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though the majesty of this species of composition is so much injured by descending to personal satire. The name of Malherbe is respectable, as he was the first reformer of the French poesy, and the first who gave his countrymen any idea of a legitimate ode, though his own pieces have hardly any thing but harmony to recommend them. The odes of La Motte, though so highly praised by Sanadon, and by Fontenelle, are fuller of delicate sentiment, and philosophical reflection, than of imagery, figures, and poetry. There are particular stanzas eminently good, but not one entire ode. Some of Rousseau's, particularly that to Fortune, and some of his Psalms; and one or two of Voltaire's, particularly, to the King of Prussia on his accession to the throne, and on Maeupertuis's travels to the North, to measure the degrees of the meridian toward the equator, seem to rise above that exact mediocrity which distinguishes the lyric poetry of the French.
“We have had (says Mr. Gray) in our language, no other odes of the sublime kind, than that of Dryden on St. Cecilia's Day: for Cowley, who had his merit, yet wanted judgment, style, and harmony, for such a task. That of Pope is not worthy of so great a master. Mr. Mason, indeed, of late days, has touched the true chords, and with a masterly hand, in some of his choruses ; above all in the last of Caractacus ; “ Hark! heard ye not yon footstep dread?" &c.
Gray's Works, 4to. page 25.
THE TRAGEDY OF BRUTUS?.
CHORUS OF ATHENIANS.
Unspotted long with human blood.
NOTES. Altered from Shakspeare by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Choruses were composed to supply as many, wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckinghamhouse. P.
Ver. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir’d, And, Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the Old Academy; and Cassius, the other, was an Epicurean. W.
I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy.
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?
bless the bleak Atlantic shore? 15 Or bid the furious Gaul be rude no more?
When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
And Athens rising near the pole !
Ver. 12. Moral Truth, and mystic Song !] The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? As Hesiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either construction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Mystic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the Heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.
The metre is unskilfully broken by the want of a syllable in this line.
Ye Gods! what justice rules the ball ?
In ev'ry age, in ev'ry state !
Ver. 26. Freedom and Arts] A sentiment worthy of Alcæus
-Where the muses haunt,
When brutal force
Pleasures of Imagination, B. ii. p. 663. This ode is of the kind which M. D'Alembert, judging like a mathematician, prefers to odes that abound with imagery and figures, namely, what he calls the Didactic ode; and then proceeds to give reasons for preferring Horace to Pindar as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetic opposes him.
These choruses are elegant and harmonious; but are they not chargeable with the fault, which Aristotle imputes to many of Euripides, that they are foreign and adventitious to the subject,
and contribute nothing towards the advancement of the main action? Whereas the chorus ought,
Μόριον είναι του όλου, και συναγωνίζεσθαι,” to be a part or member of the one whole, co-operate with, and help to accelerate the intended event; as is constantly, adds the philosopher, the practice of Sophocles. Whereas these reflections of Pope on the baneful influences of war, on the arts and learning, and on the universal power of love, seem to be too general, are not sufficiently appropriated, do not rise from the subject and occasion, and might be inserted with equal propriety in twenty other tragedies. This remark of Aristotle, though he does not himself produce any examples, may be verified from the following, among many others. In the Phænicians of Euripides, they sing a long and very beautiful, but ill-placed, hymn to Mars; I speak of that which begins so nobly, ver. 793,
«Ω πολύμοχθος" Αρης,”. “O direful Mars ! why art thou still delighted with blood and with death, and why an enemy to the feasts of Bacchus ?" And a still more glaring instance may be brought from the end of the third act of the Troades, in which the story of Ganymede is introduced not very artificially. To these may be added that exquisite ode in praise of Apollo, descriptive of his birth and victories, which we find in the Iphigenia in Tauris.
On the other hand, the choruses of Sophocles never desert the subject of each particular drama, and all their sentiments and reflections are drawn from the situation of the principal personage of the fable. Nay, Sophocles hath artfully found a method of making those poetical descriptions, with which the choruses of the ancients abound, carry on the chief design of the piece; and has by these means accomplished what is a great difficulty in writing tragedy, united poetry with propriety.
In the Philoctetes the chorus takes a natural occasion, at verse 694, to give a minute and moving picture of the solitary life of that unfortunate hero; and when afterward, at verse 855, pain has totally exhausted the strength and spirits of Philoctetes, and it is necessary for the plot of the tragedy that he should fall asleep, it is then that the chorus breaks out into an exquisite ode to sleep. As in the Antigone, with equal beauty and decorum in an address to the God of Love, at verse 791 of that play. And