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olyan Myrtle, are occasional compositions, and of course derive their merit chiefly from local and temporary circumstances. The principal art in such performances, is to make a trifling circumstance poetical or ' witty. In the verses On the Sprig of My ile, he has very happily succeeded. The Ant must be allowed to be nervous and elegant. The verses On ihe Death of Stephen Grey, are worthy the pen of Pope.
The Elegy on the Death of Mr. Levett, as it was among the last, so it is one of the best of his performances. It is moral, characteristic, and pathetic. The following stanzas are exquisitely beautiful.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind; Nor letter’d arrogance deny
This praise to merit unrefin’d. When fainting nature call’d for aid,
And hovering death prepar'd the blow, His vigorous remedy display'd
The power of art without the show :
In misery's darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
And lonely want retir’d to die.
No petty gain disdain'd by pride;
The toil of every day supply'd.
The concluding lines are exceptionable:
Death broke at once the vital chain,
And forc'd his soul the nearelt way.
Since it is the soul which gives life, the chain that confines the foul is coporeal: The vital chain cannot be said, with propriety, to be broken by death. Johnson would not have forgiven an error of this kind in Gray.
Of his remaining pieces, some are mere impromptus, which were never intended for the public eye, and others were the suggestions of temporary incidents. Many of them are sprightly and elegant, and may be read with pleasure; but they require
no distinct enumeration, or particular criticism..
Among our English poets, it is no unpleasant reflection to be able to find so many elegant writers of Latin verse ; in the first rank of which, Johnson stands very high. Jonson, Crashaw, Cowley, May, Milton, Marvel, Addison, Gray, Smart, Warton, and Johnson, are such writers of Latin verse, as any country might with justice be proud to own. Johnson was eminently skilled in the Latin tongue, and strongly attached to the cultivation of Latin poetry. The first fruits of his genius were compositions in Latin verse. His translation of the Merah, gained him reputation in the college in which it was written, and was approved by Pope. Virgil seems to have been his model for language and verfification. He has copied the varied pauses of his verse, the length of his periods, the peculiar grace of his
expressions, and his majestic dignity, with considerable success. But his composition is sometimes unclassical and incorrect. The most exceptionable line is the first; tollere concentum, if allowable, is surely an awkward phrase for “ begin the song." His Odes, particularly, the Ode Inchkenneth, Ode in the Isle of Sky, and that to Mrs. Thrale, from the same place, are easy, elegant, and poetical. They unite classical language, tender sentiment, and harmonious verse. His poem, Tvöbo reavtov, is nervous and energetic. His Epitaphs are distinguished by classical elegance and nervous fimplicity. Those on Goldsmith and Thrale seem the best. His Epigrams are, in general, neat and pointed. In the Antbologia, we admire sometimes a happy imitation, and sometimes regret inelegant expressions.
For obvious reasons, his Latin pieces, though excellent in their kind, can never
acquire the popularity of the English. Those who read with pleasure the Latin classics, see their inferiority; to others, they are uninteresting and unintelligible. “ The delight which they afford;” to use his own words, in criticising the Latin poetry. of Milton, “ is rather by the exquisite imitation of the ancient writers, by the purity of the diction, and the harmony of the numbers, than by any power of invention, or vigour of sentiment.” This character will generally fuit our modern Latin poetry; for if we except that noble ode of Gray's, written at the Grande Chartreuse, and some few others, there are not many of the Poemata Anglorum, that contain much“ power of invention, or vigour of sentiment.”
Upon the whole, the various productions of Johnson show a life spent in study and meditation. It may be fairly allowed, as he used to say of himself, that he has writ