« EelmineJätka »
heat of the argument told his father, that for his own part he expected to die like a dog. Upon which, the old man starting up in a very great passion, cried out, Then, sirrah, you shall live like one ; and taking his cane in his hand, cudgelled him out of his system. This had so good an effect upon him, that he took up from that day, fell to reading good books, and is now a bencher in the Middle Temple.
I do not mention this cudgelling part of the story with a design to engage the fecular arm in matters of this nature ; but certainly, if it ever exerts itself in affairs of opinion and speculation, it ought to do it on such shallow and despicable pretenders to knowledge, who endeavour to give man dark and uncomfortable prospects of his being, and destroy those principles which are the support, happiness, and glory of all publick societies, as well as private persons.
I think it is one of Pythagoras's golden sayings, that a man spould take care above all things to have a due reSpekt for himself : and it is certain, that this licentious fort of authors, who are for depreciating mankind, endeavour to disappoint and undo what the most refined fpirits have been labouring to advance fince the beginning, of the world. The very design of dress, good. breeding, outward ornaments and ceremony, were to lift up human nature, and set it off to advantage. Architecture, painting, and ftatuary, were invented with the fame design; as indeed every art and science that contributes to the embellishment of life, and to the wearing off and throwing into shades the mean and low parts of our nature. Poetry carries on this great end more than all the rest, as may be seen in the following passage, taken out of Sir Francis Bacon's Advancement of Learning, which gives a true and better account of this art than all the volumes that were ever written
“ Poetry, especially heroical, seems to be railed " altogether from à noble foundation, which makes “ much for the dignity of man's nature. For seeing “ this sensible world is in dignity inferior to the soul
* of man, poesy seems to endow. human nature witk " that which history denies ; and to give fatisfaction “ to the mind, with at least the shadow of things, « where the subitance cannot be had. For if the mat. ** ter be thoroughly confidered, a strong argument may " be drawn from poesy, that a more starely greatness of " things, a more perfect order, and a more beautiful
variety, delights the foul of man, than any way can “ be found in nature fince the fall. Wherefore seeing " the acts and events, which are the subjects of true " history, are not of that amplitude as to content the “ mind of man; poesy is ready at hand to feign acts
more heroical. " Because true history reports the suc“ ceffes of bafiness not proportionable to the merit of
virtues and vices, poesy corrects it, and presents
events and fortunes according to desert, and accord" ing to the law of providence : because true history, “ through the frequent satiety and fimilitude of things, “ works a distaste and misprision in the mind of man;
poesy cheareth and refresheth the foul, chanting
things rare and various, and full of vicissitudes. So " as poefy serveth and conferreth to delectation, mag“ nanimity and morality; and therefore it may seem “ deservedly to have some participation of divineness, “ because it doth raise the mind, and exalt the spirit with
high raptures, by proportioning the shews of things
to the desires of the mind, and not submitting the “ mind to things as reason and history do. And by " these allurements and congruities, whereby it che• risheth the soul of man, joined also with confort of “ musick, whereby it may more sweetly infinuate itself; « it háth won such access, that it hath been in estima* tion even in rude times, and barbarous nations, when s our learning stood excluded.”
But there is nothing which favours and falls in with this natural greatness and dignity of human nature fo much as religion, which does not only promise the entire refinement of the mind, but the glorifying of the body, and the immortality of both,
The Efficacy of Poetry upon the Mind.
[Tatler, No. 98.]
friend, fell into discourse with me this evening, upon the force and efficacy which the writings of good poets have on the minds of their intelligent readers, and recommended to me his sense of the matter, thrown together in the following manner, which he defired me to communicate to the youth of Great Britain in my Efsays; which I chuse to do in his own words.
I have always been of opinion (fays he) that virtue finks deepest into the heart of man, when it comes recommended by the powerful charms of poetry. The most active principle in our mind is the imagination : to it a good poet makes his court perpetually, and by this faculty takes care to gain it first: Our passions and inclinations come over next; and our reason surrenders itself with pleasure, in the end. Thus the whole soul is insensibly betrayed into morality, by bribing the fancy with beautiful and agreeable images of those very things, that in the books of the philosophers appear auftere, and have at the best but a kind of forbidding aspect. In a word, the poets do, as it were, stiew the rough paths of virtue so full of flowers, that we are not sensible of the uneasiness of them, and imagine ourselves in the midft of pleasures, and the most bewitching allurements, at the time we are making a progress in the severeft duties of life.
All men agree, that licentious poems do of all wri. tings sooneft corrupt the heart: and why should we not be as universally persuaded, that the grave and ferious performances of such as write in the most engaging manner, by a kind of divine impulse, must be th: molt effectual persuasives to goodness! If therefore I were blessed with a fon, in order to the forming of his mans ners, (which is making him truly my fon) I should be continually putting into his hand some fine poet. The graceful sentences, and the manly sentiments fo.frem quently to be met with in every great and sublime
writer, are, in my judgment, the most ornamental and valuable furniture that can be for a young gentleman's head; methinks they fhew like so much rich embroidery upon the brain. Let me add to this, that humanity and tenderness, (without which there can be no true greatness in the mind) are inspired by the muses in fuch pathetical language, that all we find in prose authors, towards the raising and improving of these passions, is in comparison but cold, or lukewarm, at the best. There is besides a certain elevation of soul, a sedate magnanimity, and a noble turn of virtue, that distinguishes the hero from the plain, honest man, to which verse can only raise us. The bold metaphors and sounding numbers, peculiar to the poets, rouze up all our sleeping faculties, and alarm the whole powers of the foul, much like that excellent trumpeter mentioned by Virgil:
Quo non præftantior alter Ære ciere Viros, Martemque accendere Cantu. I fell into this train of thinking this evening, upon reading a passage in a Mask writ by Milton, where two brothers are introduced seeking after their sister, whom they had lost in a dark night and thick wood. One of the brothers is apprehensive left the wandering virgin should be overpowered with fears through the darkness and loneness of the time and place. This gives the other occasion to make the following reflections, which, as I read them, made me forget my age, and renewed in me the warm desires after virtue, so natural to uncorrupted youth.
I do not think my fifter fo to seek
Where, with her best nurse, Contemplation,
an Praise and Blame to be regarded only as relating to Things Arialy true.
(Tatler, No. 92.)
Know no manner of speaking fo offensive as that of
giving praise, and closing it with an exception; which proceeds (where men do not do it to introduce malice, and make calumny more effectual) from the common error of confidering man as a perfect creature. But if we rightly examine things, we shall find, that there is a sort of economy in providence, that one shall excel where another is defective, in order to make men more useful to each other, and mix them in society. This man having this talent, and that man another, is as necessary in conversation, as one professing one trade, and another another, is beneficial in commerce. The happiest climate does not produce all things; and it was so ordered, that one part of the earth should want the product of another, for uniting mankind in a gene. sal correspondence and good undertanding. It is there. fore want of good sense as well as good nature, to say, Simplicius has a better judgment, but not so much wit as Latius ; for that these have not each other's capaci. ties, is no more a diminution to either, than if you should say, Simplicius is not Latius, or Latius not Simplicius. The heathen world had so little notion that perfection was to be expected amongst men, that among them any one quality or endowment in an heroic degree made a god. Hercules had strength; but it was never objected to him that he wanted wit. Apollo presided