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he was one of the first that resolutely endeavoured at correctness. He never sacrifices accuracy to haste, nor indulges himself in contemptuous negligence, or impatient idleness; he has no careless lines, or entangled sentiments; his words are nicely selected, and his thoughts fully expanded. If this part of his character suffers any abatement, it must be from the disproportion of his rhymes, which have not always sufficient confonance, and from the admission of broken lines into his Solomon ; but perhaps he thought, like Cowley, that hemistichs ought to be admitted into heroick poetry.
He had apparently such rectitude of judgement as secured him from every
thing that approached to the ridiculous or absurd; but as laws operate in civil agency not to the excitement of virtue, but the repression of wickedness, so judgement in the operations of intellect can hinder faults, but not produce excellence. Prior is never low, nor very often sublime. It is said by Longinus of Euripides, that he forces himself sometimes into grandeur by violence of effort, as the lion kindles his fury by the lashes of his own tail. Whatever Prior obtains above mediocrity seems. the effort of struggle and of toil. He has many vigorous but few happy lines; he has every thing by purchase, and nothing by gift; he had no nightly visi
tations of the Muse, no infusions of sent. timent or felicities of fancy.
His diction, however, is more his own than that of any among the successors of Dryden; he borrows no lucky turns, or commodious modes of language, from his predecessors. His phrases are original, but they are sometimes harsh; as he inherited no elegances, none has he bequeathed. His expresfion has every mark of laborious study; the line feldom seems to have been formed at once; the words did not come till they were called, and were then put by constraint into their places, where they do their duty, but do it fullenly. In his greater compositions there may be found
more rigid stateliness than graceful dignity.
Of versification he was not negligent :: what he received from Dryden he did not lose; neither did he increase the difficulty of writing, by unnecessary severity, but uses Triplets and Alexandrines without scruple. In his Preface to Solomon he proposes fome improvements, by extending the sense from one couplet to another, with variety of pauses. This he has attempted, but without success; his interrupted lines are unpleasing, and his sense as less distinct is less striking.
He has altered the Stanza of Spenser, as a house is altered by building another in its place of a different form. With how little resemblance he has
formed his' new Stanza to that of his master, these specimens will shew.
She Aying fast from heaven's hated face, And from the world that her discover'd wide, Fled to the wasteful wilderness apace, From living eyes her open Mame to hide, And lurk’d in rocks and caves long unespy'd. But that fair crew of knights, and Una fair, Did in that castle afterwards abide, To rest themselves, and weary powers repair, Where fore they found of all, that dainty was
To the close rock the frighted raven flies, Soon as the rising eagle cuts the air : The shaggy wolf unseen and trembling lies, When the hoarse roar proclaims the lion near.