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CRITICAL AND DIDACTIC.
STYLES OF POETRY.
HENRY LORD VISC. BOLINGBROKE.
FROM THOMAS PARNELL, d. d.
Vatibus addere calcar,
Ut studio majore petant Helicona virentem. Hor.
TE the vulgar with untuneful mind;
Hearts uninspir'd, and senses unrefin’d.
Hence, ye prophane: I raise the sounding string,
And Bolingbroke descends to hear me sing.
When Greece could truth in Mystic Fable shroud, And with delight instruct the listening crowd, An ancient Poet (Time has lost his name) Deliver'd strains on Verse to future fame. Still, as he sung, he touch'd the trembling lyre, And felt the notes a rising warmth inspire. Ye sweetening Graces, in the music throng, Assist my genius, and retrieve the song
From dark oblivion. See, my genius goes
To call it forth. 'Twas thus the Poem rose.
"WIT is the Muse's horse, and bears on high
The daring Rider to the Muses' sky:
Who, while his strength to mount aloft he tries,
By regions varying in their nature flies.
"At first, he riseth o'er a land of toil,
A barren, hard, and undeserving soil,
Where only weeds from heavy labor grow,
Which yet the nation prune, and keep for show.
Where couplets jingling on their accent run,
Whose Point of Epigram is sunk to Pun;
Where wings by fancy never feather'd fly,
Where lines by measure form'd in Hatchets lie;
Where Altars stand, erected Porches gape,
And sense is cramp'd while words are par'd to shape;
Where mean Acrostics, labor'd in a frame
On scatter'd letters, raise a painful scheme;
And, by confinement in their work, control
The great enlargings of the boundless soul;
Where if a warrior's elevated fire
Would all the brightest strokes of verse require,
Then straight in Anagram a wretched crew
Will pay their undeserving praises too;
While on the rack his poor disjointed name
Must tell its master's character to Fame.
And (if my fire and fears aright presage)
The laboring writers of a future age
Shall clear new ground, and grots and caves repair,
To civilize the babbling echoes there.
Then, while a lover treads a lonely walk,
His voice shall with its own reflection talk,
The closing sounds of all the vain device
Select by trouble frivolously nice,
Resound through verse, and with a false pretence
Support the dialogue, and pass for sense.
Can things like these to lasting praise pretend?
Can any Muse the worthless toil befriend?
Ye sacred Virgins, in my thoughts ador'd,
Ah, be for ever in my lines deplor'd,
If tricks on words acquire an endless name,
And trifles merit in the court of Fame !"
At this the Poet stood concern'd a while,
And view'd his objects with a scornful smile :
Then other images of different kind,
With different workings, enter'd on his mind;
At whose approach, he felt the former gone,
And shiver'd in conceit, and thus went on :
"By a cold region next the Rider goes, Where all lies cover'd in eternal snows; Where no bright genius drives the chariot high, To glitter on the ground, and gild the sky. Bleak level Realm, where Frigid Styles abound, Where never yet a daring thought was found, But counted feet is Poetry defin'd ;
And starv'd conceits, that chill the reader's mind,
A little sense in many words imply,
And drag in loitering numbers slowly by.
Here dry sententious speeches, half asleep,
Prolong'd in lines, o'er many pages creep;
Nor ever shew the passions well express'd,
Nor raise like passions in another's breast.
Here flat narrations fair exploits debase,
In measures void of every shining grace;
Which never arm their hero for the field,
Nor with prophetic story paint the shield,
Nor fix the crest, nor make the feathers wave,
Nor with their characters reward the brave;
Undeck'd they stand, and unadorn'd with praise,
And fail to profit while they fail to please.
Here forc'd Description is so strangely wrought,
It never stamps its image on the thought;
The lifeless trees may stand for ever bare,
And rivers stop, for aught the readers care ;
They see no branches trembling in the woods,
Nor hear the murmurs of increasing floods,
Which near the roots of ruffled waters flow,
And shake the shadows of the boughs below.
Ah, sacred Verse, replete with heavenly flame,
Such cold endeavors would invade thy name!
The writer fondly would in these survive,
Which, wanting spirit, never seem'd alive:
But, if Applause or Fame attend his pen,
Let breathless statues pass for breathing men."
Here seem'd the Singer touch'd at what he sung, And grief a while delay'd his hand and tongue : But soon he check'd his fingers, chose a strain, And florish'd shrill, and thus arose again:
"Pass the next region which appears to show: 'Tis very open, unimprov'd, and low; No noble flights of elevated thought,
No nervous strength of sense maturely wrought,
Possess this Realm; but common turns are there,
Which idly sportive move with childish air.
On callow wings, and like a plague of flies,
The little fancies in a Poem rise,
The jaded Reader every where to strike,
And move his passions every where alike.
There all the graceful Nymphs are forc'd to play
Where any water bubbles in the way:
There shaggy Satyrs are oblig'd to rove
In all the fields, and over all the grove:
There every star is summon'd from its sphere,
To dress one face, and make Clorinda fair:
There Cupids fling their darts in every song,
While Nature stands neglected all along :
Till the teaz'd hearer, vex'd at last to find
One constant object still assault the mind,
Admires no more at what 's no longer new,
And hastes to shun the persecuting view.
There bright surprizes of Poetic rage
(Whose strength and beauty, more confirm'd in age
For having lasted, last the longer still)