صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

or other, they will find a place in all works of poetry; and they who object to the use of them, only shew that they are not capable of being pleased by this sort of composition, or do, in effect, interdict the thing itself.

The ancients looked for so much of this force and spirit of expression in whatever they dignified with the name of poen, that Horace tells us it was made a question by some, whether comedy were rightly referred to this class, because it differed only, in point of measure, from mere prose. Idcirco quidam, comoedia necne poema Esset, quaesivere: quod acer spiritus, ac vis, Nec verbis, nec rebus inest: nisi quod pede

certo Differt sermoni, sermo merus Sat. 1. I. iv. 45

But they might have spared their doubt, or at least have resolved it, if they had considered that comedy adopts as much of this force and spirit of words, as is consistent with the nature and degree of that pleasure, which it pretends to give. For the name of poem

will be long to every composition, whose primary end is to please, provided it be so constructed as to afford all the pleasure, which its kind or sort will permit.

II. From the idea of the end of poetry, it follows, that not only figurative and tropical terms will be employed in it, as these, by the images they convey, and by the air of novelty which such indirect ways of speaking carry with them, are found most delightful to us, but also that FICTION, in the largest sense of the word, is essential to poetry. For its purpose is, not to delineate truth simply, but to present it in the most taking forms; not to reflect the real face of things, but to illustrate and adorn it; not to represent the fairest objects only, but to represent them in the fairest lights, and to heighten all their beauties up to the possibility of their natures; nay, to outstrip nature, and to address itself to our wildest fancy, rather than to our judgment and cooler

sense..

Ούτ' επιδερκτά τάδ' ανδράσιν, έτ' επακετά,
Ούτε νόω περίληπτα --

As sings one of the professiona, who seems to have understood his privileges very well.

[ocr errors]

For there is something in the mind of man, sublime and elevated, which prompts it to overlook all obvious and familiar appearances,

• Empedocles. See Plutarch, vol. I. p. 15. Par. 1624.

and to feign' to itself other and more extraordinary; such as correspond to the extent of its own powers, and fill out all the faculties and capacities of our souls. This restless and aspiring disposition, poetry, first and principally, would indulge and flatter; and thence takes its name of divine, as if some power, above human, conspired to lift the mind to these exalted conceptions.

Hence it comes to pass, that it deals in apostrophes and invocations; that it impersonates the virtues and vices; peoples all creation with new and living forms; calls up infernal spectres to terrify, or brings down celestial natures to astonish, the imagination; assembles, combines, or connects its ideas, at pleasure; in short, prefers not only the agreeable, and the graceful, but, as occasion calls upon her, the vast, the incredible, I had almost said, the impossible, to the obvious truth and nature of things. For all this is but a feeble expression of that magic virtue of poetry, which our Shakespear has, so forcibly described in those well-known lines

The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rowling,
Doth glance from heav'n to earth, from

earth to heav'n;

[ocr errors]

And, as Inagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shape, and gives to aery .

nothing
A local habitation and a name.

When the received system of manners or religion in any country, happens to be so constituted as to suit itself in some degree to this extravagant turn of the human mind, we may expect that poetry will seize it with avidity, will dilate upon it with pleasure, and take a pride to erect its specious wonders on so proper and convenient a ground. Whence it cannot seem strange that, of all the forms in which poetry has appeared, that of pagan fable, and gothic romance, should, in their turns, be found the most alluring to the true poet. For, in defect of these advantages, he will ever adventure, in some sort, to supply their place with others of his own invention; that is, he will mould every system, and convert every subject, into the most amazing and miraculous form.

And this is that I would say, at present, of these two requisites of universal poetry, namely, that licence of expression, which we call the style of poetry, and that licence of represen. tation, which we call fiction. The style is, as it were, the body of poetry; fiction, is its soul. Having, thus, taken the privilege of a poet to create a Muse, we have only now to give her a voice, or more properly to tune it, and then she will be in a condition, as one of her favourites speaks, TO RAVISH ALL THE Gods. For

III. It follows from the same idea of the end, which poetry would accomplish, that not only Rhythm, but NUMBERS, properly so called, is essential to it. For this Art undertaking to gratify all those desires and expectations of pleasure, that can be reasonably entertained by us, and there being a capacity in language, the instrument it works by, of pleasing us very highly, not only by the sense and imagery it conveys, but by the structure of words, and still more by the harmonious arrangement of them in metrical sounds or numbers, and lastly there being no reason in the nature of the thing itself why these pleasures should not be united, it follows that poetry will not be that which it professes to be, that is, will not accomplish its own purpose, unless it delight the ear with numbers, or, in other words, unless it be cloathed in VERSE.

« السابقةمتابعة »