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The unfortunate Chatterton has
* And rides upon the pinions of the wind.' And Gray
• With arms sublime that float upon the air.' Few poets of eminence have less incurred the charge of plagiarism than Milton; yet many instances might be adduced of similarity of idea and language with the Scripture, which are certainly more than coincidences, and some of these I shall, in a future number, present to your readers. Thus the present passage in the Psalmist was in all probability in his mind when he wrote
• And with mighty wings outspread, Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast
Par. Lost, l. 20. b. 1. The third verse of the ciyth Psalm
• He maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind,'— is evidently taken from the before-mentioned verses in the xviiith Psalm, on which perhaps it is an improvement. It has also been imitated by two of our first poets, Shakspeare and Thomson. The former in Romeo and Juliet
• Bestrides the lazy-paced clouds,
And sails upon the bosom of the air.' The latter in Winter, 1. 199.
• Till Nature's King, who oft Amid tempestuous darkness dwells alone, And on the wings of the careering winds
Walks dreadfully serene.' As these imitations have not before, I believe, been noticed, they cannot fail to interest the lovers of polite letters; and they are such as at least will amuse your readers in general. ' If the sacred writings were attentively perused, we should find innumerable passages from which our best modern poets have drawn their most admired ideas : and the enumerations of these instances would perhaps attract the attention of many persons to those volumes, which they now perhaps think to contain every thing tedious and disgusting, but which, on the contrary, they would find replete with interest, beauty, and true sublimity.
STERNHOLD AND HOPKINS. MR. EDITOR, In your Mirror for July, a Mr. William Toone has offered a few observations on a paper of mine, in a preceding number, containing remarks on the versions and imitations of the 9th and 10th verses of the xviiith Psalm, to which I think it necessary to offer a few words by way of reply; as they not only put an erroneous construction on certain passages of that paper, but are otherwise open to material objection.
The object of Mr. Toone, in some parts of his observations, appears to have been to refute something which he fancied I had advanced, tending to establish the general merit of Sternhold and Hopkins' translation of the Psalms: but he might have saved himself this unnecessary trouble, as I have decidedly condemned it as mere doggrel, still preserved in our churches, to the detriment of religion; and the version of the passage in question is adduced as a brilliant, though probably accidental, exception to the general character of the work. What necessity, therefore, your correspondent could see for hoping that I should think with him, that the sooner the old version of the Psalms was con-. signed to oblivion, the better it would be for rational devotion,' I am perfectly at a loss to imagine.
This concluding sentence of Mr. Toone's paper, which I consider as introduced merely by way of rounding the period, and making a graceful exit, needs no farther animadversion. I shall therefore proceed to. examine the objections, of the worthy clergyman of the church of England, to these verses cited by your correspondent, by which he hopes to prove Dryden, Knox, and the numerous other eminent men who have expressed their admiration thereof, to be little better than idiots.—The first is this :
* Cherubim is the plural for Cherub; but our versioner, by adding an, s to it, has rendered them both plurals.' By adding an s to what? If the pronoun it refer to cherubim, as according to the construction of the sentence it really does, the whole objection is nonsense.—But the worthy gentleman, no doubt, meant to. say, that Sternhold had rendered them both plurals by the addition of an s to cherüb. Even in this sense, however, I conceive the charge to be easily obviated; for, though cherubim is doubtless usually considered as the plural of cherub, yet the two words are frequently so used in the Old Testament as to prove, that they were often applied to separate ranks of beings. One of these, which I shall cite, will dispel all doubt on the subject:
• And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high.-1 Kings, ver. 23. chap. vi.
The other objection turns upon a word with which it is not necessary for me to interfere; for I did not quote these verses as instances of the merit of Sternhold, or
his version, I only asserted that the lines which I then copied, viz.
• The Lord descended from above, &c. were truly noble and sublime. Whether, therefore, Sternhold wrote all the winds (as asserted by our correspondent, in order to furnish room for objection), or mighty winds, is of no import. But if this really be a subsequent alteration, I think at least there is no improvement; for when we conceive the winds as assembling from all quarters, at the omnipotent command of the Deity, and bearing him with their united forces from the heavens, we have a more sublime image than when we see him as flying merely on mighty winds, or as driving his team (or troop) of angels on a strong tempest's rapid wing, with most amazing swiftness, as elegantly represented by Brady and Tate.*
I differ from your correspondent's opinion, that these verses, so far from possessing sublimity, attract the reader merely by their rumbling sound : And here it may not be amiss to observe, that the true sublime does not consist of high-sounding words, or pompous magnificence; on the contrary, it most frequently appears clad in native dignity and simplicity, without art, and without ornament.
The most elegant critic of antiquity, Longinus, in his Treatise on the Sublime, adduces the following passage from the Book of Genesis, as possessing that quality in an eminent degree:
• God said, Let there be light, and there was light :-Let the earth be, and earth was.'t
• The chariot of the King of kings,
Which active troops of angels drew,
With most amazing swiftness flew. † The quotation appears to have been made from memory, and not correctly.
From what I have advanced on this subject, I would not have it inferred, that I conceive the version of Sternhold and Hopkins, generally speaking, to be superior to that of Brady and Tate; for, on the contrary, in almost every instance, except that above mentioned, the latter possesses an indubitable right to pre-emi
Our language, however, cannot yet boast one version possessing the true spirit of the original; some are beneath contempt, and the best has scarcely attained mediocrity. Your correspondent has quoted some verses from Tate, in triumph, as comparatively excellent; but, in my opinion, they are also instances of our general failure in sacred poetry: they abound in those ambitiosa ornamenta which do well to please women and children, but which disgust the man of taste.
To the imitations already noticed of this passage, permit me to add the following :
• But various Iris, Jove's commands to bear,
Pope's Iliad, b. 2.
Carlos Reduzido, Canto I. by Pedro de Azevedo Tojal, an ancient Portuguese poet of some merit.
WARTON. T'he poems of Thomas Warton are replete with a sublimity and richness of imagery, which seldom fail to enchant: every line presents new beauties of idea, aided by all the magic of animated diction. From the inexhaustible stores of figurative language, majesty, and sublimity, which the ancient English poets afford, he has culled some of the richest and the sweetest flowers. But, unfortunately, in thus making use of the beauties of other writers, he has been too unsparing; for the