« ForrigeFortsæt »
"Prepare for death, if here at night you roam, "And sign your will before you sup from home. "Some fiery fop, with new commission vain, "Who sleeps on brambles till he kills his man; "Some frolic drunkard, reeling from a feast, "Provokes a broil, and stabs you for a jest.
"Yet ev❜n these heroes, mischievously gay, "Lords of the street, and terrors of the way; "Flush'd as they are with folly, youth, and wine, "Their prudent insults to the poor confine; "Afar they mark the flambeau's bright approach, “And shun the shining train, and golden coach."
"A single jail, in Alfred's golden reign, "Could half the nation's criminals contain; "Fair justice then, without constraint ador'd, "Held high the steady scale, but deep'd the sword; "No spies were paid, no special juries known, "Blest age! but ah! how diff'rent from our own! "Much could I add-but see the boat at hand, "The tide retiring calls me from the land:
-When youth, and health, and fortune
"Thou fly'st for refuge to the wilds of Kent;
Of this kind of satire the most perfect specimens in our language are Mr. Pope's prologue and epilogue to his satires. The first, the Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, is evidently, as Dr. Johnson observes, made up of scraps, (but they are choice ones) connected together as loosely as many of Horace's. To particularize the excellent touches of satire which this poem contains, would be almost to transcribe the whole. Dr. Johnson remarks, that the weakest part is the lines on Sporus. The epilogue, which consists of two dialogues, is more regular, but has hardly equal spirit. Both are, however, in the true style of Horace.
VII. Descriptive poetry embraces a very ample scope. Description, indeed, enters into all poetry, whether heroic, didactic, or pastoral, and, under proper restraints, is the soul of all poetry whatever; but there are some forms with which it particularly consorts, such as elegy and lyric. I am, however, at present to treat of poems professedly descriptive, which definition excludes all those that can be' arranged under any of the other classes.
Descriptive poetry may be classed under two divisions-That which offers to our view a de
lineation of nature, or of natural scenery; and that which describes the manners, sentiments, and characters of men. That the first kind has little in itself engaging is evident, since all descriptive poets are obliged to bring sentiment to their aid to enliven what would otherwise infallibly tire; and since it is a rule universally established among critics, that descriptions should be short. Man is a creature that is always looking to himself, and when a writer wanders far from this favourite theme, he will be little read. Of particular scenes I aver it is impossible in words to draw a picture by which they can be known. Yet general description, in the hands of a master, has its charms, particularly when combined with what interests the human heart.
The antients seem to have had no poems which could be exclusively termed descriptive. Those of Moschus, Bion, and the other minor poets of Greece, which might be forced into this class, are called Idylliums, and have generally some other subject for a ground-work. The moderns have excelled in this department. For though it is extremely difficult to make a merely descriptive poem interesting, the diffi
culty of the achievement is a high commendation to the poet who succeeds. Of those poems which describe natural scenery, Denham's Cooper's Hill, Pope's Windsor Forest, and Roscoe's Mount Pleasant, are the best. I add the latter, though it is not so much known as it deserves; but the name of the author has been justly celebrated since its publication, and it is, in my opinion, inferior to neither of the others. Cooper's Hill Dr. Johnson regards as an original work, and calls Denham "the father of a species of composition that may be denomi nated local poetry." Yet the very limited popularity of this poem at present is an argument against this species of poetry; and I believe Pope's Windsor Forest" (notwithstanding his magic wand, which turned almost every thing to gold, and the curiosa felicitas, in which he was not exceeded by Horace) is less read than any of his poems, the "Temple of Fame" excepted, which may also be regarded in some measure as a descriptive poem.
Mr. Roscoe's "Mount Pleasant" was writ ten at a very early age, and ought not therefore to be subjected to all the severities of criticism, As it is less known than the others, I shall se
lect a few specimens from it, which I think will not have a tendency to lessen the author's well-earned reputation. If I might add a tribute of early friendship to this truly amiable man, I would do it in the words of Perseus
Tecum etenim longos memini consumere soles, "Et tecum primas epulis decerpere noctes," &c.
"Long summer days thy precepts I rehearse; "And winter nights were short in thy converse." Dryden.
The introduction is beautiful, but I have not room for all the beauties of this poem. I shall therefore at present only claim your attention to the author's account of the rise of commerce in the local prospect that lay before him—
"Far as the eye can trace the prospect round, "The splendid tracks of opulence are found: "Yet scarce an hundred annual rounds have run, "Since first the fabric of this power begun; "His noble waves inglorious, Mersey roll'd, "Nor felt those waves by labouring art controul'd; "Along his side a few small cots were spread, "His finny brood their humble tenants fed; "At opening dawn with fraudful nets supply'd, "The paddling skiff would brave his spacious tide,