« PreviousContinue »
as much Wit and Humour, in Heroic Verse, as he " is in Doggerel, he would have made a much more “ agreeable figure than he does; tho' the generality “ of his Readers are so wonderfully pleased with his “ Double Rhymes, that I don't expect many will be “ of my Opinion in this particular.” This seems to " contradict what he asserts just before, where he delivers it as his Opinion, That ^ Burlesque, when the Hero is to be puīl'd down, and degraded, runs best in Doggerel. And I may appeal to the Reader, whether our Hero, who was a Knight, Colonel, and Juftice of the Peace, is not effectually pull'd down, and degraded, in the Character and Fortune of Sir Hudibras? However, Mr. Addison's observation is certainly just, and we cannot forbear wishing with Mr.
· Burlesk, Ludicrus, Jocularis ; a Burlesk Poem, Carmen jocslare: G. Burlesque ; It. Burlesco, to Burlesk; G. Burler; It. Bur: lare Lat. Barbaris Burdare eft jocare. De quo Vid. Bourde, Jocus. Junii Etymologic. Anglican. “With regard to Burlesque, (says an ingenious French Writer, Dissertation sur la Poefie Anglois (see Gen. Hift. Di&t. v. 6. p. 296.) “The English have a Poet whose Repu“ tation is equal to that of Scarron in French, I mean the Author “ of Hudibras, a Comical History in Verse, written in the time “ of Oliver Cromwell: it is said to be a delicate Satyr on that kind “ of Interregnum; and that it is levell d particularly at the Con“ duct of the Presbyterians, whom the Author represents as a “ senseless fett of People, Promoters of Anarchy, and compleat
Hypocrites. Hudibras the Hero of this Poem, is a Holy Dor " Quixote of that Sect, and the Redresser of the Imaginary “ Wrongs, that are done to his Dulcinea. The Knight has his
Rosinante, his Burlesque Adventures, and his Sancho; But the
Squire of the English Poet, is of an opposite Character to that “ of the Spanish Sancho; for whereas
the latter is a plain unaffected “ Peasant, the English Squire is a Taylor by Trade, a Tartuff,
or finishid Hypocrite by Birth ; and so deep a dogmatic Divine,
He could deep Myteries unriddle;
As easily as thread a Needle. “ As it is said in the Poem. The Author of Hudibras is preferable
to Scarron, because he has one fix'd Mark or Object; and that " by a surprizing effort of Imagination, he has found the Art of “ leading his Readers to it, by diverting them."
Dryden, Dryden, (see Dedication to Juvenal, p. 128.) “ That “ so great a Genius (as Mr. Butler poffefs’d) had not “ condescended to Burlesque, but left that Talk to “ others, for He would always have excell'd, had “ he taken any other kind of Verse.
But since Burlesque was his peculiar Talent, and he has chosen this kind of Verse, let us examine, how far he may be justified, and applauded for it. And here we cannot begin better than with the Opinion of the Great Mr. Dryden, Speaking of Mr. Butler, (Dedication to Juvenal, p. 128, 129.) he says, “ The “ Worth of his Poem is too well known to need my “ Commendation; and He is above my Censure: " the Choice of his Numbers is suitable enough to “ his Design, as he has managed it; but in any other « hand, the Shortness of his Verse, and the quick « Returns of Rhime, had debas'd the Dignity of " Style; His Good Sense is perpetually shining " through all he writes ;, it affords us not the time of “ finding Faults; we pass through the Levity of his “ Rhime, and one is immediately carried into some " admirable useful Thought: after all, he has cho“ fen This kind of Verse, and has written the Best " in it."
To this let me add, that the Shortness of Verse, and quick Returns of Rhime, have been some of the principal Means of raising and perpetuating the Fame which this Poem has acquir’d, for the Turns of Wit and Satyrical Sayings, being short and pithy, are therefore more tenable by the memory: and this is the reason why Hudibras is more frequently quoted in Conversation, than the finest Pieces of Wit in Heroic Poetry.
d As for the Double Rhimes, we have Mr. Dryden's. Authority, (ibid. p. 128.) that they are neceffary
d “ As to the Double Rhimes in Hudibras (says the Author of the Grub-street Journal, No 47. fee General Historical Dictionary, vol. 6. pag. 295.) “ though some have lookd upon them as a
Companions of Burlesque Writing. Besides, were they really Faults, they are neither so many as to caft a blemish upon the known Excellencies of this Poem; nor yet solely, to captivate the Affections of the
generality of it's Readers: no; their Admiration is moved by a higher Pleasure, than the meer Jingle of Words; the Sublimity of Wit, and Pungency of Sa-' tire, claim our Regard, and merit our highest Applause: In short, the Poet has surprizingly displayed the noblest Thoughts in a Dress fo humorous and comical, that it is no wonder, that it soon became the chief Entertainment of the King and Court, after it's publication ; was highly esteemed by one of the greatest
Wits in that Reign; and still continues to be an Entertainment to all, who have a Taste for the most refined Ridicule and Satire.
