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Where common shores a lulling murmur keep,
Whose torrents rush from Holbourn's fatal steep :
Pensive through idleness, tears flow'd apace,
Which eas'd his loaded heart, and wash'd his face ;
At length he fighing cry'd ; That boy was bleft,
Whose infant lips have drain'd a mother's breast;
But happier far are those, (if such be known)
Whom both a father and a mother own :
But I, alas ! hard fortune's utmost scorn,
Who ne'er knew parent, was an orphan born!
Some boys are rich by birth beyond all wants,
Belov'd by uncles, and kind good old aunts ;
When times comes round, a Chrifimas box they bear,
And one day makes them rich for all the year.
Had I the precepts of a father learn'd,
Perhaps I then the coachman's fare had earn'd,
For lesser boys can drive; I thirsty stand
And see the double flaggon charge their hand,
See them puff off the froth, and gulp amain,
While with dry tongue I lick my lips in vain.
While thus he fervent prays, the heaving tide
In widen'd circles beats on either side;
The Goddess rose amid the inmolt round,
With wither'd turnip-tops her temples crown'd;
Low reach'd her dripping tresses, lank, and black
As the smooth jet, or glossy raven's back.;
Around her waist a circling eel was twin'd,
Which bound her robe that hung in rags behind.
Now beck’ning to the boy ; he thus begun ;
Thy prayers are granted ; weep no more, my fon :
Go thrive. At some frequented corner stand,
This brush I give thee, grasp it in thy hand.
*Temper the foot within this vafe of oil,
And let the little tripod aid thy toil ;
On this methinks I see the walking crew,
At thy. request support the miry shoe,
black chat was with dirt embrown'd, And in thy pocket gingling halfpence sound. The Goddess plunges swift beneath the food, And dashes all around her show'rs of mud; The youth straight chose his post; the labour ply'd, Where branching streets from Charing-cross divide ;
His treble voice resounds, along the Meuse,
And Whitehall echoes Clean your honour's fooes.
Episodes, and poetical fi&tions, properly introduc'd, have a molt admirable effect in preceptive poetry ; for they take off the attention of the mind, when fatigued with dry precepts, and lead it to subjects that are entertaining. They may, in this respect, be compared to inns placed at proper distances on the road, where, when a man is tired, he may stop to refresh himself.
But the humour and art of this author is so powerful, that he can make us laugh even at circumstances that should excite a different sensation; as will appear by the following description.
Oroving muse, recal that wondrous year,
When winter reign'd in bleak Britannia's air ;
When hoary Thames, with frosted ofiers crown'd,
Was three long moons in icy fetters bound,
The waterman, forlorn along the shore,
Pensive reclines upon his useless oar,
See harness'd steeds desert the ftony town;
And wander roads unstable, not their own :
Wheels o'er the harden'd waters smoothly glide,
And raise with whiten’d tracks the slipp’ry tide.
Here the fat cook piles high the blazing fire,
And scarce the spit can turn the steer entire.
Booths sudden hide the Thames, long streets appear,
And num'rous games proclaim the crouded fair,
So when a gen'ral bids the martial train
Spread their incampment o'er the spacious plain ;
Thick-rifing tents a canvas city build,
And the loud dice resound thro' all the field.
'Twas here the matron found a doleful fate :
Let elegiac lay the woe relate,
Soft as the breath of diftant Autes, a: hours
When silent ev'ning closes up the flow'rs ;
Lulling as falling water's hollow noise ;
Indulging grief, like Philomela's voice.
Doll ev'ry day had walk'd these treach'rous roads ;
Her neck grew wrapt beneath autumnal loads
Of various fruits ; she now a baket bore,
That head alas ! fall basket bear no more.
Each booth Me frequent fast, in quest of gain,
And boys with pleasure heard her shrilling ftrain.
Ah Doll! all mortals must resign their breath,
And industry itself submit to death!
The cracking crystal yields, she finks, she dies,
Her head chopt off, from her loft shoulders flies ;
Pippins the cry’d, but death her voice confounds,
And Pip pip-pip along the ice resounds.
