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Art. VIII. The Triumphs of Temper; a Poem, In Six Cantos,
By William Hayley, Esq. 4to. 68. sewed. Dodsley. 1781. TT seems to be a kind of duty,' says Mr. Hayley, incumbent I on those who devote themselves to poetry, to raise, if possible, the dignity of a declining art, by making it as beneficial to life and manners as the limits of composition, and the character of modern times, will allow.' In conformity with this sentiment, this gallant Writer has taken the field against the most formidable enemy of domestic quiet that ever embittered life or brutalized our manners. And were it not that spleen is the deaf adder that refuseth to hear the voice of the charmer, the victory would be decisive. But though it is to be feared her dia. bolical empire is too firmly established to be shaken by any ex. ertions short of miraculous, we are fully of opinion, that the poem before us, which is intended to promote the cultivation of good humour, will be of considerable service to society. Exclusive of that intellectual delight arising from the contemplation of works of ingenuity and taste, it is capable of being the source of ftill more lasting enjoyments, as it cannot fail of infusing some portion of that spirit which it recomiends, and, where good temper is permitted to exert itself, of improving inAuence into habit.
There is a novelty in the nature and conduct of this poem which, as it requires explanation, will be best done in the Au. thor's own words:
• The following produ&ion owes its existence to an incident in real lise, very similar to the principal action of the last Canto; but in forming the general plan of the work, it seemed to me absolutely necessary to introduce both the agency and the abode of Spleen, nota withstanding the difficulty and the hazard of attempting a subject so happily executed by the masterly pencil of Pope. I considered his Cave of Spleen as a most exquisite cabinet picure; and to avoid the servility of imitation, I determined to ketch the manfion of this gloomy Power on a much wider canvas: happy, indeed, if the judgment of the Public may enable me to exclaim, with the honest vanity of the painter, who compared his own works to the divine productions of Raphael,
E fon Pittore anch' 10! ! The celebrated Alessandro Tassoni, who is generally considered as the inventor of the modern Heroi.coinic Poetry, was so proud of having extended the limits of his art by a new kind of compofition, that he not only spoke of it with infinite exultation in one of his pri. vate letters, but even gave a MS. copy of his work to his native city of Modena, with an inscription, in which he styled it a new species of Poetry, invented by bimself.
A few partial friends have asserted, that the present performance has some degree of fimilar merit ; but as I apprehend all the novelty ic poflefies, may rather require an apology, than eatiile irs Author to
challenge challenge commendation, I shall explain how far the conduct of the Poem differs from the moft approved models in this mode of writing, and nightly mention the poetical effects, which such a variation appeared likely to produce. * • It is well known, that the favourite Poems, which blend the serious and the comic, represent their principal characters in a satirical point of view: it was the intention of Tafsoni (though prudence made him attempt to conceal it) to satirize a particular Italian noble. man, who happened to be the object of his resentment. Boileau opeply ridicoles the French Ecclesiastics in his Lutrin; Garth, our English Physicians, in his Dispensary; and the Rape of the Lock it. self, that most excellent and enchanting Poem, which I never con. template but with new idolatry, is denominated the best Satire extant, by the learned Dr. Warton, in bis very elegant and ingenious, but severe Essay on Pope : a sentence which seems to be confirmed by the Poet himself, in his letter to Mrs. Fermor, where he fays, “ The character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in beauty.” Though I think, that no composition can furpass, or perhaps ever equal this most happy effort of Genius, as a sportive Satire, I imagined it might be possible to give a new Character to this mixed species of Poetry, and to render it by its object, though not in its execution, more noble than the moft beautiful and refined Satire can be. We have seen it carried to inimitable perfection, in the moft delicate raillery on Female Foibles :-it remained to be tried, if it might not allo aspire to delineate the more engaging features of Female Excellence. The idea appeared to me worth the experiment; for if it succeeded, it seemed to promise a double advan, tage; first, it would give an air of novelty to the Poem ; and, secondly, what I thought of much greater importance, it would render it more interesting to the heart. On these principles, I have endeavoured to paint Serena as a molt lovely, engaging, and accomplished character ; yet I hope the colouring is so faj:hfully copied from general Nature, that every man, who reads the Poem, may be happy enough to know many Fair ones, who resemble my Heroine.
* There is another point, in which I have also attempted to give this Poem an air of novelty ;, I mean, the manner of connecting the real and the vifionary scenes, which compose it; by shifting these in alternate Cantos, I hoped to make familiar Incident and allegorical Picture afford a strong relief to each other, and keep the attention of the Reader alive, by an appearance particularly diversified. I wished, indeed (but I fear moft ineffectually) for powers to unite some touches of the sportive wildness of Ariosto, and the more serious sublime painting of Dante, with some portion of the enchanting elegance, the refned imagination, and the moral graces of Pope ; and to do this, if poffible, without violating those rules of propriety, which Mr. Cam. bridge has illuftrated, by example as well as precept, in The Scrib, leriad, and in bis sensible Preface to that elegant and learned Poem.'
All that we shall add will be two extracts from the different parts of this exquisite and enchanting poem, which may serve as specimens of Mr. Hayley's talent at familiar Incident and allegorical picture :' D 4
• Ye radiant Nymphs! whose opening eyes convey
The guardian cincture to her snowy breast,
Such secret charms this richer Zone posseft,
Beneath the pillow, not completely hid,
The Novel lay-She saw- The seiz’d-the chid:..
But curfing takes it for his secret ufe.' We shall next transport our Readers to the region of Senfibi. lity :
"As thus she spoke, she pois’d her airy feat
While her soft breaft with picy seems to pant,
• Around their Sovereign, on the verdant ground,
• The guardian Power furvey'd her lovely grief,