« EdellinenJatka »
There Faction roar, Rebellion bite her chain,
Here cease thy flight, nor with unhallow'd lays
"Quo, Mufa, tendis? define pervicax
Magna modis tenuare parvis."
VER. 422. in vain.] This conclufion both of Horace and of Pope is feeble and flat. The whole fhould have ended with this fpeech of Thames at this line, 422.
Pope, it feems, was of opinion, that defcriptive poetry is a compofition as abfurd as a feaft made up of fauces: and I know many other perfons that think meanly of it. I will not prefume to say it is equal, either in dignity or utility, to thofe compofitions that lay open the internal conftitution of man, and that imitate characters, manners, and fentiments. I may however remind fuch contemners of it, that, in a fifter art, landscape-painting claims the very next rank to hiftory-painting, being ever preferred to fingle portraits, to pieces of ftill-life, to droll figures, to fruit and flower. pieces; that Titian thought it no diminution of his genius, to spend much of his time in works of the former fpecies; and that, if their principles lead them to condemn Thomson, they must also condemn the Georgics of Virgil, and the greatest part of the noblest descriptive poem extant ; I mean that of Lucretius.
Ev'n I more fweetly pass my careless days,
A POEM purely defcriptive has certainly no claim to excellence. But a poem which is at once moral, historical, and picturesque ; or, in other words, where defcription is made fubfervient to the delighted fancy, the cultivated underftanding, and the improved heart, furely no real judge of Poetry would condemn. What beautiful and interefting pieces would fuch a decifion exclude! How many animating or tender sentiments, how many affecting incidents, how much interefting information, are often connected with local scenery! The genuine Poet surveys every prospect with the eye and enthusiasm of a Painter; but does he only paint? He connects with the fcenery he defcribes, morality, antiquity, hiftory, the wildest traditions in fancy, or the sweeteft feelings of tenderness, or patriotifm. If we feel interested by the picture of an Arcadian landscape, which conveys its moral by the introduction of a fhepherd's tomb, and the infcription "Et ego in Arcadia ;" in like manner fhould we regard a descriptive poem, connected at the fame time with wider information, and diverfified with more pointed morality.
Pope in his Windfor Foreft has description, incident, and hiftory. The defcriptive part, however, is too general and unappropriate the incident, or fory-part, is fuch as only would have. been adopted by a young man, who had just read Ovid; but the hiftorical part is very judiciously and fkilfully blended, and the conclufion highly animated and poetical; nor can we be infenfible to its more lofty tone of verfification.
ON ST. CECILIA'S DAY,
AND OTHER PIECES FOR MUSIC*:
• There are few Odes completely adapted to Mufic in our language. Milton, though a musician, has written nothing, I believe, entirely with this view; but happily his divine Penferofo and l'Allegro have found in Handel a compofer worthy of the Poetry. His mufic of "Let the bright Seraphim in burning row," is inadequate to the splendor of the expreffions, and fublimity of the subject. In general, all epithets that paint, fuch as " bright Seraphim"-" burning row,"—are not so proper for music; as fuch words, while they animate Poetry, impede and delay the fentiment intended to be conveyed by mufic. Dr. Morell, who wrote the words for Handel's Oratorios, has much greater merit than is generally imagined.-How affecting, and yet how excellently adapted to musical expreffion, are his words:
"In fweetest harmony they liv'd!
Nor death their union could divide;
Who alfo is there who can hear or read, without tears, the mufe and words,
"Tears fuch as tender Fathers shed,
Warm from my aged eyes descend,
My fon fhall have mankind his friend ?"
Dryden, in his Alexander's Feaft, and the fine Ode, "When Jubal struck the chorded shell,"
has found, like Milton, a musician worthy of those exalted ftrains. Collins' Ode to the Paffions ought not to be omitted, as highly calculated for mufical effect; but perhaps there is no compofition, where the mufic and the words so much affift each other, as the fine Song of Purcell,
"Let the dreadful engines, &c." particularly that one exquifite ftanza:
"Ah! where are now thofe flow'ry groves
The fair Lucinda fleeping lay.
Around us all was fweet and gay,
ODE FOR MUSIC
ON ST. CECILIA'S DAY*,
Let the warbling lute complain:
* Our Author, as Mr. Harte told me, frequently and earnestly declared, that if Dryden had finished a translation of the Iliad, he would not have attempted one, after so great a master: he might have said, with even more propriety, I will not write a mufic ode after Alexander's Feaft; which the variety and harmony of its numbers, and the beauty, force, and energy of its images, have confpired to place at the head of modern Lyric compofitions. The fubject of Dryden's ode is fuperior to this of Pope's, because the former is historical, and the latter merely mythological. Dryden's is alfo more perfect in the unity of the action; for Pope's is not the recital of one great action, but a description of many of the adventures of Orpheus.
The name and the genius of Cowley gave, for many years, a currency and vogue to irregular odes, called Pindaric. One of the best of which fpecies is that of Cobb, called, the Female Reign; and two of the worst, Sprat's Plague of Athens, and Bolingbroke's Almahide. Congreve is thought to be the firft writer that gave a fpecimen of a legitimate Pindaric ode, with ftrophe, antiftrophe, and epode, elucidated with a fenfible and judicious preface on the