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tion which has breathed a soul into the painting, and placed it in warm and strenuous animation before our eyes. On the topic of this superior composition, we may further remark the deep knowledge which it discovers; and may point admiration to the masterly hand with which the poet has thrown the rich mantle of his fancy over the curious erudition of the scholar. Besides these two little poems,
which have been selected only as instances of the progress of our author's English Muse, he produced some other small pieces of poetry in his native language, which are all distinguished by -beauties and faults and discover strong power with an unformed taste. When, in the verses written“ At a solemn Music,” we read the following lines, where, speaking of the wedded sounds of the harmonious sisters, Voice and Verse, the young poet says that they are
Dead things with inbreathed sense able to pierce,
To Him that sits thereon,
we acknowledge some touches prelusive to the Paradise Lost; and the following passage of the “ Vacation Exercise,” in which he personifies and addresses his native language, may be regarded as intimating a faint and doubtful promise of that divine poem:
Yet I would rather, if I were to choose,
But whatever einanations of genius may throw a light over his English poems, composed at this early stage of his life, there is much in all these pieces to be regretted and pardoned by the correct and classical reader. To his Latin poems however, of the same date, no such observation is in any degree applicable. Immediately conversant with the great masters of composition, he adopts their taste with their language; and, with the privilege as with the ease of a native, assumes his station in their ranks. For fluency and sweetness of numbers, for command and purity of expression, for variety and correctness of imagery, we shall look in vain for his equal among the Latin poets of his age
and his country. May, the continuator and imitator of Lucan; and Cowley,' whose taste and thought are English and metaphysical while his verse walks upon Roman feet, will never, as I am confident, be placed in competition with our author by any adequate and unprejudiced judge. I speak with more direct reference to his elegies, which were all written in that interval of his life immediately under our review, and which, evidently composed with the most entire affection, are executed on the whole with the most complete success. He was particularly fond in his youth, as he tells us himself, of " the smooth elegiac poets, whom, both for the pleasing sound of their numerous writing, which in imitation he found most easy and most agreeable to nature's part in him; and for their matter, which what it is there be few who know not, he was so allured to read, that no recreation came to him better welcome.”m
But of the elegiac writers Ovid seems to have been his favourite and his model. We may sometimes discover Tibullus in his
| That Cowley was capable of writing Latin poetry with classical purity would be attested by his beautiful epitaph on himself, if even this short composition were not injured by the įptrusion of one line of Cowleian quaintness and conceit.
“ Nam vita gaudet mortua floribus."
Apol, for Smect. P.W. 1. 223.
pages, but Ovid is diffused over them. He will not however suffer his respect for the Roman models, as Mr. Warton has justly remarked, to oppress his powers or to deprive him of his own distinct and original character. He wields their language with the most perfect mastery, and, without wishing, like Cowley, to compel it to any unclassical service, employs it as an obedient instrument.
Of these poems, which are of great though various merit, the fifth, written in the author's twentieth year on the return of spring, and the sixth, addressed in his twenty-first year to his friend Deodati, seem to be entitled to the praise of superior excellence. In these elegies there appears to be a more masterly arrangement and a greater variety of poetic imagery and allusion than in their fellows: though the fourth, written in his eighteenth year to his former preceptor Young; and the seventh, in which the poet, at the age of nineteen, describes with tenderness and sensibility the transient effects of love upon his bosom, must be admitted to very high and distinguished praise. The object, as it may be proper to mention, of the love, which he has thus commemorated, was a lady whom he accidentally saw in one of the public walks near the metropolis
and of whom, on her sudden disappearance among the crowd, he could never obtain any further intelligence.
A critical eye may sometimes detect in these compositions an expression which an Augustan writer would not perhaps acknowledge as authentic; and a reader of taste may sometimes wish for more compression in the style, and may be sorry that the youthful poet did not occasionally follow some model of more nerve than the diffuse and languid Ovid. On the whole however these productions must be regarded as possessing rare and pre-eminent merit. To England indeed they are peculiarly interesting, as they were the first pieces which extended her fame for Latin poetry to the continent; and as they evince the various power of her illustrious bard by showing that he, who subsequently approved himself to be her Æschylus and her Homer, could once flow in the soft numbers and breathe the tender sentiments of Ovid and Tibullus.
The only prose compositions of this date, which we possess of our author's, are some of his college and University exercises, under the title of “ Prolusiones oratoriæ," and five of his familiar letters; four of them in Latin to his old preceptors, Young and Gill,