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Rage armed Archilochus with the iambic of his own invention. The sock and the majestic buskin assumed this measure as adapted for dialogue, and to silence the noise of the populace, and calculated for action.
To celebrate gods, and the sons of gods, and the victorious wrestler, and the steed foremost in the race, and the inclination of youths, and the free joys of wine, the muse has allotted to the lyre.
If I am incapable and unskillful to observe the distinction described, and the complexions of works (of genius), why am I accos'ed by the name of “Poet?" Why, out of false modesty, do I prefer being ignorant to being learned ?
A comic subject will not be handled in tragic verse :" in like manner the banquet of Thyestes will not bear to be held in familiar verses, and such as almost suit the sock. Let
15 Indignatur item, etc. - Cæna Thyestæ. “Il met le souper de Thyeste pour toutes sortes de tragedies," says M. Dacier, with whom agrees the whole band of commentators: but why this subject should be singled out, as the representative of the rest, is nowhere explained by any of them. We may be sure, it was not taken up at random. The reason was, that the Thyestes of Ennius was peculiarly chargeable with the fault here censured; as is plain from a curious passage in the Orator, where Cicero, speaking of the loose numbers of certain poets, observes this, in particus lar, of the tragedy of Thyestes, “Similia sunt quædam apud nostros: velut in Thyeste,
Quemnam te esse dicam ? qui tardâ in senectute, et quæ sequuntur: quæ, nisi cùm tibicen accesserit, oratione sunt solutæ simillimæ:" which character exactly agrees to this of Horace, wherein the language of that play is censured, as flat and prosaic, and hardly rising above the plain narrative of an ordinary conversation in comedy. This allusion to a particular play, written by one of their best poets, and frequently exhibited on the Roman stage, gives great force and spirit to the precept, at the same time that it exemplifies it in the happiest manner. It seems further probable to me, that the poet also designed an indirect compliment to Varius, whose Thyestes we are told (Quinctil. l. x. c. 1) was not inferior to any tragedy of the Greeks. This double intention of these lines well suited to the poet's general aim, which is seen through all his critical works, of beating down the excessive admiration of the old poets, and of asserting and advancing the just honors of the deserving moderns. It may further be observed, that the critics have not felt the force of the words exponi and narrari in this precept. They are admirably chosen to express the two faults condemned: the first imply. ing a kind of pomp and ostentation in the language, which is thereforo improper for the low subjects of comedy; and the latter, as I have hinted, a flat, prosaic expression, not above the cast of a common narrative, and therefore equally unfit for tragedy. HURD.
each peculiar species [of writing] fill with decorum its
proper place. Nevertheless sometimes even comedy exalts her voice, and passionate Chremes rails in a tumid strain : and a tragic writer generally expresses grief in a prosaic style. Telephus and Peleus, when they are both in poverty and exile, throw aside their rants and gigantic expressions if they have a mind to move the heart of the spectator with their complaint.
It is not enough that poems be beautiful;10 let them be tender and affecting, and bear away the soul of the auditor whithersoever they please. As the human countenance smiles on those that smile, so does it sympathize with those that weep. If you would have me weep you must first express the passion of grief yourself; then, Telephus or Peleus, your misfortunes hurt me : if you pronounce the parts assigned you ill, I shall either fall asleep or laugh.
Pathetic accents suit a melancholy countenance ; words full of menace, an angry one; wanton expressions, a sportive look ; and serious matter, an austere one.
For nature forms us first within to every modification of circumstances; she delights or impels us to anger, or depresses us to the earth and afflicts us with heavy sorrow: then expresses those emotions of the mind by the tongue, its interpreter. If the words be discordant to the station of the speaker, the Roman knights and plebians will raise an immoderate laugh. 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 little farm; a Colchian, or an Assyrian ; one educated at Thebes, or one at Argos.
You, that write, either follow tradition," or invent such
16 Non satis est pulchra, etc. Bentley objects to pulchra because this, he says, is a general term including under it every species of beauty, and therefore that of dulcis or the affecting. As if general terms were not frequently restrained and determined to a peculiar sense by the context. But the great critic did not sufficietly attend to the connection, which, as F. Robertellus, in his paraphrase on the epistle, well observes, stands thus: “It is not enough, that tragedies have that kind of beauty which arises from a pomp and splendor of diction, they must also be pathetic or affecting. HURD.
17 The connection lies thus: language must agree with character; character with fame, or at least with itself. HURD.
fables as are congruous to themselves. If as poet you have to represent the renowned Achilles; let him be indefatigable, wrathtul, inexorable, courageous, let him deny that laws were made for him, let him arrogate every thing to force of arms. Let Medea be fierce and untractable, Ino an object of pity, Ixion perfidious, Io wandering, Orestes in distress.
