Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

a

king, and to celebrate his accession she friends; pamphleteers ike Tutching institutes public games in imitation of who was soundly whipped ; plagiarists the ancients ; first a race of booksel- like Ward, exposed in the pillory ang lers, trying to seize a poet; then the pelted with rotten eggs and apples ; struggle of the authors, who first vie courtesans like Eliza Heywood, noto with each other in braying, and then rious by the shamelessness of their dash into the Fleet-ditch filth; then the public confessions ; bought journalists, strife of critics, who have to under hired slanderers, vendors of scandal go the reading of two voluminous au- and insults, half rogues, complete rom thors, without falling asleep.* Strange sterers, and all the literary verinin parodies, to be sure, and in truth not which haunted the gambling-houses, the very striking. Who is not deafened by stews, the gin-cellars, and at a signal these hackneyed and bald allegories, from a bookseller stung honest folk for a Dulness, poppies, mists, and Sleepí crownpiece. These villanies, this foul What if I entered into details, and de- linen, the greasy coat six years old, the scribed the poetess offered for a prize, musty pudding, and the rest, are to be " with cow-like udders, and with ox-like found in Pope as in Hogarth, with Eng. eyes ; " if I related the plunges of the lish coarseness and precision. This is authors, floundering in the Fleet-ditch, their error, they are realists, even under the vilest sewer in the town ; if I tran the classical wig; they do not disguise scribed all the extraordinary verses in what is ugly and mean ; they describe which

that ugliness and meanness with their “ First he relates, how sinking to the chin,

exact outlines and distinguishing marks; Smit with his mien, the mud-nymphs suck'd they do not clothe them in a fine cloak him in :

of general ideas ; they do not cover How young Lutetia, softer than the down,

them with the pretty innuendoes of Nigrina black, and Merdamante brown,, Vied for his love in jetty bow'rs below."

t society. This is the reason why their

satires are so harsh. Pope does not I must stop. Swift alone might have fog the dunces, he knocks them down; seemed capable of writing some pas. his poem is hard and malicious ; it is sages, for instance that on the fall of so much so, that it becomes clumsy : to Curl.' We might have excused it in add to the punishment of dunces, he Swift ; the extremity of despair, the begins at the deluge, writes historical rage of misanthropy, the approach of passages, represents at length the past, madness, might have carried him to present, and future empire of Dulness, such excess. But Pope, who lived the library of Alexandria burned by cal and admired in his villa, and who Omar, learning extinguished by the inva was only urged by literary rancor! He sion of the barbarians and by the su can have had no nerves ! How could perstition of the middle-age, the empire a poet have dragged his talent wantonly of stupidity which extends over Eng through such images and so constrained land and will swallow it up. What his ingeniously woven verses to receive paving-stones to crush fies! such dirt ? Picture a pretty drawingroom basket, destined only to contain

“ See skulking Truth to her old cavern filed,

Mountains of causistry heap'd o'er her head ! flowers and fancy-work, sent down to

Philosophy, that leaned on Heav'n before, the kitchen to be turned into a recepta- Shrinks to her second cause, and is no moro cle for filth. In fact, all the filth of Physic of Metaphysic begs defence, literary life is here; and heaven knows And Metaphysic calls for aid on sense ! what it then was ! In no age were

Religion blushing veils her sacred fires,

And unawares Morality expires. hack-writers so beggarly and so vile Nor public fame, nor private, dares & Poor fellows, like Richard Savage, who

shine ;

Nor human spark is left, nor glimpse di slept during one winter in the open air on the cinders of a glass manufactory, Lo! thy dread empire, Chaos! is restored ; lived on what he received for a dedica- Light dies before thy uncreating word : tion, knew the inside of a prison, rarely

Thy hand, great anarch! lets the curtain dined, and drank at the expense of his

And universal darkness buries all." .
Pope's Works The Dunciad, bk. ij.
Thia

* The Drenciad, the end.

vine !

fall;

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

The last scene ends with noise, cym- He possesses the richest store x words bals and trombones, crackers and fire- to depict the sylphs which futter round works. As for me, I carry away from his heroine, Belinda · this celebrated entertainment only the

But now secure the painted vessel glides, remembrance of a hubbub. Unwitting- The sunbeams trembling on the floating t des, ly I have counted the lights, I know While melting music steals upon the sky, the machinery, I have touched the toil- And softened sounds along the waters die ;

Smooth flow the waves, the zephyrs gently some stage-property of apparitions and

play, allegories. I bid farewell to the scene- The lucid squadrons round the sails repair : painter, the machinist, the manager of Soft o'er the shrouds the aerial whispers literuy effects, and go elsewhere to

breathe, and te puet.

