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was raised, thought of the doctrines; but a thousand must have been warmed by the pictures, the addresses, the sublime interspersions of description, and the nice and harmonious precision of every word, and of almost every line. Whether, as a system of philosophy, it inculcated fate or not, no one paused to inquire; but every eye read a thousand times, and every lip, perhaps, repeated,
"Lo the poor Indian !" &c.
and many other passages.
"All these illustrative and secondary images are painted from the source of genuine poetry; from NATURE, not from ART. They therefore, independent of powers displayed in the versification, raise the Essay on Man, considered in the abstract, into genuine poetry, although the poetical part is subservient to the philosophical.
"The Moral Essays depart much farther from poetry so defined, as they exhibit particular casts and characters of man, according to different habits of existing society; that is, of artificial life.
"There is no reason to suppose that Pope, of the general internal feelings of Nature, could be more ignorant, or less capable of pourtraying them by vividness of expression and colors, than others; but we must estimate what he has done, not what he might have done. Many, perhaps, may regret with me, that if he disdained,
...... in Funcy's fields to wander long,
that he had not at least wandered somewhat longer among scenes that were congenial to the feelings of every heart; and that he should leave them for the thorns and briars of ineffectual satire and bitterness; quitting for these such scenes as 'The Paraclete's white walls and silver springs;'
like his great predecessor in poetry, Milton, who left the 'Pastures of Peneus, and the Pines of Ætna,' to write "Tetrachordon,' and to mingle in the malignant puritanical turbulence of the times.'
"When we speak of the poetical character, derived from passions of general Nature, two obvious distinctions must occur, without regard to Aristotle ;-those which, derived from the passions, may be called pathetic, and those which, derived from the same source, may be called sublime.
"Of the pathetic, no one (considering the Epistle of Eloisa alone) has touched the chords so tenderly, so pathetically, and
so melodiously. As far as this goes, Pope, therefore, in poetical and musical expression, has no competitor.
"We will now proceed to consider those passions which are equally the subject of genuine poetry, and on which are founded (I do not say Epic or Tragic excellence, for these Pope declined, but) that species of poetic sublimity, which gives life and animation to the Ode.
"In this respect, I believe, no one who ever thought of Alexander's Feast, or the Bard of Gray, could for a moment imagine Pope pre-eminent. Before these he sinks, as much as any other writer, whose subject was pathetic, sinks before him. His Odes for the Duke of Buckingham, though elegant, are wholly unworthy to be classed as the compositions of a superior Lyric Poet.
"In what has been said,' I have avoided the introduction of picturesque description; that is, accurate representations from external objects of Nature: but if the premises laid down in the commencement of these reflections be true, no one can stand pre-eminent as a great descriptive poet,' unless he have an eye attentive to, and familiar with, every external appearance that she may exhibit, in every change of season, every variation of light and shade. He who has not an eye to observe these, and who cannot with a glance distinguish every diversity of every hue in her variety of beauties, must so far be deficient in one of the essential qualities of a poet.
"Here Pope, from infirmities, and from physical causes, was particularly deficient. When he left his own laurel circus at Twickenham, he was lifted into his chariot or his barge; and with weak eyes, and tottering strength, it is physically impossible he could be a descriptive bard. Where description has been introduced among his poems, as far as his observation could go, he excelled; more could not be expected. In the descriptions of the cloister, the scenes surrounding the melancholy convent, as far as could be gained by books, or suggested by imagination, he was eminently successful; but even here, perhaps, he only proved that he could not go far: and 'The streams that shine between the hills, The grots that echo to the tinkling rills,'
were possibly transcripts of what he could most easily transcribe, his own views and scenery.
"But how different, how minute is his description, when he
A few passages have been corrected, which were not accurately printed before.
* Upon consideration, I certainly think it right to omit the expression, “ every leaf.”
describes what he is master of: for instance, the game of Ombre, in the Rape of the Lock? This is from artificial life; and with artificial life, from his infirmities, he must have been chiefly conversant. But if he had been gifted with the same powers of observing outward Nature, I have no doubt he would have evinced as much accuracy in describing the appropriate and peculiar beauties, such as Nature exhibits in the Forest' where he lived, as he was able to describe, in a manner so novel, and with colors so vivid, a game of cards.
"It is for this reason that his Windsor Forest, and his Pastorals, must ever appear so defective to a lover of Nature. 'Pope, therefore, wisely left this part of his art, which Thomson, and many other poets since his time, have cultivated with so much more success, and turned to what he calls the Moral' of the song.
