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hich he quotes to the fathe Italian; anan krom na
none can claim credit for greater powers than they display; and some subjects are less compatible than others with the manifestation of particular talents of execution.
It is this, perhaps, which Mr Bowles means, when he says, the subject is equally to be considered with the execution; it is this, at least, which he ought to mean. •Pope must be judged,' he continues,' according to the rank in which he stands among those of the French school, not the Italian ; among those whose delineations are taken more from manners than from nature,' This is perfectly intelligible;- but is it true? Is there no differ. ence between Pope and Boileau ? Does he speak so little to the 'imagination and the heart ? Does he borrow his delineations from manners only, and not from nature? Mr Bowles excepts, indeed, from his position, the Epistle of Eloisa, on which he bestows no more praise than is just, when he says, that nothing of the kind has ever been produced equal to it for pathos, paint ing and melody.' But are there no other parts of his works, in which Pope has reached a high tone of real poetry, according to the strictest notion of the term ? Is poetry found in the moral sublime, in the excitement of high and dignified emotion, through the medium of harmonious and forcible numbers ? The epistle to, Lord Oxford displays this reach of noble sentiment, more uniformly, though not, perhaps, more conspicuously, than some other passages of his moral writings. Is the sprightliness of a versatile fancy, the play of varied imagery, a distinguishing characteristic of the poet? Where is this more striking, than ini the Rape of the Lock,-and, indeed, in many parts of the Dunciad? Is the fervour of passion, the power of exciting and expressing emotion, the soul of poetry ? " We have already pointed to it in the Eloisa. What then is it that we want ? and for what reason does Mr Bowles, like the vain herd of modern versifiers, carp at the poetical merits of Pope ? That he is not of the class of Milton and Shakespeare is indisputable; and, notwithstanding the two volumes, in which Dr Warton thought it necessary to prove this truism, we doubt whether any critic, even during the Aattery of his own age, ever thought of placing him so high
The true reason, we suspect, of this perpetual tendency in the present age to depreciate Pope, is an inordinate preference of descriptive poetry. The following extract will prove, we think, the truth of what we assert, so far as Mr Bowles is concerned.
In what has been said, I have avoided the introduction of pica turesque description ; that is, accurate representations from external objects of nature : but if the premises laid down in the commencement of these reflexions are true, no one can stand preeminent as a great poet, unless he has not only a heart fufceptible of the most pathetic or most VOL. XI. NO. 2 2.
exalted feelings of nature, but an eye attentive to, and familiar with, very external appearance that she may exhibit, in every change of sea fon, every variation of light and shade, every rock, every tree, every leaf, in her solitary places. He who has not an eye to observe these, and who cannot, with a glance, diftinguish every diversity of every bue in her variety of bcauties, muft so far be deficient in one of the essential qualities of a poet.
• Here Pope, from infirmities, and from physical causes, was particularly deficient. When he left his own laurel circus at Twickenham, he was lifted into his chariot or his barge ; and, with weak eyes, and tottering Atrength, it is physically impollble he could be a descriptive bard. Where description has been introduced among his poems, as far as his 'observation could go, he excelled ; more could not be expected. In the descriptions of the cloifter, the scenes surrounding the melancholy convent, as far as could be gained by books, or suggested by imagination, he was eminently successful ; but even here, perhaps, he only proved that he could not go far; and,
« The streams that shine between the hills,
“ The grots that ecbo to the tinkling rills," were possibly transcripts of what he could mott easily transcribe,-his own views and scenery."
It would be perhaps idle to notice the anachronism with which this passage concludes, were it not a proof of that cavilling disposition which we noticed above, and which is perpetually on the scent for some ill-natured remark towards Pope. Mr Bowles knows very well, that Pope was not possessed of his own views and scenery,' meaning his house and grotto at Twickenham, till
long after the publication of Eloisa's epistle. But we object, as' ** critics, to the spirit of the whole paragraph. That picturesque
description is a fruitful source of poetical pleasure, we readily confess : but we deny that it is essential to the poetical character, or that no one can stand preeminent, who has never excelled in it. Images, indeed, drawn from natural objects, are indispensable in poetry, as they are in all animated prose ; but accurate and detailed description, which, in some species of poetical composition, is wholly inapplicable, is, in most others, rather valuable than necessary. Does Mr Bowles require, that the eye of the lyric poet, or of the tragedian, should be familiar with every variation of light and shade, every tree, and every leaf?'-Such petty circumstances of external nature are 'scorned by him who aims at a nobler quarry, the excitement of powerful emotion, and the delineation, not of trees and leaves, but of the passions and sentiments of the human mind. Even of those, whose subjects may fitly have led them to the introduction of this species of ornament, the painter's eye, which Mr Bowles requires, has been the lot of very few. Poets are said to be 'cupidi silvarum;' but it has chanced,
whices of externwery tree, and a familiar with
Police, which introducer of those of the
we believe, that most of them have lived in courts or cities, with out much inquiry after any ' external appearances' of nature, beyond those which are tolerably obvious, and which all men recognize pretty equaily. A poet feels, and expresses what he feels, more forcibly than an ordinary person : the most common phenomena of the visible world, therefore, strike more in his descriptions, than in reality; they are better selected, better combined, and more richly associated. But if the nice skill of landscape painting, the power of showing what the reader wonders he never saw before,' for which Dr Johnson has praised Thom.son, be essential to poetry ; valuable as, in its judicious exercise, it may be deemed, few indeed are the poets. There is something of this, but not a great deal, in Homer. There is, as we observed on a former occasion, * an eminent degree of picturesque skill in Virgil ; it is one of his peculiar excellences; and perhaps he has a claim to rank higher, in this respect, than any ancient or modern poet. But we say this, on account of the good taste with which he has refrained from excessive and particular detail. He falls very short of Mr Bowles's exaggerated requisition; he does pot stop to distinguish every diversity of every hue in nature's variety of beauties ;' his descriptions are beautifully sketched, but the perfect finish must be supplied by the picturesque reader. The Italian poets are equally deficient, according to Mr Bowles's canon ; even Spenser, if nicely examined, will not be found to have composed landscapes ; and, with the weak eyes' of Milton, it is physically impossible,' in Mr Bowles's own words, that he could be a descriptive bard.'
