaves the groaning Martyr toild:
Huge Theatres, that now unpeopled Woods,
Now drain'd a distant country of her Floods :
Fanes, which admiring Gods with pride survey,
Statues of Men, scarce less alive than they ! 10
Some felt the silent stroke of mould’ring age,
Some hostile fury, some religious rage.
Barbarian blindness, Christian zeal, conspire,
And Papal piety, and Gothic fire.
Perhaps, by its own ruins sav'd from flame, 15
Some bury'd marble half preserves a name;
That Name the Learn’d with fierce disputes pursue,
And give to Titus old Vespasian's due.

Ambition sigh'd : She found it vain to trust
The faithless Column, and the crumbling Bust: 20

NOTES.

a

Ver. 6. Where mix'd with Slaves the groaning Martyr toild :) Palladio, speaking of the Baths of Dioclesian, says, “ Nell'edificazione delle quali, Dioclesiano tenne molti anni 140 mila Christiani a edificarle.” W.

Ver. 6. groaning Martyr] Dodwell, in his Dissertationes Cy. prianicæ, has undertaken to prove that the number of Martyrs was far less than hath been usually imagined. His opinion is combated by Mosheim in the 5th chapter of his excellent History of the Church.

Ver. 7. Huge Theatres,] Is this equal or superior to what Addison says on the same subject ?

“ That on its public shows unpeopled Rome,

And held uncrowded nations in its womb.". Ver. 18. And give to Titus old Vespasian's due.] A fine insinuation of the want both of taste and learning in Antiquarians ; whose ignorance of characters misleads them (supported only by a name) against reason and history.

Ver. 19. Ambition sighd :] Such short personifications have a great effect. “ Silence was pleas'd,” says Milton ; which person

« ZurückWeiter »