Page images
PDF
EPUB

cal composition, but to call in Painting to the aid of POETRY; or to publish it (as it is expressed at the bottom of the advertisement) with various designs and engravings, descriptive and historical, by the most eminent masters.'

HUMANITY, however, is sent forth, as a noun substantive, to stand by itself, witbout having so much as a Vignette joined to it. It was not necessary : for not only the interesting nature of the subject, but the particular season also of its publication (when the attention of Parliament was directed to the negroe traffic and Navery), would contribute to procure it many readers. Mr. Pratt confeffes, that in the order of his great poem on Society, what relates to the inhuman treatment of negroes would not probably have taken the lead, but that he was induced to depart from his original plan, and to anticipate some of his observations, 'in order, at a seasonable moment, to enforce the appeals of those who have the strongest claims on humanity. We highly applaud the motive. As the avowed friend of the human race, Mr. Pratt is entitled to the greatest respect, though, as a poet, not to perfect commendation. His sentiments are those of an expanded and liberal mind; but they are not always expressed in the happiest manner.

Alluding to a former work (we apprehend, to his Landscapes in Verse), he thus beautifully begins the poem before us :

. From vernal blooms and many a fragrant bow'r,
The red’ning bloffom and unfolding flower,
From breezy mountains and the covert vale,
The gliding water and the whispering gale,
From gayer scenes where careless fancy stray'd,
Bak'd in the sun, or frolick'd in the shade,
Ambitious grown, and couch'd by generous praise,
Now turns the Muse to more advent'rous lays ;
No more the paints the tints of blushing morn,
Nor hangs the dew-drop on the trembling thorn;
No more the brook runs murmuring in her line,
No more, fair Spring, her florid verse is thine ;
Farewell, a long farewell, to founts and flow'rs,

Far loftier themes demand her thoughtfal powers.' Mr. Pratt's Muse having, in this elegant exordium, taken her leave of pastoral objects, sketches the plan of her future adventurous song on Society; but, ere the wings her bold fight, kneels at COMPASSION's shrine, and confecrates her opening lay to HUMANITY. We do not doubt the fincerity of the consecration, nor the truch of what follows.

• For thou her guardian, patroness and guide,

She owns with rapture, and obeys with pride." But we lament that she is too rapturous to be grammatical. It is better, however, to fall into accidental violations of grammar, than to be guilty of repeating the same thought, with no kind of

variation,

[ocr errors]

Variation, in a second line, for the sake of procuring a rhyme to

Of this fault, which we only expect to find in the moft flimsy writers of verse, Mr. Pratt's Muse stands convicted on the evidence of the following couplet, which is part of her compliment to the Humane Society :

Drag the pale vi&tim from the whelming wave,

And snatch the body from the floating grave *.'
For these offences ample reparation is foon made, as the pro-
ceeds to sing of the exercise of humanity toward the insane.
This is the newest part of the poem, and as it will, no doubt,
be pleasing to our poetical readers, we here offer it to their
perusal:

• When sovereign Reason from her throne is hurl'd,
And with her all the subject senses whirl'd t,
From sweet HUMANITY, the nurse of grief,
Even thy deep woes, O PHRENZY! find relief;
For tho the tresses loose and bosom bare,
And maniac glance thy hapless ftate declare,
With gentle hand fee still supports thy head,
Beguiles thy wand'ring wit, and smooths thy bed;
Alifts thy roving fancy in its flight,
To crown thy airy sallies with delight;
An healing balm to thy warp'd sense she brings,
Till from her softness magic comfort springs,
And joys which Reason with a frown denies,
Her tender pity with a smile supplies ;
Ev'n in thy prison-house she bids thee draw
From the rush sceptre, and the crown of straw,
The mimic truncheon, and the love-knot true,
Full many a transport Reason never knew;
And at thy grated cell she oft appears,
She culls thee flowers, and bathes them with her tears;
The perfum'd violet and the blooming rose,
On thy hurt mind a transient bliss beltows;
Into a thousand fhapes the garlands change,
As fairy fancy takes its antic range ;
Then as thy brows the fragrant wreaths adorn,

