Imágenes de página

Conceited Commentators. These industrious persons much resemble their relations in letters, the philologists, as they are intent not on the context of the author they pretend to illustrate, but on words singly considered. The late Gilbert Wakefield not unfrequently forgot, or heeded not, the meaning of the poet, in the paragraph taken together; but fixed on a word, which he endeavoured to interpret to his favourite meaning. --See Notes, passim, on his Lucretius, and Virgil's Georgics.

Hints to Farners, &c. Soil and Climate. No complaints among human creatures are so common, and so generally unjust, as those in which the season, soil, &c. are implicated. We should first inquire what plants and corn we have introduced into our country, before we can found a just lamentation about their not succeeding in our soil. Many may be brought from countries in very different latitudes, and either too much or too little cold in their stepmother climate may not agree with them. Before we transpose plants, or corn, or animals, we should consider nature bas. appropriated both animals and vegetables to cli. mates best suited to their various natures, and therefore it cannot be expected that they should prosper so well, when colonized.

The edible

grains now in our fields are not indigenous ; and most of our garden plants are not natives in this country. See more on this subject in the Sketches of the History of Man, vol. iii. p. 871, &c.

Language. The idea of settling a language, that is, if it means preventing any addition to its idioms and derivatives, is an experiment at once difficult, and probably injurious. The attempt was made in France in Louis XIV.'s time; but the French language is of course very poor, and it has few or no poetic phrases. Suppose our language had been settled before Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden, what a barren phraseology should we have had now, and lost all the improvement that these mighty masters of ideas and words have communicated to us. Language, as well as ideas, must always be in a state of progression whilst alive; if it do not go forward, it will most probably be deteriorated

Imitations in Poets.

Resemblances of ideas in authors ought not to be charged as thefts, without caution. Though Pope was a reader of French authors, yet he might not, perhaps, have seen the passage whiclı so much resembles his own in the author quoted. M.M-, a French author of note, says,

" there are two kinds of authors:- those of divine origin, born of Apollo and the Muses, who write with powers easy and sublime; and there are others who spring from corruption, like those insects who plague and infect the world."

46 Those half-learn'd witlings, num'rous in our isle,
" As half-form'd insects on the banks of Nile;
“ Unfinish'd things, one knows not what to call,
“ Their generation's so equivocal.”

Essay on Criticism.

Bible Societies. The policy of distributing the Bible among unlettered persons seems problematic. Some lines from our great poet of reason will place the question in a strong light, and may determine it with some.

66 The Book thus put in ev'ry vulgar hand, " Which each presum'd he best could understand, " The common rule was made the common prey, “ And at the mercy of the rabble lay: “ The tender page with horny fists was gallid, “ And he was gifted most that loudest bawl'd: “ The Spirit gave the doctoral decree, “ And ev'ry member of a company “ Was of his trade, and of the Bible, free. “ Plain truths enough for needful use they found, 6. But men would still be itching to expound, “ Each was ambitious of th' obscurest place, s No measure ta'eu from knowledge, all from grace.

Study and pains were now no more their care,
66 Texts were explain'd by fasting and by prag'r;
“ This was the fruit the private Spirit brought,
“ Occasion’d by great zeal and little thought.”

J. Dryden's Religio Laici. The same reasoning poet has given his opinion on the right of private doctrines, in opposition to an established church.

66 And, after hearing what our Church can say,
" If still our reason runs another way,
46 That private reason’tis more just to curb,
" Than by disputes the public peace disturb:
66. For points obscure are of small use to learn,
“ But common quiet is inankind's concern." Ibid.

Scandal. The love of depreciating the characters of our neighbours can have only one ground of defencethat a bad one; that a calumniator, like an American savage, thinks that the good qualities of mind and body, of which he endeavours to deprive others, will by these means be transferred to himself by this murder of the reputation of another. But on such a bad stock as the calumniator's, only bitter and sour fruits will grow. How strongly the poet speaks.

“ Slander, “ Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue “ Out-venoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath “ Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie “ All corners of the world,'' &c.

Cymbeline, act 3, scene 4.

Life, its sameness. Those who complain of life only on account of its sameness, are not only unhappy persons, but very dull ones. Some deficiency in the intellectual vision of such folks is very analogous to the corporeal purblindness of the eye. To the latter, all colours seem blended, all the pages of a book seem unfixed, and the lines unseparated. To a man of a clear vision, corporeal and mental life holds out unexhausted variety : its different shades, its transient lights, render each daily scene interesting, and new without end, and maintain the freshness of novelty amidst innumerable repetitions.


6. It is very

The younger Pliny has given admirable rules and reasons for translating passages from foreign authors into our own language. useful, and recommended by many, to translate from the Greek into Latin, and from the Latin into Greek, by which method we gain the use of proper phrases, and improve in our figures of speech; we gain the method of expressing ourselves splendidly and fluently ; besides, by an imitation of the best models, we learn to think for ourselves. Many of the beauties in authors, merely on reading them,

« AnteriorContinuar »