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Pope carried his art to such perfection, as far as poetry is an art, that the very excellence proved injurious to his poetical character; it inspired despair, and his baffled rivals fancied they had broken the provoking spell by declaring it to be nothing but Art ! The correctness and delicacy of his taste, and the vigour of his judgment, the result rather than the act of reasoning ; his poetic expression and his exquisite versification ; those lines struck in his mint with such weighty truths that they circulated as the coin of the people, and are still proverbial ; and his natural manner of thinking, too pure to admit of the false sublime, or the false beautiful-all was resolved by Curl and Dennis into a knack of rhiming!!
• Poor negroes thus, to shew their burning spite,
To cacodæmons say, they're--devilish wbite ! and we here find Lady Mary, in one of her cross humours with Pope, declaring that he wrote verses so well that he was in danger of bringing even good verses into disrepute by his all tune and no meaning.'
Some manuscript letters of two well-known contemporaries are now before us, which may amuse the reader. In one of them, Lord Hervey, whose affectation and effeminacy of taste spoiled an elegant mind, having been requested by Count Algarotti to send his opinions on our best English poets, has used a remarkable mode of criticism, by conveying it in the postscript. His Lordship evidentfound himself in a great embarrassment.
• I forgot, in speaking of the English poets, to mention Pope-but you know my opinion of him is, that when other people think for him nobody writes better, and few people worse when he thinks for himself.'
The other is from Aaron Hill to his friend Mallet : it is marked with his usual quaintness and egotism, and presents a strange conflict of inclination and conviction where truth stands miserably jammed in between the two. We can only afford room for a short extract.
I was always grieved to find in Mr. Pope, too much of Mr. Pope I love to start the man behind the covert of his sentiments, but can't endure that he should poke himself, at every turn, betwvxt his readers and his subject. I am loth to be content with barren melody. A poet should be filled with greatness. He should tune his passions to more concord than his numbers, and inspire ideas which are amiable, compassionate, and manly--and yet these frailties charm too ! and sometimes so powerfully by the magic of their expression, that we cannot, without pain, com. pel ourselves to see and own that there is nothing but expression in them.'
In a subsequent passage Hill tells his friend, that posterity will miss a social glow of sweetness, benevolence, &c. in his writings,' feelings which he finely describes, as“ spreading a poet out upon the ages that come after him.' We are now that posterity, and
VOL. XXIII. NO. 46.-Q. R. 55
more impartial judges than a contemporary who had seen his name in the Dunciad, (a circumstance that rankled in his mind to the last hour of his existence); and we can testify that no poet has left more frequent memorials of a social glow' than Pope; from the filial tenderness' rocking the cradle of reposing age,' to the affectionate address to the Earl of Oxford in the Tower, where the melancholy mellifluence of the numbers accords with the dignity of the patriot and the poet.-But, we find in Mr. Pope too much of Mr. Pope' ---of his domestic amusements—his friends his grotto-alas, to us these personalities are delightful. They give a local habitation? to the shade of the poet, and admit us into the privacy of friendship.
There remains one more point on which we would willingly say a few words before we conclude our remarks.
Pope had held a profitable intercourse with the elder race of our native bards; but from his opinions, it is clear, that his classical taste was too severe for his pleasure ; and some of his decisions respecting the highest class of our poets will be considered as heresies in our poetical creed.
He was ever referring to the pure models of antiquity for the rules and standards of poetic excellence ; but in his day there existed no other. This predilection we perceive in his recommend. ing Spence to re-publish Gorboduc among our ancient dramas. « This tragedy,' said he, is written in a much purer style than Shakepeare's was in several of his first plays. Sackville imitates Seneca's tragedies very closely, and writes without affectation and bombast; the two great sins of our old tragic writers." This drama, which also met with the approbation of Rymer, a stout Aristotelian, is moulded on the classical model, and even servilely introduces the ancient chorus ; but with all its regularity, correctness and purity of diction, the piece drops from our hands a dull and unimpassioned homily.
But what are we to conclude, when we find Pope criticizing both Milton and Shakspeare in language to which we are not accustomed ?- Milton's style in his Paradise Lost (he says) is not natural ; 'tis an exotic style. As his subject lies a good deal out of our world, it has a particular propriety in those parts of the poem, and when he is on earth describing our parents in Paradise, you see he uses a more easy and natural way of writing.' And again the high style that is affected so much in BLANK VERSE would not have been borne even in Milton, had not his subject turned so much on such strange out-of-the-world things as it does.' We believe that Pope had no ear for the cadences of Milton ;' the couplet had been studied so exclusively, that the infinite variety of metres of which Gray and Collins, and others of our later poets, have so happily availed themselves, were in his time
almost forgotten; the fate of the irregular Pindarics of Cowley had terrified the contemporaries of Pope.
But the more remarkable opinion of Pope concerns Shakspeare. He talks of “Shakspeare's style as the style of a bad age;' and says that he generally used to stiffen his style with high words and metaphors for the speeches of his kings and great men; he mistook it for a mark of greatness. This is strongest in his early plays; but in his very last, his Othello, what a forced language has he put into the mouth of the duke of Venice ?
This classical severity of taste, however, appears to have been limited to style, and did not touch any of the vital parts of the poetic characters of the two master-spirits ; nor has Pope shewn any deficiency of sensibility towards our elder bards. Chaucer delighted him as an exquisite fabler, and painter of manners.—1 read Chaucer still (he says) with as much pleasure as almost any of our poets. He is a master of manners, of description, and the first lale-teller in the true enlivened natural way.' ' For Spenser, Pope expresses all the sympathy of a true poet.- After reading a canto of Spenser two or three days ago to an old lady between seventy and eighty years of age, she said that I had been shewing her a gallery of pictures. She said very right; there is something in Spenser that pleases one as strongly in one's old age as it did in one's youth. I read the Faerie Queene when I was about twelve, with infinite delight; and I think it gave me as much when I read it over about a year or two ago.'— Yet Pope has been held forth to the present age as a traducer of Spenser. But we forget our prescribed limits,
Singula dum capti circumvectamur amore,' and must, however reluctantly, break off.
