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giving, the most joyful of all holy effufions, yet addressed to a Being without pafsions, is confined to a few modes, and is to be felt rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling in the presence of the Judge, is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. Supplication of man to man may diffuse itself through many topicks of persuasion ; but fupplication to God can only cry for mercy.
Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that the most simple expression is the most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its power, because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than itself. All that verse can do is to help the memory, and delight the ear, and for these purpoles it may be very useful; but it supplies nothing to the mind.' The ideas of Christian Theology are too simple for eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestick for ornament; to recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave mirror the sidereal hemisphere.
As much of Waller's reputation was owed to the softness and smoothness of his Numbers ; it is proper to consider those minute particulars to which a versifyer must attend.
He certainly very much excelled in smoothness most of the writers who were living when his poetry commenced. The poets of Elizabeth had attained an art of modulation, which was afterwards neglected or forgotten. Fairfax was acknowledged by him as his model ; and he might have studied with advantage the poem of Davies, which, though merely philoTophical, yet seldom leaves the ear ungratified.
But he was rather smooth than strong; of the full resounding line, which Pope attributes to Dryden, he has given very few examples. The critical decision has given the praise of strength to Denham, and sweetness to Waller.
His excellence of versification has some abatements. He uses the expletive do very frequently; and though he used to see it almost universálly ejected, was not more careful to avoid it in his last compositions than in his first. Praise had given him confidence; and finding the world fatisfied, he satisfied himself.
His rhymes are sometimes weak words: fo is found to make the rhyme twice in ten lines, and occurs often as a rhyme through his book.
His double rhymes, in heroick verle, have been censured by Mrs. Phillips, who was his rival in the translation of Corneille’s Pompey; and more faults might be found, were not the enquiry below attention.
He sometimes uses the obsolete termination of verbs, as waxeth, affecteth; and sometimes retains the final fyllable of the preterite, as amazed, supposed; of which I know not whether it is not to the detriment of our language that we have totally rejected them.
Of triplets he is fparing; but he did not wholly forbear them: of an Alexandrine he has given no example.
The general character of his poetry is elegance and gaiety. He is never pathetick, and very rarely sublime. He seems neither to have had a mind much elevated by nature, nor amplified by learning. His thoughts are such as a liberal conversation and large acquaintance with life would easily supply. They had however, then perhaps, that grace of novelty, which they are now often supposed to want by those who, having already found them in later books, do not know or enquire who produced them first. This treatment is unjust. Let not the original author lose by his imitators.
Praise however should be due before it is given. The author of Waller's Life ascribes to him the first practice, of what Erythræus and fome late critics call Alliteration, of using in the same verse many words beginning with the same letter. But this knack, whatever be its value, was so frequent among our early writers, that Gascoign, a writer of the fixteenth century, warns the young poet against affecting it; and Shakespeare in the Midsummer Night's Dream is supposed to ridicule it.
He borrows too many of his fentiments and illustrations from the old Mythology, for which it is vain to plead the example of the ancient poets : the deities which they introduced so frequently, were considered as realities, so far as to be received by the imagination, whatever sober reason might even then determine. But of these images time has tarnished the splendor. A fiction, not only detected but despised, can never afford a folid basis to any position, though sometimes it may furnish a transient allusion, or flight illustration. No modern monarch can be much exalted by hearing that, as Hercules had had his club, he has his navy.
But of the praise of Waller, though much may be taken away, much will remain; for it cannot be denied that he added something to
our elegance of diction, and something to our propriety of thought ; and to him may be applied what Tasso said, with equal spirit and justice, of himself and Guarini, when, having perused the Pastor Fido, he cried out, “ If he « had not read Aminta, he had not excelled a it."
AS Waller professed himself to have learned the art of versification from Fairfax, it has been thought proper to subjoin a specimen of his work, which, after Mr. Hoole's translation, will perhaps not be soon reprinted. By knowing the state in which Waller found our poetry, the reader may judge how much he improved it. Erminiaes steed (this while) his mistresse bore Through forrests thicke among the shadie
treene, Her feeble hand the bridle raines forlore, Halfe in a swoune she was for feare I weene; But her fit courser spared nere the more, To beare her through the desart woods un
seene Of her strong foes, that chas'd her through
the plaine, And still pursu'd, but still pursu'd in vaine.
2. Like as the wearie hounds at last retire, Windlesse, displeased, from the fruitlesse chace, When the sie beast Tapisht in bush and brire, No art nor paines can rowse out of his place:
The Christian knights so full of shame and
ire Returned backe, with faint and wearie pace; Yet still the fearefull Dame fled, swift as
winde, Nor euer staid, nor euer lookt behinde.
3. Through thicke and thinne, all night, all day,
The driued, Withouten comfort, companie or guide, Her plaints and tears with euery thought re
uiued, She heard and saw her greefes, but nought be
side. But when the sunne his burning chariot diued In Thetis waue, and wearie teame vntide, On Iordans fandie banks her course she
staid, At last, there downe she light, and downe
Her tears, her drinke; her food, her sorrow
ings, This was her diet that vuhappie night : But sleepe (that sweet repose and quiet brings) To ease the greefs of discontented wight, Spred foorth his tender, foft, and nimble wings, In his dull armes foulding the virgin bright;
And loue, his mother, and the graces kept Strong watch and warde, while this faire
The birds awakte her with their morning song, Their warbling musicke pearst her tender eare, The murmuring brookes and whistling windes among