Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

Kinds; and I wou'd instance in Shakespear of the former, of your Lordship in the latter fort.

Thus I might safely confine my self to my Native Country : But if I would only cross the Seas, I might find in France a living Horace and a fuvenal, in the Person of the admirable Boileau ; whose Numbers are Excellent, whose Expressions are Noble, whose Thoughts are Juft, whose Language is Pure, whose Satyr is Pointed, and whose Sense is Close : What he borrows from the Ancients, he repays with Usury of his own, in Coin as good, and almost as universally valuable : For setting. Prejudice and Partiality apart; tho' he is our Enemy, the Stamp of a Louis, the Patron of all Arts, is not much inferior to the Medal of an Auguftus Cæfar. Let this be said without entring into the Interests of Fa&tions and Parties, and relating only to the Bounty

of that King to Men of Learning and Merit : A Praise so just, that even we who are his Enemies, cannot refuse to him.

Now if it may be permitted me to go back again to the Consideration of Epique Poetry, I have contefs'd, that no Man hitherto has reachd, or so much as approach'd to the Excellencies of Homer or of Virgil; I must farther add, that Statius, the best Versificator next Virgil, knew not how to Design after him, tho' he had the Model in his Eye: that Lucan is wanting both in Design and Subject, and is besides too full of Heat and Affectation ; that among the Moderns, Ariosto neither defign'd Juftly, nor observ'd any Unity of Action, or Compass of Time, or Moderation in the Vaftness of his Draught : His Style is luxurious, without Majesty, or Decency, and his Adventurers without the Compass of Nature and Pofsibility : Talo, whose Delign was Regular, and who observ'd the Rules of Unity in Time and Place, more closely than Virgil, yet was not fo happy in his Action; he confesses himself to have been too Lyrical, that is, to bave written beneath the Dignity of Heroick Verse, in his Episodes of Soporonia, Erminia, and Armida ; his Story is not fo pleasing as Ariofto's ; he is too flatulent fometimes, and sometimes too dry; many times unequal, and almost always forc’d; and belides, is full of Conceptions, Points of Epigram, and Witticisms; all which are not only below the Dignity of Heroick Verse, but contrary to its Nature : Virgil and Homer have not one of them. And those who are guilty of so Boyith an Ambition in fo grave a Subject, are so far from being consider'd as Heroick Poets, that they ought to be turn'd down from Homer to the Anthologia, from Virgil to Martial and Owen's Fpigrams, and from Spencer to Flecno; that is, froin the top to the bottom of all Poetry. But to return to Tato, he borrows from the Invention of Boyardo, and in his Alteration of his Poem, which is infinitely the worfe, imitates Homer fo vesy servilely, that (for example, he gives the King of

obsery'd

Jerusalem fifty Sons, only becaufe Hemer had beftowed the like Number on King Priam; he kills the youngest in the fame manner, and has provided his Hero with a Patroclus, under another Name, only to bring him back to the Wars, when his Friend was kill'd. The French have perform'd no. thing in this kind, which is not as below those two Italians, and subject to a thousand more Reflections, without examining their St. Lewis, their Pucelle, or their Alarigue: The English have only to boast of Spencer and Milton, who neither of them wanted either Genius or Learning, to have been perfect Poets; and yet both of them are liable to many Censures. For there is no Uniformity in

the

the Defign of Spencer : He aims at the Accomplishment of no one Adion : He raises up a Heroe for every one of his Adventures : and endows each of them wirh some particular Moral Virtue, which renders them all equal, without Subordination or Preference. Every one is most Valiant in his own Legend ; only we must do them that Juftice to observe, that Magnanimity, which is the Character of Prince Arthur, shines throughout the whole Poem; and fuccours the rest, when they are in Diftress. The Original of every Knight was then lis ving in the Court of Queen Elizabeth ; and he attributed to each of them that Virtue which he thought most conspicuous in them : An ingenious Piece of Flattery, tho' it turn'd not much to his Account. Had he liv'd to finish his Poem, in the fix remaining Legends, it had certainly been more of a Piece ; but cou'd not have been perfect, because the Model was not true. But Prince Arthur, or his chief Patron Sir Pbilip Sidney, whom he intended to make happy by the Marriage of his Gloriana, dying before him, depriv'd the Poet, both of Means and Spirit, to accomplish his Defign: For the rest, his obsolete Language, and the ill Choice of his Stanza, are Faults but of the Second Magnitude: For notwithstanding the first, he is still intciligible, at least after a little Practice; and for the lalt, he is the more to be admir'd; that labouring under such a Difficulty, his Verses are so numerous, to various, and to harmonious, that only Virgil, whom he professedly initated, has surpass'd him, among the Romans ; and only Mr. Waller among the English.

