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his surviving friends, I will not lightly be driven from the office of strewing his grave with flowers !
Yet how ungrateful å task I performn, how little I have been “ fed with the fostering dew of praise," it would seem querulous to detail. But I will not be deterred from recording the following two sonnets, which a late occasion drew forth.
Composed at Midnight, Fel. 11, 1807.
Amid these sylvan shades I live unknown
To the coarse spirit, who with public brawls
And, vainly claiming to himself alone
Deems him, who, list’ning to the Muse's calls,
A cypher, whom his rolls of Fame disown!
When all the frothy torrents of thy tongue
Sink, like thyself, forgotten in the grave,
And future Wisdom shall record his praise ;
Written, Feb. 12, 1807.
Tho' in my veins the blood of monarchs fow,
Plantagenet and Tudor!! not for these
But rather that my heart's emotions glow
Nor would it my aspiring soul appease,
And none but Folly's stupid Aattery know!
Greatness turns an eye
And on descent's pretensions vain would try
With pride defensive swelling, I exclaim,
1 This is a fact, which may easily be ascertained by obvious authorities, of which it is unnecessary to mention any other than Sandford, or Stebbing. The sentiments are exactly those which the author feels, and has ever felt, on the subject of descent. He would never oppose it but to those who assume airs on that pretence.
March 2, 1807.
TO THE RUMINATOR.
Upon reading the poem called “ The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” a few observations have suggested themselves to me, which, if they fall within the
compass of your plan, are at your service.
Although this delightful work does not rise to the sublime heights of epic poetry, yet it is never disgraced by the absurdities which are to be met with in most of those which affect that name. Even Homer himself, to whom nothing has appeared as yet aut simile aut secundum, has puerilities which are only to be excused, as Horace says, by supposing him sometimes to nod. Virgil, more equal throughout, is less sublime; but was so blind an idolater of his great master that, notwithstanding the judgment for which all ages have given him credit, he even copied some of his most glaring faults. Every schoolboy can point out the bombast and feeblenesses of Lucan, Statius, and Silius Italicus,
notwithstanding the fine and even sublime passages which are to be found in them all, especially in the first.
Of the modern Italian poets, Boiardo and Ariosto were writers of romance in verse, and as such, however engaging, are hardly subject to the rules of criticism. Tasso's Gierusalemme Liberata is more regular, and has many beautiful and affecting passages, but seldom rises to sublimity. The same may be said of the Portuguese Camoens, whose subject indeed is less generally interesting than the others. Voltaire's Henriade is more approved by the judgment than the fancy. It is coldly correct, and though it cannot be denied to have beauties, few persons are tempted to search for them a second time.
In our own country the attempts in this difficult line of writing have not been fortunate, always excepted the noble poem of Milton, which shines, among all which have appeared since Homer, velut inter ignes Luna Minores.
Yet it is far from being free from defects, both in the design and execution of it; and like Homer, aliquando dormitat. Cowley failed both in his choice of a subject, and in his manner of treating it. To have read Blackmore requires more patience
m Subjects taken from Scripture have always failed in the execution; witness the Davideis, Mrs. Rowe's Joseph, Duck's
and perseverance than I am master of. Spenser's justly celebrated Fairy Queen, with infinite detached beauties, is merely an allegorical romance, and can hardly be considered as a whole. Leonidas, and the Epigoniad, proximus sed longo proximus intervallo, are now but little known and seldom read: a sure proof of want of interest and merit. So that a perfect epic poem is still, and probably always will be, a desideratum in that fascinating art.
Now the work which gave rise to these desultory observations, though it does not arrogate to itself that lofty name, has perhaps as good a claim to it as many that have had more presumption. As the author however has not thought proper so to call it, I have no right to name it for him, but shall proceed to point out some of its most striking beauties and defects.
Shunamite, Cumberland's Calvary, and many others. The venerable and interesting simplicity of the narrative must be lost. Any thing taken from it leaves the story imperfect; any thing added to it disgusts, and almost shocks us as impious. As Omar said of the Alexandrian Library, we may say of such writings, if they contain only what is in the Scriptures, they are superfluous; if what is not in them, they are false.
The epic poems of Southey, Pye, Hole, and others, are purposely omitted, as they are fresh in the minds of the public, which has properly appreciated their merit. Oh that poets would recollect that not to excel is to fail! This does not apply. to Joan of Arc, or to Madoc.