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"Now Europe's laurels on their brows behold,
"And haunt their slumbers in the pompous shade.
"A tale, that blends their glory with their shame !"
The last lines from 285 are exquisite.
In the Moral Essays the story of Sir Balaam is excellent, and incomparably told. The Essay on the Characters of Women is far superior to both Juvenal's and Boileau's satires on the same subject; and that on the Ruling Passion contains some fine sketches of character; those of Helluo and Narcissa are unrivalled.
The Night Thoughts of Dr. Young may be fairly classed among the moral didactic poems, and may be cited as an example to how high a degree of sublimity this description of poetry can attain. I have always regarded the opening as sweetly solemn and pathetic....
"Tir'd nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep,
"Where fortune smiles; the wretched he forsakes,
"And lights on lids unsullied with a tear.”
How exquisite should we account these lines had we never read those in Shakspeare's Henry IV., Part II. Act 3. Scene 1.
VI. SATIRE. Many of the poems, as I have already shewn, which go under this name, might be classed under didactic and moral poetry; yet there is a distinction, though the shades are so blended that it is difficult to draw a definite line. I think satire always implies an intermixture of wit and ridicule: for though
these qualities are not wholly excluded from didactic poetry, they are indispensable characteristics of satire.
Thus, though Horace preaches, and sublimely, in many of his satires and epistles, in others he is a mere satirist, and cuts with the keenest ridicule....
"Omne vafer vitium ridenti Flaccus amico
"With concealed design,
"See crafty Horace his keen verses join;
"Laugh at his friend, and look him in the face;
/ Juvenal is chiefly satirical, and seldom didactic; and even Young's Love of Fame, though of a grave complexion, is epigrammatic and satirical.
The origin of satire is very obscure. The word, however, seems to be derived from a kind of rustic comedy formerly exhibited in Greece. I presume....
"When Thespis first sung ballads in a cart.”
"Carmine qui tragico vilem certavit ob hircum
De Arte Poet. v. 220.
"The tragic bard, who for a worthless prize,
"Though rude his mirth, yet labour'd to matain
"A lawless crowd with wine and feasting warm."
The thing could not be better described; and this, you must perceive, was essentially different from the satire of the Romans, which, as happens, in many other cases, transferred to itself a name to which it had no legitimate title. It is, I presume, on this account that Quinctillian lays claim altogether, on the part of his country, to the invention of satire. "Satira quidem tota nostra est;" (Inst. 1. 1. c. 10.) and Horace, in his 10th Satire, attributes the invention to Ennius, and asserts that it was utterly unknown to the Greeks. The satire in dialogue, however, such as many of both Horace and Juvenal, seems rather to favour the Greek extraction, though in the hands of the Roman poets, it has, I dare believe, been infinitely improved.
Satires have been divided into two classes; the jocose and ludicrous, and the serious or declamatory. Indeed it must be obvious that the poem of Hudibras, or Swift's verses on his own death, are very different from the satires of Dr. Young. Among the Romans, Horace is cited as an instance of the one, and Juvenal of the other. But in truth satire may assume almost any form. It was composed both by Ennius and Lucilius in a kind of irregular verse, though Horace and Juvenal employ only the hexameter measure. We have seen satire in the form of the mock heroic, the epistle, the tale, the fable; and even in the lyric verse and form; as all must recollect who have read the arch productions of the facetious Peter Pindar.
Of English satires the first place must by all be assigned to the Hudibras of Butler, a poem which abounds equally in wit and learning, and possesses a greater portion of both than any human production. Butler must have had a memory that retained all he read, and an imagination that, from these unbounded stores, could produce allusion whenever it was wanted. Perhaps there never was a long work supported with equal spirit; for though the polemical discussions between the knight and squire may appear tedious to us at a period so remote from the date of the poem, yet they are equally witty with the more lively parts which depict
the character and actions of the hero, and afford a most admirable picture of the absurd controversies of the times. What an admirable episode is that of Sidrophel, and where can a scene be found so witty and so comic as the dialogue between the knight and the lawyer? The outline of Hudibras is undoubtedly taken from Don Quixote, but it is a very bare outline, or rather a hint; for both the subject, and the manner of treating it, are essentially different.
Mr. Prior's Alma may be classed among the Hudibrastic satires; at least it has the same measure. Most of the satirical pieces of Swift are in what is called Hudibrastic verse, for this extraordinary poem has even given a name to one of our English measures, the eight syllable verse, with occasionally the double rhymes. Óf Swift's satirical pieces in verse, the poem on his own death is by far the best. The Legion Club might more properly rank in the second class, as, though satirical, it is of a serious cast; but the mind of the incomparable writer was evidently on the decline when it was composed.
Boileau's Lutrin, Garth's Dispensary, Dryden's M'Flecnoe, and Mr. Pope's Dunciad, the hint of which is taken from the M'Flecnoe, but which is as much superior as every thing of Pope is to every thing of Dryden, may be classed among the serious satires. In all of these, however, there is something of a plot or story, in which they (as well as Hudibras) differ from the specimens we have of the Roman satire. Dr. Young's Love of Fame is also methodical, though methodical in a didactic sense. The satires of Horace, Juvenal and Perseus are more desultory, and miscellaneous, though Juvenal has in general more of method than Horace. I cannot give you better specimens of this description of satiric poetry than the following extracts from the 3d Satire of Juvenal, as imitated by Dr. Johnson....
"Tho' grief and fondness in my breast rebel,
"Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend, I praise the hermit, but regret the friend, "Who now resolves, from vice and London far, "To breathe in distant fields a purer air, "And, fix'd on Cambria's solitary shore, "Give to St. David one true Briton more.
"For who would leave, unbrib'd, Hibernia's land, "Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand? "There none are swept by sudden fate away, "But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay: "Here malice, rapine, accident, conspire, "And now a rabble rages, now a fire; "Their ambush here relentless ruffians lay, "And here the fell attorney prowls for prey; "Here falling houses thunder on your head, "And here a female atheist talks you dead.
"While Thales waits the wherry that contains "Of dissipated wealth the small remains, "On Thames's banks, in silent thought we stood, "Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood: "Struck with the seat that gave *Eliza birth, "We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth; "In pleasing dreams the blissful age renew, "And call Britannia's glories back to view; "Behold her cross triumphant on the main, "The guard of commerce, and the dread of Spain, "Ere masquerades debauch'd, excise oppress'd, "Or English honour grew a standing jest.
"A transient calm the happy scenes bestow, "And for a moment lull the sense of woe. "At length, awaking with contemptuous frown, Indignant Thales eyes the neighb'ring town."
live here, for
"Let - has learn'd to live. "Here let those reign, whom pensions can incite "To vote a patriot black, a courtier white;
Explain their country's dear-bought rights away, "And plead for pirates in the face of day;
"With slavish tenets taint our poison'd youth, "And lend a lie the confidence of truth.
"Let such raise palaces, and manors buy, "Collect a tax, or farm a lottery,
"With warbling eunuchs fill a licens'd stage, "And lull to servitude a thoughtless age."
* Queen Elizabeth, born at Greenwich.