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PLEASURES OF LOCAL EMOTION. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible, if it were endeavoured; and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and far from my friends,' be such frigid philosophy, as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is little to be en-, vied whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.
Western Islands, p. 346.
POETS AND POETRY, In almost all countries, the most ancient poets are considered as the best. Whether it be that every other kind of knowledge is an acquisition gradually attained, and poetry is a gift conferred at once, or that the first poetry of every nation surprised them as a novelty, and retained the credit by consent, which it received by accident at first; or whether, as the province of poetry is to describe nature and passion, which are always the same, the first writers took possession of the striking objects for description, and the most probable occurrences for fiction, and left nothing to those that followed them but transcriptions of the same events, and new combinations of the same images : whatever be the reason, it is com-. monly observed, that the early writers are in possession of nature, and their followers of art...,
Prince of Abyslinia, p. 64 & 65.
Compositions, merely pretty, have the fate of other pretty things, and are quitted in time for something useful. They are flowers fragrant and fair, but of short duration; or they are blossoms only to be valued as they foretel fruitsa
Life of Waller. It is a general rule in poetry, that all appropriated terms of art should be sunk in general expressions; because poetry is to speak an universal language. This rule is still stronger with regard to arts not liberal, or confined to few, and there. fore far removed from common knowledge.
Life of Dryden. A mythological fable seldom pleases. The story we are accustomed to reject as false, and the manners are so distant from our own, that we know them not by sympathy, but by study.
Life of Smith.
No poem should be long, of which the purpose is only to strike the fancy, without enlightening the understanding by precept, ratiocination, or narrative.-A blaze first pleases, and then tires the sigbt.
Life of Fenton,
After all the refinements of subtility, and the dogmatism of learning, all claim to poetical honours must be finally decided by the common sense of readera, uncorrupted with literary pres judices,
Life of Gray
Though poets profess fiction, the legitimate end of fiction is the conveyance of truth, and he that has flattery ready for all whom the vicissi
tudes of the world happen to exalt, must be scorned as a prostituted mind, that may retain the glitter of wit, but has lost the dignity of virtue.
Life of Waller.
It does not always happen that the success of a poet is proportionate to his labour. The same observation may be extended to all works of imagination, which are often influenced by causes wholly out of the performer's power, by the hints of which he perceives not the origin, by sudden elevations of mind which he cannot produce in himself, and which sometimes rise when he expects them least.
Dissertation on the Epitaphs of Pope, p. 320.
- Poets are scarce thought freemen of their company, without paying some duties, or obliging themselves to be true to love.
Life of Cowley.
The man that sits down to suppose himself charged with treason or peculation, and heats his mind by an elaborate purgation of his character from crimes which he never was within the possibility of committing, differs only by the infrequency of his folly from the poet who praises. beauty which he never saw, complains of jea. lousy which he never felt, supposes himself somelimes invited, and sometimes forsaken, fatigueshis fancy, and ransacks his memory, for images which may exhibit the gaiety of lope, or the gloominess of despair; and dresses his imaginary Chloris, or Phillis, sometimes in flowers fading as her beauty, and sometimes in gems lasting as her virtues.
One of the greatest sources of poetical delight is description, or the powers of presenting pictures to the mind.
Waller's opinion concerning the duty of a poet was " That he should blot from his works any line that did not contain some motive to virtue.”
Life of Waller. : It is in vain for those who borrow, too many of
their sentiments and illustrations from the old mythology, to plead the example of the ancient poets. The deities which they produced so frequently were considered as realities, so far as to be received by the imagination, whatever sober reason might then determine. But of these images time has tarnished the splendor. A fiction not only detected but despised, can never afford a solid basis to any position, though sometimes it may furnish a transient allusion, or slight illustration. No modern monarch can be much exalted by hearing, that as Hercules has had his club, he has his navy.
Those who admire the beauties of a great poet, sometimes force their own judgment into a false approbation of his little pieces, and prevail upon themselves to think that admirable which is only singular. All that short compositions can comnionly attain is neatness and elegance.
Life of Milton. Bossu is of opinion, that the poet's first work is to find a moral, which his fable is afterwards to illustrate and establish,
Pleasure and terror are indeed the genuine sources of poetry; but poetical pleasure must be such as human imagination can at least conceive, and poetical terror such as human strength and fortitude may combat.
In every work oné párt must be for the sake of others; à palace must have its passages; a poem must have transitions. It is no more to be required that wit should be always blazing, than that the sun should stand at noon, In a great work there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque parts, as there is in the world a succession of day and night.
The occasional poet is circumscribed by the narrowness of his subject. Whatever can happen to a man has happened so often, that little remains for fancy and invention. Not only matter, but tiine is wanting. The poem must not be delayed till the occasion is forgotten. Occasional compositions may, however, secure to a writer the praise both of learning and facility; for they cannot be the effect of long study, and must be furnished immediately from the treasures of the mind.
Life of Dryden.
Knowledge of the subject is to a poet what materials are to the architect.
Local poetry is a species of composition, of which the fundamental subject is some particular landscape to be poetically described, with the ada, dition of such embellishments as may be supplied by historical retrospection, or incidental medita