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ODE ON SOLITUDE.
These Stanzas on Solitude are a strong instance of that contemplative and moral turn, which was the distinguishing characteristic of our Poet's mind. An ode of Cowley, which he produced at the age of thirteen years, is of the same tast, and perhaps not in the least inferior to this of Pope. The voluminous Lopez de Vega is commonly, but perhaps incredibly, reported by the Spaniards to have composed verses when he was five years old ; and Torquato Tasso, the second or third of the Italian poets, for that wonderful original Dante is the first, is said to have recited poems and orations of his own writing, when he was seven. It is however certain, which is more extraordinary, that he produced his Rinaldo in his eighteenth year ; no bad precursor to the Gerusalemma Liberata, and no small effort of that genius, which was in due time to show, how fine an epic poem the Italian language, notwithstanding the vulgar imputation of effeminacy, was capable of supporting.-Warton.
These lines were written soon after Pope left school to reside with his father at Binfield, and appear to be the joint result of his classical reading, and of the tranquillity and leisure afforded him by a country life. His prototype is the “ Beatus ille” of Horace ; but his feelings soon lead him to quit his guide, and to select his images from those which he sees around him. In a letter to Mr. Cromwell, some years afterwards, he says, “ Having a vacant space here, I will fill it with a short ode on Solitude, which I found yesterday by great accident, and which I find by the date was written when I was not twelve years old ; that you may perceive how long I have continued in my passion for a rural life, and in the same employment of it.” Dr. Johnson observes that “there is nothing more in this piece than other forward boys have attained,” and Dr. Warton has enumerated instances of several persons who are said to have written at as early or an earlier age ; but it must be observed, that these lines are to be commended not only for their correct versification or poetical ornament, but also for the strain of calm thought and serious meditation which runs through the whole, and gives a favourable picture of the mind of a youthful poet, expanding itself in its native element, and delighted with the enjoyment of uninterrupted leisure and alternate study and ease.
HAPPY the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound, Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.
Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire, Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
Blest, who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away, In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease,
Together mixt; sweet recreation; And innocence, which most does please
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown,
Thus unlamented let me die,
Tell where I lie.
TO THE AUTHOR OF A POEM
The following lines to the author of a poem intitled Successio, are undoubtedly an early production of Pope, and were published in a volume of Lintot's Miscellanies, of which there were several editions. The author of Successio was Elkanah Settle, who from being at one time the rival of Dryden, wrote himself into such discredit, as deservedly to have occupied a distinguished place in the Dunciad. Some account of him may be found in Mr. Nichols's Literary Anec., vol. i. p. 41, and in Mr. D’Israeli's Quarrels of Authors, vol. i. p. 298, &c.
Besides the internal evidence which these lines exhibit that they were written by Pope, Mr. D’Israeli has shown, from an old account book of Bernard Lintot's, which he had the good fortune to meet with, and which contains a list of copies of works purchased by him, that these verses, with those to a Lady on presenting Voiture, and on Silence, were sold to Lintot for three pounds sixteen shillings. That they were omitted by Pope in the first general collection of his poems in 1717, may perhaps be accounted for from their political tendency, as evincing a disposition hostile to the settlement of the crown on the House of Hanover, which the poem of Successio was intended to celebrate. Mr. D’Israeli
says, “ that when Pope wrote these lines he had scarcely attained his fourteenth year ;" he also justly observes that “this juvenile composition bears the marks of his future excellences ; it has the tune of his verse, and the images of his wit. Thirty years afterwards, when occupied by the Dunciad, he transplanted and pruned again some of the original images."
BEGONE, ye Critics, and restrain your spite,
1 Thus altered in the Dunciad, book i. v. 183.
As clocks to weights their nimble motion owe,
When you, like Orpheus, strike the warbling lyre,
2 Thus altered in the Dunciad, book i. v. 181.
As, forc'd from wind-guns, lead itself can fly,
And pond'rous slugs cut swiftly thro’the sky. 3 Perhaps by Chærilus, the juvenile satirist designed Flecknoe or Shadwell
, who had received their immortality of Dulness from his master Catholic in poetry and opinions, DRYDEN.-D’Israeli.