[blocks in formation]

No. I.

ON HOMER'S BATTLE OF THE FROGS AND MICE. I would give something to meet the Rape of the Lock, and what (ut with an intelligent disquisition on opinor, as Ernesti says) is fairly this admirable old poem: the first worth them both, Hudibras. We instance that I know of, in the serio- are, Mr. Word-catcher, most exceedcomic manner. Blair is as silent as ingly desirous to know what blockhis namesake's grave; and the mere heads they are, who ascribe a burcommon-place of that much over- lesque of epic poesy in general, and rated writer's lectures (a quality, of the Iliad in particular, to the auwhich, by the way, is the secret of thor of the Jliad himself. If they their popularity) might have deterred had fastened it on Zoilus, it would us from cherishing any violent ex- have been a plausible hit; and if he pectation that he would throw light had written it, there would have on the matter. I have got no Homer been an additional preponderating but Clarke's, with Ernesti's additions, argument against the sentence of the and on turning to the præfatio,“ holy critical inquisition of Alexanwith an eagerness which some ex- dria, which sentenced this luckless perience of the “ sterile abundance' Perrault of antiquity to be burnt, of the classic commentators makes instead of his papers ; seemingly with rather ridiculous, I read as follows: the full matter-of-course approbation “ To speak either of the author or of all English schoolmasters. Every the genius of this poem, after so stray waif in poetry was sure to find many disputes on each side of the its way to Homer; but he would no question, is, in my opinion, nothing more have burlesqued his own divine to the purpose.” Grant me patience! song, than Milton would have written But, sir, it does “appertainto me,

a Cottonian travestie of his. Mr. and to many others of your readers, Monk Lewis, indeed, turned his Atake my word for it, that we should lonzo and Imogene into a comical balknow something of the reasons pro lad, almost as nonsensical, and ten and con; though as to the “ genius times as stupid; and so he might; of the poem, we shall scarcely come but imagine Milton, proud as he was to a note-maker for his assistance. of his “ ancient liberty recovered to You have palmed upon us three heroic poem,” being charged with whole pages of information concerne inditing Philips's “ Splendid Shiling the different copies ; from which ling!” The lofty legends of Troy we learn, that one copy is short by , would not admit of being debased by eighty-six lines, and another by six- a light association in the mind of teen; but you can afford to tell us such a bard as Homer; they must nothing of the possible inventor of have been laid up in the inner rethe grave burlesque ; though its ex- cesses of his soul, with all sacred istence, at a period of unquestionable and inviolable things. But the quesantiquity, is, of itself, a curious and tion is laid at once to rest by a stubinteresting phenomenon. Mr. God- born prose-fact. The idea of this win, I believe, treating on the suc- old minstrel that floats about among cessive imperceptible links of cause the mob of readers, is something like and effect, starts a notion, in his pro- the frontispiece to Scarronides ; a found hypothetical manner, that if blind ballad-singer, with a fist-full of Alexander had never crossed the printed songs. We will not insist as Granicus, the fire of London could to the printing ; but we may give a never have happened. But we need shrewd guess that Homer could not not be supposed to have taken a de- write. The craft was not in existgree in the university of Laputa, if

It is no use to talk of the we come to the conclusion, that but ongelo suyga, the mournful symbols for the Battle of the Frogs and Mice sent to Bellerophon : the Mexican barwe should not have had the Lutrin, barians corresponded with each other Vol. IV.



« fell


by means of pictorial signs; but we seated; makes you sick with some do not, therefore, think them good common-place about the Muses ; (I penmen. The parts of the Iliad wish I had never written a verse ;) were not books, but rhapsodies ; the or intercepts you on your way to the bard did not unroll a written papy- book-ladder, and (like that rus, but recited his verses, like an serjeant Death, strict in his arrest,”) Italian improvisatore, marking the claps a forked hand on your breast, cadence with a rude harp, or waving and detains you some twenty mia bough of laurel. Those ingenious nutes with the fall of stocks, the imgentlemen called reporters were not pending ruin of cash payments, the yet in existence; the songs, which, revolution of 1688, and the propriety like a snow-ball, gathered by suc- of excluding placemen and pensioncessive recitations into a poem, were ers from the House of Commons. not written down, but gotten by My friend Aquillius helped me on the heart. It was an oral age. Now in other day, while sitting after a têtethe very outset of the “ Battle of à-tête dinner, (I have been all my the Frogs and Mice,” the poet says, life what Johnson calls a tête-à-tête in Cowper's version of him,

man) by advising me to trace the My song, which I have newly progress of burlesque, or serio-comic traced

poetry, downwards in a series of In tables open'd on my knees.

essays. He talked very glibly of the

facility of this; and for a moment (I And thus there is an end of the dis- had not the remotest idea of doing pute.

all this myself) I was casting in my « Pray, sir, why do not you make mind the request that he would set some search after the labours of these about it himself. But I thought of several illustrissimi ? Mr. Boswell his painting-room and his port-folio, would run to the opposite extremities and I did not ask it. My friend (not of London, not reckoning bye-alleys, to speak it profanely) reminds me garrets, and trunk-makers' shops, in of Mrs. Malaprop's address to the Capquest of a solitary fact, which he ac- tain: “I hope, Sir, you are not like knowledges nobody would care about Cerberus ; three gentlemen at once.” but himself.”—Gentlemen, I have not At times he is like Wordsworth in his the indagatorial organ. (If there be retrospective poem: “the tall rock none of the kind or name, Dr. Spurz- haunts him like a passion.” The heim may thank me for helping him gross remembrance of dinner does not on towards the number forty, by this molest him (and in this, I confess, he little addition to his very simple and has the advantage of me) when lollintelligible nomenclature. I never ing on a stone in some valley, with can believe, by the bye, that I have his drawing-board before him, and his only just thirty-three organs. There box of colours, ten to one, slipped is something questionable and unsa- into a neighbouring brook, without tisfactory in a broken number. It is leave asked. He deposits this unlike being asked to dinner at a quar- finished piece (like a tabula rotira to ter past six. I would have stopped the Dryads) under some tuft of broom at thirty, or subdivided a few more or fern; and imagines we live in faculties, till I eked out the next those times of Arcadian simplicity, round number.). I hate trouble. I that it will be respected. A wag of am not certain whether I should lift his acquaintance, a brother of the down a book from a high shelf, parti- brush, found it, and wrote “very bad" cularly if dusty, as mine always are, in the margin of a towering sketch though I should be sure to ascertain of rock, jutting out amidst ivy and what I wanted. I had rather call in underwood, and capped with a verge the figure of periphrasis or of meta- of heath, and a spriukling of unexthesis, or any other that saves exer- pectedly defined trees, at scattered tion; and talk of somewhere, or some distances, with azure glimmerings of writer has said. As to library hunt- horizon. He took the criticism someing, I have forsworn it. You are what to heart, till he detected the sure to meet the very man whom you commentator; and retaliated, in a most wish to avoid ; who looks over lucky moment, by a few random your shoulder, if you are doggedly touches, surreptitiously introduced


into a drawing of his woodland critic, have a sense of awful and appalling by which the pendant boughs of dreariness and solitariness: I feel trees, and swelling projections of among them desolate, hopeless, and rocks, were made to assume the con- forsaken. I cling to undulating fieldfiguration of chins, eyes, and noses: paths, and familiar knolls under plane of which the painter himself was first or birch-trees, with glimpses of rareapprized by an explosion of laughter ly passing rural faces, and the long, round a supper-table. He is, after flaxen, uncut ringlets of cottage chilall, happier in a dim closet, with a dren. I had rather look at a shelsky-light, where, planted at his easel, tered farm, with sheep nibbling on he shows a reckless disdain of the slope that overhangs it, than Wordsworth's remonstrance about gaze dizzily upwards to the monas“growing double.' He has little tery, however hospitable within, or love for the sun, and commends a however picturesque without, on the fine day according as the landscape summit of mount St. Gothard. I canin its tints and shadows approximates not say with Correggio, " ed io sono to canvas. He abominates green. I pittore.” I am afraid I like Moralways considered it as a strikingland's bits of rustic animal life and proof of his good-nature, that, after homely cottage nature: his she-ass his manner of encouraging poor art- and her colt in a straw-yard, when ists, he once gave a guinea a green under snow (though I had rather the park and wooden deer, for which this latter were away); his shaggy cartobscure competitor of Claude had mo- horses, standing with a sort of sleepy destly charged five shillings. As patience in a dark field-stable, into Tom Paine said of the Quakers, that which a broken light streams down if they had had any hand in the crea- from a hole in the roof; above all, his tion, they would have clothed the pigs, especially if a chubby-faced face of nature in drab, so we may be child is clambering over a half-door, certain that my friend would have and leaning to look at them. I am proscribed Coleridge's

not on terms of intimacy with WilHealthful greenness pour'd upon the soul, have few aspirings beyond Gainsbo

son's tempest-troubled landscapes. I in favour of reds, browns, and yel- rough's cattle, standing in a clear lows: autumn, therefore, for his mo- pool, or winding up along a steep ney. He has no sympathy with the hollow, under banks of broad clusdewy emerald of a meadow in a tering oaks with their sketchy showery summer. These strike me and natural leafing. My friend as some of the disadvantuges of a is fond of spreading his painter. I am always at fault in with the massive, umbered tints conversation with an artist. I have of Poussin : he plunges his genius a most plebeian fondness for enclosed into a brown overhanging forest, fields, gently swelling and sinking, with a splash of broken river, and with their hedge-rows thick set with one delicious peep of sky, of a deeper hollies and hawthorns, and now and blue than the kingfisher's plumage, then an elm or an oakling. These, I which relieves, what I should call, find, I must not confess the liking of. the melancholy blackness of the But I may admire a brown inter- scene. He delights to surround minable heath, that, such is my cock- himself with gnarled mountain ashneyism, always puts me in mind of a trees, that straggle from the sides gibbet: and I may talk, as long as I of cliffs; and often sketches out a please, of glaciers, of mountains that root of most fantastic growth, and topple over our heads, and lakes that undefinable figure, about which he give the sensation of a bottomless has not quite made up his mind, watery abyss at our feet. I should whether it shall be a scathed fibre like (but for the trouble of motion) of a tree, or a twining dragon, like to visit such scenes: though I am ra- one in Lucan's, or Tasso's forest. ther of Dr. Johnson's way of think- By the way, he has no objection to ing respecting the Giant's Causeway a soldier or two, sheathed in armour, in Ireland: “ Worth seeing, Sir, yes! climbing out of a midway mountainbut not worth going to see : but I cavern, from behind a huge disparted do not covet to live among them. I crag, and looking down over it, in


[ocr errors]


such a posture as to make one giddy: characteristic of the original, he or, what is more usual with him, a avowed his intention of completing knight, in panoply complete, all but the whole in the manner that he had his helmet, stretched at his length begun. He hit off the thing with on the wild herbage, and a damsel such an easy freedom, that for once gleaming through the shadowy brakes, I began to persuade myself he would and wheeling away on a fugitive “ keep the word of promise to the palfrey. I went to see his progress hope as well as to the ear.” His in one of these romantic sketches, perseverance was a nine weeks' wonand found him half suffocated with der; and in this time he mastered the vapour of aqua fortis, of which nine cantos; when he murmured he had inhaled rather an unreason- something about having heard that able quantity, in etching a small Mr. Coleridge had expressed a similar Venice-piece of Canaletti. He ale intention; and I found the MS. had lowed the inconvenience of this sort been slid into a drawer among some of accidental inspiration ; but gave sketches, which he had once comvery cogent reasons for the superior menced, but never finished, illustrasatisfaction resulting from the graver tive of the scenes and adventures in over the pencil, and thought he St. Pierre's Paul and Virginia. In should never touch canvas again. I fact, as he told me in confidence, he thought differently. However, the was now very busily employed in copper fell into the same disgrace as counteracting the spread of Methothe canvas. The window of a book, dism, by a sermon and commentary seller of my acquaintance exhibited, on King James the First's anti-saball of a sudden, a weekly succession batical proclamation for the encouof macaronic poems. The subjects ragement of sports and exercises on a were various. There was an eccen- Sunday. tric French dancing-master, who, This is a very formidably faulty among other freaks, set up a child's digression; but how else could I wheel-chair with a sail to it, which make it quite clear, that there would he called a char volant: and in this his have been little hope in persuading daughter, a stout stocky demoiselle of my friend to give us a systematic fifteen, dragged herself heavily along history of burlesque poetry? the floor ; the flying being limited to He had, however, got actually a his own capers, as he preceded the car good way in translating the battle: with his kit. There was a Logierian when, just as he arrived at the words professor, who taught the theory éxdíctn yanén, (verse 113,) (which he and practice of music in four lessons. persisted, with Parnell and Cowper, There was a doctor, a violent fa- in calling a cat, for want of taking vourite of the ladies, who brought the trouble to reflect that cats are elderly gentlemen to a crisis in four not usually found in open fields, and days, by wrapping them in sheets on the borders of marshes), a cat, steeped in brandy; and who cured one mid-day, sprang upon his bed his own children, by baking them in (which, according to custom, was puff paste: and there was a radical piled with books and papers), overschool-master, who demonstrated, turned his ink-bottle on the coverlet, from Cobbett's grammar, that the and put to flight frogs and mice in House of Commons, and a den of pell-mell rout and irretrievable conthieves, being both nouns of multi- fusion. He had always an antipathy tude, were convertible in meaning. to this “ democratic beast," (as RoThis accounted for the glance, which bert Southey, before he dubbed himI now

so frequently had at my self Esquire, and was created Doctor friend's back, as he turned into a of Laws, and Poet Laureate, and printing-office. He was grown mys- wrote the Vision of Judgment, symterious and invisible. Till “ dawd- pathetically called it in his Annual ling with him over a dish of tea,” Anthology ;) and this incident has one evening, he read me half a canto forced him to rise before noon, and of Wieland's Oberon in stanzaic verse; ply his pencil once more in the valand after explaining, to my perfect ley. It was a poetical battle of apprehension, that Sotheby's version spurs, and his epic ideas have never was too terse and polished to be rallied since.

I wish the cat had not inter- SIGNATHUB? Who, that has a tooth meddled ; for there is no translation which dreads hard crust, would willof this mock-heroic, that conveys to ingly take upon him to pronounce an English reader any idea of its PsychARPAX? What smiles will humour. The original has by no flicker round the corners of an Engmeans that stately and unbending lish mouth, at the sounds of BORBOgravity of phrase, which the stan- ROCOITES and CNISSODIOCTES? John dard versions impute to it. Gold- Bull, I'll be sworn, smith, who is usually right, blamed Parnell for retaining the Greek Would rather hear a brazen candlestick names; and Johnson, who is oftener turn'd, right than the admirers of Gray's Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree. hubble-bubble sublimity will allow, concurs in the criticism. Cowper,

At my next leisure hour I may, thus fore-warned, was not fore- perhaps, cull out a sample or two armed; but blundered on in the for the LONDON MAGAZINE. Who cares for Phy


same error.


WHERE is the heart thou once hast won,

Can cease to care about thee?
Where is the eye thou'st smiled upon,

Can look for joy without thee?
Lorn is the lot one heart hath met,

That's lost to thy caressing ;-
Cold is the hope that loves thee yet,
Now thou art past possessing :-

Fare thee well!

We met-we loved-we've met the last,

The farewell word is spoken :
O Mary, canst thou feel the past,

And keep thy heart unbroken?
To think how warm we loved, and how

Those hopes should blossom never!
To think how we are parted now
And parted, oh, for ever!

Fare thee well!

Thou wert the first my heart to win,

Thou art the last to wear it;
And though another claims akin,

Thou must be one to share it.
Oh, had we known, when hopes were sweet,

That hopes would once be thwarted,-
That we should part no more to meet,
How sadly we had parted !-

Fare thee well!


« ElőzőTovább »