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Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd,
Unown'd by Science, and by years obscur'd :
Fair Fancy weft; and echoing fighs confess'd
A fixt despair in ev'ry tuneful breast.
Not with more grief th' afflicted swains appear,
When wintry winds deform the plenteous year ;
When ling’ring frosts the ruin'd seats invade
Where Peace resorted, and the Graces play'd.
Each rising art by just gradation moves,
Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves :
The Muse alone unequal dealt her rage,
And grac'd with noblest pomp her earliest stage.
Preserv'd thro' time, the speaking fcenes impart
Each changeful with of Phædra's tortur'd heart :
Or paint the curse, that mark'd the d Theban's reign,
A bed incestuous, and a father flain.
With kind concern our pitying eyes o'erflow,
Trace the sad tale, and own another's woe.
To Rome remov’d, with wit fecure to please, The Comic fifters kept their native ease. With jealous fear declining Greece beheld Her own Menander's art almost excell'd! But ev'ry Muse essay'd to raise in vain Some labour'd rival of her Tragic strain; Ilyfsus' laurels, tho' transferr’d with toil, Droop'd their fair leaves, nor knew th' unfriendly foil.
The @dipus of Sophocles. VOL. IV.
As arts expir’d, refiftless Dulness rose;
Goths, priests, or Vandals,--all were Learning's foes.
Till e Julius first recall’d each exil'd maid,
And Cosmo own'd them in th' Etrurian fhade:
Then deeply skill'd in love's engaging theme,
The soft Provencial pass'd to Arno's stream :
With graceful ease the wanton lyre he strung,
Sweet flow'd the lays—but love was all he sung.
The gay description could not fail to move ;
For, led by nature, all are friends to love.
But heav'n, ftill various in its works, decreed
The perfect boast of time lould last succeed.
The beauteous union must appear at length,
Of Tuscan fancy, and Athenian ftrength:
One greater Muse Eliza's reign adorn,
And ev'n a Shakespear to her fame be born!
Yet ah! fo bright her morning's op'ning ray,
In vain our Britain hop'd an equal day!
No second growth the western isle could bear,
At once exhausted with too rich a year.
Too nicely Johnson knew the critic's part ;
Nature in him was almost loft in art.
Of softer mold the gentle Fletcher came,
The next in order, as the next in name.
With pleas’d attention 'midit his scenes we find
Each glowing thought, that warms the female mind;
e Julius II. the immediate predeceffor of Leo X.
Each melting figh, and ev'ry tender tear,
The lover's wishes and the virgin's fear.
His f ev'ry strain the Smiles and Graces own;
But stronger Shakespear felt for Man alone :
Drawn by his pen, our ruder passions stand
Th' unrival'd picture of his early hand.
3 With gradual steps, and flow, exacter France
Saw Art's fair empire o'er her shores advance :
By length of toil a bright perfection knew,
Correctly bold, and just in all the drew.
Till late Corneille, with h Lucan's fpirit fir’d,
Breath'd the free strain, as Rome and He inspir’d:
And claffic judgment gain'd to sweet Racine
The temp?rate strength of Maro's chafter line.
But wilder far the British laurel spread,
And wreaths less artful crown our poet's head.
Yet He alone to ev'ry scene could give
Th’ hiftorian's truth, and bid the manners live.'
Wak'd at his call I view, with glad surprize,
Majestic forms of mighty monarchs rise.
Their characters are thus diftinguished by Mr. Dryden. 8 About the time of Shakespear, the poet Hardy was in great repute in France. He wrote, according to Fontenelle, fix hundred plays. The French poets after him applied themselves in general to the correct improvement of the flage, which was almost totally disregarded by those of our own country, Johnson excepted.
The favourite author of the elder Corneille.
There Henry's trumpets spread their loud alarms,
And laurel'd Conquest waits her hero's arms.
Here gentler Edward claims a pitying figh,
Scarce born to honours, and so soon to die!
Yet shall thy throne, unhappy infant, bring
No beam of comfort to the guilty king:
The i time shall come, when Glo'ster's heart shall bleed
In life's last hours, with horror of the deed :
When dreary visions shall at last present
Thy vengeful image in the midnight tent,
Thy hand unseen the secret death shall bear,
Blunt the weak sword, and break th' oppressive spear.
Where'er we turn, by Fancy charm'd, we find
Some sweet illusion of the cheated mind.
Oft, wild of wing, she calls the soul to rove
With humbler nature, in the rural grove;
Where swains contented own the quiet scene,
And twilight fairies tread the circled green :
Dress'd by her hand, the Woods and Vallies smile,
And Spring diffusive decks th' inchanted ifle.
O more than all in pow'rful genius blest,
Come, take thine empire o'er the willing breast !
Whate'er the wounds this youthful heart shall feel,
Thy fongs support me, and thy morals heal!
Tempus erit Turno, magno cum optaverit emptum
Intactum pallanta, &c.
There ev'ry thought the poet's warmth may raise,
There native musick dwells in all the lays.
O might some verse with happiest skill persuade
Expressive Pi&ture to adopt thine aid !
What wond'rous draughts might rise from ev'ry page!
What other Raphaels charm a distant age !
Methinks ev’n now I view some free design,
Where breathing Nature lives in ev'ry line :
Chaste and subdü'd the modest lights decay,
Steal into fhades, and mildly melt away.
And see, where k Anthony in tears approv'd,
Guards the pale relicks of the chief he lov’d:
O'er the cold corse the warrior seems to bend,
Deep sunk in grief, and mourns his murder'd friend !
Still as they press, he calls on all around,
Lifts the torn robe, and points the bleeding wound.
But who is he, whose brows exalted bear
A wrath impatient, and a fiercer air ?
Awake to all that injur'd worth can feel,
On his own Rome he turns th' avenging steel.
Yet shall not War's insatiate fury fall,
(So heav'n ordains it) on the destin'd wall.
See the fond mother 'midAt the plaintive train
Hung on his knees, and proftrate on the plain!
* See the tragedy of Julius Cæfar.
Coriolanus. See Mr. Spence's dialogue on the Odyssey.