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natural love of the grand, sublime, and marvellous, which are the essential characteriftics of a good poet. The poet, not satisfied with exploring all nature for subjects, wantons in the fields of fancy, and creates beings of his own. He raises Aoating islands, dreary deserts, and inchanted castles, which he peoples, by the magic of bis imagination, with satyrs, nymphs, fairies and gnomes ; and from imaginary things excites real pleasure, and furnishes the mind with solid instruction. He not only, like Midas, turns every thing he touches into gold, (but what has never yet been fabled) he foars beyond the regions of Æther, and brings gold out of nothing. From these bold and enthusiastic flights, poets are said to be divinely inspired, since these qualifications are not to be obtained by art, but derive their source from nature, and are the gifts of heaven alone.
But this divine science, originally intended for the worship of God, was in process of time debased; and when men forsook the Lord of Life, apply'd to inferior purposes. It was callid in to the praise of legislators and great men.
This use was made of it not only by the eastern nations, but by the Greeks, Romans, and by the ancient bards in Britain, who, as history tells us, made songs in praise of their heroes, which they adapted to music, and fung to their harps. Of late indeed Poetry has been most ihamefully prostituted ; but that is no argument against its excellency. Has not its sifter Eloquenie shared the same fate, and been employ'd to unjust purposes, and to obtain the most wicked ends? This therefore it has in common with other sciences, and in consequence of the general depravity of mankind.
But the excellency of Poetry, and the attractive charms of the Muses, may be estimated by the number of votaries they have obtained ; since there are few men, how cold and phlegmatic foever, but have at some time or other paid their court to the ladies of Parnassus. And this general affection for the art will render any apology needless that might be made for the publication of this volume; in which we have not satisfied ourselves with writing dull receipts how poems may be made *, but have, together with such rules as are necessary for the construction of English verse and of the various species of Poetry) presented the reader with variety of examples from our best and most celebrated English poets.
What is said on versification is indeed but little, yet it is what was thought abundantly fufficient. In short, 110 more could be introduced that would be useful; and to incumber a young student in any science with useless rules, is increasing his difficulty, retarding his progress, and like loading a man with arms which
may hinder his march, but can afford him no defence or assistance on the road.
The rules observed by the ancient poets were adapted to the ancient tongues, but will not suit our language, since the quantity, or that space of time, whether long or short, in which any syllable is pronounced, is generally determined by the accents, And the harmony of Milton's numbers will be found not to depend on the rules of quantity, but on other principles. He has not confined himself to the lambic, which is the measure adjudged to our English heroics, but compounded his verses with other feet, and so diversified his measures, by judiciously varying the Cesural Pause, that he has given them a variety of harmony not to be met with in other poets, and avoided a constant tedious uniformity, that would have been ever lifeless, dull, and disagreeable.
I hall conclude these reflections in the words of an author of great taste and judgment §. Ver fification, says he, is in Poetry what colouring is in painting,
* Pope's Elay on Criticism.
§ Lord LANSDOWN,
a beautiful ornament. But if the proportions are just, the posture true, the figure bold, and the resemblance according to nature, tho' the colours happen to be rough, or carelessly laid on, yet the picture Shall lose nothing of its esteem. Such are many of the inestimable pieces of Raphael : whereas the finest and niceft colour that art can invent, is but labour in vain when the rest is in disorder; like paint bestow'd on an ill face, whereby the deformity is render'd but so much the more conspicuous and remarkable. It would not be unreasonable to make some observations upon this subject, by way of advice to many of our present writers, who seem to lay the whole stress of iheir endeavours upon the Harmony of words : Like Eunuchs they sacrifice their manhood for a voice, and seduce our Poetry to be like Echo, nothing but Sound.
CHAP. I. Containing a Definition of POETRY, and the Qualifications
of a true POIT.
TRY is the art of composing poems, or pieces in verse, in order to please and to inflruct. But a kill in mak
ing verses, or writing in numbers, is one of the least qualifications of a good poet; for a person of an indiffe. rent genius may be taught to compofe verses that will flow fmoothly, and sound well to the ear, which yet may be of no value for want of strong sense, propriety, and elevation of thought, or purity of diction. A true poet is diftinguished by a fruitfulness of invention, a lively imagination tempered by a folid judgment, a pobleness of sentiments and ideas, and a bold, lofty, and figurative manner of expreslion. He thoroughly understands the nature of his sub. ject; and, let his poem be never so short, he forms a de. fign or plan, by which every verse is directed to a certain end, and each has a juft dependence on the other; for it is this produces the beauty of order and harmony, and gives satisfaction to a rational mind. The duke of Buck. ingham, in his Elay on Poetry, very justly observes :
Numbers, and rhymes, and that harmonious sound
A heat which glows in every word that's writ;:
Describing all men, but describ'd by none. A poetical genius is the gift of nature, and cannot be acquired; nor can the want of it be supplied by art or industry : but where such a genius is found, it may be assisted by proper rules and directions; and such we shall endeavour to lay down.
снА Р. II. Of the Structure of English VERSE ; and of RHYME : N order to make verses, you must understand that fylla.
bles are diftinguished into long and sport, and this length or shortness is called their quantity. Of two, three, and sometimes more syllables, the antients formed their poetical feet, giving each of them a different name.
Thus a foot confifting of two long syllables, was called a spondee; of a thort one follow'd by a long one, an iambic ; of.a long one followed by two short ones, a dactyle, &c. and of these feet they composed various kinds of verses.
But there is very little variety of feet in the English poetry, the iantic being, as it were, the sole regent of our verse, especially of our heroics, which consist of five short and five lorg fyllables intermixed alternately, though this order is fonetimes beautifully varied by our best poets, as an excellent writer observes :
Two syllables our English feet compose,
Dryden to this variety was just. After all, the quantity of the syllables in ours, and othermodern languages, is not well fixed; nor need we be very