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T'emprisonner dans nos usages,
With more variety, perhaps, than candour, he thus contrasts the English character with this frivolous picture of his countrymen. He is speaking of the English :
" Je vous admire et je vous aime,
Quand vous ornez d'un diadéme
The mot in this extract is Voltaire's." The conclusion of the ode is elegantly turned.
“ Hume, souris à mes chansons,
Enfans légers de mon délire :
Aime à s'égarer sur la lyre.
J'oubliois, pour déraisonner,
Of the Ode to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the three first lines are excellent.
“ Aristarque éloquent et sage quadrupede, J'aime assez tes sermons; mais ils sont superflus : L'homme est sur ses deux pieds ; c'est un mal sans remède :
and precisely what would be expected from the author of the following lines :
“ Il est un champêtre réduit,
Temple paisible du mystère,
Hebe is Mademoiselle Fannier, an actress with whom Dorat is said to have practised the maxims of his theatrical morality.
Much in the same spirit is the Grande Idée morale, addressé aur femmes, which contains the essence of the poet's creed in that particular.
“ Oui, Mesdames, la dignité
Dut-elle punir ma franchise,
Le fait dans Homère est cité.
We can only afford another extract. It is an Ode on the death of Garrick, a subject not easily accommodated to the prejudices of French poets. Dorat is both candid and just in his criticisms on Shakspeare, and the most illustrious of his representatives on the stage.
“ De la servitude des sots
Ils ont affranchi leur génie ;
Sans diadème, sans poignard,
Garrik, fidèle imitateur
Digne organe de ses ouvrages.”
We like concluding a critique of an author's works with some little history of himself. We warn our readers, that all we shall hazard with respect to Claude-Joseph Dorat is said on the authority of Grimm, or whoever it might have been, who wrote the account of our author's death in the Correspondance Littéraire, for August, 1780.
Dorat was born at Paris, in 1734. His family was distinguished dans la robe, and in easy circumstances. The poet himself began life with a competent fortune, quite sufficient for the ease of a man of letters, and much more than is usually allotted by fate to the beggarly sons of the Muses. Having, like so many others, gone through the discipline of a legal education, he followed the common example of 'men of genius,' and quitted the bar for the army. His restless imagination scemed quite as uneasy beneath the helmet as it had been under the wig; although he assures us, in one of his epistles, that he left the profession of arms in compliance with the prejudices of an old jansenist aunt, who thought it a hard matter for a man to work out his 'salvation in a red coat and leather breeches. In fact, he lays it at the door of his unfortunate aunt, that, by bis inconsiderate renunciation of the army, he eventually missed the bâton of a marshal of France. Be this as it may, he consoled himself for the fabulous bâton, by other poetical fictions; and his comely person, easy manner, and gay temper, with the assistance of his poetical talents, soon introduced him into all that Parisian society, in which it was then the main object of a young Frenchman's ambition to be inrolled. A pretty notion of his character and manners may be formed from the little engraving which represents the author's head, shoulders, queue, and lace frills, before the title-page of the edition from which we quote. His head-dress is set out in all the dignity of the old French perruque, exposing a placid forehead, a smiling position of the eye-brows and nose, and precisely that curvature of the mouth which indicates that its possessor thinks, feels, wishes, and endeavours to express every thing couleur de rose. On one side, are represented a couple of cooing doves; on the other, the quiver of the god of Love-appropriately, but we think satirically, grouped with a cup and balls; beneath, two chubby little boys, near relations of Cupid, but no way connected with Hymen; and the whole rather copiously bedecked with roses and other amatory emblems, contributed by the goddess of flowers to adorn the deity of Love-and two modest sprigs of something like bays or laurel. The epigraph, which is not good enough to quote, is supplied by the band of Madame la Comtesse, a friend of the author's ; and engraved in the neatest style of Italian writing. There he stands—the hap py Dorat! in all the externals of mundane beatitude.
With all these requisites of a state of complete felicity, such is the hatred which, according to the Greek tragedian, the gods bear to human happiness, that the inoffensive Dorat could not escape entirely from the kicks and buffets of fortune.