That seemed but zephyrs to the train ben

neath.

Some to the sun their insect-wings unfold,
IV.

Waft on the breeze, or sink in clouds of gold
Transparent forms, too fine for mortal sight

Their fluid bodies half dissolved in light. However, a poet exists in Pope, and

Loose to the wind their airy garment flew, to discover him we have only to read Then glitt'ring textures of the filmy dew, him by fragments;, if the whole is, as a Dipped in the

richest tincture of the skies, rule, wearisome or shocking, the details

Where light disports in ever-mingling dyes ; are admirable. It is so at the close of

While ev'ry beam new transient colours

Aings, every literary age. Pliny the younger, Colours that change whene'er they wave their and Seneca, so affected and so stiff, wings." are charming in small bits; each of Doubtless these are not Shakspeare's their phrases, taken by itself, is a mas- sylphs; but side by side with a natural terpiece ; each verse in Pope is a mas and living rose, we may still look with terpiece when taken alone. At this pleasure on a flower of diamonds, as time, and after a hundred years of cul- they'come from the hand of the jewelture, there is no movement, no object, ler, a masterpiece of art and patience, no action, which poets cannot describe. whose facets make the light glitter, and Every aspect of nature was observed; cast a shower of sparkles over the filia sunrise, a landscape reflected in the gree foliage in which they are embedwater, a breeze amid the foliage, and ded. A score of times in a poem of so forth. Ask Pope to paint in verse Pope's we stop to look with wonder on an eel, a perch, or a trout; he has the some of these literary adornments, exact phrase ready; we might glean He feels so well in what the strong from him the contents of a Gradus." point of his talent lies, that he abuses He gives the features so exactly, that it; he delights to show his skill. What at once we think we see the thing; he can be staler than a card party, or more gives the expression so copiously, that repellant to poetry than the queen of our imagination, however obtuse, will spades or the king of hearts? Yet, end by seeing it. He marks every doubtless for wager, he has recorded thing in the flight of a pheasant: in the Rape of the Lock a game of om.

bre; we follow it, hear it, recognize the “ See! from th: brake the whirring pheasant dresses :

springs And mounts exulting on triumphant wings...

“ Behold four kings in majesty revered, Ab what avail his glossy, varying dyes,

With hoary.whiskers and a forky beard ; His purple c'est, and scarlet-circled eyes,

And four fair queens whose hands sustain a The viri i green his shining plumes unfold,

flower, His painted wings, and breast that flames Th’ expressive emblem of their softer powe; with gold ?"7

Four knaves in garb succinct, a trusty band;
Caps on their heads and halberts in their

hand; • Pope's Works, i. 392 ; Windsor Forest, l. And parti-coloured troops, a shining train,

Drawn forth to combat on the velvet plain.'" Oft in her glass the musing shepherd spies We see the trumps, the cuts, the tricks, The headlong mountains and the downward and instantly afterwards the coffee, the

*

[ocr errors]

skies, The watry landscape of the pendant woods,

* Ibid. ii. 154; The Rape of ke Lock, c. 1 And absent trees that tremble in the floods."

1. 47-68. † Popo's Wo ks, i. 347 ; Windsor Forest, l. ť Tbid. ii. 160 ; The Rape the Lock, c. 3

160, l. 37-44.

11-tid

a

To say

china, the spoons, the fiery spirits (to poems are those made up of precepts wit, spirits of wine); we have here in and arguments. Artifice in these is less advance the modes and periphrases of shocking than elsewhere. A poem-I Delille. The celebrated verses in am wrong, essays like his upon Criticism, which Delille at once employs and de- on Man and the Government of Provi. scribes imitative harmony, are transla-dence, on the Knowledge and Characten tod from Pope.* It is an expiring po- of Men, deserve to be written after re etry, but poetry still: an ornament to fection; they are a study, and almost put on a mantel-piece is an inferior a scientific monograph. We may, we work of art, but still it is a work of art. even ought, to weigh all the words, and

