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I grant that from some mofly idol oak,
The oak, as I think Gildon has observed, belonged to the British Druids, and Thor and Woden were Saxon deities. Of the double rhymes, which he so liberally supposes, he certainly had no knowledge.
His interpofition of a long paragraph of blank verses is unwarrantably licentious. Latin poets might as well have introduced a series of iambicks among their heroicks.
His next work is the translation of the Art of Poetry; which has received, in my opinion, not less praise than it deserves. Blank verse, left merely to its numbers, has little operation either on the ear or mind : it can hardly support itself without bold figures and striking images. A poem frigidly didactick, without rhyme, is so near to prose, that the reader only scorns it for pretending to be verse.
Having disentangled himself from the difficulties of rhyme, he may justly be expected to give the sense of Horace with great exactness, and to suppress no subtilty of sentiment for the difficulty of expreffing it. This demand, however, his translation will not satisfy; what he found obscure, I do not know that he has ever cleared.
Among his smaller works, the Eclogue of Virgil - and the Dies Ira are well translated; though the best
line in the Dre's Iræ is borrowed from Dryden. In return, succeeding poets have borrowed from Rofcommon.
In the verses on the Lap-dog, the pronouns thou and you are offensively confounded; and the turn at the end is from Waller.
His versions of the two odes of Horace are made with great liberty, which is not recompensed by much elegance or vigour.
His political verses are sprightly, and when they 'were written must have been very popular.
Of the scene of Guarini, and the prologue of Pompey, Mrs. Philips, in her letters to Sir Charles Cotterel, has given the history.
“ Lord Roscommon,” says she, “ is certainly one “ of the most promising young noblemen in Ireland. “ He has paraphrased a Psalm admirably; and a “ scene of Pastor Fido very finely, in some places “ much better than Sir Richard Fanshaw. This was " undertaken merely in compliment to me, who “ happened to say that it was the best scene in “ Italian, and the worst in English. He was only 66 two hours about it. It begins thus :
“ Dear happy groves, and you the dark retreat
From these lines, which are since somewhat mended, it appears that he did not think a work of two hours fit to endure the eye of criticism without revifal.
When Mrs. Philips was in Ireland, some ladies that had seen her translation of Pompey resolved to bring it on the stage at Dublin; and, to promote their design, Lord Roscommon gave them a prologue, and Sir Edward Dering an epilogue ; " which,” says The, 6 are the best performances of those kinds I “ ever saw.” If this is not criticism, it is at least gratitude. The thought of bringing Cæsar and Pompey into Ireland, the only country over which Cæfar never had any power, is lucky.
Of Roscommon's works the judgement of the publick seems to be right. He is elegant, but not great; he never labours after exquisite beauties, and he feldom falls into gross faults. His verfification is smooth, but rarely vigorous; and his rhymes are remarkably exact. He improved taste, if he did not enlarge knowledge, and may be numbered among the benefactors to English literature,
OF THOMAS OTWAY, one of the first names in the English drama, little is known; nor is there any part of that little which his biographer can take pleasure in relating.
He was born at Trottin in Suffex, March 3, 1651. the son of Mr. Humphry Otway, rector of Woolbeding. From Winchester-school, where he was educated, he was entered, in 1669, a commoner of Christ-church; but left the university without a degree, whether for want of money, or from impatience of academical re- d straint, or mere eagerness to mingle with the world, is not known.
It seems likely that he was in hope of being busy and conspicuous; for he went to London, and commenced player; but found himself unable to gain any reputation on the stage *.
* In Roscius Anglicanus, by Downes the prompter, p. 34, we learn, that it was the character of the King in Mrs. Behn's Forced Marriage, or The Jealous Bridegroom, which Mr. Otway attempted to perform, and failed in. This event appears to have happened in the year 1672. R.
This kind of inability he shared with Shakspeare and Jonson, as he shared likewise some of their excellences. It seems reasonable to expect that a great dramatick poet should without difficulty become a great actor; that he who can feel, could express; that he who can excite passion, should exhibit with great readiness its external modes: but fince experience has fully proved, that of those powers, whatever be their affinity, one may be poffessed in a great degree by him who has very little of the other; it must be allowed that they depend upon different faculties, or on different use of the same faculty; that the actor must have a pliancy of mien, a fexibility of countenance, and a variety of tones, which the poet may be easily supposed to want; or that the attention of the poet and the player have been differently employed; the one has been considering thought, and the other action; one has watched the heart, and the other contemplated the face.
Though he could not gain much notice as a player, he felt in himself such powers as might qualify for a dramatick author; and, in 1675, his twenty-fifth year, produced Alcibiades, a tragedy; whether from the Alcibiade of Palaprat, I have not means to enquire. Langbaine, the great detector of plagiarism, is filent.
In 1677 he published Titus and Berenice, translated from Rapin, with the Cheats of Scapin, from Moliere; and in 1678 Friendship in Fashion, a comedy, which, whatever might be its first reception, was, upon its revival at Drury lane in 1749, hiffed off the Stage for immorality and obscenity.