« PreviousContinue »
From w Pioture by Richardson, in the Marquis of Buckinghams Collectwn'at Tiowe.
Published by Cadel k Davies, Strand, and the other Proprietors, Mav 1.1807.
TO MR. ADDISON.
Occasioned by his * Dialogues on MEDALS. SEE ee the wild Waste of all-devouring years !
How Rome her own fad Sepulchre appears ! With nodding arches, broken temples spread ! The very Tombs now vanish'd like their dead!
THIS was originally written in the year 1715, when Mr. Addison intended to publish his book of Medals ; it was some time before he was Secretary of State ; but not published till Mr. Tickel's Edition of his works : at which time the verses on Mr. Craggs, which conclude the poem, were added, viz. in 1720.
Pope. * Dialogues on Medals.] This treatise on Medals was written by Addison in that pleasing form of compofition, so unsuccessfully attempted by many modern authors, Dialogues. In no one species of writing have the Ancients so indisputable a superiority over us. The dialogues of Plato and Cicero, especially the former, are perfect dramas; where the characters are supported with confiftency and nature, and the reasoning suited to the characters.
“ There are in English three dialogues, and but three," says a learned and ingenious author †, who has himself practised this agreeable way, of writing, “ that deserve commendation, namely, the Moralists in Lord Shaftesbury, Mr. Addison's Treatise on Medals, and the Minute Philofopher of Bishop Berkley.” Alciphron did, indeed, well deserve to be mentioned on this occasion ; notwithstanding it has been treated with contempt by writers much inferior to Berkley in learning, genius, and taste. Omitting those passages in the fourth dialogue, where he has introduced his fanciful and whimsical opinions about vision, an attentive reader will find that there is scarce a single argument than can be urged in defence of Revelation, but what is here placed in the
A A 3
Imperial wonders rais'd on Nations spoil'd, 5 Where, mix'd with Slaves, the groaning Martyr toil'd:
Huge NOTES. clearest light, and in the most beautiful diction: In this work there is a happy union of reasoning and imagination. The two different characters of the two different sorts of free-thinkers, the sensual and the refined, are strongly contrafted with each other, and with the plainness and simplicity of Euphranor.
These dialogues of Addison are written with that sweetness and purity of style which constitute him one of the first of our profe-writers. The chief imperfection of his Treatise on Medals is, the persons introduced as speakers, in dire& contradiction to the practice of the Ancients, are fititious, not real; for Cynthio, Philander, Palæmon, Eugenio, and Theocles, cannot equally excite and engage the attention of the reader, with Socrates and Alcibiades, Atticus and Brutus, Cowley and Spratt, Maynard and Somers. It is somewhat singular, that so many of the modern dialogue-writers should have failed in this particular, when so many of the most celebrated wits of modern Italy had given them eminent examples of the contrary proceeding, and, clofely following the steps of the Ancients, constantly introduced living and real persons in their numerous compositions of this fort; in which they were so fond of delivering their fentiments, both on moral and critical subjects ; witness the Il Cortegiano of B. Castiglione, the Asolani of P. Bembo, Dialoghi del S. Sperone, and the great Galileo, the Naugerius of Fracastorius, and Lil. Gyraldus de Poetis, and many others. In all which pieces the famous and living geniuses of Italy are introduced discussing the several different topics before them. WARTON.
Ver. 1. See the wild Wafte] The opening of this beautiful little Poem is highly impressive and poetical. The attention is awakened in the most powerful manner by the abrupt address, as if the Poet pointed with a pensive dignity to the awful monuments of past
“ See the wild Waste of all-devouring years !" &c. All the most interesting and picturesque remains of the filent havoc of Time, are then immediately brought before the eye, with the force and effect of the finest painting-—“ Hugh Theatres,"
Huge Theatres, that now unpeopled Woods,
“ Fanes,” “ Statues,” &c. After the impressive commencement, and the immediate fight, as it were, of the ruins around him, the Poet naturally introduces History,—“Some Papal Fury," &c. ‘Then the brief and beautiful personification of Ambition appears. The whole, indeed, shews the hand of a master.
Ver. 2. her own fad Sepulchre] St. Jerome says, “ Roma quondam orbis caput, poftea populi Romani sepulchrum.” WARTON, Ver. 2. her own fad Sepulchre]
“ O Solyman, for her art thou become
A heap of stones, and to thyself a tomb.” From Sandys's Psalms; one of the most extraordinary productions in verse, that the English language can produce. As a translation, it is infinitely fuperior to any other, both for fidelity, mufiç, and strength of versification. It was published with Lawes's Airs, which are simple and expressive. I cannot but lament, that such mufic, and such words, should not be used in our parochial churches, instead of the wretched metre of Sternhold and Hopkins, or the empty and inadequate paraphrafes of Tate and Brady, often. set to as bad music.
Ver. 6. Where, mix'd with Slaves, the groaning Martyr toild: ] Palladio, speaking of the Baths of Dioclefian, says, “ Nell'edificatione delle quali, Dioclefiano tenne molti enni 140 mila Christiani a edificarle."
WARBURTON. Ver. 6. groaning Martyr] Dodwell, in his Differtationes Cyprianicæ, has undertaken to prove that the number of Martyrs was far less than hath been usually imagined. His opinion is com. bated by Mosheim in the 5th chapter of his excellent History of the Church,