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the present moment, for Ossian just racters ; eacla has some mark that now is all in all I say, Homer was makes him essentially different from lately admired as much as he was
But these great masters three thousand years ago. Will the are not more eminent in distinguishadmiration of our Highland bard being 'than in completing their chaas perinanent ? And will it be as racters. I am a little acquainted with universal as learning itself?
a Cato, a Sempronius, a Tinsel, a Knowledge of the human heart Sir Charles Easy, &c. but I am peris a science of the highest dignity. fectly acquainted with Achilles, It is recommended not only by its Hector, Falstaff, Lear, Pistol, and own importance, but also by this, Quickly; I know them more tho. that none but an exalted genius is roughly than any other person of my capable of it.
Tu deliveate the ob. acquaintance. jects of the material world requires " If this accurate delineation of a fine imagination, but to penetrate character be allowed the highest spe. into the inental system, and to dés- cies of poetry (and this, I think, is cribe its different objects, with all generally allowed,) may I not ask their distinguishing (though some whether Ossian is not extremely de. times almost imperceptible) peculia- fective in the highest species of poetry? rities, requires an imagination far It is said, indeed, that this poet lived more extensive and vigorous. It is in an age when mankind, being in a this kind of imagination which appears state of almost total barbarism, were so conspicuous in the works of incapable of that diversity of characShakespeare and Homer, and which, ter which is found in countries im. in my opinion, raises them above all proved by commerce and learning, other poets whatsoever ; I mean not and that therefore he had no materials only that talent by which they can for a diversity of character. But it adapt themselves to the leart of their is certain that diversities of character readers, and excite whatever affec. are found among the rudest savages ; tion they please, in which the for- and it is the poce's business, not 10 mer plainly stands unrivalled; I pourtiay the characters as they real. mean also that wonderfully penetrat- ly exist (which is left to the historiing and plastic faculty, which is ca- an,) but to represent them such as pable of representing every species they might have existed.
But to of character, not, as our ordinary have done, Ossian seems really to poets do, by a high shoulder, a wry have very little knowledge of the humouth, or gigantic stature, but by man heart; his chief talent lies in hitting off, with a delicate hand, the describing inanimate objects, and distinguishing feature, and that in therefore he belongs (according to such a manner as makes it easily my principles, ) not to the highest, bue known from all others whatsoever, an inferior order of poets.” however similar to a superficial eye. Hotspur and Henry V.are heroes re
TASSO. sembling one another, yet very dis. “ Since you left us, I have been tinct in their characters ; Falstaff, reading Tasso's “ Jerusalem,” in and Pistol, and Bardolph, are buf- the translation lately published by foons, but each in his own way; Hoole. I was not a little anxi. Desdemona and Juliet are not the ous to peruse a poem which is so fasame; Bottom, and Dogberry, and mous over all Europe, and has so the grave diggers, are different cha- often been mentioned as a rival to racters : and the same may be said the “ Iliad,” « Æneid,” and “ Pa. of the most similar of Homer's cha- sadise Lost." It is certainly a noble
work; and though it seems to me great pains to imitate.
Pope's ESSAY ON MAN.
- Tasso borrows his plot and prin- its conclusions from a painful and
quaintance with the most beautiful but a poet must always sacrifice someparts of nature, both in the material thing to the genius of his age.-and immaterial system, is of use to a I dare say Metastasio despises those poet, and gives grace and solidity to little morceaux of siirg - song, and poetry ; as may be seen in the it is evident from some of his * Georgics,” the Seasons," and performances in that way, that he is " the Pleasures of Imagination :" qualified to excel in the more solemn but this acquaintance, if it is any lyric style, if it were suitable to the thing more than sup icial, will do
taste of his countrymen. Some of a poet rather harın than good : and his little songs are very pretty, and will give his mind that turn for mi- exhibit agreeable pictures of nature, nute observation, which enfeebles the with a brevity of description, and fancy by restraining it, and cou). sweetness of style, that is hardly to teracts the native energy of judg. be found in any other modern odes. I ment by rendering it fearful and suso beg leave to mention as instances, the
songs in the 7th and 15th scenes of
the second, and the ist of the third METASTASIO.
act of " Artaserse." Within the last fortnight, I have read five or six of Metastasio's ope- VOLTAIRE'S HENRIADE. ras with much pleasure.
