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Macbeth, mentioning to his lady some voices he heard while he was murdering the king, says

There's one did laugh in's sleep, and one cried Murder!
They wak'd each other; and I stood and heard them:
But they did say their prayers, and address them

Again to sleep.

Lady. There are two lodg'd together.

Macbeth. One cried, God bless us! and Amen the other; As they had seen me with these hangman's hands. Listening their fear, I could not say Amen,

When they did say, God bless us.

Lady. Consider it not so deeply.

Macbeth. But wherefore could not I pronounce Amen?

I had most need of blessing, and Amen

Stuck in my throat.

Lady. These deeds must not be thought
After these ways; so, it will make us mad.

Macbeth. Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more!

Macbeth doth murder sleep! &c.

ACT II. Sc. 3.

Alphonso, in the Mourning Bride, shut up in the same prison where his father had been confined:

In a dark corner of my cell I found

This paper: what it is this light will show.

"If my Alphonso'


"If my Alphonso live, restore him Heav'n;

Give me more weight, crush my declining years
With bolts, with chains, imprisonment, and want;
But bless my son, visit not him for me.'

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It is his hand: this was his pray'r-Yet more:
"Let ev'ry hair, which sorrow by the roots
Tears from my hoary and devoted head,
Be doubled in thy mercies to my son:

Not for myself, but him, hear me, all-gracious"-
'Tis wanting what should follow-



-Heav'n should follow,

But 'tis torn off--Why should that word alone
Be torn from his petition? 'T was to Heav'n,

But Heav'n was deaf, Heav'n heard him not; but thus,
Thus as the name of Heav'n from this is torn,

So did it tear the ears of mercy from

His voice, shutting the gates of pray'r against him.
If piety be thus debarr'd access

On high, and of good men the very best

Is singled out to bleed, and bear the scourge,
What is reward? or, What is punishment?
But who shall dare to tax eternal justice?'


This incident is a happy invention, and a mark of uncommon genius

Describing Prince Henry:

I saw young Harry, with his beaver on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly arm'd,
Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury;
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropt down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,

And witch the world with noble horsemanship.


King Henry. Lord Cardinal, if thou think'st on Heaven's bliss,

Hold up thy hand, make signal of thy hope.—

He dies, and makes no sign!


The same author, speaking ludicrously of an army debilitated with diseases, says

Half of them dare not shake the snow from off their cassocks, lest they shake themselves to pieces.

I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they were desolate. The flame had resounded in the halls; and the voice of the people is heard no more. The stream of Clutha was removed from its place by the fall of the walls. The thistle shook there its lonely head: the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out from the windows: and the rank grass of the wall wayed round his head. Desolate is the dwelling of Morna : silence is in the house of her fathers. FINGAL.

To draw a character is the master-stroke of description. In this Tacitus excels; his portraits are natural and lively, not a feature wanting nor misplaced. Shakspeare, however, exceeds Tacitus in liveliness; some characteristical circumstance being generally invented, or laid hold of, which paints more to the life than many words. The following instance will explain my meaning, and, at the same time, prove my observation to be just:

Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?

Sleep when he wakes, and creep into the jaundice,
By being peevish? I tell thee what, Antonio,
(1 love thee, and it is my love that speaks,)
There are a sort of men, whose visages
Do cream and mantle like a standing pond;
And do a wilful stillness entertain,
With purpose to be dress'd in an opinion

Of wisdom, gravity, profound conceit;
As who should say, I am Sir Oracle,
And when I ope my lips, let no dog bark!
O my Antonio, I do know of those,
That therefore only are reputed wise,
For saying nothing.



Gratiano speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in all Venice; his reasons are like two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff; you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search.


In the following passage, a character is completed by a single stroke:

Shallow. O the mad days that I have spent; and to see how many of mine old acquaintance are dead.

Silence. We shall all follow, Cousin.

Shallow. Certain, 'tis certain, very sure. Death (as the Psalmist saith) is certain to all: all shall die. How a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford fair?

Slender. Truly, Cousin, I was not there.

Shallow. Death is certain. Is old Double of your town living yet?

Silence. Dead, Sir.

Shallow. Dead! see, see; he drew a good bow: and dead. He shot a fine shoot. How a score of ewes now?

Silence. Thereafter as they be. A score of good ewes may be worth ten pounds.

Shallow. And is old Double dead?


