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history has transmitted no other knowledge, and of whom the work before us seems to be the only remaining monument.
With respect to the merit of this poem, we have already intimated that our opinion of it is by no means so exalted as that of those critics who have represented it as little inferior to the immortal work of which it professes to be the continuation. In the invention of circumstances and arrangement of incidents, it is not entitled to any distinguished praise. There was probably, indeed, but little demand in this respect on the invention of the poet, his subject having been largely treated, in the same order, by
preceding writers. No skill of epic arrangement has been practised by him, unless we may refer to this head a species of artifice, which, in imitation of Homer, he has adopted, of making the exploits of different heroes in succession the principal objects of his narrative, and thus concentrating and varying the interest. In the characters we find little of that strength and discrimination which distinguish those of the Iliad. A general poverty and triteness of sentiment and description pervade the work, very different from the richness, spirit, and originality of Homer. The similes are abundant; many
of them are inean and coarse, although some appear not deficient either in propriety or invention. The chief merit of the poem appears to us to consist in the free and copious use which the writer possesses of the diction of Homer. He is styled, however, by Rhodomannus, Iliados continuator, Homeri similimus, and poeta longe præstantissimus; while another of his editors observes, adeo verbosus est Quintus, ut si otiosa et superflua tollas, pars tertia fere operi decedet.
William CLIFTON was the son of a wealthy mechanic of Philadelphia, and was born in that city in 1772.
From infancy his health was feeble and precarious, and like most weakly children, particularly those who have a constitutional tendency to consumption, he displayed a premature vivacity and quickness of mind. His parents were of the stricter order of quakers, and he was brought up in the manners and principles of that sect. He was not educated with a view to any particular profession, but from very early youth discovered a strong attachment to elegant literature, and an ardent curiosity for every kind of liberal knowledge. At the age of nineteen, the rupture of a blood vessel rendered his constitution so exceedingly infirm, as in a very great degree to disqualify him from mixing in the turmoil of the world, and altogether to debar him from any of the regular pursuits of business, or of professional life. From that period he continued to reside in his father's family, assiduously employed, though with frequent interruptions from disease and debility, in literary studies and the general cultivation of his mind. Endowed by nature with quick sensibility and a lively fancy, and left without direction or control to follow the bent of his own genius, he soon became entirely devoted to the pursuits of imagination and taste; and the study and occasional imitation of the great masters of poetry and eloquence, were for several years his “ life's employment and his leisure's charm."
As he advanced to manhood, he gradually relinquished the quaker dress and manners, and applied himself with much success to the acquirement of many of those politer arts and accomplishments which are carefully excluded from the simple and primitive system of education of the society of Friends. He is said to have particularly excelled in music and drawing. He was also much attached to the sports of the field, and was peculiarly accomplished in all the arts of the sportsman.
Mr. Clifton mixed little in general society, but confined himself chiefly to a small circle of literary friends. In that period of violent political animosity which succeeded Mr. Jay's treaty with Great Britain, he, with most of his friends, zealously supported the measures of the administration. The gross and vulgar ignorance of some local demagogues excited at once his contempt and indignation, and in several newspaper and other fugitive publications, both in prose and verse, he lavished much brilliant and sprightly satire upon some of the vilest and most obscure instruinents of party violence. The subjects were unworthy of his powers; he should have disdained to “drop his sword on wretched kerns."
Sometimes, however, his talents were directed towards objects of more general and permanent interest. In an unfinished poem, entitled “The Chimeriad,” he seems to have surveyed the topics of political controversy in a more philosophical as well as more poetical point of view, and so far as he had advanced in it, had avoided all gross personal invective and allusion.
When Mr. Gifford's “Baviad and Mæviad” was reprinted in this country, Mr. Clifton introduced the American edition with a poetical epistle to the author, in which much of elegant eulogy, poetical thought, and correct sentiment is conveyed in forcible language, and splendid and highly finished versification. These, however, were but the early blossoms of genius, beautiful and fra. grant indeed, but of little real value, except from the promise which they afforded of the rich fruits of riper age.
His mind now seemed rapidly maturing, his command of versification and of language had become more extensive, and his friends looked to him with well grounded confidence for some larger work, which might elevate the literary character of the nation, and prove the truth of his own assertion, that