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in 1785, he first published in two volumes the collection
“The Observer," which the next year was considerublished in five volumes in 1790, and in 1803 was incoritish Classics. In 1806, he published "Memoirs of his 1811 his last work, entitled “Retrospection, a Poem in He died on the 11th of May, in the same year. haracter of Mr. Cumberland, a pretty accurate judgment 1 his “Memoirs." His self-esteem was great and his , but he possessed as kind a heart as ever beat in a human few men appeared to more advantage in conversation
, dr ect mastery of the art of pleasing.” As a writer, he may remarkable for the number than for the distinguished ırks; but many of them, it should be remembered, were order to better his income: and it has been justly said duced much that is perishable or forgotten, he has also hich have been enregistered as among the finest effers Observer” is among the most interesting and instructive the British Classics, and few books are read with more Memoirs of his Own Life.”
warm and glowing language, and disdaining to be expressed in ordinary and vulgar phrase. Poetry then is the language of prayer, an address becoming of the Deity; it may be remembered, it may be repeated in the ears of the people called together for the purposes of worship; this is a form that may be fixed upon their minds, and in this they may be taught to join.
The next step in the progress of poetry from the praise of God is to the praise of men: illustrious characters, heroic actions are singled out for celebration: the inventors of useful arts, the reformers of savage countries, the benefactors of mankind, are extolled in verse, they are raised to the skies: and the poet, having praised them as the first of men whilst on earth, deifies them after death, and, conscious that they merit immortality, boldly bestows it, and assigns to them a rank and office in heaven appropriate to the character they maintained in life. Hence it is that the merits of a Bacchus, a Hercules, and numbers more are amplified by the poet, till they become the attributes of their divinity; altars are raised and victims immolated to their worship. These are the fanciful effects of poetry in its second stage: religion overheated turns into enthusiasm ; enthusiasm forces the imagination into all the visionary regions of fable, and idolatry takes possession of the whole Gentile world. The Egyptians, a mysterious, dogmatizing race, begin the work with symbol and hieroglyphic: the Greeks, a vain ingenious people, invent a set of tales and fables for what they do not understand, embellish them with all the glittering ornaments of poetry, and spread the captivating delusion over all the world.
In the succeeding period we review the poet in full possession of this brilliant machinery, and with all Olympus at his command: surrounded by Apollo and the Muses, he commences every poem with an address to them for protection; he has a deity at his call for every operation of nature; if he would roll the thunder, Jupiter shakes Mount Ida to dignify his description; Neptune attends him in his car, if he would allay the ocean; if he would let loose the winds to raise it, Æolus unbars his cave; the spear of Mars and the ægis of Minerva arm him for the battle; the arrows of Apollo scatter pestilence through the air
! Mercury flies upon the messages of Jupiter; Juno raves with jealousy, and Venus leads the Loves and Graces in her train. In this class, we contemplate Homer and his inferior brethren of the epic order; it is their province to form the warrior, instruct the politician, animate the patriot; they delineate the characters and manners; they charm us with their descriptions, surprise us with their incidents, interest us with their dialogue; they engage every passion in its turn, melt us to pity,
THE PROGRESS OF POETRY.
fore, whether Hebrew or Greek, was in the earliest
, a celestial in-
. It is perfectly in nature, and no less providence, to suppose that even in the darkes of a more enlightened sort should break forth
, the contemplation of the universe and its autbar:
the works of the Creator, the transition to nd adoration follows as it were of course: these the mind, which naturally inspire it with a ctroture and enthusiasm, rushing upon the lips in
om this poem, see “Compendium of English Literature,"
thus speaks in the fifth volume of his Essays, p. 23 ugh the sole labor of an individual, is yet rich in variety, nner; in this respect, indeed, as well as in literary i of invention, it may be classed with the Spectator and or to the latter in grandeur of fiction, or to the former dramatic unity of design, it is wealthier in its literary y moral in its views, and as abundant in the creatia rit, therefore, with the exception of the papers just in its powers of attraction, to every other periodical
rouse us to glory, strike us with terror, fire us with indignation; in a word, they prepare us for the drama, and the drama for us.
A new poet now comes upon the stage; he stands in person before us: he no longer appears as a blind and wandering bard, chanting his rhapsodies to a throng of villagers collected in a group about him, but erects a splendid theatre, gathers together a whole city as his audience, prepares a striking spectacle, provides a chorus of actors, brings music, dance, and dress to his aid, realizes the thunder, bursts open the tombs of the dead, calls forth their apparitions, descends to the very regions of the damned, and drags the Furies from their flames to present themselves personally to the terrified spectators: such are the powers of the drama; here the poet reigns and triumphs in his highest glory.
