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example of great felicity of genius and uncommon amplitude of acquisitions, of a young mind stored with images, and much exercised in combining and comparing them.
With the philosophical or religious tenets of the author I have 15 nothing to do; my business is with his poetry. The subject is well chosen, as it includes all images that can strike or please, and thus comprises every species of poetical delight. The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations, and it is not easy in such exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury and satiety. The parts seem artificially disposed, with sufficient coherence, so as that they cannot change their places without injury to the general design.
His images are displayed with such luxuriance of expression 16 that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon, by a 'Veil of Light''; they are forms fantastically lost under superfluity of dress. 'Pars minima est ipsa puella sui?. The words are multiplied till the sense is hardly perceived ; attention deserts the mind and settles in the ear.
The reader wanders through the gay diffusion, sometimes amazed and sometimes delighted; but after many turnings in the flowery labyrinth comes out as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on nothing 3.
To his versification justice requires that praise should not be 17 denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps superior to any other writer of blank verse; his flow is smooth and his pauses are musical, but the concatenation of his verses * is commonly too long continued, and the full close does not recur with sufficient frequency. The sense is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated clauses, and as nothing is distinguished, nothing is remembered.
The exemption which blank verse affords from the necessity of 18 closing the sense with the couplet, betrays luxuriant and active minds into such self-indulgence that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament, and are not easily persuaded to close the sense at all. Blank verse will therefore, I fear, be too often
Ante, THOMSON, 50 n.
'Sir, I could not read it through.' OVID, Remedia Amoris, l. 344. Boswell's Johnson, ii. 164. It is the motto of The Tatler, No. Ante, YOUNG, 154. 116, one of Addison's most humorous Ante, YOUNG, 160. In Dryden's papers, entitled Court of Judicature Essay of Dramatic Poesy Crites on the Petticoat.
says :-'But verse, you say, circum3 Johnson said of the poem:- scribes a quick and luxuriant fancy,
LIVES OF POETS. 111
found in description exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in
narration tiresome. 19
His diction is certainly poetical as it is not prosaick, and elegant as it is not vulgar'. He is to be commended as having fewer artifices of disgust than most of his brethren of the blank song”. He rarely either recalls old phrases or twists his metre into harsh inversions. The sense, however, of his words is strained; when 'he views the Ganges from Alpine heights 3,' that is, from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant surely intrudes—but when was blank verse without pedantry?when he tells how
• Planets absolve the stated round of Time *.' 20 It generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended
to revise and augment this work, but died before he had completed his design. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He seems to have somewhat contracted his diffusion; but I know not whether he has gained in closeness what he has lost in splendour. In the additional book The Tale
of Solon is too long?. 21
One great defect of his poem is very properly censured by
which would extend itself too far on 'Who that from heights aerial sends every subject, did not the labour which is required to well-turned and Around a wild horizon, and surveys polished rhyme set bounds to it.' Indus or Ganges rolling his broad Neander replies :- Verse is a rule wave.'
Bk. i. I. 232. and line by which the master-work- Dante calls one of the Apennines man keeps his building compact and • l' alpestro monte.' Purgatorio, xiv. even, which otherwise lawless imagi. 32. nation would raise either irregularly *Bend the reluctant planets to abor loosely.' Works, xv. 360, 376.
solve " In the first edition :- His dic. The fated rounds of time.' tion is certainly so far poetical as it
Bk. i. l. 194. is not prosaick, and so far valuable In the revised version :as it is not common.'
'Bend the reluctant planets to move • Of Dodsley's Publick Virtue each Johnson said, “It was fine blank" Round its perpetual year.' (meaning to express his usual con
Bk. i. 1. 252. tempt for blank verse). Boswell's See Dyson's Preface to AkenJohnson, iv. 20. See also ante, side's Works, ed. 1772, Eng. Poets, MILTON, 274.
lxiii. p. 201; Dyce, p. 70. 3 «Who that from Alpine heights his Eng. Poets, lxiii. 311. labouring eye
It is in a new, but unfinished Shoots round the wide horizon, to third book. Eng. Poets, lxiii. 363. survey
He wrote also 130 lines of a fourth Nilus or Ganges rolling his bright book. There is in it a passage, II. wave.'
Bk. i. l. 177.
38-58, which must have influenced In the revised version :
Wordsworth in his Prelude.
Mr. Walker', unless it may be said in his defence that what he has omitted was not properly in his plan. His picture of man is
‘ grand and beautiful, but unfinished. The immortality of the soul, which is the natural consequence of the appetites and powers she is invested with, is scarcely once hinted throughout the poem”. This deficiency is amply supplied by the masterly pencil of Dr. Young, who, like a good philosopher, has invincibly proved the immortality of man, from the grandeur of his conceptions and the meanness and misery of his state; for this reason a few passages are selected from the Night Thoughts, which, with those from Akenside, seem to form a complete view of the powers, situation, and end of man.' Exercises for Improvement in Elocution, p. 66 (p. 67).
p p His other poems are now to be considered; but a short con-22 sideration will dispatch them. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself so diligently to lyrick poetry, having neither the ease and airiness of the lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode. When he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp his former powers seem to desert him: he has no longer his luxuriance of expression nor variety of images. His thoughts are cold and his words inelegant. Yet such was his love of lyricks that, having written with great vigour and poignancy his Epistle to Curio, he transformed it afterwards into an ode disgraceful only to its author 3.
