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Court of Charles; but, nevertheless, the author was suffered to die in poverty. Much of the ridicule, and all the sting of this half-finished performance is now lost; because the party no longer exists against whom they were directed; but the wit and humour with which it overflows, will not soon be forgotten. The following lines, inscribed on a monument erected to the memory of Butler, in the church of St. Paul, Covent Garden, breathe the true spirit of independence:
A few plain men, to pomp and pride unknown,
As a mock Epic The Rape of the Lock' is a poem of unrivalled excellence. The insignificance of its object contrasted with the magnificence of the description, and the splendour of the machinery, brought forward for the sake of such a petty result, constitutes the true bur
lesque. It were useless to analyze, or to give extracts from, a production which almost every lover of genuine poetry has got by heart; and we shall, therefore, content ourselves with a few observations concerning the air-formed beings whom the poet has conjured forth to his aid.
The doctrines of Plato, as explained by his followers in after ages, filled every portion of the material universe with invisible spirits. The four elements have each its myriads of resident divinities. The Gnomes, spirits of the Earth, are equivalent to the Fairies and Elves of other superstitions; the Sylphs inhabit the Air; the Salamanders, or Spirits of Fire, dwell on the Light, they reside in the stars, or ride on the sun-beams: and the Nymphs have their abodes in the Water, wander among dews, or sail upon the showers. All these Elements are, indeed, inhabited according to the Classic Mythology; but the Deities of the Greeks, though numerous, are not innumerable, whereas the pigmy people of Paracelsus and the other mystic Platonists pervade every portion of nature. They are disembodied spirits, ready to resume new stations in the succeeding organisations of matter. To the objection that Pope can claim no originality in his employment of this machinery, Johnson has given a triumphant answer: "This charge," says
he, "might with more justice have been brought against the author of the Iliad,' who doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for what is there but the names of his agents which Pope has not invented? Has he not assigned them characters and operations never heard of before? Has he not, at least, given them their first poetical existence? If this is not sufficient to denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be written."
DIDACTIC POETRY, (Greek didasko, I teach,) is that which is written, professedly, for the purpose of instruction. It were well if this could be said of every poem; but, unfortunately, there are many, to which we cannot refuse the name, that are merely amusing, without being fitted to make us either wiser or better. Indeed, whether it is that we prefer pleasure to profit, or that the poets of the didactic class generally are less capable of giving interest to their lines, it is but too true that to characterize a poem as instructive does not tempt us more strongly to the perusal. Even in the case of Virgil, (notwithstanding the beauty of his digressions,) had his works been always published in separate volumes, we should have had many more editions of the Æneid than of the Georgics. Poetry addresses herself to the Imagination, while Instruction
appeals to the Judgment; but Imagination and Judgment do not readily combine. It is on account of what is termed the dryness of naked precepts, that didactic poems are usually directed, more than any others, to be covered with flowers. "Not even the Epic demands such glowing and picturesque epithets,—such daring and forcible metaphors, such pomp of numbers and dignity of expression, as the Didactic: for, the lower or more familiar the object described is, the greater must be the power of language to preserve it from debasement." The same cause, too, has fostered that alliance which connects this class of poetry with the DESCRIPTIVE: an alliance so intimate that the two kinds can scarcely be conceived asunder; and we give a poem this or that denomination, according as the one or the other of those characteristics appears to be the most predominant.
The grand object of the poet is to rivet the attention of the reader, without which the wisest precepts and the most gorgeous descriptions are equally unavailing. The subjects of instruction should, therefore, be selected from those that are of most general interest; and the landscapes to be depicted ought to be picturesque,—that is,worthy of the pencil of the artist: or, if the poet attempt to pourtray the feelings of the
mind, they should be those of a tender kind; for the rude and stormy passions are fitter attendants on the Epic, or on the Tragic Muse.
The English language possesses many poems of the class now under consideration; and not a few that are deservedly held in high estimation. Among these, Pope's Moral Essays' are models of their kind. They are almost purely didactic; but, as a counterpoise, his Windsor Forest' contains scarcely a line that is not descriptive. Milton's L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso' are, likewise, filled with description.
Akenside's Pleasures of Imagination' is a philosophical poem which is finely characterized by Johnson: "To his versification justice requires that praise should not be denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps superior to any other writer of blank verse; his flow is smooth, and his pauses are musical; but the concatenation of his verses is commonly too long continued, and the full close does not recur with sufficient frequency."
Mr. Walker, in his work on Elocution, after objecting to 'The Pleasures of Imagination' that it is incomplete, because it says little or nothing of the immortality of the soul, recommends the subsequent perusal of Young's 'Night Thoughts'; and it must be acknowledged that, with this