« AnteriorContinuar »
to let his ghost rest in quiet, was intolerably cruel and uncharitable.
P. 161. 1. 8. But whilft within, &c.] "Dumque "fitim fedare cupit fitis altera crevit." We have here a touch of that mixed wit I have before spoken of; but I think the meafure of pun in it out-weighs the true wit; for if we exprefs the thought in other words the turn is almost loft. This paffage of Narciffus probably gave Milton the hint of applying it to Eve, though I think her furprize, at the sight of her own face in the water, far more just and natural than this of Narciffus. She was a raw unexperienced being, juft created, and therefore might easily be fubject to the delufion ; but Narciffus had been in the world fixteen years, was brother and fon to the water-nymphs, and therefore to be fuppofed converfant with fountains long before this fatal mistake.
P. 162. l. 8. You trees, fays he, &c.] Ovid is very juftly celebrated for the paffionate speeches of his Poem. They have generally abundance of nature in them, but I leave it to better judgments to confider whether they are not often too witty and too tedious. The Poet never cares for fmothering a good thought that comes in his way, and never thinks he can draw tears enough from his reader: by which means our grief is either diverted or spent before we come to his conclufion; for we cannot at the fame time be delighted with the wit of the Poet, and concerned for the perfon that speaks it; and a great Critic has admirably well obferved, "Lamentationes debent effe breves et "concife,
concifæ, nam lacryma fubitò excrefcit, et difficile "eft Auditorem vel Lectorem in fummo animi affectu "diu tenere." Would any one in Narciffus's condition have cry'd out" Inopem me copia fecit ?" Or can any thing be more unnatural than to turn off from his forrows for the fake of a pretty reflexion?
"O utinam noftro fecedere corpore poffem !
"Votum in amante novum; vellem, quod amamus, "abeffet."
None, I suppose, can be much grieved for one that is fo witty on his own afflictions. But I think we may every where observe in Ovid, that he employs his invention more than his judgment; and speaks all the ingenious things that can be faid on the fubject, rather than those which are particularly proper to the perfon and circumftances of the fpeaker.
FA B. VII.
P. 165. I. 22. When Pentheus thus] There is a great deal of fpirit and fire in this fpeech of Pentheus, but I believe none befide Ovid would have thought of the transformation of the ferpent's teeth for an incitement to the Thebans courage, when he defires them not to degenerate from their great forefather the Dragon, and draws a parallel between the behaviour of them both.
"Efte, precor, memores, quâ fitis ftirpe creati,
FA B. VIII.
The ftory of Acœtes has abundance of nature in all the parts of it, as well in the description of his own parentage and employment, as in that of the sailors characters and manners. But the short speeches fcattered up and down in it, which make the Latin very natural, cannot appear fo well in our language, which is much more stubborn and unpliant; and therefore are but as fo many rubs in the story, that are still turning the narration out of its proper courfe. The transformation at the latter end is wonderfully beautiful.
FA B. IX.
Ovid has two very good fimilies on Pentheus, where he compares him to a river in a former story, and to a war-horfe in the prefent.
VIRGIL may be reckoned the first who introduced three new kinds of poetry among the Romans, which he copied after three of the greatest masters of Greece: Theocritus and Homer have still disputed for the advantage over him in Pastoral and Heroics, but I think all are unanimous in giving him the precedence to Hefiod in his Georgics. The truth of it is, the fweetnefs and rufticity of a Paftoral cannot be fo well expreffed in any other tongue as in the Greek, when rightly mixed and qualified with the Doric dialect; nor can the majefty of an heroic poem any where appear fo well as in this language, which has a natural greatness in it, and can be often rendered more deep and fonorous by the pronunciation of the Ionians. But in the middle style, where the writers in both tongues are on a level, we fee how far Virgil has excelled all who have written ip the fame way with him.
There has been abundance of criticifm fpent on Virgil's Paftorals and neids; but the Georgics are a fubject which none of the critics have fufficiently taken into their confideration; most of them paffing it over in filence, or cafting it under the same head with Pastoral; a divifion by no means proper, unless we suppose the ftyle of a husbandman ought to be imitated in a Georgic, as that of a fhepherd is in a Paftoral. But
though the scene of both these poems lies in the fame place; the speakers in them are of quite a different character, fince the precepts of husbandry are not to be delivered with the fimplicity of a ploughman, but with the addrefs of a poet. No rules therefore, that relate to Paftoral, can any way affect the Georgics, fince they fall under that clafs of poetry, which confifts in giving plain and direct inftructions to the reader; whether they be moral duties, as thofe of Theognis and Pythagoras; or philofophical fpeculations, as thofe of Aratus and Lucretius; or rules of practice, as thofe of Hefiod and Virgil. Among these different kind of subjects, that which the Georgics go upon is, I think, the meanest and leaft improving, but the most pleasing and delightful. Precepts of morality, befides the natural corruption of our tempers, which makes us averfe to them, are fo abftracted from ideas of fenfe, that they feldom give an opportunity for thofe beautiful defcriptions and images which are the spirit and life of poetry. Natural philofophy has indeed fenfible objects to work upon; but then it often puzzles the reader with the intricacy of its notions, and perplexes him with the multitude of its difputes. But this kind of poetry I am now fpeaking of, addreffes itself wholly to the imagination: It is altogether converfant among the fields and woods, and has the moft delightful part of nature for its province. It raises in our minds a pleafing variety of fcenes and landskips, whilst it teaches us; and makes the dryeft of its precepts look like a description. "A 66 Georgic therefore is fome part of the science of huf