Johnson has again expressed the same opinion in his life of Gray:-
'The "Prospect of Eton College" suggests nothing to Gray which every beholder does not equally think and feel. His supplication to Father Thames to tell him who drives the hoop or tosses the ball is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no better means of knowing than himself.'
But though Johnson criticises these passages in other writers, yet similar expressions may be found in his own works. Cf. Rasselas, p. 319, 1. 28 sq. And the paragraph contains worse faults than any mere inconsistency. To censure a poet on such grounds as that 'nothing can be easier than to tell' a tale embodied in such charming verse as Pope's legend of Lodona, is to fundamentally mistake the grounds of poetical criticism. Of this mistake Johnson has given a foretaste in the Life of Dryden, p. 8, 11. 9 sq. The truth is, that difficulty of subject is rather undesirable in poetry, and when present it is for the poet's art to conceal it beneath the perfect flow of polished verse. He can never be more than a second-rate musician whose hearers are always wondering at his execution: intricacies vanish beneath a master's touch, and every hearer is tempted to fancy that he can himself rival a brilliancy achieved with so much ease.
« LAST» Note «NEXT»