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Ire domos impune minax. doluere cruento
Dente laceffiti: fuit intactis quoque cura
Conditione fuper communi: quin etiam lex
Pœnaque lata, malo quæ nollet carmine quemquam
Defcribi. vertere modum, formidine fuftis
'Ad1 benè dicendum, delectandumque redacti.

* Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes Intulit agrefti Latio. fic horridus ille

1

Defluxit numerus Saturnius, et grave virus

NOTES.

Munditio

VER. 263. We conquer'd France,] Pope has failed in ascribing that introduction of our polite literature to France, which Horace attributes to Greece among the Romans (ver. 15/orig.). It was to Italy, among the moderns, that we owed our true taste in poetry. Spencer and Milton imitated the Italians, and not the French. And if he had correctness in his view, let us remember, that in point of regularity and correctnefs, the French had no dramatic piece equal to the Silent Woman of Ben Jonfon, performed 1609; at which time Corneille was but three years old. The rules of the drama are as much violated in the Cid, 1637, beautiful as it is, as in the Macbeth, Lear, and Othello, all written before Corneille was born; whofe firft comedy, Melite, which is now never acted, was reprefented 1624. The pieces of the very fertile Hardy (for he wrote fix hundred), the immediate predeceffor of Corneille, are full of improbabilities, indecorums, and abfurdities, and by no means comparable to Melite. As to the correctness of the French ftage, of which we hear fo much, the rules of the three unities are indeed rigorously and scrupulously observed; but the best of their tragedies, even fome of those of the fweet and exact Racine, have defects of another kind, and are what may be justly called descriptive and declamatory dramas; and contain the fentiments and feelings of the author, or the spectator, rather than of the perfon introduced as speaking. "After the Restoration,"

Who felt the wrong, or fear'd it, took th' alarm,
Appeal'd to Law and Justice lent her arm.

256

At length, by wholesome dread of ftatutes bound,
The Poets learn'd to please, and not to wound:
Moft warp'd to Flatt'ry's fide; but fome more nice,
Preferv'd the freedom, and forbore the vice. 260

Hence Satire rofe, that just the medium hit,
And heals with Morals what it hurts with Wit.

We conquer'd France, but felt our Captive's

charms;

Her Arts victorious triumph'd o'er our Arms;

Britain to foft refinements lefs a foe,

Wit grew polite, and 'Numbers learn'd to flow.

NOTES.

265

Waller

Reftoration," fays Pope, in the margin, "Waller, with the Earl of Dorset, Mr. Godolphin, and others, translated the Pompey of Corneille; and the more correct French poets began to be in reputation." But the model was unfortunately and injudiciously chofen; for the Pompey of Corneille is one of his moft exceptionable tragedies. And the rhyme translation they gave of it is performed pitifully enough. Even Voltaire confeffes, that Corneille is always making his heroes fay of themselves, that they are great men. Pope mentions only Waller and Denham as masters of verfification; What! did Milton contribute nothing to the harmony and extent of our language? nothing to our national taste, by his noble imitations of Homer, Virgil, and the Greek tragedies? Surely his verfes vary, and refound as much, and display as much majefty and energy as any that can be found in Dryden. And we will venture to fay, that he that studies Milton attentively, will gain a truer tafte for genuine poetry, than he that forms himself on French writers, and their followers. His name furely was not to be omitted on this occafion. Let the fond admirers of French poetry attend to the confeffion of their last great poet: "Cette maigreur, ordinaire à la verfification Française, ce viude de grandes idées, est un peu la fuite de la gêne de nos phrases & de notre rime."

Corneille

m

Munditia pepulere: fed in longum tamen ævum
Manferunt, hodieque manent, veftigia ruris.
Serus enim Græcis admovit acumina chartis;
Et post" Punica bella quietus quærere cœpit,
Quod Sophocles et Thefpis et Æfchylus utile ferrent:
Tentavit quoque rem, fi digne vertere poffet:

Et placuit fibi, natura fublimis et acer :

NOTES.

Nam

Corncille was induced to write this tragedy of Pompey from his great admiration of Lucan, many of whofe lines he tranflated and inferted in his play, full of timid expreffions and violent exaggerations. The last act is very feeble and uninterefting.

"The translation," fays Fenton, "from Corneille, I found appropriated to Mr. Waller, in a letter which was communicated to me by my honoured friend Sir Clement Cotterel, master of the ceremonies; it was written to his grandfather by Mrs. Philips, the celebrated Orinda; and contains the following criticism on our Author's performance, and her opinion of the whole: "I muft then tell you, that Mr. Waller's own act is not free, in my opinion, from juft exceptions. The words, Roman blade, choak me very much; his frequent double rhymes in an heroic poem; his calling Pompey a conful, when that was not in the original, or the hiftory; (both the confuls being with him at Pharfalia;) Pharfalian kites, for les vautours de Pharfale. I cannot relish his Englifhing, le dernier preuve de leur amitié, their new friendship; and many additions and omiffions of the Author's fenfe. I think a tranflation ought not to be used, as musicians do a ground, with all the liberty of defcant; but as painters when they copy. And the rule that I understood of tranflation, till thefe gentlemen informed me better, was, to write fo Corneille's fenfe, as it is to be fuppofed Corneille would have done if he had been an Englishman; not confined to his lines, nor his numbers (unless we can do it happily), but always to his meaning."

