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Tully, might discover that records are needful to preserve the memory of actions, and that no records were so durable as poems; either of them might find out that life is short, and that we consume it in unnecessary labour. .
There are other flowers of fiction so widely scattered and so easily cropped, that it is scarcely just to tax the use of them as an act by which any particular writer is despoiled of his garland; for they may be said to have been planted by the ancients in the open road of poetry for the accommodation of their successors, and to be the right of every one that has art to pluck them without injuring their colours or their fragrance. The passage of Orpheus to hell, with the recovery and second loss of Eurydice, have been described after Boetius by Pope, in such a manner as might justly leave him suspected of imitation, were not the images such as they might both have derived from more ancient writers.
Quce sontes agitant metu
Velox præcipitat rota.
Thy stone, O Sysiphus, stands still,
And the pale spectres dance !
Tandem, vincimur, arbiter
Emtam carmine, conjugem.
To hear the poet's prayer ;
And gave him back the fair.
Vidit, perdidit, occidit.
When Orpheus, her unhappy lord,
Eurydice to life restor’d,
But soon, too soon, the lover turns his eyes :
Again she falls, again she dies, she dies! No writer can be fully convicted of imitation, except there is a concurrence of more resemblance than can be imagined to have happened by chance; as where the same ideas are conjoined without any natural series or necessary coherence, or where not only the thought but the words are copied. Thus it can scarcely be doubted, that in the first of the following passages Pope remembered Ovid, and that in the second he copied Crashaw:
Sæpe pater dixit, studium quid inutile tentas ?
Mæonides nullas ipse reliquit opes --
Et quod conabar scribere, versus erat. OVID.
Quit, quit this barren trade, my father cry'd;
--This plain floor,
Conceits, or thoughts not immediately impressed by sensible objects, or necessarily, arising from the coalition or comparison of common sentiments, may be with great justice suspected whenever they are found a second time. Thus Waller probably owed to Grotius an elegant compliment:
Here lies the learned Savil's heir,
Thought her a child, or thought her old. WALLER. Unica lur sæcli, genitoris gloria, nemo
Quem puerum, nemo credidit esse senem. GROT. The age's miracle, his father's joy! Nor old you wou'd pronounce him, nor a boy. F. LEWIS.
And Prior was indebted for a pretty illustration to Alleyne's poetical history of Henry the Seventh.
For nought but light itself, itself can shew,
Your musick's pow'r, your musick must disclose,
And with yet more certainty may the same writer be censured, for endeavouring the clandestine appropriation of a thought which he borrowed, surely without thinking himself disgraced, from an epigram of Plato:
As not every instance of similitude can be considered as a proof of imitation, só not every imitation ought to be stigmatized as plagiarism. The adoption of a noble sentiment, or the insertion of a borrowed ornament, may sometimes display so much judgment. as will almost compensate for invention: and an inferiour genius may, without any imputation of servility, pursue the path of the ancients, provided he declines to tread in their footsteps.
NUMB. 144. SATURDAY, August 3, 1751.
- - Daphnidis arcum.
It is impossible to mingle in conversation without observing the difficulty with which a new name makes its way into the world. The first appearance of excellence unites multitudes against it; unexpected opposition rises up on every side ; the celebrated and the obscure join in the confederacy; subtlety furnishes arms to impudence, and invention leads on credulity.
The strength and unanimity of this alliance is not easily conceived. It might be expected that 'no man should suffer his heart to be inflamed with malice, but by injuries ; that none should busy himself in contesting the pretensions of another, but when some right of his own was involved in the question; that at least hostilities, commenced without cause, should quickly cease; that the armies of malignity should soon disperse, when no common interest could be found to hold them together; and that the attack upon a rising character