Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

loft.

145

Not all the tresses that fair head can boast,
Shall draw such envy as the Lock you
For after all the murders of your eye,
When, after millions slain, yourself shall die ;
When those fair suns shall set, as set they must,
And all those tresses shall be laid in dust,
This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to fame,
And 'midst the stars inscribe Belinda's name.

150

UPON the whole, I hope it will not be thought an exaggerated panegyric to say, that the Rape of the Lock is the best Satire extant; that it contains the truest and liveliest picture of modern life ; and that the subject is of a more elegant nature, as well as more artfully conducted, than any other heroi-comic poem.'

Our nation can boast also, of having produced some other poems of the burlesque kind, that are excellent; particularly the Splendid Shilling, that admirable copy of the folemn irony of Cervantes, who is the father and unrivalled model of the true mock heroic; and the Muscipula, written with the purity of Virgil, whom the author fo perfectly understood, and with the pleasantry of Lucian; to which I cannot forbear adding, the Scribleriad of Mr. Cambridge, the Machinæ, Gefticulantes of Addison, the Hobbinol of Somerville, and the Trivia of Gay; the Battle of the Wigs of Thornton, and the Triumph of Tem: per of Hayley

If some of the most candid among the French critics begin to acknowledge, that they have produced nothing in point of sublimity and majesty equal to the Paradise Loft, we may also venture to affirm, that in point of delicacy, elegance, and fine-turned raillery, on which they have so much valued themselves, they have produced nothing equal to the Rape of the Lock. What comes nearest to it, is the pleasing and elegant Ver-vert of Grefset, in which the foibles of the Nuns are touched with fo delicate * hand, and such nice ridicule, that it cannot disgust the most religious prude.

The

"The learned and ingenious Mr. Cambridge has, in the Preface to his Scribleriad, made a remark so new and so solid, as to deserve examination and attention.

He says, that in first reading the four celebrated mock-heroic poems, he perceived they had all some radical defect. That at last he found, hý a diligent perufal of Don Quixote, that propriery was the fundamental excellence of that work. That all the marvellous was reconcileable to probability, as the author leads his hero into that species of absurdity only, which it was natural for an imagination, heated with the continual reading of books of chivalry, to fall into. That the want of attention to this was the fundamental error of those poems. For with what propriety do Churchmen, Phyficians, Beaux, and Belles, or Bookfellers, in the the Lutrin, Dispensary, Rape of the Lock, and Dunciad, address themselves to heathen gods, offer sacrifices, consult oracles, or talk the language of Homer, and of the heroes of antiquity?

This acute observation bears hard on the conduct of more than one of the heroi comic poems above mentioned.

Nothing is here faid of Hudibras; because its unrivalled excel. lence could not be discussed in a note. It is one of the poems that gives peculiar lustre to our nation and language. One circum1tance only I will here mention, that the ancients had no notion of such sort of Poems. The cruel wars between Pompey and Caefar, and the execrable profcriptions of Augustus, were never treated in a burlesque style, as the horrors of the league in Frances and the bloody civil war in England, were described in the Satyre Menippée, and in Hudibras. One of the most accurate Greek scholars of our time and nation, is of opinion, that the Batracomuomachia is not by Homer, but a burlesque poem in imitation of his manner, by some ancient poet, who, though he adopted the words and expressions of the Greek Bard, formed his metre according to the pronunciation of his own country. With equal confidence we may pronounce the Margites to have been a forgery, though there are only four lines of it extant, three of which are quoted by Plato and Aristotle; but in these we have a compound verb, with the augment upon the preposition (nisato), which Homer's grammar did not admit. Knight's Analytical Effay on the Greek Alphabet, page 30. WARTON.

Dr. Johnson truly says of the Rape of the Lock, that it is the most airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all

Pope's

VOL. I.

A A

Pope's compofitions. Indeed, upon this subject there cannot be two opinions; and Dr. Warton has praised it as warmly as Johnson.

This Poem is founded, however, upon local manners. And of all Poems of that kind it is undoubtedly far the best; whether we consider the exquisite tone of raillery a certain musical sweetness and suitableness in the versification, the management of the ftory, or the kind of fancy and airiness given to the whole: but what entitles it to its high claim of peculiar poetic excellencies? - the powers of imagination and the felicity of invention displayed, in adopting and most artfully conducting a machinery, fo fanciful, so appropriate, so novel, and so poetical. The introduction of Discord, &c. as machinery in the Lutrin, &c. is not to be mentioned at the fame time. Such a being as Discord, will suit a hundred subjects; but the elegant, the airy Sylph,

Loose to the wind, whose airy garments flew,
Thin glittering textures of the filmy dew,
Dipt in the richest tincture of the skies,

Where light difports in ever-mingling dyes: such a being as this, is fuited alone to the identical and peculiar Poem in which it is employed.

I will now go a step farther in appreciating the elegance and beauty of this Poem; and I would ask the question : “Let any other poet, Dryden, Waller, Cowley, or Gray, be assigned this subject, and this machinery : could they have produced a work altogether fo corred, and beautiful, from the same given materials ?” Let us however still remember, that this poem is founded on local manners, and the employment of the Sylphs is in artificial life ; for this reason, the Poem must have a secondary rank, when considered ftrictly and truly with regard to its poetry.

Whether Pope would have excelled as much in loftier subjects, of a general nature, in the " high mood” of Lycidas, the rich colourings of Comus, and the magnificent descriptions and sublime images of Paradise Loft; or in painting the characters and em- . ployments of aerial beings,

That tread the oose of the falt deep,

Or run upon the sharp wind of the north ; is another question. He has not attempted it : I have no doubt he would have failed. But to have produced a Poem, infinitely the

highest

ܪ

highest of its kind, and which no other Poet could perhaps alto. gether have done so well, is surely very high praise. The excel. lence is Pope's own, the inferiority is in the subject; no one underItood better that excellent rule of Horace:

Sumite materiam veftris, qui fcribitis æquam
Viribus.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« EdellinenJatka »