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a friend ; in turning a song, and in complimenting a lady ; in pointing an epigram, and in telling a lewd tale; in these branches of literary art, the Birmingham trade of verse, they have rarely been surpassed. Whatever praise may be given to them as versifiers, as wits, as reasoners, they may deserve; but versification, and wit, and, reason, do not constitute poetry. The time which elapsed from the days of Dryden to those of Pope, is the dark age of
XI. To Dryden and Pope the honour of having perfected our versification is commonly attributed; it is true only with respect to the çouplet, the best example of which is assuredly to be found in Dryden, from whom it has been handed down to us as the prescriptive form of metre for all long poems, whatever be their tone or temper. He wrote it with less negligence than his predecessors, and with more vigour than his followers; more variously than the latter, more melodiously than the former. For improving this measure, too much has been uscribed to Waller, and not enough w Prior. From Pror, Pope adopted some of the most conspicuous artifices of his verse.
Plus la poësie est devenuë difficile, plus elle est belle, is the saying of Voltaire; and since the days of Boileau, who communicated to Racine that notable receipt of making the second line of a couplet first, it has been the fundamental article of critical belief in France, Pope was completely a Frenchman in his taste; he imported l'art de parler toujours convenablement, the etiquette and bienséance, the court language and full-dress costume of verse. However, that there is any difficulty in all this, experience has sufficiently disproved. What Lord Holland has so well said of Lope de Vega, may be applied with the same strict propriety to Pope. • The beneficial influence of his works on the taste and literature of the nation may be questioned. —He so familiarized his countrymen with the mechanism of verse; be supplied them with such a store of commonplace images and epithets; he coined such a variety of convenient expressions, that the very facility of versification seems to have prevented the effusions of genius, and the redundancy of poetical phrases to have superseded all originality of language.'
Pope, though he imitated Boileau, is, in fact, as much superiour to him, as the English language is, in the opinion of an Englishman, superiour to the French. There is in him a bottom of sound sense, not to be found amid all the wit of his master. He is the first of his kind; but to class him with great Poets, to say that he is a writer of the same kind as Milton and Shakspeare,—is as absurd as it would be to class the Æneid with the Propria quæ maribus ; verse is common to them, and verse is all which they have in common.
XIII. The Anglo-Gallican School, which Pope had perfected, died with him. The tune, indeed, which he set, every poetizer, whether man, woman, or child, has been singing ever since; and we are still referred to him as the perfect Poet, by those who hold that poetry is an acquirable art.--the materialists of fine literature; but not one writer since his days, who has acquired the slightest popularity, has been formed upon this school. Even in his own days the Reformation began. Thomson recalled the nation to the study of nature, which, since Milton, had been utterly neglected. Young's manner is unique; a compound of wit and religious madness; but that madness is the madness of a man of genius. Glover imitated the Greeks; Gilbert West began a school half Greek, half Gothick, wbich was followed by Mason, Gray, and Warton, and is to be traced in Akenside and Collins.
Meantime the growing taste for Shakspeare gradually brought our old writers into notice. Warton aided in this good work, which was forwarded more effectually by the publication of the Relignes of Ancient Poetry, the great literary epocha of the present reign, which will prove to English poetry, what the discovery of the Pandects did to jurisprudence. Of my contemporaries I am not required to speak; they do not fall within the limits of this series; there are many among them of whom it would have given me pleasure to speak in praise, and this I say, that' silence may not be interpreted as implying censure.
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF POETS,
WHOSE WORKS EXTRACTS HAVE BEEN
GIVEN IN THESE VOLUMES.
Asin many instances it has not been possible to ascertain the precise year of an author's birth or death, the reader is requested to observe, that when the word about precedes the date, it must be understood to be correct within two or three years; where a mark of interrogation is annexed, the date is only offered as an approximation deduced from the author's earliest compositions.
1 Thomas, Otway