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the perusal of his pages, nor will he hesitate to place him at the head of Roman poetry. Even Virgil, deservedly celebrated as he is for pictoresque delineation, has not surpassed, either in design or colouring, the glowing landscapes of the elder bard. How rapturous must have been the enjoyment of the poet of Mantua in contemplating and dwelling upon the beautiful and highly finished pictures of his predecessor! What a study for intellect so congenial, so capable of emulating the excellence it delighted to admire! Numerous passages in the Georgics breathe the very spirit of Lucretius, and should the curious reader undertake the task of comparison, he would soon perceive how conscious Virgil must have been that the very words of his Master were of worth too great to be superseded. In fact, not only the imagery, but almost every epithet, in the digressional and episodic parts of this wonderful poem, is so appropriate, so imbued with a tint essential to the harmony of the whole, that, to attempt its change were to destroy the effect of the piece. The same judgment which led Virgil to study and to imitate the works of Lucretius, as models for descriptive poetry, has influenced too the poets of England, and Spenser,
Milton, Thomson and Gray, have frequently caught the manner, and copied the hues and grouping, of this enchanting artist. "The Persians," observes Dr. Warton, "distinguish the different degrees of the strength of fancy in different poets, by calling them, painters or sculptors. Lucretius, from the force of his images, should be ranked among the latter. He is, in truth, a Sculptor-Poet. His images have a bold relief."* Dropping, however, the language of a sister art, though frequently happily employed in illustrating the beauties and defects of poetry, it may be remarked, that the diction of Lucretius is peculiarly adapted to the nature of his theme; when explaining the abstruse theories of philosophy, his phraseology is uniformly plain and perspicuous, yet often possessing due dignity from the subject, and, in many instances, exhibiting an admirable specimen of simple grandeur. In his similes and episodes, the richest ornaments of style, the boldest metaphors and figures, and a construction of verse that even Virgil has not exceeded, unite to develope and
* Warton on the Writings and Genius of Pope, vol. ii. page 195.
convey a fertility, accuracy and amenity in description, a sublimity of imagination and sentiment, which no criticism can do justice to, which elicit the involuntary exclamations of rapture, and which can only be enjoyed by the enthusiasm of genius.
It must, however, be confessed, that the numerous pages devoted to the analysis of doctrines varied and profound in the extreme, will, in a poetic view, often press heavy on the patience of the reader; but, perhaps, these very passages, pure in their diction, and correctly expressed, though rigidly chastised in style, and free from all intrusive ornament, add, by the charm of contrast and variety, new graces to those parts on which embellishment has been bestowed with a more liberal hand. After luxuriously enjoying scenes lighted up by all the blaze and splendour of exalted fancy, the plain but not inelegant detail of philosophic disquisition, gives a necessary relief, and prepares the mind for the keener relish of succeeding beauties. When emerging from the intricate and eccentric mazes of elaborate disputation, what a pleasing horror thrills through the veins on the magnificent prosopo
peia of Nature, who, with a majesty which arrests the deepest attention, chides her ungrateful children, and upbraids their impious discontent, and with what exquisite delight we listen to the commencement and progress of the Arts, during which so many delicious scenes are unfolded, so many striking and im pressive descriptions occur.
After this encomium on the poetry of Lueretius, it will probably be demanded, why his writings have not been more popular? why, to the generality of classical scholars, he is nearly unknown? why, whilst Virgil, Horace and Tibullus are perused with avidity, the animated effusions of this sublimest of roman bards, should lie neglected on the shelf? It may be answered, I think, that a fate so undeserved, has been occasioned by a misrepresentation of his morals, and by a puerile and injudicious dread of his philosophical tenets. The morality of Epicurus, so far from favouring the indulgence of sensuality, holds out every incentive to temperance. It is true,
See the conclusion of the third book.
Book the fifth towards the end.
that he maintained all happiness to consist in pleasure, but, at the same time, taught, that genuine and durable pleasure could only arise from the cultivation of the mental powers, and the strictest attention to every social and domestic virtue. Diogenes and Galen represent this much-injured Philosopher as a person of consummate virtue, who despised the sordid cares and luxuries of life, and contemned. every excess in eating, drinking, and apparel. Unfortunately for the pure fame of Epicurus, Horace, adopting the accusation which envy and calumny had conspired to broach, the very name of him who taught the purest morals, the most rigid chastity and sobriety, has become an epithet to convey the idea of every sensual and voluptuous enjoyment.
Lucretius, in conformity to the moral precepts of his Master, uses every dissuasive against vice, every incentive towards virtue. Profusion, avarice and ambition, cruelty, injustice and revenge, the disordered passions of the mind, the pampered pleasures of the body, alike require and meet his severest reprobation. The sweetest passages in his poem are employed in the delineation of rural simplicity, and