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Ev'n copious Dryden wanted or forgot, 280 The last and greatest art, the art to blot.
Some doubt, if equal pains or equal fire The humble Muse of comedy require : But in known images of life, I guess The labor greater, as the indulgence less. 285 Observe how seldom ev'n the best succeed : Tell me if Congreve's fools are fools indeed. What pert, low dialogue has Farquhar writ! How Van wants grace, who never wanted wit! The stage how loosely does Astrea tread, 290 Who fairly puts all characters to bed ! And idle Cibber, how he breaks the laws, To make poor Pinky eat with vast applause ! But fill their purse, our poets' work is done, Alike to them by pathos or by pun.
295 0, you ! whom vanity's light bark conveys On fame's mad voyage, by the wind of praise, With what a shifting gale your course you
There still remains, to mortify a wit,
287 Congreve. He alludes to the characters of Brisk and Witwood.
200 Astrea. A name taken by Mrs. Behn, authoress of several gross plays, &c.
Clattering their sticks before ten lines are spoke,
313 From heads to ears, and now from ears to eyes. The course of theatrical degeneracy, as Warburton says, 'from plays to operas, and from operas to pantomimes.
319 Old Edward's armor beams on Cibber's breast. The coronation of Henry VIII. and queen Anne Boleyn, in which the playhouses vied with each other to represent all the pomp of a coronation. In this noble contention the armor of one of the kings of England was borrowed from the Tower to dress the champion.-Pope.
328 Orcas' stormy steep. The farthest northern promontory of Scotland, ite to the Orcades.-Pope.
Or when from court a birth-day suit bestow'd Sinks the lost actor in the tawdry load. Booth enters: hark! the universal peal! • But has he spoken ?'- Not a syllable.' 335 • What shook the stage, and made the people
stare ?'• Cato's long wig, flower'd gown, and lacker'd
chair.' Yet, lest you think I rally more than teach, Or praise malignly arts I cannot reach; Let me for once presume to instruct the times 340 To know the poet from the man of rhymes : 'Tis he, who gives my breast a thousand pains ; Can make me feel each passion that he feigns ;
337 Cato's long wig. Few things in even the capricious history of taste are more extraordinary than the absolute barbarism of our ancestors in stage costume. Imogen in a hoop-petticoat, with a fly-cap, and a tower of powdered curls on her innocent head! Macbeth, in the full dress of an English general officer of the days of George Il. with a laced uniform, bag wig, and court sword, invoking the demons ! and old Lear raving to the vexed winds in a judge's wig and robes! It is scarcely possible to imagine the existence of theatric illusion under such absurdities.
343 Can make me feel each passion that he feigns. Hurd falls into the curious error of conceiving that tragedy is an inferior effort of genius to comedy; for the reason, that tragedy produces its end, the pathetic, by action ; while comedy produces its end, the humorous, by character ; it being more difficult to paint manners than to plan action. To this short-sighted dogma, the obvious answer has been given ;- that tragedy does much more than plan action; that it paints passion: that, unlike and superior to comedy, which adopts only the language and describes only the manners of the hour, it adopts the language of nature, and is mistress of the manners of all ages. But, if a mediocre tragedy is the easiest work of man, as is evident from the multitude that have crowded the stage and perished; that a great tragedy is the most difficult achieve.
Enrage, compose, with more than magic art; With pity, and with terror, tear my heart; 345 And snatch me, o'er the earth, or through the air, To Thebes, to Athens, when he will, and where.
But not this part of the poetic state Alone deserves the favor of the great: Think of those authors, sir, who would rely 350 More on a reader's sense, than gazer's eye. Or who shall wander where the Muses sing? Who climb their mountain, or who taste their
spring? How shall we fill a library with wit, When Merlin's cave is half unfinish'd yet ? 355
My liege! why writers little claim your thought, I guess ; and, with their leave, will tell the fault:
ment of genius, is not less evident from the infrequency of its appearance. Of Greece, but three tragic writers survive; of France, but Corneille and Racine; of Germany, but Schiller ; of England, Shakspeare alone keeps unquestioned possession of the stage--Shakspeare, superior to all the past of mankind, from his incontestable superiority of passion, vividness, and insight into the soul.
349 Deserves the favor of the great. The authors of George II's day frequently advert to the royal neglect of patronage ; but the king, a German born, busied with foreign wars, and still more busied by the perpetual turbulence of faction at home, could have found but little leisure for the calmer appeals of letters. Yet the anecdote recorded of him by Warton is unlucky: some one in the royal presence happening to mention Milton, with the due panegyric; the monarch asked, “Who he was ?' On being answered ;— Pho! pho!' said the king : why did he not write his · Paradise Lost' in prose?' It is only justice to say, that the taste and education of his successors have been more suitable to their high dignity.
355 Merlin's cave. A building in the royal gardens of Rich. mond, where is a small, but choice collection of books.--Pope,
We poets are, (upon a poet's word)
Yet think, great sir, (so many virtues shown)
Charles, to late times to be transmitted fair, 380 Assign’d, his figure to Bernini's care;
381 To Bernini's care. A striking anecdote of the physiognomical skill of this famous sculptor is given by Warburton, from a Ms. of Panzani, the pope's agent. Henrietta Maria wrote to cardinal Barberini to procure two busts, one of Charles, and one of herself, from the sculptor; mentioning the king's exquisite taste in the arts. Bernini, on seeing the picture which was sent to him for his model, instantly observed such melancholic lines, that they in a manner spoke some dismal fate that would befall the person so represented.' Yet why a melancholy countenance should predict a melan