“ I promised to give you my opi. apt to despise the Italian opera, and, nion of the “ Henriade;" but I must perhaps, not altogether without rea. premise, that I take it for granted
but I find the operas of Me- you have got implicitly adopted the tastasio very far superior to what I notions of the French critics with expected. There is a sameness in regard to this poein. I hear it is the fables and character of this all. accounted by them the greatest poem thor; and yet he seems to me to. that ever human wit produced in any have more of character in his drama age or nation. For my part, I judge than any other poet of this or the of it without prejudice either for or last age. A reader is generally in- against it, and as I would judge of terested in his pieces from beginning Tasso's “ Gerusalemme,” or any o. to end; for they are full of incident, ther work, in whose fate I have no and the incidents are often surprising national concern. and unexpected. He has a happy Among the beauties of this work talent at heightening distress; and I would reckon its style, which, very seldom falls into that unmean. though raised above prose as much ing rant and declamation which a- as the genius of the language will bounds so much on the French permit, is yet elegant and simple, stage. In a word, I should not though sometimes, to one accustomscruple to compare the modern Ita- ed to English poetry, it may have lian opera, as it appears in Metasta- . the appearance of being too prosaic. sio, to the ancient Greek tragedy. “ Ou plutot en eftet Valois ne regnait The rigid observation of the unities plus"-" Henri sçait profiter de of place and time, introdeces many “ ce grand advantage"-" C'est un improprieties into the Greek drama,
usage antique et sacre parmi which are happily avoided by the
nous" .6. De Paris a l'instant il less methodical genius of the Italian. " fait quvrir la porte"--and many I cannot indeed compare the little others, have nothing to distinguish Italian songs, which are often very them from the flattest prose but the impertinent, as well as very silly, lo measure and rhyme. But I do not the odes of the ancient tragedians: insist on this as a fault ; for the same
objection might be made to the finest if we had been spectators of the ob. poems in the world ; and I know ject. What makes a description not whether a flatness of this kind picturesque? It is a selection, not may not sometimes have a good ef of every circumstance or quality, but fect, and heighten, as it were, the of those which most powerfully atrelief of the more distinguished parts.
tract the notice and intuence the af. The versification of the “ Henriade" fections and imagination of the specis agreeable, and often more harmo- taior. In a word, a poet must, einions than one could expect, who ther in vision or reality, be a spectahas not a greater niceness of ear in tor of the objects he undertakes to regard to the French numbers than describe ; an liistorian (being consin. I can pretend to have. I know noted to truth) is generally supposed to whence it happens, that I, who am describe from hearsay'; or, if he desvery sensible of the Greck, Latin, cribe what he has seeo, he is not at and Italian harmony, can never bring liberty to insert one circumstance, myself to relish that of the French, and omit another, magnify this, and although I understand the French diminish that, bring one forward, language as well as any of the o- and throw the other into the back thers. Is it true, as Rousseau as- ground; he must give a detail of all serts, that this language, on account the circumstances, and as far as he of the incessant monotony of the knows them, otherwise he is not a pronunciation, is incapable of harmo- faithful historian. Now, I think, ny? I shonld like to have your senti. through the whole of this poem, ments on this subject.
Voltaire shows himself more of a “ The thoughts or reflections in historian than a poet ; we underthis poem are not too much crowd. stand well enough what he says, but ed, nor affectedly introduced ; they his representations, for the most are, in general, proper and nervous, part, are neither picturesque nor affrequently uncommon. The author fecting. evidently appears to be a man of wit, " To one who has read the second yet he does not seem to take any book of Virgil, Voltaire’s massacre pains to appear so.
