Page images
PDF
EPUB

familiar to it; by combinations which are instantly acknowledged; not jolted and startled, as in some of the admired writings of the present day, where harsh and affected inversions encumber every page. It is as pleasant to dance barefoot over Derbyshire spar, as to pore upon many of our popular compositions, which, like the prose of Gibbon, and the poetry of Darwin, are stuck full of points and sparkles, that dazzle and confound the sight, no less than the judgment.”

We do not every way concur in these sentiments, but the opinions of Mr. Gifford are always valuable, and, on this account, and not for the purpose of combat, we have here cited them.

It is late, but not even now perhaps entirely unnecessary to inform some of our readers, that this “ Examination” appears in consequence of a review of Mr. G.'s Juvenal, in the Critical Review, extending through three numbers, (September, October, and November, 1802) which mere justice obliges us to condemn, as full of acrimony, misrepresentation, and such ETEC ano que as ill become the character of gentlemen and scholars. Dryden's translation of Juvenal was attacked by Milbourne, and Pope's observation on that attack, may, at least, be made on the one which Mr. Gifford has suffered :--these “ outrages seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by stronger resentment than bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved not to be pleased!" The Life of William Couper, Esquire, with critical Observations

on his Poems. By John Corry, Author of a Satirical View of London, the Detector of Quackery,' fc. Small 8vo. 3s. London. Vernor and Hood. 1803.

PREPARATORY to our examination of Mr. Hayley's whole-length portrait of CowPER, which he has sketched out as large as the life; we have inspected Mr. Corry's miniature, and we think it has considerable merit. He has touched the interesting features of the amiable bard with discriminative force and truth of outline, though we could not sometimes forbear to wish that certain effects of morbid and calamitous dejection had been softened into more congenial shade. The judgment of an artist is greatly shown, by reducing particular harshnesses or irregularities into one harmonious mass : and the skill of a biographer is not less evinced by developing those infirmities with tenderness which excite a painful sensation in the reader. Mr. Corry might sometimes have profited in this respect by the misdirected zeal of Mr. Greathead, who might himself have gathered timely caution from the posthumous emblazoners of Dr. Johnson's name.

The present, we fear, has been rather a hurried publication, for at p. 48 we are told that Mr. Cowper, on his removal to Weston,

adopted a more fashionable garb than was his previous custom, and had his hair dressed and powdered, as it is represented in the portrait given with this biographical sketch; but on referring to the engraved representation, we find the poet in his night-cap. Again, at p. 7, we are informed, that Cowper's constitutional melancholy gave an inanimated cast to his features;' and at p. 46, we read that

his countenance was very expressive, and when under the influence of his characteristic philanthropy, serene and smiling.' We point out these hasty inadvertencies that they may be corrected in another edition, to which, we doubt not, the volume will very soon proceed: and we are content to produce as an authority for this presage, the biographer's short parallel between Pope and Cowper as original writers. As translators they have already been most ably compared.

“ In descriptive poetry,” says Mr. Corry, “ Cowper is not so flowing and harmonious as Pope, yet he generally presents a more faithful picture of nature to the reader's imagination. Instead of calling up the shades of the illustrious dead to people the landscape, as Pope has done in his Windsor Forest, Cowper exhibits scenes of cultivated nature, illuminated by the light of day, inhabited by industrious husbandmen, and enlivened by flocks and herds, the lapse of rivers, and the melody of birds.

“ As a describer of the operations of passion, Pope was superior to Cowper. His Eloisa to Abelard, and the Elegy to the Memory of an unfortunate Lady, are not only more pathetic than any of the pieces of Cowper, but perhaps than any other poems in the English language. Nevertheless, though Pope describes pathetic incidents with more effect, Cowper excels him in the description of domestic tranquillity.

As satirists, they have both great claims to our approbation, insomuch that it is difficult to determine which is superior. Perhaps the general decision will be in favour of Pope, who is more sprightly and poignant, though Cowper is more energetic.

“ Notwithstanding the great merit of Pope in didactic poetry, Cowper deserves the palm. In his Essay on Man, and Moral Essays, Pope displays a profound knowledge of the human heart, but there is a tincture of levity in most of his pieces, which counteracts their beneficial effect. In moral purity, then, which is the highest excellence of man, Cowper is not only superior to Pope, but unequalled by any poet of the last century, except Watts. The principal excellence. of Cowper is sublimity, to which we may superadd strength, or that energetic mode of communicating ideas by which he electrifies the reader, especially in the description of terrific scenes. On the other hand, the excellences of the poetry of Pope are sprightliness, spirit, ease, and a melodious flow which delights the reader.

“ Indeed, they are both not only amiable but venerable. The poems of Pope may be compared to a handsome man, adorned with flowing robes, and beautiful as the Paris of Homer. The more chaste and dignified verse of Cowper

is like a well-made man, in a plain habit, which displays to greater advantage the
symmetry of his form, and whose countenance, like Milton's Adam, is animated
with the intelligence which beautifies the human face divine.' Pope excelled in
grace ;-Cowper has more dignity. Pope is melodious ;-Cowper energetic.
The verse of the former, like the melody of the fute, charms the hearer: the
verse of the latter, like the sound of the clarion, rouses and animates him. Pope,
like the nightingale, soothes the ear, and attracts us to the contemplation of ter-
restrial objects ; but Cowper's Muse soars like the lark, bearing on her wings
and in her notes' praise to the great Deity, whose power created, and whose
providential wisdom and love sustain the universe !"
Memoirs of the Peers of England, during the Reign of James the