The fifth denomination gives us the lyric poet chanting his ode at the public games and festivals, crowned with olive and encompassed by all the wits and nobles of his age and country: here we contemplate Stersichorus, Alcæus, Pindar, Callistratus: sublime, abrupt, impetuous, they strike us with the shock of their electric genius; they dart from earth to heaven; there is no following them in their flights; we stand gazing with surprise; their boldness awes us, their brevity confounds us: their sudden transitions and ellipses escape our apprehension; we are charmed we know not why, we are pleased with being puzzled, and applaud although we cannot comprehend. In the lighter lyric we meet Anacreon, Sappho, and the votaries of Bacchus and Venus; in the grave, didactic, solemn class we have the venerable names of a Solon, a Tyrtæus, and those who may be styled the demagogues in poetry: Is liberty to be asserted, licentiousness to be repressed? Is the spirit of a nation to be roused ? It is the poet, not the orator, must give the soul its energy and spring. Is Salamis to be recovered? It is the elegy of Solon must sound the march to its attack. Are the Lacedemonians to be awakened from their lethargy? It is Tyrtæus who must sing the war-song, and revive their languid courage.
Poetry next appears in its pastoral character; it affects the garb of shepherds and the language of the rustic: it represents to our view the rural landscape and the peaceful cottage. It records the labors, the amusements, the loves of the village nymphs and swains, and exhibits nature in its simplest state: it is no longer the harp or the lyre, but the pipe of the poet, which now invites our attention,
Observer, No. 67.
ÆSCHYLUS AND SHAKSPEARE COMPARED.
When I see the names of these two great luminaries of the dramatic sphere, so distant in time but so nearly allied in genius, casually brought in contact by the nature of my subject, I cannot help pausing for a while in this place to indulge so interesting a contemplation, in which I find my mind balanced between two objects that seem to have equal claims upon me for my admiration. Æschylus is justly styled the father of tragedy, but this is not to be interpreted as if he was the inventor of it: Shakspeare with equal justice claims the same title, and his originality is qualified with the same exception. The Greek tragedy was not more rude and undigested when Æschylus brought it into shape, than the English tragedy was when Shakspeare began to write: if, therefore, it be granted that he bad no aids from the Greek theatre (and I think this is not likely to be disputed), so far these great masters are upon equal ground. Æschylus was a warrior of high repute, of a lofty, generous spirit, and deep as it should seem in the erudition of his times. In all these particulars he has great advantage over our countryman, who was humbly born, of the most menial occupation, and, as it is generally thought, unlearned. Æschylus had the whole epic of Homer in his hands, the Iliad, Odyssey, and that prolific source of dramatic fable, the Ilias Minor: he had also a great fabulous creation to resort to amongst his own divinities, characters ready defined, and an audience whose superstition was prepared for everything he could offer. He had, therefore, a firmer and broader stage (if I may be allowed the expression) under his feet than Shakspeare had. His fables in general are Homeric, and yet it does not follow that we can pronounce for Shakspeare that he is more original in his plots, for I understand that late researches have traced him in all or nearly all. Both poets added so much machinery and invention of their own in the conduct of their fables, that whatever might have been the source, still their streams had little or no taste of the spring they flowed from. In point of character we have better grounds to decide, and yet it is but justice to observe that it is not fair to bring a mangled poet in comparison with one who is entire: In his divine personages, Æschylus has the field of heaven, and indeed of hell also, to himself; in his heroic and military characters, he has never been excelled: he had too good a model within his own bosom to fail of making those delineations natural. In his imaginary being also he will be found a respectable, though not an equal rival of
our poet; but in the variety of character, in all the nicer touches of nature, in all the extravagancies of caprice and humor, from the boldest feature down to the minutest foible, Shakspeare stands alone. Such persons as he delineates never came into the contemplation of Æschylus as a poet; his tragedy has no dealing with them; the simplicity of the Greek fable, and the great portion of the drama filled up by the chorus, allow of little variety of character; and the most which can be said of Æschylus in this particular is that he never offends against nature or propriety, whether his cast is in the terrible or pathetic, the elevated or the simple. His versification with the intermixture of lyric composition is more various than that of Shakspeare; both are lofty and sublime in the extreme, abundantly metaphorical, and sometimes extravagant.
