The Grassy Clods
now calv’d; and half appear’d
The tawny Lyon, pawing to get free
His hinder Parts; then springs, as broke from Bonds,
And, rampant, shakes aloft, his brinded Main!
The heaving Leopard, rising, like the Mole,
In Heaps the crumbling Earth about him threw!
These animated Images, or pictured Meanings of Poetry, are the forcible Inspirers, which enflame a Reader’s Will, and bind down his Attention. They arise from living Words, as Aristotle calls them; that is, from Words so finely chosen, and so Justly ranged, that they call up before a Reader the Spirit of their Sense, in that very Form, and Action, it impressed upon the Writer. But when the Idea, which a Poet strives to raise, is in itself magnificent and striking, the Dawb of Metaphor, or any spumy Colourings of Rhetoric can but deaden, and efface it.
If Sir Richard had said, concerning the Skies, on any other Subject but This, of the Creation, that they were ’spun thin, and wove, on Nature’s finest Loom,’ the Thought had been so far from Impropriety, as to have been pleasing, and praise-worthy; But when the Image he wou’d set before us, is the Maker of Heaven and Earth, in all the dreadful Majesty of his Omnipotence, producing at a Word, the noblest Part of the Creation, and ’spreading out the Heavens as a Curtain’; In this tremendous Exercise of his Divinity, to compare him to a Weaver, and his Expansion of the Skies, to the low Mechanism of a ‘Loom,’ is injudiciously to diminish an Idea, he pretends to heighten and illustrate.
I will end with a Word or two concerning the different Measure of the Verse, in which the following Poem is written; and which is apt to disgust Readers, not well grounded in Poetry, because it requires a fuller Degree of Attention than the Couplet, and, as Mr. Cowley has said of it,
no unskilful Touch endure,
But flings Writer and Reader too, that sits not sure.
I have, in another Place, endeavoured by Arguments to demonstrate the Preference of this Kind of Verse to any other; I will here observe only, from my Experience of other Writers, that it wins, insinuates, and grows insensibly upon the Relish of a Reader, till the little seeming Harshness, which is supposed to be in it, softens gradually away, and leaves a vigorous Impression behind it, of mixed Majesty and Sweetness.
A Man, who is just beginning to try his Ear in Pindaric, may be compared to a new Scater; He totters strangely at first, and staggers backward and forward; Every Stick, or frozen Stone in his Way, is a Rub that he falls at. But when many repeated Trials have embolden’d him to strike out, and taught the true Poize of Motion, he throws forward his Body with a dextrous Velocity, and becoming ravish’d with the masterly Sweep of his Windings, knows no Pleasure greater, than to feel himself fly through that well-measured Maziness, which he first attempted with Perplexity. But I will detain you no longer, and hasten now to the Poem, which has given me this pleasing Opportunity of telling you how much I am,