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Hence, and hence only, can proceed the fairest offspring of the human mind.
Assumes the God,
And seems to shake the spheres, are chosen in the following ode, because the sub
But then in ode, there is this difference from other kinds of poetry; that, there, the imagination, like a very beautiful mistress, is indulged in the ap-ject of it is great. pearance of domineering; though the judgment, like an artful lover, in reality carries its point; and the less it is suspected of it, it shows the more masterly conduct, and deserves the greater commendation.
It holds true in this province of writing, as in war, "The more danger, the more honour." It must be very enterprising; it must, in Shakespeare's style, have hair-breadth 'scapes; and often tread the very brink of errour: nor can it ever deserve the applause of the real judge, unless it renders itself obnoxious to the misapprehensions of the contrary.
Such is Casimire's strain among the moderns, whose lively wit, and happy fire, is an honour to them. And Buchanan might justly be much admired, if any thing more than the sweetness of his numbers, and the purity of his diction, were his own: his original, from which I have taken my motto, through all the disadvantages of a northern prose translation, is still admirable; and, Cowley says, as preferable in beauty to Buchanan, as Judæa is to Scotland.
Pindar, Anacreon, Sappho, and Horace, are the great masters of lyric poetry among Heathen writers. Pindar's Muse, like Sacharissa, is a stately, imperious, and accomplished beauty; equally daining the use of art, and the fear of any rival; so intoxicating that it was the highest commendation that could be given an antient, that he was not afraid to taste of her charms;
Pindarici fontis qui non expalluit haustus;
For the more harmony likewise, I chose the frequent return of rhyme; which laid me under great difficulties. But difficulties overcome give grace and pleasure. Nor can I account for the pleasure of rhyme in general (of which the moderns are too fond) but from this truth.
But then the writer must take care that the difficulty is overcome. That is, he must make rhyme consistent with as perfect sense, and expression, as could be expected if he was free from that shackle. Otherwise, it gives neither grace to the work, nor pleasure to the reader, nor, consequently, reputation to the poet.
To sum the whole: Ode should be peculiar, but not strained; moral, but not flat; natural, but not obvious; delicate, but not affected; noble, but not ambitious; full, but not obscure; fiery, but not mad; thick, but not loaded in its numbers, which should be most harmonious, without the least sacrifice of Above all, in this, as in expression, or of sense. every work of genius, somewhat of an original spirit should be, at least, attempted; otherwise the poet, whose character disclaims mediocrity, makes a secondary praise his ultimate ambition; which has something of a contradiction in it. Originals dis-only have true life, and differ as much from the best imitations, as men from the most animated pictures of them. Nor is what I say at all inconsistent with a due deference for the great standards of antiquity; nay, that very deference is an argument for it, for doubtless their example is on my side in this matter. And we should rather imitate their example in the general motives, and fundamental methods of their working, than in their works themselves. This is a distinction, I think, not hitherto made, and a distinction of consequence. For the first may make us their equals; the second must pronounce us their inferiors even in our utmost success. But the first of these prizes is not so readily taken by the moderns; as valuables too massy for easy carriage are not so liable to the thief.
a danger which Horace declares he durst not run. Anacreon's Muse is like Amoret, most sweet, natural, and delicate; all over flowers, graces, and charms; inspiring complacency, not awe; and she seems to have good-nature enough to admit a rival, which she cannot find.
is passionately Sappho's Muse, like Lady tender, and glowing; like oil set on fire, she is soft, and warm, in excess. Sappho has left us a few fragments only; Time has swallowed the rest; but that little which remains, like the remaining jewel of Cleopatra, after the other was dissolved at her banquet, may be esteemed (as was that jewel) a sufficient ornament for the goddess of beauty herself.
Horace's Muse (like one I shall not presume to name) is correct, solid, and moral; she joins all the sweetness and majesty, all the sense and the fire of the former, in the justest proportions and degrees; superadding a felicity of dress entirely her own. She moreover is distinguishable by this particularity, That she abounds in hidden graces, and secret charms, which none but the discerning can discover; nor are any capable of doing full justice, in their opinion, to her excellencies, without giving the world, at the same time, an incontestable proof of refinement in their own understandings.
But, after all, to the honour of our own country I must add, that I think Mr. Dryden's Ode on St. Cecilia's Day inferior to no composition of this kind. Its chief beauty consists in adapting the numbers most happily to the variety of the occasion. Those by which he has chosen to express Majesty, (viz.)
The antients had a particular regard to the choice of their subjects; which were generally national and great. My subject is, in its own nature, noble; most proper for an Englishman; never more proper than on this occasion; and (what is strange) hitherto unsung.