To descriptive talent Pope unites ora- verify all the connections: art and at: torical talent. This art, proper to the tention are not superfluous, but neces classical age, is the art of expressing sary; the question concerns exact pire ordinary general ideas. For a hundred cepts and close arguments. In this and fifty years men of both the think- Pope is incomparable. I do not think ing countries, England and France, em- that there is in the world a versifiployed herein all their study. They ed prose like his; that of Boileau is seized those universal and limited not to be compared to it. Not that its truths, which, being situated between ideas are very worthy of attention; we lofty philosophical abstractions and have worn them out, they interest us petty sensible details, are the subject. no longer. The Essay on Criticism rematter of eloquence and rhetoric, and sembles Boileau's Epitres L'Art Poéform what we now-a-days call common- tique, excellent works, no longer read places. They arranged them in com- but in classes at school. It is a collecpartments; methodically developed tion of very wise precepts, whose only them; made them obvious by grouping fault is their being too true. and symmetry; disposed them in regu- that good taste is rare; that we ought lar processions, which with dignity and to reflect and learn before deciding ; majesty advance well disciplined, and that the rules of art are drawn from in a body. The influence of this ora- nature ; that pride, ignorance, prejutorical reason became so great, that it dice, partiality, envy, pervert our judg. was imposed on poetry itself. Buffon ment; that a critic should be sincere, ends by saying, in praise of certain modest, polished, kindly,—all these verses, that they are as fine as fine truths might then be discoveries, but prose. In fact, poetry at this time be. they are so no longer. "I suppose that same a more affected prose subjected in the time of Pope, Dryden, and Boi. io rhyme. It was only a higher kind leau, men had special need of setting of conversation and more select dis- their ideas in order, and of seeing them course. It is powerless when it is ne- very distinctly in very clear phrases. cessary to paint or represent an action, Now that this need is satisfied, it has when the need is to see and make visi- disappeared : we demand ideas, not arble living passions, large genuine emo- rangement of ideas; the pigeon-holes tions, men of flesh and blood; it re- are manufactured, fill them. Pope was sults only in college epics like the Hen- obliged to do it once in the Essay m riade, freezing odes and tragedies like Man, which is a sort of Vicaire Savoy. those of Voltaire and Jean-Baptiste ard, * less original than the other. He Rousseau, or those of Addison, Thom- shows that God made all for the best, son, Dr. Johnson, and the rest. It that man is limited in his capacity and makes them up of dissertations, because ought not to judge God, that our pas it is capable of nothing else but disser- sions and imperfections serve for the tations. Here henceforth is its domain; general good and for the ends of Provi: and its final task is the didactic poem, dence, that happiness lies in virtue and which is a dissertation in verse. Pope submission to the divine will. We excelled in it, and his most perfect recognize here a sort of deism and

optimism, of which there was much at Peins-moi légèrement l'amant léger de that time, borrowed, like those of Rous.

Flore, Qu'un doux ruisseau murmere en vers plus * A taic of J. J. Rousseau, in which he tries doux encore.

to depict a philosophical clergyman.-T..

scan,

seau, from the Théodicée of Leibnitz, * I could express them (ideas) more but tempered, toned down and arranged shurtly th:s way than in prose itself." for the use of respectable people. The In fact, every word is effective: every conception is not very lofty : this cur- passage must be read slowly; every tailed deity, making his appearance at epithet is an epitome; a more conthe beginning of the eighteenth century, densed style was never written; and, is but a residuum : religion having dis on the other hand, no one labored more appeared, he remained at the bottom skilfully in introducing philosophical of the crucible; and the reasoners of formulas into the current conversation the time, having no metaphysical in- of society. His maxims have become ventiveness, kept him in their system proverbs. I open his Essay on Man at

stop a gap. In this state and at random, and fall upon the beginning of this place this deity resembles classic his second book. An orator, an author verse. He has an imposing appearance, of the school of Buffon, would be trans. is comprehended easily, is stripped of ported with admiration to see so many power, is the product of cold argu- literary treasures collected in so small mentative reason, and leaves the peo- a space : ple who attend to him, very much at

“ Know then thyself, presume not God to ease; on all these accounts he is akin to an Alexandrine. This poor concep- The proper study of mankind is man. tion is all the more wretched in Pope

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state, because it does not belong to him, for

A being darkly wise, and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the sceptic he is only accidentally a philosopher; side, and to find matter for his poem, three With too much weakness for the stoic's or four systems, deformed and attenu

pride,

He hangs between ; in doubt to act, or rest ; ated, are amalgamated in his work.

In doubt to deem himself a God or beast; He boasts of having tempered them In doubt his mind or body to prefer ; one with the other, and having “steered Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err; between the extremes." The truth is,

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little or too much ; that he did not understand them, and

Chaos of thought and passion, all confused ; that he jumbles incongruous ideas at Still by himself abused or disabused ; every step. There is a passage in Created half to rise, and half to fall ; which, to obtain an effect of style, he

Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all ; becomes a pantheist ; moreover, he is

