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"haveno dispute with you. It is certain all the be"neficial circumstances of life, and all the shining "ones, lie on the part you would invite me to; but "if I could bring myself to fancy, what I think you "do but fancy, that I have any talents for active life, "I want health for it; and besides it is a real truth, "I have, if possible, less inclination than ability. Con"templative life is not only my scene, but is my habit '' too. I begun my life where most people end theirs, "with a disgust of all that the world calls ambition. "I don't know why it is called so; for, to me, it al"ways seemed to be rather stooping than climbing. "I 'II tell you my politic and religious sentiments in "a few words: in my politics I think no farther than "how to preserve my peace of life in any govern'' ment under which I live; nor in my religion than "to preserve the peace of my conscience in any church "with which I communicate. I hope ail churches and "all governments are so far of God, as they are rightly "understood, and rightly administered; and where "they are, or may be, wrong, I leave it to God alone "to mend or reform them; which, whenever he does, "it must be by greater instruments than I am. I am "not a Papist, for I renounce the temporal invasions "of the papal power, and detest their arrogated au"thority over princes and states. I am a Catholic in "the strictest sense of the word. If I was born under "an absolute prince, I would be a quiet subject; but "I thank God I was not. I have a due sense of the "excellence of the British constitution. In a word, "the things I have always wished to see are not a "Roman Catholic, or a French Catholic, oraSpanish "Catholic, but a true Catholic; and not a king of '' Whigs, or a king of Tories, but a king of Eng"land."
These are the peaceful maxims upon which we find Mr. Pope conducted his life, and if they cannot in some respects be justified, yet it must be owned, that his religion and his politics were well enough adapted for a poet, which entitled him to a kind of universal patronage, and to make every good man his friend.
Dean Swift sometimes wrote to Mr. Pope on the topic of changing his religion, and once humourously offered him twenty pounds for that purpose. Mr. Pope's answer to this Lord Orrery has obliged the world by preserving, in the life of Swift. It is a perfect masterpiece of wit and pleasantry.
We have already taken notice, that Mr. Pope was called upon by the public voice to translate the Iliad, which he performed with so much applause, and, at the same time, with so.much profit to himself, that he was envied by many writers, whose vanity, perhaps, induced them to believe themselves equal to so great a design. A combination of inferior wits were employed to write the ' Popiad,' in which his translation is characterized as unjust to the original, without beauty of language, or variety of numbers. Instead of the justness of the original, they say there is absurdity and extravagance: instead of the beautiful language of the original, there is solecism and barbarous English. A candid reader may easily discern from this furious introduction, that the critics were actuated rather by malice than truth; and that they must judge with their eyes shut, who can see no beauty of language, no harmony of numbers, in this translation.
But the most formidable critic against Mr. Pope in this great undertaking was the celebrated Madam Dacier, whom Mr. Pope treated with less ceremony in his Notes on the Iliad than, in the opinion of some people, was due to her sex. This learned lady was not without a sense of the injury, and took an opportunity of discovering her resentment.
"Upon finishing," says she, " the second edition of "my translation of Homer, a particular friend sent "me a translation of part of Mr. Pope's Preface to "his version of the Iliad. As I do not understand "English, I cannot form any judgment of his per"fdrmance, though I have heard much of it. I am "indeed willing to believe, that the praises it has met "with are not unmerited, because whatever work is "approved by the English nation cannot be bad; but "yet I hope I may be permitted to judge of that part "of the preface which has been transmitted to me; "and I here take the liberty of giving my sentiments "concerning it. I most freely acknowledge that Mr. "Pope's invention is very lively, though he seems to "have been guilty of the same fault into which he "owns we are often precipitated by our invention, "when we depend too much upon the strength of it; "as magnanimity, says he, may run up to confusion "and extravagance, so may great invention to redun*' dancv and wildness.
"This has been the very case of Mr. Pope him"self; nothing is more overstrained, or more false, "than the images in which his fancy has represented "Homer; sometimes he tells us, that the Iliad is a "wild paradise, where, if we cannot see all the beau*' ties, as in an ordered garden, it is only because the "number of them is infinitely greater. Sometimes "he compares him to a copious nursery, which con"tains the seeds and fust productions of every kind; "and, lastly, he represents him under the notion of "a mighty tree, which rises from the most vigorous "seed, is improved with industry, flourishes and pro"duces the finest fruit, but bears too many branches, "which might be lopped into form, to give it a more "regular appearance.
"What! is Homer's poem then, according to Mr. "Pope, a confused heap of beauties, without order "or symmetry, and a plot whereon nothing but seeds, "nor nothing perfect or formed is to be found; and "a production, loaded with many unprofitable things, "which ought to be retrenched, and which choak and "disfigure those which deserve to be preserved? Mr. "Pope will pardon me if I here oppose those compari"sons, which to me appear very false, and entirely "contrary to what the greatest of ancient and modern "critics ever thought.
"The Iliad is so far from being a wild paradise, "that it is the most regular garden, and laid out with "more symmetry than any ever was. Every thing "therein is not only in the place it ought to have "been, but every thing is fitted for the place it hath. "He presents you, at first, with that which ought to "be first seen; he places in the middle what ought "to be in the middle, and what would be improperly "placed at the beginning or end; and he removes "what ought to be at a greater distance, to create "the more agreeable surprize; and, to use a compa"rison drawn from painting, he places that in the "greatest light which cannot be too visible, and sinks "in the obscurity of the shade what does not require "a full view; so that it may be said, that Homer is "the painter who best knew how to employ the shades "and lights. The second comparison is equally un"just: how could Mr. Pope say, "that one can only '' discover seeds, and the first productions of every '' kind in the Iliad?" every beauty is there to such "an amazing perfection, that the following ages could "add nothing to those of any kind; and the Aricients "have always proposed Homer as the most perfect "model in every kind of poetry.
"The third comparison is composed of the errors "of the two former. Homer had certainly an incom"parable fertility of invention, but his fertility is "always checked by that just sense which made him "reject every superfluous thing which his vast ima"gination could offer, and to retain only what was "necessary and useful. Judgment guided Ihe hand "of this admirable gardener, and was the prun