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desired to apply all the judgment that he had. He wrote, and professed to write, merely for the people; and when he pleased others, he contented himself. He spent no time in struggles to rouse latent powers ; he never attempted to make that better which was already good, nor often to mend what he must have known to be faulty. He wrote, as he tells us, with very little consideration ; when occasion or necessity called upon him, he poured out what the present moment happened to supply, and, when once it had passed the press, ejected it from his mind; for, when he had no pecuniary interest, he had no further solicitude.
Pope was not content to satisfy ; he desired to excel, and therefore always endeavoured to do his best ; he did not court the candour, but dared the judgment of his reader, and, expecting no indulgence from others, he showed none to himself. He examined lines and words with minute and punctilious observation, and retouched every part with indefatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven. For this reason he kept his pieces very long in his hands, while he considered and reconsidered them. The only poems which can be supposed to have been written with such regard to the times as might hasten their publication, were the two satires of ‘Thirty-eight;' of which Dodsley told me, that they were brought to him by the author, that they might be fairly copied. 'Almost every line,' he said, 'was then written twice over; I
him a clean transcript, which he sent some time afterwards to me for the press, with almost every line written twice over a second time.' His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their publication, was not strictly true. His parental attention never abandoned them : what he found amiss in the first edition, he silently corrected in those that followed. He appears to have revised the Iliad, and freed it from some of its imperfections ; and the Essay on Criticism received many improvements after its first appear
It will seldom be found that he altered without adding clearness, elegance, or vigour. Pope had perhaps the judgment of Dryden ; but Dryden certainly wanted the diligence of Pope.
In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastic, and who before he became an author had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden knew more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation; and those of Pope by minute attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope. Poetry was not the sole praise of either; for both excelled likewise in prose ; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied ; that of Pope is cautious and uniform. Dryden observes the motions of his own mind; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation ; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller.
Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet ; that quality without which judgment is cold, and knowledge is inert ; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates ; the superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of this poetical vigour Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more ; for every other writer since Milton must give place to Pope ; and even of Dryden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind could supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory caution of Pope enabled him to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher, Pope continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and Pope with perpetual delight. This parallel will, I hope, when it is well considered, be found just; and if the reader should suspect me, as I suspect myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, let him not too hastily condemn me; for meditation and inquiry may, perhaps, show him the reasonableness of my determination.
THE VIRTUES OF LANGUAGE.
All the virtues of language are, in their roots, moral ; it becomes accurate if the speaker desires to become true ; clear, if he speaks with sympathy and a desire to be intelligible ; powerful, if he has earnestness ; pleasant, if he has sense of rhythm and order. There are no other virtues of language producible by art than these : but let me mark more deeply for an instant the significance of one of them. Language, I said, is only clear when it is sympathetic. You can, in truth, understand a man's word only by understanding his temper. Your own word is also as of an unknown tongue to him unless he understands yours. And it is this which makes the art of language, if any one is to be chosen separately from the rest, that which is fittest for the instrument of a gentleman's education. To teach the meaning of a word thoroughly is to teach the nature of the spirit that coined it ; the secret of language is the secret of sympathy, and its full charm is possible only to the gentle. And thus the principles of beautiful speech have all been fixed by sincere and kindly speech. On the laws which have been determined by sincerity, false speech, apparently beautiful, may afterwards be constructed; but all such utterance, whether in oration or poetry, is not only without permanent power, but it is destructive of the principles it has usurped. So long as no words are uttered but in faithfulness, so long the art of language goes on exalting itself ; but the moment it is shaped and chiselled on external principles, it falls into frivolity, and perishes. And this truth would have been long ago manifest, had it not been that in periods of advanced academical science there is always a tendency to deny the sincerity of the first masters of language. Once learn to write gracefully in the manner of an ancient author, and we are apt to think that he also wrote in the manner of some one else. But no noble nor right style was ever yet founded but out of a sincere heart.
THE BIRTH OF VERSE.
Blind thoughts which occupy the brain,
Dumb melodies which fill the ear,
A gleam of hope, a chill of fear,-
And first no definite thought there is
In all that affluence of sound,
Piped to the listening woods around,
Till, when the chambers of the soul
Are filled with inarticulate airs, A spirit comes which doth control
The music, and its end prepares ; And, with a power serene and strong, Shapes these wild melodies to song.
Or haply, thoughts which glow and burn
Await long time the fitting strain, Which, swiftly swelling, seems to turn
The silence to a load of pain ; And somewhat in him seems to cry, 'I will have utterance, or I die!'
Then of a sudden, full, complete,
The strong strain bursting into sound, Words come with rhythmic rush of feet,
Fit music girds the language round, And with a comeliness unsought, Appears the winged, embodied thought.
But howsoever they may rise,
Fit words and music come to birth ; There soars an angel to the skies,
There walks a Presence on the earthA something which shall yet inspire Myriads of souls unborn with fire.
And when his voice is hushed and dumb,
The flame burnt out, the glory dead,
At that which his poor tongue has said ;