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contemporary wit remarked that the poet “had taken a
»* Thomson also wrote for the stage, but without
Thomson must be acknowledged to be one of the
And his influence reached into our own
This was said of the tra
A word or two on another poet, also nourished by influences outside Pope's circle, but, unlike Thomson, never brought within that circle, John Dyer. He was the son of a Welsh solicitor, but abandoned the law himself for painting and poetry, and in his early manhood apparently wandered about South Wales as an itinerant painter, rhyming as he went. He was born in the same year with Thomson, and his first and best poem, "Grongar Hill," appeared in Lewis's Miscellany in 1726, in the same year with Thomson's “ Winter." It is a sweet little descriptive poem, in the four-accent measure of Milton's “L’Allegro,” as pure and fresh and clear in its vision of natural objects as any thing written by any of the Lakers, and exquisitely musical in its numbers. It is Wordsworthian also in its moralizing:
ser, He 011
VE nd zis th
' And see the rivers how they run
See on the mountain's southern side,
In the course of his wanderings as a painter Dyer went to Rome, and on his return in 1740 published a
The Ruins of Rome.” It is in blank verse, most musical in its rhythm, and exquisitely deli. cate and precise in phrase and epithet ; but its declamatory apostrophes and exclamations strike us now as somewhat antiquated ; and its moralizing vein of melancholy sentiment may be said to bave been superseded for this century by Byron's stanzas in “ Childe Harold” on the ruins of Athens.
The following lines on Modern Rome will sufficiently illustrate his treatment of blank verse :
“Behold by Tiber's flood, where modern Rome
Couches beneath the ruins : there of old
On his return to England Dyer entered the Church, and reappeared seventeen years later with another poem, also in blank verse, “ The Fleece.” The first lines will give you an idea of the subject :
“The care of sheep, the labours of the loom,
And arts of trade, I sing."
This poem, and Somerville's "Chase," a didactic poem on hunting (1735), may be numbered among the discursive didactic poems called into being by the success of Thomson's “Seasons." Where Dyer treats of soils, and pastures, and breeds of sheep, and prohibitive legislation against the export of wool, and fulling, and weaving, and dyeing, and the foreign trade in wool, he becomes more technical than most readers of poetry are prepared for ; but intermixed with these technicalities are some of the most exquisite passages of description in the language. You can easily get at them by means of the argument. If all the four books had been like these, we could understand Akenside's saying "that he would regulate his opinion of the reigning taste by Dyer's *Fleece'; for if that were ill received, he should not think it any longer reasonable to expect fame from excellence."
AS A SATIRIST AND MORALIST-FAILURE IN EPIC POETRY
DUNCIAD ESSAY ON MAN
WE have to deal to-day with Pope as a satirist and a moralist. His “ Dunciad” (1728), his “Essay on Man (1732-34), “Moral Essays” (1735), and his “Imitations of Horace” (1733–37) were the great literary events of the fifteen years after the publication of Thomson's "Seasons," and showed the author in a new vein. They were a series of surprises as far as Pope was concerned, works that his previous performances had not prepared the public to expect.
Pope's translation of Homer and his editions of Shakespeare occupied him till 1725, when he had reached the age of thirty-seven, and was in the maturity of his powers, with an independence secured by the enormous profits of his Homer. Then began the third period of his literary career. The works that he then produced, and which I have already enumerated, are his greatest works in point of literary power. But why did he not then produce works of more permanent and universal interest ? Why did he not then return to his youthful scheme of writing a great epic ? The critics of this century have refused Pope a place by the side of Milton, because his subjects were of inferior quality, appealing to a lower range of human emotion, and incapable from their very nature, however excel. lent the treatment of them, of being made the subjects of equally great poetic achievements. Now, Pope, as we have seen, was fully possessed of the idea that a