Congreve has an inimitable stroke of this kind in his comedy of Love for Love:

Ben Legend. Well, father, and how do all at home? how does brother Dick, and brother Val?

Sir Sampson. Dick! body o' me, Dick has been dead these two years. I writ you word when you were at Leghorn.

Ben. Mess, that's true: marry, I had forgot. Dick's dead, as vou say. ACT III. Sc. 6.

Falstaff, speaking of ancient Pistol :

He's no swaggerer, hostess: a tame cheater, i' faith; you may stroke him as gently as a puppy-greyhound; he will not swagger with a Barbary hen, if her feathers turn back in any show of resistance. SECOND PART HENRY IV.-ACT II. Sc. 9.

Ossian, among his other excellencies, is eminently successful in drawing characters: and he never fails


to delight his reader with the beautiful attitudes of his heroes. Take the following instances:

O Oscar! bend the strong in arm; but spare the feeble hand. Be thou a stream of many tides against the foes of thy people; but like the gale that moves the grass to those who ask thine aid.

So Tremor lived; such Trathal was; and such has Fingal been. My arm was the support of the injured; and the weak rested behind the lightning of my steel.

We heard the voice of joy on the coast, and we thought that the mighty Cathmore came. Cathmore, the friend of strangers! the brother of red-haired Cairbar. But their souls were not the same; for the light of heaven was in the bosom of Cathmore. His towers rose on the banks of Atha; seven paths led to his halls: seven chiefs stood on these paths, and called the stranger to the feast. But Cathmore dwelt in the wood to avoid the voice of praise.

Dermid and Oscar were one: they reaped the battle together. Their friendship was strong as their steel: and death walked between them to the field. They rush on the foe like two rocks falling from the brow of Ardven. Their swords are stained with the blood of the valiant: warriors faint at their name. Who is equal to Oscar but Dermid? Who to Dermid but Oscar?

Son of Comhal, replied the chief, the strength of Morni's arm has failed. I attempt to draw the sword of my youth, but it remains in its place: I throw the spear, but it falls short of the mark: and I feel the weight of my shield. We decay like the grass of the mountain, and our strength returns no more. I have a son, O Fingal! his soul has delighted in the actions of Morni's youth; but his sword has not been fitted against the foe, neither has his fame begun. I come with him to battle, to direct his arm. renown will be a sun to my soul in the dark hour of my depar



O that the name of Morni were forgot among the people! that the heroes would only say, "Behold the father of Gaul."

Some writers, through heat of imagination, fall into contradiction; some are guilty of downright absurdities; and some even rave like madmen. Against such capital errors, one cannot be more effectually warned than by collecting instances.

When first young Maro, in his boundless mind,
A work t'outlast immortal Rome design'd.


The following are examples of absurdities:

He fled; but flying left his life behind. ILIAD, Xi. 433
Full through his neck the weighty falchion sped;
Along the pavement roll'd the muttering head.

ODYSSEY, Xxii. 365,

The last article is of raving, like one mad. Cleopatra, speaking to the aspic :

Welcome, thou kind deceiver,
Thou best of thieves; who, with an easy key,
Dost open life, and unperceiv'd by us,
Ev'n steal us from ourselves; discharging so
Death's dreadful office, better than himself;
Touching our limbs so gently into slumber,
That Death stands by, deceiv'd by his own image,
And thinks himself but Sleep.


Reasons that are common and known to every one, ought to be taken for granted; to express them is childish, and interrupts the narration.

Having discussed what observations occurred upon the thoughts, or things, expressed, I proceed to what more peculiarly concerns the language or verbal dress. The language proper for expressing passion, being handled in a former chapter, several observations there made are applicable to the present subject; particularly, that as words are intimately connected with the ideas they represent, the emotions raised by the sound. and by the sense, ought to be concordant. An elevated subject requires an elevated style; what is familiar, ought to be familiarly expressed; a subject that is serious and important, ought to be clothed in plain nerVous language; a description, on the other hand, addressed to the imagination, is susceptible of the highest ornaments that sounding words and figurative expression can bestow upon it.

I shall give a few examples of the foregoing rules. A poet of any genius is not apt to dress a high subject in low words; and yet blemishes of that kind are found even in classical works:

Not one looks backward, onward still he goes,
Yet ne'er looks forward further than his nose.

ESSAY ON MAN, Ep. iv. 223.

On the other hand, to raise the expression above the tone of the subject, is a fault than which nothing is more common. Take the following instances:

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