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move us; so that we do not readily give ourselves up to the writer who would excite our sympathy. That this was the case with the critic in question, is sufficiently apparent from some of his observations on the English poets; but men so constituted should reflect, that their incapacity of following the ardent expressions of a feeling mind only renders them unfit judges of such expressions, and is no evidence that they are faulty or improper.
I shall now proceed, by a few examples, selected from an infinite number which may easily be found, first, to show how familiarly, and with what happiness, this mode of speech was used by the best Latin writers; and, then, to establish an appeal to the reader's taste, from Dr. Johnson's judgment of its disagreeable effect in English.
The greatest of the Roman orators, in one of his finest efforts, the peroration of the speech for Milo, thus redoubles his exclamations :
O frustra, inquit, suscepti mei labores! o spes fallaces! o cogitationes inanes meæ!-O me miserum, o infelicem! -- terram illam beatam, quæ hunc virum exceperit!
And, even in his cooler philosophical works, we have such sentences as these;
vitæ philosophia dux! ( virtutis indagatrix, expultrixque vitiorum! O præclarum diem, cum ad illud divinum animorum concilium cætumque proficiscar!
The philosophical poet, Lucretius, breaks out, near the beginning of one of his books, in the following manner;
O miseras hominum mentes, o pectora cæca! And Ovid thus nobly introduces a long passage of united poetry and philosophy:
O genus attonitum gelidæ formidine mortis! ! Virgil begins his beautiful praises of a country life with
O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
Agricolas! which Thomson imitates (as far as I can see, without any bad effect) by
O knew he but his happiness; of men
Indeed, were all the preceding passages translated, I cannot discover why the obnoxious interjection might not be retained with advantage, at least in the greater part,
To come to our own authorities, I shall begin with some drawn from the common version of the Scriptures; the stile of which will scarcely, I suppose, be charged with affectation. Who would alter any of the following exclamatory strains of devotional ardor?
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good!--O sing unto the Lord a new song!- magnify the Lord with me! -O fear the Lord, all ye his saints !- how I love thy law!
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
The language of the drama, from its impassioned subjects, abounds with similar expressions. It will be sufficient, in order to judge of their effect, to read these lines from Hamlet:
Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Milton, whose stile and manner were rigorously formed on the ancient models, very often prefixes the interjection to his speeches:
O prince, O chief of inany throned powers !
O progeny of heaven, empyreal thrones!
O for that warning voice! Lastly, the author who bas given occasion to Dr. Johnson's censure, in the most eloquent piece of poetry perhaps extant, his Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard, has multiplied this form of exclamation, in such lines as, I think, Johnson himself could not have condemned or improved.
Oh name, for ever sad! for ever dear!
If your readers, Mr. Urban, are convinced by these quotations, that the assertion of Dr. Johnson was rash and unfounded, it may usefully admonish them not to admit too hastily a sentiment, merely because it has the sanction of a great name; and not to condemn particular modes of expression because they are rendered ridiculous by the practice of bad writers.
XCVII. Langelande, Author of Pierce Plowman's Visions.
Nov. 12. OUR
poet Chaucer lately met with a commentator who hath done him ample justice; it is, perhaps, needless to say I allude to Mr. Tyrwhitt; but the Visions of Pierce Plowman, the work of Langelande, a bard of the same early day, have hitherto lain in the deepest obscurity, and in deplorable confusion. If Mr. Warton had not taken notice of him in the highly valuable History of English Poetry, and in the Observations on Spenser, even his name would have remained still unknown to the generality of readers.Though Langelande will by no means bear a comparison with Chaucer for wit, pleasantry, or discrimination of character, yet the inquirer into the origin of our language will find in him a greater fund of materials to elucidate the progress of the Saxon tongue, which Chaucer is accused of vitiating with discordant Gallicisms. The diction and versification, indeed, of these two poets, are as widely distant as those of Milton and his contemporary Waller. This consideration should teach the critic how little dependance is to be placed on style and manner in fixing the æra of an uncertain composition.
Mean as the structure of the verse in these Visions must appear to modern eyes, let it be remembered, that Langelande was the Ennius of Milton. What this Anglo-Saxon poet attempted by uncouth alliteration only, the immortal bard perfected by elevated expression and inetrical cadence. But our language was much longer ripening than the Roman, Little more than a century passed between Ennius and Virgil, whereas Langelande preceded Milton, and Chaucer Hourished before Dryden, full three centuries.
