Page images

distant resemblance to Milton, was wholly carried away by the same attachments :

Be 'mine to read the visions old Which thy awak'ning bards have told; And lest thou meet my blasted view, Hold each strange tale devoutly true. . On that thrice hallow'd cve, &c.] There is an old traditionary superstition, that on St. Mark's eve the forms of all such persons as shall die within the ensu. ing year make their solemn entry into the churches of their respective parishes, as St. Patrick swam over the Channel, without their heads.

· ODE III. TO SIMPLICITY. The measure of the ancient ballad seems to have been made choice of for this Ode, on account of the subject; and it has indeed an air of simplicity not altogether unaffecting;

By all the honey'd store,
On Hybla's thymy shore;
By all her blooms and mingled murmurs dear
By her whose love-lorn woe
In evining musing slow

Sooth'd sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear. This allegorical imagery of the honey'd store, the blooms and mingled murmurs of Hybla alluding to the sweetness and beauty of attic poetry, has the finest and happiest effect.


Procul! O! procul este profani ! This Ode is so infinitely abstracted, and replete with high enthusiasm, that it will find few reader capable of entering into the spirit of it, or of relishing its beauties. There is a style of sentiment as utterly

unintelligible to common capacities, as if the subject were treated in an unknown language ; and it is ou the same account that abstracted poetry will never have many admirers. The authors of such poems must be content with the approbation of those heavenfavoured geniuses who, by a similarity of taste and sentimnent, are enabled to penetrate the high mysteries of inspired fancy, and to pursue the loftiest flights of enthusiastic imagination. Nevertheless the praise of the distinguished few is certainly preferable to the applause of the undiscerning million; for all praise is valuable in proportion to the judgment of those who confer it.

As the subject of this Ode is uncommon, so are the style and expression highly metaphorical and abstracted; thus the sun is called “the rich-haird youth of Morn;" the ideas are termed "the shadowy tribes of Mind," &c. We are struck witli the pro. priety of this mode of expression here, and it affords us new proofs of the analogy that subsists between language and sentiment.

Nothing can be more loftily imagined than the creation of the cestus of Fancy in this Ode; the alle. gorical imagery is rich and sublime; and the observation that the dangerous passions kept aloof during the operation is founded on the strictest philosophical truth: for poetical fancy can exist only in minds that are perfectly serene, and in some measure abstracted from the influences of sense.

The scene of Milton's " inspiring hour" is perfectly in character, and described with all those wild-wood appearances of which the great poet was so enthusiastically fond ;

I view that oak the fancy'd glade among, * By which as Milton 'lay, his ev'ning èar, ** Nigh spher'd in heav'n, its native strains could hear. ... ODE V. TO A LADY. ON THE DEATH OF COL. CHIARLES ROSS. In the Action of Fontenoy. Writton May, 1745.

The iambic kind of numbers in whieh this Ode is conceived, seems as well calculated for tender and plaintive subjects, as for those where strength or rapidity is required. This perhaps is owing to the repetition of the strain in the same stanza! for sorrow rejects variety, and affects an unitormity of comhplaint. It is needless to observe that this Ode is replete with liarmony, spirit, and pathos : and there surely appears no reason why the seventh and eighth stanzas should be omitted in that copy printed in Dodsley's Collection of Poems.' riitti

ODE VI. , ..

*;;Y. ODE VII. TO MERCY. The ode, written in 1746, and the Ode to Mercy, seem to have been written on the same occasion, viz. the Scotch rebellion; the former in memory of those heroes who fell in defence of their country; the latter to excite sentiments of compassion in favour of those unhappy and deluded wretches who became a sacrifice to public justice. I

ODE-VIII. TO LIBERTY. The ancient states of Greece, perhaps the only ones in which a perfect model of Liberty ever existed, are naturally brought to view in the opening of the poem; Bir itu. 1

Who shall atvake the Spartan fife,
And call in soleinn sounds to life, .;
The youths, whose locks divinely spreading,
Like vernal Il yacinths in sullen hue, &c.

There is something extremely bold in the imagery of the locks of the Spartan youths.

The fall of Ronre is here most nervously described in one line;

With heaviest sound a giant-statue fel). The thought seems altogether new, and the imitative

After bewailing the ruin of ancient Liberty, the poet considers the influence it has retained, or still retains among the moderns; and here the free republics of Italy naturally engage his attention. Flo. rence, indeed, only to be lamented on the account of losing its liberty under those patrons of letters, the Medicean family; the jealous Pisa, justly so called in respect to its long impatience and regret under the same yoke; and the small Marino, which, however unrespectable with regard to power, or extent of territory, has at least this distinction to boast, that it has preserved its Liberty longer than any other state, ancient or modern, having, without any revolution, retained its present mode of government near 1400 years. Moreover, the patron-saint who founded it, and from whom it takes its name, deserves this poet. ical record, as he is perhaps the only saint that ever contributed to the establishment of freedom.

Nor e'er her former pride relate

'To sad Liguria's bleeding state. In these lines the poet alludes to those ravages in the state of Genoa, occasioned by the unhappy divisions of the Gulphs and Gibelines.

The daring, archer, heard thy voice. For an account of the celebrated event referred to in these verses, see Voltaire's Epistle to the King of Prussia.

[merged small][ocr errors]

Those whom the rod of Alva bruis'd, Whose crown a British queen refus'd. The Flemings were so dreadfully oppressed by this sanguinary general of Philip II. that they offered their sovereignty to Elizabeth, but, happily for her subjects, she had policy and magnanimity enough to refuse it.

ODE IX. TO EVENING. The blank Ode has for some time solicited adnis. sion into the English poetry, but its efforts hitherto seem to have been vain, at least its reception has been no more than partial. It remains a question, then, whether there is not something in the nature of blank verse less adapted to the lyric than to the heroic measure, since though it has been generally received in the latter, it is yet unadopted in the former, In order to discover this, we are to consider the different modes of these different species of poetry, That of the heroic is uniform, that of the lyric is various; and in these circumstances of uniformity and variety probably lies the cause why blank verse has been successful in the ope, and unacceptable in the other. While it presented itself only in one form, it was familiarized to the ear by custom ; but where it was obliged to assume the different shapes of the lyric Muse, it seemed still a stranger of uncouth figure, was received rather with curiosity than pleasure, and entertained without that ease or satisfaction which acquaintance and familiarity produce. Moreover, the heroic blank verse obtained a sanction of infinite importance to its general reception when it was adopted by one of the greatest poets the world ever produced, and was made the vehicle of the poblest poem that ever was written. When this poem at length extorted that applause which ignorance and prejudice had united to withhold, the versification


a l#


d to

« PreviousContinue »