In truth, we are become sick of this deluge of descriptive poctry, which, since the days of Thomson, has swept over the lower regions of Parnassus. It has its charm, and to us a very powerful one: we love the forms of external nature, and are pleased to find them suggested, whether by the painter or poet, in combinations more attractive than themselves generally present. But it readily degenerates into a very low style of poetry; a monotonous enumeration of rocks and rivers, birds and beasts, variegated only with the still more dreary embellishment of sickly and sombre sentiment. Will those, who are conversant with modern poetry, accuse us of injustice? It is the price which we pay for Thomson and Cowper; their successes, and the extreme easiness of descriptive poetry, have raised up a lamentable school, which we regret to think the public taste has too much encouraged. Indeed we owe some grudge to the two Wartons for their exceeding love of mere description,—though no one will impute to them
* No. XIII. p. 141.
fonih is usuallcent differed, but by
foo great knowledge of nature, in any sense of the word. · Minute description, however, independently of its tendency to become heavy and tedious, seems to labour under one inevitable fault; it is too technical; it is hardly understood, but by those who have watched the slight and evanescent differences of visible things, with more attention, than is usually given by the studious or the busy. Unless where a fondness for painting, or habits of much seclusion, have accustomed the mind to sift and discriminate the sensations of the eye, it is not, we think, very common for men to look on nature in detail. Her striking features arrest the most careless; but a thousand varieties of shade and colour play over her countenance, without being heeded before they pass away, or remembered when they return.
We have thought this much necessary to vindicate what we deem the cause of poets and poetry, from a narrow and exclusive system. We will not permit the bards of former days to be thus arraigned before a jury of tourists and draughtsmen, for the want of excellences of which their own contemporaries had never dreamed. But lest, in defending the poetical character of Pope against false principles of criticism, we should inadvertently have appeared to raise it too high, let it be understood, that we do not believe him possessed of that diviner spirit, that energy and enthusiasm, which are required for the epic, the tragic, or the lyric muse. Not choice only, but nature, prescribed a different range; and, within his own sphere, there are surely very few who could be placed over his head; much less could any critic of taste and candour refuse the name of poet to one so highly gifted by nature, and so improved by skill. May we be permitted to suggest what we, perhaps singularly, deem a striking deficiency in the poetical faculties of Pope? He seems to have never acquired that facility of conception, or that ready use of his own instrument, versification, which long habit has given to other poets. His hasty lines, whenever they have come to light, seem almost always feeble and ill expressed. There cannot be a stronger proof than an epigram which Mr Bowles has printed, (Vol. IV. p. 32.) It is surprising, that a man like Pope, who'lisped in numbers,' could have suffered such wretched lines to escape him, even if he never intended them to be public. His frequent infelicity of diction, from its harshness, its obscurity, its hardness, or its grammatical inaccuracy, seems to have proceeded from the same cause. Poetry was his daily labour ; but the task does not seem to have grown
lighter by use. There is, perhaps, more ease in his early produce · tions, than in those of his maturer life; and most of all in his
Homer. We know, however, that even this translation was re
ouched in almost every line ; and the manuscript exists in the British Museum, which contains his interlineations.
We have certainly been disappointed in Mr Bowles's edition of Pope, which exhibits neither the industry of a commentator, nor the elegance of a poetical critic. There may be a few good remarks, but we sincerely think they are very few : if we were to select one for praise, it should be his general criticism on the Rape of the Lock. Upon the whole, we recommend to this gentleman to abstain from prose, and to think rhyme quite as indispensable to his appearance in public, as a bag and sword are at court.
Art. X. The Works of Salluft: to which are prefixed, two Ef
says on the Life, Literary Charneter, and Writings of the Hifíorion; with Notes, Historical, Biographical, and Critical. By Henry Steuart LL. D., Fellow of the Royal Society, and of
the Society of Antiquaries, Edinburgh. 2 vol. 4to. pp. 1300. . C. & R. Baldwin, London, 1806. The most remarkable thing about this book is its enormous bulk:
1 and those who, like us, have been accustomed to peruse the noble hiftorian in an edition about the fize of a hand at whist, will easily conceive with what amazement we contemplated the magnificent amplitude of the work before us. In examining its contents, we cannot say that this amazement has settled into ad. miration; although we still wonder a little at fome of Dr Steuart's literary qualifications, besides his gift of amplification.
. It'is fingular,' observes this learned person in his preface, that, (in England) with a numerous body of clergy, whole leisure is liberally patronized by the nation, and who pique themselves on classical acquire. ments, there should still remain a single ancient writer inaccessible to those who cultivate only the language of their native country. It is an extraordinary circumstance, however discreditable to English learning, that, with translations of the ancient poets, beyond question the finet exifting, we should ftill be outftripped in our versions of the prose alis thors of Greece and Rome, by the greater part of our European neigh. bours, who have any pretenfions to taste or literature.' .
Now in this we see little to be wondered at. It is no doubt true, that, before we can have translations of the classics, we must have men capable of translating them ; but it is equally obvious, that the more men of this fort we have, there will be the less occafion for their services : and the fact is, that not only the clergy, but almost all who take any interest in classical subjects, are, in this country, capable of studying them in the original authors. Where classical instruction is less generally diffured, translations