The last editor of Churchill informs us that this poet once designed a systematic attack on Pope's personal and poetical character, which, that nothing so desirable should be lost, has been fully reserved for the skill and care of Mr. Bowles. Churchill would rave over the bottle at Pope, and regret that 'the little man of Twitn'am' was not alive, that he might have a struggle with him and break his heart.” In a letter to Wilkes he alludes to the thunderbolts he was doubly pointing against Pope;' but they burst on his own ill fated head! It appears, however, that Churchill, when he was probably recovering from the maddening effects of sudden popularity, abandoned his foolish design, deeply struck by that warmth of affection with which Pope regarded, and was regarded in his turn by those who knew him: and the recanting satirist even suppressed an injurious couplet which he had pointed against his poetic character. * Pope wrought to its last perfection the classical vein of English
poetry ; poetry; he inherited, it is true, tbe wealth of his predecessors, but the splendour of his affluence was his own. Whenever any class, or any form of literature has touched its meridian, Art is left without progressive power; there are no longer inventors or improvers; ex. cellence is neutralised by excellence, and hence a period of languor succeeds a period of glory. At such a crisis we return to old neglected tastes, or we acquire new ones which in their turn will become old; and it is at this critical period that we discover new concurrents depreciating a legitimate and established genius whom they cannot rival, and finally practisi g the democratic and desperate arts of a literary Ostracism. Jo vain, however, would the populace of poets estrange themselves from Pope, and teach that he is deficient in imagination and passion, because, in early youth
He stoop'd to truth, and moralised lis song.' It is not the shadows of the imagination and the spectres of the passions only which are concerned in our poetic pleasures; other sources must be opened, worthy of the dignity and the pride of the Muse; and to instruct and reform, as well as to delight the world by the charm of verse, is only to “reassert her ancient prerogative,' and to vindicate her glory. A master-poet must live with the language in which he has written, for his qualities are inherent, and independent of periodical tastes. The poet of our age, as well as of our youth, is one on whom our experience is perpetu.. ally conferring a new value; and Time, who will injure so many of our poets, will but confirm the immortality of Pope.
Art. VI.-1. An Autumn near the Rhine. 8vo. London. 1819. 2. Travels in the North of Germany. By T. Hodgskin, Esq. 2
vols. 8vo. Edinburgh. 1820. 3. A View of the Agriculture, Manufactures, Statistics, and State
of Society of Germany, and Parts of Holland and France; taken during a Journey through those Countries, in 1819. By.
William Jacob, Esq. F. R. S. 4to. pp. 454. London. 1820. 4. Die wichtigsten Leben Momente Karl Ludwig Sands aus
Wunsiedel. Nurnberg. 5. Memoirs of Charles Lewis Sand, including a Narrative of the
Circumstances attending the Death of Augustus von Kotzebue,
Also a Defence of the German Universities. London. 1820. AFTER the turbulent years which the world has, lately wit
nessed, a period of fierce contention and discord which has seldom been equalled, it is grievous to reflect, that the example of France, instead of holding out a beacon to other nations, should appear still to operate as an excitement to revolt, and that, amidst the general restlessness, which pervades the minds of the people in
the greater part of the civilized globe, that country should not have escaped from contagion, which hitherto had exhibited no symptoms of the kind. In the course of our observations we shall endeavour to point out the causes which may have led to this state of things--our business, at present, is to shew its existence.
A warmth of heart, an enthusiasm of feeling, a kindness of disposition, which attaches the more strongly the more it is known, a perseverance in intellectual pursuits, and a general honesty in all their dealings with mankind, render the inhabitants of that extensive assemblage of states which Germany comprizes, as a body, one of the most estimable people upon earth. But these very qua. lities which we so much admire are liable, on the other hand, to be perverted in the most mischievous manner. The sincerity of the Germans exposes them to be the dupes of others to a dangerous degree; their enthusiasm is apt to evaporate in absurd projects, and their perseverance to degenerate into obstinacy. In the dig. tribution of the elements to the different powers of Europe most competent to wield them, a writer of some celebrity among the Germans has given to the English the empire of the seas ; to the French that of the land ; and to his countrymen the dominion of the air; and certainly, one of their most distinguished characteris tics is a tendency to speculation rather than to action. The composure and secrecy of debate on grievances suit the genius of the German better than any sudden exertion for their removal. His imagination dwells with delight on gloom and mystery to the neglect of all its gayer and more airy fancies, whilst the milk of human kindness with which his bosom may be stored is apt to turn to a mixture of ferocity and sentiment extremely disgusting. Hence this country has at all times been fertile in secret and peculiar associations, into which its natives have entered with an enthusiasm totally unknown in other parts of the world ; and which is particularly striking when contrasted with the unfitness for all bidden plots and conspiracies which has been remarked in their neighbours the French.
To that most ancient of all secret associations, Free-Masonry. succeeded those which combined for religious purposes. These again were followed by the Secret Tribunal and the Iluminati, under their several denominations. And thus, in tracing the bistory of these societies, we shall at once perceive that the Tugendbund of the present day, and others of a similar description, in Germany, are only branches from the same stock, and derive their origin from a much more ancient date than is generally supposed. They were formed in the outset for purposes purely patriotic, but have since assumed a very different complexion. It must not however be imagined that the different