The roses seem to bloom without a thorn.'
No Muse, whose senses are distraught, could thus write of the
insane ; but when a Muse gers warm, the is apt to become
obscure, or to fly beyond the ken of common sense. What is
soon after observed of female beauty, that it breaks in the blush,
and Moots along the figh,' appears to us (who do not see with the
poet's eye “ in a fine phrenzy rolling") a little dark; but this
is nothing to what we meet with when she is more heated, and

[ocr errors]

* In another place, p. 52, our poet makes use of two words of the fame meaning in one line : law is called

• The field, the spear, and buckler of the land.'
# We do not quite approve of zubirld in the second line.

glows

glows with rage at the unconscious sugar cane. Again't this plant a very heavy charge is preferred; it is said to be

• Of ev'ry soft HUMANITÝ the bane;' and described in the fame sentence as having a poison, an art, and a fhrine. But from this fight into the regions of obscurity, the Muse foon descends, and acts the graver part of the Historian. She traces slavery, or the sale of human Aeth, from its origin in Egyp', through Greece and Rome, to the time of its abolition by the Christian Emperors; reproaches Portugal and Spain for reviving it; has a stroke at the Inquifition; describes the advances of POWER; gives us an imitation of Pope's Men would be Angels, Angels would be Gods; bids us behold the kidnapped Africans taken from their native land, and cruelly conveyed to the West Indian ilands; and calls on the Europeans to justify their conduct. And now the assumes the sober province of Reason; confutes the notion that power, colour, or superior sense, can give a right to act the tyrant; Thews that the refinement and polished manners of which we boast, produce as many vices as virtues; attacks luxury on the score of its various cruelties; points out, by way of contrast, the Bramin's harmless life, and Thews what should be learnt from it; turns next to the laveagent (who is said to buy and sell the image of his God); has a stroke at France (For all the licences is dance and song;') then sweetly fings of liberty, Albion, and the Oak; again looks back to ancient times ; talks of Caractacus and Boadicea ; and concludes the first book with the laud and praise of King Alfred.

In the second book, the Muse of Humanity darts her all-pervading eye at the Baftile; abhors the loathsome dungeon; fies to Afia (where 'flavery is said to bloom beneath the faireft sky'); (quere, what can be meant by the blooming of jlavery ?); laments the horrid effects of despotism there; and, unable to rest on these plains, steers her flight to Africa. Here the relates some pretty tales, much to the credit of the jetty race ;--then-but unable to follow Mr. Pratt's Mufe, who travels as fast as any of Ariosto's knights, we must content ourselves with the following extract, which contains a sentiment truly liberal and just, and is a fair specimen of the poetry:

O pride enormous ! impudence of man!
But let not Bricons imitate the plan,
Frame no false systems and then call them wise,
Os make distinctions where no difference lies;
Alas! full oft the European face
Maiks a mind darker than the darkest race;
The Negroe's heart may be a purer shrine,
For thoughts devout, 0 haughty White, than thine,
Acceptance find more gracious from its God,
Than the proud master who uplifts the rod,

His prayer to holy Kanno more prevail
To the great SPIRIT whispering in the gale,
His pious vows to Quoja 'midst the trees
Or high Basse fo walking in the breeze,
There may more virtue and more truth impart,
Than Christian incense from a savage heart,
And his wild Tambour beat to idol shouts *,
To heav'n ascend before the organ's notes ;
Say, what the pomps of science or of prayer,
If the poor Indian's fervor glows not there?
In different forms tho' men the God adore,
Shap'd as the brute or painted as the flow's,
As marble here, and there as feathers feen,
There the birds bone, and here the fishes fin,
Each, as it marks fincerity, shall rise,
And welcome find in the recording skies,
Shall more be cherish'd by the powers of Hear'n
Than less true worlhip where more aids are giv'n,
Than the mock homage of th' enlighten'd train,

For whom a Saviour liv'd and died in vain.'
As a poet, Mr. Pratt is a very unequal writer. Frequently
there is strength and pathos in his verse; at other times it is
tame and languid. He is, moreover, not sufficiently nice and
attentive in his choice of words. Sailors would object to the
phrase loudly roars the gale, and would inform the landsman poet
that the moment when the gale begins loudly to roar, it becomes
a storm. Sometimes he is abrupt in his transitions; an instance
of this appears in p. 44.

