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'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
NOTES. VER. 364. No harshness gives offence,] We are surprised to see the conttant attention of the ancients, to give melody to their periods, both in profe and verse; of which so many instances are given in Tully De Oratore; in Dionyfius, and Quintilian. Plato many
times altered the order of the four first words of his Republic. Cicero records the approbation he met with for finithing a sentence with the word comprobāvit, being a dichorcè. Had he finished it otherwise, he says, it might have been animo fatis, auribus non fatis. We may be equally mortified in finding Quintilian condemning the inharmoniousness of many letters with which our language abounds; particularly the letters F, M, B, D, and Dionysius reprobates the letter S.
Ver. 365. The found must seem an echo to the sense.] Lord Roscommon says,
66 The sound is still a comment to the sense." They are both well expressed, although so differently; for Lord R. is shewing how the sense is affifted by the sound; Mr. P. how the found is assisted by the sense.
Ver. 366. Soft is the strain] See examples in Clarke's Homer, Iliad i. v. 430; ii. v. 102 ; iii. v. 357; vi. v. 510; vii. v. 157; viii. v. 210, 551; xi. v. 687, 697, 766; and many others. The judicious Heyne, in his Virgil, thinks this beauty of style, as it is called, very fantastical, and not intended by either Homer or Virgil, fo often as hath been imagined.
These lines are usually cited as fine examples of adapting the sound to the sense. But that Pope has failed in this endeavour has been clearly demonstrated by the Rambler. “ The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze must surely be confessed not much to excel in softness or volubility ; and the smooth stream runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants.
The IMITATIONS. VER. 366. Soft is the strain, &c.] • Tum fi laeta canunt,” &c. Vida, Poet. l. iii. ver. 403.
But when loud surges lash the founding shoar,
NOTES. The noise and turbulence of the torrent is, indeed, distinctly imaged; for it requires very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of Ajax, there is no particular heaviness or delay. The swiftness of Camilla, is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be lengthened to express speed, will not easily be discovered. In the dactyls, used for that purpose by the ancients, two short fyllables were pronounced with such rapidity, as to be equal only to one long ; they therefore naturally exhibit the act of passing through a long space in a fort time. But the Alexandrine, by its pause in the midit, is a tardy and stately measure; and the word unbending, one of the most sluggish and now which our language affords, cannot much accelerate its motion.” Aaron Hill, long before this was published by the Rambler, wrote a letter to Pope, pointing out the many instances in which he had failed to accommodate the found to the sense, in this famous passage. This rule of making the sound an echo to the sense, as well as alliteration, has been carried to a ridiculous extreme by several late writers. It is worth observing, that it is treated of at length, and recommended by Tasso, page 168 of his Discorsi del Poema Eroico.
IMITATIONS. VER. 368. But when loud surges, &c.] “ Tum longe fale faxa fonant,” &c. Vida, Poet. 1. iii. v. 388. Ver. 370. When Ajax frives, &c.] “ Atque ideo fi quid geritur molimine magno," &c.
Vida, ib. 417, Ver. 372. Not so, when swift Camilla, &c.] “ At mora si fuerit damno, properare jubebo," &c.
Vida, ib. 420. VOL. I.
Hear how Timotheus' vary'd lays surprize,
Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such, Who still are pleas'd too little or too much. 385 At ev'ry trifle scorn to take offence, That always shews great pride, or little sense: Those heads, as stomachs, are not sure the best, Which nauseate all, and nothing can digest. Yet let not each gay Turn thy rapture move; 390 For fools admire, but men of sense approve:
As NOTES. Ver. 374. Hear how Timotheus, &c.] See Alexander's Feaft, or the Power of Music; an Ode by Mr. Dryden.
P. “ Some of the lines (fays Dr. Johnson) are without correspondent rhymes; a defect which the enthusiasm of the writer might hinder him from perceiving."
