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cilia: I have been so struck with the subject which occurred to me, that I could not leave it till I had completed it: here it is, finished at one sitting." And immediately he shewed him this ode, which places the British lyric poetry above that of any other nation. This anecdote, as true as it is curious, was imparted by Lord Bolingbroke to POPE, by POPE to Mr. Gilbert West, by him to the ingenious friend who communicated it to me.* The rapidity, and yet the perspicuity, of the thoughts, the glow and the expressiveness of the images, those certain marks of the first sketch of a master, conspire to corroborate the truth of the fact.
THE TRANSLATION of the first Book of Statius is the next piece that belongs to this Section. It was in his childhood only that he could make choice of so injudicious a writer. It were to be wished, that no youth of genius were suffered ever to look into Statius, Lucan, Claudian, or
Richard Berenger, Esq.
↑ Writers of this stamp are always on the stretch. They disdain the natural: they are perpetually grasping at the vast,
Seneca the tragedian; authors, who, by their forced conceits, by their violent metaphors, by their swelling epithets, by their want of a just decorum, have a strong tendency to dazzle and to mislead inexperienced minds, and tastes unformed, from the true relish of possibility, propriety, simplicity, and nature. Statius had undoubtedly invention, ability, and spirit; but his images are gigantic and outrageous, and his sentiments tortured and hyperbolical. It can hardly, I think, be doubted, but that Juvenal intended a severe satire on him, in these well known lines, which have been commonly interpreted as a panegyric:
Curritur ad vocem jucundam et carmen amica
the wonderful, and the terrible. “ Καν έκαςον αυτών προς αυγας ανασκοπης, εκ τε φοβερε κατ' ολίγον ύπονοςει προς το ευκαταφρόνητον. — Κακοι δε ογκοι, και επι σωμάτων και λόγων, οι χαυνοι και αναληθείς, και μηποτε περιιςαντες ήμας εις τεναντιον υδεν γαρ φασι, ξηροτερον ὑδρωπικό.” Longinus, pies T. y. Sect. iii. They should read the sensible discourse of S. Wedrenfels, of Basle, De Meteoris Orationis.
In these verses are many expressions, here marked with italics, which seem to hint obliquely, that Statius was the favourite poet of the vulgar, who were easily captivated with a wild and inartificial tale, and with an empty magnificence of numbers; the noisy roughness of which may be particularly alluded to in the expression, fregit subsellia versu. One cannot forbear reflecting on the short duration of a true taste in poetry among the Romans. From the time of Lucretius, to that of Statius, was no more than about one hundred and forty-seven years; and if I might venture to pronounce so rigorous a sentence, I would say, that the Romans can boast of but eight poets who are unexceptionably excellent; namely, TERENCE, LUCRETIUS, CATULLUS, VIRGIL, HORACE, TIBULLUS, PROPERTIUS, PHEDRUS. These only can be called legitimate models of just thinking and writing. Succeeding authors, as it happens in all countries, resolving to be original and new, and to avoid the imputation of copying, became distorted and unnatural by endeavouring to open an unbeaten path, they deserted simplicity and truth: weary of common and obvious beauties, they must needs
needs hunt for remote and artificial decorations. Thus was it that the age of Demetrius Phalerëus succeeded that of Demosthenes; and the false relish of Tiberius's court, the chaste one of Augustus. Among the various causes, however, that have been assigned, why poetry and the arts have more eminently flourished in some particular ages and nations than in others, few have been satisfactory and adequate, What solid reason can we give why the Romans, who so happily imitated the Greeks in many respects, and breathed a truly tragic spirit, could yet never excel in tragedy, though so fond of theatrical spectacles? Or why the Greeks, so fruitful in every species of poetry, yet never produced but one great epic poet? While, on the other hand, modern Italy can shew two or three illustrious epic writers, yet has no Sophocles, Euripides, or Menander. And France, without having formed a single Epopëa, has carried dramatic poetry to so high a pitch of perfection in Corneille, Racine, and Moliere.
For a confirmation of the foregoing remark on Statius, and for a proof of the strength and spiC 4 rit
rit of POPE's youthful translation, I shall select
the following passage:
He sends a monster horrible and fell,
Oedipus, in Statius, behaves with the fury of a blustering bully; in Sophocles,† with that patient submission, and pathetic remorse, which are suited to his lamentable condition,
Art thou a father, unregarding Jove!
*B. I. ver. 705.
+ See his address to the furies in the Edipus Coloneus of Sophocles, beginning at the words, Torviai deivwπes, at verse 85, down to verse 117. And afterwards, when he becomes more particularly acquainted with the unnatural cruelty of his sons, yet his resentment is more temperate. See verse 433 down to verse 472, of the same most enchanting tragedy,