Page images
PDF
EPUB

The long-spun allegories fulsome grow,
While the dull moral lies too plain below.
We view well pleas'd at distance all the sights
Of arms and palfries, battles, fields, and fights,
And damsels in distress, and courteous knights.
But when we look too near, the shades decay,
And all the pleasing landscape fades away.

Great Cowley then, a mighty genius, wrote,
O'er-run with wit, and lavish of his thought:
His turns too closely on the reader press:
He more had pleas'd us, had he pleas'd us less.
One glittering thought no sooner strikes our eyes
With silent wonder, but new wonders rise.
As in the milky-way a shining white

O'erflows the heav'ns with one continu'd light;
That not a single star can show his rays,
Whilst jointly all promote the common blaze.
Pardon, great poet, that I dare to name

Th' unnumber'd beauties of thy verse with blame;
Thy fault is only wit in its excess,

But wit like thine in any shape will please.
What muse but thine can equal hints inspire,
And fit the deep-mouth'd Pindar to thy lyre:
Pindar, whom others in a labour'd strain,
And forc'd expression, imitate in vain?
Well pleas'd in thee he soars with new delight,
And plays in more unbounded verse, and takes a nobler
flight.

Blest man! whose spotless life and charming lays Employ'd the tuneful prelate in thy praise:

Blest man! who now shall be for ever known,
In Sprat's successful labours and thy own.

But Milton next, with high and haughty stalks,
Unfetter'd in majestic numbers walks;
No vulgar hero can his muse engage;
Nor earth's wide scene confine his hallow'd
See! see, he upward springs, and tow'ring high
Spurns the dull province of mortality,

rage.

Shakes heav'n's eternal throne with dire alarms,
And sets th'almighty thunderer in arms.
Whate'er his pen describes I more than see,
Whilst ev'ry verse, array'd in majesty,
Bold and sublime, my whole attention draws,
And seems above the critic's nicer laws.
How are you struck with terror and delight,
When angel with archangel copes in fight!
When great Messiah's out-spread banner shines,
How does the chariot rattle in his lines!
What sounds of brazen wheels, what thunder, scare,
And stun the reader with the din of war!
With fear my spirits and my blood retire,
To see the seraphs sunk in clouds of fire;
But when, with eager steps, from hence I rise,
And view the first gay scenes of Paradise ;
What tongue, what words of rapture can express
A vision so profuse of pleasantness.
Oh, had the poet ne'er profan'd his pen,
To varnish o'er the guilt of faithless men;
His other works might have deserv'd applause!
But now the language can't support the cause;
While the clean current, though serene and bright,
Betrays a bottom odious to the sight.

But now my muse a softer strain rehearse,
Turn ev'ry line with art, and smooth thy verse;
The courtly Waller next commands thy lays:
Muse, turn thy verse, with art, to Waller's praise.
While tender airs and lovely dames inspire
Soft melting thoughts, and propagate desire;
So long shall Waller's strains our passion move,
And Sacharissa's beauties kindle love.

Thy verse, harmonious bard, and flatt'ring song,
Can make the vanquish'd great, the coward strong.
Thy verse can show ev'n Cromwell's innocence,
And compliment the storms that bore him hence.
Oh had thy muse not come an age too soon,
But seen great Nassau on the British throne!

How had his triumphs glitter'd in thy page,

And warm'd thee to a more exalted rage!
What scenes of death and horror had we view'd,
And how had Boyne's wide current reek'd in blood!
Or if Maria's charms thou would'st rehearse,
In smoother numbers and a softer verse;
Thy pen had well describ'd her graceful air,
And Gloriana would have seem'd more fair.
Nor must Roscommon pass neglected by,
That makes ev'n rules a noble poetry:

Rules whose deep sense and heav'nly numbers show
The best of critics, and of poets too.

Nor, Denham, must we e'er forget thy strains,
While Cooper's Hill commands the neighb'ring plains.
But see where artful Dryden next appears,
Grown old in rhyme, but charming ev'n in years.
Great Dryden next, whose tuneful muse affords
The sweetest numbers and the fittest words.
Whether in comic sounds or tragic airs

She forms her voice, she moves our smiles or tears.
If satire or heroic strains she writes,

Her hero pleases, and her satire bites.

From her no harsh unartful numbers fall,
She wears all dresses, and she charms in all.
How might we fear our English poetry,
That long has flourish'd, should decay with thee;
Did not the muses' other hope appear,
Harmonious Congreve, and forbid our fear:
Congreve! whose fancy's unexhausted store
Has given already much, and promis'd more.
Congreve shall still preserve thy fame alive,
And Dryden's muse shall in his friend survive.
I'm tir'd with rhyming, and would fain give o'er,
But justice still demands one labour more:
The noble Montague remains unnam'd,
For wit, for humour, and for judgment fam'd;
To Dorset he directs his artful muse,

In numbers such as Dorset's self might use.

How negligently graceful he unreins

His verse, and writes in loose familiar strains;
How Nassau's godlike acts adorn his lines,
And all the hero in full glory shines!

We see his army set in just array,

And Boyne's dy'd waves run purple to the sea.
Nor Simois chok'd with men, and arms, and blood;
Nor rapid Xanthus' celebrated flood,

Shall longer be the poet's highest themes,
Though gods and heroes fought promiscuous in their

streams.

But now, to Nassau's secret councils rais'd,
He aids the hero whom before he prais'd.

I've done at length; and now, dear Friend, receive
The last poor present that my muse can give.
I leave the arts of poetry and verse

To them that practise them with more success.
Of greater truths I'll now prepare to tell,

And so at once, dear friend and muse, farewell.

[blocks in formation]

MENTRE,

ENTRE, Signor, l'ombre villesche attraggonvi,

E di Britannia dagli ufici toltovi.

Non piu, ch' a suoi ingrati figli piaccia
Per lor vantaggio, vostro ozio immolate;
Me in esteri regni il fato invia

Entro genti feconde in carmi eterni,
U la dolce stagion, e'l vago clima
Fanno, che vostra quiete in versi io turbi.
Ovunque io giri i miei rapiti lumi,
Scene auree, liete, e chiare visti inalzansi,
Attornianmi poetiche champagne,
Parmi ognor di calcar classico suolo;
Si sovente ivi musa accordo l'arpa,
Che non cantato niun colle sorgevi,
Celebre in versi ivi ogni pianta cresce,
E in celeste armonia ciascun rio corre.
Come mi giova a cercar poggi, e boschi
Per chiare fonti, e celebrati fiumi,

Alla Nera veder fiera in suo corso

Tracciar Clitumno chiaro in sua sorgente,

*By the Abbot Anton. Maria Salvini, Greek Professor at Florence.

« PreviousContinue »