« PreviousContinue »
Dixit adhuc aliquid? Nil sane. Quid placet ergo ? "Lana Tarentino violas imitata veneno.
Ac ne fortè putes me, quæ facere ipse recusem,
Ut magus; et modò me Thebis, modò ponit
P Verùm age, et his, qui se lectori credere malunt,
voice by straining it to speak loud enough to be heard amidst the noise of the theatre. We must always recollect the vast extent of the ancient theatres, and the multitude of the audience and spectators. Warton.
Ver. 342. 'Tis he, who gives] These six following verses are much superior to the original, and some of the most forcible in our language. They contain the very end and essence of dramatic poetry. The scenes of most of the ancient tragedies were laid at Thebes or Athens.
This is a perfect and just idea of true and genuine poetry; to the exclusion of mere moral couplets and didactic lines of Horace's and Boileau's Satires and Epistles; the former of whom positively and directly disclaims all right and title to the name of poet, on the score of his ethic pieces alone.
are words we hear often repeated, but whose meaning is not extended and weighed as it ought to be. If by such a decision the ranks of rhymers should be diminished, the greater is the dignity of the few that remain in the field. We do not, it should seem, sufficiently attend to the difference there is betwixt a man of wit,. a man of sense, and a true poet. Donne and Swift were undoubtedly men of wit and men of sense; but what traces have they left of pure poetry?. It is remarkable that Dryden says of Donne: "He was the greatest wit, though not the greatest
"What shook the stage, and made the people
"Cato's "long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair."
Yet, lest you think I rally more than teach, Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach, Let me for once presume to instruct the times 340 To know the poet from the man of rhymes: 'Tis he, who gives my breast a thousand pains, Can make me feel each passion that he feigns; Enrage, compose, with more than magic art, With pity, and with terror, tear my heart; 345 And snatch me, o'er the earth, or through the air, To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.
PBut not this part of the poetic state, Alone, deserves the favour of the great:
poet of this nation." Which of these characters is the most valuable and useful is entirely out of the question; all we plead for is, to have their several provinces kept distinct from each other. Warton.
Ver. 348. this part of the poetic state,] "The excellence of our dramatic writers is by no means equal in number to the great men that we have produced in other walks. Theatric genius lay dormant after Shakespear; waked with some bold and glorious, but irregular and often ridiculous, flights in Dryden; revived in Otway; maintained a placid, pleasing kind of dignity in Rowe; and even shone in his Jane Shore. It trod in sublime and classic fetters in Cato, but void of nature or the power of affecting the passions. In Southerne it seemed a genuine ray of nature and Shakespear; but falling on an age still more Hottentot, was stifled in those gross and barbarous productions, tragi-comedies. It turned to tuneful nonsense in the Mourning Bride: grew stark mad in Lee, whose cloak, a little the worse for wear, fell on
Quàm spectatoris fastidia ferre superbi,
Curam impende brevem: si munus Apolline dig
Vis complere libris, et vatibus addere calcar,
'Multa quidem nobis facimus mala sæpe poëtæ, (Ut vineta egomet cædam mea,) cùm tibi librum *Solicito damus, aut fesso: cum lædimur, 'unum Si quis amicorum est ausus reprêndere versum: Cùm loca jam "recitata revolvimus irrevocati : Cùm lamentamur non apparere labores Nostros, et tenui deducta poëmata filo; Cùm 'speramus eò rem venturam, ut, simul atque
Young; yet in both it was still a poet's cloak. It recovered its senses in Hughes and Fenton, who were afraid it should relapse, and accordingly kept it down with a timid, but amiable hand, and then it languished. We have not mounted again above the two last."-Walpole's Observations.
From this account of dramatic poets by the late Lord Orford, Dr. Warton very properly excepts the tragedy of Douglas. I may be here permitted to pay a similar tribute to the excellent tragedies of Miss Baillie, which abound in rich description, eloquent language, and genuine pathos. Bowles.
Ver. 350. Think of those authors, Sir,] Augustus being greatly and exclusively fond of dramatic poets alone, Horace puts in a word of recommendation for those of another species. The good prince, to whom our author was writing, was equally indifferent to poets of all kinds and sorts, and asked, when some body was highly praising Milton: "Why did he not write his Paradise Lost in prose!"
Ver. 354. a library] Munus Apolline dignum. The Palatine library, then building by Augustus. Pope.
Ver. 355. Merlin's cave] A building in the royal gardens of Richmond, where is a small, but choice collection of books. Pope.
Think of those authors, Sir, who would rely 350 More on a reader's sense, than gazer's eye.
Or who shall wander where the Muses sing? Who climb their mountain, or who taste their spring?
How shall we fill a 'library with wit,
When Merlin's Cave is half unfinish'd yet?
My liege! why writers little claim your thought, I guess; and with their leave, will tell the fault : We 'poets are (upon a poet's word)
Of all mankind, the creatures most absurd;
To mention Merlin's Cave, for the Palatine library, heightens the ridicule. Warton.
Ver. 366. Repeat unask'd;] Unavoidably weaker than the original, loco jam recitata; public recitations before great audiences, collected for that purpose, being common at Rome (see many Epistles in Pliny,) to which we have no custom that can answer in an imitation. Juvenal, in a well known passage, laughs at Statius's reciting his Thebaid:
"Curritur ad vocem jucundam," &c.
Carmina rescieris nos fingere, commodus ultrò
Ver. 379. Laureat's weighty place.] It became a fashion for all the admirers and followers of Pope to join with him in condemning Colley Cibber. Dr. Johnson wrote a very pointed Epigram on this subject, which was also equally severe on George the Second:
Augustus still survives in Maro's strain,
Ver. 380. Charles, to late times, &c.] In the third volume of the Catholic Church History of England, printed at Brussels, 1742, fol. there is a curious anecdote concerning this matter, taken from an Italian MS. of the Memoirs of Panzani, the Pope's agent : "Before Panzani set out on his journey, (to England,) which was about the year 1635, her Majesty wrote a letter to Cardinal Barberini; wherein, amongst other things, she desired he would use his interest with the famous sculptor, Cavalier Bernini, that he would cut two bustos; one of the king, the other of herself: which were to be brought over by Panzani, alleging that her husband