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as they ought to be, would have been long ago exposed ! I conceive, on the contrary, no mathematical demonstration more certain, than that, whatever may be the event of the present struggle, if we had merely stood upon the defensive, nursed our resources, cultivated our commerce, and hugged the blessings of peace in a delusive safety, till we were attacked, while France was cherishing her strength, her ferocity, and her skill in arms, by the difficulties and dangers of warfare, our fate would have been, on the first onset, to have fallen in all the debility of ease, wealth, and luxury, even without a blow. So much for the wise opinions, which have lately obtained uncontradicted applause for Mr. Fox, who, if he had put the principles, which he promulgated when in opposition, into execution on the attainment of power, (a folly of which I do not for a moment suspect him,) would have brought this country to irreparable ruin!
But such is the predominance, and in many respects the merited predominance, of him, who has courted the favour of the muses !
“ Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona Multi : sed omnes illachrymabiles Urgentur, ignotique longa
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro. Paulum sepultæ distat inertiæ Celata virtus: non ego te meis Chartis inornatum silebo,
Totve tuos patiar labores Impune, Lolli, carpere lividas Obliviones."
* Hor. Od. 9. Lib. iv,
That they, who adored the son of Chatham when living, would desert his memory when dead, ought to have been within his contemplation, if he had exercised his sagacity on the characters of those, whom for the most part he suffered to surround him.
“ He rests among the dead ! The swarm, that in thy noon-tide beam were born, Gone to salute the rising morn !"
For me, who never received favour or notice from him, when alive, and who am precluded from any effectual co-operation in the principles by which he was actuated, from the coldness and strange indifference of those who have assumed the name of his surviving friends, I will not lightly be driven from the office of strewing his grave with flowers !
Yet how ungrateful a task I perform, 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, Feb. 11, 1807.
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.
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 flattery know!
Of scorn and insult on my modest fame,
And on descent's pretensions vain would try
With pride defensive swelling, I exclaim,
N°. VI. Scott's Lay.
TO THE RUMINATOR.
« Of ancient deeds so long forgot,
* 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.
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 feebleness 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,
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 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 deşultory observations, though it does not arrogate to itself that losty 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,
* Subjects taken from Scripture have always failed in the execution; witness the Davideis, Mrs. Rowe's Joseph, Duck's Shunammite, 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 as 'as impious. As Omar said of the Alexandrine 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. O that poets would recollect that not to excel is to fail! This does not apply to Joan of Arc, or to Madoc.