Page images
PDF
EPUB

" In the sublime, nothing can be higher than the language of his Gods, Neptune and Jupiter.

If such thy will.---We will it, Jove replies.* “ This latter is that short full way of expression so frequent in Virgil and Homer, copied perhaps by both from the admired example of it in Moses, and grown since into an axiom among the critics.

Antiphaus could scarce imagine, that these were all clear improvements upon Homer; he immediately consulted the passages in the original; and was surprized to find, how far they fell short of the translation; especially in the lines that answer Circe's threat, and the complaint of Agamemnon. am pleased, says he, beyond measure, in consulting these parts of the poem, to see how much strength and force there is added to them; have you not observed more instances of this kind ? impart them to me, good Philypsas: 'tis no matter for method or regularity; give them to me immediately.”—

In a subsequent page, Philypsas observes that Mr. Pope has “improved much upon the original in his poetical repetition of the same word, the figure in which he is most frequent. Thus," he remarks, " is it used in the following lines:

* B. 13, 1. 177.

A scene, wirere if a God should cast his sight,
A God night gaze, and wander with delight.*

Never, never wicked man was wise.t “ 'Tis yet more beautiful, when the repetition holds further; as in this passage :

Transported with the song, the list'ning train
Again with loud applause demand the strain :
Again Ulysses veil'd lis pensive head,

Again, unmanu'd, a show'r of sorrow shed. “ This sometimes gives an additional solemnity, and rises stronger and stronger each line :

Celestial as thou art, yet stand deny'd:
Or swear that oath, by which the Gods are ty'd,
Swear, in thy soul no latent frauds remain,

Swear, by the vow which never can be vain.§ “ This is sometimes carried yet farther; and in Virgil particularly, there is a fine instance of this sort of repetition being doubled. Il

But in nothing is this figure more beautiful, than in the Siren's Song: that piece of ancient music is greatly enlivened in the translation; the whole flows on in a peculiar harmony, and the chorus is very happily added in the conclusion of it.

Celestial music warbles from their tongue, And thus the sweet deluders tune the song.

* B.5, 1.96. + B.2, 1.320. B. 8, 1. 90.

S B, 10, 1, 410, | Ecl. 8, 1. 50.

O stay, oh pride of Greece! Ulysses stuy!
O cease thy course, and listen to our lay!
Blest is the man ordain'd our voice to hear,
The song instructs the soul and charms the ear.
Approach ! thy soul shall into raptures rise !
- Approach ! and learn new wisdom from the wise :
We know whate'er the kings of mighty name
Archiev'd at Ilion in the field of fame;
Whate'er beneath the sun's bright journey lies.

Ostay, and learn new wisdom from the wise ! * These quotations from Spence, while they sufficiently evince the beauties and defects of his style, cannot, I should imagine, fail to impress upon the reader a most favourable idea of his critical taste and acumen.t

Coexistent with Spence, flourished the celebrated Bishop SHERLOCK, a divine who supports a high character in the church, as well for the merits of his style, as the soundness of his doctrines. He commenced a publisher of sermons as early as the year 1725, and continued a very popular preacher and writer until near 1750.

Of Sherlock, Mr. Godwin has asserted, that his “ clegance is rather to be found in his ideas ; and it is chiedy from a confusion of mind in his readers, that it has been transferred from its proper seat, and ascribed to his composition. His manner is for the most part close to his subject, and he disdains everything impertinent and merely ornamental; but he is usually hard, scholastic, and even somewhat repellent in his language.

* B. 12, 1. 220. Essay on the Odyssey, 2d edition, 1737, 12mo, p 73, 74, 79, 80, 81, 83, 84, 85, 88, 89, and 90.

+ In his beautiful “ Tales of the Genüi” Mr. James Ridley has given an amiable portrait of Spence under the character of the “ Dervise of the Groves," whose name is " Phesoi Ecneps," or Joseph Spence, if read backwards.

“ His famous parallel between Christ and Mahomet, which is perhaps the only truly eloquent passage in his works, is indeed happily expressed. He must have been a very cursory observer of style, who does not know, that enthusiasm of sentiment seldom fails produce a momentary happiness of language. But, as if this were wholly foreign to the writer, no sooner does he close the descriptive part, and attempt to sum up

the sult, than his manner becomes comparatively bald and mean." *

These strictures are more severe than just; the style of Sherlock, it is true, is in general plain, and exhibits little ornament; but its usual character is calumniated by the epithets hard, scholastic, and repellent. Though plain, it is nervous and emphatic, and in the construction of its sentences peculiarly clear and neat. That this cast of diction was the result of judgment, and not of

* Godwin's Enquirer, p. 460.

re

inability to impart more warmth of colouring, is evident from very many passages in his discourses, which display uncommon richness and harmony of style. The parallel between Christ and Mahomet, is only one among a number of pages that might be quoted in proof of the asser, tion. For instance, let us take the close of the first sermon in volume the third.

“ Should the punishments of another life be, what we have but too much reason to fear they will be, what words can then express the folly of sin ? Short are our days in this world, and soon they shall expire: and should religion at last prove a mere deceit, we know the worst of it; it is an error for which we cannot suffer after death : nor will the infidels there have the pleasure to reproach us with our mistake; they and we, in equal rest, shall sleep the sleep of death. But should our hopes, and their fears, prove true; should they be so unhappy, as not to die for ever; which miserable hope is the only comfort that infidelity affords ;' what pains and torments must they then undergo? Could I represent to you the different states of good and bad men; could I give you the prospect which the blessed martyr St. Stephen had, and shew you the blessed Jesus at the right hand of God surrounded with angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect: could !

« PreviousContinue »