As for Mr. Milton, whom we all admire with so much Justice, his Subject is not that of an Heroick Poem, properly so call'd. His Design is the Lofing of our Happiness; his Event is not prosperous, · Itke that of all other Epique Works : His Hea venly Machines are many, and his Human Perfons are but two. But I will not take Mr. Rbymer's Work out of his Hands : He has promis'd the World a Critique on that Author ; wherein, tho' he will not allow his Poem for Heroick, I hope he will grant us, that his Thoughts are elevated, his Words sounding, and that no Man has so happily copy'd the Manner of Homer; or so copiously tranNated his Grecisms, and the Latin Elegancies of Virgil. 'Tis true, he runs inro a flat Thought, sometimes for a hundred Lines together, but 'tis when he is got into a Track of Scripture : His antiquated Words were his Choice, not his Necessity; for therein he imitated Spencer, as Spen. cer did Chancer. And tho', perhaps, the Love of their Masters may have transported both

too far, in the frequent use of them; yet in my Opinion, obsolete Words may then be laudably reviv'd, when either they are more founding, or more significant than those in Practice ; And when their Obfcurity is taken away, by joining other Words to them, which clear the Sense; according to the Rule of Horace, for the Admission of new Words. But in both Cases, a Moderation is to be observ'd in the Use of them. For unnecessary Coinage, as well as unnecessary Revival, runs into Affe&ation; a Fault to be avoided on either hand. Neither will I ju. stify Milton for his blank Verse, tho' I may excuse him, by the Example of Hannibal Caro, and other Italians who have us'd it : For whatever Causes he alledges for the abolishing of Rhyme (which I have not now the Leisare to examine) his own particular Reason is plainly this, that Rhyme was not his Talent ; he had neither the Ease of doing it, nor the Graces of it ; which is manifest in his Juvenilia, or Verses written in his Youth; where

[ocr errors]

his. Rhyme is always constrain'd and forc'd, and comes hardly from him, at an Age when the Soul is most pliant, and the Paffion of Love makes almost every Man a Rhymer, tho' not a Poet.

By this time, my Lord, I doubt not but that you wonder, why I have run off from my Biafs so long together, and made so tedious a Digression from Satyr to Heroick Poetry. But if you will not excuse it, by the tatling Quality of Age, which, as Sir William Davenant says, is always Narrative ; yet I hope the Usefulness of what I have to fay on this Subject, will qualify the Remoteness of it; and this is the last time I will commit the Crime of Prefaces, or trouble the World with my Notions of any thing that relates to Verse. I have then, as you see, obserød the Failings of many great Wits amongft the Moderns, who have attempted to write an Epique Poem: Besides these, or the like Animadversions of them by other Men, there is yet a farther Reafon given, why they cannot possibly succeed, so well as the Ancients, even tho’we cou'd allow them not to be inferiour, either in Genius or Learning, or the Tongue in which they write, or all those other wonderful Qualifications which are necessary to the forming of a true accomplish'd Heroick Poet. The Fault is laid on our Religion : They say that Christianity is not capable of those Embellishments which are afforded in the Belief of those Ancient Heathens.

And 'tis true, that in the severe Notions of our Faith, the Fortitude of a Christian confifts in Patience and Suffering, for the Love of GOD, what ever Hardships can befal in the World; not in any great Attempts, or in performance of those Enterprizes which the Poets call Heroique ; and which are commonly the Effects of Intereft, Oftentation, Pride, and Worldly Honour. That Humility and

Resignation

« FöregåendeFortsätt »