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in the authors we have mention'd, but especially in Wir
gil, who, after he has been wandering, and to all appearance forgot his husbandmen and their concerns, ís by fome happy rural incident, arifing naturally out of his fubjećt, brought back to his business again, and connećts and makes every thing he has met with conducive to his main defign. In these digressions and episodes it is also of the utmost confequence to introduce the pathetic, and agitate the af
fećtions ; for it is ever to be observed, in works of this
nature, that a digression properly introduced, and fo as to awaken the pastions, and strike the heart, is of more importance than a multitude ofornamental defcriptions, and will be read again and again with pleafure ; while, to other passages that are merely instrućtive, the mind can hardly attend a fecond time, tho’ ever fo well decorated. The understanding feels no pleasure in being instruếiedosten in the Jame 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 thefe poems, it fhould be fo rich as to hide the nakedness of the subjećt, and the barrenness of the precepts should be loft in the lustre of the language. ‘ It ought (fays Mr. Warton *) to abound in the most bold and forcible metaphors, the most glowing and pićturesque 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 fublime ode) is beauty of expression fo much to be regarded as in this. For the epic writer should be very cautious of in
* See his Differtation on DidaFie Poetry.
dulging himself in too fiorid a manner of expresion, especially in the dramatic parts of his fable, where heintroduces dialogue : And the writer of tragedy cannot fall into so naufeous and unnatural an affectation, as to put laboured defcriptions, pompous epithets, studied phrases, and high-flown metaphors, into the mouths of his charaćters. But as the didaćtic poet speaks in his own person, it is necessary and proper for him to use a brighter colouring of stile, and to be more studious of ornament. And this is agreeable to an admirable precept of Aristotle, which no writer should ever forget, – that diétionrought most to be labour'd in the unaâive, that is the defcriptive parts of a poem, in which the opinions, manners and pastions of men are not represented; for too glaring an exprestion obscures the manners and the fentiments.’ We have already observed that anythingin nature may be the fubjećt 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 poetical ornaments. Natural history and philosophy are copious fubjects. 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 nature 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 flux and reflux of the fea; the cause of thunder, lightning, and other meteors ; the attraćtion of the magnet ; the gravitation, cohesion, and repulsion of matter ; the impulsive motion of light; the flow progression of founds ; and other amazing phænomena of nature. Most of the arts and sciences are also proper fubjects for this poem, and none are more fo than its two fister arts, painting and music. In the former, particularly, there is room for the most entertaining precepts concerning the difpofal of colours ; the arrangement of lights and fhades ; the secret attraćtives of beauty; the various ideas which make up the one ; the distinguishing between the attitudes proper to either fex, and every pasfion ; the representing prospects of buildings, battles,
or the country ; and lastly, concerning the nature of imitation, and the power of painting. What a boundless field of invention is here ? What room for defcription, comparifon, and poetical fable ? How easy the transition, at any time, from the draught to the original, from the fhadow to the substance ? and from hence, what noble excursions may be made into history, into panegyric upon the greatest beauties or heroes of the past or present age ? The task, I confess is difficult ; but, according to that noted, but true faying, Jo are all things that are great.” .
Tale implies nothing more than a relation of a fimple action, and therefore should not be embarafied with a multitude of foreign circumstances, but may admit of fuch digrestions as arise naturally from the subjećt, and do not break in upon, or obscure the main design. . It should inculcate fome useful lefson, 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 arife from the fufpense and anxiety we are kept in; and which, (as in the plot of a Tragedy or Comedy) should not be removed till the end. Were the whole scope and defign, or, if I may fo fpeak, the point of the Tale first difcovered, the reader would grow languid and indifferent, and have nothing to attend to but the diction and verfification. The reader will find thefe rules illustrated in the HE RM1T, a Tale, by Mr. PARNE L ; which we esteem an excellent example.
The HERMIT. A Tale. By Mr. PARNEL.
Far in a wild, unknown to publick view,
A life fo sacred, fuch ferene repose, -
To clear this doubt, to know the world by fight,