Hudibras is then an indisputable Original; for the Poet trod in a Path wherein he had no Guide, nor has he had many Followers. Though he had no Pattern, yet he had the Art of erecting himself into a Standard, lofty and elegant. Numberless Imitators have been unwarily drawn after it: his Method and Verse he has chosen, at first view seeming so easy and inviting, they were readily listed into the view of his Fame: but alas! how miserably have they failed in the Attempt. Such wretched Imitations have augmented the Fame of the Original, and evidenc'd the
“ Blemish, it is generally the Reverse, they heightening the Ri
dicule, that was otherwise in the Representation, of which “ many Instances may be produced." (see No 48.) The Earl of Rochester seem'd to set a high value upon
approbation. Hor. Sat. 10. imitated. see Works of Lord Rochester and Roscommon, 24 edit. 1707. P. 25. and Gen. Hift. Dift. vol. 6. p. 295;
I loath the Rabble, 'tis enough for me
Approve my Sense; I count Their Cenfure Fame.
chiefest Excellency in Writing, to be in Butler ; which
" is, the being natural and easy, and yet inimitable.
This has been long the distinguishing Characteristick of Hudibras, grounded upon an undeniable Truth, that all Imitations have hitherto proved unsuccessful. Indeed, it must be own'd, that Mr. Prior has been the most happy of all the Followers of Butler ; and has approach'd the nearest to his Style and Humour.
Tho He was Second to Butler, as Philips was to Milton; yet he was sensible of an apparent Disparity betwixt them, as is observed in the Notes, (see the last Note on the first Canto of this Poem;) where is the ingenuous Acknowledgment he makes of his Inferiority, in a singular Compliment to our Poet.
Attempts have likewise been made to transate some parts of this Poem into the Latin Tongue: we have three Similes of this kind by the Learned Dr. Harmer, in the Poet's Life; but he, and all others have found a thorough Translation impracticable. Nay, so far spread is the Fame of Hudibras, that we are told, it has met with a general and kind reception through Christendome by all that are acquainted with the Language; and that it had been before now translated into most European Languages, in the last, or present age, had not the Poet by coyning new Words, to make Jingle to his Verses, (called Carmen Joculare by the Latins) rendered it so extremely difficult to make
“ f There is one English Poem--the Title whereof is Hudibras “it is Don Quixote, it is our Satyre Menippeè blended together. “ I never met with so much Wit in one single Book as in this ; " which at the same time is the most difficult to be translated : who “ would believe that a Work which paints in such lively and na.
a “ tural Colours the several Foibles and Follies of Mankind, and “ where we meet with more Sentiments than Words, should baffle “ the Endeavours of the ablest Translator! But the reason of it is “ This ; almost every part of it alludes to particular Incidents. (Voltair's Letters concerning the English Nation, pag. 212, 213. “ London, 1733. 8vo. General Historical Dictionary, vol. 6. pag. 293. see likewise pag. 296. ibid.)
it intelligible in another Tongue. (see Dedication to an Edition of Butler's Pofthumous Works.) However, he is still the unrivall’d Darling of his own Country; and his Name will be ever famed, while he continues to be read in the Closets, and quoted in the Writings and Conversation of the Politest Writers of the English Nation..
Among the many Excellencies peculiar to this poem, a very singular one ought not to be omitted, with which it may be said to be qualified, in common with fome other extraordinary Writings: I mean the Fashion, that has prevail'd of prescribing them for the Cure of Distempers both in Body and Mind: for instance, Dr. Serenus Sammonicus a celebrated Physician, has gravely prescribed the Fourth Book of Homer's lliad to be laid under the Head for the cure of a Quartan Ague.' (see the last note on Iliad the 4th) Monheur Saint Euremont has likewise recommended Don Quixote, as a proper Potion to give Relief to an Heavy Heart. (see Spectator, No 163.) Jealousy has been cured by the 170 and 1714 Spectators taken in a Dish of Chocolate ; and N° 173. 184. 191. 203. 221. with half a dozen more of these wonder-working Papers are attested to be infallible Cures for Hypocondriac Melancholly. (see N° 547.)- Hudibras may come in for his Share of Fame with these renowned Remedies: and I am much mistaken, if he may not stand in competition with any of the Speztators for the Cure of the last mentioned Diftemper. Upon these Authorities, why might not this poem be prescribed as an infallible Cure not only of the Spleen and Vapours, but of Enthusiasm and Hypocrisy?
Having thus set to view the Excellency of this Poem, and the universal Applause it has deservedly met with: what naturally follows but an Enquiry after the Poet, and the respect that has been paid him? and here I am apprehensive the one will prove as great a Reproach to the Nation, as the other does an Honour to it.