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tion of thefe Poems, than that they are Mr. Waller's: a name that carries every thing in it that is either great, or graceful, in poetry! He was indeed the Parent of English Verfe, and the firit that thewed us our Tongue had Beauty, and Numbers, in it. Our language owes more to Him than the French does to Cardinal Richelieu and the whole Academy. A Poet cannot think of Him, without being in the fame rapture Lucretius is in, when Epicurus comes in his way
Tu pater, & rerum inventor; Tu patria nobis
Lib. III. ver. 9.
The Tongue came into His hands, like a rough diamond: He polifhed it first; and to that degree, that all artists fince him have admired the workmanship, without pretending to mend it. Suckling and Carew, I nut
must confefs, wrote fome few things fmoothly enough: but, as all they did in this kind was not very confiderable; fo it was a little later than the carlieft pieces of Mr. Waller. He undoubtedly ftands first in the list of refiners; and, for aught I know, laft too; for I queftion, whether in Charles the fecond's reign, English did not come to its full perfection; and whether it has not had its Auguftan Age, as well as the Latin. It feems to be already mixed with foreign languages as far as its purity will bear; and, as Chemists fay of their Menftruums, to be quite fated with the infufion. But pofterity will beft judge of this. In the mean time, it is a furprizing reflection, that between what Spenfer wrote laft, and Waller firft, there fhould not be much above twenty years distance: and yet the one's language, like the money of that time, is as current now as ever; whilst the other's words are like old coins, one muft go to an antiquary to understand their true meaning and value. Such advances may a great Genius make, when it undertakes any thing in earneft!
Some Painters will hit the chief lines and mafterftrokes of a face fo truly, that through all the differences of age, the picture fhall still bear a resemblance. This art was Mr. Waller's: He fought out, in this flowing Tongue of ours, what parts would laft, and be of ftanding ufe and ornament: and this he did fo fuccessfully, that his language is now as fresh as it was at first fetting out. Were we to judge barely by the wording, we could not know what was wrote at twenty, and what at fourfcore. He complains, indeed, of a tide
a tide of words that comes in upon the English Poet, and overflows whatever he builds: but this was lefs His cafe than any man's that ever wrote; and the mifchief of it is, this very complaint will last long enough to confute itself: for, though English be mouldering stone, as he tells us there, yet he has certainly picked the best out of a bad quarry.
We are no less beholden to Him for the new turn of Verfe, which he brought in, and the improvement he made in our Numbers. Before His time, men rhymed indeed, and that was all: as for the harmony of meafure, and that dance of words, which good ears are fo much pleased with, they knew nothing of it. Their Poetry then was made up almost entirely of monofyllables; which when they come together in any cluster, are certainly the most harsh untuneable things in the world. If any man doubts of this, let him read ten lines in Donne, and he will be quickly convinced. Befides, their verses ran all into one another; and hung together, throughout a whole copy, like the hooked Atoms that compofe a Body in Defcartes. There was no diftinction of parts, no regular stops, nothing for the ear to rest upon: but, as soon as the copy began, down it went, like a larum, inceffantly; and the reader was fure to be out of breath, before he got to the end of it. So that really Verse in those days was but down-right profe, tagged with rhymes. Mr. Waller removed all thefe faults; brought in more polyfyllables, and fioother measures; bound up his thoughts better; and in a cadence more agreeable to the nature of the Verfe He
wrote in fo that where-ever the natural ftops of that were, He contrived the little breakings of His fenfe fo as to fall in with them. And for that reafon, fince the ftrefs of our Verfe lies commonly upon the laft fyllable, you will hardly ever find Him ufing a word of no force there. I would fay, if I were not afraid the reader would think me too nice, that He commonly clofes with Verbs; in which we know the life of language confifts.
Among other improvements, we may reckon that of his rhymes which are always good, and very often the better for being new. He had a fine ear, and knew how quickly that fenfe was cloyed by the fame round of chiming words ftill returning upon it. It is a decided cafe by the Great Mafter of writing, "Quæ funt
ampla, & pulchra, diu placere poffunt; quæ lepida " & concinna," (amongst which Rhyme muft, whether it will or no, take its place)" cito fatictate afficiunt
aurium fenfum faftidiofiffimum." This he underftood very well: and therefore, to take off the danger of a furfeit that way, strove to please by variety, and new founds. Had he carried this obfervation, among others, as far as it would go, it muft, methinks, have fhown him the incurable fault of this jingling kind of Poetry; and have led his later judgment to Blank Verfe. But, He continued an obftinate lover of Rhyme to the very laft: it was a miftrefs that never appeared anhandfome in His eyes; and was courted by Him
*Cicero ad Herennium, 1. iv.
long after Sachariffa was forfaken. He had raised it, and brought it to that perfection we now enjoy it in: and the Poet's temper (which has always a little vanity in it) would not fuffer Him ever to flight a thing He had taken fo much pains to adorn. My Lord Rofcommon was more impartial: no man ever rhymed truer and evener than he: yet, he is so just as to confefs, that it is but a trifle; and to with the tyrant dethroned, and Blank Verse set up in its room. There is a third perfon, the living glory of our English Poetry, who has difclaimed the ufe of it upon the Stage: though no man ever employed it there fo happily as he. It was the ftrength of his Genius, that firft brought it into credit in Plays; and it is the force of his example that has thrown it out again. In other kinds of writing, it continues ftill; and will do fo, till fome excellent fpirit arifes, that has leifure enough, and resolution to break the Charm, and free us from the troublesome bondage of rhyming, as Mr. Milton very well calls it; and has proved it as well, by what he has wrote in another way. But, this is a thought for times at fome distance; the present age is a little too warlike; it may perhaps furnish out matter for a good Poem in the next, but it will hardly encourage one now without prophefying, a man may easily know what fort of laurels are like to be in request.
Whilft I am talking of Verfe, I find myself, I do not know how, betrayed into a great deal of profe. I in