« הקודםהמשך »
Mais celle voix, et ces beaux yeux,
Tradition represents him as willing to defcend from the dignity of the poet and the ftatesman to the low delights of mean company. His Chloe probably was sometimes ideal ; but the woman with whom he cohabited was a despicable drab * of the lowest species. One of his wenches, perhaps Chloe, while he was absent from his house, stole his plate, and ran away; as was related by a woman who had been his servant. Of this propensity to fordid converse I have seen an account so seriously ridiculous, that it seems to deserve infertion.
“ I have been assured that Prior, after hav
ing spent the evening with Oxford, Boling“ broke, Pope, and Swift, would go and smoke
a pipe, and drink a bottle of ale, with a common soldier and his wife, in LongAcre, before he went to bed; not from
any “ remains of the lowness of his original, as
one said, but, I suppose, that his faculties
" Strain'd to the height, • In that celestial colloquy sublime, “ Dazzled and spent, funk down, and fought
Poor Prior! why was he so strained, and in such want of repair, after a conversation with men not, in the opinion of the world, much wiser than himself? But such are the conceits of speculatists, who strain their faculties to find in a mine what lies upon the surface.
His opinions, so far as the means of judging left
us, seem to have been right; but his life was, it seems, irregular, negligent, and fenfual.
PRIOR has written with great variety, and his variety has made him popular. He has tried all styles from the grotesque to the folemn, and has not so failed in any as to incur derision or disgrace.
His works may be distinctly considered as comprising Tales, Love-verses, Occasional Poems, Alma, and Solomon.
His Tales have obtained general approbation, being written with great familiarity and great spriteliness : the language is easy, but seldom gross, and the numbers smooth, without appearance of care.
Of these Tales there are only four. The Ladle ; which is introduced by a Preface, neither necessary nor pleasing, neither grave nor merry.
Paulo Purganti ; which has likewise a Preface, but of more value than the Tale. Hans Carvel, not overdecent; and Protogenes and Apelles, an old story, mingled, by an affectation not disagreeable, with modern images. The Young Gen
tleman in Love has hardly a just claim to the title of a Tale. I know not whether he be the original author of any Tale which he has given us. The Adventure of Hans Carvel has passed through many fuccessions of merry wits; for it is to be found in Ariosto’s Satires, and is perhaps yet older. But the mèrit of such ftories is the art of telling them.
In his Amorous Effusions he is less happy; for they are not di&tated by nature or by passion, and have neither gallantry nor tenderness. They have the coldness of Cowley, without his wit, the dull exercises of a fkilful versifyer, resolved at all adventures to write something about Chloe, and trying to be amorous by dint of study. His fictions therefore are mythological. Venus, after the ex, ample of the Greek Epigram, asks when the was feen naked and bathing. Then Cupid is mistaken ; then Cupid is difarmed; then he loses his darts to Ganymede ; then Jupiter fends him a summons by Mercury. Then Chloe goes a-hunting, with an ivory quiver graceful at ber fide; Diana mistakes her for one of her nymphs, and Cupid laughs at the blunder. All this is surely despicable ; and even when
he tries to act the lover, without the help of gods or goddesses, his thoughts are unaffecting or remote. He talks not like a man of this world.
The greatest of all his amorous essaysis Henry and Emma; a dull and tedious dialogue, which excites neither efteem for the man nor tenderness for the woman. The example of Emma, who resolves to follow an outlawed murderer wherever fear and guilt fhall drive him, deserves no imitation; and the experiment by which Henry tries the lady's constancy, is such as must end either in infamy to her, or in disappointment to himself.
His occasional Poems necessarily lost part of their value, as their occasions, being less remembered, raised less emotion. Some of them, however, are preserved by their inherent excellence. The burlesque of Boileau's Ode on Namur has, in some parts, such airiness and levity as will always procure it readers, even among those who cannot compare it with the original. The Epistle to Boileau is not so happy. The Poems to the King are