Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini contains a very spritely and judicious character of a good translator.

That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
Of tracing word by word, and line by line.
Those are the labour'd birth of slavish brains,
Not the effect of poetry, but pains :
Cheap vulgar arts, whose narrowness affords
No flight for thoughts, but poorly stick at words.
A new and nobler way thou dost pursue,
To make translations and translators too,
They but preserve the ashes; thou the flame,
True to his sense, but truer to his fame.

The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they contain was not at that time generally known.

His poem on the death of Cowley was bis last, and, among his shorter works, his best performance: the numbers are musical, and the thoughts are just.

COOPER's Hill is the work that confers upon him the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described, with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation,

To trace a new scheme of poetry has in itself a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope?; after whose names little will be gained by an enumeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme, or blank verse.

COOPER's Hill, if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.

The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my theme !
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.

The lines are in themselves not perfect; for most of the words, thus artfully opposed, are to be understood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language that does not express intellectual operations by material images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprised in so few words; the particulars of resemblance are

* By Garth, in his Poem on Claremont; and by Pope, in his Windsor Forest. H.

50 perspicatiously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accu. rately adjusted ; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and sweet; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty pe. culiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be pro. duced at will by wit and labour, but must arise unexpectedly in some hour propiti. ous to poetry.

He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emanci. pating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions ; some of them are the works of men well qualified, not only by critical knowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.

Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His ver. sions of Virgil are not pleasing ; but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on Old Age has neither the clearness of prose, nor the spriteliness of poetry.

The “ strength of Denham,” which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.

On the Thames.

Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold;
His genuine and less guilty wealth t'explore,
Search not his bottom, but survey his shore.

On Strafford.

1

His wisdom such, at once it did appear
Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear.
While single he stood forth, and seem'd, although
Each had an army, as an equal foe,
Sach was his force of eloquence, to make
The hearers more concern'd than he that spake :
Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
And none was more a looker-on than he ;
So did he move our passions, some were known
To wish, for the defence, the crime their own
Now private pity strove with public hate,
Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate.

On Cowley

To bim no author was unknown,
Yet what he wote was all his own ;

Horace's wit, and Virgil's state,
He did not steal but emulate !
And, when he would like them appear,
Their garb, but not their cloaths, did wear.

As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his im. provement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment, naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice as he gains more confidence in himself. . "

In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to versé.

Then all those
Who in the dark our fury did escape,
Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape,
· And differing dialect; then their numbers 'swell

And grow upon us; first Chorcebeus fell
Before Minerva's altar; next did bleed .
Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed
In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed.
Then Hypanis and Dymas, wounded by
Their friends; nor thee, Pantheus, thy piety,
Nor consecrated mitre, from the same
Ill fate could save; my country's funeral flame
And Troy's cold ashes, I attest, and call
To witness for myself, that in their fall
No foes, no death, nor danger, I declin'd,
Dịd and deserv'd no less, my fate to find.

From this kind of concatenated metre he afterwards refrained, and taught his fol. lowers the art of concluding their sense in couplets; which has perhaps been with ra. ther too much constancy pursued.

This passage exhibits one of those triplets which are not unfrequent in this first essay, but which it is to be supposed his maturer judgment disapproved, since in his latter works he has totally forborn them.

His rhimes are such as secm found without difficulty, by following the sense; and are for the most part as exact at least as those of other poets, though now and then the reader is shifted off with what he can get;

O how transform'd!
How much unlike that Hector, who return'd
Clad in Achilles' spoils !

And again :

From thence a thousand lesser poets sprung
Like petty princes from the fall of Rome.

Sometimes the weight of rhime is laid upon a word too feeble to sustain it:

Troy confounded falls
From all her glories : if it might have stood
By any power, by this right hand it shou'd.
- And though my outward state misfortune hath
Deprest thus low, it cannot reach my faith.
-Thus, by his fraud and our own faith o'ercome,
A feigned tear destroys us, against whom
Tydides nor Achilles could prevail,
Nor ten years conflict, nor a thousand sail.

He is not very careful to vary the ends of his verses ; in one passage the word die rhymes three couplets in six.

Most of these petty faults are in his first productions, where he was less skilful, or at least less dextrous in the use of words; and though they had been more frequent, they could only have lessened the grace, not the strength of his composition. He is one of the writers that improved our taste, and advanced our language; and whom we ought therefore to read with gratitude, though, having done much, he left much to do.

« PoprzedniaDalej »