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E shades, where sacred truth is sought ;
Oh heav'n-born sisters ! source of art!
* Altered from Shakespear by the Duke of Buckingham, at whose desire these two Choruses were composed, to supply as many wanting in his play. They were set many years afterward, by the famous Bononcini, and performed at Buckingham-house. P.
Ver. 3. Where heav'nly visions Plato fir'd, And Epicurus lay inspir'd!] The propriety of these lines arises from hence, that Brutus, one of the Heroes of this play, was of the old Academy; and Cassius, the other, was an Epicuréan.
Warburton. I cannot be persuaded that Pope thought of Brutus and Cassius, as being followers of different sects of philosophy. Warton.
Who lead fair Virtue's train along,
Forsaken, friendless, shall ye fly?
When Athens sinks by fates unjust,
And Athens rising near the pole !
Ye Gods! what justice rules the ball ?
Ver. 12. Moral Truth and mystic Song !] The construction is dubious. Does the poet address Moral Truth and Mystic Song, as being the Heaven-born Sisters; or does he address himself to the Muses, mentioned in the preceding line, and so make Moral Truth and Mystic Song to be a part of Virtue's train? as Hesiod begins his poem.
Dr. Warburton's proposed correction is not consistent with either construction, when he says, the poet had expressed himself better had he said Moral Truth in Mystic Song. Moral Truth, a single person, can neither be the Heaven-born Sisters, nor yet, alone, the train of Virtue. If it could, the emendation might have been spared, because this is no uncommon figure in poetry.
Warton. Ver. 26. Freedom and Arts] A sentiment worthy of Alcæus !
Fools grant whate'er Ambition craves,
In ev'ry age, in ev'ry state !
Throughout all his works our author constantly shews himself a true lover of true liberty.
Warton. Ver. 32. Some Athens]
-When brutal force
Pleasures of Imagination, B. ii. This ode is of the kind which M. D'Alembert, judging like a mathematician, prefers to odes that abound with imagery and figures, namely, what he calls the Didactic ode ; and then proceeds to give reasons for preferring Horace to Pindar, as a lyric poet. Marmontel in his Poetics opposes him.
CHORUS OF YOUTHS AND VIRGINS.*
The prudent, learn’d, and virtuous breast?
Wisdom and wit in vain reclaim,
Love, soft intruder, enters here,
Which Nature has imprest,
The mild and gen’rous breast !
Love's purer flames the Gods approve;
* Some of Dryden's short lyrical odes and songs are wonderfully harmonious; and not sufficiently noticed ; particularly in King Arthur, Act III.
“ O Sight ! the mother of Desire,” &c. The song also of the Syrens in Act IV: and the Incantations in the Third Act of Edipus, put in the mouth of Tiresias ;
“ Chuse the darkest part o'th' grove,
Such as ghosts at noon-day love,” &c. Nor must his first ode for St. Cecilia's Day be forgotten, in which are passages almost equal to any of the second : especially its
Brutus for absent Portia sighs,
fed from wild desire,
And burn for ever one;
Productive as the Sun.
Oh source of ev'ry social tye,
What various joys on one attend,
Whether his hoary sire he spies,
Or views his smiling progeny:
What home-felt raptures move!
With reverence, hope, and love.
opening, and the second stanza that describes Tubal and his brethren.
Warton. Ver. 31. Or meets] Recalling to our minds that pathetic stroke in Lucretius;
“ dulces occurrant oscula nati Præripere, et tacità pectus dulcedine tangunt.”
Lib. iii. 909.