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He that is valiant, and dares fight,
-Honour in the breech is lodg'd,
She too might have poisond the joys of my life,
And a big-bellied bottle's a mighty good thing. But as humour is the offspring of nature only, and not to be taught, or perhaps cultivated, by any rules, it does not fall within our compass; for to attempt any directions for obtaining that which nature alone can bestow, would be absurd and ridiculous.
Besides the thoughts we have already mentioned, there are others called brilliant thoughts, whose excellency con• fifts in a short and lively expression, and which are made pleasing by a point of wit that strikes us by its boldness and novelty, and charms us with its ingenious and uncommon turn. These thoughts may be admitted into most of the species of poetry, when introduced cautiously and with propriety; but their peculiar provinces seem to be the satire and the epigram ; of which last they are the very efsence :, and indeed most of those shining and striking thoughts which we find in our best satires, have, when abstractedly and separately considered, all the essential properties of the epigram, viz. brevity, beauty, and point of wit. We hall give a few instances in confirmation of what we have advanced from the satires of Dr. Young, and more may be found in the subsequent part of this volume, in the satires of Mr. Dryden, Mr. Pope, and others,
Let high birth triumph! what can be more great ?
But these thoughts, however pleasing, should never be introduced where the passions are concerned; nor indeed are descriptions and fimilies there to be - admitted, unless they are extremely short, and such as may be naturally thrown out by the conflicts of the foul, and help to exa press its passion and surprise: for to put points of wit, luxuriant descriptions, and beautiful fimilies into the mouths of persons agitated by · pafsion, or labouring under the agonies of death, as is too frequently, done in our tragea dies, is offering violence to nature. Joy, grief, and anger are most naturally expressed by exclamations, sudden starts, and broken sentences ; and even when nature is thus difturbed and agitated, a seeming incoherence may be pardonable ; but ftudied decorations can never be admitted.
There is another fault which young people are mighty apt to give into, and that is what may be called, running down a thought. When they have started a thought which is in itself beautiful, and would dignify their work, they never know when to part with it, but keep tricking it up till they have turned the fine gentleman into a fop, and rendered that which was ineftimable, of no manner of va. lue. Seasonable silence has its emphasis. 'Tis not in these works of genius prudent to be over explicit ; for it not only borders on vanity, and carries with it a fuppo. fition, that nobody can discern a beauty except yourself, but deprives the reader also of the pleasure he would otherwise have of employing his own sagacity. In short, the writer should never say so much, but that the reader may perceive he was capable of saying more ; for the hunting down a thought, and tiring the reader with a repetition of tedious particulars, is ever the mark of a little trifling genius.
And here we are also to observe, that the too frequent use of wit, or, in other words, the filling any discourse or poem with too many of those thoughts we have been de. scribing, is not to be tolerated.
Another fault which often does befall,
A poem, like a dinner or a desert, may be made too rich, and, instead of gratifying, disguft. Poetry indeed ad. mits of more ornament than prose ; but true taste and right reason abhors luxury in both. Besides, there are other thoughts to be introduced into every work, which neither ftrike us with their grandeur, beauty, delicacy, or pointed wit, but which are fraught with good sense and folidity; that carry weight in their meaning, and fink deep in the understanding these, therefore, and common thoughts, are to be considered as the basis and superstructure, and the other as the ornamental parts of the work ; which should not be forced in to display wit and finery, but introduced
Duke of Buckinghiam's Eldy on Poetry.
to constitute beauty, variety, and order ; and arise naturally out of the subject treated of, and seem so inseparable from it, that every reader may think he should have so expressed it himself: in short, though the thoughts were not obvious to the reader before, they should appear so now ; which, as Mr. Addison observes, is the true character of all fine writing.- We come now to
CH A P.
Of the STYLE of Poetry.
FTER dwelling so long on thoughts in poetry, little
need be said of the poetic style; for the passages we have selected to illustrate the thoughts, may serve as so many examples of style also.
The beauty of style in general consists in a proper choice of words, so connected that they may express the conceptions of the mind clearly, and with a becoming dignity; for the style is to be esteemed in proportion as it is expresfive of the thoughts it is designed to convey.
As words are intended to express our thoughts, they ought to grow out of them. Since the most natural are the best, and proper expressions are generally connected with the ideas themselves, and follow them as the shadow does the substance. Those who think clearly, therefore, will always write so, provided they are masters of the language, and have obtained for the memory a good stock of expresfions, by a constant perural of the best and most elegant anthors.
We are to observe, however, that poetry has a language peculiar to itself, which is in many respects very different from that of profe.--For as the poet's defign is principally to please, to move the passions, and to inspire the soul with noble and sublime sentiments, he is allowed great latitude of language, and may use such bold expressions and uncommon modes of speech, such frequent repetitions, free epithets, and extensive and adorned descriptions, as are not to be admitted in prose. Thus, for instance, in describing a lawn near to a grotto in a wood, the profe writer says, Close to her grotto, wbich is shaded by a grove, there is a beautifui
lawn edged round with mojs. Which the poet would probably have described in this manner.
Close to her grott within the grove,
And tuff’d with moss the selvage round. Poetry endeavours to express things paraphrastically, or in short descriptions, rather than in fimple terms; and in those descriptions, the prosopopeia is often used. Thus Milton, when describing the singing of the nightingale, says, Silence was pleased; and that at the rising of the sun, the hours unbarr'd the gates of light. Which office Homer assigns to the morning.
Soon as the Morn, in orient purple drest,
The royal Pfalmift tells us, the clouds drop fatness, and the hills rejoice, that the fruitful fields smile, and the vallies laugh and fing. And these short allegories and ima. ges, which convey particular circumstances to the reader after an unusual and entertaining manner, have a fine effect in poetry, that delights in imitation, and endeavours to give to almost every thing, life, motion, and sound; but there would in prose appear very ridiculous and pedantic. In poetry likewise, we often put particulars for generals, and frequently distinguish and allude to men, places, rivers, mountains, &c. by various names taken from any of their adjunéts, which profe will rarely admit of. In short, poetry is a sort of painting in words; the thoughts are the figures, and the words are the colours, the lights and shades with which they are cloathed and presented to the imagination of the reader. The verse therefore (though poetry delights in harmony, which excites a pleasure that makes its way directly to the foul) is not to be always harmonious, but should be so contrived, as Mr. Pope observes, that the found may echo to the sense, and be rough or smooth, swift or flow, according to the idea or thought it is intended to elucidate. The following passage from his Efsay on Criticism (some allowances being made for the fecond line and for the last) is in this case both a precept and an example.