« PreviousContinue »
Be justly warm'd by your own native rage.'
Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast.'
It should be who,' instead of that.'
This is from Tickell
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land.’
To scatter blessings on the British land.'
From insult to protect.' Sculpture deck'd,' is not an allowable rhyme; and what is the force or meaning of the word still erected nigh?'
Their lot forbade, -nor circumscrib'd alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin'd -
The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
With incense kindled at the muse's flame.'
Who does not feel how flat and superfluous is the latter stanza, after the fine concluding couplet of the former? The two stanzas ought to have been remodelled; part of the second thrown into the first, and then the whole should conclude with the greatest crime, the grandest imagery, and the finished picture,
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
There should the description close; all after that must be weak and superfluous.
Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
There is an ambiguity in this couplet, which indeed gives a sense exactly contrary to that intended; to avoid which, one must break the grammatical construction. The first line is from Drummond: Far from the madding worldling's hoarse discords.'
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day.'
Precincts,' a lifeless and prosaic word; and unsuited to the epithet warm.' How superior is Tasso
E lascio mesta l'aure suave della vita.'
And many a holy text around she strews,
This is ungrammatical. Many a holy text that teaches,' it ought to be.
On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Pious drops' is from Ovid-'piæ lacrymæ;' 'Closing eye,' is from Pope's Elegy; Voice of Nature,' from the Anthologia; and the last line from Chaucer
Yet in our ashes cold is fire yreken.'
From so many different quarries are the stones brought to form this elaborate mosaic pavement. From this stanza the style of composition drops into a lower key; the language is plainer, and is not in harmony with the splendid and elaborate diction of the former part. Mr. Mason says it has a Doric delicacy.
There at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
Such imperfect rhymes are not allowable in short and finished poems. And so, in the following stanza, we saw him borne beneath yon aged thorn.' And in the xx and xxi stanzas, there are four lines in the rhymes of similar sound, as 'nigh,' 'sigh,'' supply,' 'die.'
A very bald, flat, prosaic line.
Now drooping woful-wan, like one forlorn.'
• Woful-wan' is not a legitimate compound, and must be divided into two separate words, for such they are, when released from the handcuffs of the hyphen. Hurd has wrongly given lazy-pacing,' and barren-spirited,' and high-sighted,' as compound epithets, in his notes on Horace's Art of Poetry!
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he.'
Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth.'
Such personifications are not in the taste of our old and best writers, but grow up in modern times. Dodsley's Specimens are full of them. So little did the printer know about it, that he has not even printed science with a capital letter. Horace is correct, as well as beautifully poetical:
Quem tu, Melpomene, semel
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.' It should be
'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
Ode on the Death of a favourite Cat. So Lady M. Montagu, in one of her Town Eclogues, written in 1715:
Where the tall jar erects its stately pride,
So Lady M. Montagu:
She said, and slowly leaves the realms of night,
Till the sad Nine, in Greece's evil hour,
Progress of Poesy.
Compare Gabriel Harvey:
It is not long, since the goodlyest graces of the most noble commonwealthes upon earth, Eloquence in speech, and Civility in manners, arriued in these remote parts of the world: it was a happy reuolution of the heauens, and worthy to be chronicled in an English Liuy, when Tiberis flowed into the Thames; Athens removed to London; pure Italy and fine Greece planted themselues in rich England; Apollo with his delicate troupe of Muses forsooke his old mountaines and riuers, and frequented a new Parnassus, and an other Helicon, nothinge inferiour to the olde, when they were most solemnely haunted of diuine wittes, that taught Rhetorique to speake with applause, and Poetry to sing with admiration.' Pierce's Supererogation, 1593, p. 15. D.
Amazement, in his van, with Flight combin'd,
On he went, and in his van Confusion and Amaze, while Horror and Affright brought up the Rear.'
Battle of the Books. D.
