Abbildungen der Seite

lations of the first book of the Iliad, it must be confessed that the accusation is not entirely devoid of probability.

Before the Rape of the Lock appeared, our writers were distinguished in the eyes of foreigners by vigorous thought, and powerful expression. Mr. Pope has shewn that we were equally qualified to sacrifice at the shrine of the Graces.

It would be unnecessary, and almost impertinent, to point out the particular beauties of a poem so universally read and admired, and upon which so much has been already written. Pope's writings are perhaps a greater accession to our literature than those of any other poet, and, amongst them, the Rape of the Lock stands pre-eminent, at least in that first characteristic of a poet, invention.

It is a curious circumstance that Parnell, hearing Pope repeat the description of Belinda's toilet, immediately translated it into monkish Latin verses, and accused Pope of plagiarism, who did not discover the stratagem till undeceived by Parnell.

Doctor Johnson has made a few observations upon the Rape of the Lock, which we shall here transcribe.

"To the praises," says he, " which have been accumulated on the 'Rape of the Lock' by readers of every class, from the critic to the waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any. addition. Of that which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now enquired from what sources the power of pleasing is derived.

"Dr. Warburton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has remarked that the preternatural agents are very happily adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities can no longer gain attention: we should have turned away from a contest between Venus and Diana. The employment of allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own absurdity;a they may produce eifects, but can

» This remark of Dr. Johnson's seems rather shallow, and it is certainly ill applied; for what are Spleen and her attendants but allegorical actors?

not conduct actions: when the phantom is put in motion it dissolves: thus Discord may raise a mutiny; but Discord cannot conduct a march, nor besiege a town. Pope brought in view a new race of beings, with powers and passions proportionate to their operation. The Sylphs and Gnomes act, at the toilet and the table, what more terrific and more powerful phantoms perform on the stormy ocean, or the field of battle; they give their proper help, and do their proper mischief.

"Pope is said, by an objector, not to have been the inventor of this petty nation; a charge which might with more justice have been brought against the author of the ' Iliad,' who doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for what is there, but the names of his agents, which Pope has not invented? Has he not assigned them characters and operations never heard of before? Has he not, at least, given them their first poetical existence? If this is not sufficient to denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be written.

"In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two most engaging powers of an author. New things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial people, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further information, but immediately mingles with his new

« ZurückWeiter »