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first in the English language." The fame of a writer is never promoted by such exaggeration of praise. The Grave has neither the harmony of a complete work, nor the individual interest of an episode. It consists of general descriptions and reflections thrown carelessly together, without either strengthening or brightening each other. Many passages, however, are striking and impressive of these it may not be uninteresting to specify a few. The picture of the schoolboy returning through the churchyard at night, is lively and natural; but the beautiful description of the moonlight chequering through the trees, was derived from the Theodosius of Nat Lee: "By a faint glimmer cheq'ring thro' the trees."-Act i. sc. 1.
Oft in the lone churchyard at night I've seen,
By glimpse of moonlight cheq'ring through the trees,
That walks at dead of night, or takes his stand
The name of Alexander suggests a sublime allusion to the vanity of human greatness, in the finest spirit of epic poetry:
Son of the morning! whither art thou gone!
Where hast thou hid thy many-spangled head,
Felt from afar.
A gorgeous funeral is painted with dramatic animation:
How rich the trappings, now they're all unfurled,
In glory scarce exceed. Great gluts of people
The portrait of the rich man, abandoned to the enjoyment of his possessions, and suddenly surprised by the approach of death, is conceived with a fearful solemnity, not unlike that which characterised some of our earlier divines. It might, indeed, have been imitated by Blair from the Eumenides of Eschylus, the magnificent comparison of human life to a torrent, in one of the sermons of Bossuet, or from a passage in the Alexander of Lee, with whose tragedies he seems to have been familiar :—
In that dread moment, how the frantic soul
"Blair," says Campbell, "may be a homely, and even a gloomy, poet, in the eyes of fastidious criticism, but there is a masculine and pronounced character even in his gloom and homeliness, that keeps it most distinctly apart from
dulness or vulgarity. His style pleases like the powerful expression of a countenance without regular beauty." This eulogy, it may be feared, is more ingenious than just. Blair, in several instances, falls into the lowest vulgarisms of diction, of which his apostrophe to Death as a “great man-eater," and the epithet "chopfallen," applied to a dying orator, will be sufficient examples. The "powerful expression" of poetical feature he certainly possessed. A single line, a word,-redeems a passage; and stamps it with the mark of genius. The Christian dying in peace in the evening of a life
Whose early care it was
His riper years should not upbraid his green. the widow lingering by her husband's grave, regardless of the passer-by;—the youth hesitating on the banks of the stream; the dissolution of a strong man ;-these, and other pictures, are drawn with a poet's hand. Johnson told Boswell that he read The Grave, in 1748, but did not like it much. The absence of rhyme would excite his displeasure, which the unpolished character of the poem naturally increased. The structure of the verse has no symmetry; and a musical pause is the result of accident. The revision of Doddridge was directed to the sentiments, rather than the rhythm. The genius of Blair was essentially dramatic, and in a story of violent passion he might have obtained applause,-where the effect is to be produced by hazardous dashes of the pencil, and the colouring is of inferior importance to the design*.
* Blair might have pleaded the authority of our greatest divines for many of those familiarities of expression that offend the severer taste of modern criticism. When he speaks of blabbing the secrets of the tomb, he could have called in the aid of Bishop Hall, who designates Fame "a blab, so ofttimes a liar."-Contemplations. Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
BLACKMORE, PARNELL, ADDISON,
THE writer of a biographical survey of religious poetry will be often obliged to pass over many names deserving and repaying attention. The Davideis of Cowley, and the Solomon of Prior, in the judgment of Cowper, the best of his works, might claim a chapter in the history of our verse. But the first lives in his beautiful and tender prose; and the second is remembered by every admirer of ingenious humour*.
It is more gratifying, as it is certainly more creditable, to linger by those tombs which the hand of affectionate criticism never dresses. To these belongs SIR RICHARD BLACKMORE, who, during a century and a half, has been a general theme of scorn and malevolence. Dryden opened the crusade by saying that he wrote to the rumbling of his chariot wheels; Swift followed closely after
• Mr. Green observes in his Diary, that the passage in Solomon, beginning "This problem," reminded him of parts of the Essay on Man; and he thought the following couplet,
And in the flowers that wreathe the sparkling bowl,
vivid and picturesque. Burke, he imagined to have been fond of Prior, having noticed several recollections of that poet in his works. Mr. Bowles suggests that Collins might have borrowed his dirge,"To fair Fidele's grassy tomb,"-from Prior's verses on the death of Mary, which it resembles, he thinks, not only in the turn of thought, but the music of the stanza. He quotes a fine verse descriptive of Britain preparing for war, while the king is lamenting the queen:
In martial din she drowns her sighs
But Prior probably borrowed the thought from Shakspeare.
him; Pope delighted to gall him with his sharpest sarcasm; and even the gentle and good-humoured Gay added his sting to the swarm. His friends only promoted the cause of his enemies,-when Watts wanted a poem abounding in "all the shining colours of profuse and florid diction," he selected King Arthur.
It was well for Blackmore that his character was sounder than his poetry. Under this accumulated weight of obloquy he has, descended to posterity; ridiculed, neglected, and despised. Modern readers could not be expected to admire the lineaments of a countenance which they had never seen except in the pillory. But of that work which Johnson included in his Collection of the English Poets, it might have been hoped that some notice would have been taken by a cultivated and reflective criticism. Addison had set the example, by turning from the examination of Paradise Lost to commend the beauty of the Creation of Blackmore. "I cannot," he says," conclude this Book upon the Creation, without mentioning a poem which has lately appeared under that title. The work was undertaken with so good an intention, and is executed with so great a mastery, that it deserves to be looked upon as one of the most useful and noble productions in our English verse. The reader cannot but be pleased to find the depths of philosophy enlivened with all the charms of poetry, and to see so great a strength of reason, amidst so beautiful a redundancy of the imagination. The author has shown us that design in all the works of nature which necessarily leads us to the knowledge of its First Cause. In short, he has illustrated, by numberless and incontestible instances, that Divine Wisdom which the son of Sirach has so nobly ascribed to the Supreme Being in his formation of the world, when