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Or bid the new be English, ages hence,
stream of eloquence, (which formerly preserved the river clear, within due bounds, and full to its banks,) and, like the rat in the Low Country dikes, mischievously or wantonly deluged the whole land."
Warton. Ver. 168. brade Raleigh spake ;) The conclusion of his History of the World, is written with uncommon energy and elegance. Among other particulars, Aubrey, in his manuscript notes, relates, that he was accustomed to speak, though so great a master of style, in a broad Devonshire dialect. His voice was small. And he adds a remarkable anecdote, that, at a consultation held at Whitehall, among several considerable personages, just after Queen Elizabeth's death, Raleigh declared his opinion, that it was the wisest
way for them to keep the staff in their own hands, and set up a commonwealth, and not to be subject to a needy, beggarly nation. This secret declaration of Raleigh was conveyed by one of the Cabal to King James, who never forgave Raleigh for uttering it.
Warton. Ver. 174. Prune the luxuriant, &c.] Our Poet, at fifteen, got acquainted with Walsh, whose candour and judgment he has celebrated in his Essay on Criticism. Walsh encouraged him greatly; and used to tell him, there was one road still open for distinction, in which he might excel the rest of his countrymen; and that was correctness ; in which the English poets had been remarkably defective. For though we have had several great geniuses, yet not one of them knew how to prune his luxuriancies. This, therefore, as he had talents that seemed capable of things worthy to be improved, should be his principal study. Our young author followed his advice, till habit made correcting the most agreeable, as well as useful, of all his poetical exercises : and the delight he
took 60 The
Vehemens, et liquidus, puroque simillimus amni;
took in it, produced the effect he speaks of, in the following lines:
“ Then polish all with so much life and ease,
“ You think 'tis nature, and a knack to please.” We are not commonly taught to expect this effect from correction; and it has been observed oftener to produce a heavy stiffness; which, by another image, the ancients called smelling of the lamp. And without doubt, this will be the consequence, when it is performed with pain, as it will be when it is discharged as a task. But when it becomes, by habit, an exercise of amusement, the judgment, lying no harder on the fancy than to direct its sallies, will preserve the life; and the fancy, lightening the judgment, will produce the ease here spoken of.
Warburton. Ver. 176. Then polish all, &c.] M. Voltaire, speaking, as I remember, of Mr. Pope, says : “ L'art d'être éloquent.en vers est de tous les arts le plus difficile, et le plus rare. On trouvera mille Génies qui sçauront arranger un ouvrage, et le versifier d'une manière commune ; mais le traiter en vrai poète, c'est un talent qui est donné à trois ou quatre hommes sur la terre." Warburton.
Ver. 177. You think 'tis nature,) Inferior to the example Horace has here used for executing a difficulty with seeming ease, taken from a pantomime, who represents the rude and awkward and distorted gestures of a Cyclops, with apparent facility and grace, though these gestures cannot be performed without much real labour and previous discipline. The Cyclops of Euripides is alluded to; the only satiric drama that has remained of the ancients.
Warton. Ver. 178. But ease in writing, &c.] That species of writers, which Mr. Pope elsewhere calls
Then polish all, with so much life and ease,
"If such the plague and pains to write by rule
“ The mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease,” understood this quality of a poem to belong only to such as (a certain wit says) were easily written ; whereas our Poet supposes it to be the last, and hardly attained, perfection of a laboured work. But the gentleman writing, laughed at in the line above, and its opposite, which he somewhere calls prose run mad, are the two extremes of that perfect style, the idea of which he has here so well described from his own writings. As ease was the mode of the last age, which took Suckling for its pattern; so the imitation of Milton has introduced a pompous hardness into the affected writings of the present. Which last character, Quintilian describes very justly, and accounts as well for its success : Evenit nonnunquam ut aliquid grande inveniat, qui semper quærit quod nimium est; verum et raro evenit, et cætera vitia non pensat.” I remember once on reading a poem of this kind with Mr. Pope called Night Thoughts, where the Poet was always on the strain, and labouring for expression, he said pleasantly: This is a strange man; he seems to think with the apothecaries, that Album Græcum is better than an ordinary stool. He himself was never swelling or pompous: and if ever he inclined to hardness, it was not from attempting to say a common thing with magnificence, but from including a great deal in a little room.
Warburton. In point of correctness, of perspicuity of style, and propriety of sentiment, there cannot be, on the whole, any comparison betwixt Pope and Young. But the strokes of the true sublime in the Night Thoughts, the sallies of wit in the Universal Passion, and the strong character of Zanga in the Revenge, are sufficient to preserve Young from the contempt flung apon him in this note of Dr. Warburton.
Quam sapere, et ringi. Fuit haud ignobilis Argis,
'Nimirum sapere est abjectis utile nugis, Et tempestivum pueris concedere ludum ;
Ver. 184. There lived in primo] Much of the grace and propriety of this story of the Madman at Argos is lost, by transferring the scene from the theatre to the parliament house, from poetry to politics. The original story of this sort of madness is mentioned by Aristotle, and also by Ælian, Var. Hist. c. xxv. l. 4. of a madman, named Thrasyllus, who used to go down to Piræum, and thought all the ships that arrived in that port were his own. Horace judiciously laid the scene of this insanity in the theatre. Pope's story was entirely fiction, and unsuited to the subject, which was dramatic poetry. The reader shall have the pleasure of comparing it with Boileau's imitation of the same passage in his 4th Satire, ver. 103.
“ Jadis certain bigot, d'ailleurs homme sensé,
D'un mal assez bizarre eut le cerveau blessé,
There lived in primo Georgii (they record)
*Well, on the whole, plain prose must be my fate: Wisdom (curse on it) will come soon or late. There is a time when poets will grow dull: 200 I'll e'en leave verses to the boys at school: To rules of poetry no more confined, I'll learn to smooth and harmonize my mind,
Moi, vous païer ? lui dit le bigot en colère;
Warton. Ver. 192. Him, the damn'd doctors, &c.] The execution of this passage is admirably dexterous, and of exquisite urbanity. The efforts of Boileau on the same subject will form an agreeable comparison. But here we see an elegant indeed, yet servile, copyist; whilst our countryman's imitation has all the novelty and spirit of original conception.
Wakefield. Ver. 202. To rules of poetry] These four lines are far superior to the original, particularly the third and the fourth. Warton.