Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

-Medio dux agmine Turnus

Here we not only find the most scrupulous pro-
Vertitur arina lenens, et toto vertice gupra est. priety, and the happiest choice, in comparing the
Ceu septem surgens sedatis amnibus altus

Thracian bard to Philomel the poet of the grove;
Per tacitum Ganges : aut pingui flumine Nilus
Cum refluit campis, et jam se condidit alveo.

but also the most beautiful description, containing

a fine touch of the pathos, in which last particular But Turnus, chief amidst the warrior train,

indeed Virgil, in our opinion, excels all other poets, In armour towers the tallest on the plain.

whether ancient or modern. The Ganges thus by seven rich streams supplied, A mighty mass devolves in silent pride:

One would imagine that nature had exhausted Thus Nilus pours from his prolific urn,

itself

, in order to embellish the poems of Homer, When from the fields o'erflow'd his vagrant streams return. Virgil, and Milton, with similes and metaphors. These no doubt are majestic images; but they bear of the wind, the whirlwind, the hail, the torrent, to

The first of these very often uses the comparison no sort of resemblance to a hero glittering in ar

express the rapidity of his combatants; but when mour at the head of his forces. Horace has been ridiculed by some shrewd critics horses that drew the chariot of Juno, he raises

he comes to describe the velocity of the immortal for this comparison, which, however, we think is

his ideas to the subject, and, as Longinus obmore defensible than the former. Addressing himself to Munatius Plancus, he says:

serves, measures every leap by the whole breadth

of the horizon.
Albus ut obscuro deterget nubila calo
Sæpe Notus, neque parturit imbres

Οσσον δ' ηεροειδες ανηρ δεν οφθαλμοισιν
Perpetuos: sic tu sapiens finire memento

Hμενος εν σκοπιη, λευσσων επι οινοπα ποντον,
Tristitiam, vitæquc. labores

Τοσσον επιθρωσκουσι θεων υψηχεις ίπποι.
Molli, Plance, mero.

For as a watchman from some rock on high
As Notus often, when the welkin lowers,

O'er the wide main extends his boundless eye; Sweeps off the clouds, nor teems perpetual showers,

Through such a space of air with thundering sound So let thy wisdom, free from anxious strife,

At ev'ry leap th' immortal coursers bound. In mellow wine dissolve the cares of life. Drinkin.

The celerity of this goddess seems to be a favourite The analogy, it must be confessed, is not very idea with the poet; for in another place he comstriking; but nevertheless it is not altogether void

pares The poet reasons thus : as the south his mind the different places he had seen, and pass

it to the thought of a traveller revolving in of propriety. wind, though generally attended with rain, is often ing through them in imagination more swift than known to dispel the clouds, and render the weather the lightning flies from east to west. serene; so do you, though generally on the rack

Homer's best similes have been copied by Virof thought, remember to relax sometimes, and drown

gil, and almost every succceding poet, howsoever your cares in wine. As the south wind is not al

they may have varied in the manner of expression. ways moist, so you ought not always to be dry.

In the third book of the Iliad, Menelaus seeing A few instances of inaccuracy, or mediocrity, can

Paris, is compared to a hungry lion espying a hind never derogate from the superlative merit of Homer

or a goat: and Virgil, whose poems are the great magazines, replete with every species of beauty and magnifi- Ωστε λεαν εχαρη μεγαλω επι σωματι κυρσας cence, particularly abounding with similes, which

Eupare » Endoor xepolov, n azploy oyo, etc. astonish, delight, and transport the reader.

So joys the lion, is a branching deer Every simile ought not only to be well adapted

Or mountain goat his bulky prize appear; to the subject, but also to include every excellence

In vain the youths oppose, the mastiffs bay, of description, and to be coloured with the warmest The lordly savage rends the panting prey. tints of poetry. Nothing can be more happily hit Thus fond of vengeance with a furious bound off than the following in the Georgics, to which the

In clanging arms he leaps upon the ground. poet compares Orpheus lamenting his lost Eurydice.

The Mantuan bard, in the tenth book of the
Qualis populeå mærens Philomela sub umbrâ Æneid, applies the same simile to Mezentius, when
Amissos queritur fatus, quos durus arator

he beholds Acron in the battle.
Observans nido implumes detraxit; at illa
Flet noctem, ramoque sedens miserabile carmen

Impastus stabula alta leo ceu sæpe peragrans
Integral, et mæstis late loca questibus implet.

