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Butler's Hudibras' is a poem of more wit than any other in the language. The rhymes have as much genius in them as the thoughts; but there is no story in it, and but little humour. Humour is the making others act or talk absurdly and unconsciously; wit is the pointing out and ridiculing that absurdity consciously, and with more or less ill-nature. The fault of Butler's poem is not that it has too much wit, but that it has not an equal quantity of other things. One would suppose that the starched manners and sanctified grimace of the times in which he lived would of themselves have been sufficiently rich in ludicrous incidents and characters; but they seem rather to have irritated his spleen than to have drawn forth his powers of picturesque imitation. Certainly if we compare 'Hudibras' with 'Don Quixote' in this respect, it seems rather a meagre and unsatisfactory performance.

Rochester's poetry is the poetry of wit combined with the love of pleasure, of thought with licentiousness. His extravagant, heedless levity has a sort of passionate enthusiasm in it; his contempt for everything that others respect almost amounts to sublimity. His poem upon Nothing is itself no trifling work. His epi

grams were the bitterest, the least laboured, and the truest that ever were written.

Sir John Suckling was of the same mercurial stamp, but with a greater fund of animal spirits; as witty, but less malicious. His 'Ballad on a Wedding' is perfect in its kind, and has a spirit of high enjoyment in it, of sportive fancy, a liveliness of description and a truth of nature, that never were surpassed. It is superior to either Gay or Prior; for with all their naïveté and terseness, it has a Shakspearean grace and luxuriance about it which they could not have reached.

Denham and Cowley belong to the same period, but were quite distinct from each other: the one was grave and prosing, the other melancholy and fantastical. There are a number of good lines and good thoughts in the Cooper's Hill;' and in Cowley there is an inexhaustible fund of sense and ingenuity, buried in inextricable conceits, and entangled in the cobwebs of the schools. He was a great man, not a great poet. But I shall say no more on this subject. I never wish to meddle with names that are sacred, unless when they stand in the way of things that are more sacred.

Wither is a name now almost forgotten, and

his works seldom read; but his poetry is not unfrequently distinguished by a tender and pastoral turn of thought; and there is one passage of exquisite feeling, describing the consolations of poetry in the following terms:

'She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow;
Makes the desolatest place 1
To her presence be a grace,
And the blackest discontents
Be her fairest ornaments.
In my former days of bliss
Her divine skill taught me this,
That from everything I saw,
I could some invention draw,
And raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest object's sight,
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least bough's rusteling.
By a daisy whose leaves spread,
Shut when Titan goes to bed,
Or a shady bush or tree,
She could more infuse in me,
Than all Nature's beauties can

In some other wiser man.

By her help I also now

Make this churlish place allow

Some things that may sweeten gladness
In the very gall of sadness.

1 Written in the Marshalsea Prison.

The dull loneness, the black shade,
That these hanging vaults have made;
The strange music of the waves,
Beating on these hollow caves;
This black den which rocks emboss,
Overgrown with eldest moss;
The rude portals that give light
More to terror than delight.
This my chamber of neglect,
Walled about with disrespect,
From all these and this dull air,
A fit object for despair,

She hath taught me by her might
To draw comfort and delight.
Therefore, thou best earthly bliss,
I will cherish thee for this.
Poesie, thou sweet'st content
That ere Heaven to mortals lent,
Though they as a trifle leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee;

Though thou be to them a scorn,

That to nought but earth are born, —

Let my life no longer be

Than I am in love with thee.

Though our wise ones call thee madness,

Let me never taste of sadness,

If I love not thy maddest fits

Above all their greatest wits.

And though some, too seeming holy,

Do account thy raptures folly,

Thou dost teach me to contemn

What makes knaves and fools of them.'

7.76 1.83



THOMSON, the kind-hearted Thomson, was

the most indolent of mortals and of poets. But he was also one of the best both of mortals and of poets. Dr. Johnson makes it his praise that he wrote no line which dying he would wish to blot.' Perhaps a better proof of his honest simplicity and inoffensive goodness of disposition would be that he wrote no line which any other person living would wish that he should blot. Indeed, he himself wished, on his death-bed, formally to expunge his dedication of one of the Seasons 6 to that finished courtier and candid biographer of his own life, Bubb Doddington. As critics, however, not as moralists, we might say, on the other hand, 'Would he had blotted a thousand!' The same suavity of temper and sanguine warmth of feeling which threw such a natural grace and genial spirit of enthusiasm over his poetry, was also the cause of its inherent vices and defects.

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