VER. 391. Fools admire, but men of sense approve :-) “ This prudish fentence has probably made as many formal coxcombs in literature, as Lord Chefterfield's opinion on the vulgarity of laughter, has among men of high breeding. As a general maxim, it has no foundation whatever in truth.
“ Proneness to admiration is a quality rather of temper than of understanding; and if it often attends light minds, it is also inseparable from that warmth of imagination which is requisite for the strong perception of what is excellent in art or nature. Innumerable inftances might be produced of the rapturous
As things seem large which we through mists descry, Dulness is ever apt to magnify.
NOTES. admiration with which men of genius have been struck at the view of great performances. It is enough here to mention the poet's favourite critic, Longinus, who is far from being contented with cool approbation, but gives free scope to the most enraptured praise. Few things indicate a mind more unfavourably constituted for the fine arts, than a slowness in being moved to the admiration of excellence; and it is certainly better that this pallion should at first be excited by objects rather inadequate, than that it should not be excited at all.” These are the words of a fenfible observer on this essay, Dr. Aikin, in Letters to his Son.
" What I dislike is, the pedantry of appealing to speculative principles in opposition to the decisions of taste; and what I despise is, the ridiculous vanity of attempting to demonftrate, by argument, that men ought to admire, when experience proves that no one does or can admire; and, on the other hand, that men are in the wrong to be pleased, when experience proves that it is impossible to avoid it. In a word, of all kind of literary affectation, that which is molt disgusting is, the affeciation of judging in matters of taste by rule, and not by feeling; and this appears to me the fundamental defect of the work to which I have before alluded; I mean the Elements of Criticism. Lord Kaims was no less remarkable for delicacy of taste than acuteness of understanding ; and he evidently seems to have thought it much below the dignity of a critic to embrace any opinion even in a mere matter of tafte, which was not supported by some rule. Where the rule was not already established, therefore, he was obliged to have recourse to his invention, which did not always supply him with such as were of the most fatisfactory kind; and he seems, through the whole of his elaborate work, to entertain much too high an idea of the importance of those rules; for he seems to consider them as founded in reason, and as laws by which taste ought to be regulated; whereas they are properly founded in taste, and the most judicious and best established rules are really nothing more than the different principles by which experience shews that the decisions of taste are governed.”
Essays Philofophical and Literary. The turn and manner of many passages in our author are much like Dryden's prologues; and particularly the famous prologue and epilogue to All for Love.
Some foreign writers, fome our own despise ; The Ancients only, or the Moderns prize.
395 Thus Wit, like Faith, by each man is apply'd To one small fect, and all are damn'd beside. Meanly they seek the blessing to confine, And force that sun but on a part to shine, Which not alone the southern wit sublimes, 400 But ripens fpirits in cold northern climes ; Which from the first has shone on ages past, Enlights the present, and shall warm the last;
Ver. 394. Our own despise;] If any proof was wanting how little the Paradise Lost was read and attended to, at this time, our author's total silence on the subject would be sufficient to thew it. That an Effay on Criticism could be written, without a single mention of Milton, appears truly strange and incredible ; if we did not know that our author seems to have had no idea of
any merit fuperior to that of Dryden! and had no relish for an author, who, « Omnes exstinxit flellas, exortus uti ætherius fol.”
Lucret. VER. 395. The Antients only,] A very sensible Frenchman says, “ En un mot, touchez comme Euripide, etonnez comme Sophocle, peignez comme Homere, & composez d' apres vous. Ces maitres n'ont point eu de regles; ils n'en ont eté que plus grands ; & ils n'ont acquis le droit de commander, que parce qu'ils n'ont, jamais óbei.
Il en est tout autrement en literature qu'en politique ; le talent qui a besoin de subir des loix, n'en donnera jamais."
Ver. 402. Which from the firsl, Sc.] Genius is the same in. all ages;
but its fruits are various; and more or less excellent as they are checked or matured by the influence of government or religion upon them. Hence in some parts of literature the Ancients excel; in others, the Moderns; just as those accidental circumstances occurred.
W. Ver. 403. Enlights] An improper word for enlightens.