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This is ok.
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
HAMLET.-Act I. Sr. 2.
In the inner room
SOUTHERN.-FATE OF CAPUA, Act 3. The following passage, intended, one would imagine as a receipt to boil water, is altogether burlesque, by the labored elevation of the diction :
A massy caldron of stupendous frame
ILIAD, xviii. 405.
&c. and ends at l. 135. It is proper to be observed upon this head, that writers of inferior rank are continually upon the stretch to enliven and enforce their subject by exaggeration and superlatives. This unluckily has an effect contrary to what is intended; the reader, disgusted with language that swells above the subject, is led by contrast to think more meanly of the subject than it may possibly deserve. A man of prudence, beside, will be no less careful to husband his strength in writing than in walking; a writer too liberal of superlatives, exhausts his whole stock upon ordinary incidents, and reserves no share to express, with greater energy, matters of importance.*
* See Æneid, lib. i. 188--219.
Many writers of that kind abound so in epithets, as if poetry consisted entirely in high-sounding words. Take the following instance:
When black-brow'd Night her dusky mantle spread,
And wrapt in solemn gloom the sable sky;
And seal'd in silken slumber ev'ry eye:
Nor the sweet bliss of soft oblivion share;
My heart the subject of corroding care:
I solitary steal, and soothe my pensive woe.
The power of language to imitate thought, is not confined to the capital circumstances above mentioned; it reacheth even the slighter modifications. Slow action, for example, is imitated by words pronounced slow: labor, or toil, by words harsh or rough in their sound. But this subject has been already handled.
Is this Henning Kirk
* Montaigne, reflecting upon the then present modes, observes that there never was, at any time, so abject and servile prostitution of words in the addresses made by people of fashion to one another; the bumblest tenders of life and soul, no professions under that of devotion and adoration; the writer constantly declar ing himself a vassal, nay, a slave; so that when any more serious occasion of friendship or gratitude requires more genuine professions, words are wanting to express them.
In dialogue-writing, the condition of the speaker is chiefly to be regarded in framing the expression. The sentinel in Hamlet, interrogated with relation to the ghost, Whether his watch had been quiet? answers with great propriety for a man in his station, “ Not a mouse stirring."*
I proceed to a second remark, no less important than the former. No person of reflection but must be sensible, that an incident makes a stronger impression on an eye-witness than when heard at second-hand.Writers of genius, sensible that the eye is the best avenue to the heart, represent every thing as passing in our sight; and, from readers or hearers, transform us, as it were, into spectators: a skilful writer conceals himself, and presents his personages; in a word, every thing becomes dramatic as much as possible. Plutarch, observes, that Thucydides makes his reader a spectator, and inspires him with the same passions as if he were an eye-witness; and the same observation is applicable to our countryman Swift. From this happy talent arises that energy of style which is peculiar to him; he cannot always avoid narration ; but the pencil is his choice, by which he bestows life and coloring upon his objects. Pope is richer in ornament, but possesseth not in the same degree the talent of drawing from the life. A translation of the sixth satire of Horace, begun by the former and finished by the latter, affords the fairest opportunity for a comparison. Pope obviously imitates the picturesque manner of his friend; yet every one of taste must be sensible, that the imitation, though fine, falls short of the original. In other instances, where Pope writes in his own style, the difference of manner is still more conspicuous.
* One can scarce avoid smiling at the blindness of a certain critic, who, with an air of self-sufficiency, condemns this expression as low and vulgar. A French poet, says he, would express the same thought in a more sublime manner : “ Mais tout dort, et l'armée, et les vents, et Neptune.' And he adds, “The English poet may please at London, but the French everywhere else."
Abstract or general terms have no good effect in any composition for amusement; because it is only of particular objects that images can be formed. Shakspeare's style in that respect is excellent: every article in his descriptions is particular, as in nature; and if, accidentally, a vague expression slip in, the blemish is discernible by the bluntness of its expression.
In the fine arts, it is a rule to put the capital objects in the strongest point of view; and even to present them oftener than once, where it can be done. In history-painting, the principal figure is placed in the front, and in the best light: an equestrian statue is placed in the centre of streets, that it may be seen from many places at once. In no composition is there greater opportunity for this rule than in writing;
Full many a lady
Orlando. Whate'er you are
Duke sen. True is it that we have seen better days;
As YOU LIKE IT.
With thee conversing I forget all time:
PARADISE Lost.-Book IV l. 634. The repetitions in Homer, which are frequent, have been the occasion of much criticism. Suppose we were at a loss about the reason, might not taste be sufficient to justify them ? At the same time, we are at no loss about the reason; they evidently make the narration dramatic, and have an air of truth, by making things appear as passing in our sight. But such repetitions are unpardonable in a didactic poem. In one of Hesiod's poems of that kind, a long passage occurs twice in the same chapter.
A concise comprehensive style is a great ornament in narration; and superfluity of unnecessary words, no less than of circumstances, a great nuisance. A judicious selection of the striking circumstances, clothed in a nervous style, is delightful. In this style, Tacitus excels all writers ancient and modern.
After Tacitus, Ossian in that respect justly merits the place of distinction. . One cannot go wrong for examples in any part of the book ; and at the first opening the following instance meets the eye:
Nathos clothed his limbs in shining steel. The stride of the chief is lovely; the joy of his eye terrible. The wind rustles in his hair. Carthula is silent at his side: her look is fixed on the chief. Striving to hide the rising sigh, two tears swell in her eye.