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learning, at its infancy, than this supposed foible. "To stick the doctor's chair into the throne" was to patronize the literature of the times. In a more enlightened age, the same attention to letters and love of scholars might have produced proportionable effects on sciences of real utility. This cast of mind in the king, however indulged in some cases to an ostentatious affectation, was at least innocent.

Allegory, notwithstanding, unexpectedly rekindled some faint sparks of its native splendor in the Purple Island of Fletcher, with whom it almost as soon disappeared; when a poetry succeeded in which imagination gave way to correctness, sublimity of description to delicacy of sentiment, and majestic imagery to conceit and epigram. Poets began now to be more attentive to words than to things and objects. The nicer beauties of happy expression were preferred to the daring strokes of great conception. Satire, that bane of the sublime, was imported from France. The Muses were debauched at court, and polite life and familiar manners became their only themes. The simple dignity of Milton was either entirely neglected, or mistaken for bombast and insipidity, by the refined readers of a dissolute age, whose taste and morals were equally vitiated....

Mechanical critics will perhaps be disgusted at the liberties I have taken in introducing so many anecdotes of ancient chivalry. But my subject required frequent proofs of this sort. Nor could I be persuaded that such inquiries were, in other respects, either useless or ridiculous, as they tended at least to illustrate an institution of no frivolous or indifferent nature. Chivalry is commonly looked upon as a barbarous sport or extravagant amusement of the dark ages. It had, however, no small influence on the manners, policies, and constitutions of ancient times, and served many public and important purposes. It was the school of fortitude, honor, and affability. Its exercises, like the Grecian games, habituated the youth to fatigue and enterprise, and inspired the noblest sentiments of heroism. It taught gallantry and civility to a savage and ignorant people, and humanized the native ferocity of the northern nations. It conduced to refine the manners of the combatants by exciting an emulation in the devices and accoutrements, the splendor and parade, of their tilts and tournaments; while its magnifi

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cent festivals, thronged with noble dames and courteous knights, produced the first efforts of wit and fancy.

I am still further to hope that, together with other specimens of obsolete literature in general, hinted at before, the many references I have made in particular to romances, the necessary appendage of ancient chivalry, will also plead their pardon. For however monstrous and unnatural these compositions may appear to this age of reason and refinement, they merit more attention than the world is willing to bestow. They preserve many curious historical facts, and throw considerable light on the nature of the feudal system. They are the pictures of ancient usages and customs, and represent the manners, genius, and character of our ancestors. Above all, such are their terrible graces of magic and enchantment, so magnificently marvelous are their fictions and fablings, that they contribute in a wonderful degree to rouse and invigorate all the powers of imagination, to store the fancy with those sublime and alarming images which true poetry best delights to display. . . .



1756, 1782

[The two volumes of this work were published with an interval of twenty-six years between them; but the opening dedication and the concluding summary, here reproduced, show the same attitude toward the nature of poetry, · anticipating certain elements of the "romantic" position.]


I REVERE the memory of Pope, I respect and honor his abilities; but I do not think him at the head of his profession. In other words, in that species of poetry wherein Pope excelled, he is superior to all mankind; and I only say that this species of poetry is not the most excellent one of the art.

We do not, it should seem, sufficiently attend to the difference there is betwixt a man of wit, a man of sense, and a true poet. Donne and Swift were undoubtedly men of wit, and men of sense, but what traces have they left of pure poetry? It is remarkable that Dryden said of Donne, "He was the greatest wit, though not the greatest poet, of this nation." Fontenelle and La Motte are entitled to the former character, but what can they urge to gain the latter? Which of these characters is the most valuable and useful, is entirely out of the question; all I plead for is to have their several provinces kept distinct from each other, and to impress on the reader that a clear head and acute understanding are not sufficient, alone, to make a poet; that the most solid observations on human life, expressed with the utmost elegance and brevity, are morality, and not poetry; that the Epistles of Boileau in rhyme are no more poetical than the Characters of La Bruyère in prose; and that it is a creative and glowing imagination, acer spiritus ac vis, and that alone, that can stamp a writer with this exalted and very uncommon character, which so few possess, and of which so few can properly judge.

