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Quintilian, whofe knowledge of human nature was confummate, has obferved, that nothing quite correct and faultlefs is to be expected in very early years, from a truly elevated genius that a generous extravagance and exuberance, are its proper marks, and that a premature exactnefs is a certain evidence of future flatness and fterility. His words are incomparable, and worthy confideration. "Audeat hæc ætas plura, et inveniat, et inventis gaudeat, fint licet illa non fatis interim ficça, et fevera. Facile remedium eft ubertatis, fterilia nullo labore vincuntur. Illa mihi in pueris natura nimium fpei dabit, in quâ ingenium judicio præfumitur.Materiam effe primum volo vel abundantiorem, atque ultra quam oportet fufam. Multum inde decoquant anni, multum ratio limabit, aliquid velut ufu ipfo deteretur, fit modo unde excidi poffit et quod exculpi :—erit autem, fi non ab initio tenuem laminam duxerimus, et quam cælatura altior rumpat.-Quare mihi ne maturitas quidem ipfa feftinet, nec mufta in lacu ftatim auftera fint; fic et annos ferent, et vetuftate proficient." This is very ftrong and masculine fenfe, expreffed and enlivened by a train of metaphors, all of them elegant, and well preserved. Whether thefe early productions of Pope, would not have appeared to Quintilian to be rather too finished, correct, and pure, and what he would have inferred concerning them, is too delicate a subject for me to enlarge upon. Let me rather add an entertaining anecdote. When Guido and Dominichino had each of them painted a picture in the church of Saint Andrew, Annibal Carrache, their mafter, was preffed to declare which of his two pupils had excelled. The picture of Guido represented Saint Andrew on his knees before the crofs; that of Dominichino reprefented the flagellation of the fame Apoftle. Both of them in their different kinds were capital pieces, and were painted in fresco, oppofite each other, to eternize, as it were, their rivalship and contention. "Guido (faid Carrache) has performed as a master, and Dominichino as a scholar. But (added he) the work of the scholar is more valuable than that of the mafter. In truth, one may perceive faults in the picture of Dominichino that Guido has avoided, but then there are noble strokes, not to be found in that of his rival." It was eafy to difcern a genius that promised to produce beauties, to which the fweet, the gentle, and the graceful Guido would never aspire.
The first sketches of fuch an artist ought highly to be prized. -Different geniufes unfold themselves at different periods of life.
In fome minds the ore is a long time in ripening. Not only inclination, but opportunity and encouragement, a proper fubject, or a proper patron, influence the exertion or the fuppreffion of genius. These ftanzas on Solitude are a strong inftance of that contemplation and moral turn, which was the distinguishing charac. teristic of our Poet's mind. An ode of Cowley, which he produced at the age of thirteen years, is of the same cast, and perhaps not in the least inferior to this of Pope. The voluminous Lopez de Vega is commonly, but perhaps incredibly, reported by the Spaniards to have compofed verses when he was five years old; and Torquato Taffo, the fecond or third of the Italian poets, for that wonderful original Dante is the firft, is faid to have recited poems and orations of his own writing, when he was feven. It is however certain, which is more extraordinary, that he produced his Rinaldo in his eighteenth year, no bad precurfor to the Gerufalemma Liberata, and no fmall effort of that genius, which was in due time to fhew, how fine an epic poem the Italian language, notwithstanding the vulgar imputation of effeminacy, was capable of supporting. WARTON.
It may not be uninterefting to compare the fucceffion of Pope's productions, with the progrefs of his mind and character. In this his earliest effufion, all is rural quiet, innocence, content, &c. We next fee, in his Paftorals, the "Golden Age" of happiness, while the
"SHEPHERD LAD leads forth his flock,
His next step, Windfor Foreft, exhibits the fame rural turn, but with views more diverfified and extended, and approaching more to the real history and concerns of life. The warm paffions of youth fucceed; and we are interested in the fate of the tender Sappho, or the ardent and unfortunate Eloife. As the world opens, local manners are difplayed. In the Rape of the Lock, we see the first playful effort of Satire, without ill-nature, at once gay, elegant, and delightful:
"Belinda fmiles, and all the world is gay."
The man of feverer thought now appears, in the Effay on Man. The fame vein fhews itself in the Moral Effays; but the investigation is directed to individual failings, and mingled with fpleen and anger. In the later Satires, we witness the language of acrimony and bitterness. The Dunciad clofes the profpect, and we there behold the aged Bard amid a fwarm of enemies, who began his career, all innocence, happiness, and smiles.
THE DYING CHRISTIAN TO HIS SOUL*.
Hark! they whifper; Angels fay,
The world recedes; it difappears!
This ode was written in imitation of the famous fonnet of Hadrian to his departing foul; but as much fuperior in fenfe and fublimity to its original, as the Chriftian religion is to the Pagan.
With founds Teraphic ring:
Lend, lend your wings! I mount! I fly!
O Death! where is thy Sting?
THIS Ode was written, we find, at the defire of Steele; and our Poet, in a letter to him on that occafion, fays," You have it, as Cowley calls it, just warm from the brain; it came to me the first moment I waked this morning; yet you'll fee, it was not so abfolutely inspiration, but that I had in my head, not only the verfes of Hadrian, but the fine fragment of Sappho."
It is poffible, however, that our Author might have had another compofition in his head, befides thofe he here refers to : for there is a close and surprising refemblance between this ode of Pope, and one of an obfcure and forgotten rhymer of the age of Charles the Second, namely Thomas Flatman; from whofe dunghill, as well as from the dregs of Crafhaw, of Carew, of Herbert, and others (for it is well known he was a great reader of all those poets), Pope has very judicioufly collected gold. And the following ftanza is, perhaps, the only valuable one Flatman has produced:
When on my fick bed I languifh;
The third and fourth lines are eminently good and pathetic, and the climax well preferved, the very turn of them is clofely copied by Pope; as is likewife the ftriking circumftance of the dying man's imagining he hears a voice calling him away:
Vital spark of heav'nly flame
Prior also tranflated this little Ode, but with manifeft inferiority to Pope. Pope was certainly indebted to Flatman. The plagiarism is palpable. Dr. Warton speaks with too much contempt of Crafhawe, Herbert, &c. Some of Crafhawe's ftrains are of a "higher mood ;" and who can deny great merit to, the author of that natural and pleafing effufion, of which Mr. Ellis, in his valuable specimens of English Poetry, has felected,
"I made a Pofy, as the day went by."
Herbert was Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and afterwards Rector of Bemerton, near Salisbury.