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And opens wider, shuts and opens still
Crush'd horrible, convulfing heav'n and earth.
The sublime style is ever bold and figurative, and abounds more especially with metaphors and hyperboles, the free use of which requires great care and judgment; fince without it there is danger of running into bombast, that is generally made up of empty founding words, or unnatural sentences ; absurd methaphors, or extravagant and rash hyperboles.
This caution is necessary, and should be ever in the poet's mind; yet, where the thought is great and noble, a bold and judicious incorrectness, as Longinus has observed, may be dispensed with, and will often seem rather a beauty than a blemish. The sublime poet, fired with his subject, and borne away on the wings of fancy, disdains accuracy; and looks down with contempt on little rules--Laws are, as it were, insufficient to restrain his boundless mind, which, having expatiated and ransacked the whole universe, soars into other worlds, and is only lost in infinity.
Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
The heart, and all its end at once attains. Pore. We are to observe likewise, that though the sublime style is bold and figurative, sublime thoughts may fometimes require only a plain and simple style, and may even by such contrast appear the more obvious and extraordinary. Many passages of this kind we have in the facred writings ; and one which is particularly applauded as a true instance of sublimity by the great Longirus. And God said, Let there be light, and ilere was light. This, as that great critic observes, expresses the power of the Almighty more forcibly and fully ihan could have been done with a parade of pompous expressions,
“ And God said,- What ? - Let there be light, and there was light.” Such is the amazing power of the great Creator, that (as the Psalmist in the same plain yet sublime manner observes) He spake, and it was done be commanded, and it food faft.
Thus we see that sublime thoughts may sometimes appear to advantage in a common style. But the reverse will by no means hold; for words can have neither beauty nor sublimity, unless the thoughts have both. The sublime style therefore will no more fuit common thoughts, than an embroider'd coat would a clown; for here ornaments are unnatural, nor indeed are mean and trivial thoughts ever thus dressed by good authors, unless it be in works of the burlesque and doggrel kind, to heighten the ridicule.
Sublime and beautiful thoughts, however, require in ge. neral words of the same nature, and would often seem mean and contemptible without them. For ornaments properly placed add a beauty to the most beautiful : And kings, however nature may have formed them for majesty, appear to most advantage when arrayed with the imperial robes.
This style is mostly employed in the epic poem, tragedy, and the ode. Though, as we have already observed, the elegy, satire, paftoral, and other poems, may partake of it occasionally. For no particular rule can be laid down for its use, but a strict observance of nature.
In direct opposition to this is the plain or humble style, the elegance of which depends on the propriety of its application ; and it is properly applied in describing in a faniliar and easy manner the common concerns of life.
Whence is it, Sir, that none contented lives
Broken with toils, with pond'rous arms opprest,
When early clients thunder at the gate,
Francis's HORACE. This style, though intended to express common things in a common manner, may sometimes be more courtly, and admit of compliment.
If virtue's felf were loft, we might
WALLER. This style agrees with comedy, satires, paftorals and epi. Atles, and occasionally fills up the narration and under parts of other poems. But the young
student is here to be cautioned against descending too low ; elegance is to be preserved in every part of composition, and where propriety of character does not demand vulgar expressions, they are always to be avoided.
Between these, as a partition which serves to separate and yet at the same time unite the other two, is the mediate or middle style; which is suitable to every species of poetry, as it admits of ornament sufficient to distinguish it from the plain and humble, and yet is not animated enough to approach the sublime. Take an example from Otway.
Wish'd morning's come ! and now upon the plains
The chearful birds too, on the tops of trees,
There is also a species of style called the sarcastical or invective, which is peculiar to the satire and the epigram ; and when style abounds with figurative expressions, as the epic poem and sublimer ode more particularly do, we call it the florid style.
A ftyle is also said to be concise or diffuse, easy or strong, clear or obscure, brikk or slow, sweet, soft and fluent, or rough and unpleasant ; all which are too obvious to need any explication. Abundant instances of these are to be found in our poets, and they are all (except the obscure) proper or improper, according to the nature and subject of the poem in which they appear; but obscurity is never to be admitted ; for as the style that is clear is seldom faulty, the obscure and uncouth will always be so, and, after perplexing the mind of the reader, leave him dissatisfied.
The rough style, however disagreeable it may be when improperly applied, enters with grace into several of the fpecies of poetry, but especially into the epic poem and the tragedy; for where things rude and horrible are to be expreffed, 'such words must be used as will represent all their disagreeable and dreadful circumstances. The rough style therefore appears often with majesty and grandeur in the epic and tragedy; where we find it frequently heightened by our best poets with a few antiquated words, which they apprehend adds a dignity and folemnity to the style ; but great judgment is here required ; none but a malteriy hand should make these bold attempts ; for if too many obsolete terms are admitted, or improperly placed, instead of dignity and solemnity, dulness and obscurity will fucceed.
But here we are to observe, that the passions have a style in a manner peculiar to themselves; for sometimes the pathetic, and even the sublime (especially when united with pity and terror) is more emphatically expresied by a sea. sonable filence, or a few plain words, than by a number of pompous periods.
We Thall give one instance out of a mul. titude in Shakespear. After a quarrel between Brutus and Caffius, in which the justice and generous resentment of
Brutus, and the hafty choler and repentance of Caffius, with their reconciliation, is nobly expressed , Brutus says,
O Caffius, I am fick of many griefs.
Brutus. No man bears sorrow better-Portia's dead.
Here the grief in Brutus, and the surprise in Caffius, is better expressed than it could have been in a multitude of fine speeches ; since, indeed both are inexpresible in any other manner.
The passions of anger, grief and joy, as we have already observed, are not to be loaded with studied metaphors, fimiles and descriptions, as they too frequently are in our English tragedies ; for here they are highly improper, and therefore inclegant and unaffecting. Nature, in a tumultuous state, has not time to look round her for expressions that are delicate and pretty, but thunders out such as the paflion has excited, and those often in broken and interrupted sentences. These passions therefore are, in general, better expressed by sudden starts, suppressions, apoftrophes, exclamations, and broken and unconnected sentences, ihan by a forced and studied dignity. Nor in these need the writer be afraid of expressing himself improperly, if he feels, as he ought to do, the passion he would excite in others ; for, as we have elsewhere observed, the mind is extremely ready in culling such phrases as are immediately for her purpose ; and this is the reason why the common ignorant people, and even children, when under violent emotions of mind, so often express themselves with force, propriety, and elegance.
The rules and cautions we have here laid down, will at all times be found useful ; but none are sufficient to teach this art without daily practice, and a constant perusal of the best authors: to which let me add, that a fertile imaginanation, a clear conception, and a good ear, are indispenfably necessary. - Fancy is the foundation of poctry. Without a good imagination nothing can be new, and therefore not
valuable; without a clear conception nothing can be clearly or elegantly expressed; for where there is confusion in the head, perspicuity can never flow from the