Sole judge of truth in endless error hurled,

The glory, jest, and riddle of the world." bombastic, and assumes the supercilibus, imperious tone of a young doctor The first verse epitomizes the whole of of theology. I find no individual in the preceding epistle, and the second vention except in his Moral Essays; epitomizes the present epistle; it is, as in them is a theory of dominant passion it were, a kind of staircase leading from which is worth reading. After all, he one temple to another, regularly comwent farther than Boileau, for instance, posed of symmetrical steps, so aptly in the knowledge of man. Psychology disposed that from the first step we see is indigenous in England; we meet

it at a glance the whole building we have there throughout, even in the least crea- left, and from the second the whole edi. tive minds. It gives rise to the novel, fice we are about to visit. Have we ever disposesses philosophy, produces the i seen a finer entrance, or one more con essay, appears in the newspapers, fills formable to the rules which bid us unite current literature, like those indigenous our ideas, recall them when developed, plants which multiply on every soil. pre-announce them when not yet de

But if the ideas are mediocre, the veloped? But this is not enough. Af art of expressing them is truly marvel- ter this brief announcement, which lous: marvellous is the word. “I premises that he is about to treat of chose verse,” says Pope in his Design human nature, a longer announcement, of an Essay on Man, “because I found is necessary, to paint beforehand, with great This is the proper oratorical having passions, ki ows his dictionary exordium, like tha se which Bossuet and grammar; Pop: thoroughly knew places at the beginning of his funeral his dictionary and nis grammar, but orations; a sort of elaborate portico to stopped there. receive the audience on their entrance, People will say that this merit is and prepare them for the magnificence small, and that I do not inspire the an of the temple. The antitheses follow with a desire to read Pope's verses. each other in couples like a succession True ; at least I do not counsel them of columns; thirteen couples form a to read many. I would add, however, suite ; and the last is raised above the by way of excuse, that there is a kira! rest by a word, which concentrates and in which he succeeds, that his descrip combines all. In other hands this pro- tive and oratorical talents find in por: longation of the same form would be traiture matter which suits them, and come tedious; in Pope's it interests us, that in this he frequently approaches so much variety is there in the arrange- La Bruyère; that several of his porpient and the adornments. In one traits, those of Addison, Lord Hervey, place the antithesis is comprised in a Lord Wharton, the Duchess of Marlsingle line, in another it occupies two: borough, are medals worthy of finding now it is in the substantives, now in a place in the cabinets of the curious, the adjectives and verbs; now only in and of remaining in the archives of the the ideas, now it penetrates the sound human race; that when he chisels one and position of the words. In vain we of these heads, the comprehensive imsee it reappear; we are not wearied, ages, the unlooked-for connections of because each time it adds somewhat to words, the sustained and multiplied our idea, and shows us the object in a contrasts, the perpetual and extraordinew light. This object itself may be nary conciseness, the incessant and inabstract, obscure, unpleasant, opposed creasing impulse of all the strokes of to poetry; the style spreads over it its eloquence brought to bear upon the own light; noble images borrowed from same spot, stamp upon the memory an the grand and simple spectacles of na- impress which we never forget. It is ture, illustrate and adorn it. For there better to repudiate these partial apolois a classical architecture of ideas as gies, and frankly to avow that, on the well as of stones: the first, like the whole, this great poet, the glory of his second, is a friend to clearness and reg. age, is wearisome-wearisome to us. ularity, majesty and calm; like the "A woman of forty," says Stendhal, “is second, it was invented in Greece, only beautiful to those who have loved transmitted through Rome to France, her in their uth.” The poor muse in through France to England, and slight- question is not forty years old for us ; ly altered in its passage. Of all the she is a hundred and forty. Let us remasters who have practised it in Eng-member, when we wish to judge her land, Pope is the most skilled. fairly, the time when we made french

the greatest possible splendor, this huThe Théodiate was written in French, and man nature of which he is about to published in 1710.-TR.

| These words are taken from the Design of * Pope's Works, ii.; An 8 many on man sw Essay on Man.

Ep. ii. 375, l. 1-18.

After all is there any thing in the verses like our Latin verse. Taste belines just quoted but decoration ? came transfo:med an age ago, for the huTranslate them literally into prose, man mind has wheeled round; with the and of all those beauties there remains prospect the perspective has changed ;

If the reader dissects Pope's we must take this change of place arguments, he will hardly be moved by into account. Now-a-days we demand chem; he would instinctively think of new ideas and bare sentiments; we Pascal's. Pensées, and remark upon the care no longer for the clothing, we astonishing difference between a versi- want the thing. Exordium, transiticns, fier and a man. A good epitome, a peculiarities of style, elegances of ex: good bit of style, well worked out, well pression, the whole literary wardrobe, written, he would say, and nothing fur. is sent to the old cloines shop; we ther. Clearly the beauty of the verses only keep what is indispensable; we arose from the difficulty overcome, the trouble ourselves no more about adorn well-chosen sounds, the symmetrical ment but about truth. The men of the rhythms ; this was all, and it was not preceding century were quite different much. A great writer is a man who, | This was seen when Pope translated

no. one.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »