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In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold ;
But most by Numbers judge a Poet's song,
COMMENTARY. VER.337. But most by Numbers judge, &c.] The last sort are those [from. ver. 336 to 384.) whose cars are attached only to the Har. mony of a poem.
a poem. Of which they judge as ignorantly and as perverfely as the other sort did of the Eloquence, and for the same reason. Our Author forft describes that false Harmony with which they are so much captivated; and shews that it is wretchedly flat and unvaried: for
“ Smooth or rough, with them, is right or wrong. He then describes the true 1. As it is in itself, constant ; with a happy mixture of Prength and sweetness, in contradiction to the roughness and flatness of false Harmony: And 2. as it is varied in compliance to the subject, where the found becomes an echo to the sense, so far as is.consistent with the preservation of numbers, in contradiction to the monotony of false Harmony. WARBURTON
tjous than Pope or Dryden, who perpetually borrow expressions from the former. Let me give you some instances from Dryden, whom every body reckons a great master of our poetical tongue. Full of museful mopings, -unlike the trim of love -- a pleasant bever. age,-a roundelay of love, -stood filent in his mood, with knots and knares deformed, -his ireful mood, -in proud array, - his boon was granted,-and disarray and shameful rout, -- wayward but wise,furbished for the field, -the foiled dodderd oaks, diferited,-smouldring flames,--retchless of laws,-crones old and ugly,--the beldam at his fide, the grandam hag,-villanize his father's fame.-- But they are infinite; and our language not being a settled thing (like the French), has an undoubted right to words of an hundred years old, provided antiquity have not rendered them unintelligible.
In the bright Muse, tho' thousand charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful fools admire;
340 Who haunt Parnassus but to please their ear, Not mend their minds; as some to church repair, Not for the doctrine, but the music there. These equal fyllables alone require, Tho' oft the ear the open vowels tire;
345 While expletives their feeble aid do join ; And ten low words oft creep in one dull line:
NOTES. In truth, Shakespear's language is one of his principal beauties ; and he has no less advantage over your Addisons and Rowes in this, than in those great excellencies you mention. Every word in him is a picture." Gray.
Ver. 328. Unlucky, as Fungofo, &c.] See Ben. Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour.
Pope, VER. 337. But most by Numbers, &c.] “ Quis populi fermo eft ? quis enim ? nifi carmine molli
Nune demum numero fluere, ut per læve severos
Perf. Sat. i. Pope. Having described the causes of false judgment in Critics who judge by parts only of a poem, who confine their taste to con. ceits, or to language instead of sense; he proceeds to speak of those who judge merely by numbers.
Ver. 345. Tho' oft the ear, &c.] “ Fugiemus crebras vocalium concursiones, quæ vastam atque hiantem orationem reddunt." Cic. ad Heren. lib. iv. Vide etiam Quintil. lib. ix. c. 4. Pope.
ci Non tamen (says the sensible Quintilian) id ut crimen ingens expavefcendum eft ; ac nescio negligentia in hoc, an solicitudo fit major ; nimiosque non immeritò in hâc curâ putant omnes Isocratem fecutos, præcipuèque Theopompum. At Demofthenes & Cicero modicè refpexerunt ad hanc partem. Quintil. lib. ix. c. 9.
While they ring round the fame unvary'd chimes, With fure returns of still expected rhymes ; 349 Where-e'er
you find “ the cooling western breeze, In the next line, it " whispers through the trees :" If crystal streams “ with pleasing murmurs creep,' The reader's threaten'd (not in vain) with "
“ sleep :" Then, at the last and only couplet fraught With some unmeaning thing they call a thought, A needless Alexandrine ends the song, 356 That, like a wounded snake, drags its slow length
along. Leave such to tune their own dull rhymes, and know What's roundly smooth, or languishingly flow;
And NOTES. VER. 347. ten low words] Our language is thought to be overloaded with monofyllables ; Shaftesbury, we are told, limited their number to nine in any sentence; Quintilian condemns too great a concourse of them ; etiam monosyllaba, fi plura funt, male continuabuntur ; quia necesse est compofitio, multis clausulis concisa, subsultet. Inft. lib. ix. c. 4.
WARTON. Ver. 356. A needless Alexandrine, &c.] Dr. Johnson requires in an Alexandrine a pause invariably at the sixth fyllable, and
VER: 346. While expletives their feeble aid do join,
And ten low words oft creep in one dull line : ] From Dryden. “He creeps along with ten little words in every line, and helps out his numbers with [for] [to] and [unto] and all the pretty expletives
, he can find, while the senfe is left half tired behind it.” Effay on Dram. Poetry.
But there are many lines of monofyllables that have much force and energy; in our author himself, as well as Dryden. WARTON, VOL. I.
And praise the easy vigour of a line,
360 Where Denham's strength, and Waller's sweetness
join. True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis NOTES. objets to a line of Dryden, where this rule is neglected. Johnson did not perceive that the very line he objected to was as striking an instance of the found being an echo to the sense, as the English language perhaps produces, in as much as it represents the thing described, has not the least appearance of studied art, and is full, majestic, and fororous. The line is
“ And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne.” And its effect is owing to the violation of that very rule which Johnson thinks essential to lines of this description.
Ver. 360. And praise the easy vigour] Fenton, in his entertaining observations on Waller, has given us a curious anecdote concerning the great industry and exactness with which Waller polished even his smallest compositions. “When the court was at Windsor, these verses were writ in the Taffo of her Royal Highneis, at Mr. Waller's request, by the late Duke of Buckinghamshire; and I very well remember to have heard his Grace say, that the author employed the greatest part of a summer in compofing and correcting them.”
WARTON. Vær. 361. Denbam's strength,] Dr. Warton properly observes, “ that sufficient justice is not done to Sandys, who did more to polish and tune the English versification, by his Psalms and his Job, than those two writers, who are usually applauded on this subject.” It is a curious circumstance, that Dr. Johnson seems scarcely to have considered Sandys as a Poet worthy of notice. I have already taken occasion to mention the extraordinary melody and vigour of his verfification, a specimen of which the reader will find at the end of this Essay.
VER. 362. True cafe] Writers who seem to have composed with the greatest ease, have exerted much labour in attaining this
'Tis not enough na harshness gives offence, The found must seem an Echo to the sense. 365
Soft NOTES. facility. Virgil took more pains than Lucan, though the style of the former appears sa natural ; and Guarini and Ariosto spent much time in making their poems so seemingly natural and easy. . Even Voiture wrote with extreme difficulty, though apparently without
effort; what Taffo says of one of his heroines may be applied to such writers ;
« Non so ben dir s'adorna, o se regletta,
Se caso, od arte, il bel volto compose:
Le negligenze sue fono artifici." It is well known, that the writings of Voiture, of Saraflin, and La Fontaine, were laboured into the facility for which they are so famous, with repeated alterations and many rasures. Moliere is reported to have past whole days in fixing upon a proper cpithet or rhyme, although his verses have all the flow and free. dom of conversation. “This happy facility (faid a man of wit) may be compared to garden-terraces, the expence of which does not appear; and which, after the coft of several millions, yet seem to be a mere work of chance and nature." I have been informed, that Addison was so extremely nice in polishing his profe compositions, that when almost a whole impression of a Spectator was worked off, he would stop the press, to insert a new prepofition or conjunction.
WARTON.. To these instances may be added that of the celebrated Edmund Burke.
VER. 364. no harshness gives offence,] We are surprised to see the constant attention of the ancients, to give melody to their periods, both in prose and verse; of which so many instances are given in Tully De Oratore, in Dionysius, and Quintilian. Plato many times altered the order of the four first words of his Republic. Cicero records the approbation he met with for finishing a sentence with the word comprobāvit, being a dichoreè. Had he finished it otherwise, he says, it might have been animo fatis auribus non fatis. We may be equally mortified in finding Quintilian condemning the inharmoniousness of many letters with which our language abounds ; particularly the letters F, M, B, D; and Dionyfius reprobates the letter S.