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her in a gown and cap! What, the plenipotentiary so far concerned in the damned peace of Utrecht; the man that makes up half the volume of terse prose, that makes up the report of the committee, speaking verses! sic est homo sum.' He found, at last, then, that he was nothing more than man. He sat at the opera one evening, by the side of a Frenchman; who accompanied the principal singer with his voice. Prior, in return, began to rail obstreperously against the singer; and, when the Frenchman, at length, ceased singing, and wondered how Prior should thus abuse a person, who was confessedly the soul of the stage, I know all that, said Prior; but he sings so loud, that it is impossible for me to hear you.' At another time, he was in a company, where every one was to sing a titrastich, ending with Bannissons le Melancholie. Prior was preceded by a young lady, who sat next him,whether beautiful or not, is immaterial. He addressed her with
Mais cette voix, et ces beaux yeaux
The writer of Prior's Epitaph has rightly said, that the muses smiled upon his birth. The whole Nine may be said to have smiled; for he has tried every sort of verse, from the heroic to the hudi. brastic ; and, what is a rare felicity, has treated all with so equal a hand, that it is difficult to designate the one in which he excels. His stock of thought is never copious; but what he has, he turns to the best account. His language is neat, pure, and, in general, smooth; seldom stiffened by new coined or unused terms; deformed by quaint phrases; or debased by vulgar modes of expression. In his light pieces he is gay and easy; but, in his graver efforts, he becomes too serious and formal. Wit is the natural element of his mind; and, when he assumes dignity, he loses his gracefulness. His poetical faculties were not of the highest order; and it may be questioned whether they were the gift of nature, or the acquirements of study.
We have here to notice another instance of Dr. Johnson's disposition to retract, in one place, the praise, which he has given in another. Speaking of Prior's Tales, he says, “they are written with great familiarity and great sprightliness; the language is easy, but seldom gross, and the numbers smouth, without appearance of care.' When giving the author's general character, a little after, ‘his expression (says the same critic) has every mark of laborious study; the line seldom seems to have been formed at once; the words did not come till they were called, and were then put by constraint in their places, where they do their duty, but do it sullenlv.'