« PreviousContinue »
τον μεν επειτα
Τρητοις ἐν λεχέεσσι θεσαν, παρα δ' εισαν ἀοιδες,
There is fomething extremely folemn and affecting in Homer's defcription of this scene of forrow: a tranflator, who was touched with the leaft fpark of poetry, could not, one should imagine, but rise beyond himself, in copying after fo noble an original. It has not, however been able to elevate Mr. Congreve above his ufual flatness of numbers:
With care the body on a fumptuous bed,
It would be the highest injustice to the following lines to quote them in oppofition to those of Mr. Congreve: I produce them, as marked with a vein of poetry much fuperior even to the original: T 2
They weep, and place him on a bed of fate. A melancholy choir attend around
With plaintive fighs and mufic's folemn found: Alternately they fing, alternate flow
Th' obedient tears, melodious in their woe; While deeper forrows groan from each full heart,
And nature speaks at every pause of art.
THUS, Euphronius, I have brought before you fome of the most renowned of our British bards, contending, as it were, for the prize of poetry: and there can be no debate to whom it juftly belongs. Mr. Pope feems, indeed, to have raised our numbers. to the highest poffible perfection of ftrength and harmony: And, I fear, all the praise that the best succeeding poets can expect, as to their verfification, will be, that they have happily imitated his manner. &c.
OUR letter found me juft upon my return from an excurfion into Berkshire, where I had been paying a visit to a friend, who is drinking the waters at Sunning-hill. In one of my Morning rides over that delightful country, I accidentally paffed thro a little village, which afforded me much agreable meditation; as in times to come, perhaps, it will be vifited by the lovers of the polite arts, with as much veneration as Virgil's tomb, or any other celebrated spot of antiquity. The place I mean is Binfield, where the poet to whom I am indebted (in common with every reader of taste) for so much exquifite entertainment, spent the earliest part of his youth. I will not fcruple to confefs that I looked upon the scene where he planned fome of those beautiful performances which first recommended him to the notice of the world, with a degree of enthufiaím: and could not but confider the ground as facred that was impreffed
pressed with the footsteps of a genius that undoubtedly does the highest honor to our age and nation.
THE fituation of mind in which I found myself upon this occafion, fuggefted to my remembrance a paffage in Tully, which I thought I never fo thoroughly entered into the spirit of before. That noble author, in one of his philofophical converfation-pieces, introduces his friend Atticus as obferving the pleafing effect which scenes of this nature are wont to have upon one's mind: Movemur enim (fays that polite Roman) nefcio quo pacto, locis ipfis, in quibus eorum, quos diligimus aut admiramur, adfunt veftigia. Me quidem ipfæ illæ noftræ Athenæ, non tam operibus magnificis exquifitifque antiquorum artibus delectant, quam recordatione fummorum virorum, ubi quifque habitare, ubi federe, ubi difputare fit folitus.
THUS, you fee, I could defend myself by an example of great authority, were I in danger upon this occafion of being ridiculed as a romantic vifionary. But I am too well acquainted with the refined sentiments of Orontes, to be under any apprehenfion he will condemn the impreffions I have
here acknowledged. On the contrary, I have often heard you mention with approbation a circumftance of this kind which is related of Silius Italicus. The annual ceremonies which that poet performed at Virgil's fepulchre, gave you a more favora ble opinion of his tafte, you confefsed, than any thing in his works was able to raise.
Ir is certain that fome of the greatest names of antiquity have distinguished themfelves by the high reverence they fhewed to the poetical character. Scipio, you may remember, defired to be laid in the fame tomb with Ennius; and I am inclined to pardon that fuccefsful madman Alexander, many of his extravagancies, for the generous regard he paid to the memory of Pindar, at the facking of Thebes.
THERE feems, indeed, to be fomething in poetry, that raises the poffeffors of that very fingular talent, far higher in the estimation of the world in general, than those who excel in any other of the refined arts. And accordingly we find that poets, have been distinguished by antiquity with the moft remarkable honors. Thus Homer, we are told, was deified at Smyrna; as the citizens