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decorations. Thanksgiving, the most joyful of all holy effusions, yet addressed to a Being without passions, is confined to a few modes, and is to be felt rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling in the presence of the judge, is not at leisure for cadences and epithets. Supplication of man to man may diffuse itself through many topicks of persuasion; but supplication to God can only cry for mercy. Of sentiments purely religious, it will be found that the most simple expression is the most sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its power, because it is applied to the decoration of something more excellent than itself. All that pious verse can do is to help the memory, and delight the ear, and for these purposes it may be very useful; but it supplies nothing to the mind. The ideas of christian theology are too simple for eloquence, too sacred for fiction, and too majestick for ornament; to recommend them by tropes and figures, is to magnify by a concave mirror the sideral hemisphere. As much of Waller’s reputation was owing to the softness and smoothness of his numbers; it is proper to consider those minute particulars to which a versifier must attend. He certainly very much excelled in smoothness most of the writers who were living when his poetry commenced. The poets of Elizabeth had attained an art of modulation, which was afterwards neglected or forgotten. Fairfax was acknowledged by him as his model; and he might have studied with advantage the poem of Davies,” which, though merely philosophical, yet seldom leaves the ear ungratified.
* Sir John Davies, intituled, “Nosce teipsum. This Oracle expounded in two Elegies; 1. Of Humane Knowledge; II. Of the Soule of Man and the Immortalitie thereof, 1599.” R.
But he was rather smooth than strong; of the full resounding line, which Pope attributes to Dryden, he has given very few examples. The critical decision has given the praise of strength to Denham, and of sweetness to Waller. His excellence of versification has some abatements. He uses the expletive do very frequently; and though he lived to see it almost universally ejected, was not more careful to avoid it in his last compositions than in his first. Praise had given him confidence; and finding the world satisfied, he satisfied himself. His rhymes are sometimes weak words: so is found to make the rhyme twice in ten lines, and occurs often as a rhyme through his book. His double rhymes, in heroic verse, have been censured by Mrs. Phillips, who was his rival in the translation of Corneille’s Pompey; and more faults might be found, were not the inquiry below attention. He sometimes uses the obsolete termination of verbs, as wareth, affecteth; and sometimes retains the final syllable of the preterite, as amazed, suffiosed, of which I know not whether it is not to the detriment of our language that we have totally rejected them. Of triplets he is sparing; but he did not wholly forbear them ; of an Alexandrine he has given no example. The general character of his poetry is elegance and gaiety. He is never pathetick, and very rarely sublime. He seems neither to have had a mind much elevated by nature, nor amplified by learning. His thoughts are such as a liberal conversation and large intance with life would easily supply. They had
however then, perhaps, that grace of novelty, which
beginning with the same letter. But this knack,
whatever be its value, was so frequent among early
afford a solid basis to any position, though sometimes
it may furnish a transient allusion, or slight illustra-
and to him may be applied what Tasso said, with
equal spirit and justice, of himself and Guarini, when, having perused the Pastor Fido, he cried out, “If he had not read Aminta, he had not excelled « it.”
As Waller professed himself to have learned the art of versification from Fairfax, it has been thought proper to subjoin a specimen of his work, which, after Mr. Hoole's translation, will perhaps not be soon reprinted. By knowing the state in which Waller found our poetry, the reader may judge how much he improved it.
Through forests thicke among the shadie treene,
Of her strong foes, that chas'd her through the plaine,
And still pursu’d, but still pursu'd in vaine.
Like as the wearie hounds at last retire,
Yet still the fearfull Dame fled, swift as wilde,
Nor euer staid, nor euer lookt behinde.
Through thicke and thinne, all night, all day, she driued,
On Iordans sandie banks her course she staid,
At last, there downe she light, and downe she laid.
IV. Her teares, her drinke; her food, her sorrowings; This was her diet that vnhappie night: But sleepe (that sweet repose and quiet brings) To ease the greeses of discontented wight, Spred foorth his tender, soft, and nimble wings, In his dull armes foulding the virgin bright: And loue, his mother, and the graces kept Stronge watch and warde, while this faire ladie slept. - V. The birds awakte her with their morning song, Their warbling musicke pearst her tender eare, The murmuring brookes and whistling windes among The ratling boughes, and leaues, their parts did beare ; Her eies vnclos’d beheld the groues along, Of swaines and shepherd groomes that dwelling weare; And that sweet noise, birds, winds, and waters sent, Prouokt again the virgin to lament, - WI. Her plaints were interrupted with a sound, That seem’d from thiekest bushes to proceed, Some iolly shepherd sung a lustie round, And to his voicc had tun’d his oaten reed; Thither she went, an old man there she found (At whose right hand his little flock did feed) Sat making baskets, his three sonnes among That learn'd their father's art, and learn’d his song. VII. Beholding one in shining armes appeare The seelie man and his were sore dismaid ; But sweet Erminia comforted their feare, Her ventall vp, her visage open laid, You happy folke, of heau’n beloued deare, Work on (quoth she) upon your harmless traid, These dreadfull armes I beare no warfare bring To your sweet toile, nor those sweet tunes you sing. VIII. But father, since this land, these townes and towres, Destroied are with sword, with fire and spoile, How may it be, unhurt that you and yours In safetie thus, applie your harmlesse toile * My sonne (quoth he) this pore estate of ours Is euer safe from storm of warlike broile; This wildernesse doth vs in saftie keepe, No thundering drum, no trumpet breaks our sleepe.