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No. 074 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

No. 74
Friday, May 25, 1711.

‘… Pendent opera interrupta …’


In my last Monday’s Paper I gave some general Instances of those beautiful Strokes which please the Reader in the old Song of Chevey-Chase; I shall here, according to my Promise, be more particular, and shew that the Sentiments in that Ballad are extremely natural and poetical, and full of [the [1]] majestick Simplicity which we admire in the greatest of the ancient Poets: For which Reason I shall quote several Passages of it, in which the Thought is altogether the same with what we meet in several Passages of the AEneid; not that I would infer from thence, that the Poet (whoever he was) proposed to himself any Imitation of those Passages, but that he was directed to them in general by the same Kind of Poetical Genius, and by the same Copyings after Nature.

Had this old Song been filled with Epigrammatical Turns and Points of Wit, it might perhaps have pleased the wrong Taste of some Readers; but it would never have become the Delight of the common People, nor have warmed the Heart of Sir Philip Sidney like the Sound of a Trumpet; it is only Nature that can have this Effect, and please those Tastes which are the most unprejudiced or the most refined. I must however beg leave to dissent from so great an Authority as that of Sir Philip Sidney, in the Judgment which he has passed as to the rude Stile and evil Apparel of this antiquated Song; for there are several Parts in it where not only the Thought but the Language is majestick, and the Numbers [sonorous; [2]] at least, the Apparel is much more gorgeous than many of the Poets made use of in Queen Elizabeth’s Time, as the Reader will see in several of the following Quotations.

What can be greater than either the Thought or the Expression in that Stanza,

To drive the Deer with Hound and Horn
Earl Piercy took his Way;
The Child may rue that was unborn
The Hunting of that Day!

This way of considering the Misfortunes which this Battle would bring upon Posterity, not only on those who were born immediately after the Battle and lost their Fathers in it, but on those also who [perished [3]] in future Battles which [took their rise [4]] from this Quarrel of the two Earls, is wonderfully beautiful, and conformable to the Way of Thinking among the ancient Poets.

‘Audiet pugnas vilio parentum

Rara juventus’.


What can be more sounding and poetical, resemble more the majestic Simplicity of the Ancients, than the following Stanzas?

The stout Earl of Northumberland
A Vow to God did make,
His Pleasure in the
Scotish Woods
Three Summers Days to take.

With fifteen hundred Bowmen bold,
All chosen Men of Might,
Who knew full well, in time of Need,
To aim their Shafts aright.

The Hounds ran swiftly thro’ the Woods
The nimble Deer to take,
And with their Cries the Hills and Dales
An Eccho shrill did make.

… Vocat ingenti Clamore Cithseron
Taygetique canes, domitrixque Epidaurus equorum:
Et vox assensu nemorum ingeminata remugit.

Lo, yonder doth Earl Dowglas come,
His Men in Armour bright;
Full twenty Hundred
Scottish Spears,
All marching in our Sight.

All Men of pleasant Tividale,
Fast by the River Tweed, etc.

The Country of the Scotch Warriors, described in these two last Verses, has a fine romantick Situation, and affords a couple of smooth Words for Verse. If the Reader compares the forgoing six Lines of the Song with the following Latin Verses, he will see how much they are written in the Spirit of Virgil.

Adversi campo apparent, hastasque reductis
Protendunt longe dextris; et spicula vibrant;
Quique altum Preneste viri, quique arva Gabinae
Junonis, gelidumque Anienem, et roscida rivis
Hernica saxa colunt: … qui rosea rura Velini,
Qui Terticae horrentes rupes, montemque Severum,
Casperiamque colunt, Forulosque et flumen Himellae:
Qui Tiberim Fabarimque bibunt