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With the philofophical or religious tenets of the author I have nothing to do; my bufinefs is with his poetry. The fubject is well-chofen, as it in. cludes all images that can ftrike or pleafe, and thus comprifes every fpecies of poetical delight. The only difficulty is in the choice of examples and illustrations; and it is not easy in fuch exuberance of matter to find the middle point between penury and fatiety. The parts feem artificially difpofed, with fufficient coherence, fo as that they cannot change their places without injury to the general defign.
His images are difplayed with fuch luxuriance of expreffion, that they are hidden, like Butler's Moon, by a "Veil of Light;" they are forms fantastically loft under fuperfluity of drefs. Pars minima eft ipfa puella fui. The words are multiplied till the fenfe is hardly perceived; attention deferts the mind, and fettles in the ear. The reader wanders through the gay diffufion, fometimes amazed, and fometimes delighted, but, after many turnings in the flowery labyrinth, comes out as he went in. He remarked little, and laid hold on nothing.
To his verfification juftice requires that praise fhould not be denied. In the general fabrication of his lines he is perhaps fuperior to any other writer of blank verfe; his flow is fmooth, and his paules are mufical; but the concatenation of his verfes is commonly too long continued, and the full clofe does not recur with fufficient frequency. The fenfe is carried on through a long intertexture of complicated claufes, and as nothing is diftinguished, nothing is remembered.
The exemption which blank verfe affords from the neceffity of clofing the fenfe with the couplet, betrays luxuriant and active minds into fuch felf-indulgence, that they pile image upon image, ornament upon ornament, and are not easily perfuaded to close the fenfe at all. Blank verfe will therefore, I fear, be too often found in defcription exuberant, in argument loquacious, and in narration tiresome.
His diction is certainly poetical as it is not profaick, and elegant as it is not vulgar. He is to be commended as having fewer artifices of difguft than most of his brethren of the blank fong. He rarely either recalls old phrafes or twifts his metre into harsh inverfions. The fenfe however of his words is ftrained; when "he views the Ganges from Alpine "heights;" that is, from mountains like the Alps. And the pedant furely intrudes (but when was blank verfe without pedantry?), when he tells how "Planets abjolve the ftated round of Time.".
It is generally known to the readers of poetry that he intended to revife and augment this work, but died before he had completed his defign. The reformed work as he left it, and the additions which he had made, are very properly retained in the late collection. He feems to have fomewhat contracted his diffufion; but I know not whether he has gained in clofenefs what he has loft in fplendor. In the additional book, the "Tale of Solon" is too long.
One great defect of his poem is very properly cenfured by Mr. Walker, unless it may be faid in his defence, that what he has omitted was not properly in his plan. "His picture of man is grand "and beautiful, but unfinished. The immortality
"of the foul, which is the natural confequence of "the appetites and powers the is invefted with, is fcarcely once hinted throughout the poem. This deficiency is amply fupplied by the masterly pencil "of Dr. Young; who, like a good philosopher, has "invincibly proved the immortality of man, from "the grandeur of his conceptions, and the meanness "and mifery of his state; for this reafon, a few "paffages are felected from the Night Thoughts,' 65 which, with those from Akenfide, feem to form a "complete view of the powers, fituation, and end "of man." Exercises for Improvement in Elocu
tion,' p. 66.
His other poems are now to be confidered; but a fhort confideration will difpatch them. It is not easy to guess why he addicted himself fo diligently to lyrick poetry, having neither the ease and airiness of the lighter, nor the vehemence and elevation of the grander ode. When he lays his ill-fated hand upon his harp, his former powers feem to defert him; he has no longer his luxuriance of expreffion, nor variety of images. His thoughts are cold, and his words inelegant. Yet fuch was his love of lyricks, that, having written with great vigour and poignancy his" Epiftle to Curio," he transformed it afterwards into an ode difgraceful only to its author.
Of his odes nothing favourable can be faid; the fentiments commonly want force, nature, or novelty; the diction is fometimes harsh and uncouth, the ftanzas ill-conftructed and unpleasant, and the rhymes diffonant, or unfkilfully difpofed, too diftant from each other, or arranged with too little regard to eftablished ufe, and therefore perplexing to the ear,
which in a fhort compofition has not time to grow familiar with an innovation.
To examine fuch compofitions fingly, cannot be required; they have doubtless brighter and darker parts: but when they are once found to be generally dull, all further labour may be spared; for to what ufe can the work be criticifed that will not be read?
HOMAS GRAY, the fon of Mr. Philip Gray, a fcrivener of London, was born in Cornhill, November 26, 1716. His grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then affiftant to Dr. George; and when he left school, in 1734, entered a penfioner at Peterhouse in Cambridge.
The tranfition from the school to the college is, to moft young scholars, the time from which they date their years of manhood, liberty, and happiness; but Gray seems to have been very little delighted with academical gratifications; he liked at Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, and lived fullenly on to the time when his attendance on lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profefs the Common Law, he took no degree.
When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. Horace Walpole, whofe friendship he had gained at Eton, invited him to travel with him as his com panion. They wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters contain a very pleafing account