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The Diction of this poem is grofly familiar, and the numbers purposely neglected, except in a few places where the thoughts by their native excellence secure themselves from violation, being such as mean language cannot express. The mode of verhification has been blamed by Dryden, who regrets that the heroic measure was
not rather chosen. To the critical sentence of Dryden the highest reverence would be due, were not his decisions often precipitate, and his opinions immature. When he wished to change the measure, he probably would have been willing to change more. If he intended that, when the numbers were heroick, the diction should still remain vulgar,
he planned a very heterogeneous and unnatural composition. If he preferred a general stateliness both of sound and words, he can be only understood to with that Butler had undertaken a different work.
The measure is quick, spritely, and colloquial, suitable to the vulgarity of the words and the levity of the sentiments. But such numbers and such diction can gain regard only when they are used by a writer whose vigour of fancy and copiousness of knowledge entitle him to contempt of ornaments, and who, in confidence of the novelty and justness of his conceptions, can afford to throw metaphors and epithets away. To another that conveys common
thoughts thoughts in careless versification, it will only be said, “ Pauper videri Cinna “ vult, & eft pauper.” The meaning and diction will be worthy of each other, and criticism may justly doom them to perish together.
Nor, even though another Butler fhould arise, would another Hudibras obtain the fame regard. Burlesque con-fists in a disproportion between the stile and the sentiments, or between the adventitious sentiments and the fundamental subject. It therefore, like all bodies compounded of heterogeneous parts, contains in it a principle of corruption. All disproportion is unnatural, and from what is unnatural we can derive only the pleasure which novelty produces.
We admire it awhile as a strange thing; but, when it is no longer strange, we perceive its deformity. It is a kind of artifice, which by frequent repetition detects itself; and the reader, learning in time what he is to expect, lays down his book, as the spectator turns away from a second exhibition of those tricks, of which the only use is to shew that they can be played.