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Now times are changed, and one poetic itch
He served a 'prenticeship who sets up shop;
Yet, sir, reflect, the mischief is not great ; These madmen never hurt the church or state : Sometimes the folly benefits mankind; 191 And rarely avarice taints the tuneful mind. Allow him but his plaything of a pen, He ne'er rebels, or plots, like other men:
186 Should Ripley venture. Ripley was the government architect; and, with the usual ill fate of favorites, contrived to please none but his employers. He built the Admiralty, which is still demonstrative of his taste; having all the disadvantages of massiveness without dignity, and elaborateness without elegance. The screen was erected by the Adamses. But Warton slightly vindicates his skill in the minor departments of his art, the disposition of rooms, &c., and cites Houghton, and lord Walpole's at Woollerton.
Flight of cashiers or mobs he'll never mind; 195
Of little use the man, you may suppose,
195 Flight of cashiers. Coxe, in his "Memoirs of Walpole,' narrates the national panic on the bankruptcy of the South-sea company. A committee of the house of commons having been chosen to examine all papers, &c., Knight, the cashier, fled the country, carrying with him his 'green book,' as was supposed, with the condivance of government: the committee reported this flight, and the commons ordered the doors to be locked, and the keys laid on the table. General Ross then stated, in the extravagant language, whether of art or terror, that the committee bad discovered a train of the deepest villany and fraud hell had ever contrived to ruin a nation.' In consequence of this speech, four of the members, who were directors, were expelled the house, and taken into custody : the other directors shared the same fate; all their books, papers, and effects were seized ; and the royal assent was given to a bill for restraining them from leaving the kingdom, discovering their estates, and disqualifying them from holding office in any of the companies.
Unhappy Dryden !In all Charles's days,
230 The boys and girls, whom charity maintains, Implore your help in these pathetic strains : How could devotion touch the country pews, Unless the gods bestow'd a proper Muse ? Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work,
235 Verse prays for peace, or sings down pope and
Turk. The silent preacher yields to potent strain, And feels that grace his prayer besought in vain;
224 The rights a court attack'd. The attorney-general of the day must bave been peculiarly sensitive to libel : he found public danger in this vague line; and Pope, for the first time in his life, was startled with the threat of a prosecution.
The blessing thrills through all the laboring throng, And heaven is won by violence of song.
Our rural ancestors, with little bless'd, Patient of labor when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts and offerings, and a thankful strain : The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share, Ease of their toil, and partners of their care : 246 The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smoothed every brow, and open'd every soul : With growing years the pleasing license grew, And taunts alternate innocently flew,
250 But times corrupt, and nature, ill-inclined, Produced the point that left a sting behind ; Till friend with friend, and families at strife, Triumphant malice raged through private life: Who felt the wrong or fear'd it, took the alarm, Appeald to law, and justice lent her arm. 256 At length, by wholesome dread of statutes bound, The poets learn'd to please, and not to wound:
240 Heaven is won by violence of song. The use of so direct an allusion to Scripture is unbecoming: the contemptuous air of the passage, too, is unwise. The fashion of Pope's day was aristocratic, in the worst sense of the word : all below the line of the opulent, the titled, and the educated, went for nothing. This was the French folly, introduced by Charles Il. In France the roturier was, as the dust of the earth, fit only to be trampled on; but the old habits of England, more manly, generous, and natural, held the peasantry at their proper value. To the fastidious tastes of opera-hunting men and women, the rudeness of village psalmody must occasionally repel the ear ; but want of refinement may be easily forgiven for sincerity of devotion. No pomp of foreign worship is equal in true power over the heart to the noble simplicity of supplication, the ardent sympathy of homage, gratitude, and love, often felt in the united hymn of an English congregation.
Most warp'd to flattery's side; but some, more nice,
265 Wit grew polite, and numbers learn'd to flow. Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join The varying verse, the full resounding line, The long majestic march, and energy divine : Though still some traces of our rustic vein, 270 And splay-foot verse, remain'd, and will remain. Late, very late, correctness grew our care, When the tired nation breathed from civil war. Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire, Show'd us that France had something to admire. Not but the tragic spirit was our own, 276 And full in Shakspeare, fair in Otway shone: But Otway faild to polish or refine, And fluent Shakspeare scarce effaced a line.
274 Exact Racine. This is but frigid praise for Racine ; but it is perhaps all that an English ear can honestly give. The charm of Racine is in his harmony; a charm which no man can feel in the poets of any land but his own: though our scholars conceive that they can feel the harmony of verse in two languages, dead a thousand years ago; which they do not pronounce even like the descendants of those who spoke them, and of which they are not secure of the sound of a single letter! The French prefer Racine to all their other tragedians; but laugh at the idea of an Englishman's attempting to enjoy the flow of his language : as the English laugh at the Frenchman's attempt to enjoy the sweetness of Shakspeare's lines. Both are in the right: yet both alike pretend to be enraptured with the silver stream of Euripides,