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Harsh on the ploughs, men's bones, half buried, sound,
« No foreign merchant to our isle resorts,
But question'd much of you, he leaves our ports;
« Our son to Pylos cut the briny wave;
But Nestor's self a dubious answer gave:
« Better had stood Apollo's sacred wall:
« But while your conduct thus I fondly clear,
Perhaps (true man!) you court some foreign fair;
« Urged by a father's right again to wed,
Firm I refuse, still faithful to your bed!
« Of teasing suitors a luxurious train,
« Three, helpless three! are here; a wife not strong,
A sire too aged, and a son too young,
These two lines are replete with beauty: nigh, which implies approximation, and from, which implies distance, are, to use our translator's expressions, drawn as it were up
in line of battle. Tore is put for torn, that is, torn by fraud, from her arms; not that her son played truant and embarked by fraud, as a reader who does not understand Latin might be apt to fancy:
« Heaven grant the youth survive each parent's date,
Our translator observes in a note, that « the simplicity expressed in these lines is so far from being a blemish, that it is, in fact, a very great beauty: and the modern critic, who is offended with the mention of a sty, however he may pride himself upon his false delicacy, is either too shortsighted to penetrate into real nature, or has a stomach too
nice to digest the noblest relics of antiquity.» He means, no doubt, to digest a hog-sty; but, antiquity apart, we doubt if even Powel the fire-eater himself could bring his appetite to relish so unsavoury a repast.
« By age your sire disarm'd, and wasting woes,
« A son, and long may Heaven the blessing grant, You have, whose years a sire's instructions want. Think how Laërtes drags an age
But let not the reader imagine we can find pleasure in thus exposing absurdities, which are too ludicrous for serious reproof. While we censure as critics, we feel as men, and could sincerely wish that those, whose greatest sin is, perhaps, the venial one of writing bad verses, would regard their failure in this respect as we do, not as faults, but foibles; they may be good and useful members of society, without being poets. The regions of taste can be travelled only by a few, and even those often find indifferent accommodation by the way. Let such as have not got a passport from nature be content with happiness, and leave the poet the unrivalled possession of his misery, his garret, and his fame.
We have of late seen the republic of letters crowded with some, who have no other pretensions to applause but industry, who have no other merit but that of reading many books, and making long quotations : these we have heard extolled by sympathetic dunces, and have seen them carry off the rewards of genius; while others, who should have been born in better days, felt all the wants of poverty, and the agonies of contempt. Who then that has a regard for the public, for the literary honours of our country, for the figure we shall one day make among posterity, that would not choose to see such humbled as are possessed only of talents that might have made good cobblers, had fortune turned them to trade? Should such prevail, the real interests of learning must be in a reciprocal proportion to the power they possess. Let it be then the character of our periodical endeavours, and hitherto we flatter ourselves it has ever been, not to permit an ostentation of learning to pass for merit, nor to give a pedant quarter upon the score of his industry alone, even though he took refuge behind Arabic, or powdered his hair with hieroglyphics. Authors thus censured may accuse our judgment, or our reading, if they please, but our own hearts will acquit us of envy or ill-nature, since we reprove only with a desire to reform.
But we had almost forgot, that our translator is to be considered as a critic as well as a poet; and in this department he seems also equally unsuccessful with the former. Criticism at present is different from what it was upon the revival of taste in Europe; all its rules are now well known; the only art at present is, to exhibit them in such lights as contribute to keep the attention alive, and excite a favourable audience. It must borrow graces from eloquence, and please while it aims at instruction : but instead of this, we have a combination of trite observations, delivered in a style in which those who are disposed to make war upon words, will find endless opportunities of triumph.
He is sometimes hypercritical: thus, page 9. «Pope, in his excellent Essay on Criticism (as will, in its place, when you come to be lectured upon it, at full be explained), terms this making the sound an echo to the
But I apprehend that definition takes in but a part, for the best ancient poets excelled in thus painting to the eye as well as to the ear. Virgil, describing his housewife preparing her wine, exhibits the act of the fire to the eye.
« Aut dulcis musti Vulcano decoquit humorem,
« For the line (if I may be allowed the expression) boils over; and, in order to reduce it to its
proper bounds, you must, with her, skim off the redundant syllable.» These are beauties which, doubtless, the reader is displeased he cannot discern.
Sometimes confused : « There is a deal of artful and concealed satire in what OEnone throws out against Helen; and to speak truth, there was fair scope for it, and it might naturally be expected. Her chief design was to render his new mistress suspected of meretricious arts, and make him apprehensive that she would hereafter be as ready to leave him for some new gallant, as she had before, perfidiously to her lawful husband, followed him.» · Sometimes contradictory: thus, page 3. «Style (says he) is used by some writers, as synonymous with diction, yet in my opinion, it has rather a complex sense, including