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phers, applied her scourge so severely to the magistrates of the commonwealth, that it was thought proper to restrain her within bounds by a law, enacting, that no person should be stigmatized under his real name; and thus the chorus was silenced. In order to elude the penalty of this law, and gratify the taste of the people, the poets began to substitute fictitious names, under which they exhibited particular characters in such lively colours, that the resemblance could not possibly be mistaken or overlooked. This practice gave rise to what is called the middle comedy, which was but of short duration; for the legislature, perceiving that the first law had not removed the grievance against which it was provided, issued a second ordinance, forbidding, under severe penalties, any real or family occurrences to be represented. This restriction was the immediate cause of improving comedy into a general mirror, held forth to reflect the various follies and foibles incident to human nature; a species of writing called the new comedy, introduced by Diphilus and Menander, of whose works nothing but a few fragments remain.
Having communicated our sentiments touching the origin of poetry, by tracing tragedy and comedy to their common source, we shall now endeavour to point out the criteria by which poetry is distinguished from every other species of writing. . In common with other 'arts, such as statuary and painting; it comprehends imitation, invention, com
position, and enthusiasm. Imitation is indeed the basis of all the liberal arts; invention and enthusiasm constitute genius, in whatever manner it may be displayed. Eloquence
of all sorts admits of enthusiasm. Tully says, an orator should be vehemens ut procella, excitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fulmen ; tonat, fulgurat, et rapidis eloquentiæ fluctibus cuncta proruit et proturbat.
Violent as a tempest, impetuous as a torrent, and glowing intense like the red bolt of heaven, he thunders, lightens, overthrows, and bears down all before him, by the irresistible tide of eloquence.”
This is the mens divinior atque os magna sonaof Horace. This is the talent,
Meum qui pectus inaniter angit,
With passions not my own who fires
heart; Who with unreal terrors fills
breast, As with a magic influence possess'd.
We are told, that Michael Angelo Buonaroti used to work at his statues in a fit of enthusiasm, during which he made the fragments of the stone fly about him with surprising violence. The celebrated Lully being one day blamed for setting nothing to music but the languid verses of Quinault, was animated with the reproach, and running in a fit of enthusiasm to his harpsichord, sung in recitative, and accompanied four pathetic lines from the Iphigenia of Racine, with such expression as filled the hearers with astonishment and horror.
Though versification be one of the criteria that distinguish poetry from prose, yet it is not the sole mark of distinction. Were the histories of Polybius and Livy simply turned into verse, they would not become poems; because they would be destitute of those figures, embellishments, and flights of imagination, which display the poet's art and invention. On the other hand, we have many productions that justly lay claim to the title of poetry, without having the advantage of versification ; witness the Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, with many beautiful hymns, descriptions, and rhapsodies, to be found in different parts of the Old Testament, some of them the immediate production of divine inspiration ; witness the Celtic fragments which have lately appeared in the English language, and are certainly replete with poetical merit. But though good versification alone will not constitute poetry, bad versification alone will certainly degrade and render disgustful the sublimest sentiments and finest flowers of imagination. This humiliating power of bad verse appears in many translations of the ancient poets; in Ogilby's Homer, Trapp's Virgil, and frequently in Creech's Horace. This last indeed is not wholly devoid of spirit; but it seldom rises above mediocrity, and, as Horace says,
Mediocribus esse poetis
But God and
How is that beautiful ode, beginning with Justum et tenacen propositi virum, chilled and tamed by the following translation:
He who by principle is sway'd,
In truth and justice still the same,
Though civil broils the state inflame;
Nor to a haughty tyrant's frown will stoop,
Should nature with convulsions shake,
Struck with the fiery bolts of Jove,
Cannot his constant courage move.
That long Alexandrine — « Nor to a raging storm, when all the winds are up,» is drawling, feeble, swoln with a pleonasm or tautology, as well as deficient in the rhyme; and as for the « dreadful crack,» in the next stanza, instead of exciting terror, it conveys a low and ludicrous idea. How much more elegant and energetic is this paraphrase of the same ode, inserted in one of the volumes of Hume's History of England.
Nor the proud tyrant's fiercest threat,
The lawless surges wake;
of his soul
Should nature's frame in ruins fall,
Resume primeval sway,
Obstruct its destined way.
If poetry exists independent of versification, it will naturally be asked, how then is it to be distinguished ? Undoubtedly by its own peculiar expression; it has a language of its own, which speaks so feelingly to the heart, and so pleasingly to the imagination, that its meaning cannot possibly be misunderstood by any person of delicate sensations. It is a species of painting with words, in which the figures are happily conceived, ingeniously arranged, affectingly expressed, and recommended with all the warmth and harmony of colouring: it consists of imagery, description, metaphors, similes, and sentiments, adapted with propriety to the subject, so contrived and executed as to soothe the ear, surprise and delight the fancy, mend and melt the heart, elevate the mind, and please the understanding. According to Flaccus :
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetæ ;
Poets would profit or delight mankind,
Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci,
Profit and pleasure mingled thus with art,
Tropes and figures are likewise liberally used in rhetoric: and some of the most celebrated orators have owned themselves much indebted to the poets. Theophrastus expressly recommends the poets for this their source, the spirit and energy of the pathetic, the