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The Vanity of Human Wishes follows the original more closely, but still with many omissions. The subject is taken from the second “ Alcibiades” of Plato, and has an intermixture of the sentiments of Socrates, concerning the obje&t of prayers offered up to the Deity. The general proposition is, that good and evil are so little understood by mankind, that their wishes, when granted, are always destructive. This is exemplified in a variety of instances; such as riches, state-preferment, eloquence, military glory, long life, and the advantages of beauty. Juvenal's conclufion is admirable. Let us,” he says, “ leave it to the gods to judge what is fittest for us. Man is dearer to his Creator than to himself. If we must pray for any special grace, let it be for a sound mind, in a found body. Let us pray for fortitude,
that we may think the labours of Hercules, and all his sufferings, preferable to a life of luxury, dissipation, and the soft repose of Sardanapulus. This is a blessing within the reach of every man ; this we can give ourselves. It is virtue, and virtue only, that can make us happy.” For the characters which Juvenal has chosen to illustrate his doctrine, Johnson has substituted others from modern history; for Sejanus, he gives Cardinal Wolsey, Buckingham, stabbed by Felton, Strafford and Clarendon ; for Demosthenes and Cicero, Lydiat, Galileo, and Laud; for Hannibal, Charles XII; and to show the consequences of long life, he says, si
From Marlbrough's eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And oi beauty he says,
Yet Vane would tell what ills from beauty spring,
This last example is ill chosen ; for it is well known that the Countess of Dorchefter, mistress to James II. was not handsome. Owing to the dearth of modern examples, his instances are less numerous and less striking than those of Juvenal. His thoughts are not so compressed in the expression, or so energetically conveyed to the mind, as those of the Roman satirist ; but his diction is less laboured and affected, and he flows in a stream of versification scarcely less rapid and eloquent, but infinitely more smooth than the Latin poet. He has preserved all the beauties and virtue of the original moral, but stripped it, with infinite art, from all appearance of Epicurean infidelity, and filled it with precepts worthy of a philosopher, and wishes fitting for a Christian. He has succeeded wonderfully in giving to his imitation the air of an original. The Christian had to struggle with the Heathen
poet, and though we cannot say that he has surpassed him, he has, at least, enteroped into a noble competition.
. Of his smaller poems, the Prologue for the Opening of Drury-Lane Theatre, has been universally admired, as a masterly and comprehenfive criticism upon the several ages of English dramatic poetry. The subject and the moral were well conceived, and are as nobly expressed. The character of Shakspeare is delineated with a felicity of expression, that challenges the whole compass of English poetry. His other Prologues are copies of his mind, clear and comprehensive, pointed and energetic. Of his Odes upon the seasons, his addresses to Autumn and Winter seem the best. Many of the stanzas are exceedingly beautiful; as usual, moral, and unusually pathetic. They manifest, however, that his descriptive poetry is not the production of a warm fancy, impelled to
give vent by poesy to its overflowing feelings. Those passions and objects which would inspire the genuine poetic mind, with enthusiasm, pafs by him unfelt and unnoticed. He is melancholy in Spring, jocund in Winter; he lavishes no encomiums upon the perfumed zephyrs, but flies to melancholy morals, or commemorates the comforts of a cheering flaggon and a snug fire-lide. His Ode to Evening, addressed to Stella, the Natural Beauty, and the Vanity of Wealih, are in general elegant. The first is warm and sentimental, and shows that he was neither ignorant of the feelings, nor insensible to the joys of a lover. The Ode to Friendship is distinguished by delicacy of sentiment and beauty of expression. Of his address To Lyce, the idea perhaps is not original ; but the images are happily selected, and well expresled. Stella in Mourning, the verses to Lady Firebrace, To an elderly Lady, and On the Sprig