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be discordant to the station of the speaker, the Roman knights and plebeians will raise an immoderate laugh. For it will make a wide difference whether it be Davus that speaks, or a hero; a man well stricken in years, or a hot young fellow in his bloom: and a matron of distinction, or an officious nurse: a roaming merchant, or the cultivator of a verdant enclosure: a Colchian, or Assyrian; one educated at Thebes, or one at



You that write, either follow tradition, or invent such fables as are congruous to themselves. If you have to represent the renowned Achilles, let him be indefatigable, wrathful, inexorable, courageous; let him deny that laws were made for him; let him arrogate every thing by force of arms. Let Medea be fierce and untractable, Ino an object of pity, Ixion perfidious, Io wandering, Orestes in circumstances of distress.

If you offer to the stage any thing unattempted, and venture to form a new character, let it be preserved at the last such as it set out at the beginning, tand be consistent with itself. It is difficult to write with propriety on subjects to which all writers have a common claim; and you with more prudence will reduce the Iliad into five acts, than be the first to introduce arguments unknown, and never treated on before. A public story will become your own property, if you do not dwell

* Viz. Persons of all ranks.

+ Mr. Hurd proposes to read this verse in the following manner, Qualis ab incepto processerit AUT sibi constet; and runs into some ingenious refinements to prove the specific difference between UNIFORMITY and CONSISTENCY.

Subjects unhandled by anybody, and therefore common for all.

upon the whole circle of events, which is paltry, and open to every one; nor must you be so faithful a translator, as to take the pains of rendering your author word for word; nor, by closely imi tating, throw yourself into such straits, from whence either shame, and the rules of your work, may forbid you to retreat.


Nor must you make such an exordium as the itinerant scribbler of old :* " I will sing the fate of Priam and the noble war." What will this boaster produce worthy of all this gaping? The mountains are in labour and a ridiculous mo mouse shall be brought forth. How much more to the purpose he, who sets about nothing improperly? Sing for me, my muse, the man, who, after the time of the destruction of Troy, surveyed the manners of many men and states." He meditates not to produce smoke from a flash, but out of smoke to elicit fire, that from thence he may bring forth his instances of the marvellous with striking beauty, such as Antiphates, Scylla, Cyclops, and Charybdis. Nor does he, like a certain poet,† date Diomedes' return from Meleager's death, nor trace the rise of the Trojan war from Leda's eggs: he always hastens to the event, and hurries away his reader into the midst of interesting circumstances, no otherwise than if they were already known; and what he despairs of as to receiving any polish from his touch, he omits: and in such a manner forms his fictions, so intermingles the false and

*Cyclicus, from KUKλIKOS, circulator circumforaneus, a vagabond bard, that sung verses of his own composition in the streets.

† Some absurd poet, a contemporary with Horace, not certainly known.

true, that the middle is not inconsistent with the beginning, nor the end with the middle.

Please to attend to what I, and the public, in my opinion, expect from you as a dramatic writer. If you are desirous of an applauding spectator, who will wait for the falling of the curtain, and till the chorus calls out,*"Your plaudits;" the manners of every age must be strongly marked by you, and a proper decorum assigned to men's varying dispositions, and years. The boy, who is just able to pronounce his words, and prints the ground with a firm tread, delights to play with his fellows, and contracts, and lays aside, anger without reason, and is subject to change every hour. The beardless youth, his guardian being at length discharged, joys in horses and dogs, and the verdure of the sunny Campus Martius; pliable as wax to be inclined to vice, rough to advisers, a slow provider of things really useful, prodigal of his money, high-spirited, and amorous, and hasty in deserting the objects of his passion. After this, our inclinations being changed, the age and spirit of manhood seeks after wealth, and friendly connections; is subservient to points of honour; and is cautious of committing any action he would afterwards be industrious to correct. Many inconveniences encompass a man in years; either because he seeks eagerly after gain, and abstains from what he has got, and is afraid to make use of it; or because he transacts every thing in a timorous and faint manner, dilatory, slow in hope, remiss, and fearful of futurity; peevish, querulous, a panegyrist of for-

*Till the chorus says, Vos valete, et plaudite; Ye auditors farewell, and applaud. The concise and constant epi logue to the Roman comedies.

mer times, when he was a boy, a chastiser and censurer of his juniors. Our advancing years* bring many advantages along with them, many our declining ones take away. That the parts therefore belong to age may not be given to a youth, and those of a man to a boy, we must dwell particularly on those qualities, which are joined and adapted to each person's age.

An action is either represented on the stage, or, being done elsewhere, is there related. The things that enter by the ear affect the mind more languidly than such as are submitted to the faithful eyes, and what a spectator presents to himself. You must not, however, bring upon the stage such things as are fit only to be acted behind the scenes: and you must take away from public view many actions, which elegant description may soon after deliver in the presence of the spectators. Let not Media murder her sons before the people; or the execrable Atreus openly dress a banquet of human viscera; nor let Progne be metamorphosed into a bird, or Cadmus into a serpent. Whatever you show to me in this manner, not able to give credit to, I detest.

Let a play that would be inquired after, and, though seen, would be presented anew, neither be shorter nor longer than the fifth act. Nor let a god interfere, unless a difficulty worthy a god's unravelling should happen: nor let a fourth person be officious to speak.

Let the chorus defend and support the part and manly character of an actor: nor let them sing

* From childhood to the meridian of manhood, or prime of life, our years may be said to advance, and after that to recede or decline.

any thing between the acts which is not conducive to, and fitly coherent with, the main design. Let them both patronize the good, and give them friendly advice, and regulate the passionate, and be fond to appease the proud; let them praise the temperate repast of a short meal, set forth the salutary effects of justice, laws, and peace with her open gates; let them conceal what is told to them in confidence, and supplicate and implore the Gods, that prosperity may return to the wretched, and abandon the haughty. The flute originally, not as now, begirt with brass, and emulous of the trumpet, but slender and of simple form, with few stops, was of service to accompany and assist the chorus, and with its tone was sufficient to fill the rows that were not as yet too crowded; whither an audience easily numbered, as being small, and sober, chaste, and modest, met together. But when the victorious Romans began to extend their territories, and an ampler wall encompassed the city, and their geniuses were indulged on festivals by drinking of wine in the day-time without censure, a greater freedom acceded both to the numbers of poetry, and the measures of music. For what taste could an unlettered clown, and one just dismissed from the plough, have, when in company with the polite, the base with the man of honour? Thus the musician added new movements, and a luxuriance to the simplicity of the ancient art, and strutting backwards and forwards* drew a length of train over the stage: thus likewise new notes were added to the severity of the lyre, and

Strutting, &c., alluding to their shifting sides in sing. ing the strophe, antistrophe, &c.

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