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hippocentaurs and chimeras, or how are angels and immaterial substances to be imaged; which, some of them, are things quite out of nature; others, such whereof we can have no notion? This is the last refuge of our adversaries; and more than any of them 5 have yet had the wit to object against us. The answer is easy to the first part of it: the fiction of some beings which are not in nature (second notions, as the logicians call them) has been founded on the conjunction of two natures, which have a real separate being. So hippo- to centaurs were imaged, by joining the natures of a man and horse together; as Lucretius tells us, who has used this word of image oftener than any of the poets
Nam certe ex vivo centauri non fit imago,
Nulla fuit quoniam talis natura animai:
Verum ubi equi atque hominis, casu, convenit imago,
The same reason may also be alleged for chimeras and the rest. And poets may be allowed the like liberty for describing things which really exist not, if 20 they are founded on popular belief. Of this nature are fairies, pigmies, and the extraordinary effects of magic; for 'tis still an imitation, though of other men's fancies: and thus are Shakespeare's Tempest, his Midsummer Night's Dream, and Ben Johnson's Masque of Witches 25 to be defended. For immaterial substances, we are authorized by Scripture in their description: and herein the text accommodates itself to vulgar apprehension, in giving angels the likeness of beautiful young men. Thus, after the pagan divinity, has Homer drawn his 30 gods with human faces: and thus we have notions of things above us, by describing them like other beings more within our knowledge.
I wish I could produce any one example of excellent imaging in all this poem. Perhaps I cannot; but that 35
which comes nearest it, is in these four lines, which have been sufficiently canvassed by my well-natured
Seraph and cherub, careless of their charge,
I have heard (says one of them) of anchovies dissolved in sauce; but never of an angel in hallelujahs. A mighty 10 witticism! (if you will pardon a new word,) but there is some difference between a laugher and a critic. He might have burlesqued Virgil too, from whom I took the image: Invadunt urbem, somno vinoque sepultam. A city's being buried, is just as proper on occasion, as 15 an angel's being dissolved in ease, and songs of triumph. Mr. Cowley lies as open too in many places
Where their vast courts the mother waters keep, &c.
For if the mass of waters be the mothers, then their daughters, the little streams, are bound, in all good 20 manners, to make courtesy to them, and ask them blessing. How easy 'tis to turn into ridicule the best descriptions, when once a man is in the humour of laughing, till he wheezes at his own dull jest! But an image, which is strongly and beautifully set before the 25 eyes of the reader, will still be poetry when the merry fit is over, and last when the other is forgotten.
I promised to say somewhat of Poetic Licence, but have in part anticipated my discourse already. Poetic Licence I take to be the liberty which poets have 30 assumed to themselves, in all ages, of speaking things in verse, which are beyond the severity of prose. 'Tis, that particular character which distinguishes and sets the bounds betwixt oratio soluta and poetry. This, as to what regards the thought or imagination of a poet,
consists in fiction: but then those thoughts must be expressed; and here arise two other branches of it; for if this licence be included in a single word, it admits of tropes; if in a sentence or proposition, of figures; both which are of a much larger extent, and more forcibly to 5 be used in verse than prose. This is that birthright which is derived to us from our great forefathers, even from Homer down to Ben; and they who would deny it to us, have, in plain terms, the fox's quarrel to the grapes-they cannot reach it.
How far these liberties are to be extended, I will not presume to determine here, since Horace does not. But it is certain that they are to be varied, according to the language and age in which an author writes. That which would be allowed to a Grecian poet, Martial tells 15 you, would not be suffered in a Roman. And 'tis evident that the English does more nearly follow the strictness of the latter than the freedoms of the former. Connexion of epithets, or the conjunction of two words in one, are frequent and elegant in the Greek, which yet 20 Sir Philip Sidney, and the translator of Du Bartas, have unluckily attempted in the English; though this, I confess, is not so proper an instance of poetic licence, as it is of variety of idiom in languages.
Horace a little explains himself on this subject of 25 Licentia Poetica, in these verses—
Pictoribus atque Poetis
Quidlibet audendi semper fuit æqua potestas:
Sed non, ut placidis coeant immitia, non ut
He would have a poem of a piece; not to begin with one thing, and end with another: he restrains it so far, that thoughts of an unlike nature ought not to be joined together. That were indeed to make a chaos. He taxed not Homer, nor the divine Virgil, for interesting 35
190 The Author's Apology for Heroic Poetry, &c.
their gods in the wars of Troy and Italy; neither, had he now lived, would he have taxed Milton, as our false critics have presumed to do, for his choice of a supernatural argument; but he would have blamed my author, 5 who was a Christian, had he introduced into his poem heathen deities, as Tasso is condemned by Rapin on the like occasion; and as Camoens, the author of the Lusiads, ought to be censured by all his readers, when he brings in Bacchus and Christ into the same adventure 10 of his fable.
From that which has been said, it may be collected, that the definition of Wit (which has been so often attempted, and ever unsuccessfully by many poets) is only this: that it is a propriety of thoughts and words; 15 or, in other terms, thoughts and words elegantly adapted to the subject. If our critics will join issue on this definition, that we may convenire in aliquo tertio; if they will take it as a granted principle, it will be easy to put an end to this dispute. No man will disagree from 20 another's judgment concerning the dignity of style in Heroic Poetry; but all reasonable men will conclude it necessary, that sublime subjects ought to be adorned with the sublimest, and consequently often with the most figurative expressions. In the meantime I will 25 not run into their fault of imposing my opinions on other men, any more than I would my writings on their taste: I have only laid down, and that superficially enough, my present thoughts; and shall be glad to be taught better by those who pretend to reform our 30 Poetry.
ALL FOR LOVE, OR THE WORLD
THE death of Antony and Cleopatra is a subject which has been treated by the greatest wits of our nation, after Shakespeare; and by all so variously, that their example has given me the confidence to try myself in this bow of Ulysses amongst the crowd of suitors; and, withal, to 5 take my own measures, in aiming at the mark. I doubt not but the same motive has prevailed with all of us in this attempt; I mean the excellency of the moral: for the chief persons represented were famous patterns of unlawful love; and their end accordingly was unfor- 10 tunate. All reasonable men have long since concluded, that the hero of the poem ought not to be a character of perfect virtue, for then he could not, without injustice, be made unhappy; nor yet altogether wicked, because he could not then be pitied. I have therefore steered 15 the middle course; and have drawn the character of Antony as favourably as Plutarch, Appian, and Dion Cassius would give me leave; the like I have observed in Cleopatra. That which is wanting to work up the pity to a greater height, was not afforded me by the 20 story; for the crimes of love, which they both committed, were not occasioned by any necessity, or fatal ignorance,