« AnteriorContinuar »
it may, indeed, furnish the most natural sentiments, if we attend its impulses; but it is art alone that must turn them to use, and join the graces of expression.
“ Wretch that I am! immortal and divine,
In life imprison'd whom the fates confine,
As the philosopher asserted, that he learned the truest philosophy in Homer, so he who would write a perfect elegy, should study the performance before us with the closest application. From one example of this kind, he will learn more than from all the precepts critics have delivered on the subject. He will here perceive beauty in distress, borrowing the language of nature and passion, and adapting sentiments to the subject: the thoughts rising, as of their own accord, without being sought after; the verse flowing with various harmony; the whole combined by a concealed connection, yet seemingly without order: in short, our idea increasing. by just degrees, to the end of the piece; like those landscapes that rise upon the eye, till they seem to touch the skies.
“ Thus Venus griev'd—the Cupids round deplore,
And mourn her beauty and her love no more.
But cease in vain to cherish dire despair,
It is not thus that many of our moderns have composed what they call elegies; they seem scarcely to know its real character. If a hero or a poet happens to die with us, the whole board of elegiac poets raise the dismal chorus, adorn his hearse with all the paltry escutcheons of flattery, rise into bombast, paint him as at the head of his thundering legions, or reining Pegasus in his most rapid career; they are sure to strew cypress enough upon the bier, dress up all the muses in mourning, and look themselves every whit as dismal and sorrowful as an undertaker's shop. Neither pomp nor flattery agrees with real affliction: it is not thus that Marcellus, even that Marcellus who was adopted by the emperor of the world, is bewailed by Propertius. His beauty, his strength, his milder virtues, seem to have caught the poet's affections, and inspired his affliction. Were a person to die in these days, though he was never at a battle in his life, our elegiac writers would be sure to make one for the occasion. Our lovers too, if they are really in love, seem more solicitous to show their wit than their passion, adapt trifling ornaments to broad sentiments, and somewhat resemble the lawyer, who cared not whether he gained or lost his cause, provided he could make the court admire his eloquence.
“ Je hais ces vains auteurs, dont la muse forcée,
M'entretient de ses feux, toujours froid, et glacée,
With respect to the present translation, from the instances already given, the reader need scarcely be informed, that it is
very elegant, and tolerably correct, Several of the minor poets are as yet without translations : we hope that a hint will not be lost. *
* (Langhorne died in 1779, in his forty-fourth year. In 1773, he formed an acquaintance with the celebrated Hannah More. Meeting one day, at Weston-supra-Mare, upon the sea-shore, he wrote with the end of his stick upon the stand:
"Along the shore walk'd Hannah More;
Waves, let this record last;
Than what she writes be past."
“Some firmer basis, polish'd Langhorne, choose,
And be thy tablet lasting, as thy verse." “A very lively, intellectual intercourse (says Mr. Roberts) was sustained between them, until a habit of intemperance, in which he had vainly sought relief under the pressure of domestic calamity, raised a barrier between him and persons of strict behavior.” The following copy of verses, written by Langhorne in his garden, were found among Hannah More's papers :
“Blow, blow, my sweetest rose !
For Hannah More will soon be here,
And all that crowns the ripening year,
“My sun-flower fair, abroad
For her thy golden breast unfold,
And with thy noble smile behold,
“Ye laurels, brighter bloom!
For she your wreaths, to glory due,
Has bound upon the hero's brow, (1)
“Ye bays, your odors shed !
For you her youthful temples bound,
What time she trod on fairy ground,
“Come, innocent and gay,
Ye rural nymphs your love confess,
For her who sought your happiness, (2)
See Roberts' Life of Hannah More, vol. 1. p. 28.)
1 [The Inflexible Captive.)
2 (Search after Happiness.)
XVII.-WARD ON ORATORY.*
[From the Critical Review, 1759. “ A System of Oratory,
delivered in a Course of Lectures, publicly read at Gresham College. By John Ward, L.L.D. F.R.S. In two volumes, 8vo.”]
IF diction perfectly grammatical, and a method perfectly scientific; if the marks of extensive reading, and an omission of scarce aught that has been formerly advanced on the subject, demand applause, these lectures may assert their claim. Accurate and copious, they contain all that the ancients have delivered on the rhetorician's art, all the rules commentators have coolly deduced from a careful perusal of the raptures of Demosthenes and Cicero. This, perhaps, was all the praise our author sought; and this much certainly is his due. We will not accuse the lecturer of phlegm, since he only professes to be didactic; nor censure his many repetitions, since to an audience, perhaps, they conduce to perspicuity. They who seek to understand rhetoric, must be contented with the disgusting dryness of names and definitions: those names and proper definitions are supplied here in abundance. If, regardless of the present age, the author has not thought proper to adapt his rules to the differing modes of eloquence and different centuries, he has, nevertheless, been a faithful commentator upon the ancients, whom he appears to have studied, and whose languages he seems perfectly to have understood. We would not therefore be thought to object to the execution of the present performance, but to the choice of the subject; not to the lecturer's talents, but the inutility of his task.
* [Dr. John Ward was Professor of Rhetoric in Gresham College for thirty-eight years. He was born in London in 1679, and died in 1758.]
Upon a former occasion we hinted our opinion, that eloquence is more improved by the perusal of the great masters, from whose excellences rules have been afterwards formed, than by an attendance on the lectures of such as pretend to teach the art by rule, more by imitation than by precept. We shall here, then, take the liberty of pursuing the thought; and as an extract from the work before us can (from the nature of the subject) neither excite the reader's curiosity nor awaken his attention, instead of offering any thing from the author we shall fill up a page with a few observations of our own. We all would be orators: we live in an age of orators: our very tradesmen are orators. Were it not worth while to ask what oratory is ?
Oratory is nothing more than the being able to imprint on others, with rapidity and force, the sentiments of which we are possessed ourselves. Thus sometimes even silence is eloquent, and action persuades when words might fail. We may be thus impressed, without being convinced; and our passions are often excited on the side of the speaker, though reason would resist their impulse. “Whatever," says Boileau, “ we clearly conceive, we can clearly express; whatever we conceive with warmth, is expressed in the same manner:" when the emotion is strong, the words rise almost involuntarily, to give our feelings all the force of expression. The speaker who calmly considers the propriety of his diction cools in the interval; the spirit is fled, and, not being moved himself, he ceases to affect his hearers. Should we examine writers of genius on the most applauded parts of their performances, they would readily answer, that those parts have been most admired which they wrote with the greatest ease and the warmest enthusiasm. Thus we see, eloquence is born with us before the rules of rhetoric, as languages have been formed before the rules of grammar. Nature alone is mistress of the art, and perhaps every person who understands the language in which