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same feeling of effort. Johnson argues that the reason must be simply that the subject is different; the numbers are the same, but the meaning being different, we estimate the sound by the meaning. "The mind often governs the ear, and the sounds are estimated by their meaning.” Johnson forgets that the quantity of the vowels and the difficulty of the consonants affect the rhythm.

If I am to spend so much time over Pope's early poems, I to cover in twenty lectures the poetry of the four Georges ? I can, of course, in such a short course, attempt only to give you some idea of the leading artistic aims of poetry in that period, the poetic ideals, what the poets tried to do, what we are to look for in their poetry, and how they came to have these aims. And upon these enquiries we get much light from these early poems of Pope, because they were written under the direct influence of the arbiters of good taste in writing in his time. In the “Essay on Criticism ” he puts these standards of good taste into brilliant words, and so helped to perpetuate their influence. But their influence was exerted in many forms that could not be put into words, because the men of the time were not conscious of them.

One of the favorite ways of accounting for the barrenness of the eighteenth century is to say that the poets, influenced by Pope, were subject to narrow and exclusive rules of criticism, that they were slavishly subservient to the ancients, writing only according to these precedents, and that, consequently, their poetry was dull and artificial and wanting in nature. I believe this to be a shallow theory, held in entire ignorance of the great forces that control and shape the poetry of living generations of men. Reverence for the ancients, more particularly for the Roman ancients Virgil and Horace, was undoubtedly an influence in the time of Pope; but it was only a slight influence then, and in

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INFLUENCE OF THE ANCIENT POETS

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the subsequent generations of the century it was not an influence at all.

Let us see what exactly was meant by this subservience to the ancients. At first sight it would look as if Pope had no reverence for the ancients, but proposed to him. self quite an independent standard-namely, Nature :

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"First follow Nature, and your judgment frame
By her just standard, which is still the same:
Unerring Nature still divinely bright,
One clear, unchang'd, and universal light,
Life, force, and beauty must to all impart
At once the source, and end, and test of Art.
Art from that fund each just supply provides ;
Works without show, and without pomp presides."

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But, if we read on, we come upon several passages that seem to betray a slavish admiration for the ancients :

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"You then whose judgment the right course would steer,

Know well each Ancient's proper character ;
His fable, subject, scope in ev'ry page;
Religion, country, genius of his age ;
Without all these at once before your eyes,
Cavil you may, but never criticise.
Be Homer's works your study and delight,
Read them by day, and meditate by night;
Thence form your judgment, thence your maxims bring,
And trace the muses upward to their spring.
Still with itself compar'd, his text peruse,
And let your comment be the Mantuan muse.
When first young Maro in his boundless mind
A work t'outlast immortal Rome designed,

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Nature and Homer were, he found, the same.
Convinced, amaz’d, he checks the bold design ;
And rules as strict his labour'd work confine,
As if the Stagyrite o'erlook'd each line.
Learn hence for ancient rules a just esteem ;
To copy Nature is to copy them.”

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Again, in speaking of the breach of these rules, he declares :

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“But though the ancients thus their rules invade
(As kings dispense with laws themselves have made),
Moderns, beware! or if you must offend
Against the precept, ne'er transgress its end ;
Let it be seldom, and compell’d by need ;
And have, at least, their precedent to plead.
The critic else proceeds without remorse,
Seizes your fame, and puts his laws in force.”

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The case now seems very strong for Pope's subservience to the ancients. This is strengthened by looking at the general scope of his works. He spent ten years in translating Homer ; ten more in professedly imitating Horace.

But look a little deeper, and you will see that Pope craftily qualifies his subservience to the ancients. Their rules must be observed, but then their rules are very vague and general; there is much in the poet's art that they cannot teach ; and even if they are broken, success justifies the transgressor :

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“Some beauties yet no precepts can declare,

For there's a happiness as well as care.
Music resembles poetry, in each
Are nameless graces which no methods teach,
And which a master-hand alone can reach.
If where the rules not far enough extend
(Since rules were made but to promote their end),
Some lucky license answer to the full
Th’intent propos'd, that license is a rule.
Thus Pegasus, a nearer way to take,
May boldly deviate from the common track ;
From vulgar bounds with brave disorder part,
And snatch a grace beyond the reach of art.”

This is surely a sufficient declaration of independence.
Obey their rules when it suits you.

But then Pope goes on to allow this license only to

Thus critics of less judgment than caprice, CALFORIVA..
A HIT AT MECHANICAL CRITICS

41 ,be the ancients. “Moderns, beware," he says, and for this

interdict on the moderns he is severely censured by Mr. Elwin. If Mr. Elwin had had a little more nimbleness of spirit

, and consequently been able to understand the quick and subtle wit and sly humor of Pope, he might have seen that Pope was here laughing in his sleeve at mechanical critics :

"I know there are, to whose presumptuous thoughts
Those freer beauties, ev'n in them, seem faults,
Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
Still make the whole depend upon a part :
They talk of principles, but notions prize,
And all to one lov'd folly sacrifice.
Curious not knowing, not exact but nice,
Form short ideas; and offend in arts
(As most in manners) by a love to parts.”

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Pope, then, left himself full liberty to depart from the ancients when he chosemand he took it. Even his translation of Homer was a very free translation. “A. very fine poem, Mr. Pope, but it is not Homer," was Bentley's remark. His imitations of Horace are among his most original poems, according to Pattison ; and every-body will agree that they are most original.

Pope's submission to the ancient masters was not slavish or subservient. He studied them as great masters ought to be studied when they are not read simply for enjoyment. He studied them with a mind open to receive impulse and suggestion from their example.

Were Pope's eighteenth-century successors slavishly submissive to the ancients ? Pope died in 1744, when there was more than half of the century to run. I will not weary you with quotations, but I could quote many passages from Akenside, Gray, Churchill, to show that

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Pope's successors exalted Shakespeare, who broke many of Aristotle's rules,

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I have quoted already one passage from Hayley, late in the century, feeblest of poets, to show how little they were repressed by the rules of the ancients. Valiant protestation of contempt for rules is not always a sign of strength, but I don't think it was the rules of the ancients that kept down eighteenth-century poetry. A mechanical-minded ecclesiastical place-hunter-Mason -tried to write tragedies on the Greek model and failed. Was it wit? An outrageous admiration for brilliant expression, for highly polished epigram ? Well, even Pope did not consider that wit was every thing :

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“Some to conceit alone their taste confine,

And glitt'ring thoughts struck out at ev'ry line ;
Pleas'd with a work where nothing's just or fit ;
One glaring chaos and wild heap of wit.
Poets, like painters, thus unskill'd to trace
The naked nature and the living grace,
With gold and jewels cover ev'ry part,
And hide with ornaments their want of art.

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Others for language all their care express
And value books, as women men, for dress :
Their praise is still,—the style is excellent ;
The sense they humbly take upon content.
Words are like leaves ; and where they most abound,
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.”

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And after Pope we do not have much wit. There is nothing better than the coarse vigor of Churchill and the ribald buffoonery of Wolcot (Peter Pindar).

I don't think we can say that the eighteenth century failed in poetry because the energies of its verse-makers were directed to rhetorical brilliancy. Hayley and Mason and Darwin, the leading poets in the boyhood of

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