Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the best poet, for versification at least, that England has to boaft of.

High on his helm celestial lightnings play,
His beamy thield emits a living ray,
Th' unweary'd blaze inceffant it reams supplies,
Like the red Itar that fires th’autumnal skics.

Iliad, v. 51

Strength and omnipotence invest thy throne.

Iliad, viii. 576.

So filent fountains, from a rock's tall head,
In fable streams soft trickling waters fhed.

Iliad, ix. 19.

His clanging armour rung.

Iliad, xii. 94,

Fear on their cheek, and horror in their eye.

Iliad, xv. 4.

The blaze of armour fiath'd against the day.

Iliad, xvii. 736.

As when the piercing blafts of Boreas blow.

Iliad, xix. 380.

And like the moon, the broad refulger.t fhield
Blaz'd with long rays, and gleamd athwart the field,

Hiad, xix. 402

No--could our swiftness o'er the winds prevail,
Or beat the pinions of the western gale,
All were in vain

Iliad, xix. 460.

The humid sweat from ev'ry pore descends.

Iliad, xxiii. 829.

Redundant

Redundant epithets, such as humid in the last citation, are by Quintilian disallowed to orators ; but indulged to poets,* because his favourite poets, in a few instances, are reduced to such epithets for the fake of versification ; for instance, Prata canis albicant pruinis of Horace, and liquidos fontes of Virgil.

As an apology for such careless expressions, it may well fuffice, that Pope, in submitting to be a translator, acts below his genius. In à translation, it is hard to require the same fpirit or accuracy, that is cheerfully bestowed on an original work. And to support the reputation of that author, I shall give some instances from Virgil and Horace, more faulty by redundancy than any of those above mentioned :

Sæpe etiam immenfum cælo venit agmen aquarum,
Et fædam glomerant tempestatem imbribus atris
Collectæ ex alto nubes : fuit arduus ether,
Et pluvià ingenti fata læta, boumque labores
Diluit.

Georg. lib. i. 322.

Poftquam altum tenuere rates, nec jam amplius ullæ
Apparent terix; coelum undique et undique pontus :
Tum mini cæruleus fupra caput aftitit imber,
Noctem hyememque ferens : et inhorruit unda tenebris.

Æneid, lib.ii. 192.

Hinc tibi copia
Manabit ad plenum benigno
Ruris honoruin opulenta connu.

Horat. Carm. lib. 1. 9de 17.

Videre fe Nos vomerem inversum boves
Collo trahentes languido.

Horat. epod. ii. 63.

Here

* L. 8. cap. 6. sect. 2.

Here I can luckily apply Horace's rule against himfelf:

Eit brevitate opus, ut currat sententia, neu se
Impediat verbis lailas oneranubus aures.

Satir. lib. 1. fat. X. g.

I close this chapter with a curious inquiry. An object, however ugly to the fight, is far from being so when represented by colours or by words. What is the cause of this difference? With respect to painting, the cause is obvious : a good picture, whatever the subject be, is agreeable by the pleasure we take in imitation ; and this pleasure overbalancing the disagreeableness of the subject, makes the picture upon the whole agreeable. With respect to the description of an ugly object, the cause follows. To connect individuals in the social state, no particular contributes more than language, by the power it pofle iles of an expeditious communication of thought, and a lively representation of transactions. But nature hath not been satisfied to recommend language by its utility merely : independent of utility, it is made fusceptible of many beauties, which are directly felt, without any intervening reflection.* And this unfolds the mystery; for the pleasure of language is so great, as in a lively description to overbalance the disagreeableness of the image raised by it. This, however, is no encouragement to choose a disagreeable subject ; for the pleasure is incomparably greater where the subject and the description are both of them agreeable.

The following description is upon the whole agreeable, though the subject described is in itself dismal :

Nine

* See chap. 18.

+ See chap. 2. part 4,

Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men, he with his horrid crew
Lay vanquilh'd, rolling in the fiery gulf,
Confounded though immortal ! but his doom
Reserv'd him to more wrath ; for now the thought
Both of loft happiness and lasting pain
Torments him ; round he throws his baleful eyes
That witness'd huge affiAion and dismay,
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate :
At once as far as angels ken he views,
The dismal situation waste and wild :
A dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great

furnace flam'd; yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover fights of wo,
Regions of sorrow, doletul shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all ; but torture without end
Sull urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever burning sulphur unconsum'd !
Such place eternal justice had prepar'd
For those rebellious.

Paradise Lost, b. 1. l. 50.

An unmanly depression of spirits in time of danger is not an agreeable sight ; and yet a fine description or representation of it will be relished :

K. Richard. What must the King do now? must

he submit ?
The King shall do it : must he be depos'd ?
The King hall be contented :,must he lose
The name of King ? o'God's name, let it go ;
I'll give my jewels for a set of beads ;
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage ;
My gay apparel, for an almfman's gown ;
My figur'd goblets, for a dish of wood;
My sceptre, for a palmer's walking staff ;
My subjects, for a pair of carved faints;
And my large kingdom for a little grave ;
A linle, litile grave ;

an obscure grave.

Or,

Os, I'll be bury'd in the King's high-way ;
Some way of common tread, where subject's feet
May hourly trample on their sovereign's head ;
For on my heart they tread now whilft I live ;
And bury'd once, why not upon my head ?

Richard II. a£t 3. fc. 6.

Objects that strike terror in a spectator, have in poetry and painting a fine effect. The picture by raising a flight emotion of terror, agitates the mind; and in that condition every beauty makes a deep impression. May not contrast heighten the pleasure, by opposing our present security to the danger of encountering the object represented

The other shape,
It shape it might be call'd, that shape had none
Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb;
Or subítance might be callid that thadow seemd,
For each seein'd either ; black it stood as night,
Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell,
And thook a dreadful dart.

Paradise Loft, book 2. 7. 666.

Now storming fury rose,
And clamour such as heard in heaven till now
Was never : arms on arınour clashing bray'd
Horrible difcord, and the madding wheels
Of brazen chariots rag'd ; dire was the noise
Of conflict : overhead the dismal hiss
Of fiery darts in flaming volleys few,
And flying vaulted either host with fire.
So under fiery cope together ruth'd
Both battles main, with ruinous aifault
And inextinguishable rage : all heaven
Refounded, and had earth been then, all earth
Had to her centre thook.

Paradise Lost, book 6. l. 207.

Ghost.

But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,

I could

« PreviousContinue »