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work written without the distinction of verses, as was often the practice formerly, and that, like Moliere's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who talked prose and did not know it, the honest antiquary was not aware that he was transcribing poetry; for, to do him justice, even the meanest attempt at monumental-metre stands throughout his compilation in regular lines. The reading of commune (debate), explains common in my edition, “This will be thought long" is unintelligible in both extracts. Dirte for dright or bryght could convey no idea. In such labyrinths of error hath this book been in many plaees involved for ages ; and through such entangled passages, and depraved and distorted texts, were our ancestors frequently obliged to search for a meaning, Is there then no Tyrwhitt left to rescue the father-of English blank verse from his present wretched plight, and place him by the side of Chaucer, the father of our rhime? 1787, Nov.
T. H, W.
XCVHI. Remarks on Dryden's Ode in Memory of Mrs. Killigrew.
AMONG the yarious extraordinary judgments contained in Dr. Johnson's" Lives of the Poets,” which may be attri. buted either to the force of prejudice, or to vitiated and defective feelings respecting poetical beauty, none has struck me more than the superlative praise he bestows on a compor sition of Dryden's, which was scarcely known by the greatest, admirers of that poet till þę brought it forward to notice, “His poem on the death of Mrs. Killigrew,” says this eminent critic, “is undoubtedly the noblest ode that our language ever has produced.” On reading this decisive sentence, I few with impatience to a poem, of wřich I had never before heard, as to a newly discovered treaşıre. I perused it over and over with strong partialities in its favour; but the result was so much disappointment, nay disgust, that I could not satisfy myself without sitting down and entering on a particular exposition of those defects which caused me to feel so differently from its warm encomiast.
It may be supposed, considering Dr. Johnson's turn of mind, that his predilection for this poem was partly owing to its religious cast; yet he has elsewhere explicitly declared his opinion of the inadequateness of poetry to give due dignity to, subjects, in their own nature too high for artificial elevațion, and which cannot be illustrated by any thing so great
as themselves. The very beginning of this ode might have served him as a proof of this truth:
Thoo youngest virgin-daughter of the skies,
Made in the last promotion of the blest! Who does not feel a debasement, approaching to the ludicrous, in this allusion to a gazette list of promotions, by which the reception of a soul into the celestial mansions is imaged? He goes on,
Whose palms, new-pluck'd from Paradise,
Rich with immortal green, above the rest. It is, surely, a false thought, that in a state of eternal and increasing felicity, the honours of a newly-admitted guest should be more conspicuous than those of all the former inmates.
The remainder of this first stanza, with which Dr. Johnson is particularly transported, has that mixture of grandeur and meanness in conception, which appears in so many of the efforts of this poet. After having supposed, in some very lofty and melodious lives, that her present residence is either in some planet, fixed star, or other more exalted region of Heaven, he bids her for a time cease her celestial
song and why? to hear him sing: A most lame and imputent conclusion !
The next stanza touches upon the metaphysical question, whether souls are derived from parents to children, er traduce, or whether, from a pre-existent state, they have successively passed through different bodies? If the latter was the case, he says, hers
Did through all the mighty poets roll,
Who Greek or Latin laurels wore : a compliment much too hyperbolical for the reader to acquiesce in, even if he were not to reflect that several of these poets were contemporaries.
In the third stanza he supposes that all heaven kept holiday on his heroine's birth; an idea which gives occasion to a most extravagant, and almost impious, piece of bombast:
And if no clust'ring swarm of bees
For all thy blest fraternity of love
Certainly Dr. Johnson could not admire such passages as these at the time he criticised Donne and Cowley!
very just and feeling censure of himself, and the other poets of that vicious age, for perverting their sacred art to the most licentious purposes, next succeeds, to which nothing can be objected, but the offensiveness of the images expressed in a line or two.
