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and to give their early bards the better title to inspiration, they feign them to be descended from the Gods; Orpheus must have profited by liis mother's partiality, and Linus may well be supposed to have had some interest with his father Apollo. But to dwell no longer on these fabulous legends of the Greeks, we may refer to the books of Moses for the earliest and inost authentic examples of sacred poetry: Every thing that was the immediate effufion of the prophetic spirit feems to have been chaunted forth in dithyrambic measure; the valedictory blessings of the Patriarchs, when dying, the songs of triumph and thanksgiving after victory are metrical, and high as the antiquity of the facred poem

of Job undoubtedly is, such nevertheless is its character and construction, as to carry strong internal marks of its being written in an advanced state of the

art.

The poet therefore, whether Hebrew or Greek, was in the earliest ages a sacred character, and his talent a divine gift, a celestial inspiration : Men regarded him as the ambassador of Heaven and the interpreter of it's will. It is perfectly in nature, and no E 6

less

less agreeable to God's providence, to supfose that even in the darkest times some minds of a more enlightened sort should break forth, and be engaged in the contemplation of the universe and it's author : From meditating upon the works of the Creator, the transition to the act of praise and adoration follows as it were of course: These are operations of the mind, which naturally inspire it with a certain portion of rapture and enthusiasm, rushing upon the tips in warm and glowing language, and difdaining to be expressed in ordinary and vulgar phrase; the thoughts become inflated, the breast labours with a passionate desire to fay something worthy of the ear of Heaven, fomething in a more elevated tone and cadence, fomething more harmonious and mufical ; this can only be effected by measured periods, by some chaunt, that can be repeated in the strain again and again, grateful at once to the ear and impressive on the memory, and what is this but poetry? Poetry then is the language of prayer, an address becoming of the Deity ; it may be remembered; it may be repeated in the ears of the people called together for the purposes of

worship;

worship; this is a form that may be fixt upon their minds, and in this they may be taught to join.

The next step in the progress of poetry from the praise of God is to the praise of men : Illustrious characters, heroic actions are singled out for celebration; the inventors of useful arts, the reformers of savage countries, the benefactors of mankind, are extolled in verse, they are raised to the skies, and the poet, having praised them as the first of men, whilst on earth, deifies them after death, and, conscious that they merit immortality, boldly bestows it, and assigns to thein a rank and office in heaven appropriate to the character they maintained in life; hence it is that the merits of a Bacchus, a Hercules, and numbers more are ainplified by the poet, till they become the attributes of their divinity, altars are raised and victims immolated to their worship. These are the fanciful effects of poetry in its second stage : Religion over-heated turns into enthusiasın; enthusiasm forces the imagination into all the visionary regions of fable, and idolatry takes poffeffion of the whole Gentile world. The Egyptians, a

mysterious

mysterious dogmatizing race, begin the work with fymbol and hieroglyphic; the Greeks, a vain ingenious people, invent a set of tales and fables for what they do not understand, embellish them with all the glittering ornaments of poetry, and spread the captivating delusion over all the world.

In the succeeding period we review the poet in full possession of this brilliant machinery, and with all Olympus at his command : Surrounded by Apollo and the muses, he commences every poem with an address to them for protection : He has a deity at his call for every operation of nature ;

if he would roll the thunder, Jupiter fhakes Mount Ida to dignify his description ; Neptune attends him in his car, if he would allay the ocean ; if he would let loose the winds to raise it Æolus unbars his cave; the spear of Mars and the ægis of Minerva arm himn for the battle; the arrows of Apollo scatter pestilence through the air; Mercury flies upon the messages of Jupiter; Juno raves with jealousy, and Venus leads the Loves and Graces in her train. In this class we contemplate Homer and his inferior brethren of the epic order; it is their pro

vince

ز

vince to form the warrior, instruct the politician, animate the patriot; they delineate the characters and manners; they charm us with their defcriptions, surprize us with their incidents, interest us with their dialogue; they engage every passion in its turn, melt us to pity, rouse us to glory, strike us with terror, fire us with indignation ; in a word they prepare us for the drama, and the drama for us.

A new poet now comes upon the stage; he stands in person before us: He no longer appears as a blind and wandering bard, chaunting his rhapsodies to a throng of villagers collected in a group about him, but erećts a splendid theatre, gathers together a whole city as his audience, prepares a

ftriking spectacle, provides a chorus of actors, hrings music, dance and dress to his aid, realizes the thunder, bursts open the tombs of the dead, calls forth their apparitions, descends to the very regions of the damned, and drags the Furies from their flames to present themselves personally to the terrified spectators : Such are the powers of the drama; here the poet reigns and triumphs in his highest glory. $

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