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Didactic Poetry.

er equality, and more chaste and correct elegance.

Of didactic poetry, satires and cpistles run into the most familiar style. Satire seems to have been at first a relic of ancient comedy, the grossness of which was corrected by Ennius and Lueilius. At length, llorace brought it into its present form. Reformation of manners is its professed end; and vice and vicious characters are the objects of its censure. There are three dif. ferent modes in which it has been conducted by the three great ancient satirists, Horace, Juvenal, and Persius.

The satires of Horace have not much elevation. They exbibit a measured prose. Ease and grace characterise his manner; and he glances rather at the follies and weaknesses of mankind, than at their vices. He smiles while he reproves. He moralises like a sound philosopher, but with the politeness of a courtier. Juvenal is more declamatory and serious; and has greater strength and fire. Persius has distinguished himself by a noble and sublime, morality.

Poetical epistles, when employed on moral or critical subjects seldom rise into a higher strain of poetry, than satires. But in the epistolary form, many other subjects may be treated ; as love, poetry, or elegiac. The ethical epistles of Pope are a model ; and in them he shows the strength of his genius. Here he had a full opportunity for displaying lis judgment and wit, his concise and happy expression, together with the harmony of his numbers. Ilis imitations of Horace are so happy, that it is difficult to say, whether the original or the copy ought to be most admired.

Descriptive Poetry.

Among moral and didactic writers, Dr. Young ought not to be passed over in silence. Genius appears in all his works; but his universal pas. sion may be considered as possessing the full merit of that animated conciseness, particularly requisite in satirical and didactic compositions. At the same time it is to be observed, that his wit is often too sparkling, and his sentences too pointed. In his Night Thoughts there is great energy of expression, several pathetic passages, many bappy images, and many pious reflections. But the sentiments are frequently overstrained and turgid, and the style harsh and obscure.


In descriptive poetry the highest exertions of genius may be displayed. In general, indeed, description is introduced as an embellishment, not as the subject of a regular work. It is the test of a poet's imagination, and always distinguishes an original from a second rate genius. A writer of an inferior class sces nothing new or peculiar in the object he would paint; his conceptions are loose and vague; and his expressions feeble and general. A true poet places an object before our eyes. He gives it the colouring of life; a painter might copy from him.

The great art of picturesque description lies in the selection of circumstances. These ought never to be vulgar or common. They should mark strongly the object. No general description is

Descriptive Poetry.

good ; all distinct ideas are formed upon particulars. There should also be uniformity in the circumstances selected. In describing a great ob, ject, every circumstance brought forward should tend to aggrandize; and in describing a gay object, all the circumstances should tend to beautify it. Lastly, the circumstances in description should be expressed with conciseness and simplicity.

The largest and fullest descriptive performance in perhaps any language, is Thompson's Seasons; a work which possesses very uncommon merit. The style is splendid and strong, but sometimes harsh and indistinct. He is an animated and beautiful describer; for he had a feeling heart and a warm imagination. He studied nature with care ; was enamoured of her beauties; and had the happy talent of painting them like a master. To show the power of a single well-cliosen circumstance in heightening a description, the following passage inay be produced from his summer, where, relating the effects of heat in the torrid zone, he is led to take notice of the pestilence that des- . troyed the English fleet at Carthagena under Ada miral Vernon.

-You, gallant Vernon, saw
The Miserable scene ; you, pitying, saw
To infant weakness sunk the warrior's arm ;
Saw the deep racking pang; the ghastly form. ;;
The lip pale quivering, and the beamless eye:
No more with ardour bright ; you heard the groans
Of agonizing ships form shore to shore ;
Heard nightly plunged amid the sullen waves
The frequent corse.

T 2

Descriptive Poetry.

All the circumstances here selected tend to heighten the dismal scene; but the last image is the most striking in the picture.

Of descriptive narration there are beautiful examples in Parnell's Tale of the Hermit. The setting forth of the hermit to visit the world, his meeting a companion, and the houses in which they are entertained, of the vain man, the covetous man, and the good man, are pieces of highly finished painting. But the richest and the most remarkable of all descriptive poems in the English language, are the Allegro and the Penseroso of Milton. They are the store-house whence many succeeding poets have enriched their descriptions, and are inimitably fine poems. Take, for instance, the following lines from the Penseroso :

I walk unseen
On the dry, smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wandering moon
Riding near her highest noon ;
And oft, as if her head she bow'd,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.
Oft on a plat of rising ground
I hear the far-off curfew sound
Over some wide watered shore
Swinging slow with solemn roar;
Or, if the air will not permit,
Some still removed place will fit,
Where glowing embers through the room
Teach light to counterfeit a gloom ;
Far from all resort of mirth,
Save the cricket on the hearth,
Or the bellman's drowsy charm,
To bless the doors from nightly harm;
Or let my lamp at midnight hour
Be seen in some high, lonely tower,
Exploring Plato, to unfold
What worlds, or what vast regions hold

Descriptive Poetry.

Th' immortal mind, that hath forsook
Her mansion in this fleshy nook ;
And of those dæmons, that are found
In fire, air, flood, or under ground.

Here are no general expressions; all is picturesque, expressive, and concise. One strong point of view is exhibited to the reader; and the impression made, is lively and interesting.

Both Homer and Virgil excel in poetical des. cription. In the second Æneid, the sacking of Troy is so particularly described, that the reader finds himself in the midst of the scene. The death of Priam is a masterpiece of description. Homer's battles are all wonderful. Ossian too paints in strong colours, and is remarkable for touching the heart. He thus pourtrays the ruins of Balclutha : “ I have seen the walls of Balelutha; but they were desolate. The fire had resounded within the halls; and the voice of the people is now heard no more. The stream of Clutha was removed from its place by the fall of the walls; the thistle shook there its lonely head; the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out of the window; the rank grass

waved round his head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina ; silence is in the house of her fathers."

Much of the beauty of descriptive poetry depends upon a proper choice of epithets. Many poets are often careless in this particular; hence the multitude of unmeaning and redundant epithets. Hence the “ Liquidi Fontes" of Virgil, and the 6. Prata canis Albicant Pruinis” of Horace. To observe that water is liquid and that snow is white, is little better thau mere tautology, Every epithet should add a new idea to the word which it qualifies. So in Milton:

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