VER. 269. The long majeflic March,] But Dryden himself fays, that he used the Alexandrine line in imitation of Spenfer. It cannot be allowed that Pope, as is afferted in the following note, by his perpetual encomiums preferved his Mafter falling into neglect, This truly great but incorrect Poet ftood in no need of fuch affift

ance.

m

Waller was smooth; but Dryden taught to join
The varying verse, the full-refounding line,
The long majeftic March, and Energy divine.
Tho' ftill fome traces of our " ruftic vein,
And splay-foot verse, remain'd, and will remain.
Late, very late, correctnefs grew our care,
When the tir'd Nation " breath'd from civil war.

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Exact Racine, and Corneille's noble fire,

Show'd us that France had fomething to admire.

270

Not

than ever.

NOTES.

VER. 269. Energy divine.] Mr. Pope's gratitude, for what he owed to the Genius and Writings of this great Poet, occafioned these perpetual encomiums; which have preferved his Master from falling into neglect, and have even raised his reputation higher Cicero did the fame grateful office to Craffus and Antonius, to whom he had the fame obligations. One of the principal reasons he gives for making them the chief Speakers in his famous Dialogue de Oratore is, "ut laudem eorum jam prope fenefcentem quantum ego possem (says he) ab oblivione hominum, atque a filentio vindicarem-deberi hoc a me tantis hominum ingeniis putavi.”

W.

VER. 274. Corneille's noble fire,] Father Tournemine used to relate, that M. de Chalons, who had been fecretary to Mary de Medicis, and had retired to Rouen, was the person who advised Corneille to study the Spanish language; and read to him fome paffages of Guillon de Caftro, which ftruck Corneille fo much, that he determined to imitate his Cid. The artifices ufed by Richlieu, and the engines he fet to work to crush this fine play, are well known. Not one of the Cardinal's tools was fo vehement as the Abbe d'Aubignac; who attacked Corneille on account of his family, his perfon, his gefture, his voice, and even the conduct of his domestic affairs. When the Cid first appeared, says Fontenelle, the Cardinal was as much alarmed as if he had feen the Spaniards at the gates of Paris. In the year 1635 Richlieu, in the midft of the important political concerns that occupied his mighty genius, wrote the greatest part of a play, called La Comedie des Tuilleries, in which Corneille propofed fome alterations

to

Nam fpirat tragicum fatis, et feliciter audet:
Sed turpem putat infcite metuitque lituram.

Creditur, ex medio quia res arceffit, habere Sudoris minimum; fed habet Comadia tanto

NOTES.

Plus

to be made in the third act: which honeft freedom the Cardinal never forgave.

The Medea of Corneille was played 1635. It was the first tolerable tragedy produced in France after the Sophonisba of Mairet, 1633. It is remarkable, that both in Italy and France, Sophonisba was the story that gave rife to the drama from the hands of Triffino and Mairet.

VER. 275. That France had fomething] "Were I a Frenchman," said Akenfide, "concerned for the poetical glory of my country, I fhould lament its unmufical language, and the impoffi bility of forming it to numbers or harmony. The French Ode is an uncertain mixture of different feet, changing at random the rhythmus or movement of the verfe, and difappointing one's ear, juft as if a dancer in the midst of a minuet should fall a capering in the harlequin ftep, or break out into a Lancashire hornpipe. Their Alexandrine measure, which they call heroic, has its pause or cæfura in every line at the fame place; fo that two hammers on a fmith's anvil make juft as much mufic as Racine or Boileau. If this be without remedy in the French language, their language is very unfortunate for Poetry; but is it not diverting to hear thefe finished critics and mafters of correctness valuing themselves upon this wretched, unmufical poverty in their verfe, and blaming the licentiousness of English Poetry, because it allows a variation of the pause, and a fufpenfion of the period from one verfe into any part of another? without which Poetry has lefs harmony than Profe."

Ibid. Something to admire.] How highly foever we ought to think of the exact Racine, who deferved a ftronger epithet, and of the fpirited Corneille, France fhewed us alfo another Poet worthy admiration, I mean Moliere; who, in his way, is equal, if not fuperior, to the two former; I fear we have no English writer of comedy whom we can put in competition with Moliere. Yet this incomparable writer, whofe comedies are a school of virtue, and whofe life was irreproachable, was forbidden Christian burial by Harlay archbishop of Paris, because he was an Actor; and, on a remonftrance from his wife to the king, was at last allowed to be privately

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