Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

While the lorn father, still from foes to hide,
And spare the cureless wound of generous pride ;
Yet more from friends to veil his home-felt woes,
His food, his raiment, and his rest foregoes.

Yet, ah! with stern æconony extreme,
How hard to shun a grief still more supreme!
The frantic father sudden snatch'd away;
The daughters made of villany the prey ;
The sons, still buffeting misfortune's flood,
Or their hands bath'd in a betrayer's blood;
The widow to her morsel left alone,
Or, with her beauteous wrecks, promiscuous thrown
On the hard world, with every shock beside

Of fallen fortunes and of wounded pride. P. 28. In satire Mr. Pratt is less happy : his gentlemen and lady farmers are coarse caricatures, not likenesses.

The author proposes remedies in the third part; and his advice is always humane, and generally judicious: he wishes, and every good man will sympathise with him in the wish, that a system of kindness and encouragement towards the poor should be adopted; that, instead of being driven to the miserable asy- · lum of a workhouse, they should be assisted at home, and enabled by early aid to support themselves; and that the means of obtaining decent comfort by labour should always be given to the industrious. There are some affecting instances, in his notes, of successful exertion on the part of the poor, when their efforts have been encouraged.

The merit of the poem may be estimated by our extracts. Mr. Pratt’s ‘Sympathy' has had many admirers ; and they who have been gratified by that work may, certainly derive equal pleasure from the present performance.

ART. XII.-Specimens of Literary Resemblance, in the Works of

Pope, Gray, and other celebrated Writers; with Critical Observations : in a Series of Letters. By the Rev. Samuel Berdmore, D. D. &c. 8vo. 45. Boards. Wilkie. 1801.

To trace the resemblances of one author to another is a task more of amusement than of importance. Oftentimes the likeness is fortuitous, and frequently it is the effect of memory mistaken for invention. The writers upon this subject sometimes weary us by their pedantry-sometimes insult us by their malevolence. After the infamous forgeries of Lauder had been detected, a Frenchman re-published the Sarcotis of Massenius, and insisted upon every remote resemblance with the busy malice of affected candour, as though he, with his fowl breath,

could have tainted the laurels of Milton. The early reading of our great countryman has been investigated in England with a better spirit, that detracts not from established fame, though it restores their value and reputation to our old and long neglected writers. The worshippers of the great river have visited the streams and rivulets and little springs that feed its waters;- if their patience may have been sometimes misdirected, it is always pardonable.

There are other critics who delight in heaping together parallel passages, a toil equally laborious and of less utility, and which is more the work of a good memory than a sound judgement. The observations of Dr. Berdmore are likely to be more valuable, for they are such as have occurred to him, unsought, during a long course of chassical studies. We will present our reader with the following specimens.

- We have often, you will recollect, read together, and been as often charmed with the introductory stanza to the first of Mr. Gray's two Pindaric odes--the Progress of Poetry, where you have these admirable lines :

“Now the rich stream of music winds along, Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong,

Through verdant vales, and Ceres' golden reign : .: Now rolling from the steep amain, " Headlang impetuous see it pour;

The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar." • The great excellencies of the sublimest poetry are here united with an ease and elegance which give to the composition so much the air of an original, that none of Mr. Gray's editors, or commen. tators on his works, seem to have suspected an imitation.' P. 14.

• Now allow me to submit to your consideration the following lines, which I am inclined to believe you have already in imagination anticipated, from one of the sublimest odes in Horace ;

" Quod adest, memento
Componere æquus. Cætera fluminis
Ritu feruntur, nunc medio alveo ' .;
Cum pace delabentis Etruscum

In mare; nunc lapides adesos
Stirpesque raptas, et pecus, et domos,
Volventis una; non sine montium

Clamore, vicinæque sylvæ.” B. III. O. 29, • With this stanza before us, will there not arise in the mind some thing like suspicion, that Mr. Gray, when he wrote the fine lines quoted above, had his eye on Horace. Allow me to mark the prinçi. pal features of resemblance. We have in each poet a stream, ap. plied by the one to the various forms of poetry, by the other to the vicissitudes of human affairs, with especial reference to political revo. lutions. It is conducted by both, first in a course of placid serenity, then in torrents of rapid impetuosity, and marked at the close by the same striking and impressive consequence

“ The rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar;" very nearly a verbal translation of the Latin text,

« Non sine montium

Clamore, vicinæque sylvæ.” Here is certainly in these two passages an extraordinary coincidence of thought and imagery : in addition to which, the varying circumstances described in both follow each other exactly in the same order. The attentive reader will however discover, under this gene. ral similitude, a considerable difference in the mode of composition belveen the British and the Roman Pindar. Enough, perhaps you will think, to remove all appearance of direct imitation. It is most probable that Gray, without recurring to the text of Horace, has only copied from the traces which a frequent perusal had left upon his memory. This hypothesis will appear more credible when we analyse the different forms of composition. While the stream of Horace glides quietly into the Etruscan ocean, with no other distinction than that of gentleness

Cum pace delabentis Etruscum

In mare,"the stream of Gray winds along with a marked character, appropriate to his subject

.“ Deep, majestic, smooth, and strong." Mr. Gray gives also peculiar grace and beauty to the piece by his skilful use of the metaphorical style ; blending the simile with the subject, so much in the manner of Pindar; and not making, as Horace has done, a formal comparison of the one with the other.' P. 16.