(Suadet enim vesna fames) si forte fugacem

Conspexit capream, aut surgentem in cornua cervum; So Philomela, from th’umbrageous wood,

Gaudet hians immane, comasque arrexit, et hæret In strains melodious mourns her tender brood,

Visceribus super accumbens: lavit improba teter
Snatch'd from the nest by some rude ploughman's hand, Ora cruor.
On some lone bough the warbler takes her scand;
The live-long night she mourns the cruel wrong,

Then as a hungry lion, who beholds
And hill and dale resound the plaintive song.

A gamesome goat who srisks about the folde,

ous:

Or beamy stag that grazes on the plain;

Συν δ Ευρος τι, Νοτος σ' πισε, Ζεφυρος τι δυσκες,
He runs, he roars, he shakes his rising mane:

Και Βορεης αιθρογενετης μγα λυμα κυλινδα. .
He grins, and opens wide his greedy jaws,
The prey lies panting underncath his paws;

We know that such a contention of contrary
He fills his famish'd maw, his mouth runs o'er
With unchew'd morsels, while he churns the gore.

blasts could not possibly exist in nature ; for era Dryden. in hurricanes the winds blow alternately from dif

ferent points of the compass. Nevertheless VirThe reader will perceive that Virgil has im

gil adopts the description, and adus to its extravaproved the simile in one particular, and in another

gance. fallen short of his original. The description of the

Incubuere mari, totumque à scdibus imis lion shaking his mane, opening his hideous jaws

Unå Eurusque Nousque ruuni, creberque procellis distained with the blood of his prey, is great and

Africus. picturesque; but on the other hand, he has omitted the circumstance of devouring it without being Here the winds not only blow together, but they intimidated, or restrained by the dogs and youths turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turry, that surround him; a circumstance that adds

East, west, and south, engage with furious sweet, greatly to our idea of his strength, intrepidity, and

And from its lowest bel upturn the foaming deep importance.

The north wind, however, is still more mischicvESSAY XVII.

-Stridens aquilone procella Of all the figures in poetry, that called tho hy- Velum adversa ferit, fiuctusque ad sidera tollil perbole, is managed with the greatest difficulty.

The sail then Boreas rends with hideous cry, The hyperbole is an exaggeration with which the

And whirla tho madıl’ning billows to the sky. muse is indulged for the better illustration of her subject, when she is warmed into enthusiasm. The motion of the sea between Scylla and Quintilian calls it an ornament of the bolder kind. Charybdis is still more magnified; and Ætna iz Demetrius Phalereus is still more severe. He says exhibited as throwing out volumes of flame, which the hyperbole is of all forms of speech the most brush the stars. Such expressions as these are frigid; Μαλιστα δι ή Υπερβολη ψυχρτατον παντων ; not intended as a real representation of the thing but this must be understood with some grains of specified; they are designed to strike the reader's allowance. Poetry is animated by the passions ; imagination ; but they generally serve as marks and all the passions exaggerate. Passion itself is of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, a magnifying medium. There are beautiful in-apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his stances of the hyperbole in the Scripture, which a own conception, is hurried into excess and extra. reader of sensibility can not read without being vagance. strongly affected. The difficulty lies in choosing Quintilian allows the use of hyperbole, when such hyperboles as the subject will admit of; for, words are wanting to express any thing in its just according to the definition of Theophrastus, the strength or due energy: then, he says, it is better frigid in style is that which exceeds the expression to excoed in expression than fall short of the con. suitable to the subject. The judgment does not ception; but he likewise observes, that there is no revolt against Homer for representing the horses figure or form of speech so apt to run into fustian. of Ericthonius running over the standing corn Nec alia magis via in xzxeberrey itur. without breaking off the heads, because the whole If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon is considered as a fable, and the north wind is re- poetical probability, what can we expect from presented as their sire ; but the imagination is a Lucan but hyperboles even more ridiculously ex. little startled, when Virgil, in imitation of this travagant? He represents the winds in contest, hyperbole, exhibits Camilla as flying over it with the sea in suspense, doubting to which it shall give out even touching the tops:

way. He affirms, that its motion would have been

so violent as to produce a second deluge, had not Ma vel intacta segetis per summa volaret Gramina

Jupiter kept it under by the clouds; and as to the

ship during this drcadful uproar, the sails touch This clegant author, we are afraid, has upon the clouds, while the keel strikes the ground. some other occasions degenerated into the frigid, in straining to improve upon his great master.

