« ZurückWeiter »
that this freedom is often granted, not because the theme indispenfibly requires, but because we naturally expect it from the genius of the Writer. We justly suppose that the Philosopher seldom mistakes his talents so far as to be solicitous of shining in a sphere, for which he must know himself to be wholly disqualified ; and from the work of a Poet who addresseth imagination, we look for those marks of wildness and incoherence, which difcover the extent of that faculty,
I have acknowledged, in a former part of this Essay, that the shorter Ode not only admits of bold and spirited transitions, but that these are in many instances necessary to constitute a perfect imitation of nature. This obfervation, however, cannot be applied with so much propriety to the other kinds of it, because the transport of passion is abrupt, instantaneous; and the mind returns suddenly to the point from which it had digressed. On the contrary, as the passions cannot be kept on their full stretch for any considerable time, we expect that, in the higher species of Lyric Poetry, the Poet will keep the principal object more immediately in his eye ; and that his transitions will never make us lose sight of it so far, as not to recall with ease the intermediate points of cons nection.
* Letter i. page Ixix.. ...
When this rule is not violated, we can enter with pleasure into the design of the Poet, and consider his work as a whole, in which every feparate member has ita diftinct and proper use. Thus, when Pindar is celebrating Ariitagoras, we can easily, obferve that the Poet's oblique encomium on the Father and Friends of his Hera, is introduced with great propriety, as every remark of this kind reflects additional luftre on the character of the principal personage? We are even sometimes highly entertained with digreffions, which have not so near a relation to the subject of the Ode, as the last mentioned circumstance; because though the immediate design is not going forward, we can still however keep it in view, with the fame ease as a traveller can do the public road, from which he willingly makes an excursion, to survey the neighbouring country. Thus the noble panegyric upon the whole people of Rhodes, and the account of their Founder Tlepolemus, which we meet with in the Ode inscribed to Diagoras the Rhodian; these are happy and beautiful einbellishments, whose introduction enlivens the whole piece with a proper variety of objects ".
The same principle which induceth us to approve of the Poet's transitions in the preceding instances, must (as
m'odutos Oxyget. wf. S.
Ilavd. Nekho adocce VOL. I.
your Lordship will immediately conceive) lead us to condemn those which are far-fetched, pursued too closely, or foreign to the subject of the Poem. This is frequently the consequence of following the track of imagination with implicit compliance, as the Poet, without being sensible of his mistake, runs into one digresfion after another, until his work is made up of incoherent ideas; in which, as Horace expresseth it,
"- — velut ægri fomnia vanæ
Such is the book, that like a fick man's dreams,
This is the character of the Ode to Thrasidæus the Theban ; in which the Poet is insensibly led from one digression to another, until his readers lose light of the principal subject, which is dropped almost as soon as proposedo.
The last circumstance, mentioned as characteristic of the Ode, was a certain picturesque vivacity of description.
In this we permit the Lyric Poet to indulge himself with greater freedom than any other, because beauties of this kind are necessary to the end of exciting admiration. It is the peculiar province of imagination, to give that life and expression to the ideas of the mind, by which Nature is most happily and judiciously imitated. By the help of this poetical magic, the coldest sentiments become interesting, and the most common occurrences arrest our attention. A man of Genius, instead of laying down a series of dry precepts for the conduct of life, exhibits his sentiments in the most animating manner, by moulding them into symmetry, and superadding the external beauties of drapery and colour ?. His reader, by this expedient, is led through an Elysium, in which his Fancy is alternately soothed and transported with a delightful succession of the most agreeable objects, whose combination at last suggests an important moral to be impressed upon the memory. The Ancients appear to have been fully sensible of the advantages of this method of illustra
p Thus the reader, who would too much, will yet be struck with pay little regard to the person who this simple admonition, when it apshould forbid him to trust the world pears in the work of a Genius :
Lean not on earth, 'twill pierce thee to the heart ;
Night Thoughts. g 2
ting truth, as the works not only of their Poets, but even those of their Philosophers and Historians, abound with just and beautiful personifications”. Their two allegorical Philosophers, Prodicus and Cebes, carry the matter still further, and inculcate their leffons, by substituting in place of cool admonition a variety of personages, who assume the most dignified character, and address at the same time "the imagination, the passions, and even the senses of mankind'. These Authors consider man as a. creature, possessed of different, and of limited faculties, whose actions are directed more frequently by the impulse of passion, than regulated by the di&tates of reason and of truth'.
9 Thus Xenophon, the simplest Aci o'sTyg uubous ouviserata and most perspicuous of Historians, Xxl in 2¢791 OUranopy a co BRL OITI has borrowed nany noble images μαλις α προ ομματων τεθεμενον. from Homer; and Plato is often in- Ouro gesp av c!c2f785ata opar debted to this Poet, whom yet he WOTED .wap autois yogrouevos TOIS banished from his Commonwealth. Wparlopuerors, cupionee 70 W PETTOY; Cicero in his most serious pieces %al 1X15&. cernarbarorto TH 075studies the Diction, and copies the vertid. Apis. llornt. n9.. Manner of the Greek Philosopher ; and it evidently appears, that Thu Thus Cicero tells us : ' Nec eft cydides has taken many a glowing “ majus in dicendo, quam ut OraMetaphor from the Odes of Pindar. “ tor fic moveatur, ut impetu quoWe might produce many examples “ dam animi, & perturbatione maof this from their writings, if these “ gis quam concilio regatur. Plura would not fwell this note to too “ enim multo homines judicant great a length. The reader of taste“ odio, & amore, & cupiditate, &c. may see this fubjcct fully discused “ quam veritate & præscripto." De in Mr. Gedde's ingenious Essay on Orat. lib. ii. c. 42. the Composition of the Ancients.