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And join'd their vocal worjhip to the Choir
Of Creatures wanting voice.
—— ————both flood
Both turn'd, and under open Jky ador'd
Poetry in its infant state was the language of devotion and love. It was the voice and expression of the heart of man when ravistied and transported with a view of the numberless blessings that perpetually flowed from God the fountain of all goodness.
————all things smiPd IVith Fragrance, and with Joy their hearts o'erflow'd. f
Enraptured thus with the love of God, and silled with an awful idea of his power, glory, and goodness; the foul, incapable of sinding words in common language suitable to its lofty conceptions, and disdaining every thing low and vulgar, was obliged to invent a language intirely new. Tropes and figures were called in to express its sentiments, and the diction was dignisied and embellished with metaphors, beautisul descriptions, lively images, similies, and whatever else could help to express, with force and grandeur, its passion and surprise: disdaining common thoughts and trivial expressions, it explores all Nature and aspires at all that is sublime and beautiful, in order to approach persection and beatitude. Nor was this sufficient.—The mind dissatissied with culling only the most noble thoughts, arrayed in sorcible and luxuriant terms, and perceiving the sweetness which arose from the melody of birds, called an music to its aid; when these illustrious thoughts, dignify'd and diess'd with pomp and splendor, were
so placed as to produce harmony: the long and snort, the smooth and rough syllables were variously combined to recommend the sense by the found, and elevation and cadence employed to make the whole more musically expressive.
Hence poetry became the parent of music, and indeed of dancing; for the method of measuring the time of their verses, per Arfin et Thestn, and of beating the bars or divisions of music, gave rise, we may suppose, to this art, and taught the feet alfo to express the transports of the foul *, To the truth of these reflections, which are drawn from nature,- every one will astent, who considers how he is asfected by poetry and music; for no man can resist the natural impulse he will have to dance, or agitate the body at certain combinations of words and of sounds, unless he be unhappily possessed of one of those gloomy minds described by Shakespeare \. And this will in some measure account, not only for the great antiquity of dancing, but for its application to religious ceremonies even in the sirst ages of the world. Poetry, Music, and Dancing, were used by the Israelites of old in their worship, and are thus employ'd by many of the eastern nations, and by the Indians ot Ame rica to this day.
What we have faid of the origin of poetry will -account for the necessity there is for that enthusiasm, that sertility of invention, those fallies of imagination, lofty ideas, noble sentiments, bold and sigurative expressions, harmony of numbers, and indeed thar.
* DucuHt Cbortat et Catmint dicunt. Vine.
f The man that hath no music in himself,
Shaxxsfiaii'i Merchant of t'emcc,
natural love of the grand, sublime, and marvellous, which are the essential characteristics of a good poet. The poet, not fatissied with exploring all nature for subjects, wantons in the sields of fancy, and creates beings of his own. He raises floating iflands, dreary deserts, and inchanted castles, which he peoples, by the magic of his imagination, with fatyrs, nymphs, fairies and gnomes; and from imaginary things excites real pleasure, and surnishes the mind with solid instruction. He not only, like Midas, turns every thing he touches into gold, (but what has never yet been fabled) he soars beyond the regions of Æther, and brings gold out of nothing. From these bold and enthusiastic flights, poets are said to be divinely inspired, since these qualisications are not to be obtained by art, .but derive their source from nature, and are the gists of heaven alone.
But this divine science, originally intended for the worship of God, was in process of time debased j and when men forsook the Lord of Life, apply'd to inferior' purposes. It was call'd irr to the praise of legiflators and great men. This use was made of it not only by the eastern nations, but by the Greeks, Jlomans, and by the ancient bards in Britain, who, as history tells us, made songs in praise of their heroes, which they adapted to music, and fung to their harps. Of late indeed Poetry has been most shamefully prostituted; but that is no argument against its excellency. Has not its sister Eloquence shared the fame fate, and been employ'd to unjust purposes, and to obtain the most wicked ends? This therefore it has in common with other sciences, and in consequence of the general depravity of mankind.
But the excellency of Poetry, and the attractive charms of the Muses, may be estimated by the number of votaries they have obtained; since there are few men, how cold and phlegmatic soever, but -have at some -time or other paid their court to the ladies of Parnassus. And this general affection for the art will render any apology needless that might be made for the publication' of this volume; in which we have not satisfied ourselves with writing dull receipts how poems may be made *, but have, (together with such rules as are necessary for the construction of English verse and of the various species of Poetry) presented the reader with variety of examples from our best and molt celebrated English poets.
What is faid on versification is indeed but little, yet it is what was thought abundantly sufficient. In short, no more could be introduced that would be useful; and to incumber a young student in any science with useless rules, is increasing his difficulty, retarding his progress, and like loading a man with arms which may hinder his march, but can afford him no defence or assistance on the road.
The rules observed by the ancient poets were adapted to the ancient tongues, but will not suit our language, since the quantity, or that space of time, whether long or short, in which any syllable is pronounced, is generally determined by the accents. And the harmony of Milton's numbers will be found not to depend on the rules of quantity, but on other principles. He has not confined himself to the Iambic, which is the measure adjudged to our English heroics, but compounded his verses with other feet, and so diversified his measures, by judicioufly varying the Casural Pause, that he has given, them a variety of harmony not to be met with in other poets, and avoided a constant tedious uniformity, that would have been ever lifeless, dull, and difagreeable.
I shall conclude these reflections in the words of an author of great taste and judgment §. Versification, fays he, is in Poetry what colouring is in painting,
* Port's EJsay en Criticism. § Lord Lanidown,
a beautisul ornament. But if the proportions ate just, the posture true, the sigure bold, and the resemblance according to nature, tho' the colours happen to be rough* or carelessly laid on, yet the picture shall lose nothing os its esteem. Such are many of the inestimable pieces of Raphael: whereas the sinest and nicest colour that art can invent, is but labour in vain when the rest is in disorder i like paint bestow'd on an ill face, whereby the deformity*is render'd but so much the more conspicuous and remarkable. It would not be unseasonable to make some observations upon this subject, by way of advice to many of our present writers, who seem to lay the whole stress of their endeavours upon the Harmony of words: Like Eunuchs they facrifice their manhood for a voice, and reduce our Poetry to be like Echo,, nothing but Sound.