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made up of nothing but bowling-greens, flowering shrubs, horse-ponds, Fleet ditches, shell-grottoes, and Chinese rails.”

I might multiply quotations to show that neither Shakespeare nor Nature was undervalued by the poets of the generation after Pope's. If their poetry was limited in amount and narrow in quality, it was not for want of a taste for better things. Criticism, in short, was busy preparing the way for the reception of a new race of poets by augmenting dissatisfaction with the poetry of the time, and creating a taste for something different. We see this spirit two generations after Pope, even in the works of the weak and amiable Hayley. Hayley was not a self-satisfied driveller; he was painfully conscious of his own weakness, feeling, as he said himself :

“Whene'er I touch the lyre My talents sink below my proud desire.” We must not look upon him as a failure owing to the benumbing influence of narrow criticism. He repudiated critical authority in most valiant words. He denounced the “Classic Bigot” and “System's Haughty Son” as earnestly as the blindest disciple of the Lakers :

“. Thou wilt not hold me arrogant or vain,

If I advise the young poetic train
To deem infallible no Critic's word ;
Not even the dictates of thy Attic Hurd :
No ! not the Stagyrite's unquestioned page,
The Sire of critics, sanctified by age !


How oft, my Romney, have I known thy vein
Swell with indignant heat and gen'rous pain,
To hear, in terms both arrogant and tame,
Some reas'ning Pedant on thy Art declaim ;
Its laws and limits when his sov’reign taste
With firm precision has minutely traced,
And in the close of a decisive speech
Pronounc'd some point beyond the Pencil's reach,
How has thy Genius, by one rapid stroke,
Refuted all the sapient things he spoke !



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Thy Canvas placing, in the clearest light,
His own Impossible before his sight !
O might the Bard who loves thy mental fire,
Who to thy fame attun'd his early lyre,
Learn from thy Genius, when dull Fops decide,
So to refute their systematic pride !
Let him, at ist,

Poets warn
To view the Pedant's lore with doubt or scorn,
And e'en to question, with a spirit free,
Establish'd Critics of the first degree !

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It was in the revival of the grand Epio that Hayley saw a possible future for Poetry, and Mason seemed to him the destined hero of this regeneration.


“Ill-fated Poesy ! as human worth,

Prais’d, yet unaided, often sinks to earth ;
So sink thy powers ; not doom'd alone to know
Scorn, or neglect, from an unfeeling Foe,
But destin'd more oppressive wrong to feel
From the misguided Friend's perplexing zeal.


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He examines the received opinion that supernatural agency is necessary to the Epic, and denounces and derides all systematic rules. A great Epic might be achieved if the subject were taken from British history,

" By some strange fate, which ruld each Poet's tongue,

Her dearest Worthies yet remain unsung.
Critics there are, who, with a scornful smile,
Reject the annals of our martial Isle,

And, dead to patriot Passion, coldly deem
They yield for lofty Song no touching theme.
What I can the British heart, humanely brave,
Feel for the Greek who lost his female slave ?
And shall it not with keener zeal embrace
Their brighter cause, who, born of British race,
With the strong cement of the blood they spilt,
The splendid fane of British Freedom built?”

Liberty, brooding over this neglect, invites Mason to undertake the task.

Justly on thee th' inspiring Goddess calls ;
Her mighty task each weaker Bard appalls ;
'Tis thine, O Mason ! with unbaffled skill,
Each harder duty of our Art to fill ;
'Tis thine in robes of beauty to array,
And in bright Order's lucid blaze display,
The forms that Fancy, to thy wishes kind,
Stamps on the tablet of thy clearer mind.
How softly sweet thy notes of pathos swell,
The tender accents of Elfrida tell;
Caractacus proclaims, with Freedom's fire,
How rich the tone of thy sublimer Lyre;
E'en in this hour, propitious to thy fame,
The rural Deities repeat thy name ;
With festive joy I hear the sylvan throng
Hail the completion of their favourite Song."

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I think I have quoted enough to show you that the eighteenth-century poets were not, on principle at least, enamoured of trimness and primness in art, or insensible to the wild irregular strength and beauty of nature. They did not of set choice and with deliberate acquiescence confine themselves to a low range of imagination, looking up from their comfortable artifical gardens with supercilious or cynical contempt on the loftier flights of poetry. If the age was comparatively barren of the higher poetry, the explanation is not to be found in the predominance of narrow and exclusive critical theoriesopline




If you take a cursory glance at the list of Pope's works and their subjects, you will see that they fall naturally into three divisions or periods : (1) The poems by which he acquired his reputation, his “Pastorals," his “ Windsor Forest,” his “Essay on Criticism," his "Rape of the Lock”-all written during the reign of Queen Anne ; (2) his translations of Homer, by which he enlarged his reputation and his fortune, bis principal occupation during the reign of George I.; (3) the satirical and moral poems, with which he crowned his reputation, and seriously compromised his character. This is an obvious division, apparent on the surface; and if

you look deeper, you will find that there is more justification for it than there generally is. There is often a disadvantage in dividing the works of an artist into periods ; it is often misleading. You are apt to imagine that at each period a complete transformation has passed over the style or the spirit of the man's work; that he has become a new creation, working with entirely different aims and powers; and that the work of each period is sharply marked off from that of every other. There is a tendency in this way to break up and disperse the individuality of the man, to confuse his identity. Now, the artist is himself in all periods ;

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in any period he is more like himself than like any body else ; any two periods of his work have more in common with each other than they have with any period of another man's work, supposing him to be a great artist, an artist of marked and masterful individuality. It only happens that some men at certain stages come under new influences from without, or new impulses from within, the effect of which is distinctly traceable in their work, though not to the extent of blurring their individuality. This happens more or less to all men, but it is only when the new influence becomes for the time paramount that there is any advantage in separating the whole productions of a man's lifetime into periods. When the development has been slow and equable, as in the case of Chaucer, or Shakespeare, or Gray, or Wordsworth, or Tennyson, when the course of the poet's activity has received no violent and sudden bent from new circumstances or new impulses, there is no advantage in dividing his work into periods.

In the case of Pope circumstances did interfere materially with the direction of his poetic labors, and two important epochs or turning-points can be distinctly specified. The first was when his early successes transferred him from the influences of his father's family and his home circle of acquaintances to the very different world of London society, when boyish ambitions and enthusiasms underwent a transformation. If these ambitions had been allowed free play, he would not have translated Homer. This was a money-making enterprise, instigated by the worldly spirit that then passed into him from new and fashionable acquaintances. The second epoch was when his independence had been secured by the success of his translations, and he was free to follow the guidance and stimulation of his friends Arbuthnot, Swift, and Bolingbroke, and abandoned his powers to the service of personal and party strife.

Pope was born in the year of the Revolution, 1688.

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