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adds, that they give to a composition that cast and colour of antiquity, which in painting is so highly valued, but which art can never effectually imitate.* Poetical words that are either not ancient, or not known to be such, have however, a pleasing effect from association. We are accustomed to meet with them in sublime and elegant writing; and hence they come to acquire sublimity and elegance: even as the words we hear on familiar occasions come to be accounted familiar; and as those that take their rise among pickpockets, gamblers, and gypsies, are thought too indelicate to be used by any person of taste or good manners. When one hears the following lines, which abound in poetical words,
The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
one is as sensible of the dignity of the language, as one would be of the vileness or vulgarity of that man's speech, who should prove his acquaintance with Bridewell, by interlarding his discourse with such terms as milldoll, queer cull, or nubbing cheattf or who, in imitation of
* Lib. 8. cap. 3. § 3.
f See the Scoundrel's Dictionary.
fops and gamblers, should, on the common occasions of life, talk of being beat hollow or saving his distance.* What gives dignity to persons gives dignity to language. A man of this character is one who has borne important employments, been connected with honourable associates, and never degraded himself by levity, or immorality of conduct. Dignified phrases are those which have been used to express elevated sentiments, have always made their appearance in elegant composition, and have never been profaned by giving permanency or utterance to the passions of the vile, the giddy, or the worthless. And as by an active old age, the dignity of such men is confirmed and heightened; so the dignity of such words, if they be not suffered to fall into disuse, seldom fails to improve by length of time.
* Language of Newmarket. Vol.. VI. E
Natural Language is improved in Poetry, by means ot
So much for the nature and use of those words that are poetical, and yet not figurative. But from figurative expression there arises a more copious and important source of poetick eloquence. Some sorts of poetry are distinguished by the beauty, boldness, and frequency of the figures, as well as by the measure, or by any of the contrivances above mentioned. And in prose we often meet with such figures and words, as we expect only in poetry: in which case the language is called poetical: and in verse we sometimes find a diction so tame, and so void of ornament, that we brand it with the appellation of prosaick.
As my design in this discourse is, not to deliver a system of rhetorick, but to explain the peculiar effects of poetry upon the mind, by tracing out the characters that distinguish this from other literary arts; it would be improper to enter here, with any degree of minuteness, into the philosophy of tropes and figures: these being ornamental, not to poetry only, but to human speech in general. All that the present occasion requires will be performed, when it is shown, in what respects tropical and figurative language is more necessary to poetry than to any other sort of composition.
If it appear, that, by means of figures, language may be made more pleasing, and more natural, than it would be without them; it will follow that topoetick language, whose end is to please by imitating nature, figures must be not only ornamental, but necessary. I shall therefore, first, make a few remarks on the importance and utility of figurative language; secondly, show, that figures are more necessary to poetry in general, than to any other mode of writing; and, thirdly, assign a reason why they are more necessary in some kinds of poetry than in others.
I. I purpose to make a few remarks on the importance and utility of figurative expression, in making language more pleasing and more natural.
1. The first remark is, that tropes and figures are often necessary to supply the unavoidable defects of language. When proper words are wanting, or not recollected, or when we do not choose to be always repeating them, we must have recourse to tropes and figures. When philosophers began to explain the operations of the mind, they found, that most of the words in common use, being framed to answer the more obvious exigencies of life, were in their proper signification applicable to matter only and its qualities. What was to be done in this case? Would they think of making a new language to express the qualities of mind? No: that would have been difficult, or impracticable; and granting it both practicable and easy, they must have foreseen, that nobody would read or listen to what was thus spoken or written in a new, and consequently, in an unknown tongue. They therefore took the language as they found it; and, wherever, they thought there was a similarity or analogy between the qualities of mind and the qualities of matter, scrupled not to use the names of the material qualities tropically, by applying them to the mental qualities. Hence came the phrases, solidity of judgment, warmth of imagination, enlargement of understanding, and many others: which, though figurative, express the meaning just as well as profter words would have done. In fact, numerous as the words in every language are, they must always fall short of the unbounded variety of human thoughts and perceptions. Tastes and smells are almost as numerous as the species of foodies. Sounds admit of perceptible varieties