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cused of obscurity: but the one can be obscure to those only who have not read Pindar; and the other only to those who are unacquainted with the history of our own nation.”
Of his other lyric pieces, Mr. Wakefield, a learned and ingenious commentator, observes, that, though, like all other human productions, they are not without their defects, yet the spirit of poetry, and exquisite charms of the verse, are more than a compensation for thofe defects. The Ode on Eton College abounds with sentiments natural, and consonant to the feelings of humanity, exhibited with perfpicuity of method, and in elegant, intelligible and expressive language. The Sonnet on the Death of Weft, and the Epitaph on Sir William Williams, are as perfect compofitions of the kind as any in our language.
Dr. Johnson was confessedly a man of great genius; but the partial and uncandid mode of criticism he has adopted in his remarks on the writings of Gray, has given to liberal minds great and just offence. According to Mr. Mason's account, he has subjected Gray's poetry to the most rigorous examination. Declining all consideration of the general plan and conduct of the pieces, he has confined himself solely to strictures on words and forms of expreffion; and Mr. Mason very pertinently adds, that verbal criticism is an ordeal which the most perfect composition cannot pass without injury
He has also fallen under Mr. Wakefield's fevereft censure. This commentator affirms, that “ he thinks a refutation of his strictures upon Gray a necessary
service to the public, without which they might operate with a malignant influence upon the national taste. His censure, however, is too general, and expressed with too much vehemence; and his remarks betray, upon the whole, an unreasonable fastidiousness of taste, and an unbecoming illiberality of spirit. He appears to have turned an unwilling eye upon the beauties of Gray, because his jealousy would not fuffer him to fee fuch fuperlative merit in a cotemporary.” These remarks of Mr. Wakefield appear to be well founded; and it has been observed, by another writer, that Dr. Johnson, being strongly influenced by his political and religious principles, was inclined to treat with the utmoft severity, some of the productions of our best writers; to which may be imputed that feverity with which he cenfures the lyric performances of Gray. It is highly probable that no one poetical reader will universally subscribe to his decisions, though all may admire his vast intui. tive knowledge, and power of discrimination.
In one instance, the Doctor's inconsistency, and deviation from his general character, does him honour. After having commented with the most rigid severity on the poetical works of Gray, as if conscious of the injuflice done him, he seems to apologize by the following declaration, which concludes his criticism, and Thall conclude the Memoirs of our Author.
“ In the character of his Elegy (says Johnson) T rejoice and concur with the common reader; for, by the common sense of readers, uncorrupted with liteuzry prejudices, all the refinements of fubtilty, and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally decided, all claim to poetical honours. The Church-yard ahounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bofom returns an echo. The four stanzas beginning, Yet e'en these bones are to me original; I have never seen the potions in any other place; yet he that reads them here, persuades himself that he has always felt them, Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.”
THE TEARS OF GENIUS:
(By 7. I-)
Majestic rises on th' astonish'd fight, [fane Where oft the Muse has led the fav’rite swain, And warm’d his soul with heav'n's inspiring light; 4 Beneath the covert of the fylvan shade, Where deadly cypress, mix'd with mournful yew, Far o'er the vale a gloomy stillness spread,
8 Celestial Genius burst upon the view. The bloom of youth, the majesty of years, The soften'd aspect, innocent and kind, The sigh of sorrow, and the streaming tears, Refilless all, their various pow'r combin'd. I2 In her fair hand a silver harp she bore, Whose magic notes, soft warbling from the string, Give tranquil joys the breast ne'er knew before, Or raise the soul on rapture's airy wing. By grief impell’d, I heard her heave a sigh,
17 While thus the rapid strain resounded thro’ the sky; Hafte, ye fifter powers
Where your gently-flowing numbers,
the plaintive lyre,
warm'a kis peaceful breast,
54 * Ode on Spring + Cle on the Prospect of Eton College,
Bard, an Ode.