ple of Fame,” in imitation of Chaucer's “ House of Fame," «Windsor Forest," a loco-descriptive poem, and « Eloisa to Abelard,” the most popular, perhaps, of any of his productions. But all these poems, together with his Satires and Epistles, added but very little to his fortune. Accordingly, at the age of twenty-five, he issued proposals for the Translation of the Iliad, by subscription. The work was accomplished in five years, and while the profits were such as to gratify his utmost expectations, the great and signal merits of the translation received the warmest eulogiums from the literary world. In a few years after, in conjunction with Fenton and Broome, he translated the Odyssey.

The fame which Pope acquired by these writings drew upon him the attacks of the envious ;and a host of critics, individually insignificant, but troublesome from their numbers, continued to annoy him. To retaliate, he published, in 1728, “ The Dunciad," a work “ which fell among his opponents like an exterminating thunderbolt.” But while it has displayed the temperament of the author in no very enviable light, it has perpetuated the memory of many worthless scribblers, who otherwise would have sunk into oblivion. In 1733 he published his celebrated didactic poem, the « Essay on Man.” No sooner did it appear than it was assailed by his enemies, and others, on the ground that it was full of skeptical or infidel tendencies. From this charge it was ably defended by the learned Dr. Warburton, and has since been most triumphantly vindicated in the preliminary discourse of Mr. Roscoe. After the publication of the “Essay on Man” he continued to compose occasional pieces, and planned many admirable works: among the latter was “ A History of the Rise and Progress of English Poetry.” But he never lived to enter upon the work, for an asthmatic affection, to which he had long been subject, terminated, in 1744, in a dropsy of the chest, and he expired on the 30th of May of that year.“

“ What rank,” says Dr. Drake, “ should be assigned to Pope in a classification of our English poets, has been a subject of frequent inquiry. It is evi. dent, that by far the greater part of his original productions consists of ethic and satiric poetry; and by those who estimate mere moral sentiment, or the exposure, in splendid versification, of fashionable vice or folly, as the highest province of the art, he must be considered as the first of bards. If, however, sublimity, imagination, and pathos be, as they assuredly are, the noblest efforts of the creative powers, and the most difficult of attainment, Pope will be found to have had some superiors, and several rivals. With Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, he cannot, in those essential qualities, enter into competition; and when compared with Dryden, Young, and Thomson, the mind hesitates in the allotment of superiority.”

[ocr errors]


1 He cleared the sum of five thousand three hundred and twenty pounds.

2 " Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before ENVY P-Proverbe xxvii. 4.

8 See Roscoe's edition of Pope, 10 vols. London, one of the choicest contributions to English literature of the

ntury. Read, also, that elegant and interesting piece of criticism, Warton's " Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope," a work of which it has been justly said that, “ how. ever often perused, it affords fresh delight, and may be considered as one of the books best adapted to excite a love of literature."

* In person, Pope was short and deformed, of great weakness and delicacy of body, and had, through life, suffered from I health. Warton remarks, that "his bodily make was of use to him as a writer," quoting the following passage from Lord Bacon's Essays: “It is good to consider de formity not as a sign, which is more deceivable; but as a cause, which seldom faileth of the effect. Whosoever hath any thing fixed in his person that doth induce contempt, hath also a perpetual spur in himself to rescue and deliver himself from scorn."

6 Read an admirable "Estimate of the Poetical Character and Writings of Pope," prefixed to the second volume of Roscoe's edition.

[ocr errors]


Warton, in the dedication of his elegant « Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope,” after making four classes of the various English poets, remarks: “ In which of these classes Pope deserves to be placed, the following work is intended to determine;" and he closes his second volume, thus: “Where, then, according to the question proposed at the beginning of this Essay, shall we justly be authorized to place our admired Pope? Not, assuredly, in the same rank with Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton; however justly we may applaud the Eloisa,' and the • Rape of the Lock;' but, considering the correctness, elegance, and utility of his works, the weight of sentiment, and the knowledge of man they contain, we may venture to assign him a place next to Milton, and just above Dryden. The preference here given to Pope, above other modern English poets, it must be remembered, is founded on the excellencies of his works in general, and taken altogether ; for there are parts and passages in other modern authors, in Young and in Thomson, for instance, equal to any of Pope; and he has written nothing in a strain so truly sublime as the • Bard' of Gray."?

A Sacred Eclogue, in imitation of Virgil's Pollio.3
Ye nymphs of Solyma !4 begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pindus5 and the Aonian maids,6
Delight no more-0 Thou my voice inspire
Who touch'd Isaiah's hallow'd lips with fire!

Rapt into future times, the bard begun:
A Virgin shall conceive, a Virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse's root7 behold a branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
The Ethereal Spirit o'er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descend the mystic Dove.
Ye heavens !8 from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly shower!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient frauds shall fail;
Returning Justice10 lift aloft her scale;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend.

1 He means next to that first class, which includes Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, naming these in a chronological order, and not in the order of their merits.

2 And what has he written equal to the "Elegy," or the “Progress of Poesy," of Gray?

8 Pollio was a Roman senator in the time of Augustus, and celebrated not only as a general, but as a patron of letters and the fine arts. Virgil addressed to him his fourth Eclogue at a time (B. C. 40) wh Augustus nd Antony had ratified a league peace, and thus, as was thought, esta lished the tranquillity of the empire, as in the times of the “golden age.” In this Eclogue Virgil is most eloquent in the praise of peace, and in some of his figures and expressions is thought to have imitated the prophecies of Isaiah, which, probably, he had read in the Greek Septuagint. But however this may be as regards Virgil, Roscoe well remarks of this production of Pope, that "the idea of uniting the sacred prophecies and grand imagery of ISAIAH, with the mysterious visions and pomp of numbers displayed in the POLLIO, thereby combining both sacred and heathen mythology in preaicting the coming of the MESSIAH, is one of the happiest subjects for producing emotions of sublimity that ever occurred to the mind of a poet."

