« ZurückWeiter »
and just "When the persuasive arts, which were necessary to be cultivated among a people that were to be convinced before they acted, were grown thus in repute, and the power of moving the affections become the study and emulation of the forward wits and aspiring geniuses of the times, it would necessarily happen, that many geniuses of equal size and strength, though less covetous of public applause, of power, or of influence over mankind, would content themselves with the contemplation merely of these enchanting arts. These they would the better eujoy, the more they refined their taste, and cultivated their ear. Hence was the origin of CriTics; who, as arts and sciences advanced, would necessarily come withal into repute; and being heard with satisfaction in their turn, were at length tempted to become authors, and appear in public. These were honoured with the name of Sophists; a character which in early times was highly respected. Nor did the gravest philosophers, who were censors of manners, and critics of a higher degree, disdain to exert their criticism on the inferior arts; especially in those relating to speech, and the power of argument and
persuasion. When such a race as this was once risen, 'twas no longer possible to impose on mankind, by what was specious and pretending. The public would be paid in no false wit, or jingling eloquence. Where the learned critics were so well received, and philosophers themselves disdained not to be of the number, there could not fail to arise critics of an inferior order, who would subdivide the several provinces of this empire.'
9. Know well each Ancient's proper character; • His fable, subject, scope, in every page;
Religion, country, genius of his age.f
From their inattention to these particulars, many critics, and particularly the French, have been guilty of great absurdities. . When Perrault impotently attempted to ridicule the first stanza of the first Oljunpic of Pindar, he was ignorant that the poet, in beginning Avith the praises of Water,:}; alluded to the philosophy of Thales, who taught that water was the principle of all things; and which philosophy, Empedocles, the
* Characteristics, vol. I. 12mo. pag. 163. f Ver. 119. X Afisot put TAOP.
Sicilian, a cotemporary of Pindar, and a subject of Hiero, to whom Pindar wrote, had adopted in his beautiful poem. Homer, and the Greek tragedians, have been likewise censured: the former for protracting the Iliad after the death of Hector; and the latter, for continuing the Ajax and Phoeniss;e, after the deaths of their respective heroes. But the censurers did not consider the importance of burial among the ancients; and that the action of the Iliad would have been imperfect without a description of the funeral rites of Hector and Patroclus; as the two tragedies, without those of Polynices and Eteocles: for the ancients esteemed a deprivation of sepulture to be a more severe calamity than death itself. It is observable, that this circumstance did not occur to Pope,* when he endeavoured to justify this conduct of Homer, i>y only saying, that, as the anger of Achilles does not die with Hector, but persecutes his very remains, the poet still keeps up to his subject, by describing the many effects of his anger, 'till it is fully satisfied; and that for this reason, the two last
books of the Iliad may be thought not to be excrescences, but essential to the poem. I will only add, that I do not know an author whose capital excellence surfers more from the reader's not regarding his climate and country, than the incomparable Cervantes. There is a striking propriety in the madness of Don Quixote, not frequently taken notice of; for Thuanus informs us, that Madness is a common disorder among the Spaniards at the latter part of life, about the age of which the knight is represented. "Sur la fin de ses jours Mendozza devint furieux, comme sont d' ordinaire les Espagnols."*
10. Still with itself compar'd, his text peruse.
And let your comment be the Mantuan Muse.f
Although, perhaps, it may seem impossible to produce any new observations on Homer and Virgil, after so many volumes of criticism as have been spent upon them, yet the following remarks have a novelty and penetration in them
.* Perroniana et Thuana, a Cologne, 1695, pag. 431.
that may entertain; especially, as the little treatise from which they are taken is extremely scarce. "Quae variae inter se notae atque imagines animorumfaprincipibus utriusque populi poetis, Homero et Virgilio, mirifice exprimuntur. Siquidem Homeri duces et reges rapacitate, libidine, atque anilibus questibus, lacrymisque puerilibus, Gra> cam levitatem et inconstantiam referunt. Virgiliani vero principes, ab eximio poeta, qui Roraanae severitatis fastidium, et Latinum supercilium verebatur, et. ad heroum populum loquebatur, ita componuntur ad majestatem consularem, ut quamvis ab Asiatica mollitie luxuque venerint, inter Furios atque Claudios nati educatique videantur. Neque suam, ullo actu, ^Eneas originem prodidisset, nisi, a praefactiore aliquanto pietate, fudisset crebro copiam lacrymarum.—Qua meliorem expressione morum hac astate, non modo Virgilius Latinorum poetarum princeps, sed quivis inflatissimus vernaculorum, Homero pra> fertur: cum hie animos proceribus indurit suos, ille vero alienos.-—Quamobrem varietas morum, qui carmine reddebantur, et hominum ad quos ea dirigebantur, inter Latinam Graccamque poesin, non inventionis tantum attulit, sed et elocu