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SECT. II. Of WINDSOR-Forest, and
LYRIC Pieces. D ESCRIPTIVE Poetry was by no means
the shining talent of Pope. This assertion may be manifested by the few images introduced in the poem before us, which are not equally applicable to any place whatsoever. Rural beauty in general, and not the peculiar beauties of the forest of Windsor, are here defcribed. Nor are the sports of setting, shooting, and fishing, included between the ninety-third and one hundred and forty-sixth verses, to which the reader is referred, at all more appropriated. The stag-chase, that immediately follows, although some of the lines are incomparably good *, is not so full, so animated, and so circumstantiated, as that of Somerville.
The digression that describes the demolition of the thirty villages by William the Conqueror, is well imagined ; particularly, * See particularly, ver. 151.
Round broken columns clasping ivy twin'd,
Though I cannot forbear thinking, that the following picture of the ruins of GodstowNunnery, drawn, it should feem, on the spot, and worthy the hand of Paul Brill, is by no means excelled by the foregoing.
Qua nudo Rosamonda humilis sub culmine tecti
Marginis obscuri servat inane decus,
Et fola in vacuo tramite porta labat :
Et veteri pavidum religione nemus.
Hinc matutinum sæpe monebat avem ;
Prodidit arcanas arcta fenestra faces :
Nunc muro avellunt germen agreste boves t.
VOLTAIRE, that lively maintainer of many a paradox, is inclined to dispute the truth of
* Ver. 69.
† Carmina Quadrages. Oxon. 1748. pag. 30
the devastation imputed to William I. but for a reason very strange and inconclufivè. “ Une telle action, says he, est trop insensée pour etre vraisemblable. Les historiens ne font pas attention qu'il faut au moins vingt années pour qu'un nouveau plan d'arbres devienne une forêt propre a là chasse. On lui fait semer cette forêt en 1080, il avoit alors 63 ans. Quelle apparence y a-t-il, qu'un homme raifonable ait à cet âge détruit des villages pour femer quinze lieues en bois, dans l'espérance d'y chasser un jour *?” There is indeed some probability that, the character of this prince has been misrepresented, and his oppressions magnified. The law of the curfeu-bell, by which every inhabitant of England was obliged to extinguish his fire and candles at eight in the evening, has been usually alleged as the institution of a capricious tyrant. But this law, as Voltaire + rightly observes, was fo far from being absurdly tyrannical, that it was an ancient custom established among all
* Abregé de l'Histoire Universelle, &c. tom. 1. pag. 280. + Ibid.
the monasteries of the north. Their houses were built of wood, and so cautious a method to prevent fire, was an object worthy a pru'dent legislator. A more amiable idea than Pope has here exhibited of the Conqueror, is given us of the same prince, by that diligent enquirer into antiquity the President Henault, in a passage that contains some curious particulars, characteristical of the manners of that age. “ This monarch protected letters, at a time, when books were so rare and uncommon, that a countess of Anjou gave for a collection of homilies, two hundred fheep, a measure of wheat, another of rye, a third of millet, and a certain number of the skins of martens *.” But to return. The story of of Lodona is prettily Ovidian; but there is scarcely a single incident in it, but what is borrowed from some transformation of Ovid. The picture of a virtuous and learned man in
* Novel Abregé Chronologique de l'Histoire de France. tom. 1. pag. 126. To this useful and entertaining work Voltaire has often been deeply indebted, without confessing his obligation. + Ver, 171.
retirement * Ver. 233.
retirement * is highly finished, as the poet was here in his proper element, recommending integrity and science. He has no where discovered more poetic enthusiasm, than where, speaking of the poets who lived or died near this spot, he breaks out,
I seem through confecrated walks to rove,
The enumeration of the princes who were either born or interred at Windsor is judiciously introduced. Yet I have frequently wondered, that he should have omitted the opportunity of describing at length it's venerable ancient castle, and the fruitful and extensive prospects I which it commands. He fides with dexterity and address from speaking of the miseries of the civil war to the
† Ver. 265. . # The great improvements lately made near Windsor-lodge, by the Duke of Cumberland, particularly the magnificent lake and cascade, highly deserve to be celebrated by some future Pope; and would have contributed not a little to the beauty of the poem now before us.