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NO. xvn. POETRY, AS DISTINGUISHED FROM OTHER WRITING. 309
Horace. This last indeed is not wholly devoid of spirit; but it seldom
rises above mediocrity, and, as Horace says,
Mediocribus esse poetis
Non homines, non Di, non concessere columnae. "
' ' But gods, and men, and letter ' d post denies,
That poets ever are of middling size. "
How is that beautiful ode, beginning with " Justum et tenacem propositi
virum, " chilled and tamed by the following translation :
" He who by principle is sway ' d,
In truth and justice still the same,
Is neither of the crowd afraid,
Though civil broils the state inflame ;
Nor to a haughty tyrant ' s frown will stoop,
Nor to a raging storm, when all the winds are up.
Should nature with convulsions shake,
Struck with the fiery bolts of Jove,
The final doom and dreadful crack
Cannot his constant courage move. "
That long Alexandrine " Nor to a raging storm, when all the winds are
up, " is drawling, feeble, swoln with a pleonasm or tautology, as well as
deficient in the rhyme ; and as for the " dreadful crack, " in the next stanza,
instead of exciting terror, it conveys a low and ludicrous idea. How much
more elegant and energetic is this paraphrase : of the same ode, inserted in
one of the volumes of Hume ' s History of England.
' ' The man whose mind on virtue bent,
Pursues some greatly good intent
With undiverted aim,
* Serene beholds the angry crowd ;
Nor can their clamours fierce and loud
His stubborn honour tame.
" Nor the proud tyrant ' s fiercest threat,
Nor storms that from their dark retreat
The lawless surges wake ;
Nor Jove ' s dread bolt, that shakes the pole,
The firmer purpose of his soul
With all its powers can shake.
" Should nature ' s frame in ruins fall
And Chaos o ' er the sinking ball
Resume primeval sway,
His courage chance and fate defies,
Nor feels the wreck of earth and skies
Obstruct its destined sway. "
If. poetry exists independent of versification, it will naturally be asked,
how then is it to be distinguished? Undoubtedly, by its own peculiar
expression : it has a language of its own, which speaks so feelingly to the
heart, and so pleasingly to the imagination, that its meaning cannot possibly
be misunderstood by any person of delicate sensations. It is a species of
painting with words, in which the figures are happily conceived, ingeniously
arranged, affectingly expressed, and recommended with all the warmth and
1 By Dr. Thomas Blacklock, the blind poet (born 1721, died 1791). Hume ' s
approbation of Blacklock was nearly as wild as his enthusiasm about Wilkie and his
Scottish Epic.
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