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instruction being concealed, the reader may grow wiser without perceiving he is taught, and that while the most useful lessons are inculcated, the whole may appear only as an amusement. For this reason it is necessary often to digress from the subject, and to introduce episodes of such a nature that at the end they may lead you naturally to your subject again, and then seem of a piece with it. Many initances of these kinds of digreffions may be seen in the authors we have mention’d, but especially in Vire gil, who, after he has been wandering, and to all appearance forgot his husbandmen and their concerns, is by some happy rural incident, arising naturally out of his subject, brought back to his business again, and connects and makes every thing he has met with conducive to his main defign.
In these digressions and episodes it is also of the utmost consequence to introduce the pathetic, and agitate the affections ; for it is ever to be observed, in works of this nature, that a digression properly introduced, and so as to awaken the pasions, and strike the heart, is of more importance than a multitude of ornamental defcriptions, and will be read again and again with pleasure ; while, to other paffages that are merely inítructive, the mind can hardly attend a second time, tho' ever so well decorated. The underfianding feels no pleasure in being inffructed aften in the same thing; but the heart is ever open to an affecting tale, and receives a pleasure every time it is repeated.
With regard to the style or dress of these poems, it mould be so rich as to hide the nakedness of the subject, and the barrenness of the precepts should be lost in the lustre of the language. It ought (says Mr. Warton *) to abound in the most bold and forcible metaphors, the most glowing and picturesque epithets ; it ought to be elevated and enliven’d by pomp of numbers and majesty of words, and by every figure that can lift a language above the vulgar and current expressions,' One may add, that in no kind of poetry (not even in the sublime ode) is beauty of expression so much to be regarded as in this. For the epic writer should be very cautious of in
* See his Differtation on Didattic Poetry.
dulging himself in too forid a manner of expression, especially in the dramatic parts of his fable, where he introduces dialogue : And the writer of tragedy cannot fall into fo nauseous and unnatural an affectation, as to put laboured descriptions, pompous epithets, studied phrases, and high-flown metaphors, into the mouths of his characters. But as the didactic poet speaks in his own person, it is necessary and proper for him to use a brighter colouring of stile, and to be more ftudious of ornament. And this is agreeable to an admirable precept of Aristotle, which no writer should ever forget,
that diction ought most to be labour'd in the unaclive, that is the descriptive parts of a poem, in which the opinions; manners and paflions of men are not represented; for too glaring an expreflion obscures the manners and the sentiments.'
We have already observed that any thing in nature may be the fubject of this poem. Some things however will appear to more advantage than others, as they give a greater latitude to genius, and admit of more poctical ornaments. Natural history and philosophy are copious subjects. Precepts in these might be decorated with all the flowers in poetry; and, as Dr. Trapp observes, how
can poetry be better employed, or more agreeably to its , pature and dignity, than in celebrating the works of the
great Creator, and describing the nature and generation of animals, vegetables, and minerals; the revolutions of the heavenly bodies; the motions of the earth ; the Aux and reflux of the sea; the cause of thunder, lightning, and other meteors; the attraction of the magnet; the gravitation, cohesion, and repulfion of matter ; the impulfive motion of light; the slow progreffion of sounds; and other amazing phænomena of nature. Most of the arts and sciences are also proper fubjects for this poem, and none are more so than its two fifter arts, painting and mufic. In the former, particularly, there is room for the most entertaining precepts concerning the disposal of colours ; the arrangement of lights and shades; the secret attractives of beauty; the various ideas which make up the one; the distinguishing between the attitudes proper to either sex, and every pasfon; the representing prospects of buildings, battles,
or the country; and lafly, concerning the nature of imitation, and the power of painting. What a boundless field of invention is here? What room for descrip. tion, comparison, and poetical fable? How easy the transition, at any time, from the draught to the original, from the shadow to the substance ? and from hence, what noble excursions may be made into history, into panegyric upon the greatest beauties or heroes of the paft or present age? The tak, I confess is difficult ; but, according to that noted, but true saying, so are all things that are great.'
CH A P. XV.
Of TALE 6.
Tale implies nothing more than a relation of a
rassed with a multitude of foreign circumstances, but may admit of such digresiions as arise naturally from the subject, and do not break in upon, or obscure the main design. It hould inculcate some useful lesson, and be both interesting and perplexing, in order that it may excite and support the attention of the reader ; for great part of the pleasure or entertainment which the mind receives from a well-written Tale, will be found to arise from the suspense and anxiety we are kept in ; and which, (as in the plot of a Tragedy or Comedy) fhould not be removed till the end. Were the whole scope and design, or, if I may so speak, the point of the Tale first dircovered, the reader would grow languid and indifferent, and have nothing to attend to but the diction and versi. fication.
The reader will find these rules illustrated in the Hermit, a Tale, by Mr. PARNEL; which we efteem an excellent example.
The Hermit. A Tale. By Mr. PARNEL,
Far in a wild, unknown to publick view,
A life so facred, such ferene repose,
To clear this doubt, to know the wo:ld by fight,
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass, And long and lonesome was the wild to pass ; But when the southern sun had warm’d the day, A youth came posting o'er a crossing way; His rayment decent, his complexion fair, And sofc in graceful ringlets wav'd his hair. Then near approaching, Father, hail! he cry'd ; And hail, my son, the rev'rend Sire reply'd : Words follow'd words, fiom question answer flow'd, And talk of various kind deceiv'd the road ; 'Till each with other pleasd, and loth to party
While in their age they differ, join in heart :
Now sunk the sun; the closing hour of day
At length 'tis morn, and at the dawn of day
As one who 'spies a serpent in his way,