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Yet this is variety to the celebrated picture of Belinda, in the Rape of the Lock:
Not with more glories—in th'ethereal plain
This is a very brilliant description of a drawing room heroine ; but what are the merits of its versification, which are not possessed by even Sternhold and Hopkins? Out of eighteen lines, we have no less than thirteen in succession which pause at the fourth syllable—to say nothing of the four ies and the six os which fall together in
and the accent in all is so unskilfully managed, or rather so evidently and totally for
gotten, that the ear has an additional monotony humming about it,
Quick as her eyes
It does not follow that the critic who objects to this kind of sing-song, should be an advocate for other extremes, and for the affected varieties of which Johnson speaks. Let the varieties, like all the other beauties of a poet, be perfectly unaffected: but passion and fancy naturally speak a various language ; it is monotony and uniformity alone that are out of nature. When Pope, in one of his happy couplets, ridiculed the old fashion of gardening, he forgot that on principles common to all the arts, he was passing a satire on himself and his versification : for who can deny that in the walks of his Muse
Grove nods at grove-each alley has its brother,
As the present notes are written for the poem to which they belong, not the poem for the notes, it is high time to finish the one before me ; otherwise I was much tempted to conclude it with some coupter examples of real poetic harmony from the verses of Dryden, Spenser, and Milton; not that the style of any great writer is to be imitated at
a venture, or to be studied with any direct view to imitation at all; but because in the best effusions of those writers are to be found the happiest specimens of English versification, and such as with due regard to every man's own mode of thinking and speaking, might lead the poets of the present age to that proper mixture of sweetness and strength-of modern finish and ancient variety, from which Pope and his rhyming facilities have so long withheld us.
(4) Not though I collected one pattern victorious
Of all that was good, and accomplish'd, and glorious, From deeds in the daylight, and books on the shelf, And call'd up the shape of young Alfred himself. A note upon Alfred might be indulged me, on the strength of his having been reckoned the “Prince of the Saxon Poets;" but the name of that truly great man is not to be mentioned without enthusiasm by any constitutional Englishman; that is to say, by any Englishman, who, truckling to no sort of licentiousness, either of prince or people, would see the manliest freedom of a republic adorned by the
and quickened by the unity of a monarchy. But to whom, indeed, that has an admiration for any great or good quality, is not the memory of Alfred a dear one?-a man, beloved in his home, feared by his enemies, venerated by his friends, accomplished in a day of barbarism, anticipating the wisdom of ages-self taught, and, what is more, self corrected; a prince, too, who subdued the love of pleasure ; a monarch, who with power to enslave, delighted to make free ; a conqueror, who could stop short of the love of conquest, and sheath his sword the moment it had done enough-a sage, in short, who, during the greatest part of a reign in which he had practised every art of peace as well as war, of leisure as well as activity-in which he had fought upwards offifty pitched battles, had cleared his country from its invaders, and had established the foundation · of those liberties upon which we are at this moment enjoying our every-day comforts, had to struggle with a melancholy and agonizing disorder, which neither soured his temper nor interrupted his ndustry. If this is a character to make emulation despair, it is a character, also, to make despair itself patient, and to convert it into an invincible spirit.
It is not generally known to the admirers of Alfred, that there is a life of him extant, written in Latin by one of his most familiar and intelligent friends, Asser of Saint David's, whom he had invited to court from a monastery. There is a good edition of it, and, I believe, not a scarce one, by Francis Wise, who was Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, and Assistant Librarian of the Bodleian.* The life is the more interesting, not only as it furnishes an authentic document for some of the most curious particulars which our known historians have made popular, and for more which have been related by others, but inasmuch as the author exhibits evident marks of his being a plainspoken, impartial man, and with all his veneration for Alfred, does not scruple to speak of the faults of his youth, and even to attribute his misfortunes to such causes as were likely to strike a churchman in that age. The substance of Asser is contained in the fourth and fifth books of Mr. Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons, where the reader will find a more copious and interesting account of Alfred, though written in a singular style, than in any other English performance.
* The one I have is an octavo, printed at Oxford in 1722, but the first edition appears to have been in quarto. Asser edited also by Camden and by Archbishop Parker.
It is still, however, a disgrace to English biography, that there is no life of our unrivalled countryman, important enough from the size and the composition to do him justice. The notices of Milton, Hume, and Burke, who, like all other wise men, of all opinions and countries, have united to speak of him with one voice, are mere notices, however excellent of their kind. Little, perhaps, could be added to the facts of his story ; but they are of a nature to be rendered doubly interesting by proper management; no subject, it is evident, could be more justly provocative of elegant reflection and illustration; and a compact, lively volume, written by one who was learned enough to enter