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Let high birth triumph! what can be more great ?
Nor rashly tempts the bar'brous sun and wind. But these thoughts, however pleasing, should never be introduced where the passions are concerned ; nor indeed are descriptions and fimilies there to be admitted, unless they are extremely short, and such as may be naturally thrown out by the conflicts of the soul, and help to express its passion and surprise : for to put points of wit, luxuriant descriptions, and beautiful similies into the moutlis of persons agitated by paflion, or labouring under the agonies of death, as is too frequently done in our tragedies, is offering violence to nature. Joy, grief, and anger are most naturally expressed by exclamations, sudden starts,
and broken sentences ; and even when nature is thus disa turbed and agitated, a seeming incoherente may be pardonable ; but ftudied decorations can never be admitted.
There is another fault which young people are mighty apt to give into, and that is what may be called, running down a thought. When they have started a thought which is in itself beautiful, and would dignify their work, they never know when to part with it, but keep tricking it up till they have turned the fine gentleman into a fop, and ren. dered that which was inestimable,, of no manner of value. -Seasonable silence has its. emphasis.
'Tis not in these works of genius prudent to be over explicit; for it not only borders on vanity, and carries with it a suppo, fition, that nobody can discern a beauty except yourself, but deprives the reader also of the pleasure he would otherwise have of employing his own sagacity. In short, the writer should never say so much, but that the reader may perceive he was capable of saying more ; for the hunting down a thought, and tiring the reader with a repetition of tedious particulars, is ever the mark of a little trilling genius.
And here we are also to observe, that the too freqoent use of wit, or, in other words, the filling any discourse or poem with too many of those thoughts we have been de.. fcribing, is not to be tolerated.
Another fault which often.does befall,
So overflow that it be none at all.*.. A poem, like a dinner or a desert, may be made too rich, and, instead of gratifying, disgust. Poetry indeed ad. mits of more ornament than prose ; but true taste and right. reason abhors luxury in both. Besides, there are other thoughts to be introduced into every work which neither strike us with their grandeur, beauty, delicacy, or pointed wit, but which are fraught with good sense and solidity ; that carry weight in their meaning; and fink deep in the understanding these, therefore, and common thoughts, are to be considered as the basis and superstructure, and tre other as the ornamental parts of the work ; which Mould not be forced in to display wit and finery, but introduced
* Duke of Buckingham's Ejay on Poetry.
to constitute beauty, variety, and order ; and arise naturally out of the subject treated of, and seem so inseparable from it, that every reader may think he should have so expressed it himself: in hort, though the thoughts were not obvious to the reader before, they should appear
now; which, as Mr. Addison observes, is the true character of all fine writing.– We come now to
CH A P.
Of the STYLE of. Poetry.
FTER dwelling so long on thoughts in poetry, little have selected to illustrate the thoughts, may serve as so many examples of style also.
The beauty of style in general consists in a proper choice of words, so connected that they may express the conceptions of the mind clearly, and with a becoming dignity; for the style is to be efteemed in proportion as it is expresfive of the thoughts it is designed to convey:
As words are intended to express our thoughts, they ought to grow out of them. Since the most natural are the best, and proper expreslions are generally connected with the ideas themselves, and follow them as the shadow does the substance. Those who think clearly, therefore, will always write so, provided they are masters of the language, and have obtained for the memory a good stock of expres. fions, by a constant perufal of the best and most elegant anthors.
We are to observe, however, that poetry has a language peculiar to itself, which is in many respects very different from that of profe.-For as the poet's design is principally to please, to move the passions, and to inspire the soul with noble and sublime sentiments, he is allowed great latitude of language, and may use fuch bold expressions and uncommon modes of speech, such frequent repetitions, free epithets, and extensive and adorned descriptions, as are not to be admitted in profe. Thus, for inftance, in describing a lawn near to a grotto in a wood, the prose writer says, Close to ber gratto, which is shaded by a grove, there is a beautifuk
laun edged round with moss. Which the poet would probably have described in this manner.
Close to her grott within the grove,
And tuff'd with moss the selvage round. Poetry endeavours to express things paraphrastically, or in short descriptions, rather than in fimple terms; and in those descriptions, the prosopopeia is often used. Thus Milton, when describing the singing of the nightingale, says, Silence was pleased; and that at the rising of the sun, the bours unbarr’d the gates of light. Which office Homer alligas to the morning.
Soon as the Morn, in orient purple drest,
The royal Psalmist tells us, the clouds drop fatness, and the hills rejoice, that the fruitful fields smile, and the val. lies laugh and fing. And these short allegories and ima. ges, which convey particular circumstances to the reader after an unusual and entertaining manner, have a fine effect in poetry, that delights in imitation, and endeavours to give to almoft every thing, life, motion, and sound; but these would in prose appear very ridiculous and pedantic. In poetry likewise, we often put particulars for generals, and frequently distinguish and allude to men, places, rivers, mountains, &c. by various names taken from any of their adjunets, which prose will rarely admit of. In short, poetry is a sort of painting in words; the thoughts are the figures, and the words are the colours, the lights and shades with which they are cloathed and prefented to the imagination of the reader. The verse therefore (though poetry delights in harmony, which excites a pleasure that makes its way dire&tly to the soul) is not to be always harmonious, but should be so contrived, as Mr. Pope obferves, that the sound may echo to the sense, and be rough or smooth, swift or slow, according to the idea or thought it is intended to elucidate. The following passage from his Ef. say on Criticism (some allowances being made for the second line and for the last) is in this case both a precept and an example.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
But before we speak of the several sorts of style, it will be proper to take some notice of the epithets, tropes and figures of which they are principally compounded; since it is by these different modes of speech that the poet is en. abled to vary a discourse almost to infinity ; to shew the fame object in a thousand different forms, and all of them new; to present pleasing images to the senses and imagination, to address them
in the language they love, to express small matters with grace, and the greatest with a nobleness and sublimity equal to their grandeur and majesty,
Nothing contributes more to the beauty of the poetic style than epithets properly employed ; and Quintilian, and Rollin after him, observes, that poets make use of them more frequently and more freely than orators. More frequently, be cause it is a great fault to overload a discourse in prose with too many epithets ; whereas in poetry, they always produce a good effect, though in ever so great a number. More freely, because with the poets it is enough that the epithet is suitable to the word it is annexed to : But in prose, every epithet which produces no effe&t, and adds nothing to the thing spoken of, is vicious. Great deference should be paid to authors so deservedly eminent in the literary world: we muit however beg leave to observe, that the latitude they have given us for the use of Epithets, is a little too extensive ; lince nothing tires a reader more than too great a redundancy of them, and especially when they are useless, and thrown in, as they too often are, to make out the measure of the verse. Epithets can never be admitted with propriety, unless they excité some new idea, or give some illustration and ornament to the substantives to which they are annexed ; and it is with this view that they are used in Milton, and our best poets; where we also find many that are compounded, such as bright-hair'd Vefta, smooth-shaven green, cloud-capt towers, vale-dwelling lily, &c. which have a peculiar beauty when