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vive you? Know then, Hassein, that, though you have resolved to shew me the way, it shall be my glory to prevent you. No, my dear lord (added she, folding him in her arms), the bar. barian shall triumph over neither of us.--A friendly poison will, in a few moments, secure me from his insults. I foresaw our mutual misfortunes: I foresaw your life was near its period, and found means to reach the goal before you. Happy in the reflection, that our enemy will have every passion, but his cruelty, defeated. Go (she continued, almost fainting as she spoke), go, fight, die !-But fail not to avenge the blood of a wife that loved you beyond her being." In ending these words, she expired in his arms; and Hassein, having taken a religious leave of her dead body, hastened to put himself at the head of his little army; who, inspired with the enthusiasm of their sovereign's grief and rage, behaved as if the right of vengeance was their own. But Hassein, alike hopeless and regardless of victory, charged into the middle of the enemy; and, selecting the vizier, as the only object worthy his fury, killed him in the middle of his guards, and was, by them, immediately cut to pieces on the body of their lord.
CHAMPION, vol. i. p. 300.
Creditur, ex medio quia res arcessit, habere
'Tis thought that comedy least skill demands,
ARISTOTLE informs us that Homer wrote a comic epic poem, entitled Margites, which, to the no small detriment of succeeding ages, is unfortunately lost. To this species of
poesy, we may suppose, comedy has the same reference that the tragic bears to the heroic. For my part, I cannot conceive why a good comedy has never been styled, by those who are fond of deciding literary precedence, the greatest production of human nature. Certainly, its consisting of known and familiar ideas should not derogate from its merits, because, on account of that very circumstance, it meets with less indulgence: the business of it coming more near to every man's breast, and, of course, the
vulgar being in some measure judges of the justness of the imitations; whereas, in tragedy, frigid declamation lulls, florid epithets amuse, lofty metaphors amaze, and sonorous expressions elevate and surprise.
As tragedy aims more particularly at an excitement of the serious passions, so the chief merit of comedy consists in its effect on the merry affections of the human mind; the former principally awakening sensations of terror and pity, and the latter giving emotions of a gay contempt, as it is elegantly called, or, in plainer English, making us despise and laugh at an object at the same time. To succeed in this last mentioned mode of writing, it requires aś fine and as lively an imagination as any of the other imitative arts; for as it is manifest that the tragic poet then excites in us the most intense sensations, when his expressions convey the liveliest images to the fancy; so the comic poet, when he seizes the imagination with a bright assemblage of ludicrous ideas, is sure of agitating those passions, to which his art directs him with an irresistible power. And therefore this animadversion is sufficient to put an end to that idle dispute, which, as we learn from Horace, engaged the learned, viz. whether comedy might be called poetry or not:
quidam comedia necne poema Esset quæsivere.
It is manifest that it is an imitative art; and, different passions being the objects of its address, it only makes use of means different from the more elevated species of writing; but surely it is full as hard a task to paint ordinary things, as objects of more importance; and, in my opinion, Virgil's line, which describes an old woman running across Dido’s apartment with officious zeal,
Illa gradum studio celerabat anili,
is as picturesque, and has as much merit, as the description of the ambrosial locks of Venus :
Ambrosiæque comæ divinum vertice odorem
The comic writer, as well as the tragedian, must derive his force from the true primary sources of composition; that is to say, he must learn to seize our imaginations with striking pictures of human life; he must instruct our reason by inserting sensible observations on worldly contingencies, and he must also frequently apply himself to those passions which it is the merit of his art to awaken. In this lasta mentioned particular consists the real merit of
a well-wrought comedy ; in like manner as the serious drama must fill us with ideas proper to excite terror and pity. To obtain either effect, the poet is to select such circumstances in every object, in every passion, and in every action, as will be most conducive to his peculiar end, and he is constantly to avail himself of such expressions as will serve to convey the liveliest images to the fancy. When this is rightly performed, whether in the solemn or humorous scene, it is true poetry; and, in either case, it is by the means of a mode of eloquence that the art produces its desired effect. For ridicule, by which comedy works, is as much a mode of eloquence as the several arts of persuasion, and the several figures which rhetoric has reduced into a system for the excitement of the more serious passions.
The dispute that subsisted among the learned for a considerable time, and is perhaps not yet determined, viz. whether ridicule is a test of truth, is, in my humble opinion, extremely idle and frivolous ; the faculty of reason, which compares our ideas, and sustains or rejects the various affirmations concerning them, being the sole judge of truth, however complicated the means may be by which it gains its end. I have often wondered, that neither Aristotle,