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our author is awakened at feeing a venerable perfonage of great authority; and thus the vifion abruptly concludes.
"Pope has imitated this piece with his ufual elegance of diction and harmony of verfification; but, in the mean time, he has not only mifreprefented the ftory, but marred the character of the poem. He has endeavoured to correct its extravagancies by new refinements and additions of another caft; but he did not confider that extravagancies are effential to a poem of such a structure, and even conftitute its beauties. An attempt to unite order and exactnefs of imagery with a subject formed on principles fo profeffedly romantic and anomalous, is like giving Corinthian pillars to a Gothic palace. When I read Pope's elegant imitation of this piece, I think I am walking among the modern monuments unfuitably placed in Westminster Abbey.”
HISTORY OF ENGLISH POETRY, vol. ii. T. WARTON. Little can be added to T. Warton's maiterly appreciation of the characteristic merit of this poem; may I be just allowed to mention, that there is lefs harmony of verfification in this poem, than in most of the preceding; particularly the Rape of the Lock, Elegy to an Unfortunate Lady, and, above all, the Epiftle of Eloifa. The paufe is too generally at the end of the line, and on the fourth and fifth fyllable.
Pope has not quoted the fimile taken from Chaucer's 2d book:
if that thou
"Throw in a water, now a stone
"Well wot't thou it will make anon
Chaucer, with a bolder perfonification, fends for Eolus, "that king of Thrace," from "his cave of ftone," to found his "trumpe of golde." Pope bids.
-The MUSES raise
"The golden trumpet of eternal praise."
Thefe circumstances may defignate, in fome measure, the character of either Poem. I must confefs, I think there can be no comparison between the bold trumpe of Æolus,
"Which he fets to his mouth,
"And blows it, East, and North, and South,”
and the delicate, but lefs animated, tone of the Mufes, in Pope.
THE ftory of January and May now before us is of the comic kind; and the character of a fond old dotard betrayed into dif grace by an unfuitable match is supported in a lively manner. Pope has endeavoured fuitably to familiarize the ftatelinefs of our heroic measure in this ludicrous narrative; but, after all his pains, this measure is not adapted to such subjects fo well as the lines of four feet, or the French numbers of Fontaine. Fontaine is, in truth, the capital and unrivalled writer of comic tales. He generally took his fubjects from Boccace, Poggius, and Ariosto; but adorned them with so many natural strokes, with fuch quaintness in his reflections, and fuch a drynefs and archness of humour, as cannot fail to excite laughter.
Our Prior has happily caught his manner in many of his lighter tales, particularly in Hans Carvel; the invention of which, if its genealogy be worth tracing, is firft due to Poggius. It is found in the hundred and thirty-third of his Facetia, where it is entitled, Vifio Francifci Philelphi; from hence Rabelais inferted it under another title, in his third book and twenty-eighth chapter. It was afterwards related in the book called the Hundred Novels. Ariosto finishes the fifth of his incomparable fatires with it. Malefpini alfo made ufe of it. Fontaine, who imagined Rabelais to be the inventor of it, was the fixth author who delivered it, as our Prior was the laft, and perhaps not the leaft fpirited. Of the tale before us, Mr. Tyrwhitt gives the following account: "The fcene of the Merchant's Tale is laid in Italy; but none of the names, except Damian and Juftin, feem to be Italian, but rather made at pleasure ; fo that I doubt whether the ftory be really of Italian growth, The adventure of the Pear-tree I find in a small collection of Latin fables, written by one Adolphus, in elegiac verfes of his fafhion, in the year 1315. This fable has never been printed but once, and in a book not commonly to be met with.
"Whatever was the real original of this tale, the machinery of the Fairies, which Chaucer has ufed fo happily, was probably add. ed by himself; and indeed I cannot help thinking that his Pluto and Proferpine were the true progenitors of Oberon and Titania,
or rather that they themselves have, once at least, designed to revisit our poetical fyftem under the latter names. "In the Hiftory of English Poetry, vol. i. p. 421, this is faid to be an old Lombard ftory." But many paffages in it are evidently taken from the Polycraticon of John of Salisbury. De moleftiis et oneribus conjugiorum fecundum Hieronymum et alios philofophos. Et de pernicie libidinis. Et de mulieris Ephefinæ et fimilium fide. And by the way, about forty verses belonging to this argument are translated from the same chapter of the Polycraticon, in the Wife of Bath's prologue. In the mean time it is not improbable that this tale might have originally been Oriental. A Perfian tale is juft published which it extremely refembles; and it has much of the allegory of an Eaftern apologue."
The author adds, that the Miller's Tale, in Chaucer, excels all his other tales in true and exquifite humour,