• Mr. Gray, it will be seen, has still further improved upon the Roman bard, by the addition of those verdant vales and golden fields of corn, through which, in the first division of his subject, he conducts the peaceful stream- .

“ Through verdant vales and Ceres golden reign.” - In the second division he simply describes it, now swollen into an overflowing river, rolling impetuously down the steep descent; which Horace emphatically expresses from Homer by the effects.

• You, who are wont to view all works of taste with so correct and critical an eye, cannot fail to observe, and at the same time to admire, the masterly skill of these great artists in the execution of their separate designs.

In Mr. Gray's Ode, the varying movements of music or poetry are very happily illustrated by the inconstant current of a river; assuming in different places a different character; presenting you by turns either with rich and beautiful prospects, in soothing com. posure, or rousing the mind into emotions of wonder and astonishment, by scenes of a bolder feature; rolling, with the roar of thunder, down broken rocks and precipices.

• The imagery of Horace is equally wellchosen, and suited to his purpose. His object was the course of events, which alternately take place in a popular government, at one time peaceful and orderly, dispensing case, security, and happiness to all around ; at another, irregular, tumultuous, and turbulent, marking its progress with terror and destruction ; like the changeful course of a river, the Tiber for instance, which was daily in his view, flowing at one time quietly and equably within its accustomed banks; at another

“ Cum fera diluvies quietos

Irritat amnes". raising its swollen waves above all bounds, breaking with irresistible fury through all obstacles, and, with wide-spreading desolation, bearing down every thing in its way~

"lapides adesos Stirpesque raptas, et pecus, et domos." P. 21. An able vindication of The Bard follows. Dr. Berdmore contends, against Dr. Johnson, that this ode is not an imitation of the Prophecy of Nereus; and he asserts, with Algarotti, that it is a very superior poem.

** This is a question (he says) which does not admit of argument. If there be a man who can hear the sudden breaking forth of those terrific sounds in the exordium, at which sicut Gloucester stool aghast, and Mortimer cried to arms, and not thrill with horror; if there be a man, who can bchold the awful figure of the bard, in his sable vestments, with bis haggard eyes, bis loose beard and boary hair, which—

Stream'd like a meteor to the troubled air,' and hear him

Strike the deep sorrows of his lyre” without emotion ;--this man, if such a man there be, has no feeling to which a critic on the works of a great poet can apply. It were as vain and useless to converse with a man of this description on such subjects, as to commune with a deaf man on the enchantments of music, or with one blind on the charms of beauty. .While I am conversing with you, who are neither deaf nor blind, I am tempted to enter more deeply into the examination of this astonishing performance, which I shall consider in rather a new light. Every reader is stricken with the wildness of the scenerythe grandeur and sublimity of thought, the boldness of the imagery -the fire and enthusiasm which animate the ode throughout. Let me now more particularly call your attention to the highly figurative and majestic diction which pervades the whole, involved in that awful obscurity so suited to the occasion, and characteristically belonging to the language of prophecy. This obscurity has, I know, been objected to by men of some note, who must surely have considered the subject very superficially, as a defect; for which, they say, while it sheds so much darkness over the whole composition, as to preclude from the view of the disappointed reader almost all its beauties, no merit in other respects, however great and transcendent, can compensate. For myself, I have no scruple in confessing, that this very obscurity, so much condemned by judges of this description, has always appeared in my eye a distinguishing excellency of the poem. The tissue woven with bloody hands by the bard, in concert with the spectres of his murdered brethren,

The winding sheet of Edward's' race,on which were to be traced their impending misfortunes, has in it something tremendously sublime, analogous to the emblematical images under which are usually conveyed the prophetic denunciations of divine wrath in the sacred writings; of these every one feels the effect. In the same sublime strain the descendents of Edward are in succession designated, not by name, but by some mystic allusion ; under which the figures assume a more terrific appearance, from the mist which is gathered round them. The tragical fate which severally awaits them is denounced under the representation of some terrible image, encompassed with almost impenetrable dark. ness, impressing on the mind a dreadful foreboding of futurecalamitythe more alarming, as its nature, extent, and effect are unknown and undefined.

• From these scenes of horror the bard is rapt, by a sudden and unexpected transition, into visions of glory; and the imagination, but now appalled by terror, and sunk into dismay, is roused by the prospect of happier events, descried in dazzling splendor, thoug! still with the same indistinctness of imagery, at a distance, into transports of joy and triumphapt exultation over Edward, on the ultimate defeat of his impious attempt.

• The transcendent' merit of Mr. Gray's manner can no way be better illustrated than by a comparative view of the manner adopted by Horace, in the ode, of which Dr. Johnson is so willing to think the Bard an imitation. The appearance of Nereus, engaged in the important office of calming the winds, in order to sing the cruel fates of Paris, has a solemnity in it which raises the mind to an expecta. tion of something great and momentous; yet, when we contemplate the figure of Nercus, presented, as he is, with no appropriate invest. ment, with no local advantages, stationed we know not where, uttering his denunciations we know not whence, with what superior dignity and spirit does the Bard appear in the romantic situation and interesting attitude described by Gray, striking with solemn accompaniments the deep sorrows of his lyre.' P. 23.

We have extracted this criticism at length, for the force and feeling with which it is written. The opinion of Dr. Berdmore, familiarised as he is to Horace, and intimate as he shows himself with his most hidden allusions, is assuredly of great weight.

« AnteriorContinua »