صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني


influenced through the operation of the passions, or the fancy, the effect, which might otherwise have been transient, is secured by the co-operating power of the memory, which treasures up in a short aphorism the moral scene.

This is a good reason, and this, perhaps, is the only reason that can be given, why our dramatic performances should generally end with a chain of couplets. In these the moral of the whole piece is usually conveyed; and that aslistance which the memory borrows from rhyme, as it was probably the original cause of it, gives it usefulness and propriety even there.

After these apologies for the descriptive turn of the following odes, fomething remains to be said on the origin and use of allegory in poetical composition.

By this we are not to understand the trope in the schools, which is defined “ aliud “ verbis, aliud fenfu oftendere," and of which Quintilian says, “ufus eft, ut triftia “ dicamus melioribus verbis, aut bonæ rei quædam contrariis fignificemus, &c.” It is not the verbal, but the sentimental allegory, not allegorical expression (which, indeed, might come under the term of metaphor) but allegorical imagery, that is here in queftion.

When we endeavour to trace this species of figurative sentiment to its origin, we find it coeval with literature itself. It is generally agreed that the most ancient productions are poetical, and it is certain that the most ancient poems abound with allegorical imagery.

If, then, it be allowed that the first literary productions were poetical, we shall have little or no difficulty in discovering the origin of allegory:

At the birth of letters, in the transition from hieroglyphical to literal expression, it is not to be wondered if the custom of expressing ideas by personal images, which had so long prevailed, should still retain its influence on the mind, though the use of letters had rendered the practical application of it superfluous. Those who had been accustomed to express ftrength by the image of an elephant, swiftness by that of a panther, and courage by that of a lion, would make no fcruple of fubftituting, in letters, the symbols for the ideas they had been used to represent.

Here we plainly see the origin of allegorical expression, that it arose from the ashes of hieroglyphics; and if to the same cause we should refer that figurative boldness of style and imagery which diftinguish the oriental writings, we shall, perhaps, conclude more justly than if we should impute it to the superior grandeur of eaftern genius.

From the same source with the verbal, we are to derive the sentimental allegory, which is nothing more than a continuation of the metaphorical or symbolical exprefsion of the several agents in an action, or the different objects in a scene.

The latter moft peculiarly comes under the denomination of allegorical imagery; and in this species of allegory we include the impersonation of paffions, affections, virtues and vices, &c. on account of which, principally, the following odes were properly termed by their author, allegorical.

With respect to the utility of this figurative writing, the same arguments that have been advanced in favour of descriptive poetry, will be of weight likewise here. It is, indeed, from impersonation, or, as it is commonly termed, personification, that poetical defcription borrows its chief powers and graces. Without the aid of this, moral and intellectual painting would be flat and unanimated, and even the scenery of material objects would be dull without the introduction of fictitious life.

These observations will be most effectually illustrated by the fublime and beautiful odes that occasioned them; in those it will appear how happily this allegorical painting may be executed by the genuine powers of poetical genius, and they will not fail to prove its force and utility by passing through the imagination to the heart.


[blocks in formation]

χνος τιθεισ'


" By Pella's Bard, a magic name,
By all the griefs his thought could frame,
Receive my

humble rite :
Long, Pity, let the nations view
Thy sky-worn robes of tenderest blue,

And eyes of dewy light!" The propriety of invoking Pity through the mediation of Euripides is obvious.That admirable poet had the keys of all the tender passions, and, therefore, could not but ftand in the highest efteem with a writer of Mr. Collins's sensibility.--He dįd, indeed, admire him as much as Milton, profeffedly did, and probably for the same reason; but we do not find that he has copied him so closely as the last mentioned poet has fometimes done, and particularly in the opening of Samfon-Agonistes

, which is an evident imitation of the following passage in the Phoeniffæ.

H[και προπαροιθε, θυγατερ, ώς τυφλα ποδι
Οφθαλμος ει συ, ναυαταισιν

asgou as
Δευς εις το λευρον

σεδιον Προθαινε. .

