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opinion, it has loft its principal grace and efficacy, and seems to be, in general, the most cold and uninteresting method in which a poet can work up his fentiments. What, for inftance, can be more unaffecting and spiritless, than the compliment which Boileau has paid to Louis the XIVth on his famous paffage over the Rhine? He represents the Naiads, you may remember, as alarming the god of that river with an account of the march of the French monarch; upon which the river-god affumes the appearance of an old experienced commander, and flies to a Dutch fort, in order to exhort the garrifon to fally out and difpute the intended paffage. Accordingly they range themfelves in form of battle with the Rhine at their head, who, after fome vain efforts, obferving Mars and Bellona on the fide of the enemy, is fo terrified with the view of thofe fuperior divinities, that he most gallantly runs away, and leaves the hero in quiet poffeffion of his banks, I know not how far this may be relished by critics, or juftified by custom; but as I am only mentioning my particular taste, I will
will acknowledge, that it appears to me extremely infipid and puerile.
I HAVE not however fo much of the spirit of Typhoeus in me, as to make war upon the gods without restriction, and attempt to exclude them from their whole poetical dominions. To reprefent natural, moral, or intellectual qualities and affections as perfons, and appropriate to them those general emblems by which their powers and properties are usually typified in pagan theology, may be allowed as one of the most pleasing and graceful figures of poetical rhetoric. When Dryden, addreffing himself to the month of May as to a perfon, fays,
For thee the Graces lead the dancing Hours; one may confider him as fpeaking only in metaphor: and when such shadowy beings are thus just shewn to the imagination, and immediately withdrawn again, they certainly have a very powerful effect. But I can relish them no farther than as figures only: when they are extended in any serious compofition beyond the limits of metaphor, and exhibited under all the various actions of real
real perfons, I cannot but confider them as fo many abfurdities, which custom has unreasonably authorized. Thus Spenfer, in one of his Paftorals, reprefents the god of Love as flying, like a bird, from bough to bough. A fhepherd, who hears a rustling among the bufhes, fuppofes it to be fome game, and accordingly difcharges his bow. Cupid returns the fhot, and after feveral arrows had been mutually exchanged between them, the unfortunate fwain difcovers whom it is he is contending with: but as he is endeavoring to make his escape, receives a desperate wound in the heel. This fiction makes the fubject of a very pretty idyllium in one of the Greek poets: yet is extremely flat and difgufting as it is adopted by our British bard. And the reafon of the difference is plain: in the former it is fupported by a popular fuperftition; whereas no strain of imagination can give it the least air of probability, as it is worked up by the latter: Quodcunque mihi oftendis fic, incredulus odi.
I MUST confess at the fame time, that the inimitable Prior has introduced this fabulous
bulous scheme with fuch uncommon grace, and has paid fo many genteel compliments to his mistress by the affiftance of Venus and Cupid, that one is carried off from obferving the impropriety of this machinery, by the pleafing address with which he manages it: and I never read his tender poems of this kind, without applying to him what Seneca fomewhere fays upon a fimilar occafion: Major ille eft qui judicium abftulit, quam qui meruit.
To speak my opinion in one word, I would leave the gods in full poffeffion of allegorical and burlesque poems: in all "others I would never fuffer them to make their appearance in perfon and as agents, but to enter only in fimile, or allufion. It
is thus Waller, of all our poets, has most
happily employed them and his appli
-cation of the story of Daphne and Apollo will ferve as an inftance, in what manner
the antient mythology may be adopted with the utmost propriety and beauty. Adieu.
Auguft 8, 1741.
I this letter
KNOW not in what difpofition of mind may find you; but I am sure
you will not preferve your ufual chearful
ness of temper when I tell you that poor Hydafpes died last night.
I WILL not at this time attempt to offer that confolation to you, of which I stand in fo much need myself. But may it not fomewhat abate the anxiety of our mutual grief, to reflect, that however confiderable our own lofs is, yet with refpect to himself, it fcarce deferves to be lamented that he arrived fo much earlier at the than grave his years and his health feemed to promise? For who, my friend, that has any experience of the world, would wish to extend his duration to old age? what indeed is length of days but to furvive all one's enjoyments, and, perhaps, to furvive even 'one's very self? I have somewhere met with an ancient inscription founded upon this fentiment, which infinitely pleased me. It