* Speaking of the first, he says, Homer in the Odyssey, a work which Longinus

Tollimur in cælum curvato gurgite, et iidem does not scruple to charge with bearing the marks

Subductà ad mancs imos descendimus undà. of old age, describes a storm in which all the four Of the other, winds were concerned together.

Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit

Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carina.

The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyRichard Blackmore has produced in colours truly effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against This image of dashing water at the stars, Sirperboles

, such exaggerations suit the impetuous

warmth of the one ; and in the other have a good ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison : comedy, for moving and managing the powers of

vice. They may be likewise successfully used in

ridicule.
Like some prodigious water-engine made
To play on heaven, if fire should heaven invade.
The great fault in all these instances is a devia-

ESSAY XVIII.
tion from propriety, owing to the erroneous judg.
ment of the writer, who, endeavouring to capti-

Verse is an harmonious arrangement of long vate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of the understanding with extravagance. Ofthis na- poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured ture is the whole description of the Cyclops, both cadence, or music, which was used when the first in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the Æneid of songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin into different parts, required a regular return of the poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrooriginal to dazzle us with false fire, and practise phe, and stanza, contained the same number of upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will feet. To know what constituted the different kinds not bear the critic's examination. There is not in of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect any of Homer's works now subsisting such an to the number and quantity of their syllables, we example of the false sublime, as Virgil's descrip- have nothing to do but to consult those who have tion of the thunderbolts forging under the ham- written on grammar and prosody; it is the busimers of the Cyclops.

ness of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplish

ment of a man of taste. Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquoso

Various essays have been made in different Addiderant, rutili tres ignis et alitis Austrl.

countries to compare the characters of ancient and Three rays of writhen rain, of fire three more,

modern versification, and to point out the difference of winged southern winds, and cloudy store, beyond any possibility of mistake. But they have As many parts, the dreadful mixture frame.

made distinctions, where in fact there was no dif

Dryden. ference, and left the criterion unobserved. They This is altogether a fantastic piece of affecta- have transferred the name of rhyme to a regular tion, of which we can form no sensible image, and repetition of the same sound at the end of the line, serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the and set up this vile monotony as the characteristic admiration of a judging reader.

of modern verse, in contradistinction to the feet of Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in the ancients

, which they pretend the poetry of modgreat plenty through the works of our admired ern languages will not admit. Shakspeare. In the following description, which

Rhyme, from the Greek word Puduos, is nothing hath been much celebrated, one sces he has an eye

else but number, which was essential to the ancient,

as well as to the modern versification. As to the to Virgil's thunderbolts.

jingle of similar sounds, though it was never used 0, then I see queen Mab hath been with you. by the ancients in any regular return in the midShe is the fairies' midwife; and she comes dle, or at the end of the line, and was by no means In shape no bigger than an agate-stone

deemed essential to the versification, yet they did On the fore-finger of an alderman, Drawn with a team of little atomies

not reject it as a blemish, where it occurred without Athwart men's poses as they lic asleep;

the appearance of constraint. We meet with it Her wagon-spokes made of long spinner's legs; often in the epithets of Homer: Apg, upecao B1010m The cover, of the wings of gravhoppers;

Αναξ Ανδρων Αγαμεμνων-almost the whole first ode The traces, of the smallest spider's web;

of Anacreon is what we call rhyme. The followThe collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams, etc.

ing line of Virgil has been admired for the similiEven in describing fantastic beings there is a pro

tude of sound in the first two words. priety to be observed; but surely nothing can be

Ore Arethusa tuo siculus confunditur undis, more revolting to common sense, than this numbering af the moon-beams among the other imple- Rhythmus, or number, is certainly essential to ments of queen Mab's harness, which, though ex- verse, whether in the dead or living languages; tremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless and the real difference between the two is this: objects of the touch, and may be conceived capa- the number in ancient verse relates to the feet, and ble of use.