We should here treat of those preceptive poems that teach the art of poetry itself, of which there are many that deserve particular attention ; but we have anticipated our design, and render'd any farther notice of them in a manner useless, by the observations we have made in the course of this work. We ought however to remark, that Horace was the only poet among the ancients, who wrote precepts for poetry in verse, at least his epistle to the Pilo's is the only piece of the kind that has been handed down to us; and that is so perfect it seems almost to have precluded the necessity of any other. Among the moderns we have several that are justly admired, which the reader will find, occasionally mentioned in different parts of this volume.
We are now to speak of those precepts that respect criticisın; and here we shall be obliged to draw all our examples from Mr. Pope, who is, perhaps, the only author that has laid down rules in this manner for the direction of the judgment. His essay is of a mix'd nature, and may not improperly be called the Art of Poetry as well as :Criticism. This, however, is not to be considered as a blemish, but a beauty in his production.
Mr. Pope introduces his poem with this very juft obfervation, that it is as great a fault to judge ill, as to write ill, and more dangerous to the publick. He then proceeds to shew, that a true taste is as difficult to be found as a true genius ; and observes, that tho' most men are born with some taste, yet it is generally spoiled by a false education. He takes notice of the multitude of critics, and tells us in the following lines that we ought to study our
own taste, and know the limits of our genius, and judg. ment, before we attempt to criticise on others.
But you who seek to give and merit fame,
And justly bear a critic's noble name,
Be sure yourself and your own reach to know,
How far your genius, taste, and learning go ;
Launch not beyond your depth, but be discreet,
And mark that point where sense and dulness meet.
And in the following beautiful lines he refers us to nature as the best, and indeed, the only unerring guide to the judgment.
First follow NATURE, and your judgment frame
By her juft standard, which is still the same;
Unerring nature, still divinely bright,
One clear, uachang'd, and univerfal light,
Life, force, and beauty, muft to all impart,
At once the source, and end, and test of art.
Art from that fund, each just supply provides ;
Works without show, and without pomp presides :
In some fair body thus th' informing soul
With spirits feeds, with vigour fills the whole,
Each motion guides, and ev'ry nerve sustains ;
Itself unseen, but in th' effects, remains.
But the judgment, he observes, may be improved by the rules of art, which rules, if just and fit, are only nature methodised; and as these rules are derived from the practice of the ancient poets, the ancients, particularly Homer and Virgil, ought to be ftudy'd by the critic.
You then whose judgment the right course wou'd steer, Know well each Ancient's proper
character; His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page ; Religion, country, genius of his age: Without all these at once before your eyes, Cavil you may, but never criticize. Be Homer's works your study, and delight, Read them by day, and meditate by night ; Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring, And trace the muses upward to their spring.
Still with itself compar'd, his text peruse ;
And let your comment be the Mantuan muse.
He then speaks of the licences allow'd to poetry, and of the use of them by the ancients ; which is thus happily expressed.
Some beautiės yet,. no precepts can declarè,
For there's a happiness as well as care.
Musick resembles poetry ; in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If, where the rules not far enough extend,
(Since rules were made but to promote their end)
Some lucky LICENCE answers to the full
Th’intent propos’d, that licence is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track.
Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
And rise to faults true critics dare not mend
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.
Which, without passing thro' the judgment, gains
The heart, and all its ends at once attains.
In prospects thus, some objects please our eyes,
Which out of nature's common order rise,
The shapelefs rock, or hanging precipice.
Bot care in.poetry must till be had,
It asks discretion ev’n in running mad:
And tho' the ancients thus their rules invade,
(As kings dispense with laws themselves have made)
Moderns beware! Or if you
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end ;
Let it be seldom; and compell’d by need ;
And have, at least, their precedent to plead.
The critic else proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.
I know there are, to whose prefumptuous thoughts 'Those freer beauties, ev’n in them, seem faults. Some figures monstrous and mis-Shap'd appear, Consider'd fingly, or beheld too near,