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now perused only by young students, who read merely that they may learn to write; and of the Carmen Seculare, I cannot but fufpect that I might praise or censure it by caprice, without danger of detection ; for who can be supposed to have laboured through it? Yet the time has been when this neglected work was so popular, that it was translated into Látin by no common master.
His Poem on the battle of Ramillies is necessarily tedious by the form of the stanza: an uniform mass of ten lines, thirty-five times. repeated, inconsequential and slightly connected, must weary both the ear and the understanding. His imitation of Spenser, which consists principally in I ween and I weet, without exclusion of later modes of speech, makes his poem neither ancient nor modern. His mention of Mars and Bellona, and his comparison of Marlborough to the Eagle that bears the thunder of Jupiter, are all puerile and unaffecting; and yet more despicable is the long tale told by Lewis in his despair, of Brute and Troynovante, and the teeth of Cadmus, with his fimilies of the raven and eagle, and wolf
and lion. By the help of such easy fi&tions, and vulgar topicks, without acquaintance with life, and without knowledge of art or nature, a poem of any length, cold and lifeless like this, may
be easily written on any subject.
In his Epilogues to Phadra and to Lucius, he is
very happily facetious; but into the Prologue before the Queen, the pedant has found
way, with Minerva, Perseus, and Andro
His Epigrams and lighter pieces are, like those of others, sometimes elegant, sometimes trifling, and sometimes dull; among the best åre the Camelion, and the epitaph on John and
Scarcely any one of our poets has written so much, and translated so little: the version of Callimachus is sufficiently licentious; the paraphrase on St. Paul's Exhortation to Charity is eminently beautiful.
Alma is written in professed imitation of Hudibras, and has at least one accidental resemblance: Hudibras wants a plan, because it Vol. III.
is left imperfect; Alma is imperfect, because it seems never to have had a plan. Prior appears not to have proposed to himself
drift or design, but to have written the casual dictates of the present moment.
What Horace said when he imitated Lucilius, might be said of Butler by Prior, his numbers were not smooth or neat: Prior excelled him in versification, but he was, like Horace, inventore minor; he had not Butler's exuberance of matter and variety of illustration. The spangles of wit which he could afford, he knew how to polish; but he wanted the bullion of his master.
Butler pours out a negligent profusion, certain of the weight, but careless of the stamp. Prior has comparatively little, but with that little he makes a fine shew. Alma has many admirers, and was the only piece among Prior's works of which Pope faid that he should wish to be the author.
Solomon is the work to which he entrusted the protection of his name, and which he expected succeeding ages to regard with veneration. His affection was natural; it had undoubtedly been written with great labour, and
who is willing to think that he has been labouring in vain? He had infused into it much knowledge and much thought; had often polished it to elegance, often dignified it with splendour, and sometimes heightened it to sublimity: he perceived in it many excellencies, and did not discover that it wanted that without which all others are of small avail, the power of engaging attention and alluring
Tediousness is the most fatal of all faults ; negligences or errors are single and local, but tediousness pervades the whole; other faults are censured and forgotten, but the power
of tediousness propagates itself. He that is weary the first hour, is more weary the second; as bodies forced into motion, contrary to their tendency, pass more and more slowly through every successive interval of space.
Unhappily this pernicious failure is that which an author is least able to discover. We are seldom tiresome to ourselves; and the act of composition fills and delights the mind with change of language and succession of images; every couplet when produced is new, and novelty is the great source of pleasure. PerD 2
haps no man ever thought a line fuperfluous when he first wrote it, or contracted his work till his ebullitions of invention had fubfided. If he should controul his defire of immediate renown, and keep his work nine
years unpublished, he will be still the author, and still in danger of deceiving himself; and if he confults his friends, he will probably find men who have more kindness than judgement, or more fear to offend than desire to instruct.
The tediousness of this poem proceeds not from the uniformity of the subject, for it is fufficiently diversified, but from the continued tenour of the narration; in which Solomon relates the successive vicissitudes of his own mind, without the intervention of any
other speaker, or the mention of any other agent, unless it be Abra ; and the reader is only to learn what he thought, and to be told that he thought wrong. The event of every experiment is forefeen, and therefore the process is not much regarded.
Yet the work is far from deserving to be neglected. He that shall peruse it will be able to mark many passages, to which he may recur for instruction or delight; many from