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Finish'd the whole, and labour'd ev'ry part,
200 Compos'd his posture, and his looks sedate; On Homer still he fix'd a rev'rend eye,
, Great without pride, in modest majesty. In living sculpture on the sides were spread The Latian Wars, and haughty Turnus dead; 205
and secure tract, whilst its very height and grandeur expose the sublime to sudden fails. “Notwithstanding which trivial blemishes, I must ever remain in the opinion, that the greater excellences, these bolder and nobler flights, though perhaps not carried on every where with an equality of perfection, yet merit the prize and preference, by the sole merit of their intrinsic magnificence and grandeur.” This just and forcible sentiment of Longinus in his thirty-third section, is a sufficient answer to an outrageous paradox lately advanced by Voltaire, in direct contradiction to his former critical opinions, and which is here set down for the entertainment of the reader: “ If we would weigh, without prejudice, the Odyssey of Homer with the Orlando of Ariosto, the Italian must gain the preference in all respects. Both of them are chargeable with the same fault; namely, an intemperance and luxuriance of imagination, and a romantic fondness for the marvellous. But Ariosto has compensated this fault by allegories so true, by touches of satire so delicate, by so profound a knowledge of the human heart, by the graces of the comic, which perpetually succeed the strokes of the terrible; in short, by such innumerable beauties of every kind, that he has found out the secret of making an agreeable monster. Let every reader ask himself what he would think, if he should read for the first time the Iliad and Tasso's poem, without knowing the names of their authors, and the times when their works were composed, and determine of them merely by the degree of pleasure they each of them excited. Would he not give the entire preference to Tasso ? Would he not find in the Italian more conduct and economy, more interesting circumstances, more variety and exactness, more graces and embellishments, and more of that softness which eases, relieves, and adds a lustre to the sublime ? I question whether they will even bear a comparison a few ages hence.”
Eliza stretch'd upon the fun’ral pyre,
Four swans sustain a car of silver bright, 210
215 The figur’d games of Greece the column
Ver. 210. Four swans sustain, &c.] Pindar being seated in a chariot, alludes to the chariot-races he celebrated in the Grecian games. The swans are emblems of Poetry, their soaring posture intimates the sublimity and activity of his genius. Neptune presided over the Isthmian, and Jupiter over the Olympian
The character of Pindar, as commonly given, seems not to be well understood. We are perpetually told of the boldness and the violence of his transitions; whereas, on a closer inspection, they appear easy and unforced, are closely connected with, and arise appositely from, his subject. A dissertation on this topic, which I have read, may perhaps one day be published. Even his style has been represented as too swelling and bombast; but, carefully examined, it will appear not to abound with those violent and harsh metaphors, and that profusion of florid epithets, which some of his imitators, who appear not to have read and studied the original, affect to use. One of Pindar's arts, which Lord Bacon has observed, and in which his copiers fail, is the introduction of many moral reflections. Animos hominum, inopinato (says Bacon) sententiola aliqua mirabili, veluti virgula divina percutit. Gray has most closely studied, and most happily imitated, the manner of Pindar of all our writers.
The champions in distorted postures threat; 220
Here happy Horace tun'd th’Ausonian lyre
Ver. 230. The Doves] Surely he might have selected, for the basso relievos about the statue of Horace, ornaments more manly and characteristical of his genius. Among the various views in which the very numerous commentators have considered his odes, they seem to have neglected to remark the dramatic turn he has given to many of them. Witness, the prophecy of Nereus, the animated speech of Juno, the speeches of Regulus, and of Europa and her father, and of one of the daughters of Danaus; as also of the boy seized by the witches, and of Canidia herself, in the fifth epode.
Ver. 224. Pleas'd with Alcæus' manly rage t' infuse
The softer spirit of the Sapphic Muse.] This expresses the mixed character of the odes of Horace: the second of these verses alludes to that line of his,
Spiritum Graiæ tenuem camænæ.” As another which follows, to
Exegi monumentum ære perennius." The action of the Doves hints at a passage in the fourth ode of his third book.
“ Me fabulosa. Vulture in Appulo
Ludo fatigatumque somno,
Here in a shrine that cast a dazzling light, Sate fix'd in thought the mighty Stagyrite ;
Ver. 232. Here in a shrine] It may not be unpleasing to observe the artful manner with which Addison has introduced each of his worthies at the tables of Fame; and how nicely he has adapted the behaviour of each person to his character. Addison had great skill in the use of delicate and oblique allusions: “It was expected that Plato would have taken a place next his master Socrates ; but on a sudden there was heard a great clamour of disputants at the door, who appeared with Aristotle at the head of them. That philosopher, with some rudeness, but great strength of reason, convinced the whole table that a fifth place at the table was his due, and took it accordingly.” Thus, in another
passage : “Julius Cæsar was now coming forward; and though most of the historians offered their service to introduce him, he left them at the door, and would have no conductor but himself.” (Tatler, No. 81.) In the same spirit he tells us, “ That Q. Curtius intended to conduct Alexander the Great to an apartment appointed for the reception of fabulous heroes; that Virgil hung back at the entrance of the door, and would have excused himself, had not his modesty been overcome by the invitation of all who sate at the table : that Lucan entered at the head of many historians with Pompey; and that seeing Homer and Vir
“ Fronde nova puerum palumbes
Lauroque collataque myrto,
Non sine Diis animosus infans.”
“While yet a child, I chanc'd to stray,
Myrtles and bays around me spread,
And crown'd your infant poet's head,
His sacred head a radiant Zodiac crown'd
With equal rays immortal Tully shone,
These massy columns in a circle rise,
gil seated at the table, was going to sit down himself, had not the latter whispered him, he had forfeited his claim to it by coming in as one of the historians."
Ver. 238. With equal rays immortal] This beautiful attitude is copied from a statue in that valuable collection which Lady Pomfret had the goodness and generosity lately to present to the University of Oxford.—“Cicero (says Addison) next appeared and took his place. He had inquired at the door for one Luccieus to introduce him; but not finding him there, he contented himself with the attendance of many other writers, who all, except Sallust, appeared highly pleased with the office.”
I cannot forbear taking occasion to mention an ingenious imitation of this paper of Addison, called The Table of Modern Fame, at which the guests are introduced and ranged with that taste and judgment which is peculiar to the author. (Dr. Akenside, Dodsley's Musæum, No. 13.) It may not be unentertaining to enumerate the persons in the order he has placed them, by which his sense of their merits will appear: Columbus, Peter the Great, Leo X., Martin Luther, Newton, Descartes, Lewis XIV., William I. Prince of Orange, Edward the Black Prince, Francis I., Charles V., Locke, Galileo, John Faust, Harvey, Machiavel, Tasso, Ariosto, Pope, Boileau, Bacon, Milton, Cervantes, and Moliere.