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COMPARISON OF VIRGIL AND THOMSON.
[Concluded from page 17.)
To the Editors of the Northern Star. I AM reminded by the clouded face of the heavens, the white robe of snow which covers the earth, and the hollow moaning of the rising storm. that I get owe one paper more to your monthly publication.
“ See! Winter comes to rule the varied year,
I proceed then, without further preface, to the consideration of those passages in this Season which have any resemblance to the Georgics, and to complete the comparison between Thomson and Virgil.
There is only one passage in this Season in which I have traced any resemblance to the Georgics, but this is so strongly marked with the characteristic features of the original froin which it is copied, that it as certainly indicates its origin, as the changes which it points out in the face of the sky intimate the future state of the weather :
“ When from the pallid sky the sun descende,
Sin maculæ incipient rutilo inmiscerier igni.”
Georg. i. 451-454.
“ But more than all the setting sun survey,
If dusky spots are varied on his brow,
“ While rising slow,
“ Luna, revertentes quum primom conligit ignes, Si nigrum obscuro conprehenderit aëra corou.”
Geurg. i. 427, 428. “When first the moon appears, if then she shrouds Her silver crescent tipp'd with sable clondo."
« The stars obtuse emit a sbiver'd ray,
Geurg. i. 365-367.
Are not the two following lines, which describe the withered leaf borne about by the wind, and the light feather dancing on the surface of the water, à literal translation of the very beautiful and expressive couplet which I shall here subjoin to them, from the same passage in the first Georgic ?
“ Snatch'd in short eddies, plays the wither'd leaf,
Winter, 180, 181.
Georg. i. 368, 369.
dancing feather” of Thomsou, it must be allowed that the " withered leaf” of the imitator, in the first line, is more like the “ frondes caducas” of Virgil than the “ dancing leaves of the translator It occurs to me here, that to make a leaf dance in the last stage of its existence is ridiculous in the extreme: with a dance we usually conuect ideas of revelry and enjoy ment—how different from the melancholy reflections which the falling leaf suggests! Poets cannot be too careful in the correction of their verses, when a single epithet, as we see in the instance before us, can destroy the beauty of a passage.
The imitation in the lines which follow is too evident to require being pointed out:
“ Even as the matron, at her nightly task,
Georg. i. 390-392.
« Retiring from the downs, where all day long
Georg. i. 381, 382.
Assiduous in his bower, the wailing owl
Winter, 143, 144.
“Nequidquam seros exercet noctua cantos.”
Georg. i. 403. How much is the beauty of this passage increased by the image which Thomson has introduced in the beginning of the line, by representing the owl as sitting solitary in her bower. It recalls to our recollection the inimitable lines of Gray :
“Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Molest ber ancient, solitary reign.”
“ The cormorant on high
Georg. i. 361,-364.
Those who have had the patience or curiosity to peruse my former papers
reason of Thomson's superiority to Virgil in this passage. The latter, confined in his description, paints the happiness of a peasant, who, retired from the tumults and agitations of the world, passes his days innocently in rural occupations, which are sometimes interrupted by rural sports: the former, in the picture he has drawn of the happiness of a country-life, has not only described the pleasures of innocence but those of knowledge also, and painted, with all the
glowing colours of the richest fancy, the enjoyment of the retired philosopher, who, spending a serene
ich the in
and peaceful life “in still retreats and flowery solitudes," not only admires the varied beauty of the scenes which surround him through the different seasons of the year, but draws from them the lessons of instruction and wisdom which they are so well calculated to afford ;
“ To Nature's voice attends from month to month,
And feels her sweet emotions at his heart." I have one more general remark to make, before I conclude, on the difference of the style which these two eminent poets have adopted in their admirable descriptions of nature. The style of Virgil appears to me more simple and less figurative than that of Thomson. It is by no means devoid of poetical ornament or enbellishment, but the ornament is less glittering, and the embellishment more plaio. The poetry of Virgil is distinguished by all the graceful simplicity and elegance of Roman dra pery, but that of Thomson is clothed in all the splendor and magnificence of an Eastern dress: or, if I may be allowed to change the figure, and compare the style of these celebrated describers of nature to one of nature's finest exhibitions, I should say, that the diction of the former sesembled the mild lustre of the opening morn, whilst that of the latter glows with all the radiance of the risen day. My meaning will, perhaps, be rendered more intelligible by an interpretation : in describing the fruitful plains of Italy, Virgil uses the simple and unadorned expression, “ Hæc loca gravidæ fruges implevere;” Thomson, not conteut with such plain langnage, describes the same natural appearance in his eulogy on England, by a figure,~" Thy valleys float with golden waves.”
These observations relate solely to the Georgics, between which and the Seasons the analogy can only be drawn; and with this remark, fearfal of wearying out the patience of your readers, which has been tried long enough, and not wishing to usurp too many of your valuable pages, lest by my dulness I should dim the lustre of your rising Star, and commit an injury where I wished to confer a benefit, I remain your friend and well-wisher,
ON THE AUTHORS OF THE SPECTATORS.
co poopossoost to pododo.
To the Editors of the Northern Star. THE last paper in the seventh volume of the Spectator, No. 555. contains several interesting facts respecting the principal writers engaged in that celebrated work.
“ All the papers," says Steele, “ which I have distinguished by my letter in the name of the Muse CLIO, were given me by the gentleman of whose assistance I formerly boasted in the preface and conclading leaf of