4 Jerusalem. 5 A mountain in Thessaly, sacred to the Muses. 8 Aonian maids--the Muses. ; Isa. xi. 1. 8 Isa. xlv. 8. 9 Isa. xxv. 4.

10 Isa. ix. 7.

Swift fly the years, and rise the expected morn!
O spring to light, auspicious Babe, be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest wreaths to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring:
See lofty Lebanon' his head advance,
See nodding forests on the mountains dance;
See spicy clouds from lowly Saron rise,
And Carmel's flowery top perfumes the skies !
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
Prepare the way!2 A God, a God appears!
A God, a God! the vocal hills reply;
The rocks proclaim the approaching Deity.
Lo, earth receives him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains; and ye valleys, rise!
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay;
Be smooth, ye rocks; ye rapid floods, give way.
The Saviour comes! by ancient bards foretold !
Hear him, ye deaf; 3 and all ye blind, behold !
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eyeball pour the day:
'Tis he the obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th' unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting, like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear;
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall death be bound,
And hell's grim tyrant feel th' eternal wound.
As the good shepherd 4 tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture, and the purest air;
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o'ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hand, and in his bosom warms:
Thus shall mankind his guardian care engage,
The promised 5 father of the future age.
No more shall nation 6 against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover'd o'er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son?
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow'd shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts 8 with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts amidst the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon's late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.

1 188. XXXV. 2.
6 Isa. ix. 6.

2 Isa. xl. 3, 4.
6 Isa. ti. 4.

8 Isa. xli. 18; XXXV. 5, 6.

Isa. Ixv. 21, 22.

4 Isa. XI. 11.
8 ISA. XXXV 17.

Waste sandy valleys,' once perplex'd with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn:
To leafless shrubs the flowering palm succeed,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weed.
The lambs? with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead.
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents 3 lick the pilgrim's feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongues shall innocently play.
Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise,
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thine eyes!
See a long race 5 thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons and daughters, yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barbarous nations6 at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend;
See thy bright altars throng'd with prostrate kings,
And heap'd with products of Sabean? springs!
For thee Idume's spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir's mountains glow.
See heaven its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day!
No more the rising Sun 8 shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O'erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
Reveald, and God's eternal day be thine!
The seas 9 shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix'd his word, his saving power remains;

Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns! Of the « Essay on Criticism,” Dr. Johnson remarks, “if he had written nothing else, it would have placed him among the first critics and the first poets; as it exhibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify composition-selection of matter, novelty of arrangement, justness of precept, splendor of illustration, and propriety of digression."10


[ocr errors]


Of all the causes which conspire to blind
Man's erring judgment, and misguide the mind,
What the weak head with strongest bias rules,
Is Pride, the never-failing vice of fools.
Whatever Nature has in worth denied,
She gives in large recruits of needful Pride!

1 Isa. xli. 19; lv. 13. 2 Isa. xi. 6-8.

8 Isa. lxv. 25. 4 Isa. )x. 1. 6 Isa. lx. . 6 Isa. lx. 3.

7 Isa. lx. 6.

8 Isa. lx. 19, 20. 9 Isa. li. 6; liv. 10. 10 "For a person only twenty years old to have produced such an Essay, so replete with a knoppe ledge of life and manners, such accurate observations on men and books, such variety of literature, such strong good sense, and refined taste and judgment, has been the subject of frequent and of just admiration."--Warton.

For as in bodies, thus in souls, we find
What wants in blood and spirits, swellid with wind :
Pride, where Wit fails, steps in to our defence,
And fills up all the mighty void of sense.
If once right reason drives that cloud away,
Truth breaks upon us with resistless day.
Trust not yourself; but, your defects to know,
Make use of every friend--and every foe.
A little learning is a dangerous thing!
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts,
While, from the bounded level of our mind,
Short views we take, nor see the lengths behind;
But more advanced, behold with strange surprise
New distant scenes of endless science rise!
So pleased at first the towering Alps we try,
Mount o'er the vales, and seem to tread the sky;
Th' eternal snows appear already past,
And the first clouds and mountains seem the last:
But, those attain’d, we tremble to survey
The growing labors of the lengthen’d way;
Th’ increasing prospect tires our wandering eyes,
Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

Essay on Criticism, 201.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an Echo to the sense:
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives some rock’s vast weight to throw,
The line too labors, and the words move slow:
Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain,
Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.'

Essay on Criticism, 364. EVANESCENCE OF POETIC FAME. Be thou the first true merit to befriend; His praise is lost, who stays till all commend. Short is the date, alas, of modern rhymes, And 'tis but just to let them live betimes.

1 These lines are usually cited as fine examples of adapting the sound to the sense, but Dr. Johnson, in the ninety-second number of the Rambler, has demonstrated that Pope has here signally failed. "The verse intended to represent the whisper of the vernal breeze must surely be confessed not much to excel in softness or volubility; and the 'smooth stream' runs with a perpetual clash of jarring consonants. The noise and turbulence of the 'torrent,' is indeed distinctly imaged; for It requires very little skill to make our language rough. But in the lines which mention the effort of * Ajax,' there is no particular heaviness or delay. The 'swiftness of Camilla' is rather contrasted than exemplified. Why the verse should be lengthened to express speed will not easily be discovered. But the Alexandrine, by its pause in the midst, is a tardy and stately measure; and the word 'un. bending,' one of the most sluggish and slow which our language affords, cannot much accelerate itu motion."

« VorigeDoorgaan »