Page images
PDF
EPUB

For foreign glory, foreign joy, they roam ;
No thought of peace or happiness at home.
But Wisdom's triumph, is well-tim'd Retreat,

225
As hard a science to the Fair as Great!
Beauties, like Tyrants, old and friendless grown,
Yet hate repose, and dread to be alone,

, Worn out in public, weary ev'ry eye, Nor leave one sigh behind them when they die. 230

Pleasures the sex, as children Birds, pursue, Still out of reach, yet never out of view; Sure, if they catch, to spoil the Toy at most, To covet flying, and regret when lost.: At last, to follies Youth could scarce defend, 235 It grows their Age's prudence to pretend; Asham'd to own they gave delight before, Reduc'd to feign it, when they give no more: As Hags hold Sabbaths less for joy than spite, So these their merry, miserable Night; 240 Still round and round the Ghosts of Beauty glide, And haunt the places where their honour died.

NOTES.

Ver. 229. Worn out in public,] Copied from Young, Satire 5. written eight years before this Epistle appeared;

“Worn in the public eye, give cheap delight

To throngs, and tarnish to the sated sight.” Ver. 231.-II. As to Pleasure. P.

Ver. 234. To covet flying,] It is impossible not to recollect the witty simile of Young, Sat. 5.

* Pleasures are few, and fewer we enjoy ;
Pleasure, like quicksilver, is bright and coy;
We strive to grasp it with our utmost skill,
Still it eludes us, and it glitters skill;
If seiz'd at last, compute your mighty gains,
What is it, but rank poison in your veins ?”

[ocr errors]

245

See how the World its Veterans rewards!
A Youth of Frolics, an old Age of Cards;
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without Lovers, old without a Friend;
A Fop their Passion, but their Prize a Sot,
Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot!

NOTES.

[ocr errors]

Ver. 244. A Youth of Frolics,] The antithesis, so remarkably strong in these lines, was a very favourite figure with our Poet: he has indeed used it but in too many parts of his Works; nay, even in his translation of the Iliad, where it ought not to have been admitted, and which Dryden has but rarely used in his Virgil. Our Author seldom writes many words together without an antithesis. It must be allowed sometimes, to add strength to a sentiment by an opposition of images: but, too frequently repeated, it becomes tiresome and disgusting. Rhyme has almost a natural tendency to betray a writer into it: but the purest authors have despised it, as an ornament pert and puerile, and epigrammatic. Seneca, Pliny, Tacitus, and later authors, abound in it. Quintilian has sometimes used it with much success, as when he speaks of style;

magna, non nimia; sublimis, non abrupta; severa, non tristis ; læta, non luxuriosa; plena, non tumida.” And sometimes Tully; as, “vicit pudorem libido, timorem audacia, rationem amentia.” But these writers fall into this mode of speaking but seldom, and do not make it their constant and general manner. Those moderns, who have not acquired a true taste for the simplicity of the best ancients, have generally run into a frequent use of point, opposition, and contrast. They who begin to study painting, are struck at first with the pieces of the most vivid colouring; they are almost ashamed to own that they do not relish and feel the modest and reserved beauties of Raphael. The exact proportion of St. Peter's at Rome occasions it not to appear so great as it really is. It is the same in writing; but by degrees we find that Lucan, Martial, Juvenal, Q. Curtius, and Florus, and others of that stamp, who abound in figures that contribute to the false florid, in luxuriant metaphors, in pointed conceits, in lively antitheses, unexpectedly darting forth, are contemptible for the very causes which once excited our admiration. It is then we relish Terence, Cæsar, and Xenophon.

[ocr errors]

Ah! Friend! to dazzle let the Vain design ; 249 To raise the Thought, and touch the Heart, be thine! That Charm shall grow, while what fatigues the Ring, Flaunts and goes down, an unregarded thing; So when the Sun's broad beam has tir’d the sight, All mild ascends the Moon's more sober light, Serene in Virgin Modesty she shines,

255 And unobserv'd the glaring Orb declines.

Oh! blest with Temper, whose unclouded ray Can make to-morrow cheerful as to-day; She, who can love a Sister's charms, or hear Sighs for a Daughter with unwounded ear; 260 She, who ne'er answers till her Husband cools, Or, if she rules him, never shews she rules ; Charms by accepting, by submitting sways, Yet has her humour most, when she obeys; Let Fops or Fortune fly which way they will; 265 Disdains all loss of Tickets, or Codille ; Spleen, Vapours, or Small-pox, above them all, And Mistress of herself, though China fall.

NOTES.

Ver. 249. Advice for their true Interest. P.

Ver. 253. So when the Sun's] There are not perhaps, in the whole compass of the English language, four lines more exquisitely finished; not a syllable can be altered for the better; every word seems to be the only proper one that could have been used. So pure and pellucid is the style,

pura nocturno renidet

Luna mari !" Ver. 268. though China fall.] Addison has touched this subject with his usual exquisite humour, in the Lover, No. 10. p. 291 of his Works, 4to. quoting Epictetus to comfort a lady that labours under this heavy calamity.

[ocr errors]

And yet, believe me, good as well as ill, Woman's at best a Contradiction still.

270 Heav'n, when it strives to polish all it can Its last best work, but forms a softer Man; Picks from each sex, to make the Fav'rite blest, Your love of Pleasure, our desire of Rest: Blends, in exception to all gen’ral rules, 275 Your Taste of Follies, with our Scorn of Fools : Reserve with Frankness, Art with Truth ally'd, Courage with Softness, Modesty with Pride; Fix'd Principles, with Fancy ever new; Shakes all together, and produces--You. 280

Be this a Woman's Fame: with this unblest, Toasts live a scorn, and Queens may die a jest. This Phæbus promis'd (I forget the year) When those blue eyes first opend on the sphere ; Ascendant Phoebus watch'd that hour with care, Averted half your Parents' simple Pray’r ; 286

NOTES.

Ver. 269. The picture of an estimable woman, with the best kind of contrarieties created out of the Poet's imagination; who therefore feigned those circumstances of a husband, a daughter, and love for a sister, to prevent her being mistaken for any of his acquaintance. And having thus made his Woman, he did, as the ancient Poets were wont, when they had made their Muse, invoke and address his poem to her.

W. Ver. 270. a Contradiction still.] So also has he shewn Man to be in the Essay.

Ver. 280. And produces You.] The turn of these lines is exactly the same with those of Mrs. Biddy Floyd : Swift's Miscellanies, vol. iv. p. 142.

Jove mix'd up all, and his best clay employ'd,

Then call'd the happy composition.-Floyd.” Mrs. Patty Blount was always, at first, supposed to be the lady here addressed—"produces You."

And gave you Beauty, but deny'd the Pelf
That buys your Sex a Tyrant o'er itself.
The gen’rous God, who Wit and Gold refines,
And ripens Spirits as he ripens Mines,

290 Kept Dross for Dutchesses, the world shall know it, To you gave Sense, Good-humour, and a Poet.

NOTES.

Ver. 291. The world shall know it.] This is an unmeaning expression, and a poor expletive, into which our Poet was unfortunately forced by the rhyme.

“ Maudit soit le premier, dont la verve insensée
Dans les bornes d'un vers renferma sa pensée,
Et, donnant à ses mots une étroite prison,
Voulut avec la rime enchaîner la raison."

Boileau, Sat. ii. v. 53. Rhyme also could alone be the occasion of the following faulty expressions ; taken, too, from some of his must finished pieces :

"Not Cæsar's empress would I deign to prove.
“If Queensberry to strip there's no compelling"-

Rapt into future times the bard begun.
" Know all the noise the busy world can keep".
“If true, a woful likeness, and if lies.

Nothing so true as what you once let fall.
“For Virtue's self may too much zeal be had.

can no wants endure.
“Nay half in Heav'n except what's mighty odd.

have no flaw

such a world we fall. “ take scandal at a spark.

“ do the knack, and—do the featAnd more instances might be added, if it were not disagreeable to observe these straws in amber. But if rhyme occasions such inconveniences and improprieties in so exact a writer as our Author, what can be expected from inferior versifiers ? It is not my intention to enter in a trite and tedious discussion of the several merits of rhyme and blank verse. Perhaps rhyme may be properest for shorter pieces; for lyric, elegiac, and satiric, poems; for pieces where closeness of expression and smartness of style are expected; but for subjects of a higher order, where

[ocr errors]

can

on

« PreviousContinue »