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judgment considers that many things must be left to gratify the imagination of the reader, and therefore cuts osf all superfluities, however pleasing, and rejects every thing that would seem abrupt and foreign to his subject. He discards likewise all low and vulgar circumstances, and employs his genius in beautifying the essential and more noble parts.
That painting as well as poetry so much affects us, is chiefly owing to the justness and elegance of description. Pieces of portraiture and history, as well as landscapes, if the sigures are nobly designed, and sinely executed, if the perspective be good, the lights and shades just and natural, and the whole bold and free, will always please; and so it is with poetry, the descriptions in Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Shake/pear, will live for ever, and, like the pieces of Raphael, always seed the imagination with pleasure.
The power of description in poetry is very great, and there is more use made of it than is generally imagined; for however the modes of expression have been multiplied, many of them will be found to be little more than descriptions: thus images are descriptions only heightened and animated; allusions and similes, descriptions placed in an opposite point of view; epithets are generally descriptions of the substantives they precede, or some of their properties; every metaphor is a short description and comparison united; and the hyperbole is often no more than a description carried beyond the bounds of probability; and it is chiefly owing to their descriptive power that these sigures strike the imagination so forcibly, and impress such lively images on the mind.
We are now to speak of the disserent forts of style, which have been usually divided into the plain, mediate, and sublime. Virgil may be pointed out as a persect pattern in each, that is to fay, his Bucolics have been esteemed for the plain style, his Georgia for the mediate, and the Æneid for the sublime. Though in many parts of each, examples may be seen of them all; for there are sew poems of any merit that can be wrote in the plain or mediate style only, without partaking of the other; nor are there any that are in all places sublime. Even the epic poem and the tragedy have their under parts; common things as well as great muit be introduced, and both are to be expressed and treated according to their nature and dignity.
The sublime style has the property of expressing lofty ideas in a lofty language; that is to fay, with words that are sonorous and majestic, and suitable to the grandeur os the subject.
He on the wings of cherub rode sublime
On the crystalline &y, in fapphire thron'd,
Illustrious far and wide
Before him pow'r divine his way prepar'd;
At his command th'uprooted hills retir'd,
Each to his place; they heard his voice, and went
Obsequious; heav'n his wonted face renew'd,
And with fresh flowrets hill and valley smil'd.
■ Up he rode,
Follow'd with acclamation and the sound
This description of the Messiah is to be admired for the sublimity of the thoughts, as well as for that of the style; as indeed is the following description of a tempest by Mr.
'Tis dumb amaze, and list'ning terror all;
And opens wider, shuts and opens still
More examples may bs seen under the article of Sublime
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 1 since without it there is danger of running into bombast, that is generally made up of empty sounding 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, sired 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 ranfacked the whole universe, soars into other worlds, and is only lost in insinity.
Great wits sometimes may gloriously offend,
We arc to observe likewise, that though the sublime style is bold and sigurative, sublime thoughts may sometimes 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 hare in the facred writings; and one which is particularly applauded as a true instance of sublimity by the great Longinus. And Godsaid, Let there be light, and there -wcu light. This, as that great critic observes, expresses the power of the Almighty more forcibly and sully than could have been (lone with a parade of pompous expressions.
"And Godsaid,—Whit i—Let there be light, and there nvas light." Such is the amazing power of the great Creator, that (as the Pfalmist in the fame plain yet sublime manner observes) He spake, and it -was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast.
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 suit 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 beautisul thoughts, however, require in general words of the fame nature, and would ofcen seem mean and contemptible without them. For ornaments properly placed add a beauty to the most beautisul: And icings, 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, fatire, pastoral, and other poems, may partake of it occasionally. For no particular rule can be laid down for its use, but a stricl 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 familiar and easy manner the common concerns of lise.
Whence is it, Sir, that none contented lives
Broken with toils, with pond'rous arms opprest,
When early clients thunder at the gate,
Franciss Hot Ace.
This style, though intended to express common things in a common manner, may sometimes be more courtly, and admit of compliment.
If virtue's self were loft, we might
This style agrees with comedy, fatires, pastorals and epistles, and occasionally sills up the narration and under parts of other poems.
But the young student is here to be cautioned against descending too low i 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 fame time unite the other two, is the mediate or middle style; which is suitable to every species of poetry, as it admits of ornament sussicient to distinguish it from the plain and humble, and yet is not animated enough to approach the sublime. Take an example from Otivay.
Wish'd morning's come! and now upon the plains