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Quintilian, whose knowledge of human nature was consummate, has observed, that nothing quite correct and faultless is to be expected in very early years, from a truly elevated genius : that a generous extravagance and exuberance are its proper marks, and that a premature exactness is a certain evidence of future fatness and sterility. His words are incomparable, and worthy confideration. “ Audeat hæc ætas plura, et inveniat, et inventis gaudeat, fint licet illa non satis interim ficca et severa. Facile remedium est ubertatis, fterilia nullo labore vincuntur. Illa mihi in pueris natura nimium fpei dabit, in quâ ingenium judicio præsumitur.Materiam efle primum volo vel abundantiorem, atque ultra quam
Multum inde, decoquant anni, multum ratio limabit, aliquid velut usu ipso deteretur, fit modo unde excidi pofsit et quod exculpi :-erit autem, fi non ab initio tenuem laminam duxerimus, et quam cælatura altior rumpat.—Quare mihi ne maturitas quidem ipfa feftinet, nec musta in lacu ftatim austera fint ; fic et annos ferent, et vetustate proficient." This is very strong and masculine fense, exprefsed and enlivened by a train of metaphors, all of them elegant, and well preserved. Whether these early productions of Pope, would not have appeared to Quin. tilian to be rather too finished, correct, and pure, and what he would have inferred concerning them, is too delicate a subject for me to enlarge upon. Let me rather add an entertaining anec. dote. When Guido and Dominichino had each of them painted a picture in the church of Saint Andrew, Annibal Carrache, their master, was pressed to declare which of his two pupils had excelled. The picture of Guido represented Saint Andrew on his knees before the cross ; that of Dominichino represented the flagellation of the fame Apostle. Both of them in their different kinds were capital pieces, and were painted in fresco, opposite each other, to eternize, as it were, their rivalship and contention. “ Guido (said Carrache) has performed as a master, and Dominichino as a scholar. But (added he) the work of the scholar is more valuable than that of the master. In truth, one may pero ceive faults in the picture of Dominichino that Guido has avoid. ed, but then there are noble strokes, not to be found in that of his rival.” It was easy to discern a genius that promised to produce beauties, to which the sweet, the gentle, and the graceful Guido would never aspire.
The first sketches of such an artist ought highly to be prized. Different geniuses unfold themselves at different periods of life. In some minds the ore is a long time in ripening. Not only inclination, but opportunity and encouragement, a proper subject, or a proper patron, influence the exertion or the suppression of genius. These stanzas on Solitude are a strong instance of that contemplation and moral turn, which was the distinguishing charac. teristic of our Poet's mind. An ode of Cowley, which he produced at the age of thirteen years, is of the same cast, and perhaps not in the least inferior to this of Pope. The voluminous Lopez de Vega is commonly, but perhaps incredibly, reported by the Spaniards to have composed verses when he was five years old; and Torquato Tasso, the second or third of the Italian poets, for that wonderful original Dante is the first, is said to have recited poems and orations of his own writing, when he was seven. It is however certain, which is more extraordinary, that he produced his Rinaldo in his eighteenth year, no bad precursor to the Gerusalemma Liberata, and no small effort of that genius, which was in due time to shew, how fine an epic poem the Italian language, notwithstanding the vulgar imputation of effeminacy, was capable of supporting,
WARTON. It may not be uninteresting to compare the succeffion of Pope's productions, with the progress of his mind and character. In this his earliest effufion, all is rural quiet, innocence, content, &c. We next see, in his Paftorals, the “Golden Age" of happiness, while the
“ SHEPHERD LAD leads forth his flock
Belide the silver Thame."
but with views more diversified and extended, and approaching more to the real history and concerns of life. The warm passions of youth succeed ; and we are interested in the fate of the tender Sappho, or the ardent and unfortunate Eloise. As the world opens, local manners are displayed. In the Rape of the Lock, we see the first playful effort of Satire, without ill-nature, at once gay, elegant, and delightful:
“ Belinda smiles, and all the world is gay.” The man of severer thought now appears, in the Essay on Man. The same vein shews itself in the Moral Essays; but the investi. gation is directed to individual failings, and mingled with spleen and anger. In the later Satires, we witness the language of acri. mony and bitterness. The Dunciad closes the prospect, and we there behold the aged Bard amid a swarm of enemies, who began his career, all innocence, happiness, and smiles,
THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL. ".
Quit, oh quit this mortal frame!
Oh the pain, the bliss of dying !
Hark! they whisper; Angels say,
Steals my fenfes, fhuts my fight,
* This nde was written in imitation of the famous fonnet of Hadrian to his departing foul; but as much fuperior in sense and fublimity to its original, as the Christian religion is to the Pagan.
WARBUR TON, 15
With founds feraphic ring:
O Death! where is thy Sting?
This Ode was written, we find, at the defire of Steele; and our Poet, in a letter to him on that occasion, says. --- You have it, as Cowley calls it, juft warm from the brain ; it came to me the first moment I waked this morning ; yet you'll see, it was not so absolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verses of Hadrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho.”
It is posible, however, that our Author might have had another composition in his head, besides those he here refers to : for there is a close and surprising resemblance between this ode of Pope, and one of an obscure and forgotten rhymer of the age of Charles the Second, namely Thomas Flatman ; from whose dunghill, as well as from the dregs of Crashaw, of Carex, of Herbert, and others (for it is well known he was a great reader of all those poets), Pope has very judiciously collected gold. And the following ftanza is, perhaps, the only valuable one Flatman has produced:
When on my fick bed I languish ;
De not fearful, come away! The third and fourth lines are cminently good and pathetic, and the climax well preserved, the very turn of them is closely copied by Pope; as is likewise the striking circumstance of the dying man's imagining he hears a voice calling him away:
Vital spark of heav'nly flame
Prior also translated this little Ode, but with manifeft inferi. ority to Pope. Pope was certainly indebted to Flatman. The pla. giarism is palpable. Dr. Warton speaks with too much contempt of Crashawe, Herbert, &c. Some of Crashawe's strains are of a “ higher mood ;” and who can deny great merit to the author of that natural and pleasing effufion, of which Mr. Ellis, in his valuable specimens of English Poetry, has selected,
“ I made a Pofy, as the day went by." Herbert was Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and afterwards Rector of Bemerton, near Salisbury.