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and told him that he did not understand his own verses.
The biographer of Thomfon has remarked, that an author's life is best read in his works his obfervation was not well-timed. Savage, who lived much with Thomson, once told me, how he heard a lady remarking that she could gather from his works three parts of his character, that he was a great Lover, a great Swimmer, and rigorously abftinent; but, faid Savage, he knows not any love but that of the sex; he was perhaps never in cold water in his life; and he indulges himself in all the luxury that comes within his reach: Yet Savage always fpoke with the most eager praise of his focial qualities, his warmth and conftancy of friendship, and his adherence to his first acquaintance when the advancement of his reputation had left them behind him.
As a writer, he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind: his mode of thinking, and of expreffing his thoughts, is original. His blank verfe is no more the blank verfe of Mil
ton, or of any other poet, than the rhymes
of Prior are the rhymes of Cowley. His
numbers, his paufes, his diction, are of his own growth, without tranfcription, without imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a man of genius; he looks round on Nature and on Life, with the eye which Nature bestows only on a poet; the eye that diftinguifhes, in every thing presented to its view, whatever there is on which imagination can delight to be detained, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vaft, and attends to the minute. The reader of the Seafons wonders that he never faw before what Thomson fhews him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impreffes.
His is one of the works in which blank verfe feems properly ufed; Thomfon's wide expansion of general views, and his enumeration of circumftantial varieties, would have been obftructed and embarraffed by the frequent interfection of the fenfe, which are the neceffary effects of rhyme.
His defcriptions of extended scenes and general effects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature, whether pleafing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the fplendour
dour of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take in their turns poffeffion of the mind. The poet leads us through the appearances of things as they are fucceffively varied by the viciffitudes of the year, and imparts to us fo much of his own enthusiasm, that our thoughts expand with his imagery, and kindle with his fentiments. Nor is the naturalift without his part in the entertainment; for he is affifted to recollect and to combine, to arrange his discoveries, and to amplify the sphere of his contemplation.
The great defect of the Seasons is want of method; but for this I know not that there was any remedy. Of many appearances fubfifting all at once, no rule can be given why one fhould be mentioned before another; yet the memory wants the help of order, and the curiofity is not excited by fufpenfe or expectation.
His diction is in the highest degree florid and luxuriant, fuch as may be faid to be to his images and thoughts both their luftre and their fhade; fuch as inveft them with fplen
dour, through which perhaps they are not always easily discerned. It is too exuberant, and fometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than the mind.
These Poems, with which I was acquainted at their first appearance, I have fince found altered and enlarged by fubfequent revisals, as the author fuppofed his judgement to grow more exact, and as books or converfation extended his knowledge and opened his profpects. They are, I think, improved in general; yet I know not whether they have not loft part of what Temple calls their race; a word which, applied to wines, in its primitive fenfe, means the flavour of the foil.
Liberty, when it first appeared, I tried to read, and foon defifted. I have never tried again, and therefore will not hazard either praise or cenfure.
The highest praife which he has received ought not to be fuppreft; it is faid by Lord Lyttelton in the Prologue to his pofthumous play, that his works contained
No line which, dying, he could wish to blot.
HE Poems of Dr. WATTS were by my recommendation inferted in the late Collection; the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleasure or weariness they may find in the perufal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden.
ISAAC WATTS was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of the fame name, kept a boarding-school for young gentlemen, though common report makes him a shoemaker. He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.