Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

S we have already treated of thoughts and style in the TA preceding volume, under the article Rhetorie, this chapter and the ensuing may, perhaps, feem like a repetition, and be thought ufeless ; but it is to be confidered, that though thoughts in poetry and profe differ but little, (except in pieces of fićtion) a fublime thought being still the fame, whether expressed in profe or verse, yet as the diễtion of poetry is very different from that of profe, and as this volume is intended to stand alone, and to be read diftin&ly from the other fciences, it will be here necessary to fay fomething on these subjects, which are the foundation: of elegance and fublimity. - Thoughts may, not improperly, be called the foundation or body of a poem, or discourse ; and the style, or dićtion, the dress with which they are decorated ; for the choicest and most brilliant exprefions will be looked upon as mere empty and contemptible founds, unless they are animated with good fenfe and propriety of thought : but on the contrary, a new and beautiful thought will affectus v agreeably, though unadorned, because it strikes the imagination with its novelty, and carries with it fome degree of information, which it has drawn from truth and nature. Thoughts are the images of things, as words are the images of thoughts, and they are both, like other pićtures and images, to be esteemed or despised, as the representa. tion is just and natural, true or falfe.

The thoughts we find in the best authors are natural and

intelligible; they are neither affected to display wit, nor
far-fetched to discover learning ; but are fuch as arife, as
it were spontaneoufly, out of the subjećt treated of, and
feem so inseparable from it, that we cannot conceive how
it could have been otherwife express'd with so much pro-
priety.
Were we inclined to give instances of false and unnatural
thoughts, enough might be found in the works of our mo-
dern poets, and not a few even among the ancients, espé-
cially in Ovia, Lucan and Seneca. -

[ocr errors]

This celebrated paffage in Lucan,

The heav'ns entomb the man that wants an urn,

which is apply’d to foldiers that are slain in the field and

lie unburied, may, at first view, feem elegant and ingenious; but when we confider that the carcass of a horfe, a kite, or a crow is entomb’d in the fame manner, the appearance of wit will subfide. For wit (in the fenfe it is used when apply’d to polite composition) is elegance of ihought, which adds beauty to propriety, and not only pleases the fancy, but informs the judgment. It is amazing, that one of the best poets this nation has produced should have been the author of the following wretched lines : Thou /halt not wiß her thine, thou /halt nat dare To be so impudent as to deffair.– There's not a star of thine dares fay with thee, I'll cehistle thy tame fàrtune after me.

. . Thoughts are more or less just and true, as they are

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

things not as they are, but as they Jeem to be. In describing the rainbow, for instance, he may with justnefs dwell on the colours that feem to compose that beatiful phæhomenon, though the philosopher should stand by with

his prism, to prove that the whole of this appearance was

occasioned only by the refraction of the rays of light. Nor are metaphors, hyperboles, ironies, or equivocal expresfions, when properly used, nor fétion or fable, any deviation from this rule of right thinking; for skere is a great diffe

rence between fal/bood and fiction, between that which is:

really falfe, and that which is only fo in appearance. Tropes, figures, and fićtions, when they are of any value, are raised on the foundation of right reason ; they have

truth for their basis, which is recommended and rendered.

[ocr errors][merged small]

When Cicero applauds Craffus on the fubject of his thougiits, after observing that they were just and true, he also adds, that they were new and uncommon ; that befides truth and justnefs to fatisfy the mind, he had thrown in fomething more to captivate and furprise it. Truth, fays father Bouhours, is to thoughts what foundations are to buildings, it fupports and gives then folidity ; but a building which has nothing to recommend it but folidity, will not please those who are skilled in architećture. Befides folidity therefore, magnificence, beauty and delicacy are required ; and

[ocr errors]

or they will be ever lifeless and unaffećting. Truth,
which on other occasions pleases though unadorned, re-
quires embellishment here : though this ornament is fome-
times no more than placing a thought, otherwife common
and ordinary, in a new point of light, and giving it an
agreeable turn. - -
Time stays for no man is a very true and just thought, but
is very plain and common. It is raised; however, and
made in a manner new by the following turn ;

Time in his full career keeps presting on,
Nor heeds he the entreaties, or commands, .
Of the poor peafant, or tyrannic king.

So when you tell a flugga: d that he has loft an hour in the morning, which he can never recover, you tell hin the truth, yet there is no beauty or wit in it, because the thought is trite and common ; but in Sir ****'s remark on his friend, that be loß an bour in the morning, and ran after it all day, there is wit.

But, as Longinus observes, it is those elevated thoughts, which represent nothing but what is great to the mind, that principally heighten and animate our poems. The sublimity and grandeur of a thought will always gratify and transport the soul, if it be just and conformable to the fub

jeći ; but where that conformity is wanting, dignity will

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Sublime thoughts are no where to be found in such plenty, nor perhaps fo well decorated, as in the facred books of the Old and New Testament.–The Almighty's decking

[ocr errors]

like a curtain, making the cloud's his chariot, and riding upon the

wings of the wind, are thoughts amazingly majestic.
Homer alfo abounds with these strains of fublimity. The
paslages wherein he defcribes Jupiter shaking the heavens
with a nod, and Neptune enraged at the desti ućtion of the
Grecians, are nobly conceived, but they fall short of the
preceding. - - |
He spoke, and awful bends his fable brows,
Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,
The stamp of fate, and fan&tion of the God:

High heav'n with trembling the dread fignal took,
And all Olympus to the centre shook. .

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The thought with which he has described the speed of the celestial coursers is altogether as magnificent. He difdains all comparifons drawn from the wind, hail, whirl

[ocr errors]

the fwiftness and impetuofity of his combatants, and to give us an idea of the rapidity of thefe immortal horfes, he measures their strokes, as Longinus observes, by the whole breadth of the horizon. - |

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Milton's Paradise Lost is replete with these fublime thoughts; among which, the feveral descriptions he has

given us of Satan are admirably adapted to raise terror in the imagination of the reader.

Thus Satan talking to his nearest mate,
With head up-lift above the wave, and eyes
*That sparkling blazed, his other parts befide
Prone on the flood, extending long and large,
Lay floating many a rood
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast
Of fome great Admiral, were but a wand
He walk'd with to support uneafy steps.

And in another place :

----------- he, above the rest
In shape and gesture proudly eminent,
Stood like a tower: his form not yet had loft
All her original brightnefs, nor appear'd
Less than arch-angel ruin'd, and th' excess
Of glory obscur'd: As when the fun new-ris’n
Looks thro’ the horizontal misty air,
Shorn of his beams ; or from behind the moon,

In dim eclipse difast'rous twilight sheds

On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs ; darken'd fo, yet shone
Above them all the arch-angel.–

As Homer has defcribed Distord, and Wirgil Fame, with their feet standing upon the earth, and their heads extended

above the clouds, Milton, in imitation of them, has thus described Satan ;

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »