Slike strani

As a writer, he is entitled to one praise of the highest kind: his mode of thinking, and of expreffing his thoughts, is original. His blank verse is no more the blank verfe of Milton, or of any other poet, than the rhymes of Prior are the rhymes of Cowley. His numbers, his paufes, his diction, are of his own growth, without tranfcription, without imitation. He thinks in a peculiar train, and he thinks always as a man of genius; he looks round on Nature and on Life with the eye which Nature beftows only on a poet; the eye that diftinguishes, in every thing presented to its view, whatever there is on which imagination can delight to be detained, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vaft, and attends to the minute. The reader of the "Seafons" wonders that he never faw before what Thomson fhews him, and that he never yet has felt what Thomson impreffes.

His is one of the works in which blank verfe feems properly used. Thomfon's wide expanfion of general views, and his enumeration of circumftantial varieties, would have been obftructed and embarraffed by the frequent interfection of the fenfe, which are the neceffary effects of rhyme.

His defcriptions of extended fcenes and general effects bring before us the whole magnificence of Nature, whether pleafing or dreadful. The gaiety of Spring, the fplendour of Summer, the tranquillity of Autumn, and the horror of Winter, take in their turns poffeffion of the mind. The poet leads us through the appearances of things as they are fucceffively varied by the viciffitudes of the year, and imparts to


us fo much of his own enthufiafm, that our thoughts expand with his imagery, and kindle with his fentiments. Nor is the naturalift without his part in the entertainment; for he is affifted to recollect and to combine, to range his discoveries, and to amplify the sphere of his contemplation.

The great defect of the "Seafons" is want of method; but for this I know not that there was any remedy. Of many appearances fubfifting all at once, no rule can be given why one fhould be mentioned before another; yet the memory wants the help of order, and the curiofity is not excited by fufpence or expectation.

His diction is in the highest degree florid and luxuriant, fuch as may be faid to be to his images and thoughts "both their luftre and their shade;" such as invest them with splendour, through which perhaps they are not always easily discerned. It is too exuberant, and fometimes may be charged with filling the ear more than the mind.

These Poems, with which I was acquainted at their first appearance, I have fince found altered and enlarged by fubfequent revifals, as the author fuppofed his judgement to grow more exact, and as books or conversation extended his knowledge and opened his profpects. They are, I think, improved in general; yet I know not whether they have not loft part of what Temple calls their" race;" a word which, applied to wines in its primitive fenfe, means the flavour

of the foil.

"Liberty," when it first appeared, I tried to read, and foon defifted. I have never tried again, and

[ocr errors]

and therefore will not hazard either praise or cenfure.

The highest praise which he has received ought not to be fuppreft: it is faid by Lord Lyttelton, in the Prologue to his pofthumous play, that his works contained

No line which, dying, he could wish to blot.




HE Poems of Dr. WATTS were by my recommendation inserted in the late Collection; the readers of which are to impute to me whatever pleasure or wearinefs they may find in the perusal of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden.

ISAAC WATTS was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, when his father, of the fame name, kept a boarding fchool for young gentlemen, though common report makes him a fhoemaker. He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate.

Ifaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy; and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four years old, I fuppofe, at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by Mr. Pinhorne, a clergyman, master of the Free-school at Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his fcholar afterwards infcribed a Latin ode.

His proficiency at fchool was fo confpicuous, that a fubfcription was propofed for his fupport at the University; but he declared his refolution of taking his lot with the Diffenters. Such he was as every Chriftian Church would rejoice to have adopted...

He therefore repaired in 169o to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his companions and fellow-ftudents Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Effays, fuppofed to have been written as exercises at this academy, fhew a degree of knowledge, both philofophical and theological, fuch as very few attain by a much longer course of ftudy.

He was, as he hints in his Mifcellanies, a maker of verfes from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he appears to have paid attention to Latin poetry. His verses to his brother, in the glyconick meafure, written when he was feventeen, are remarkably easy and elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the Pindarick folly then prevailing, and are written with fuch neglect of all metrical rules as is without example among the ancients; but his diction, though perhaps not always exactly pure, has fuch copioufness and fplendour, as fhews that he was but a very little distance from excellence.

His method of study was to imprefs the contents of his books upon his memory by abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one fyftem with fupplements from another..

With the congregation of his tutor Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe, Independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year.


« PrejšnjaNaprej »