« AnteriorContinua »
that is, an exemption from phrases low, col- CHAP. loquial and trite. His words fall into their just and natural places, and his language is elegant and unforced.
But, if French poetry is indebted to Malherbë for its greatest excellences, it may perhaps be said to have had entailed upon it bý him all its defects. Malherbe was a slow and elaborate writer. His manner is finished with the nicest care ; but his matter scarcely shows itself worthy of the cost of its attire. He has no copiousness of imagination, or boldness of thought. The character which Regnier gives of him in one of his satires, was the fruit of provocation, and is of course ex
• The provocation was this. Desportes, the uncle of Regnier and one of the most respectable poets of his day, gave a dinner to a literary party, at which both Regnier and Malherbe were present. When they entered, the soup was already served. The venerable old man rose from table to do honour to his guest; and, having mentioned a Version of the Psalms which he had just published, added that he would go and fetch a copy, which he would request Malherbe to do him the favour to accept. Malherbe, the most caustic and cynical of 'men, begged that he would not give himself that trouble, observed that he had seen the book, and sarcastically remarked that the old gentle
CHAP. aggerated; but it is happily conceived, and
in all that is fundamental is sufficiently borne out by the productions of him who is the subject of it, Regnier has thought proper to make a class of the person he censures, and to express his invective in the plural number.
Cependant, leur sçavoir ne s'estend seule
ment Qu'à regratter un mot douteux au jugement, Prendre garde qu'un qui ne heurte une diph
tongue; Espier si des vers la rime est breve ou longue; Ou bien si la voyelle à l'autre s'unissant, Ne rend point à l'oreille un vers trop lan
man's soup would give him more satisfaction than his Psalms. The good humour of the party was immediately overclouded; and Regnier, stung with the affront offered to his honourable
sman, poured out his feelings in one of his satires, in whîch, in a generous and dignified manner, he expatiates upon the talents of his contemporary poets, in opposition to Malherbe, whom he represents as denying the smallest merit to any of them.
Racan, apud Oeuvres de Regnier, Edit, 1780.
Et laissent sur le verd le noble de l'ouvrage.
Inferior thoughts alone their powers engage;
Ingloriously they hold their equal way:
show, To clothe the half-starv'd thought that
skulks below: So wither'd matrons, when their reign is o'er, Seek to replace with art what nature gives
Regnier, if he is not more of a poet than Malherbe, appears to have at least an equal sweetness and correctness of versification. He is the versifier of good sense ; but his good sense flows with vigour, spirit and ease. We are surprised to find so polished a language and air in a writer who so considerably preceded the Augustan age of Louis XIV. It
d For this translation I am indebted to the kindness of a friend, whose poetical merits are above my praise, and with whose name I was desirous to have inscribed this
would be very difficult, at least for a reader CHAP. not a native of France, to discover
important particular in which Boileau has the advantage over the contemporary of Malherbe.
Regnier has selected only those parts from His poem the discourse of the Old-Woman in the Ro- cette, man de la Rose, which comprise the panegyric and the maxims of rapaciousness. He feigns that a beautiful and uncorrupted girl to whom he pays his addresses, is visited by a lean and sanctified devotee of her own sex, whose person and manners bear every mark of religious austerity; and he puts into her mouth the libertine principles of John de Meun. At the arrival of this mortified dame the poet is present ; but, finding the prattle of the two ladies likely to proceed to an insufferable length, he takes occasion to withdraw. He is however suddenly seized with a curiosity to overhear their discourse. He concea!3 him. self, and in consequence becomes an earwitness of the lessons of the grey-headed hypocrite, who among various topics does not forget to paint to her pupil in the most dis.