Act. III. Sc. I. The “ eyes of dewy light” is one of the happiest strokes of imagination, and may be ranked among those expreffions which

-give us back the image of the mind.”
Wild Arun too has heard thy ítrains,
And Echo, 'midst my native plains,

Been sooth'd with Pity's lute."
There firft the wren thy myrtles shed

On gentlest Otway's infant head.” Sussex, in which county the Arun is a small river, had the honour of giving birth to Otway as well as to Collins: both these poets, unhappily, became the objects of that pity by which their writings are distinguished. There was a similitude in their genius and in their sufferings. There was a resemblance in the misfortunes and in the dissipation of their lives; and the circumstances of their death cannot be remembered without pain.

The thought of painting in the temple of Pity the history of human misfortunes, and of drawing the scenes from the tragic Mufe, is very happy, and in every respect worthy the imagination of Collins.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Mr. Collins, who had often determined to apply himself to dramatic poetry, seems here, with the same view, to have addressed one of the principal powers of the drama, and to implore that mighty influence she had given to the genius of Shakespeare:

“ Hither again thy fury deal,
Teach me but once like him to feel :
His cypress wreath my meed decree,

And I, O Fear, will dwell with thee !" In construction of this nervous ode the author has shewn equal power of judgment and imagination. Nothing can be more striking than the violent and abrupt abbreviation of the measure in the fifth and fixth verses, when he feels the ftrong influence of the power he invokes :

« Ah, Fear, ah, frantic Fear! ·

I see, I see thee near.” The editor of these poems has met with nothing in the same species of poetry, either in his own, or any other language, equal, in all respects, to the following description of Danger:

“ Danger, whose limbs of giant mold,
What mortal eye can fix'd behold?
Who stalks his round, an hideous form,
Howling amift the midnight form,
Or throws him on the ridgy steep

Of some loose hanging rock to sleep." It is impossible to contemplate the image conveyed in the two laft verses without those emotions of terror it was intended to excite. It has, moreover, the entire advantage of novelty to recommend it, for there is too much originality in all the circumstances, to fuppose that the author had in his eye that description of the penal situation of Catiline in the ninth Æneid :

"Te, Catilina, minaci

Pendentem fcopulo" The archetype of the English poet's ideas was in nature, and probably to lier alone he was indebted for the thought. From her, likewise, he derived that magnificence of conception, that horrible grandeur of imagery, displayed in the following lines:

“ And those, the fiends, who near allied,
O’er nature's wounds and wrecks preside;
While Vengeance, in the lurid air,
Lifts her red arm, expos’d and bare:
On whom that ravening brood of fate,

Who lap the blood of Sorrow wait." That nutritive enthufiasm, which cherishes the seeds of poetry, and which is, indeed, the only foil wherein they will grow to perfection, lays open the mind to all the influences of fi&ion. A passion for whatever is greatly wild, or magnificent in the works of nature, seduces the imagination to attend to all that is extravagant, however unnatural. Milton was notoriously fond of high. romance and Gothic diableries ; and Collins, who in genius and enthusiasm bore no very distanț resemblance to Milton, was wholly carried away by the fame attachments.

“ Be mine, to read the visions old,
Which thy awakening bards have told:
And, left thou meet my blafted view,
Hold each ftrange tale devoutly true."

" On that thrice hallow'd eve, &c.” There is an old traditionary superstition, that on St. Mark's eve the forms of all such persons as shall die within the ensuing year, make their folemn entry into the churches of their respective parishes, as St. Patrick swam over the channel, without their heads.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

THE measure of the ancient ballad seems to have been made choice of for this ode, on account of the subject, and it has, indeed, an air of fimplicity not altogether unaffecting :

“ By all the honey'd store
On Hybla's thymy fhore,

By all her blooms, and mingled murmurs dear,
By her whose love-lorn woe,

In evening musings flow,

Sooth'd sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear.” This allegorical imagery of the honey'd store, the blooms, and mingled murmurs of Hybla, alluding to the sweetness and beauty of the Attic poetry, has the finest and the happiest effect : yet, poflibly, it will bear a question, whether the ancient Greek tragedians had a general claim to fimplicity in any thing more than the plans of their drama. Their language, at least, was infinitely metaphorical; yet it must be owned that they justly copied nature and the passions, and so far, certainly, they were entitled to the palm of true fimplicity: the following most beautiful speech of Polyni. ces, will be a monument of this so long as poetry shall last.

