« PředchozíPokračovat »
one and the same work, not by Milton only, but also by Homer, Virgil, Lucan, and Shakespeare. Yet still these arts are different;
different in their ends, and principles, and in the faculties of the mind to which they are respectively addressed : and it is eafy to perceive, when a writer employs one, and when another.
III. A reason why tropes and figures are more necessary in some forts of poetry, than in others, it is not difficult to affign. This depends on the condition of the supposed speaker, particularly on the state of his imagination and passions. When the soul pines with forrow, or languishes in love, it keeps its view more steadily fixed on one or a few ideas, than when it is possessed with enthusiasm, or agitated by jealousy, revenge, indignation, anxiety, or any other turbulent emotion. In the former case it is inactive; in the latter, restless;
Magno curarum fluctuat æstu, Atque animum nunc huc celerem, nunc dividit
illuc, In partesque rapit varias, perque omnia versat;
and therefore in the one case it will be occupied by few ideas, and in the other by many. The style,
The style, therefore, of the amorous or mournful elegy, in order to be imitative of the language of sorrow or desponding love, must be fimpler, and less diversified by VOL. II.
figures, than that of the dithyrambic song, any
other poem in which the speaker is supposed to be greatly agitated.
I have heard the finest Ode in the world blamed for the boldness of its figures, and for what the critic was pleased to call obscurity. He had, I suppose, formed his taste upon Anacreon and Waller, whose Odes are indeed very simple, and would have. been very absurd, if they had not been simple. But let us recollect the circumstances of Anacreon, (considered as the speaker of his own poetry), and of Gray's Welsh Bard. The former warbles his lays, reclining on a bed of flowers, dissolved in tranquillity and indolence, while all his faculties seem to be engrossed by one or a few pleasurable objects. The latter, just escaped from the massacre of his brethren, under the complicated agitations of grief, revenge, and despair; and surrounded with the scenery of rocks, mountains, and torrents, stupendous by nature, and now rendered hideous by desolation, imprecates perdition upon the bloody Edward; and, seized with prophetic enthusiasm, foretells in the most alarming strains, and typifies by the most dreadful images, the disasters that were to overtake his family and descendents. If perfpicuity and fimplicity be natural in the fongs of Anacreon, as they certainly are, a figurative style and desultory composition are no less natural in this inimitable performance of Gray. And if real prophecy must always be so obscure, as not to be fully understood till it is accomplished, because otherwise it would interfere with the free agency of man, that poem which imitates the style of prophecy, must also, if natural, be to a certain degree obfcure; not indeed in the images or words, but in the allusions. And it is in the allufions only, not in the words or images, (for these are most emphatical and picturesque), that the poem partakes of obscurity; and even its allusions will hardly seem obscure to those who are acquainted with the history of England. Those critics, therefore, who find fault with this poem, because it is not so fimple as the songs of Anacreon, or the loveverses of Shenstone and Waller, may as well blame Shakespeare, because Othello does not speak in the sweet and simple language of Desdemona. Horace has no where attempted a theme of such animation and sublimity, as this of Gray; and yet Horace, like his master Pindar, is often bold in his transitions, and in the style of many of his odes extremely figurative. But this we not only excuse, but applaud, when we consider, that in those odes the assumed character of the speaker is enthusiasm, which in all its operations is somewhat violent, and must therefore give a peculiar vehemence both to thought and to language.
rangement, in the style of an Epic poem ? Why is not the language of the lliad and Eneid as figurative as that of Pindar ? - To this I answer, first, That the assumed character of the Epic poet is calm inspiration, the effects whereof upon the mind must be supposed to be very different from those produced by enthusiasm or prophetic rapture ; regularity and composure being as essential to the former, as wildness and vehemence are to the latter : and, fecondly, That a very figurative style continued through a long work becomes tiresome; and therefore, that all poems of great length ought to be methodical in the plan, and simple in the execution.
Abrupt transition, boldness of figure, and thoughts elevated almoft to exa travagance, may please in a short poem; as the dainties of a banquet, and the fplendour of a triumph, may amuse for a day: but much feasting destroys health, and perpetual glare and tumult stupify the senses
; and the high lyric style continued through many pages would fatigue the attention, confound the judgement, and bewilder the fancy:
T is folly to prefer found to sense. Yet
the ear, like every other perceptive faculty, is capable of gratification; and therefore to the sound of words some regard is to be had, even in prose. For ill-founding language can never be agreeable, either to the hearer or to the speaker ; and of different modifications of well-founding language some will be found to be more agreeable than others. It is the business of the poet to make his style as agreeable, and consequently as pleasing to the ear, as the nature of the subject will allow. And to the harmony of language it behoves him, more than any other writer, to attend; as it is more especially his concern to render his work pleasurable. In fact we find, that no poet was ever popular who did not possess the art of harmonious composition.
What I have to say on the subject of Poetical Harmony may be referred to one or on ther of these heads : Sweetness, Measure, and Imitation. ļ. In order to give sweetness to language,