Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

great difficulty in your way, in the prosecution of a design, which is truly praise-worthy, let evangelic modesty oppose it as it may.

You might boldly plead one essential argument in favour of your design to him by whose virtues it was excited. The statue is not erected with a presumptuous hope to reward exertions that are above all human reward, but to bend the universal passion, the love of fame, upon its noblest object, philanthrophy.

Thank you for the translation of those pages in Boccacio, which mention the plague at Florence. The account is awful—it is terrible; but the traits of that dire calamity being there chiefly general ones, it is less interesting than the poor Sadler's history of the last great calamity in London.

“ When dreadful Plague, o'er London's gasping crowds
Shook her dank wing, and steerd her murky clouds;
When o'er the friendless bier no rites were read,
No dirge slow chanted, and no pall outspread;
When Death, and Night, pild up the naked throng,
And Silence drove their ebon cars along *"

The Sadler's history of that terrible period, may by no means vie with your translation in the ac

* These lines are from a very fine manuscript poem, expected shortly to pass the press, by Dr D of Derby, 1786.-S.

curacy and grace of language, but the soul-harrowing horrors are, on his simple undignified page, in all their strength, and all their pathos.

This direst of human visitations, with its afflicting particulars, ought to be impressed on every mind. Salutary are the lessons taught by these ghastly images. Do they not cry aloudLook at us, ye that murmur at common evils, and

pour out your hearts in gratitude for the mercies of exemption!”

It has just struck me, from the duplicity and vanity with which you tell me the unknown author of the Triumphs of Benevolence has manoeuvred in his concealed correspondence with you on this subject, that P, with assistance, may be this yet unknown author.

I verily believe it will prove so; and if it should, I shall smile at having been drawn in, once again, to employ myself in washing the face of his poetry.-0! that Longinus and yourself could ever, for a moment, suppose me the mother of one of those rhyming abortions, which a meretricious and coarse ingenuity is continually begetting upon his mummy brain! I am now more than ever rejoiced that my lotion was rejected-wregretting nothing but the time we lost in preparing it. Time, that might have been devoted to pleasanter themes; transferred from the attempt of this in

competent panegyrist, to discussing mòrè particulars concerning the Christian hero himself,

« The summer's day too short for such a subject.”

LETTER XLV.

GEORGE HARDINGE, Esg.

Lichfield, Oct. 27, 1786. I am surprised at your idea, that Milton's sonnets have a singular flow of numbers, and that their author thought smoothness an essential perfection in that order of verse. The best of Milton's have certain hardnessės, though there is a majesty, perhaps, in that very hardness, which, besides producing an enchanting effect for the intermixture of the musical lines, seems to mark the peculiarity of the composition, and makes the sonnet, and its privileges, stand apart from all other writing in measure.

To the pointed and craggy rock, the grace of which is its roughness, I should as soon think of applying the epithet polished, as smoothness of numbers to the sonnets of Milton.

Now, seeming to allow the privilege of mutilating the vowel e in blank verse, you assert that it ought never to be done in rhyme. We perpetually see it mutilated, however, in our noblest rhyming compositions, without the least injury to the grandeur and beauty of the verse. Certainly the longer the line, the less is the possibility of injuring its melody by cutting off the pronunciation of that vowel. The musical Pope, in the most exquisitely polished of all his ever-highly-polished verse, the Eloisa to Abelard, curtails it twice in one line.

“ How loye th' offender, yet detest th' offence."

The e twice taken away does, perhaps, injure the melody of that line; but there is another of Pope's, from the Temple of Fame, whose sweetness has no superior, though it contains an abridged e.

“ And on th’ impassive ice the lightnings play."

The accurate, the finished Gray, continually takes this liberty, because he felt that it may be taken with poetic impunity; instance,

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd nuse.”

And, again,

« One morn I miss'd him on th' accustom'd hill.”

And also,

“ Th’ unconquerable mind, and Freedom's holy flame.”

Even in his short lyric measure 3

“ Isles that crown th' Ægean deep."

Also,

♡ The secrets of th' abyss to spy."

And,

“ Who th' avenger of his guilt.”

Milton, in every species of measure, whether long or short, scruples not this abridgement, nor the frequency of its use, and this in his rhyme as well as

in his blank verse. Examination will shew you this. So dissolves your fastidious maxim in the warm rays of high poetic authorities.

Dr Johnson was a very indifferent reader of Verse, One eternal monotone frustrated the intent of the poet, respecting the echo of sound to sense. Thus has he taught modern critics to think, that the line Pope gave as an example of

« ПредишнаНапред »