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The mention of places remarkably romantic, the fuppofed habitations of Druids, Bards, and Wizards, is far more pleafing to the imagination, than the obvious introduction of Cam and Ifis, as feats of the Muses.
Upon the whole, the principal merit of these Paftorals confifts in their mufical and correct verfification; musical, to a degree of which rhyme could hardly be thought capable; and in giving the trueft fpecimen of that harmony in English verfe, which is now become indifpenfably neceffary; and which has fo forcibly and univerfally influenced the public ear, as to have obliged every moderate rhymer to be at least melodious. WARTON.
These observations are very juft, but Dr. Warton does not seem fufficiently to discriminate between the foftnefs of individual lines, which is the chief merit of thefe Paftorals, and the general harmony of poetic numbers. Let it, however, be always remembered, that Pope gave the firft idea of mellifluence, and produced a fofter and fweeter cadence than before belonged to the English couplet. Dr. Johnson thinks it will be in vain, after Pope, to endeavour to improve the English verfification; and that it is now carried to the ne plus ultra of excellence. This is an opinion, the validity of which I must be permitted to doubt.
Pope certainly gave a more correct and finished tone to the English verfification, but he sometimes wanted a variety of pause, and his nice precition of every line, prevented, in a few inftances, a more mufical flow of modulated passages. But we are to confider what he did, not, what might be done, and surely there cannot be two opinions, refpecting his improvement of the couplet, though it does not follow that his general rythm has no imperfection. Sandys, in his verfion of the Pfalms, feems to have attended more than I believe is generally imagined, to the effect of musical har monies in the couplet. Let me not however be misunderstood, as if invariably recommending breaks :-far from it - much lefs, running one line into the other from carelessness, (not from attention to melody,) which is fometimes the fault of Dryden himself. If, in particular paffages, I have ventured to remark, that Pope has introduced falfe thoughts and conceits, let us remember that we ought not fo much to wonder that he admitted any, as that they were not more. Dryden's earlier poems are infinitely more vitiated in this refpect.
IN reading feveral paffages of the Prophet Ifaiah, which foretel the coming of Christ and the felicities attending it, I could not but obferve a remarkable parity between many of the thoughts, and those in the Pollio of Virgil. This will not seem surprising, when we reflect, that the Eclogue was taken from a Sibylline prophecy on the fame fubject. One may judge that Virgil did not copy it line by line, but felected fuch ideas as beft agreed with the nature of pastoral poetry, and difpofed them in that manner which ferved most to beautify his piece. I have endeavoured the fame in this imitation of him, though without admitting any thing of my own; fince it was written with this particular view, that the reader, by comparing the feveral thoughts, might fee how far the images and descriptions of the Prophet are fuperior to thofe of the Poet. But as I fear I have prejudiced them by my management, I fhall fubjoin the paffages of Isaiah, and those of Virgil, under the fame disadvantage of a literal tranflation*. POPE.
* As Pope made ufe of the old tranflation of Ifaiah in the paffages which he fubjoined, it was thought proper to use the fame, and not have recourse to the more accurate and more ani. mated verfion of Bishop Lowth.