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• Clementina, in Grandifon, is the most deeply interesting. • I know not whether even the madness of Lear is wrought up and expreffed by fo many little ftrokes of nature, and genuine paffion. It is abfolute pedantry to prefer and compare the madness of Oreftes in Euripides, to this of Clementina.'We are glad our Author did not, in the heat of his panegyrical ftrain, boldly, at once, tack the Caffandra of Lycophron to Oreftes, the more completely to fill the triumph of the Neapolitan lady.
He fuppofes, that Jane Shore is the most popular of Row's plays, from its being founded in our hiftory; and from thence judiciously takes occafion to recommend to our tragic writers, our domeftica falta, if not too antient, nor too recent, as fubjects the most interesting and useful.
This brings our Critic back to Pope, who, he informs us, is faid to have framed a defign of writing an epic poem, on < a fact recorded in our old annalists, and therefore more en
gaging to an Englishman: the arrival of Brutus, the fup'pofed grandfon of Æneas, in our island, and the settlement of the firft foundation of the British monarchy. A full fcope might have been given to a vigorous imagination, to 'embellifh a fiction drawn from the bofom of the remotest antiquity. But fhall I be pardoned for fufpecting that Pope ⚫ would not have fucceeded in this defign; that fo didactic a genius would have been deficient in that fublime and pathetic, which are the main nerves of the Epopea; that he would have given us many elegant defcriptions, and many ⚫ general characters, well drawn, but would have failed to fet ⚫ before our eyes, the reality of these objects, and the actions ⚫ of these characters: for Homer profeffedly draws no charac⚫ters, but gives us to collect them from the looks and behaviour ⚫ of each perfon he introduces; that Pope's close and conftant reafoning had impaired and crushed the faculty of imagination; that the political reflections in this piece, would, in all probability, have been more numerous than the affecting frokes of nature; that it would have more resembled the • Henriade than the Iliad, or even the Gierufalemme liberata ; that it would have appeared, how much, and for what reafons, the man skilful in painting modern life, and the moft ⚫ fecret foibles and follies of his cotemporaries, is therefore difqualified for representing the ages of heroifm, and that • fimple life, which alone epic poetry can gracefully describe; in a word, that his compofition would have fhewn more of the philofopher than of the poet. Add to all this, that it was · to have been written in rhyme; a circumstance fufficient of F 4
itself alone, to extinguish all enthufiafm, and produce endless tautologies and circumlocutions? Are not these fuppofi tions ftrengthened by what Dr. Warburton has informed us, namely, that Pope, in this poem, intended to have treated amply of all that regarded civil regimen, or the science of "politics; that the feveral forms of a republic were here to "have been examined and explained, together with the feve❝ral modes of religious worship, fo far as they affect fociety:" ⚫ Than which furely there could not have been a more im6 proper fubjet for an epic poem.'
We hope, however, that this premature befpeaking the difcourtesy of the world, will not prevent the gentleman who is faid to be in poffeffion of Mr. Pope's plan, from obliging us with this expected poem. If it prove not fo pleafing to the fancy, it may at least be more useful to the judgment, than the Iliad, or even the Odyffey. The Author of the Efay on Satire, appears to have fufficient abilities for the task.
The Critic concludes the fection with informing us, that the first poem that appeared in France, 1155, any thing like an epic, was the Roman de Brut by Mafter Euftache; and. that the fecond poem now remaining in the French language, was entitled, The Romance of Alexander the Great. Every piece of poetry at that time (the twelfth century) was denominated a Romance. This laft was the confederated work of four Authors, famous in their time. Lambert le Court, and Alexander of Paris, fung the exploits of Alexander; Peter de Saint Cloft wrote his will in verfe; the writing the will of a hero being then a common topic of verfe; and John de Nivelois added book a the manner in which his death was reupon venged. It is remarkable, that before this time, all the ro mans had been compofed in verfes of eight fyllables; but in this piece the four Authors firft ufed verfes of twelve fyllables, as more folemn and majestic, And this was the origin, tho' but little known, of thofe verfes which we now call Alexandrines, the French heroic meafure; the name being derived from Alexander, the hero of the piece; or from Alexander the moft celebrated of the four poets concerned in this work.
Nor fhould the quotation from Henault's hiftory of France, at the end of the fection, be forgotten, as it more immediately. concerns our country. About the year 1160, fays that truly learned Antiquary, a monk called Geoffry, (who was afterwards Abbot of St. Albans) employed in the education of youth, made his pupils reprefent, with proper fcenes and dreffes,
Vid. Warburton's edition of Pope.
tragedies of piety. The fubject of the first dramatic piece, was the miracles of St. Catherine, which appeared long before any of our reprefentations of the mysteries.
The laft fection confiders the epiftle of Sappho to Phaon, and of Eloifa to Abelard.
The critic, after praifing Ovid for his invention of this amiable fpecies of writing, which he prefers to the Greek Elegy, on account of its dramatic nature, and to the Soliloquy, from its fuperior propriety in being addreffed to one perfon; very juftly extols this tranflation of Pope's, for its elegance and faithfulness, above any in Dryden's tranflation of the Heroids. He alfo cenfures Óvid for a fameness in the fubjects of these epiftles, and for being too long, which certainly forces him into a repetition and languor in the fentiments. Wit and fancy are, indeed, every where predominant, but he is fometimes deficient in judgment, and not always natural. In particular Ovid puts into the mouth of Sappho more pretty panegyrical epigrams, than those tender and paffionate fentiments which fuited her character, and made her fenfibility in amours fo famous. Our Author gives a short account of the Lesbian Poetefs, and praises the translations of her two odes in the Spectator, but takes no notice of the different turn that Dr. Pearce gives to the
φαινεται μοι κείνος ιςος θεοισιν,
which, however, seems to be the just one, and which, if so, makes most of the expreffions, both in Boileau's and Phillip's, extremely improper. He alfo gives us two fragments of the fame Poetefs, which are, indeed, highly beautiful and tender; but he has omitted fome, which, we imagine, are no less expreffive of her character (a): for, not to mention her other fragment on the evening, from the Scholiaft on Euripides, can any thing be more descriptive, or paffionate, than the following lines, for the prefervation of which we are indebted to Hephæftion, as quoted by Henry Stephens:
(a) Vid. Henric. Heph. Poet. Lyr. Vol II.
(6) Jam pulcra quidem Diana
Jam Pleiades occiderunt
Ab fola cuba mifella.
Έρως δ' αυτε μόλης,μέλης δόνει
Γλυκυ πικρον αμάχανον αρετον.
Φροντις δ' ην επι δ ̓ Ανδρομέδα» ποτε (c).
Nor can we deny ourselves the pleasure of repeating the following pathetic funeral infcription:
Τιμαδις ὧδε κόνις, ταν δε προγάμενο θανοῖσαν
which Politian has thus excellently imitated.
To return: Fenton alfo tranflated,' fays the Effayift, the Epiftle to Phaon, but it is in no respect equal to Pope's. He has added another of his own invention, of Phaon to Sappho, in which the story of the transformation of the ⚫ former from an old mariner to a beautiful youth, is well told. Fenton was an elegant fcholar, and had an exquifite tafte. The books he tranflated for Pope in the Odyffey are fuperior to Brome's. In his mifcellanies are fome pieces worthy of notice, particularly his epiftle to Mr. Southern; the Fair Nun, imitated from Fontaine; Olivia, a character; • and an ode to Lord Gower, written in the true fpirit of lyric poetry.' This laft piece, we are informed, Pope thought the beft ode in the English language, next to Dryden's Alexander's Feaft. Fenton's ode to the fun is very little inferior to the other, and his kiffes of Secundus, Venus herself (to talk in the language of mythology) has imbued with the fifth part of her nectar.
His [Fenton's] tragedy of Mariamne,'continues our Author, • has merit, tho' the action be too figurative and ornamental. It • fuperabounds in the richest poetic images; except this may be palliated by urging, that it fuits the character of oriental heroes to talk in fo high a strain, and to use such a luxuriance of metaphor."
(c) Amor me autem diffolutor verfat,
Atthis te autem mei tædebat
This is a proper apology for the poetic ornaments of that well-conducted play. Perhaps, however, the paffions raised by this piece, are not fo violent as those excited by Jofephus, in his account of that unfortune Beauty.
From this epiftle of Sappho to Phaon, our Author takes occafion to obferve, that this fpecies of writing, beautiful as it is, has not been much cultivated among us. Drayton endeavoursed to revive it. He has left us fome good fubjects, unartfully handled. We have alfo a few of this fort of epiftles by the late Lord' Hervey, in the fourth volume of Dodfley's mifcellanies' (d).
In page 305. our Author begins his obfervations on the epiftle from Eloifa to Abelard. By comparing it with paffages from the original epiftles, he fhews how finely Pope has worked up the little hints of diftrefs that are scattered up and down thefe; which, tho' highly paffionate, are happily delicate: as the struggles between religion and love are exquifite. The following lines he thinks fuperior, in point of poetry and ftrong painting, to any other parts of the epiftle, or, indeed, to any of Pope's productions. Be that as it will, we may venture, with the critic, to pronounce thofe deftitute of any tafte, either for poetry or painting, who fhall be disgusted with their length.
In thefe lone walls (their days eternal bound)
These moss-grown domes with fpiry turrets crown'd,
And the dim windows fhed a folemn light;
Thy eyes diffus'd a reconciling ray.
The darkfome pines, that o'er yon rocks reclin'd,
The wand'ring ftreams that shine between the hills,
The image of the goddess of Melancholy * fitting over the convent, and, as it were, expanding her dreadful wings over its whole circuit, and diffufing her gloom all around it, ♦ is truly fublime, and strongly conceived, as the figurative ex
(d) Might we not here alfo mention an epiftle from Abelard to Philantus, and from Abelard to Eloifa?
• Vid. hine 165-feq.