First. Vol. I. 8vo. pp. 514. White. 1802.
So much effeminate attention has been lavished of late

years upon the complexion of paper and symmetry of type, that we are not sorry to see a publication in which an author has the masculine firmness to resist this literary foppery, and to let his work make its way to public attention by its own intrinsic claims. These claims, in the present instance, rest upon the basis of ingenuous industry, judicious selection, and personal candour. The beauties of typography have not been resorted to for adventitious aid, though the volume will be thought by many to have merited a higher consideration in this respect, from the value of the materials which compose

it. “ These memoirs are written,” says the ingenious author, “ not to flatter individuals, but to exhibit traits of bistory and manners; and will be found very different from the contents of Collins and Dugdale. Here they, of whom there are no other memorials than their titles, offices, epitaphs, and rentals, occupy a very small space ; while the notices of those who were great in themselves, the characters of the statesman, the author, and the soldier, have been collected with industry, and brought forward with fondness. If history be valuable, the contents of these pages cannot be deemed trifling. Little is here introduced which does not rise to the importance of history. It is indeed so arranged, as best to illustrate the lives and characters of individuals, but those individuals were generally the principal actors in the events described.

Our author is an avowed friend to the aristocracy of his country, but on principles so honourable to himself, that it would be injustice not to publish his sentiments at length.

“ Let us recollect that this important branch of the legislature forms a bond of union between the other two branches, and while it enjoys some interests in common with each, it affords correctives to the dangerous propensities to which each may be liable. The privileges and duties of this station are far from light. They are not, as so many are fond of representing them, empty titles; the decorations of a coronet or a feather. All human institutions will be sometimes abused.-They who degrade the possession of such political advantages are doubly base ;

and it is the province of history not only to confer on the good the fame they have merited, but to hold up the bad to the scorn they have provoked.

“ Far be it from me to be dazzled with rank and honours. Next to virtue, genius and literature will ever hold the second place in my mind. This is the aristocracy to which alone I would bend the knee. The rest is all political arrangement, which, wise as I think it, can have no claim to more than the formularies of outward respect and precedence, but cannot for a moment impose upon an enlightened mind. I believe that there is something in the descent from a long line of illustrious ancestors, which has a tendency to engender generous gentiments and an elevated spirit. But there is no doubt that this incentive, in too many instances, has failed. It is, then, that by a contrast with the glory of those who have gone before him, the defects of the degenerate representative appear the more glaring. A lofty station but exhibits the mean, the base, or the stupid, to more conspicuous derision."

This volume is divided into four books :I. Peers whose ancestors in the male line had attained the rank of

barons as early as the reign of Henry III. II. Containing those Peers whose ancestors of the male line had ar

rived at the rank of barons after the end of Henry the Third's

reign, and before the eleventh of Richard the Second. III. Containing the Peers, whose ancestors of the male line attained

the rank of barons from the accession of Henry the Fourth to

the extinction of the male line of the house of Plantagenet. IV. Containing the Peers, whose ancestors of the male line attained

the rank of barons during the reign of the house of Tudor.

To these four books, which include the memoirs of seventy peers, is appended“ an account of the engraved portraits, mansions, and estates, of those personages recorded in the volume,” which is rendered additionally interesting by an engraving of Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, to whose memory the work is inscribed! another of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, with Mary Queen of France, and a view of Sudeley Castle. Some peculiar interests' which are alluded to, near the close of the volume, induce us to ascribe it to the pen of Mr. Egerton Brydges; though a still stronger evidence for referring it to that writer results from style, from critical judgment, from genealogical and historical knowledge, from sound reflection, from liberal sentiment, and from blending poetical extract with antiquarian enquiry. It will exceedingly gratify us to hail the remaining portion of this publication, and to see, what is reported to be in great forwardness, a second volume of “ Theatrum Poetarum Anglicanorum,” which is to include the reign of Charles the Second.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Palestine, a prize Poem recited in the Theatre Oxford. June 15,

180s. By Reginald Heber, Commoner of Brazen-Nose College.

It has been our lot to see many poems that have obtained prizes After a contest, in which, from the verses bearing away the palm, it would appear that a man might contend without merit, and triumpb without honour. The poem before us on the Holy Wars is however of a chai acter widely different, and stands amongst the other Muses of our universities that have lately made their appearance, like Dian supereminent amongst her nymphs :

Illa pharetram Fert humero, gradiensque Deus supereminet omnes. The subject of Mr. Heber's production is the Crusades, or expeditions of the Christians against the Infidels, for the conquest of the Holy Land; and a more fertile field for the research of the antiquary, the learning of the scholar, the zeal of the christian, and the genius of the poet, was scarcely ever chosen, and we may safely and justly add that the execution is as successful as the selection was happy. If we have any regret it is that the design was not enlarged, and that the eight Crusades were not made to form instead of a prize poem, a poem of several books, which, pursued in the present strain, must infallibly have insured Mr. H. a more lasting prize than any that Oxford has to bestow. The last of the eight Crusades took place in 1291, when, according to Maimbourg Hist. des Croisades, the town of ACRE was taken and plundered by the Soldan of Egypt, and the Christians quite driven out of Syria. On the recent fate of this very spot Mr. H. gives us the following spirited lines, which must serve as a specimen of his powers of poetry.

When he, from towery Malta's. yielding isle,
And the green waters of reluctant Nile,
The Apostate chief---from Misraim's subject shore,
To Acre's walls his trophied banners bore;
When the pale desart mark'd his proud array,
And desolation hop'd an ampler sway;
What hero then triumphant Gaul dismay'd ?
What arm repelld the victor renegade?
Britannia's champion !---bath'd in hostile blood,
High on the breach the dauntless SEAMAN stood;
Admiring Asia saw the unequal fight,
E'en the pale crescent bless'd the christian might.
Oh ! day of death! Oh thirst, beyond control
Of crimson conquest in the invader's soula

« PreviousContinue »