If I stand not absolutely condemned by my own rules; if I have hit the spirit of ode in general; if I cannot think with Mr. Cowley, that "Music alone, sometimes, makes an excellent ode;"
Versus inopes rerum, nugæque canoræ ; if there is any thought, enthusiasm, and picture, which are as the body, soul, and robe of Poetry; in a word, if in any degree I have provided rather food for men,than air for wits; 1 hope smaller faults will meet indulgence for the sake of the design, which is the glory of my country and my king.
And indeed, this may be said, in general, that great subjects are above being nice; that dignity and spirit ever suffer from scrupulous exactness; and that the minuter cares effeminate a composition. Great masters of poetry, painting, and statuary, in their nobler works, have even affected the contrary and justly; for a truly-masculine
air partakes more of the negligent, than of the neat, both in writings, and in life
Grandis oratio haberet majestatis suæ pondus.
PETRON. A poem, like a criminal, under too severe, correction, may lose all its spirit, and expire. We know it was Faberrimus, that was such an artist at a hair or a nail. And we know the cause was
Quia ponere totum
Who love the shore,
Let those adore
The god Apollo, and his Nine,
And Orpheus' skill;
But let Arion's harp be mine.
The main the main!
Her strength, her glory, is her fleet;
Be Briton's strain;
Triton's strong, as Syren's sweet.
Is nought descried
rich in pleasure, or surprise;
To close: If a piece of this nature wants an apology, I must own, that those who have strength of mind sufficient profitably to devote the whole of their time to the severer studies, I despair of imitating, I can only envy and admire. The mind is relieved and strengthened by variety; and he that sometimes is sporting with his pen, is only taking the most effectual means of giving a general importance to it. This truth is clear from the knowledge of human nature, and of history; from which I could cite very celebrated instances, did I not In which ere-while Britannia fair fear that, by citing them, I should condemn myself, who am so little qualified to follow their example in its full extent.
How sweet the scene!
Look'd down with pride,
When tempests cease,
'The flatten'd surges smoothly spread,
Joys that subsist,
And unprecarious endless bliss!
The soul refin'd
Is most inclin'd
To every moral excellence;
All vice is dull,
A knave's a fool;
And Virtue is the child of Sense.
The virtuous mind,
Nor wave, nor wind,
Nor civil rage, nor tyrant's frown, The shaken ball,
Nor planets' fall,
From its firm basis can dethrone.
This Britain knows,
And therefore glows
With generous passions, and expends
And brightens both by godlike ends.
As that which late
Awoke the Genius of the main,
From Britain's throne
As Nature's rose at the divine.
When Nature sprung,
And shouted o'er the rising ball;
As man's can fly,
These sea-devoted honours call,
From boisterous seas,
The lap of case
Receives our wounded and our old;
Stretch'd arches bend!
Proud columns swell! wide gates unfold!
"Unhurt my urn!
Till that great turn
When mighty Nature's self shall die! Time cease to glide,
With human pride,
Sunk in the Ocean of Eternity."
ON PART OF
THE BOOK OF JOB.
TO THE RT. HON. THOMAS LORD PARKER, BARON OF MACCLESFIELD,
LORD HIGH-CHANCELLOR OF GREAT-BRITAIN, ETC. ETC.
THOUGH I have not the honour of being known to your lordship, I presume to take a privilege which men of retirement are apt to think themselves in possession of, as being the only method they have of making their way to persons of your lordship's high station without struggling through multitudes for access. I may possibly fail in my respect to your lordship, even while I endeavour to show it most; but if I err, it is because I imagined I ought not to make my first approach to one of your lordship's exalted character with less ceremony than that of a dedication. It is annexed to the condition of eminent merit, not to suffer more from the malice of its enemies, than from the importunity of its admirers; and perhaps it would be unjust, that your lordship should hope to be exempted from the troubles, when you possess all the talents, of a patron.
I have here a fair occasion to celebrate those sublime qualities, of which a whole nation is sensible, were it not inconsistent with the design of my present application. By the just discharge of your great employments, your lordship may well deserve the prayers of the distressed, the thanks of your country, and the approbation of your royal master: this indeed is a reason why every good Briton should applaud your lordship; but it is equally a reason why none should disturb you in the execution of your important affairs by works of fancy and amusement. I was therefore induced to make this address to your lordship, by considering you rather in the amiable light of a person distinguished for a refined taste of the polite arts, and the candour that usually attends it, than in the dignity of your public character.
The greatness and solemnity of the subjects treated of in the following work cannot fail in some measure to recommend it to a person who holds in the utmost veneration those sacred books from which it is taken; and would at the same time justify to the world my choice of the great name prefixed to it, could I be assured that the undertaking had not suffered in my hands. Thus much I think myself obliged to say; that if this little performance had not been very indulgently spoken of by some, whose judgment is universally, allowed in writings of this nature, I had not dared to gratify my ambition in offering it to your lordship: I am sensible that I am endeavouring to excuse one vanity by another; but I hope I shall