"I need not go regularly over his works; but I think they may be generally divided under the heads I have mentioned; -Pathetic, Sublime, Descriptive, Moral, and Satirical.
"In the pathetic, poetically considered, he stands highest; in the sublime, he is deficient; in descriptions from Nature, for reasons given, still more so. He therefore pursued that path in poetry, which was more congenial to his powers, and in which he has shone without a rival.
"We regret that we have little more, truly pathetic, from his pen, han the Epistle of Eloisa, the Elegy to the unfortunate Lady; and let me not forget one of the sweetest and most melodious of his pathetic effusions, the Address to Lord Oxford.
'Such were the notes thy once-lov'd Poet sung.'
"With the exception of these, and the Prologue to Cato, there are few things in Pope of the order I have mentioned, to which the recollection recurs with particular tenderness and delight.
"When he left these regions, to unite the most exquisite machinery of fancy with the descriptions of artificial life, the Rape of the Lock will, first and last, present itself;-a composition, as Johnson justly observes, the most elegant, the most airy, of all his works; a composition, to which it will be in vain to compare any thing of the kind. He stands alone, unrivalled, and possibly never to be rivalled. All Pope's successful labor of correct and musical versification, all his talents of accurate description, though in an inferior province of poetry, are here consummately displayed; and as far as
2 See Rape of the Lock, description of Ombre.
3 But turn'd to truth, and moraliz'd the song.'
artificial life, that is, manners, not passions, are capable of being rendered poetical, they are here rendered so, by the fancy, the propriety, the elegance, and the poetic beauty of the Sylphic machinery.
"This delightful' poem, as I have said, appears to stand conspicuous and beautiful, in that medium where poetry begins to leave Nature, and approximates to local manners. The Muse has, indeed, no longer her great characteristic attributes, pathos or sublimity; but she appears so interesting, that we almost doubt whether the garb of elegant refinement is not as captivating, as the most beautiful appearances of Nature."
I have placed before the public, in one point of view, the greater part of what I advanced as the ground-work of my judgment on Pope's poetry; and I can ask whether they obseive any symptoms of detraction or depreciation? I have spoken of the sublime, the pathetic, the moral, the satirical, and the descriptive, in poetry; putting the descriptive province last.
Now in your letter, my Lord, you have said nothing of the SUBLIME of poetry, as distinguishing the great poet, whose eminence in his art has led to this discussion; but I affirm, that in the pathetic, as he yields, (and the distance is great,) to Shakespeare, the variety of pathos in Shakespeare being considered; yet, if we view Pope's poems together, and remark his consummate EXECUTION of all he performed, though he is INFERIOR to Milton, and must be so, from the SUPERIOR GRANDEUR of Milton's subject, the greater exertion of talents required, according to the universal consent of the critics," and the EQUAL execution; yet in one particular branch of his art, SUBLIMITY, he yields to Dryden, as well as to these great poets; and in another particular branch of his art, the accurate representation of picturesque imagery from external Nature, he yields to Thomson and Cowper.
As to sublimity, you will see I have spoken of his Ode, compared with one of Dryden's. Will you venture to say, the Öde for Music by Pope is equal to the Ode for Music by Dryden, Alexander's Feast, or that ode spoken of so enthusiastically by Dr. Johnson? I think you will hardly do this; and if you do, I believe, my Lord, no critic in England, or Europe, will agree with you.
I must here make one observation on Dryden's Ode on the death of Mrs. Killegrew. Johnson speaks of the first stanza as full of enthusiasm, but his criticism is very unappropriate. I will venture to point out one great cause of its sublimity. Addressing the departed spirit, the poet exclaims,
allow Pond &
"Whether adopted to some neighbouring star,
MOVEST WITH THE HEAV'NS' MAJESTIC PACE."
These are the images from the sublime of Nature, which give this ode its exalted character, I shall quote the first lines.
"Thou youngest virgin daughter of the skies,
Thou tread'st with seraphims the vast abyss;
Now take a stanza of a quite opposite character.
"The sylvan scenes of herds and flocks,
The commencement is lofty and majestic, and the execution goes on pari passu with the subject; and the subject is from the most glorious objects of contemplation in Nature. In the other stanza quoted, observe that the lady's art in painting as well as poetry is set before us, and this is done by making the subject of her pictures appear as in the living landscapes of