Page images
PDF
EPUB

[Authors are apt, it is said, to estimate their performances more according to the trouble they have cost themselves, than the pleasure they afford to the public; and it is only in this way that we can pretend to account for the extraordinary value which Lord Byron attached, even many long years after they were written, to these "Hints from Horace." The business of translating Horace has hitherto been a hopeless one; -and notwithstanding the brilliant cleverness of some passages, in both Pope's and Swift's Imitations of him, there had been, on the whole, very little to encourage any one to meddle seriously even with that less difficult department. It is, comparatively, an easy affair to transfer the effect, or something like the effect, of the majestic declamations of Juvenal; but the Horatian satire is cast in a mould of such exquisite delicacy-uniting perfect ease with perfect elegance throughout -as has hitherto defied all the skill of the moderns. Lord Byron, however, having composed this piece at Athens, in 1811, and brought it home in the same desk with the two first cantos of "Childe Harold," appears to have, on his arrival in London, contemplated its publication as far more likely to increase his reputation than that of his original poem. Perhaps Milton's preference of the "Paradise Regained" over the "Paradise Lost" is not a more decisive example of the extent to which a great author may mistake the source of his greatness. Lord Byron was prevented from publishing these lines, by a feeling which, considering his high notion of their merit, does him honour. By accident, or nearly so, the "Harold" came out before the "Hints; "—and the reception of the former was so flattering to Lord Byron, that it could scarcely fail to take off, for the time, the edge of his appetite for literary bitterness In short, he found himself mixing constantly in society with persons who had from good sense, or good-nature, or from both overlooked the petulancies of his "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers," and felt, as he said, that he should be "heaping coals of fire on his head" if he were to persist in bringing forth a continuation of his juvenile lampoon. Nine years had passed ere he is found writing thus to Mr. Murray:-" Get from Mr. Hobhouse, and send me, a proof of my "Hints from Horace:" it ha now the nonum prematur in annum complete for its production. I hav a notion that, with some omissions of names and passages, it will do; and I could put my late observations for Pope amongst the notes. As far a versification goes, it is good; and, in looking back at what I wrote abou that period, I am astonished to see how little I have trained on. I wrot better then than now; but that comes of my having fallen into the atro cious bad taste of the times." On hearing, however, that, in Mr. Hob house's opinion, the iambics would require "a good deal of slashing" t suit the times, the notion of printing them was once more abandoned They were first published, therefore, in 1851, seven years after the poet death.-E]

HINTS FROM HORACE."

Athens. Capuchin Convent, March 12. 1811.

WHO would not laugh, if Lawrence, hired to grace
His costly canvass with each flatter'd face,
Abused his art, till Nature, with a blush,
Saw cits grow centaurs underneath his brush?
Or, should some limner join, for show or sale,
A maid of honour to a mermaid's tail?

Or low Dubost (1) - as once the world has seen -
Degrade God's creatures in his graphic spleen?

Humano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
Jungere si velit, et varias inducere plumas,
Undique collatis membris, ut turpiter atrum
Desinat in piscem mulier formosa superne;

(1) In an English newspaper, which finds its way abroad wherever there are Englishmen, I read an account of this dirty dauber's caricature of Mr. Has a "beast," and the consequent action, &c. The circumstance is, probably, too well known to require further comment. — [The gentleman here alluded to was Thomas Hope, the author of " Anastasius,” and one of the most munificent patrons of art this country ever possessed. Having, somehow, offended an unprincipled French painter, by name Dubost, that adventurer revenged himself by a picture called "Beauty and the Beast," in which Mr. Hope and his lady were represented accord. ing to the well-known fairy story. The picture had too much malice not to succeed; and, to the disgrace of John Bull, the exhibition of it is said to have fetched thirty pounds in a day. A brother of Mrs. Hope thrust his sword through the canvass; and M. Dubost had the consolation to get five pounds damages. The affair made much noise at the time; though Mr. Hope had not then placed himself on that seat of literary eminence, which he afterwards attained. Probably, indeed, no man's reputation in the world was ever so suddenly and completely altered, as his was by the appearance of his magnificent romance.-E]

[blocks in formation]

Not all that forced politeness, which defends
Fools in their faults, could gag his grinning friends.
Believe me, Moschus (1), like that picture seems
The book which, sillier than a sick man's dreams,
Displays a crowd of figures incomplete,
Poetic nightmares, without head or feet.