in modern poetry to the syllables; for to assert that

1

2

3

4

5

6

modern poetry has no feet, is a ridiculous ab-|of this restraint : but the number in all of these surdity. The feet that principally enter into the depends upon the syllables, and not upon the feet, composition of Greek and Latin verses, are either which are unlimited. of two or three syllables : those of two syllables are It is generally supposed that the genius of the either both long, as the spondee; or both short, as English language will not admit of Greek or Latin the pyrrhic; or one short, and the other long, as measure; but this, we apprehend, is a mistake the iambic; or one long, and the other short, as the owing to the prejudice of education. It is impostroche. Those of three syllables, are the dactyl, sible that the same measure, composed of the same of one long and two short syllables; the anapest, times, should have a good effect upon the ear in of two short and one long; the tribachium, of three one language, and a bad effect in another. The short; and the molossus of three long.

truth is, we have been accustomed from our infancy From the different combinations of these feet, to the numbers of English poetry, and the very restricted to certain numbers, the ancients formed sound and signification of the words dispose the their different kinds of verses, such as the hexa- ear to receive them in a certain manner; so that meter or heroic distinguished by six feet dactyls its disappointment must be attended with a diseand spondees, the fifth being always a dactyl, and greeable sensation. In imbibing the first rudithe last a spondee ; e. g.

ments of education, we acquire, as it were, another ear for the numbers of Greek and Latin poetry,

and this being reserved entirely for the sounds and Principi-is obs-ta, se-rð medi-cina pa-ratur.

significations of the words that constitute those dead The pentameter of five feet, dactyls and spondees, languages, will not easily accommodate itself to or of six, reckoning two cæsuras.

the sounds of our vernacular tongue, though con

veyed in the same time and measure. In a word, 1 2 3 4 5 6

Latin and Greek have annexed to them the ideas Cùm mala per lon-gas invalu-ere mo-ras.

of the ancient measure, from which they are not They had likewise the iambic of threc sorts, the easily disjoined. But we will venture to say, this dimeter, the trimeter, and the tetrameter, and all difficulty might be surmounted by an effort of atthe diflerent kinds of lyric verse specified in the tention and a little practice; and in that case we odes of Sappho, Alexus Anacreon and Thorace. should in time be as well pleased with English as Each of these was distinguished by the number, as with Latin hexameters. well as by the species of their feet; so that they Sir Philip Sydney is said to have miscarried in were doubly restricted. Now all the feet of the his essays; but his miscarriage was no more than ancient poetry are still found in the versification of that of failing in an attempt to introduce a new living languages; for as cadence was regulated by fashion. The failure was not owing to any defect the

it was impossible for a man to write melo- or imperfection in the scheme, but to the want of dious verse, without naturally falling into the use taste, to the irresolution and ignorance of the pubof ancient feet, though perhaps he neither knows lic. Without all doubt the ancient measure, so their measure, nor denomination. Thus Spenser, different from that of modern poetry, must have Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, and all our appeared remarkably uncouth to people in general, poets, abound with dactyls, spondees, trochees, who were ignorant of the classics ; and nothing anapests, etc. which they use indiscriminately in but the countenance and perseverance of the learnall kinds of composition, whether tragic, epic, pas-jed could reconcile them to the alteration. We toral, or ode, having in this particular, greatly the have seen several late specimens of English hexaadvantage of the ancients, who were restricted to meters and sapphics, so happily composed, that particular kinds of feet in particular kinds of verse. by attaching them to the idea of ancient measure, If we then are confined with the fetters of what is we found them in all respects as melodious and called rhyme, they were restricted to particular spe- agreeable to the car as the works of Virgil and cies of feet; so that the advantages and disadvan. Anacreon or Horace. tages, are pretty equally balanced : but indeed the Though the number of syllables distinguishes English are more free in this particular, than any the nature of the English verse from that of the other modern nation. They not only use blank Greek and Latin, it constitutes neither harmony, verse in tragedy and the epic, but even in lyric grace, nor expression. These must depend on the poetry. Milton's translation of Horace's ode to choice of words, the seat of the accent, the pause, Pyrrha is universally known and generally admir- and the cadence. The accent, or tone, is undered, in our opinion much above its merit. There stood to be an elevation or sinking of the voice in is an ode extant without rhyme addressed to Eve-reciting: the pause is a rest, that divides the verse ning, by the late Mr. Collins, much more beautiful; into two parts, each of them called an hemistich. and Mr. Warton, with some others, has happily The pause and accent in English poetry vary ocsucceeded in divers occasional pieces, that are free casionally, according to the meaning of the words ;