This now-forgotten satire was formerly so much admired, that it went through three editions in one year. So favour
able a reception at such an early period of printing in our country as 1550, was probably owing to its falling in with the prevailing temper of the times in the reign of young Edward, and in soine sort justifying the Reformation, by exposing the abuses of the Romish Church.
This poem, in common with other publications of those days, hath suffered greatly both froin licentious and negligent transcribers, and from careless and unskilful printers. To instance no farther than the passage cited to fix the date of the work. One of the editions in 1550 reads,
It is not long passed Ther was a careful como, whe no cart came to town With bread from Stratford, tho gan beggers wepe And workeme were agast a litle, this wol be thought longe. In date of our bryght, in a drye Apriell A thousand and thre hundred, twyse twentye and ten My wafers ther wer geise wha Chichester was Mair.
Imprinted by R. Cowley. Passus élecimus tercius. Stow, in his Survey of London, informs us, that bread was regularly brought to the city for sale from “ Stratford the Bow,” till about the middle of the sixteenth century.Many years ago I had corrected bryght to dright, Saxon for lord, and have since found that Mr. Warton adopts that emendation at the suggestion of Mr. Lye. However, brytta also means lord according to Lye's Dictionary, if the word be not a literal error in the authorities. For when we consider in what low estimation the Saxons held the Britons, it is very difficult to imagine that they would use brytta, a Briton, as a term of honour likewise. Geisen is probably misprinted for geifen, given. Wafers signify cakes, bread. It appears by Stow's list of mayors, that Chichester did not serve that office more than once, and that was during part of the years 1369 and 1370; soon after which time, by the expression “ it is not long passed,” it is plain that this poem was composed. So that " twyse twentye and ten" should either be “ thrice twentye and ten,” or, as Stow gives it in the succeeding quotation, “ twice thirty and ten."
" In the 44th of Edward the third, John Chichester being Maior of London, I read in the Visions of Pierce Plowman, a book so called, as followeth: Ther was a carefull commune, when 110 cart came to towne with basket bread from Stratford ; tho gan beggers weepe, und workemen were agasst a little, this will be thought long in the dute of our Dirte, in a dry Averell a thousund and three hundred, twice thirty and ten." p. 169.
It is evident from the above, that Stow had a copy of this work written without the distinction of verses, as was often the practice formerly, and that, like Moliere's Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who talked prose and did not know it, the honest antiquarian was not aware that he was transcribing poetry; for, to do him justice, even the meanest attempt at monumental metre stands throughout his compilation in regular lines. The reading of commune (debatej explains common in my edition. “ This will be thought long” is unintelligible in both extracts. Dirte for dright or bryght could convey no idea. In such labyrinths of error hath this book been in many places involved for ages; and through such entangled passages, and depraved and distorted texts, were our ancestors frequently obliged to search for a meaning.
Is there then no Tyrwhitt left to rescue the father of English blank verse from his present wretched plight, and place him by the side of Chaucer, the father of our rhyme?
T. H. W.
XCVIII. Remarks on Dryden's Ode in Memory of Mrs. Killigrew.
AMONG the various extraordinary judgments contained in Dr. Johnson's “ Lives of the Poets," which may be attributed either to the force of prejudice, or to vitiated and defective feelings respecting poetical beauty, none has struck me more than the superlative praise he bestows on a composition of Dryden's, which was scarcely known by the greatest admirers of that poet till he brought it forward to notice. “ His poem on the death of Mrs. Killigrew,” says this eminent critic, “is undoubtedly the noblest ode that our language ever has produced.” On reading this decisive sentence, I flew with impatience to a poem, of which I had never before heard, as to a newly discovered treasure. I perused it over and over with strong partialities in its favour; but the result was so much disappointment, nay disgust, that I should not satisfy myself without sitting down and entering on a particular exposition of those defects which caused me to feel so differently from its warm encomiast.
It may be supposed, considering Dr. Johnson's turn of mind, that this predilection for this poem was partly owing to its religious cast; yet he has elsewhere explicitly declared his opinion of the inadequateness of poetry to give due dignity to subjects, in their own nature too high for artificial elevation, and which cannot be illustrated by any thing so great