Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

hope it should pass through the world half so uncensured as You have done. But let its fortune be what it will, mine is happy enough, to have given me this occasion of assuring you that I am, with the truest esteem,

Madam,
Your most obedient, humble servant,

A. POPE.

This Lady was also celebrated by Parnell in a poem not published by Pope, as follows, on her leaving London:

“ From town fair Arabella flies :

The beaux unpowder'd grieve;
The rivers play before her eyes ;
The breezes, softly-breathing, rise ;

The spring begins to live.
Her lovers swore, they must expire:

Yet quickly find their ease;
For, as she goes, their flames retire,
Love thrives before a nearer fire,

Esteem by distant rays.
Yet soon the fair-one will return,

When summer quits the plain ;
Ye rivers pour the weeping urn;
Ye breezes, sadly-sighing, mourn;

Ye lovers, burn again.
'Tis constancy enough in love

That nature's fairly shewn:
To search for more, will fruitless prove,
Romances and the turtle-dove,
That virtue boast alone.”

Warton.

[blocks in formation]

If the moderns have excelled the ancients in any species of writing, it seems to be in satire ; and, particularly in that kind of satire which is conveyed in the form of the epopee, a pleasing vehicle of satire, seldom, if ever, used by the ancients; for we know so little of the Margites of Homer, that it cannot well be produced as an example. As the poet disappears in this way of writing, and does not deliver the intended censure in his own proper person, the satire becomes more delicate, because more oblique. Add to this, that a tale or story more strongly engages and interests the reader, than a series of precepts or reproofs, or even of characters themselves, however lively or natural. An heroicomic

poem may therefore be justly esteemed the most excellent kind of satire. The invention of it is usually ascribed to Alessandro Tassoni; who, in the year 1612, published at Paris a poem composed by him, in a few months of the year 1611, entitled, La Secchia Rapita, or The Rape of the Bucket. To avoid giving offence, it was first printed under the name of Androvini Melisoni. It was afterwards reprinted at Venice, corrected, with the name of the author, and with some illustrations of Gasparo Salviani. But the learned and curious Crescembini, in his Istoria della Volgar Poesia, informs us, that it is doubtful whether the invention of the heroi-comic poem ought to be ascribed to Tassoni, or to Francesco Bracciolini, who wrote Lo Scherno degli Dei, which performance, though it was printed four years after La Secchia, is nevertheless declared, in an epistle prefixed, to have been written many years sooner. The real subject of Tassoni's poem was the war which the inhabitants of Modena declared against those of Bologna, on the refusal of the latter to restore to them some towns, which had been detained ever since the time of the Emperor Frederic II. The author artfully made use of a popular tradition, according to which it was believed, that a certain wooden bucket, which is kept at Modena, in the treasury of the cathedral, came from Bologna, and that it had been forcibly taken away by the Modenese. Crescembini adds, that because Tassoni had severely ridiculed the Bolognese, Bartolomeo Bocchini, to revenge his countrymen, printed, at Venice, 1641, a tragico-heroi-comic poem,

entitled, Le Pazzie dei Savi, ovvero, Il Lambertaccio, in which the Modenese are spoken of with much contempt. The Italians have a fine turn for works of humour, in which they abound. They have another poem of this species, called Malmantile Racquistato, written by Lorenzo Lippi, in the year 1676, which Crescembini highly commends, calling it, “ Spiritosissimo e leggiadrissimo poema giocoso.” It was afterwards reprinted at Florence, 1688, with the useful annotations of Puccio Lamoni, a Florentine painter, who was himself no contemptible poet. To these must be added, the lively and amusing poem called Ricciardetto. In the Adventurer, No. 133, I formerly endeavoured to shew the superiority of the moderns over the ancients, in all the species of ridicule, and to point out some of the reasons for this supposed superiority. It is a subject that deserves a much longer discussion. Among other reasons given, it is there said, that though democracies may be the nurses of true sublimity, yet monarchy and courts are more productive of politeness. Hence the arts of civility, and the decencies of conversation, as they unite men more closely, and bring them together more frequently, multiply opportunities of observing those incongruities and absurdities of behaviour, on which ridicule is founded. The ancients had more liberty and seriousness; the moderns more luxury and laughter In a word, our forms of government, the various consequent ranks in society, our commerce, manners, habits, riches, courts, religious controversies, intercourse

late

age of the world in which we live, and new arts, have opened sources of ridicule unavoidably unknown to the ancients.