Both were subject to be hurried on by an uncontrollable impulse, nor could nature alone suffice for either: Æschylus had an apt creation of imaginary beings at command
He could call spirits from the vasty deep, and they would come; Shakspeare, having no such creation in resource, boldly made one of his own. If Eschylus therefore was invincible, he owed it to his armor, and that, like the armor of Æneas, was the work of the gods : but the unassisted invention of Shakspeare scized all and more than superstition supplied to Eschylus.
Observer, No. 69.
OBSERVATIONS ON STYLE.
The celebrated author of the Rambler, in his concluding paper, says, “I have labored to refine our language to grammatical purity, and to clear it from colloquial barbarisms, licentious idioms, and irregular combinations: something perhaps I have added to the elegance of its construction, and something to the harmony of its cadence.” I hope our language hath gained all the profit which the labors of this meritorious writer were exerted to produce. In style of a certain description he undoubtedly excels; but, though I think there is much in his essays for a reader to admire, I should not recommend them as a model for a disciple to copy.
Simplicity, ease, and perspicuity should be the first objects of a young writer. Addison and other authors of his class will furnish him with examples, and assist him in the attainment of these excellencies; but after all, the style in which a man shall write will not be formed by imitation only; it will be the style of his mind: it will assimilate itself to his mode of thinking, and take its color
our poet; but in the variety of character, in all the nicer toneles
, and sometimes extravagant
He could call spirits from the vasty deep,
, he owed it to his armor, and that, like the armor di
from the complexion of his ordinary discourse, and the company he consorts with. As for that distinguishiay olaraeteristic which the ingenious essayist terms very properly the harmony of its cadence, that I take to be incommunicable, and immediately dependent upon the ear of him who models it. This harmony of cadence so strong a mark of discrimination between authors of note in the world of letters, that we can depose to a style whose modulation we are familiar with almost as confidently as to the handwriting of a correspondent. But though I think there will be found in the periods of every established writer a certain peculiar tune (whether harmonious or otherwise), which will depend rather upon the natural ear than upon the imitative powers, yet I would not be understood to say that the study of good models can fail to be of use in the first formation of it. When a subject presents itself to the mind, and thoughts arise, which are to be committed to writing, it is then for a man to choose whether he will express himself in simple or in elaborate diction, whether he will compress his matter or dilate it, ornament it with epithets and robe it in metaphor, or whether he will deliver it plainly and naturally in such language as a well-bred person and scholar would use who affects no parade of speech, nor aims at any flights of fancy. Let him decide as he will, in all these cases he hath models in plenty to choose from, which may be said to court his imitation.
For instance; if his ambition is to glitter and surprise with the figurative and metaphorical brilliancy of his period, let him tune his ear to some such passages as the following, where Doctor Johnson, in the character of critic and biographer, is pronouncing upon the poet Congreve: "His scenes exhibit not much of humor, imagery, or passion: his personages are a kind of intellectual gladiators; every sentence is to ward or strike; the contest of smartness is never intermitted ; his wit is a meteor playing to and fro, with alternate coruscations.” If he can learn to embroider with as much splendor, taste, and address as this and many other samples from the same master exhibit, he cannot study in a better school.
On the contrary, it simplicity be his object, and a certain serenity of style, which seems in unison with the soul, he may open the “Spectator,” and take from the first paper of Mr. Addison the first paragraph that meets his eye—the following, for instance: “There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty, which immediately diffuses a secret satisfaction and complacency through the imagination, and gives a finishing to anything that is great or uncommon: the very first discovery of it strikes the mind with an inward joy, and spreads a cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties." Or again in the same essay:
OBSERVATIONS ON STYLE.
The celebrated author of the Rambler, in his concluding paper says, “I have labored to refine our language to grammatical party, and to clear it from colloquial barbarisms, licentious idioms
, sal irregular combinations: something perhaps I have added to the elegance of its construction, and something to the harmony of its cadence." I hope our language hath gained all the profit when the labors of this meritorious writer were exerted to produce. In style of a certain description he undoubtedly excels; but
! think there is much in his essays for a reader to admire, I should not recommend them as a model for a disciple to copy.
Simplicity, ease, and perspicuity should be the first objects of a young writer. Addison and other authors of his class will furnish him with examples, and assist him in the attainment of these es cellencies; but after all, the style in which a man shall write will not be formed by imitation only; it will be the style of his mind:
will assimilate itself to his mode of thinking, and take its cada