If fulness be a fault, it is a fault that Gainsborough, Hoare, Pine, Reynolds, and many other of our modern geniuses are guilty of; and if it be sin, the best judges will acquit them for committing it, where dignity is to be considered.
Madame Valliere appears to have been scattering about her jewels, is tearing her hair, crying, and looking up to the heavens, which seem bursting forth a tempest over her head. The picture is well imagined, and finely executed.
I found upon the bulk of a portable shop in Paris, a most excellent engraving from this picture,[I] and which carried me directly to visit the original; it is indeed stained and dirty, but it is infinitely superior to a later engraving which now hangs up in all the print shops, and I suppose is from the first plate, which was done soon after the picture was finished. Under it are written the following ingenious, tho’ I fear, rather impious lines:
Magdala dam gemmas, baccisque
Projicit, ac formae detrahit arma suae:
Dum vultum lacrymis et lumina turbat; amoris
Mirare insidias! hac capit arte Deum.
[I] In the possession of Mr. GAINSBOROUGH.
Shall I attempt to unfold this writer’s meaning? Yes, I will, that my friend at Oxford may laugh, and do it as it ought to be done.
The pearls and gems, her beauty’s
See sad VALLIERE foregoes;
And now assumes far other charms
Superior still to those.
The tears that flow adown
Than gems are brighter things;
For these an earthly Monarch seek,
But those the KING of Kings.
This seems to have been the author’s thought, if he thought chastely.—Shall I try again?
The pearls and gems her beauty’s
See sad VALLIERE foregoes:
Yet still those tears have other charms,
Superior far to those:
With those she gained an earthly Monarch’s love:
With these she wins the KING of Kings above.
Yet, after all, I do suspect, that the author meant more than even to sneer a little at poor Madam Valliere; but, as I dislike common-place poetry, (and poetry, as you see, dislikes me) I will endeavour to give you the literal meaning, according to my conception, and then you will see whether our joint wits jump together.
While MAGDALENE throws by her bracelets, adorned with gems and pearls, and (thus) disarms her beauty: while tears confound her countenance and eyes,
With wonder mark the stratagems
With this she captivates the GOD above.
The impious insinuation of the Latin lines, is the reason, I suppose, why they were omitted under the more modern impression of this fine print, and very middling French poetry superseding them.