The Rape of the Lock is the fourth, and most excellent of the heroi-comic poems. The subject was a quarrel, occasioned by a little piece of gallantry of Lord Petre, who, in a party of pleasure, found means to cut off a favourite lock of Mrs. Arabella Fermor's hair. On so slight a foundation has he raised this beautiful superstructure; like a Fairy palace in a desart. Pope was accustomed to say,

“what I wrote fastest always pleased most.” The first sketch of this exquisite piece, which Addison called Merum Sal, was written in less than a fortnight, in two Cantos only; but it was so universally applauded, that, in the next year, our poet enriched it with the machinery of the Sylphs, and extended it to five Cantos; when it was printed, with a Letter to Mrs. Fermor, far superior to any of Voiture. The insertion of the machinery of the

with women,

Sylphs in proper places, without the least appearance of its being aukwardly stitched in, is one of the happiest efforts of judgment and art. He took the idea of these invisible beings, so proper to be employed in a poem of this nature, from a little French book entitled, Le Comte de Gabalis, of which is given the following account, in an entertaining writer: “ The Abbé Villars, who came from Thoulouse to Paris, to make his fortune by preaching, is the author of this diverting work. The five dialogues of which it consists, are the result of those gay conversations, in which the Abbé was engaged, with a small circle of men, of fine wit and humour, like himself. When this book first appeared, it was universally read, as innocent and amusing. 'But at length its consequences were perceived, and reckoned dangerous, at a time when this sort of curiosities began to gain credit. Our devout preacher was denied the chair, and his book forbidden to be read. It was not clear whether the author intended to be ironical, or spoke all seriously. The second volume, which he promised, would have decided the question ; but the unfortunate Abbé was soon afterwards assassinated by ruffians, on the road to Lyons. The laughers gave out, that the Gnomes and Sylphs, disguised like ruffians, had shot him, as a punishment for revealing the secrets of the Cabala ; a crime not to be pardoned by these jealous spirits, as Villars himself has declared in his book."

Warton.

That poetry does not depend on the nature or choice of the subject, is a truth that never was more fully exemplified than in the following production. A circumstance of the most trivial kind--a lock of hair cut in familiar sport from the head of a Lady by one of her admirers; what are the materials for poetry that such an event affords? To Cowley it might have suggested some quaint witticisms or forced allusions ; to Waller or Suckling a metaphysical song; Dryden would have celebrated it in some strong lines, remarkable for their poetical spirit, and perhaps not less so for their indelicacy; whilst by the general tribe of poets, it never could have been extended further than to a smart epigram, or a frigid sonnet. What is it in the hands of Pope ? an animated and moving picture of human life and manners; a lively representation of the whims and follies of the times ; an important contest, in which we find ourselves deeply engaged; for the interest is so supported, the manner so ludicrously serious, the characters so marked and distinguished, the resentment of the heroine so natural, and the triumph of the conqueror so complete, that we unavoidably partake the emotions of the parties, and alternately sympathize, approve, or condemn.

We mount with the poet upon his Hippogryph, and resign ourselves to his guidance; till after conducting us through imaginary skies, and realms of fairy-land, he sets us down once more on the borders of reality; and we feel only surprize at the extent, the beauty, and the variety of the regions through which we have passed.

Dr. Warton has endeavoured to shew, that this style of writing was invented by the Italians; and in proof of it, has referred to the Secchia Rapita of Tassoni, and the Malmantile Racquistato of Lorenzo Lippi, with the Annotations of Paolo Minucci, (the real name of the author whom Dr. Warton mentions by his anagrammatic appellation of Puccio Lamoni) as also to the more recent poem of Ricciardetto, by Niccolo Forteguerra, of the first canto of which, Lord Glenbervie has lately favoured us with an English translation ; but the truth is, that these poems are in their nature essentially different from the Rape of the Lock, and most probably never once occurred to the author in the course of his labours. The most marked distinction is, that in the Italian poets, the wit and humour consist in the expression; in Pope, they are in the thought or conception. In the Italian poems, the subject is constantly rendered ridiculous, by an unintermitted succession of strange comparisons, singular proverbs, provincial idioms, and whimsical jests; intended to keep the reader in continual laughter. On the contrary, the poem of Pope is written in a style professedly serious, and with an elegance and propriety of diction not exceeded in any of his works. The reader does not laugh; but he enjoys perhaps an equal, and certainly a more refined and intellectual pleasure, in the delicacy of the allusions, the alternate approach and receding of fiction and reality, the fanciful beings that float upon his imagination, and the ever-shifting scene by which he is surrounded, In short, he is for a time, as it were, carried out of himself; whilst in the perusal of the Italian poems, he feels himself standing on the earth, and listening to a performer, who, by dint of jokes and grimaces, endeavours to keep him in perpetual good humour.

The only production that can, with any propriety, be placed in comparison with the Rape of the Lock, is the Lutrin of Boileau. This poem, which originated from a circumstance as trivial as that which gave rise to the former, affords no less striking a proof of

« EdellinenJatka »