-πολυδακρυς δ' αφιαομην
Χρονιος ιδων μελαθρα, και βωμες θεων,
Γυμνασια 9' οισιν ενετραφην, Διρκης θ' ύδωρ.
Ων και δικαιως απελαθεις, ξενης σολιν
Ναι, δι' οσσων ομμ' έχων δακρυρροεν.
Αλλ' (εκ γαρ αλγ9ς αλγος) ε δερκομα, ,
Καρα ξυρηκες, και πεπλες μελαγχιμες

EURIP. Phæniff. ver. 369.
But staid to sing alone

To one distinguish'd throne.
The poet cuts off the prevalence of fimplicity among the Romans with the reigo of
Auguftus, and indeed, it did not continue much longer, most of the compositions, after
that date, giving into false and artificial ornament.

“ No more, in hall or bower,

The passions own thy power,

Love, only Love, her forceless numbers mean." In these lines the writing of the Provençal poets are principally alluded to, in whicha, fimplicity is generally facrificed to the rhapsodies of romantic love.

e CE

[ocr errors]


Procul ! O! procul este profani ! THIS ode is so infinitely abstracted and replete with high enthusiasm, that it wilt find few readers capable of entering into the beauty of it, or of relithing its beauties. There is a style of sentiment as utterly unintelligible to common capacities, as if the subject were treated in an unknown language; and it is on the fame account that abstracted poetry will never have many admirers. The authors of such poems must be content with the approbation of those heaven-favoured geniuses, who, by a fimilarity of taste and sentiment, are enabled to penetrate the high mysteries of inspired fancy, and to pursue the loftieft flights of enthusiastic imagination. Nevertheless, the praise of the diftinguished few is certainly preferable to the applause of the undiscerning mil. lion; for all praise is valuable in proportion to the judgment of those who conferit.

As the subject of this ode is uncommon, so are the style and expression highly metaphorical and abstracted; thus the sun is called “the rich-hair'd youth of morn,” the ideas are termed “the shadowy tribes of mind," &c. We are struck with the propriety of this mode of expression here, and it affords us new proofs of the analogy that fubfifts between language and sentiment.

Nothing can be more loftily imagined than the creation of the Ceftus of Fancy in this ode : the allegorical imagery is rich and sublime : and the observation that, the dangerous paffions kept aloof, during the operation, is founded on the strictest philofophical truth ; for poetical fancy can exist only in minds that are perfectly serene, and in some measure abstracted from the influences of sense.

The scene of Milton's “ inspiring hour” is perfectly in character, and described with all those wild-wood-appearances of which the great poet was so enthufiaftically fond;

“ I view that oak, the fancied glades among,
By which as Milton lay, his evening ear,
Nigh spher'd in heaven, its native ftrains could hear.”

[blocks in formation]

THE Ode written in 1746, and the Ode to Mercy, seem to have been written on the same occasion, viz. the late rebellion ; the former in memory of those heroes who fell in the defence of their country, the latter to excite sentiments of compassion in favour of those unhappy and deluded wietchcs who became a facrifice to public juftice.

The language and imagery of both are very beautiful ; but the scene and figures described in the strophe of the Ode to Mercy are exquisitely striking, and would afford a painter one of the finest subjects in the world.

[blocks in formation]

THE ancient states of Greece, perhaps the only ones in which a perfect model of liberty ever existed, are naturally brought to view in the opening of the poem.

“ Who shall awake the Spartan fife,
And call in folemn sounds to life,
The youths, whose locks divinely spreading,

Like vernal hyacinths in fullen hue.” There is something extremely bold in this imagery of the locks of the Spartan youths, and greatly fuperior to that description Jocasta gives us of the hair of Polynices.

Βοσευχων τε κυανοκρωτα καιτας
“ What new Alceus, fancy-blest,

Shall sing the sword, in myrtles dreft, &c."
This alludes to a fragment of Alcæus ftill remaining, in which the poet celebrates
Harmodius and Ariftogiton, who flew the tyrant Hipparchus, and thereby restored the
liberty of Athens.
The fall of Rome is here most nervously described in one line :

« With heaviest found, a giant-statue, fell.” The thought seems altogether new, and the imitative harmony in the structure of the verfe is admirable.

After bewailing the ruin of ancient liberty, the poet confiders the influence it has retained, or ftill retains among the moderns; and here the free republics of Italy naturally engage his attention-Florence, indeed, only to be lamented on account of lofing its liberty under those patrons of letters, the Medicean family; the jealous Pifa, juftly so called in respect to its long impatience and regret under the same yoke; and

« السابقةمتابعة »