The fable is of St Bartholomew will appear very distinci, perspicuous, and intelligible; trifling: It is uninteresting and the character of Henry historically void of incident ; the horrors of it just; and the description of particu- arise only upon reflection ; the imas lar objects apposite, and sometimes' gination is not terrified, though the picturesque.
moral sense disapproves. The part" But his descriptions are often ing of Henry and Mad. D’Estrees is of too general a nature, and want another passage that disappointed that minutenes which is necessary me; it is expressed in a few general to interest a reader. They are ra. terms, that produce no effect. The ther historical than poetical descrip. parting of Dido and Eneas, of Artions. This is no verbal distinction; mida and Rinaldo, are incomparably there is real ground for it. An his. , fine, and do as far exceed that of torian may describe from hearsay ; a Henry and his paramour, as the thunpoet must describe from seeing and 'der of heaven transcends the mustard. experience; and this he is enabled to bowl of the play-house. do by making use of the eye of ima- • There is hardly an attempt at gination. What makes a descrip- character in the poem. That of tion natural ? It is such a selection Henry is purely historical; and, of particular qualities as we think though well enough'supported on the that we ourselves would have made, whole, is not placed in those difficult
and trying circumstances, which probability, which it would not have draw forth into action the minu- borne if our author had been content ter springs of the soul. Before I get to follow the example of his pride." to the end of the Iliad, I am as much cessors. Virgil pretends no better acquainted with Homer's heroes as authority than tradition, Sit mihi fas if I had been personally known to audita loqui ; and Homer throws bimthem all for many years ; but of self entirely upon his muše, and is saVoltaire's hero I have only a confu. tisfied in being the instrument thro' sed notion. I know him to be brave which she speaks. The dream in the and amorous, a lover of his country, 7th canto (which the French critics and aifectionate to his friends; and think superior in merit to the whole this is all I know of him, and I could Iliad) disappointed me much, though have learned as mach from a common in some few passages it is not amiss. newspaper.
But heaven is not the element of “ I acknowldge Voltaire's fable to poets. St Louis's prayer, in the last be perspicuous, but I think it unin
canto, is an odd one. He treats his teresting, especially towards the Maker very cavalierly, and almost end. We foresee the event, but our threatens him. I observed in the expectations are not raised by it " Henriade"? some mixed and, some The catastrophe is not brought a. improper metaphors, but did not bout hy any striking incident, but mark them. by a series of incidents that have little or nothing in them to engage or surprise the
Diologue between Dr. FRANKLIN and conversion is a wry poor piece of
Written by himself.
H'H! Oh! Eh! What little, till at length her whole per
I have I done to merit son appears in a glorious but un- these cruel sufferings ? dazzling lustre. This may be good Gout.--Many things; you have ate philosophy, but it is very indif- and drank too freely, and too much
Te affects not the indulged those legs of yours in their imagination, nor reconciles the read. indolence. er to ihe event.' Henry is convert- Franklin..Who is it that accuses ed, but we know not how o why.--The catastrophe of Don Quixotie is Gout... It is I, even I the gout. similar to this. Both Cervantes Franklin.-_What ! my enemy in and Voltaire seem to have been in a
person, haste to conclude; and this is all Gout.--No, not your enemy. the apology I can offer for them. Franklin. I repeat it'; my enemy:
" I mention not Voltaire's confu. for you would not only torment my sion of fabulous and real personages body to death, but ruin my good in his machinery ; this has been re- name : you reproach me as a glutton marked by others. But I cannot
and a tippler; now all the world that help observing, that his invocation knows me will allow, that I am neito the historic muse is extremely in. ther the one nor the other. judicious. It warns the reader to Gout.---The world may think as expect nothing but truth, and con. it pleases : it is always very complai. sequently every appearance of fic. sant to itself, and sometimes to its tion in the sequel must produce a friends ; but I very well know, that bad effect, and bear the mark of im- the quantity of meat and drink pro