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The cheatsul 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 sigurative expressions, as the epic poem and sublimer ode more particularly do, we call it the florid style.
A style is also faid to be concise or diffuse, easy or strong, clear or obscure, brisk or flow, sweet, soft and fluent, or rough and unpleafant; all which are too obvious to need any explication. Abundant instances of these are to be sound 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, aster perplexing the mind of the reader, leave him dissatissied.'
The rough style, however disagreeable it may be when improperly applied, enters with grace into several of the species of poetry, but especially into the epic poem and the tragedy; for where things rude and horrible are to be expressed, such words must be used as will represent all their difagreeable and dreadsul circumstances. The rough style therefore appears often with majesty and grandeur in the epic and tragedy; where we sind it frequently heightened by our best poets with a sew antiquated words, which they apprehend adds a dignity and solemnity to the style; but great judgment is here required; none but a masterly 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 iuccced.
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 expressed by a seasonable silence, ora sew plain words, than by a number of pompous periods. We shall give one instance out of a multitude in Shakespear. After a quarrel between Brutus and Cajsius, in which the justice and generous resentment of Brutus, and the hasty choler and repentance of Caffius, with their reconciliation, is nobly expressed \ Brutus fays,
O Coffins, I am sick of many griess.
Caffius. Of your philosophy you make no use, If you give place to accidental evils.
Brutus. No man bears sorrow better—Portias dead.
Caffius. Ha! Portia!
Brutus. She is dead.
Caffius. How 'scap'd I killing when I crost you so?
Here the grief in Brutus, and the surprise in Caffius, is better exprefled than it could have been in a multitude of sine speeches; since indeed both are inexpressible in any other manner.
The passions of anger, grief and joy, as we have already observed, are not to be loaded with studied metaphors, similes and descriptions, as they too frequently are in our Englijb tragedies; for here they are highly improper, and therefore incitgant and unaffecting. Natute, in a tumultuous state, has not time to look round her for expressions that are delicate and pretty, but thunders out such as the passion has excited, and those often in broken and interrupted sentences. These passions therefore are, in general, better expressed by sudden starts, suppressions, apostrophes, exclamations, and broken and unconnected sentences, than by a sorced and studied dignity. Nor in these need the writer be asraid of expressing himself improperly, if he seels, 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 usesul ; but none are sussicient to teach this art without daily practice, and a constant perufal os the best authors: to which let me add, that a sertile imaginanation, a clear conception, and a good ear, are indispenfably necessary.— Fancy is the foundation of poetry.— 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 consusion in the head, perspicuity can never flow from the pen ; and with regard to composition and versisication, a good ear is beyond all the rules in the world.
We are now to speak of the laws and rules of the several kinds of poetry, as laid down by the best critics, and to give specimens of such as will sell within the compass of our design.
THE writers on the art of poetry have usually classed the several sorts of poems under the following heads, viz. the Epigram, the Elegy, the Pastoral, the Ode, the Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Epic poem. This distribution, however, seems insufficient, and therefore we hope a deviation from the learned in this respect will not appear arrogant or difagreeable; especially if the alterations we propose should be sound to have their basis in truthand right reason.
Every thing in nature, that is distinct and disserent'from all others, should have a name, whereby it may be distinguished without a tedious enumeration of its properties and adjuncts; since a method of that kind would occasion insinite perplexity and consusion, which is ever to be avoided, and especially in matters of science; and,.if on mature examination it be found, that there are poems of considerable character which are essentially different from those we have already mentioned, and are not to be resolved into any of them, another distribution may be justisied.
The Epitaph, on account, perhaps, of the epigrammatic point with which those little pieces are often closed, has been usually classed with the epigram; but as there are numberless epitaphs whose excellency does not consist in shining thoughts and points of wit, (the characteristics of our modern epigrams) we shall take the freedom to assignthem a distinct place.
Epifiles, descriptive and preceptive poems, tales, fables, and allegorical poetry, deserve the fame distinction; for as these methods of writing have obtained much of late, they are of too great consequence to be passed over, and it seems impossible to treat of them under any other article without manisest incongruity. It may be said, indeed, that many of our epistles (especially those of Horace and Mr. Pope) partake of the satire; bat that is no reason why others that are of a quite different nature should be placed under that head. The descriptive poems of Milton, I mean his VAllegro and IlPenferoso, as well as Denbam's Coopers Hill, Pdpe's Windsor Forest, and others in our language, cannot be classed under any of the usual divisions of poetry; nor indeed can the preceptive poems with any degree of accuracy or shew of reason. VirgiFs Georgics, Horace's Art of Poetry, the duke of Buckingham/hire'3 Essay, Roscommon on translated Verse, Pope's EJJ'ay on Man, and his Essay on Criticism, are so essentially different and distinct from any of the usual classes, that the critics, with all their art, will never be able to discover any real agreement between them; nor will they deny, I suppose, but that Virgiss Georgfis, and Pope's Effay on Man, deserve as much esteem at least as their pastorals, though they have been thus neglected in their division of this art. If it be faid, that the other species of poetry often partake of all these different kinds, I answer, that is no objection; for this they occasionally do of each' other : even the epic poem, with all its dignity, has sometimes the plaintive strain of the elegy, and the sarcasm and asperity of fatire.
Tales and fables, indeed, when they are of any value, are in general either didactic or fatirical", and may therefore be resolved into the preceptive poem or the fatire; but as there is something peculiar in their composition, we shall assign them a distinct chapter, aad deliver what we have farther to say on this art under the following heads, viz. the Epigram, the Epitaph, the Elegy, the Pastoral, the Epistle, the Descriptive Poem, the Preceptive Poem, Tales and Fables, the Allegorical Poem, the Ode, the Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Heroic poem, of which the Epic is the most exalted part, and requires the utmost extent of human genius.
TH E Epigram is a lit tit poem, or composition in •verse r treating of one thing only, and luhose dijiinguijhing charcclers are Brevity, Beauty, aWPoint.
The word Epigram signisies Inscription; for epigrams derive their origin from those inscriptions placed by the antients on their statues, temples, pillars, triumphal arches, and the like; which, at sirst, were very short, being sometimes no more than a single word, but afterwards, increasing their length, they made them in verse, to be the better retained by the memory. This short way of writing came at last to be used upon any occasion or subject; and hence th; name of Epigram has been given to any little copy of verses, without regard to the original application of such, poems.
Its usual limits are from two to twenty verses, though sometimes it extends to fifty; but the shorter the better it is, and the more persect, as it partakes more of the nature and character of this kind of poem: Besides, the epigram, being only a single thought, ought to be expressed in a little compass, or else it loies its force and strength.
The Beauty required in an Epigram is an harmony and apt agreement of all its parts, a sweet simplicity, and polite language.
The Point 13 a sharp, lively, unexpected turn of wit, with which an epigram ought to be concluded. There are some critics, indeed, who will not admit the Point in an Epigram, but require the thought to be equally diffused through the whole poem, which is usually the practice of Catullus, as the former is that of Martial. It is allow'd there is more delicacy in the manner of Catullus, but the Point is more agreeable to the general taste, and seems to be the chief characteristic of the Epigram.
This fort of poem admits of all manner of subjects, provided that Brevity, Beauty, and Point are preserved; but it is generally employed either in Praise ot Satire.