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vived the attacks of time, have been the result of the highest state of cultivation of the countries in which they were produced. Whatever was the age of Homer, it must be admitted that his contemporaries had arrived at such a degree of civilization, as to enable them to feel and to enjoy his productions, and consequently cannot be considered as a rude or unpolished people. The period of Sophocles and Euripides in Greece, of Cicero and Virgil in Rome; of Ariosto, Bembo, and Tasso in Italy; of Racine, Boileau, and Moliere in France; of Milton, Dryden, and Pope in England; have been the highest periods of refinement in those countries, during which almost all the works that command universal admiration have been produced.
In speaking of the progress of mankind in civilization, we are too apt to fall into the idea that they form one immense society, which has its different stages of youth, vigour, and decline; but the ideas of youth and age are relative only to individuals, and seem to have no connexion whatever with the world at large, in which many nations and people are now in as rude and simple a state as others, now more refined and polished, were some thousands of years ago. It is not however from those countries that we are to expect in any predicable time, the inestimable productions of literature or of art. How many ages of civilization had preceded each of those periods of extraordinary excellence to which we have before referred! To establish the rules and principles of any art or science, is so far to prevent the retrogradation and secure the progress of the human race; and notwithstanding the long catalogue given by Dr. Warton of the critical works which have been produced since the first publication of the preceding Essay, it cannot surely be denied that the same interval has been productive of many works of superlative genius, or that the flame, instead of declining, has been invigorated by some of the productions of our own times.-.If on the whole, the efforts of our contemporaries have not rivalled those of former times, we may be assured it is not from too close an adherence to the acknowledged rules of art; but from the indolence that treats them with neglect, or the ignorance that holds them in contempt.
TO MRS. ARABELLA FERMOR.
Ir will be in vain to deny that I have some regard for this piece, since I dedicate it to You. Yet you may bear me witness, it was intended only to divert a few young Ladies, who have good sense and good humour enough to laugh not only at their sex's little unguarded follies, but at their own. But as it was communicated with the air of a Secret, it soon found its way into the world. An imperfect copy having been offered to a Bookseller, you had the good-nature, for my sake, to consent to the publication of one more correct: This I was forced to, before I had executed half my design, for the Machinery was entirely wanting to complete it.
The Machinery, Madam, is a term invented by the Critics, to signify that part which the Deities, Angels, or Demons, are made to act in a Poem: For the ancient Poets are in one respect like many modern Ladies; let an action be never so trivial in itself, they always make it appear of the utmost importance. These Machines I determined to raise on a very new and odd foundation, the Rosicrucian doctrine of Spirits.
I know how disagreeable it is to make use of hard words before a Lady; but 'tis so much the concern of a Poet to have his works understood, and particularly by your Sex, that you must give me leave to explain two or three difficult terms.
The Rosicrucians are a people I must bring you acquainted with. The best account I know of them is in a French book, called Le Comte de Gabalis, which both in its title and size is so like a Novel, that many of the Fair Sex have read it for one by mistake. According to these Gentlemen the four Elements are inhabited by Spirits, which they call Sylphs, Gnomes, Nymphs, and Salamanders. The Gnomes or Demons of Earth delight in mischief; but the Sylphs, whose habitation is in the Air, are the best conditioned Creatures imaginable. For they say, any mortals may enjoy the most intimate familiarities with these gentle Spirits, upon a condition very easy to all true Adepts, an inviolate preservation of Chastity.
As to the following Cantos, all the passages of them are as fabulous, as the Vision at the beginning, or the Transformation at the end; (except the loss of your Hair, which I always mention with reverence). The Human persons are as fictitious as the Airy ones; and the character of Belinda, as it is now managed, resembles you in nothing but in Beauty.
If this Poem had as many Graces as there are in your Person, or in your Mind, yet I could never