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A conquest how hard and how glorious!
With Styx nine times round her,
But soon, too soon, the lover turns his eyes:
No crime was thine, if 'tis no crime to love.
Now under hanging mountains,
Beside the falls of fountains,
Or where Hebrus wanders,
Rolling in meanders,
For ever, ever, ever lost!
He trembles, he glows,
Amidst Rhodope's snows:
See, wild as the winds, o'er the desert he flies;
Hark! Hamus resounds with the Bacchanals' cries
Ah see, he dies!
Ver. 97.] These scenes, in which Orpheus is introduced as making his lamentations, are not so wild, so savage, and dismal, as those mentioned by Virgil; and convey not such images of desolation and deep despair, as the caverns on the banks of Strymon and Tanais, the Hyperborean deserts, and the Riphæan solitudes. And to say of Hebrus, only, that it rolls in meanders, is flat and feeble, and does not heighten the melancholy of the place. He that would have a complete idea of Orpheus's anguish and situation, must look at the exquisite figure of him (now in the possession of Sir Watkin Williams Wynne) painted by Mr. Dance, a work that does honour to the true genius of the artist, and to the age in which it was produced.-Warton.
Ver. 112.] The death is expressed with a brevity and abruptness suitable to the nature of the ode. Instead of he sung, Virgil says, vocabat,
Yet ev'n in death Eurydice he sung,
Eurydice the woods,
Eurydice the floods,
Eurydice the rocks, and hollow mountains rung.
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
And fate's severest rage disarm :
Music can soften pain to ease,
And make despair and madness please:
And antedate the bliss above.
This the divine Cecilia found,
And to her Maker's praise confin'd the sound.
Th' immortal pow'rs incline their ear; Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire, While solemn airs improve the sacred fire;
And Angels lean from heav'n to hear. Of Orpheus now no more let Poets tell, To bright Cecilia greater pow'r is giv'n;
which is more natural and tender, and adds a moving epithet, that he called miseram Eurydicen. The repetition of Eurydice in two very short lines hurts the ear, which Virgil escaped by interposing several other words; and the name itself happens not to be harmonious enough to suffer such repetition.-Warton.
Ver. 131.] It is observable that this ode, as well as that of Dryden, concludes with an epigram of four lines; a species of witty writing as flagrantly unsuitable to the dignity, and as foreign to the nature of the lyric, as it is of the epic muse.
Mr. St. John, afterwards Lord Bolingbroke, happening to pay a morning visit to Dryden, whom he always respected, found him in an unusual agitation of spirits, even to a trembling. On inquiring the cause, "I have been up all night (replied the old bard), my musical friends made me promise to write them an ode for their feast of St. Cecilia; I have been so struck with the subject which occurred to me, that I could not leave it till I had completed it here it is, finished at one sitting." And immediately he showed him this Ode; which places the British lyrie poetry above that of any other nation. This anecdote, as true as it is curious, was imparted by Lord Bolingbroke to Pope, by Pope to Mr. Gilbert
His numbers rais'd a shade from hell,
Hers lift the soul to heav'n.
West, by him to my ingenious friend Mr. Berenger, who communicated it to me. The rapidity, and yet the perspicuity of the thoughts, the glow and the expressiveness of the images, those certain marks of the first sketch of a master, conspire to corroborate the fact. It is not to be understood, that this piece was not afterwards reconsidered, retouched, and corrected.-Warton.
TO THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS'.
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
YE shades, where sacred truth is sought;
In vain your guiltless laurels stood
War, horrid war, your thoughtful Walks invades,
And steel now glitters in the Muses' shades.
Oh heav'n-born sisters! source of art!
Who charm the sense, or mend the heart;
Moral Truth, and mystic Song!
To what new clime, what distant sky,
Say, will ye bless the bleak Atlantic shore?
1 Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Choruses were composed, to supply as many wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward, by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckingham-house.-P.
Ver. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir'd,-And Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the old Academy; and Cassius, the other, was an Epicurean.-Warburton.
I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy.-Warton.
Ver. 12. Moral Truth, and mystic Song !] The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? as Hesiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either con
When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
And civil madness tears them from the land.
Ye Gods! what justice rules the ball?
In ev'ry age, in ev'ry state!
Still, when the lust of tyrant pow'r succeeds,
struction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Mystic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.-Warton.
Ver. 26. Freedom and Arts] A sentiment worthy of Alcæus! Throughout all his works our author constantly shows himself a true lover of true liberty.-Warton.
Ver. 32. Some Athens]
When brutal force
Usurps the throne of justice, turns the pomp
To poor, dishonest pageants!
Pleasures of Imagination, B. ii. This ode is of the kind which M. D'Alembert, judging like a mathematician, prefers to odes that abound with imagery and figures, namely, what he calls the Didactic ode; and then proceeds to give reasons for preferring Horace to Pindar, as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetics opposes him.-Warton.