ear,

so that the hemistich does not always consist of an fugues, or often are barely unison. His melodies equal number of syllables: and this variety is also, where no passion is expressed, give equal agreeable, as it prevents a dull repetition of regu- pleasure from this delicate simplicity; and I need lar stops, like those in the French versification, only instance that song in the Serva Padrona, every line of which is divided by a pause exactly in which begins Lo conosco a quegl occelli, as one the middle. The cadence comprehends that poeti- of the finest instances of excellence in the duo. cal style which animates every line, that propriety The Italian artists in general have followed his which give strength and expression, that numero- manner, yet seem fond of embellishing the delicate sity which renders the verse smooth, flowing, and simplicity of the original. Their style in music harmonious, that significancy which marks the seems somewhat to resemble that of Seneca in passions, and in many cases makes the sound an writing, where there are some beautiful starts of echo to the sense. The Greek and Latin lan-thought; but the whole is filled with studied eleguages, in being copious and ductile, are suscepti-gance and unaffecting affectation. ble of a vast variety of cadences, which the living Lully in France first attempted the improvement languages will not admit; and of these a reader of of their music, which in general resembled that of any ear will judge for himself.

our old solemn chants in churches. It worthy of remark, in general, that the music of every

country is solemn in proportion as the inhabitants

are merry; or in other words, the merriest sprightESSAY XIX.

liest nations are remarked for having the slowest

music; and those whose character it is to be melanA school in the polite arts properly signifies choly, are pleased with the most brisk and airy that succession of artists, which has learned the movements. Thus in France, Poland, Ireland, principles of the art from some eminent master, and Switzerland, the national music is slow, melaneither by hearing his lessons, or studying his works, choly, and solemn; in Italy, England, Spain, and and consequently who imitate his manner either Germany, it is faster, proportionably as the people through design or from habit. Musicians seem are grave. Lully only changed a bad manner, agreed in making only three principal schools in which he found, for a bad one of his own. His music; namely, the school of Pergolese in Italy, of drowsy pieces are played still to the most sprightly Lully in France, and of Handel in England ; audience that can be conceived ; and even though though some are for making Rameau the founder Rameau, who is at once a musician and philosoof a new shoool, different from those of the for- pher, has shown, both by precept and example, mer, as he is the inventor of beauties peculiarly what improvements French music may still admit his own.

of, yet his countrymen seem little convinced by his Without all doubt, Pergolese's music deserves reasonings : and the Pont-Neuf taste, as it is called, the first rank ; though excelling neither in variety still prevails in their best performances. of movements, number of parts, nor unexpected The English school was first planned by Purcel: flights, yet he is universally allowed to be the mu- he attempted to unite the Italian manner, that presical Raphael of Italy. This great master's prin- vailed in his time, with the ancient Celtic carol cipal art consisted in knowing how to excite our and the Scotch ballad, which probably had also its passions by sounds, which seem frequently oppo- origin in Italy; for some of the best Scotch bal.. site to the passion they would express : by slow lads, " The Broom of Cowdenknows,” for instance, solemn sounds he is sometimes known to throw us are still ascribed to David Rizzio. But be that as into all the rage of battle; and even by faster move- it will, his manner was something peculiar to the ments he excites melancholy in every heart that English; and he might have continued as head of sounds are capable of affecting. This is a talent the English school, had not his merits been enwhich seems born with the artist. We are unable tirely eclipsed by Handel. Handel, though origito tell why such sounds affect us; they seem no nally a German, yet adopted the English manner; way imitative of the passion they would express, he had long laboured to please by Italian composibut operates upon us by an inexpressible sympa- tion, but without success; and though his English thy: the original of which is as inscrutable as the oratorios are accounted inimitable, yet his Italian secret springs of life itself. To this excellence he operas are fallen into oblivion. Pergolese excelled adds another, in which he is superior to every other in passionate simplicity: Lully was remarkable for artist of the profession, the happy transition from creating a new species of music, where all is eleone passion to another. No dramatic poet better gant, but nothing passionate or sublime; Handel's knows to prepare his incidents than he; the audi- true characteristic is sublimity; he has employed ence are pleased in those intervals of passion with all the variety of sounds and parts in all his pieces: the delicate, the simple harmony, if I may so ex- the perfomances of the rest may be pleasing, though press it, in which the parts are all thrown into lexecuted by few performers; bis requires the full

« AnteriorContinuar »