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(AMBROSE Philips was born in Leicestershire in 1671, and died in his house at Vauxhall on the 18th of June, 1749. His Pastorals were published id 1709.)
The reputation of Ambrose Philips has undergone some curious
His Epistle to the Earl of Dorset, which Steele pronounced “as fine a piece as we ever had,' and Goldsmith “incomparably fine,' seems to us as frigid and as ephemeral as its theme; the Distressed Mother, in which he made Racine speak with the voice of Rowe, no longer holds a place, even in memory, on the tragic stage ; his translations of Sappho, once thought so brilliant and so affecting, seems to modern readers ludicrously mean, nor is criticism any longer concerned to decide whether the pastorals of Philips or of Pope are the more insipid. But while all these works, on which his contemporary reputation was founded, are forgotten, his odes to private persons, and in particular to children, which won him ridicule from his own age, and from Henry Carey the immortal name of Namby-Pamby, have a simplicity of versification and a genuine play of fancy which are now recognised as rare gifts in the artificial school of Addison in which he was trained. Ambrose Philips is moreover to be praised, not in these odes only, but in his poems generally, for an affectionate observation of natural beauty.
EDMUND W. GOSSE.
FROM THE ODE TO Miss CARTERET.
By the next returning spring, When again the linnets sing, When again the lambkins play, Pretty sportlings ! full of May; When the meadows next are seen, Sweet enamel ! white and green ; And the year, in fresh attire, Welcomes every gay desire ; Blooming on, shalt thou appear More inviting than the year, Fairer sight than orchard shows, Which beside a river blows. Yet another spring I see, And a brighter bloom in thee, And another round of time, Circling, still improves thy prime ; And, beneath the vernal skies, Yet a verdure more shall rise, Ere thy beauties, kindling show, In each finished feature glow ; Ere, in smiles and in disdain, Thou assert thy maiden reign, Absolute to save or kill Fond beholders at thy will.: Then the taper-moulded waist, With a span of beauty braced, And the swell of either breast, And the wide high-vaulted chest, And the neck so white and round, Little neck with brilliants bound, And the store of charms that shine Above, in lineaments divine, Crowded in a narrow space To complete the desperate face ;
Those alluring powers, and more,
To Miss CHARLOTTE PULTENEY, IN HER MOTHER'S ARMS
'Timely blossom, infant fair,
Ever-busy Time prepares ;
[THOMAS PARNELL was born in Dublin in 1679, and was buried at Chester on the 18th of October, 1718. His Poems were first collected after his death, by Pope.]
In contemplating the Lampadephoria of poetical history we sometimes meet with a figure whose torch was well charged with the resin of genius and ready to be enflamed, but whom accidental circumstances removed from the line of light so long and so far that its destiny was never properly fulfilled. Such a figure is Par nell, who, having spent his youth as a thoroughly insignificant amateur in verse, was roused during the last five years of his life, under the influence of Pope, a much younger man than he, to strike a few magnificent chords on the lyre of a true poet. The last three pieces in the posthumous edition of Parnell's poems show us what he might have been, had he lived in London instead of Ireland, had he been born in 1699 instead of 1679, and had he understood at once the imperative bent of his genius. But this sententious and sonorous writer, whose verse in its deeper harmonies surpasses even Pope's in melody, fancied himself a satirist, a society-singer, and emulated in his false ambition the successes of Oldham and Prior. But while he was vainly attempting to subdue for himself a province in Acrostic-land, there lay unvisited a romantic island of poesy, which was his by birthright, and it was Pope who opened his eyes to this fact. We know little of Parnell's life, but we may be sure, from internal evidence, that his last three poems were composed during the five years between the publication of Windsor Forest and his own death. Yet, though Pope awakened his genius within him, Parnell was not the disciple of Pope ; within the narrow range of what he did well, there was no writer of his time who showed a greater originality.
The Hermit may be considered as forming the apex and chef d'æuvre of Augustan poetry in England. , It is more exactly in the French taste than any work that preceded it, and after it English poetry swiftly passed into the degeneracy of classicism. Parnell's poem is the model of a moral conte; the movement is dignified and rapid, the action and reflection are balanced with exquisite skill, the surprise is admirably prepared, and the treatment never flags from beginning to end. The French complaint of the lack of style in our minor poetry might have been triumphantly confronted by the Dennises and Budgells of the infancy of our criticism, by a reference to Parnell's masterpiece, which, if we are ready to grant that polish, elegance and symmetry are the main elements of poetry, could scarcely be surpassed in any language. But more of real inspiration attended the composition of his two remarkable odes, the Night-Piece and the Hymn to Contentment. In these he originated two distinct streams of poetical influence, for the former was no less certainly the precursor of the curious funereal school of Young, Blair and Porteus, than the latter was of Collins' exquisite strain of lyrical writing. In both he shows himself the disciple of Milton, and wields the ringing octosyllabic measure as no one had done since Il Penseroso was published. The lines with which we open our selection from the Hymn to Contentment reach a higher range of melody, and strike a more subtle chord of fancy than perhaps any other verses of that age. Yet Parnell has been neglected from his own generation to ours, and it is doubtful whether his moral abstractions can ever hope to regain the popular ear.
EDMUND W. GOSSE