Memorabilia from Mr. Bray's notes. See Mrs. Bray's Description of Devonshire, in letters to R. Southey, esq., vol. iii. p. 311.
Jan. 27, 1807. In a conversation which I had with Mr. Mathias on Italian literature, he informed me that Gray, though so great a poet himself, and an admirer of the poets of Italy, was unacquainted with the works of Guidi, Menzini, Filicaia, &c., and indeed of almost all, that are contained in his Componomenti Lirici.' He had once in his possession the commonplace book of Gray, and it contained very copious extracts from the Commentary of Crescembini. He told me that he could gratify me with a sight of Gray's hand writing, and fetched from his library a fac-simile, being a kind of commentary in English on Pindar and Aristophanes. It was written remarkably neat and plain, but rather stiff, and bearing evident marks of being written slowly. It had a great resemblance to the Italian mode of writing, every part of the letters being nearly of an equal thickness. He wrote always with a crow-quill.
Observing no obliterations or erasures, and indeed only one or two interlineations, I remarked that it must have been a fair copy, and wondered how he could have taken so much pains, unless he had intended it for publication. But Mr. Mathias assured me, that Gray was so averse to publication, that had not a surreptitious copy of his Elegy in a Country Church-yard' appeared, he never would have published it; and even when he did, it was without his name. The reason that he was so correct, was that he never committed any thing to paper till he had most maturely considered it before hand.
Mr. Mathias explained to me how he was so well acquainted with these particulars respecting Gray, by informing me that he was most intimate with Mr. Nichols, the familiar friend and executor of Gray, who had lent him the MSS. On my lamenting that they were never made public, he said that it was not for want of his most earnest solicitation, but that Mr. Nichols was an old man, and wished even to conceal that he was in possession of any such precious reliques, lest he should be plagued with requests to have them copied, or at least to shew them. He therefore in a manner enjoined me to secrecy,
and I consequently commit the pleasant memoranda to paper, merely for my own satisfaction, that, on occasional inspection, the pleasure I received from this conversation may be more firmly brought to my recollection. For the same reason, and as these MSS. are never likely to be made public, I shall enter more at large upon the consideration of them; at least as much as a cursory inspection during a morning call would permit.
As Gray always affixed the date to everything he wrote, which, as Mr. Mathias assured me, was the custom of Petrarch, it seems that he wrote his remarks on Pindar at rather an early age. I think the date was 1747. It is very closely written the Greek characters are remarkably neat. He begins with the date of the composition, and takes into his consideration almost every thing connected with it, both chronologically and historically. The notes of the Scholiasts do not escape him, and he is so minute as to direct his attention to almost every expression. He appears to have reconciled many apparent incongruities, and to have elucidated many difficulties. I the more lament these valuable annotations remain unpublished, as they would prove that, in the opinion of so great a man, the English language is in every respect adequate to express everything that criticism the most erudite can require. It presented to my eye a most gratifying novelty, to see the union of Greek and English, and to find that they harmonized together as well as Greek and Latin.
The remarks on the plays of Aristophanes were so minute, not only expressing where they were written and acted, but when they were revived, that, as Mr. Mathias justly observed, 'one would think he was reading the account of some modern comedy, instead of the dramatic composition of about two thousand years old.' Gray also left behind him very copious remarks upon Plato, which had also formerly been in Mr. Mathias's hands, likewise large collections respecting the customs of the ancients, &c. And so multifarious and minute were his investigations, that he directed his attention even to the Supellex, or household furniture of the ancients, collecting together all the passages of the classics that had any reference to the subject.
Mr. Mathias shewed me likewise many sheets copied by Gray from some Italian author; also, I believe, an historical composition, and a great many genealogies, of which Gray was particularly fond. On my remarking that I wished Gray had written less genealogies and more poetry, he informed me that the reason he had written so little poetry, was from the great exertion it cost him (while he made no reserve in composing) in the labour of composition. Mr. Mathias informed me that he had seen the original copy of Gray's 'Ode on the