Abbildungen der Seite
PDF

Brutus, and the hasty choler and repentance of Cassius, with their reconciliation, is nobly expressed; Brutus fays,

O Cafpus, I am sick of many griefs.:

Cafftus. Of your philofophy you make no use, If you give place to accidental evils.

Brutus. No man bears surrow better—Portia's dead.

Cqffius. Ha! Portia!

Brutus. She is dead.

CasJtus. How 'fcap'd I killing when I crost you fo?

Here the grief in Brutus, and the surprife in Cassius, is better expresled than it could have been in a multitude of sine speeches; since indeed both are inexpressible in any other manner.

The passions of anger, grief and joy, as we have already observed, are not to be loaded with studied metaphors, similes and descriptions, as they too frequently are in our Engli/h tragedies; for here they are highly improper, and therefore inelegant and unaffecting. Nature, in a tumultuous state, has not time to look round her for expressions that are delicate and pretty, but thunders out such as the passion has excited, and those often in broken and interrupted sentences. These passions therefore are, in general, better expressed by sudden starts, suppressions, apostrophes, exclamations, and broken and unconnected sentences, than by a forced and studied dignity. Nor in these need the writer be afraid of expressing himself improperly, if he seels, as he ought to do, the passion he would excite in others; for, as we have elsewhere observed, the mind is extremely ready in culling such phrases as are immediately for her purpose; and this is the reafon why the common ignorant people, and even children, when under violent emotions of mind, fo often express themselves with force, propriety, and elegance.

The rules and cautions we have here laid down, will at all times be found usesul; but none are sufficient to teach this art without daily practice, and a constant perufal of the best authors: to which let me add, that a sertile imaginanation, a clear conception, and a good ear, are indispenfably necessary.—Fancy is the foundation of poetry.— Without a good imagination nothing can be new, and therefore not valuable; without a clear conception nothing can be clearly or elegantly expressed; for where there is consusion in the head, perspicuity can never flow from the pen ; and with regard to composition and versisication, a good ear is beyond all the rules in the world.

We are now to speak of the laws and rules of the seve»al kinds of poetry, as laid down by the best critics, and to give specimens of such as will fall within the compass of eur design.

<3K3K5RS(<^80sC)eCSaC^eCSaOeCSflC^SflGK)aGeCSe(^e(>

Chap. vn.

Of the different Species of Poetry.

THE writers on the art of poetry have usually classed the several sorts of poems under the following heads <"•.';*. the Epigram, the Elegy, the Pastoral, the Ode, the .Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Epic poem. This distribution, however, seems insufficient, and therefore we hope a deviation from the learned in this respect will not appear arrogant or difagreeable; especially if the alterations we propose should be found to have their basts in truth and right reason.

Every thing in nature, that h distinct and different from all others, should have a name, whereby it may be distinguished without a tedious enumeration of its properties and adjuncts; since a method of that kind would occasion insinite perplexity and consusion, which is ever to be avoided, and especially in matters of science; and, if on mature examination it be suund, that there are poems of considerable character which are essentially different from those we have already mentioned, and are not to be refolved into any of them, another distribution may be justisied.

The Epitaph, on account, perhaps, of the epigrammatic point with which those little pieces are often closed, has been usually classed with the epigram; but as there are numberless epitaphs whose excellency does not consist in shining thoughts and points of wit, (the characteristics of our modern epigrams) we shall take the freedom to assign them a distinct place.

Epistles, descriptive and preceptive poems, tales, fables, And allegorical poetry, deserve the fame distinction; for as these methods of writing have obtained much of late, they are of too great consequence to be passed over, and it seems impossible to treat of them under any other article without manisest incongruity. It may be faid, indeed, that many of our epistles (especially those of Horace and Mr. Pope) partake of the fatire; but that is no reasun why others that are of a quite disferent nature should be placed under that head. The descriptive poems of Milton, I mean his V Allegro and II Penjeroso, as well as Denbam's Cooper s Hill, Pope's Windsor Forest, and others in our language, cannot be classed under any of the usual divisions of poetry; nor indeed can the preceptive poems with any degree os accuracy or shew of reafon. Virgil's Georgics, Horace's Art of Poetry, the duke of Buckinghamshire's Essay, Roscommon on translated Verse, Pope's Essay on Man, and his Esjay on Criticism, aie fo essentially different and distinct from any of the usual classes, that the critics, with all their art, will never be able to difcover any real agreement between them; nor will they deny, I suppose, but that Virgil's Georgics, and Pope's Esjay on Man, deserve as much esteem at least as their pastorals, though they have been thus neglected in their divifion of this art. If it be faid, that the other species of poetry often partake of all these different kinds, I answer, that is no objection; for this they occasionally do of eachr other : even the epic poem, with all its dignity, has fometimes the plaintive strain of the elegy, and the farcasm and asperity of fatire. CHAP. VIII.