Poets and painters, as all artists (2) know, May shoot a little with a lengthen'd bow; We claim this mutual mercy for our task, And grant in turn the pardon which we ask ; But make not monsters spring from gentle dams Birds breed not vipers, tigers nurse not lambs.

A labour'd, long exordium, sometimes tends (Like patriot speeches) but to paltry ends; And nonsense in a lofty note goes down, As pertness passes with a legal gown : Thus many a bard describes in pompous strain The clear brook babbling through the goodly plain

Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici ?
Credite, Pisones, isti tabulæ fore librum
Persimilem, cujus, velut ægri somnia, vanæ
Fingentur species, ut nec pes, nec caput uni
Reddatur formæ. Pictoribus atque poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas,

Scimus, et hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim :

Sed non ut placidis coëant immitia; non ut

Serpentes avibus geminentur, tigribus agni.

Incœptis gravibus plerumque et magna professis
Purpureus, late qui splendeat, unus et alter

(1) ["Moschus."— In the original MS., " Hobhouse."-E.]
(2) ["All artists."- Originally, "We scribblers." -E]

The groves of Granta, and her gothic halls, [walls: King's Coll., Cam's stream, stain'd windows, and old Or, in advent'rous numbers, neatly aims

To paint a rainbow, or the river Thames. (1)

[ocr errors]

You sketch a tree, and so perhaps may shineBut daub a shipwreck like an alehouse sign;" You plan a vase — it dwindles to a pot;

-

Then glide down Grub-street-fasting and forgot; Laugh'd into Lethe by some quaint Review, Whose wit is never troublesome till — true. (2)

In fine, to whatsoever you aspire, Let it at least be simple and entire.

The greater portion of the rhyming tribe (Give ear, my friend, for thou hast been a scribe) Are led astray by some peculiar lure.

I labour to be brief-become obscure ;
One falls while following elegance too fast;
Another soars, inflated with bombast;

(1)

Assuitur pannus; cum lucus et ara Dianæ,
Et properantis aquæ per amonos ambitus agros,
Aut flumen Rhenum, aut pluvius describitur arcus.
Sed nunc non erat his locus: et fortasse cupressum
Scis simulare: quid hoc, si fractis enatat exspes
Navibus, ære dato qui pingitur ? amphora cœpit
Institui; currente rotâ cur urceus exit ?
Denique sit quod vis, simplex duntaxat et unum.
Maxima pars vatum, pater, et juvenes patre digni,
Decipimur specie recti. Brevis esse laboro,
Obscurus fio: sectantem levia, nervi

Deficiunt animique: professus grandia, turget:

"Where pure description held the place of sense.”—POPE.

(2) [This is pointed, and felicitously expressed. - MOORE.]

Too low a third crawls on, afraid to fly,
He spins his subject to satiety;

Absurdly varying, he at last engraves

Fish in the woods, and boars beneath the waves!

Unless your care's exact, your judgment nice,
The flight from folly leads but into vice;
None are complete, all wanting in some part,
Like certain tailors, limited in art.

For galligaskins Slowshears is your man;
But coats must claim another artisan. (1)
Now this to me, I own, seems much the same
As Vulcan's feet to bear Apollo's frame ; (2)
Or, with a fair complexion, to expose

Black eyes, black ringlets, but- - a bottle nose!

Dear authors! suit your topics to your strengt And ponder well your subject, and its length;

Serpit humi, tutus nimium, timidusque procellæ :
Qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam,
Delphinum sylvis appingit fluctibus aprum.

In vitium ducit culpæ fuga, si caret arte.
Æmilium circa ludum faber unus et ungues
Exprimet, et molles imitabitur ære capillos;
Infelix operis summa, quia ponere totum
Nesciet. Hunc ego me, si quid componere curem,
Non magis esse velim, quam pravo vivere naso,
Spectandum nigris oculis nigroque capillo.

Sumite materiem vestris, qui scribitis, equam
Viribus ;
et versate diu quid ferre recusent

(1) Mere common mortals were commonly content with one tailor with one bill, but the more particular gentlemen found it impossible confide their lower garments to the makers of their body clothes. speak of the beginning of 1809: what reform may have since taken p I neither know, nor desire to know.

(2) [MS. "As one leg perfect, and the other lame."-E.]

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »