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colloquial wit, and remarkable for many wild pranks and sallies of extravagance. The glare of his general character diffused itself upon his writings; the compositions of a man whose name was heard so often, were certain of attention, and from many readers certain of applause. This blaze of reputation is not yet quite extinguished; and his poetry still retains some splendour beyond that which genius has bestowed.
Wood and Burnet give us reason to believe, that much was imputed to him which he did not write. I know not by whom the original collection was made, or by what authority its genuineness was ascertained. The first edition was published in the year of his death, with an air of concealment, professing in the title-page to be printed at Antwerp.
Of some of the pieces, however, there is no doubt: the Imitation of Horace's Satire, the Verses to Lord Mulgrave, the Satire against Man, the Verses upon Nothing, and perhaps some others, are I believe genuine, and perhaps most of those which the late collection exhibits.*
As he cannot be supposed to have found leisure for any course of continued study, his pieces are commonly short, such as one fit of resolution would produce.
His songs have no particular character; they tell, like other songs, in smooth and easy language, of scorn and kindness, dismission and desertion, absence and inconstancy, with the common places of artificial courtship. They are commonly smooth and easy; but have little nature, and little sentiment.
* Dr. Johnson has made no mention of Valentinian, (altered from Beaumont and Fletcher,) which was published after his death by a friend, who describes him in the preface not only as being one of the greatest geniuses, but one of the most virtuous men that ever existed. J. B.
His imitation of Horace on Lucilius is not inelegant or unhappy. In the reign of Charles the Second began that adaptation, which has since been very frequent, of antient poetry to present times; and perhaps few will be found where the parallelism is better preserved than in this. The versification is indeed sometimes careless, but it is sometimes vigorous and weighty.
The strongest effort of his Muse is his poem upon Nothing. He is not the first who has chosen this barren topick for the boast of his fertility. There is a poem called Nihilin Latin by Passerat, a poet and critick of the sixteenth century in France; who, in his own epitaph, expresses his zeal for good poetry thus:
— Molliter ossa quiescent Sint modo carminibus non onerata malis.
His works are not common, and therefore I shall subjoin his verses.
In examining this performance, Nothing must be considered as having not only a negative but a kind of positive signification; as I need not fear thieves, I have nothing, and nothing is a very powerful protector. In the first part of the sentence it is taken negatively; in the second it is taken positively, as an agent. In one of Boileau's lines it was a question, whether he should use a rienfaire, or a ne rien •
/aire; and the first was preferred because it gave rien a sense in some sort positive. Nothing can be a subject only in its positive sense, and such a sense is given it in the first line:
Nothing, thou elder brother ev'n to shade.
In this line, I know not whether he does not allude to a curious book De Umbra, by Wowerus, which, having told the qualities of Shade, concludes with a poem in which are these lines:
Jam primum terram validis circumspice claustris
Aeris, et vasti laqueata palatia coeli
Omnibus Umbra prior.
The positive sense is generally preserved with great skill through the whole poem; though sometimes, in a subordinate sense, the negative nothing is injudiciously mingled. Passerat confounds the two senses.
Another of his most vigorous pieces is his Lampoon on Sir Car Scroop, who, in a poem called " The Praise of Satire," had some lines like these*:
He who can push into a midnight fray
This was meant of Rochester, whose buffoon conceit was, I suppose, a saying often mentioned, that every man would be a Coward if he durst; and drew from him those furious verses; to which Scroop made in reply an epigram, ending with these lines:
* I quote from memory. Dr. J.
Thou canst hurt no man's fame with thy ill word;
Of the satire against Man, Rochester can only claim what remains when all Boileau's part is taken away.
In all his works there is spriteliness and vigour, and every where may be found tokens of a mind which study might have carried to excellence. What more can be expected from a life spent in ostentatious contempt of regularity, and ended before the abilities of many other men began to be displayed *? Poema CI. V. Joannis Passeratii,
* The late George Steevens, Esq. made the Selection of Rochester's Poems which appears in Dr. Johnson's edition; but Mr. Malone observes that the same task had been performed in the early part of the last century by Jacob Tonson. C.
Regii in Academia Parisiensi Professoris.
Ad ornatissimum virum Erricum Memmium.
Janus adest, festae poscunt sua dona Kalendae, Munus abest festis quod possim offerre Kalendis. Siccine Castalius nobis exaruit humor? Usque ade6 ingenii nostri est exhausta facultas, Immunem ut videat redeuntis janitor anni? Quod nusquam est, potius nova per vestigia quseram.
Ecce autem partes dum sese versat in omnes Invenit mea Musa Nihil, ne despice munus. Nam Nihil est gemmis, Nihil est pretiosius auro. Hue animum, hue igitur vultus adverte benignos: Res nova narratur quae nulli audita priorum, Ausonii & Graii dixerunt caetera vates, Ausoniae indictum Nihil est Graecaeque Camoenae.
E coelo quacunque Ceres sua prospicit arva, Aut genitor liquidis orbem complectitur ulnis Oceanus, Nihil interitus 8c originis expers. Immortale Nihil, Nihil omni parte beatum. Quod si hinc majestas & vis divina probatur, Num quid honore deum, num quid dignabimur aris? Conspectu lucis Nihil est jucundius almae, Vere Nihil, Nihil irriguo formosius horto, Floridius pratis, Zephyri clementius aura; In bello sanctum Nihil est, Martisque tumultu: Justum in pace Nihil, Nihil est in fbedere tutum. Felix cui Nihil est, (fuerant base vota Tibullo) Non timet insidias: fures, incendia tern nit: Sollicitas sequitur nullo sub judice lites. Ule ipse invictis qui subjicit omnia fatis Zenonis sapiens, Nihil admiratur & optat.