If you offer to the stage any thing unattempted, and venture to form a new character; let it be preserved to the last" such as it set out at the beginning, and 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 acts, than if you first introduce arguments unknown and never treated of before. A public story will become your own property, if you do not dwell 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 [the original] word for word; nor by imitating throw yourself into straits, whence either shame or the rules of your work
13 The rule is, as appears from the reason of the thing, and from Aristotle, “Let a uniformity of character be preserved, or at least a consistency:" i. e. either let the manners be exactly the same fron, the beginning to the end of the play, as those of Medea, for instance, and Orestes; or, if any change be necessary, let it be such as may consist with, and be easily reconciled to, the manners formerly attributed, as is seen in the case of Electra and Iphigenia. HURD.
19 Difficile est proprij communia dicere. Lambin's comment is, “Communia hoc loco appellat Horatius argumenta fabularum à nullo adhuc tractata: et ita, quæ cuivis exposita sunt et iu medio quadammodo posita, quasi vacua et à nemine occupata.” And that this is the true meaning of communia is evidently fixed by the words ignota indictaque, which are explanatory of it. HURD.
20 Publica materies is just the reverse of what the poet had before styled communia: the latter meaning such subjects or characters as, though by their nature left in common to all, had yet, in fact, not been occupied by any writer; the former, those which had already been made public by occupation. In order to acquire a property in subjects of this sort, the poet directs us to observe the three following cautions: 1. Not to follow the trite, obvious round of the original work; i. e. not servilely and scrupulously to adhere to its plan of method. 2. Not to be translators, instead of imitators, i. e. if it shall be thought fit to imitate more ex. pressly any part of the original, to do it with freedom and spirit, and without a slavish attachment to the mode of expression. 3. Not to adopt any particular incident that may occur in the proposed model, which either decency or the nature of the work would reject. HURD.
Nor must you make such an exordium, as the Cyclic" writer 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 labor, a ridiculous mouse
? will be brought forth. How much more to the purpose he, who attempts nothing improperly? "Sing for me, my muse, the man who, after the time of the destruction of Troy, surveyed the manners and cities of many men.” He meditates not (to produce] smoke from a flash, but out of smoke to elicit fire, that he may thence bring forth his instances of the marvelous with beauty, (such as] Antiphates, Scylla, the Cyclops, and Charybdis. Nor does he date Diomede's return from Meleager's death, nor trace the rise of the Trojan war from [Leda's] eggs: he always hastens on to the event; and hurries away his reader in the midst of interesting circumstances, no oth vise than as if they were [already] known; and what he despairs of, as to receiving a polish from his touch, he omits; and in such a manner forms his fictions, so intermingles the false with the true, that the middle is not inconsistent with the beginning, nor the end with the middle.
Do you 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 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 the bent of vice, rough to advisers, a slow provider of useful things, 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 (high) connections, is subservient to points of honor; and is cautious of committing any action, which he would subsequently be industrious to correct. Many inconveniences encompass a man in years; either because he seeks [eagerly] for gain," and abstains from what he has gotten, and is afraid to make use of it; or because he transacts every thing in a timorous and uispassionate manner, dilatory, slow in hope, remiss, and greedy of futurity. Peevish, querulous, a panegyrist of former times when he was a boy, a chastiser and censurer of his juniors. Our advancing yearsás bring many advantages along with them. Many our declining ones take away. That the parts [therefore) belong
21 Scriptor cyclicus. Some author of the cyclus, described above, 1, 132. *The chief Cyclic poems are the following: 1. Tù Kúàpia, of Stasinus or Hegesinus. 2. The Aiolonis of Arctinus. 3. The plaids uikpi. by Lesches. 4. The 'lniov népolç of Arctinus. 5. The Nóstol attributed to Agias. 6. The Tyleyovia of Eugammon. These were collected, more for the sake of philology than poetry, by the Alexandrine grammarians. M'CAUL.
a cones the begi Orestes: ch, and be
zen in the
is. "Com lo adhuc
meaning hich are
restrled oligh b} pied by
sort, the follow
slators ore er it, and adopt which
] ing to age may not be given to youth, and those of a man to a boy, we must dwell upon 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 which 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 things fit only to be acted behind the scenes : and you must take away from view many actions, which elegant description" may soon after deliver in presence [of the spectators]. Let not Medea murder her sons before the people; nor the execrable Atreus openly dress human entrails : nor let Progue be metamorphosed into a bird, Cadmus into a serpent. Whatever you show to me in this manner, not able to give credit to, I detest.
22 “Quærit"="quæstus facit," as in Virg. Georg. i. “In medium quærebant.
23 He returns to his first division of human life into two parts. “Anni venientes,” the years preceding manhood; "anni recedentes,” the years going back toward old age and death. The ancients reckoned the former by addition: the latter by subtraction. The French have an expression like this of "recedentes anni." They say, “est sur son retour," "he is upon his return,” when a person is declining in years. DAC.
24 Semper in adjunctis. “Adjuncta ævo,” every thing which attends age; "apta ævo," every thing proper to it.
25 Fecundia præsens. The recital of an actor present, which ought to be made with all the pathetic; "facundia;" or a recital instead of the action, "facundia facti vicaria, quæ rem quasi oculis præsentern sistit." Dao.