« AnteriorContinuar »
Ruth on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
Ah little think the gay licentious proud,
His conclusion glows with a strain of piety wortly of a christian poet and philosopher, and is too perspicuous and forcible to require or admit of any
remark. 'Tis done! dread WINTER spreads his latest gloom, And reigns tremendous o'er the conquer'd year. How dead the vegetable kingdom lies! How dumb the tuneful! Horror wide extends His desolate domain. Behold, fond man! See here thy pictur'd life ; pass some few years, Thy flowering spring, thy summer's ardent strength, Thy sober autumn fading into age, And pale concluding winter comes at last, And shuts the scene. Ah! whither now are fled, Those dreams of greatness ? Those unsolid hopes Of happiness? Those longings after fame? Those restless cares? Those busy bustling days ? Those gay-spent, festive nights ? Those veering thoughts Loft between good and ill, that shar'd thy life? All now are vanish'd ! VIRTUE sole-survives, Immortal never-failing friend of man, His guide to happiness on high. And fee! 'Tis come, the glorious morn! the second birth Of heaven, and earth! awakening nature hears The new.creating word, and starts to life, In every heightend form, from pain and death For ever free. The great sternal scheme. Involving all, and in a perfect whole Uniting, as the prospect wider spreads, To reason's eye retin'd clears up apace. Ye vainly wise! ye blind presumptuous ! now, Confounded in the duft, adore that Power, And WISDOM oft arraign'd: see now the cause, Why unassuming worth in secret liv'd. And dy'd, neglected : why the good man's share In life was gall and bitterness of soul: Why the lone widow and her orphans pin'd In starving solitude; while luxury, In palaces, lay ftraining her low thought, To form unreal wants : why heaven-born truth, And moderation fair, wore the red marks Of fuperftition's scourge : why licens'd pain, That cruel spoiler, that embosom’d foe,
Imbitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distreft!
С НА Р.
Of Didactic or Preceptive POETRY.
HE method of writing Precepts in verse, and em. bellishing them with the
graces of poetry, had sise, we may suppose, from a due consideration of the frailties and perverseness of human nature ; and was intended to engage the affections, in order to improve the mind and amend the heart.
Were it poflible to inspect into the minds of men, and see their inmost thoughts, we should find, I am afraid, that most of the human race are fond of appearing wiser than they are, and though they wish for knowledge are unwilling to confels the want of it, or to seek after science for fear of being thought ignorant. Yet there are others, especially amongst our youth, who are under no apprehenfion of this kind, but fly from knowledge only because the roads to it are rugged, and the approaches difficult of access. To sooth therefore the vanity of the one, and to remove the indolence of the other, poetry was called in to the aid of science, which by its peculiar gracefulness and address could soften the appearance of instruction, and render rules that were dull and disagreeable, sprightly and entertaining. The inventor of didactic poetry knew not only the defects of mankind, but likewise the force and power of a genteel and winning address : He consider'd that igrorance and inattention were not the only enemies to fcience; but that pride, impatience, and affectation, were likewise to be vanquished ; and therefore adorned and enriched his precepts, that pleasure might allure the one, and keep the other in countenance.
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
Knowledge that is conveyed thus indirectly, and with. out the appearance of a dictator, will be learned with more case, sink deeper into the understanding, and fo fix itself in the mind as not to be easily obliterated. And these considerations, we may suppose, induced the priests and bards of old to deliver their laws and religious maxims in verse.
Didactic or Preceptive Poetry, has been usually employed either to illustrate and explain our moral duties; our philosophical enquiries ; our business and pleasures ; or in teaching the art of criticism or poetry itself. It may be adapted, however, to any other subject, and may, in all cases, where instruction is designed, be em. ployed to good purpose. Some subjects, indeed, are more proper than others, as they admit of more poetical ornaments, and give a greater latitude to genius ; but what. ever the subject is, those precepts are to be laid down that are the most useful, and they should follow each other in a natural easy method, and be delivered in the most agreeable engaging manner. What the prose writer tells you ought to be done, the poet often conveys under the form of a narration, or shews the necessity of in a description ; and by representing the action as done, or doing, conceals the precept that should enforce it. The poet, likewise, instead of telling the whole truth, or laying down all the rules that are requisite, selects such parts only as are the most pleasing, and communicates the rest indirectly, without giving us an open view of them; yet takes care that nothing Mall escape the roader's notice with which he ought to be acquainted. He discloses just enough to lead the imagination into the parts that are concealed, and the mind, ever gratified with its own discoveries, is compli. mented with exploring and finding them out ; which, tho' done with ease, seems so considerable as not to be obtained but in consequence of its own adroitness and fagacity.
But this is not sufficient to render didactic poetry always pleasing; for where precepts are laid down one after an
other, and the poem is of considerable length, the mind will require some recreation and refreshment by the way ; which is to be procured by seasonable moral reflections, pertinent remarks, familiar fimiles and descriptions naturally introduced, by allusions to ancient histories or fables, and by short and pleasant digreflions and excursions into more noble subjects, so aptly brought in that they may seem to have a remote relation, and be of a piece with the poem. By thus varying the form of instruction the poet gives life to his precepts, and awakens and secures our attention, without permitting us to see by what means we are thus captivated : and his art is the more to be admired, because it is so concealed as to escape the reader's observation.
The style too must maintain a dignity suitable to the subject, and every part be drawn in such lively colours that the things described may seem as if presented to the reader's view.
But all this will appear more evident from example ; and tho' entire poems of this kind are not within the com. pass of our design, we fall endeavour to select such pafsages as will be sufficient to illustrate the rules we have here laid down.
We have already observed, that according to the usual divisions there are four kinds of didactic poems, viz, those that respect our moral duties ; our philosophical specula. tions; our business and pleasures ; or that give precepts for poetry and criticism.
On the first subject, indeed, we have scarce any thing that deserves the name of poetry, except Mr. Pope's Elay on Man, and his Ethic Epifles; from these therefore we hall extract some passages to thew the method he has taken to render these dry subjects entertaining.
The first treats of the nature and state of man with re. spect to the universe; confiders him in the abstract, and observes, that we can judge only with regard to our own system, since we are ignorant of the relations of other systems and things ; that man is not to be deem'd imperfect ; but a being perfectly suited to his place and rank in the creation, agreeable to the general order of things, and conformable to ends and relations to him unknown; that it is partly upon his ignorance of future events, and partly upon the hope of a future ftate, that all his happiness in