For one person who can adequately relish and enjoy a work

of imagination, twenty are to be found who can taste and judge of observations on familiar life and the manners of the age. The Satires of Ariosto are more read than the Orlando Furioso, or even Dante. Are there so many cordial admirers of Spenser and Milton as of Hudibras, if we strike out of the number of these supposed admirers those who appear such out of fashion, and not of feeling? Swift's Rhapsody on Poetry is far more popular than Akenside's noble Ode to Lord Huntingdon. The Epistles on the Characters of Men and Women, and your sprightly Satires, my good friend,' are more frequently perused and quoted than L' Allegro and Il Penseroso of Milton. Had you written only these satires, you would, indeed, have gained the title of a man of wit, and a man of sense, but, I am confident, would not insist on being denominated a poet merely on their account.

Non satis est puris versum perscribere verbis.2

It is amazing this matter should ever have been mistaken, when Horace has taken particular and repeated pains to settle and adjust the opinion in question. He has more than once disclaimed all right and title to the name of poet on the score of his ethic and satiric pieces.

Neque enim concludere versum
Dixeris esse satis —3

are lines often repeated, but whose meaning is not extended and weighed as it ought to be. Nothing can be more judicious than the method he prescribes, of trying whether any composition be essentially poetical or not, which is, to drop entirely the measures and numbers, and transpose and invert the orde of the words, and in this unadorned manner to peruse the passage. If there be really in it a true poetical spirit, all your inversions and transpositions will not disguise and extinguish it, but it will retain its lustre, like a diamond unset and thrown back into the rubbish of the mine.

Let us make a little experiment on the following well-known lines: "Yes, you despise the man that is confined to books, who rails at human-kind from his study, though what he learns, he speaks, and may perhaps advance some general maxims, or may be right by chance. The coxcomb bird, so grave and so talka

Edward Young.

2 "It does not suffice to write verse in ordinary language."

"You would not say it is enough merely to round out a verse."

tive, that cries Whore, Knave, and Cuckold, from his cage, though he rightly call many a passenger, you hold him no philosopher. And yet, such is the fate of all extremes, men may be read too much, as well as books. We grow more partial, for the sake of the observer, to observations which we ourselves make; less so to written wisdom, because another's. Maxims are drawn from notions, and those from guess. "21

What shall we say of this passage? Why, that it is most excellent sense, but just as poetical as the Qui fit Macenas2 of the author who recommends this method of trial. Take ten lines of the Iliad, Paradise Lost, or even of the Georgic of Virgil, and see whether, by any process of critical chemistry, you can lower and reduce them to the tameness of prose. You will find that they will appear like Ulysses in his disguise of rags, still a hero, though lodged in the cottage of the herdsman Eumæus.

The sublime and the pathetic are the two chief nerves of all genuine poetry. What is there transcendently sublime or pathetic in Pope? In his works there is, indeed, nihil inane, nihil arcessitum; puro tamen fonti quam magno flumini propior, as the excellent Quintilian remarks of Lysias. And because I am, perhaps, unwilling to speak out in plain English, I will adopt the following passage of Voltaire, which in my opinion as exactly characterizes Pope as it does his model Boileau, for whom it was originally designed: "Incapable peut-être du sublime qui élève l'âme, et du sentiment qui l'attendrit, mais fait pour éclairer ceux à qui la nature accorda l'un et l'autre, laborieux, sévère, précis, pur, harmonieux, il devint, enfin, le poète de la Raison."

Our English poets may, I think, be disposed in four different classes and degrees. In the first class I would place our only three sublime and pathetic poets: Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton. In the second class should be ranked such as possessed the true poetical genius in a more moderate degree, but who had noble talents for moral, ethical, and panegyrical poesy. At the head of these are Dryden, Prior, Addison, Cowley, Waller, Garth, Fenton, Gay, Denham, Parnell. In the third class may be placed men of wit, of elegant taste and lively fancy in describing familiar life, though not the higher scenes of poetry.

1 A paraphrase of the opening lines of Pope's Epistle I (Moral Essays). Horace's first satire.

"Nothing superfluous, nothing far-fetched; yet he is more like a pure spring than a great river."

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