Tales and fables, indeed, when they arc of any value, are in general either didactic or fatirical, and may therefore be refolved into the preceptive poem or the fatire; but as there is sumething peculiar in their composition, we shall assign them a distinct chapter, and deliver what we have farther to fay on this art under the following heads, viz. the Epigram, the Epitaph, the Elegy, the Pastoral, the Epistle, the Descriptive Poem, the Preceptive Poem, Tales and Fables, the Allegorical Poem, the Ode, the Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Heroic poem, of which the Epic is the most exalted part, and requires the utmost extent of human genius.

[ocr errors]

Of the Epigram.

TH E Epigram is a little poem, or composition in <uerfc^ treating of one thing only, and ivhoje distinguishing characters are Brevity, Beauty, aWPoint.

The word Epigram signisies Inscription; for epigrams derive their origin from those inscriptions placed by the anticnts on their statues, temples, pillars, triumphal arches,. and the like; which, at sirst, were very short, being fometimes no more than a single word, but afterwards, increasing their length, they made them in verse, to be the better retained by the memory. This short way of writing came at last to be used upon any occasion or subject; and hence thi name of Epigram has been given to any litde copy of. verses, without regard to the original application of such poems.

Its usual limits are from tivo to twenty verses, though sumetimes it extends to fifty -, but the shorter the better it is, and the more persect, as it partakes more of the nature. ;md character of this kind of poem: Besides, the epigram, being only a single thought, ought to be expressed in a, little compass, or else it loies its force and strength.

The Beauty required in an Epigram is an harmony and apt agreement of all its parts, a sweet simplicity, and polite language.

The Point is a {harp, lively, unexpected turn of wit, with which an epigram ought to be concluded. There are fome critics, indeed, who will not admit the Point in an Epigram, but require the thought to be equally diffused through the whole poem, which is usually the practice of Catullus, as the former is that of Martial. It is allow'd there is more delicacy in the manner of Catullus, but the Point is more- agreeable to the general taste, and seems to be the chief characteristic of the Epigram.

This fort of poem admits of all manner of subjects, provided that Brevity, Beauty, and Point are preserved; but it is generally employed either in Praise or Satire.

Tho' the best Epigrams are faid to be such as are comprized in two or four verses, we are not to understand it as if none can be persect which exceed those limits. Neither the antients nor moderns have been fo scrupulous with respect to the length of their Epigrams; but however, Brevity in general is always to be studied in these compositions.

For examples of good Epigrams in the English language, we shall make choice of several in the different tastes we have mention'd; fome remarkable for their delicate turn and simplicity of expression, and others for their falt and sharpness, their equivocating pun, or pleafant allusion. In the sirst place, take that of Mr. Pope, faid to be written on a glass with the earl of Chesterfield's diamond pencil:

Accept a miracle, instead of wit;

See two dull lines by Stanhope's pencil writ.

The Beauty of this Epigram is more easily seen than described. For my part I am at a loss to determine whether it does more honour to the poet who wrote it, or to the nobleman for whom the compliment is designed.—The following Epigram of Mr. Prior is written in the fame taste, being a sine encomium on the performance of an excellent painter.

On a Flower, fainted by Varelst.

When fam'd Varelst this little wonder drew,
Flora vouchfafed the growing work to view:
Finding the painter's science at a stand,
The Goddess snatch'd the pencil from his hand,
Absj, sinilhing the piece, she smiling faid,
Behold one <work of mine which ne'erstall fade.

Another compliment of this delicate kind he has made Mr. Howard'm the following Epigram.

Venus mistaken.

When Chloe's picture was to Venus shown;
Surpriz'd, tne Goddess took it for her own.
And what, faid she, does this bold painter mean?
When was I bathing thus, and naked seen?
Pleas'd Cupid heard, and check'd his mother's pride:
And who's blind now, mamma f the urchin cry'd.

« ZurückWeiter »