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The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
Ver. 77. The lambs with wolves, &c.] Virg. Ecl. iv. ver. 21.
Ipsæ lacte domum referent distenta capella
Occidet." “ The goats shall bear to the fold their udders distended with milk; nor shall the herds be afraid of the greatest lions. The serpent shall die, and the herb that conceals poison shall die.”
Isaiah, Ch. xi. v. 16, &c. “ The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together : and a little child shall lead them.-And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the den of a cockatrice." P.
Ver. 80. From the words occidet & serpens, it was idly concluded the old serpent, Satan, was meant.
Ver. 85. Rise, crown'd with light, imperial Salem, rise !] The thoughts of Isaiah, which compose the latter part of the poem, are wonderfully elevated, and much above those general exclamations of Virgil, which make the loftiest parts of his Pollio.
“ Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo !
-toto surget gens aurea mundo!
Adspice, venturo lætantur ut omnia sæclo !" The reader needs only to turn to the passages of Isaiah, here cited. P.
$ Isai. xi. v. 6, 7, 8.
9 Ch, lvi. v. 25.
1 Ch. lx. v. 1.
See, a long ? race thy spacious courts adorn;
95 And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow. See heav’n its sparkling portals wide display, And break
thee in a flood of day. No more the rising Sun shall gild the morn, Nor ev’ning Cynthia fill her silver horn; 100 But lost, dissolv'd in thy superior rays, One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze O'erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine Reveald, and God's eternal day be thine! The ó seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay, Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away; 106 But fix'd his word, his saving pow'r remains: Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns !
Ver. 87. See the very animated prophecy of Joad, in the seventh scene of Racine's Athaliah, perhaps the most sublime piece of poetry in the French language, and a chief ornament of that which is one of the best of their tragedies. In speaking of these paraphrases from the sacred Scriptures, I cannot forbear mentioning Dr. Young's nervous and noble paraphrase of the book of Job, and Mr. Pitt's of the third and twenty-fifth chapters of the same book, and also of the fifteenth chapter of Exodus.
Ver. 100. Cynthia is an improper because a classical word.
? Isai. lx. v. 4.
4 Ch. lx. v. 6.
3 Ch. lx. v. 3.
This is certainly the most animated and sublime of all our Author's compositions, and it is manifestly owing to the great original which he copied. Isaiah abounds in striking and magnificent imagery. See Mr. Mason's paraphrase of the 14th chapter of this exalted prophet, Dr. Johnson, in his youth, gave a translation of this piece, which has been praised and magnified beyond its merits. It may justly be said (with all due respect to the great talents of this writer), that in this translation of the Messiah are many hard and unclassical expressions, a great want of harmony, and many unequal and Un-virgilian lines. I was once present at a dispute, on this subject, betwixt a person of great political talents, and a scholar who had spent his life among the Greek and Roman classics. Both were intimate friends of Johnson. The former, after many objections had been made to this translation by the latter, quoted a line which he thought equal to any he ever had read.
-juncique 'tremit variabilis umbra.
reed tremblesThe Scholar (Pedant if you will) said, there is no such word as variabilis in any classical writer. Surely, said the other, in Virgil; variabile semper femina.--You forget, said the opponent, it is varium et mutabile.
In two men of superior talents it was certainly no disgrace to the one not to have written pure Virgilian verses, nor to the other to have misquoted a line of the Æneid. They only who are such idolaters of the Rambler, as to think he could do every thing equally well, can alone be mortified at hearing that the following lines in his Messiah are reprehensible;
-Cælum mihi carminis alta materies
-dignos accende furores--
-furat horrida membris-
--buxique sequaces Artificis frondent dextræ
-fessa colubri Membra viatoris recreabunt frigore linguæ. Boileau despised the writers of modern Latin poetry. Jortin said he was no extraordinary classical scholar, and that he translated Longinus from the Latin. Of all the celebrated French
writers Racine appears to be the best, if not the only Greek scholar, except Fenelon. The rest, Corneille, Moliere, La Motte, Fontenelle, Crebillon, Voltaire, knew little of that language.
I find and feel it impossible to conclude these remarks on Pope's Messiah, without mentioning another poem taken also from Isaiah, the noble and magnificent ode on the Destruction of Babylon, which Dr. Lowth hath given us in the thirteenth of his Prelections on the Poetry of the Hebrews; and which, the scene, the actors, the sentiments, and diction, all contribute to place in the first rank of the sublime; these Prelections, abounding in remarks entirely new, delivered in the purest and most expressive language, have been received and read with al. most universal approbation, both at home and abroad, as being the richest augmentation literature has in our times received, and as tending to illustrate and recommend the Holy Scriptures in an uncommon degree. It has been constantly a matter of surprise to hear an eminent prelate pronouncing lately, with a dogmatical air, that these Prelections, “ are in a vein of criticism not above the common.” Notwithstanding which decision, it may safely be affirmed, that they will long survive, after the commentaries on Horace's Art of Poetry, and on the Essay on Man, are lost and forgotten.