« PreviousContinue »
He from the taste obscene reclaims our youth,
sora, of Constantia and Theodosius, and many most beautiful allegories. The author, who called his Campaign a gazette in rhyme, never meant to deny that there were many very brilliant passages in this poem. The regular march from place to place, which he followed, like the route of a muster-master-general, was all that was pointed at. See Boileau, Art. Poet. Warton.
Ver. 217. He from the taste obscene, &c.] This, in imitation of his original, refers to the true poet :
and likewise to Mr. Addison's papers in the Tallers, Spectators, and Guardians; the character of which is given in the preceding But the excellence of the papers called the Spectator, may be best gathered from their breaking through party madness, at their birth, and, like the infant Hercules, in the fable of the two snakes, strangling the rage both of the Whig and Tory papers. The fact is too important not to be delivered to posterity. had inflamed party rage into madness, by his Examiners, where all the heads of the Whig interest found their characters torn in pieces, and treated in the most cruel and unjust manner. The Tatler, till then the delight of the public, was no longer heard; and the efforts of Steele's indiscreet zeal to turn it into a partypaper, did not succeed. So the Tatler soon became silent, as no longer inspired by Mr. Addison, who disliked that foolish attempt. But relying on his strength, and supported by the honesty of his intentions, he resolved to try whether it was possible to soften the savage rage of party, by calling off the public attention to it, and 'fixing it on those amiable lucubrations, with a few of which, the world had been so lately charmed in the Tatler. It was this, and, at the same time, to keep his friend Steele out of mischief, which made him espouse the projected paper of the Spectator. His constant assistance in it had a wonderful effect. It was indeed the
Asperitatis, et invidiæ corrector, et iræ;
full effort of the finest and most original genius in this way of writing. Yet whoever now reflects upon the success at that critical juncture, cannot be less struck with it, than men were at that time. Swift, as appears by his letters lately published, was surprized at the extraordinary success. It mortified his pride, that Mr. A. could draw the public attention from party-matters, when managed by him, where he shone without a rival. He frequently drops hints of his uneasiness that Whigs and Tories were unanimous in the applauses they gave to the Spectator; and invidiously represents it as a woman's paper, and patronised chiefly by the ladies. Warburton.
Ver. 220. And pours each] All this Addison has accomplished in an eminent and unequalled degree in his prose writings; but propriety required that the example should have been given, not from writings in prose, but verse. Pope has here deserted and deviated from his original, and put a change on his readers. I will just add, that Addison said he had taken the admirable character of Vellum from the Scornful Lady. Warton.
Pope has not expressly referred either to the prose or verse of Addison; and the reader may therefore apply the commendation to either, or include both, according to his own judgment.
Ver. 224. "The rights a court attack'd,] For this passage our author was threatened with a prosecution.
Ver. 226. the idiot and the poor,] A foundation for the maintenance of idiots, and a fund for assisting the poor, by lending small sums of money on demand.
Ver. 229. who merit other palms;] Horace, in the seven lines
Let Ireland tell, how wit upheld her cause,
Her trade supported, and supplied her laws; And leave on SWIFT this grateful verse engraved : "The rights a court attack'd, a poet saved."
Behold the hand that wrought a nation's cure, 225
Stretch'd to relieve the idiot and the poor,
Proud vice to brand, or injured worth adorn,
of the original, Castis cum pueris, &c. is perfectly serious, aud Pope has indulged a vein of ill-placed humour and pleasantry, in laughing at poor Sternhold and Hopkins, and Psalm-singing in country churches. A very accurate and entertaining account is given in the History of English Poetry, of this musical version of the Psalms, which was made after the model of Clement Marot, who, about the year 1570, hoped to have introduced a spirit of devotion into the court of Francis I. by substituting divine hymns instead of chansons d'amour, among the ladies and nobility. And Thomas Sternhold, a native of Hampshire, and educated at Winchester college, hoped to do the same in the court of Edward VI. to whom he was a groom of the bed-chamber. His coadjutor was John Hopkins, a schoolmaster in Suffolk, who translated fiftyeight of the Psalms; and another assistant was William Whyttingham, dean of Durham, who also versified the Decalogue, the Nicene, Apostolic, and Athanasian Creeds. And Thomas Norton, who joined with Lord Buckhurst in writing the tragedy of Gorboduc, joined also in this work, and turned into metre twentyseven Psalms. History of English Poetry, vol. iii. p. 168, by Thomas Warton. Warton.
Avertit morbos, metuenda pericula pellit;
Impetrat et pacem, et locupletem frugibus annum.
Ver. 240. by violence of song.] Dr. Brown, an able judge of music, says, that the performance of our parochial psalms, though in the villages it be often as mean and meagre as the words that are sung, yet in great towns, where a good organ is skilfully and devoutly employed by a sensible organist, the union of this instrument with the voices of a well-instructed congregation, forms one of the grandest scenes of unaffected piety that human nature can afford. The reverse of this appears, when a company of illiterate people form themselves into a choir distinct from the congregation. Here devotion is lost between the impotent vanity of those who sing, and the ignorant wonder of those who listen. But Mr. Mason has exhausted this subject in his and elegant Essay on Psalmody.
Verse cheers their leisure, verse assists their work,
The silenced preacher yields to potent strain,
Our rural ancestors, with little blest, Patient of labour when the end was rest, Indulged the day that housed their annual grain, With feasts and offerings, and a thankful strain : The joy their wives, their sons, and servants share, Ease of their toil, and partners of their care: The laugh, the jest, attendants on the bowl, Smooth'd every brow, and open'd every soul: With growing years the pleasing licence grew, And 'taunts alternate innocently flew. But times corrupt, and nature, ill-inclined, Produced the point that left a sting behind; Till friend with friend, and families at strife, Triumphant malice raged through private life. Who felt the wrong, or fear'd it, took the alarm, Appeal'd to law, and justice lent her arm. At length, by wholesome "dread of statutes bound, The poets learn'd to please, and not to wound : Most warp'd to 'flattery's side; but some, more
Preserved the freedom, and forebore the vice. 260