The following stanza, describing the poetical and moral character of the lady, is not only unexceptionable, but contains lines of exquisite beauty, though rather of the Ovidian than Pindaric strain :
E'en love (for love sometimes her Muse exprest)
The sixth stanza relates to the skill in painting possessed by this extraordinary fair-one. The poet begins by considering what he calls painture as an additional province exposed to her inroads, where she establishes a chamber of dependencies; and he runs this fancy quite out of breath, in Cowley's manner. He proceeds to give views, rather pretty than miasterly, of her various productions in landscape-painting; summing up the whole in a couplet which looks like burlesque, and certainly will not convey a high idea of Dry; den's taste in this art, notwithstanding he translated Fresnoy:
So strange a concourse ne'er was seen before,
But when the peopled Ark the whole creation bore.
Thus nothing to her genius was denied,
And her bright soul broke out on every side.
What next she had design’d, heaven only knows
That Fate alone its progress could oppose.,
The sentiment which follows, respecting “her warlike brother on the seas,” is natural and pathetie; but its effect is injured by the artificial idea with which it concludes, of his recognizing his sister in a new-kindled star, among the Pleiades.
The fmishing stanza presents a picture of the last judge ment;
a scene, Dr. Johnson says, “ so aweful in itself, that it can owe little to poetry.
That it may, however, easily be debased by poetry, Dryden has taken care to prove. These are some lines on the subject in this paragon of odes :
When in the valley of Jehosophat
When sinews o'er the skeletons are spread, &c.
For they are cover'd with the lightest ground. Was it from this Ode that Johnson thought himself warranted to speak of Dryden, as “shewing the rectitude of his mind by the rejection of unnatural thoughts?”
That the piece possesses great variety of imagery, a splendor of diction and brilliance of fancy in various parts, and elevation in some others, may be safely acknowledged ; at the same time, it seems to want throughout that warmth of pathos, and sublimity of conception, which are requisite to the perfection of lyric compositions; and if, to this consideration, we add the deductions for so many false and extravagant thoughts, inadequate and trivial images, we may surely be authorized to assert, that nothing but the grossest prejudice could have caused the critic's unqualified preference of this poem to many others of the same class in our language.
It'may be observed as a remarkable instance eitlier of caprice, or of singularity in judgment, that, while Dr. Johnson is so extreinely partiảl to Di déns poetical merit in pieceswhich readers in general pass over with veglect, fie lias hardly deigned to bestow a single sentence of approbation on his Fables, which by other critics are supposed to contain the richest vein of poetry to be found in all his works, the Feast of Alexander alone excepted,
XÇIX Union of V Imagination and Judgment indispensably
required in Poetry.
Noo, 6. IT is asserted by ARISTOTLE, that: “ Poetry is the production either of the Man of Genius or the Enthusiast,? Expues i NosyTurn $550 , Manie, chap. XVII. Winst. Ed. Arist. Poet. His imitator, HORACE, also allows the distingeished title of Poet, in the strictest sense, to him only “ingeniumi cui sit, cui mens divinior," Sat. i. 4. 43 : and yet the same author, in another passage, affirms, without any qualification of his assertion, that "scribendi recte SAPERE est et principium et fons."
A. P. 309. Let us see how these two passages of the Roman critic may, be reconciled, and shew with what propriety good sense or judgment may be called the source of excellent composition.
The offices of Imagination and Judgment are not only distinct but contrary to each other. It is the business of
Imagination either to collect ideas already adopted, or to "create new images; but the work of Judgment is to separate what may have been collected, and to reject many con*ceptions of a productive genius." Yet, with this diversity in their operations, they are both necessary to the True Poet; -so necessary, that without Imagination the productions of saber Judgment would be tame and insipid ; without Judge -ment; the works of Imagination would be absurd and inxconsistent: where they both unite, 'is excellence, where either is separated from the other, must be defect.“
If we examine the writings of the best poets, whether ancient or modern, we shall find that, in those unfavourable moments when Judgment neglected to guide. Iinagination, they fell into gross errors. Particular instances, in proof of this assertion, may be adduced from the allegorical person