Imatges de pàgina
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buted very much to the accommodation of life, by bringing to every man's house those little necessaries which it was very inconvenient to want, and very troublesome to fetch. I have formerly read, without much reflection, of the multitude of Scotchmen that travelled with their wares in Poland; and that their numbers were not small, the success of this negociation gives sufficient evidence.

About this time, what estate the war and the gamesters had left him was sold, by order of the parliament; and when, in 1652, he returned to England, he was entertained by the earl of Pembroke.

Of the next years of his life there is no account. At the restoration, he obtained that which many missed, the reward of his loyalty; being made surveyor of the king's buildings, and dignified with the order of the Bath. He seems now to have learned some attention to money ; for Wood says, that he got by this place seven thousand pounds.

After the restoration, he wrote the poem on prudence and justice, and perhaps some of his other pieces; and as he appears, whenever any serious question comes before him, to have been a man of piety, he consecrated his poetical powers to religion, and made a metrical version of the psalms of David. In this attempt he has failed; but in sacred poetry who has succeeded ?

It might be hoped that the favour of his master and esteem of the public would now make him happy. But human felicity is short and uncertain ; a second marriage brought upon him so much disquiet, as for a time disordered his understanding; and Butler lampooned him for his lunacy. I know not whether the malignant lines were theu made public, nor what provocation incited Butler to do hat which no provocation can excuse.

His frenzy lasted not long; and he seems to have regained his full force of mind; for he wrote afterwards his excellent poem upon the death of Cowley, whom he was not long to survive; for on the 19th of March, 1668, he was buried by his side.

DENHAM is deservedly considered as one of the fathers of English poetry. “ Denham and Waller," says Prior, “ improved our versification, and Dryden perfected it." He has given specimens of various compositions, descriptive, ludicrous, didactic, and sublime.

He appears to have had, in common with almost all mankind, the ambition of being, upon proper occasions, a merry fellow; and, in common with most of them, to have been by nature, or by early habits, debarred from it. Nothing is less exhilarating than the ludicrousness of Denham; he does not fail for want of efforts; he is familiar, he is gross; but he is never merry, unless the “Speech against Peace in the close Committee” be excepted. For grave burlesque, however, his imitation of Davenant shews him to have been well qualified.

Of his more elevated occasional poems there is perhaps none that does not deserve commendation. In the verses to Fletcher, we have an image that has since been often adopted :

But whither am I stray'd ? I need not raise
Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise ;
Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built,
Nor need thy juster title the foul guilt
Of eastern kings, who, to secure their reign,
Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred, slain.

After Denham, Orrery, in one of his prologues,

Poets are sultans, if they had their will ;
For every author would his brother kill.

And Pope,

Should such a man, too fond to rule alone,
Bear, like the Turk, no brother near the throne?

But this is not the best of his little pieces: it is excelled by his poem to Fanshaw, and his elegy on Cowley.

His praise of Fanshaw's version of Guarini contains a very sprightly and judicious character of a good translator:

That servile path thou nobly dost decline,
Of tracing word by word, and line by line,

Those are the labour'd births of slavish brains,
Not the effect of poetry, but pains ;
Cheap vulgar arts, whose narrowness affords
No flight for thoughts, but poorly stick at words.
A new and nobier way thou dost pursue
To make translations, and translators too :
They but preserve the ashes; thou the flame,

True to his sense, but truer to his fame. The excellence of these lines is greater, as the truth which they contain was not at that time generally known.

His poem on the death of Cowley was his last, and, anong his shorter works, his best performance : the numbers are musical, and the thoughts are just.

“Cooper's Hill” is the work that confers upon him the rank and dignity of an original author. He seems to have been, at least among us, the author of a species of composition that may be denominated local poetry, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape, to be poetically described with the addition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection or incidental meditation.

To trace a new scheme of poetry has in itself a very high claim to praise, and its praise is yet more when it is apparently copied by Garth and Pope; after whose names little will be gained by an enomeration of smaller poets, that have left scarcely a corner of the island not dignified either by rhyme, or blank verse.

“ Cooper's Hill,” if it be maliciously inspected, will not be found without its faults. The digressions are too long, the morality too frequent, and the sentiments sometimes such as will not bear a rigorous inquiry.

The four verses, which, since Dryden has commended them, almost every writer for a century past has imitated, are generally known:

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream
My great example, as it is my

theme !
Though deep, yet clear; though gentle, yet not dull;

Strong, without rage ; without o'erflowing, full. The lines are in themselves not perfect; for most of the words, thus artfully opposed are to be understood simply on one side of the comparison, and metaphorically on the other; and if there be any language which does not express intellectual operations by material images, into that language they cannot be translated. But so much meaning is comprised in so few words; the particulars of resemblance are so perspicaciously collected, and every mode of excellence separated from its adjacent fault by so nice a line of limitation; the different parts of the sentence are so accurately adjusted; and the flow of the last couplet is so smooth and shieet; that the passage, however celebrated, has not been praised above its merit. It has beauty peculiar to itself, and must be numbered among those felicities which cannot be produced at will by wit and labour, but must rise unexpectedly in some hour propitious to poetry.

He appears to have been one of the first that understood the necessity of emancipating translation from the drudgery of counting lines and interpreting single words. How much this servile practice obscured the clearest, and deformed the most beautiful parts of the ancient authors, may be discovered by a perusal of our earlier versions; some of them are the works of men well qualified, not only by critical krowledge, but by poetical genius, who yet, by a mistaken ambition of exactness, degraded at once their originals and themselves.

Denham saw the better way, but has not pursued it with great success. His versions of Virgil are not pleasing: but they taught Dryden to please better. His poetical imitation of Tully on “Old Age" has neither the clearness of prose, nor the sprightliness of poetry.

T'be“ strength of Denham,” which Pope so emphatically mentions, is to be found in many lines and couplets, which convey much meaning in few words, and exhibit the sentiment with more weight than bulk.

On the Thames.

Though with those streams he no resemblance hold,
Whose foam is amber, and their gravel gold;
His genuine and less guilty wealth t explore,
Search not the bottom, but survey his shore.

On Strafford.
His wisdom such, at once it did appear
Three kingdoms' wonder, and three kingdoms' fear.
While single he stood forth, and seem'd, although
Each had an army, as an equal foe,
Such was his force of eloquence, to make
The hearers more concern'd than he that spake:
Each seem'd to act that part he came to see,
And none was more a looker-on than he ;
So did he move our passions, some were known
To wish, for the defence, the crime their own.
Now, private pity strove with public hate,
Reason with rage, and eloquence with fate.

On Cowley.
To him no author was unknown,
Yet what he wrote was all his own ;
Horace's wit, and Virgil's state,
He did not steal, but emulate !
And, when he would like them appear,
Their garb, but not their cloaths, did wear.

As one of Denham's principal claims to the regard of posterity arises from his improvement of our numbers, his versification ought to be considered. It will afford that pleasure which arises from the observation of a man of judgment, naturally right, forsaking bad copies by degrees, and advancing towards a better practice, as he gains more confidence in himself,

In his translation of Virgil, written when he was about twenty-one years old, may be still found the old manner of continuing the sense ungracefully from verse to verse:

Then, all those
Who in the dark our fury did escape,
Returning, know our borrow'd arms, and shape,
And differing dialect; then, their numbers swell
And grow upon us; first, Choræbus fell
Before Minerva's altar; next, did bleed
Just Ripheus, whom no Trojan did exceed
In virtue, yet the gods his fate decreed.

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