Of his odes nothing favourable can be said: the sentiments 23 commonly want force, nature, or novelty; the diction is sometimes harsh and uncouth, the stanzas ill-constructed and unpleasant, and the rhymes dissonant or unskilfully disposed, too
Boswell, who calls him 'the cele- Eng. Poets, lxiv. 29, 151. Smolbrated master of elocution,' met him lett says of the physician in Peregrine at Johnson's house. Boswell's John- Pickle (ch. 43):– He was strangely son, iv. 206.
possessed with the opinion that he The whole of this paragraph first himself was inspired by the soul of appears in the 1783 edition.
Pindar.' · Mr. Dyce (p. 79) points to pas- Macaulay says of the Epistle :sages in the first edition which perhaps “If Akenside had left lyric composihint at it, and to the following lines in tion to Gray and Collins, and had the revised edition (Bk. i. 1. 489) :- employed his powers in grave and 'Led by that hope sublime, whose elevated satire, he might have discloudless eye,
puted the pre-eminence of Dryden.' Through the fair toils and orna- Essays, ii. 133. This praise is extraments of earth,
vagant. Discerns the nobler life reserv'd for Heaven,' &c.
distant from each other or arranged with too little regard to established use, and therefore perplexing to the ear, which in a short composition has not time to grow familiar with an inno
vation ! 24 To examine such compositions singly cannot be required; they
have doubtless brighter and darker parts: but when they are once found to be generally dull all further labour may be spared, for to what use can the work be criticised that will not be read '?
16. iii. 32.
· Post, GRAY, 42.
'Jostle in the dark’ is in Act iv. JOHNSON. I see they have pub- sc. i of Oedipus, written by Lee (ante, lished a splendid edition of Aken- DRYDEN, 81): side's works. One bad ode may be ' Through all the inmost chambers of suffered; but a number of them
the sky together makes one sick.' Boswell's May there not be a glimpse, one Johnson, ii. 164. He [Johnson) "[
starry spark, now gave it as his opinion that But gods meet gods, and jostle in “Akenside was a superior poet both the dark.' to Gray and Mason.”
Dryden's Works, vi. 219. Horace Walpole, on March 29, Gray wrote on March 8, 1758, of 1745, after speaking of the most Dodsley's Coll.: -'The two last absurd lines in Lee,' continues :- volumes are worse than the four • There is another of these tame first; particularly Dr. Akenside is genius's, a Mr. Akenside, who writes in a deplorable way.' Mason's Gray, Odes; in one he says, “Light the ii. 139. In vol. vi. pp. 15, 25, are tapers, urge the fire."
two of his Odes. He was one year not rather make gods "jostle in the earlier than Collins, and two than dark” than light the candles for fear Gray, in publishing Odes. 'He was they should break their heads ?' not a good reader of his own verse.' Letters, i. 347. The lines are :- Dyce, p. 53. For bad readers among Haste, light the tapers, urge the fire, the poets see ante, SWIFT, 119 n. And bid the joyless day retire.'
The motto to Wordsworth's YarHymn to Cheerfulness, Eng. Poets, row Revisited and Other Poems, Ixiv. 18.
1835, is from Akenside's Pleasures He has the same strange use of of the Imagination, iv. 102. urge in his Ode on the Winter Poets ... dwell on earth Solstice :
To clothe whate'er the soul admires 'Urge the warm bowl and splendid and (or) loves fire.'
With language and with numbers.'
1b. p. 9.
HOMAS GRAY, the son of Mr. Philip Gray, a scrivenerof 1
London, was born in Cornhill ?, November 26, 17164. His grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then assistant to Dr. George, and when he left school, in 1734, entered a pensioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge.
The transition from the school to the college is, to most young 2 scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have been very little delighted with academical gratifications: he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived sullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profess the Common Law he took no degree?
* Boswell, speaking of this Life, his mother both at school and college. mentions 'the clamour which has She and her sister ‘kept a kind of been raised, as if Johnson had been India warehouse on Cornhill, under culpably injurious to the merit of that the name of Gray and Antrobus.' bard, and had been actuated by envy.' Gray's Works, with Life by Mason, Boswell's Johnson, i. 404. See also 1807, i. 278; Gray's Works, ed. Mitib. iv. 64.
ford, 1835-43, i. Preface, p. 96. Walpole wrote on Jan. 27, 1781:- • It was not the case with Johnson's Johnson's Life [of Gray), or rather
young scholar. criticism on his Odes, is come out; a When first the College rolls receive most wretched, dull, tasteless, verbal
bis name criticism-yet timid too.' Letters, The
enthusiast quits his ease
for fame.' Ante, MILTON, 4.
The Vanity of Human Wishes, l. 135. 3 The house, with eighty more, was ? He wrote in Dec. 1736:- - You burnt down on March 25, 1748. Gent. must know that I do not take degrees, Mag. 1748, pp. 138, 149, 392; Gray's and, after this term, shall have nothing Letters, ed. D. C. Tovey, i. 175. It more of College impertinences to was on the south side of Cornbill
, being undergo. . Surely it was of this the second house west of St. Michael's place, now Cambridge, but formerly Alley.' N. E Q. 6 S. X. 256.
known by the name of Babylon, that On Dec. 26. On Dec. 27, 1746, the prophet spoke.' He goes on to he wrote to Wharton :-'I was 30 quote Isaiah xiii. 21, xxxii. 14, xxxiv. years old yesterday. What is it 14, 15. Letters, i. 3. o'clock by you?' Gray's Letters, i. In his Hymn to Ignorance, speak154.
ing of Cambridge, he writes: 5 His father was a cruel brute. The Glad I revisit thy neglected reign.' son was almost entirely supported by