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subjected to such severe indispensable rules as are laid on all Neoterics, a strict imitation of the Ancients ; insomuch that any deviation, accompanied with whatever poetic beauties, hath always been censured by the sound critic. How exact that imitation hath been in this piece, appeareth not only by its general structure, but by particular allusions infinite, many whereof have escaped both the commentator and poet himself; yea, divers by his exceeding diligence are so altered and interwoven with the rest, that several have already been, and more will be, by the ignorant abused, as altogether and originally his own.
In a word, the whole poem proveth itself to be the work of our author, when his faculties were in full vigour and perfection; at that exact time when years have ripened the judgment, without diminishing the imagination : which, by good critics, is held to be punctually at forty. For at that season it was that Virgil finished his Georgics; and Sir Richard Blackmore, at the like age composing his Arthurs, declared the same to be the very Acme and pitch of life for epic poesy; though since he hath altered it to sixty, the year in which he published his Alfred.* True it is, that the talents for criticism, namely, smartness, quick censure, vivacity of remark, certainty of asseveration, indeed all but acerbity, seem rather the gifts of youth than of riper age. But it is far otherwise in poetry; witness the works of Mr. Rymer and Mr.
• See his Essays.
Dennis, * who beginning with criticism, became afterwards such poets as no age hath paralleled. With good reason therefore did our author chuse to write his Essay on that subject at twenty, and reserve for his maturer years this great and wonderful work of the Dunciad.
* So in his Essay on Criticism, where appeared his first strokes of spleen: “ Turn'd Critic next, and prov'd plain fool at last.”
HERO OF THE POEM.*
Of the nature of the DUNCIAD in general, whence derived, and on what authority founded, as well as of the art and conduct of this our poem in particular, the learned and laborious Scriblerus hath, according to his manner, and with tolerable share of judgment, dissertated. But when he cometh to speak of the PERSON of the Hero fitted for such poem, in truth he miserably halts and hallucinates. For, misled by one Monsieur Bossu, a Gallic critic, he prateth of I cannot tell what phantom of a Hero, only raised up to support the fable. A putid conceit! As if Homer and Virgil, like modern undertakers, who first build their house, and then seek out for a tenant, had contrived the story of a war and a wandering, before they once thought either of Achilles or Æneas. We shall therefore set our good brother and the world also right in this particular, by assuring them, that, in the greater epic, the prime intention of the Muse is
* It is a singular circumstance, that the hero of the Rehearsal, as well as of the Dunciad, should have been changed. Howard, not Dryden, was the original hero of the former. And perhaps these changes, in both pieces, were for the worse. Warton.
to exalt heroic virtue, in order to propagate the love of it among the children of men; and consequently that the poet's first thought must needs be turned upon a real subject meet for laud and celebration; not one whom he is to make, but one whom he may find, truly illustrious. This is the primum mobile of his poetic world, whence every thing is to receive life and motion. For, this subject being found, he is immediately ordained, or rather acknowledged, an Hero, and put upon such action as befitteth the dignity of his character.
But the Muse ceaseth not here her eagle-flight. For sometimes, satiated with the contemplation of these suns of glory, she turneth downward on her wing, and darts, with Jove's lightning, on the goose and serpent kind. For we apply to the Muse in her various moods, what an ancient master of wisdom affirmeth of the Gods in general; “Si Dii non irascuntur impiis et injustis, nec pios utique justosque diligunt. In rebus enim diversis, aut in utramque partem moveri necesse est, aut in neutram. Itaque qui bonos diligit, et malos odit ; et qui malos non odit, nec bonos diligit. Quia et diligere bonos ex odio malorum venit; et malos odisse ex bonorum caritate descendit.” Which in our vernacular idiom may be thus interpreted : “If the gods be not provoked at evil men, neither are they delighted with the good and just. For contrary objects must either excite contrary affections, or no affections at all. So that he who loveth good men, must at the same time hate the bad ; and he
who hateth not bad men, cannot love the good; because to love good men proceedeth from an aversion to evil ; and to hate evil men, from a tenderness to the good.” From this delicacy of the Muse arose the little Epic, more lively and choleric than her elder sister, whose bulk and complexion incline her to the phlegmatic. And for this, some notorious vehicle of vice and folly was sought out, to make thereof an EXAMPLE. An early instance of which (nor could it escape the accurate Scriblerus) the Father himself of Epic-poem, affordeth us. From him the practice descended to the Greek dramatic poets, his offspring ; who in the composition of their Tetralogy,* or set of four pieces, were wont to make the last a Satiric Tragedy. Happily, one of these ancient Dunciads (as we may well term it) is come down unto us, amongst the Tragedies of the poet Euripides. And what doth the reader suppose may be the subject thereof? Why, in truth, and it is worthy observation, the unequal contest of an old, dull, debauched, buffoon, Cyclops, with the heaven-directed Favourite of Minerva: who, after having quietly borne all the monster's obscene and impious ribaldry, endeth
* Richardus Aristarchus is fond of bringing things, however improper and incongruous, into a system. Our Dunciad is to be added to the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, as a satiric piece, to make, as it were, a complete Tetralogy, as the Cyclops of Euripides was added to serious tragedies. This conceit is extremely strained and tortured.
Warton. It is astonishing that Dr. Warton did not perceive that this is altogether a burlesque.