We have noticed other little defects, but we thall not particularly enumerate them, nor bave we mentioned the above from any defire of injuring Mr. Pratt's reputation t. Our wish is to increase it. We have blamed him now, that we might, confiftently with our engagements to the public, more entirely com. mend his future work, and we must take the liberty of giving it as our opinion, that if, instead of priding himself in a vast extent of lines, he would learn to be more correct in the use of metaphors, and to blos, lop, and condense, he would soon be in considerable eftimation as a poet.

We have been informed that Mr. Pratt's extreme illness, while the poem on Humanity was at press, obliged him to leave the MS. to be given out at different times, by a person who had mixed the revised copy with several loose sheets of the rough original draft; consequently many errors (beside those in the errata) will be found.

[ocr errors]

* Shouts and notes make a very bad rhyme.

+ Our remarks prove that we have not deemed his present work unworthy of criticism. Such distinction is more than we can afford to every poem that issues from the press. Rev. Nov. 1788. Ff

ART.

[ocr errors]

Art. IX. The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero against Caias Core

nelius Verres, translated from the Original, by James White, Esq; with Annotations. 4to. 185. Boards. Cadell. 1787. Fall literary tasks, that of tranlating from the ancients is

the most ungrateful, since the labour is arduous, and the reward inconfiderable. According to an ingenious French writer *, “it is an unalterable law to refer all that is excellent to the original, and all that is bad to the copy; and the unhappy condition of a translator resembles that of a dancer on the lack rope, whose dexterity is little regarded, while the leaft inadvertence colts him his life.”

Considering this circumstance, we have always been inclined to view with much indulgence every attempt of this kind, when undertaken, as the late learned Mr. Harris used to say, by qualified persons; in which rank, Mr. White may very properly be placed. He has been studious to understand his author ; and the copiousness of his English style is well suited to express the exuberant fertility of Cicero.

In the preface he describes the subject of the original, explains his design in the translation, and intermixes several obfervations which are not common, and wbich appear to us to be solid; we Mall therefore insert it entire as a specimen of his ftyle, and as an earnest of the satisfaction which the English reader may derive from the perusal of his work.

The deplorable abuses of provincial government have never been depicted in more glowing colours than in the celebrated orations against Caius Verres. Such readers as are accustomed to compaflonate human misery, will doubtless receive a satisfaction from being told, that the abilities and zeal of Cicero were not exerted in vain. In this triumphant prosecution, the delinquent, who had returned to Rome loaded with the spoils and curses of Sicily and Asia, was blasted by the lightning of irresistible eloquence.

• Profligate men, intrusted with domination over opulent regions, despised the common career of villany, and were tempted to become monsters. Entire nations were impoverished irretrievably: there was no motive of interest to restrain the oppreffor: impunity at Rome was secured by excess of wickedness abroad : there was nothing to deaden the stroke of despotism. The tyrant haltened to his province, as to a devoted prey; proceeded to plunder it with a dreadful regularity; kept a journal of desolation ; and, embittering the peace of millions, directed from his tribunal the system of their calamities.

• This is one of the most applauded periods in the life of Cicero. Throughout the impeachment and trial of Verres, he appears to have been wholly unmolested by that timidity which afterwards enfeebled and disgraced his operations. Here we behold him fearless and firm; an example of patient investigation, of persevering vigour, of im

* Tourreil, in his historical preface to the translation of Demofthenes.

pregnable

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »