« 上一頁繼續 »
Letter from Italy is certainly his most successful composition; but those who compare it with Goldsmith's Traveller will be chiefly struck with the different degrees of fertility a somewhat barren subject may exhibit when treated by an ordinary versifier and a master of poetical design. The same is true of Addison's complimentary verse compared with that of Pope. Poems of this kind are seldom.very sincere ; but some of Pope's noblest lines of praise were addressed to the not very noble Earl of Oxford. Whether or no Pope really felt as he pretended, he seemed at least to write with ardour, but the style of Addison's panegyrics on King William III is as artificial as the sentiments by which they were prompted. His sole conception of poetical compliment is hyperbole. When, for instance, he wishes to excuse himself for an inadequate celebration of William's heroic prowess, he says that, as Troy had perished long before Homer appeared, so perhaps some mighty bard may lie hid in futurity to write an Iliad on the Battle of the Boyne, when that river shall have ceased to flow. If he seeks to represent the terrors of Algiers and Tunis under the British attack, he says—
'Fain from the neighbouring dangers would they run,
We see in such a conceit the evil influence of Dryden; but the large opulence of thought and the noble diction with which Dryden atoned for his extravagances are wanting in his pupil.
Yet with all Addison's deficiencies in poetical genius, his fine taste and blameless character were not without their effect on the course of our poetry. He never, like Dryden, prostituted his Muse to utterly unworthy objects; if his poetry is not free from 'courtly stains,' it is at least animated by a genuine love of freedom; and his lines on Liberty are a fine expression of the Whig spirit of the times. The Campaign was called by Warton, not unjustly, a 'gazette in rhyme'; the epic style however seems to have been considered indispensable to the subject; and allowing for this preliminary condition, Addison deserves credit for having depicted the character of his hero with some loftiness and dignity.
Addison's versification is pure though not vigorous; his treatment of the heroic couplet, in its antithesis and careful selection of epithet, marks the period of transition between the large and flowing style of Dryden and the compressed energy of Pope.
W. J. COURTHOPE
THE BLESSINGS OF LIBERTY.
[From the Letter from Italy.]
Oh Liberty, thou goddess heav'nly bright,
And makes her barren rocks and her bleak mountains
Others with tow'ring piles may please the sight
To threaten bold presumptuous kings with war,
Soon as her fleets appear their terrors cease,
MARLBOROUGH AT BLENHEIM.
[From The Campaign.]
Behold, in awful march and dread array The long extended squadrons shape their way! Death, in approaching terrible, imparts An anxious horror to the bravest hearts; Yet do their beating breasts demand the strife, And thirst of glory quells the love of life. No vulgar fears can British minds control Heat of revenge, and noble pride of soul, O'erlook the foe, advantag'd by his post, Lessen his numbers, and contract his host: Though fens and floods possess'd the middle space, That unprovok'd they would have fear'd to pass, Nor fens nor floods can stop Britannia's bands, When her proud foe rang'd on their borders stands. But O, my muse, what numbers wilt thou find To sing the furious troops in battle join'd! Methinks I hear the drum's tumultuous sound, The victor's shouts and dying groans confound, The dreadful burst of cannon rend the skies, And all the thunder of the battle rise.
'Twas then great Marlbro's mighty soul was prov'd,
Inspir'd repuls'd battalions to engage,
[WILLIAM WALSH was born at Aberley in Worcestershire, in 1663. He died in 1708. His principal works are A Defence of the Fair Sex, 1690, and Poems, 1691.]
The praise of Dryden first recommended to the public a poet who has since his death been solely immortalised by the praise of Pope. The lines of the latter, written in 1709, are familiar to most readers, but may be quoted here:
To him the wit of Greece and Rome was known,
The qualities which Pope attributes to the person of Walsh are found in his writings, which have certainly been unduly neglected. The Propertius of the Restoration, he alone among the writers of his age understood the passion of love in an honourable and chivalric sense. Dryden, however, was almost the only person who perceived the moral beauty of Walsh's verse, and certainly was alone in praising his very remarkable Defence of the Fair Sex, in which the young poet, in an age given up to selfish gallantry, recommended the honourable equality of the sexes and the views now understood as the extension of women's rights. He possessed little versatility, but much sweetness in the use of the heroic measure, and a certain delicate insight into emotion. His poem entitled 'Jealousy' cannot be quoted here; but it is by far the most powerful of his productions, and a marvellously true picture of a heart tossed in an agony of jealousy and love. In studying the