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Stood viĝble, among these pines his voice
Of glory, and far off his steps adore. Agreeable and well conceived fictions have also a good effect either in prose or verse, and always please readers of taste and judgement. Pliny the younger, in order to engage Cornelius Tacitus to follow his example, and study even when hunting, tells him, that the exercise of the body exalts the mind; and that if he took his tablets with him, he would find that Minerva delighted as much in the forests and mountains as Diana. A fi&tion prettily conceived, and in few words. A kin to this is the image (or fiction of a person) which Milton has given us in what he calls his song of the May morning, which is extremely beautiful, especially that part of it describing May led in by the morning star, and throwing from her green lap the flowers of the season.
Now the bright morning star, day's harbinger,
Hail bounteous May that doft infpire
Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
And welcome thee, and wish thee long. But the agreeable often arises from an opposition, especially in thoughts which have two meanings; or when a person agitated by paflion aff:rts and contradicts himself almost in the same breath, as in the scene of Shakespear's
Romeo and Juliet, where the, to induce her lover to stay, cries,
Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale. But after a moment's reflection, the corrects herself, and replies,
It is, it is, hie hence, begone, away;
Straining harsh discords, and unpleasing sharps. That figure which seems to deny what it advances, and in appearance contradicts itself, is, when properly applied, extremely elegant.
Cowards die many times before their deaths ;
But these thoughts are to be admitted with great caution and judgment; for the partition here between wit and nonsense is so very slender, that many writers have broken through it, and converted what they intended for a beauty into a blot, by presenting their readers not with a seeming contradiction, but a real one. Nor are we to suppose that a thought cannot be agreeable or beautiful, unless it glitters with ingenious conceits, or a play of words ; for in some cases, beauty may consist in fimplicity alone, and be, in its place, like a plain pillar in some building, the only. proper, and therefore the best ornament. Besides, it is impossible for a writer to be upon the sublime and the beau. tiful from one end of his piece to the other, nor will any subject admit of it; some things must occur that require common thoughts and a common stile ; but if they did not, and it was possible for a poet to keep up to the same ele. vated strain, yet would he miss of his aim, and rather dif. guft than please ; for the mind would be deprived of the refreshment and recreation it takes in passing from things that are excellent to those that are common, and of the delight which springs from surprise ; neither of which it can obtain, where all things appear with undiftinguished
lufre. The poet therefore should imitate nature, who has diversified the world with vales and mountains, rocks and lawns, trees, fruits, flowers, smiling fields and dreary deserts, purling streams and horrible cascades; and, like nature too, he should place them in such due opposition, that they may embellish and set off each other.
There is a third species of thoughts, whose agreeableness, beauty, and merit, is owing to their delicacy, and which it is easier to conceive than describe. A delicate thought is a moft excellent production, and as it were the very quinteficence of wit. These thoughts have the property of being comprised in a few words, and the whole meaning is not at first so obvious, but seems partly concealed, that the mind of the reader might be gratified in the discovery. This little mystery, says father Bouhours, is as it were the foul of delicate thoughts ; and those that have nothing mysterious either in their foundation or turn, but discover themselves at first fight, are not of the delicate kind, however ingenious they may be in other respects.
Cicero, in his oration for Ligarius, tells Cæfar, that ʼtis ufual for him to forget nothing but injuries.
Dr. Garth, in his dedication to Mr. Henley, says, A man of your character can no
more prevent a dedication, than be would encourage one ; for merit, like a virgin's blushes, is fill most discovered, when it labours most to be concealed.
'Tis hard, to think well of you should be but justice, and to tell you so fhould be an offence : thus, rather than violate your modesly, I must be wanting to your other virtues; and to gratify one good quality, do wrong to a thousand.
Compliments that are thrown obliquely, and under the disguise of a complaint, are extremely delicate and pleasing.
In Pope I cannot read a line,
Which I was born to introduce,
Let humble Allen, with an aukward shame,
Do good bý stealth, and bluth to find it famę. Pope. But besides these delicate thoughts which have an ingenious turn, there are others whose beauty depends solely on the delicacy of sentiment ; as when the poet says; that: the evening dews are the tears of the sky for the loss of the fun.
I have attempted (says a young gentleman in a letter to his mistress) to pursue your advice, and divert myself by the fubje&t you recommend to my thoughts : but it is imposible, 1 perceive, to turn off the mind at once from an object, which it. has long, dwelt upon with pleasure. My heart, like a poor bird which is hunted from her neft, is Kill returning to the place of its affections, and, after some vain efforts to fly off, settles again where all its cares and all its tendernesses are centered.
Fitz OSBORN'S LETTERS.
But of this sort of delicate thoughts, enough may be seen in the passages we have extracted from Milton, who abounds with every kind of beauty.
One true characteristic of delicate thoughts (especially of those first mentioned) is, that they are not capable of being translated out of one language into another, without losing great part of their true spirit or effential quality. And this is the case also with what we call true humour, which is like those delicate flowers that will lose their beauty, if not their being, when transplanted into a foreign climate.
The inimitable character Shakespear has drawn of Falfaff, might be understood perhaps in any other language, but would fail of the effect it has in the original ; as would the description Butler has given us of Honour, and many other parts of his celebrated poem. .
He that is valiant, and dares fight,
Honour in the breech is lodg: d,
She too might have poison'd 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 conLists 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 fatire and the epigram ;, of which last they are the very efTence : and indeed most of those thining and striking thoughts which we find in our best fatires, have, when abAtractedly and separately considered, all the effential properties of the epigram, viz. brevity, beauty, and point of wit. We Mall 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.