Page images



May not the custom of scraping when we bow, be derived from the ancient custom of throwing their shoes backwards off their feet? The preference which some give to Virgil before Homer is often owing to complexion: some are more formed to enjoy the grand; and others, the beautiful. But as for invention and sublinity, the most shining qualities of imagination, there is surely no comparison between them. - Yet I enjoy Virgil

Agreeable ideas rise, in proportion as they are drawn from inanimates, from vegetables, from animals, and from human creatures. One reason why the sound is sometimes an echo to the sense is, that the pleasantest objects have often the most harmonious names annexed to them. A man of a merely argumentative cast will read poetry as prose; will only regard the quantum it contains of solid reasoning: just as a clown attacks a dessert, considering it as so much victuals, and regardless of those lively or emblematic decorations, which the cook, for many sleepless nights, bas endeavoured to bestow on it. Notwithstanding all that Rousseau has advanced so very ingeniously on plays and players, their profession is, like that of a painter, one of the imitative arts whose means are pleasure, and whose end is virtue. They both alike, for a subsistence, submit themselves to public opinion: and the dishonour that has attended the last profession, seems not easily accountable. As there are evidently words in English poetry that have all the force of a dactyle, and, if properly inserted, have no small beauty on that account, it seems absurd to contract, pr print them otherwise than at length,

In other poe

& The loose wall tottering o'er the trembling shade.”

Ogilvy'; Day of Judgment."Trembling" has also the force of a dactyle in a less degree but cannot be written otherwise. I have sometimes thought Virgil so remarkably musical, that were his lines read to a musician, wholly igo ; norant of the language, by a person of capacity to give each word it's proper accent, he would not fail to distinguish in it all the graces of harmony. I think, I can observe a peculiar beauty in the addition of a short syllable, at the end of a blank verse: I mean, however, in blank dialogue. try it is as sure to flatten ; which may be discerned in Prior's translation of “ Callimachus," viz.-" the holy victim-Dictæan, hearest thou-Birth, great Rheå-Inferior reptile—"&c. &c. for the translation abounds with them; and is rendered by these means prosaic. The case is only, prose being an initation of common life, the nature of an ode requires that it should be lifted some degrees higher. But in dialogue, the larguage ought never to leave nature the least out of sight; and especially where pity is to be produced, it appears to receive an advantage from the melancholy flow this syllable occasions. Let me produce a few instances from Otway's tragedy of the “ Unhappy Marriage;" and, in order to form a judgment, let the reader substitute a word of equal import, but of a syllable less, in the place of the instances I produce ( some instances are numberless, where they familiarize and give an ease to dialogue).

my ill fate's ироп

-"Why was I not laid in my peaceful grave,

with my poor parents, and at rest as they are pe

_I never see you now you have been kinder." Why was I made with all


sex's softness. yet want the cunning to conceal it's folliès? I'll see Castalio-tax hin with his falsehood.

Should you charge rough, I should but weep, and answer you with sobbing." When thou art from me, every place is desert.

Surely Paradise is round me, and every sense is full of thy perfection. To hear thee speak might calm a madman's frenzy, till by attention he forgot his sorrows." Till good men wish him dead-or I offend him.. " And hang upon you like a drowning creature.

Cropt this fair rose, and rified all it's sweetness." -“ Give me Chamont, and let the world forsake me.'

I've drank an healing draught for all my cares, and never more shall wrong thče." "When I'm luid low in the cold grave forgotten,

may you be happy in a fairer bride,

but none can ever love you like Monimia.I should imagine, that, in some or most of these ex• amples, a particular degree of tenderness is owing to the supernumerary syllable; yet it requires a nice ear for the disposition of it (for it must not be universal); and, with this, may give at once an harmonious flow, a natural ease, an energy, tenderness, and variety to the language. A man of dry sound judgment attends to the truth of the proposition ;-a man of ear and sensibility to the music of the versification: med man of a well regulated taste finds the former more

deeply imprinted on him, by the judicious management of the latter. It seems to me, that what are called notes at the bottom of pages (as well as parenthesis in writing) might be generally avoided, without injuring the thread of a discourse. It is true, it might require some address to interweave them gracefully into the text; but how much more agreeable would be the effect, than to interrupt the reader by such frequent avocations? How much more graceful to play a tune upon one set of keys, with varied stops, than to seek the same variety by an awkward motion from one set to another? It bears a little hard on our candour, that “ to take to pieces," in our language, signifies the same as “ to expose;" and “to expose” has a signification, which good-nature can as little allow, as can the laws of etymology. The ordinary letters from friend to friend seem capable of receiving a better turn, than mere compliment, frivolous intelligence, or professions of friendship continually repeated. The established maxim, to correspond with ease, has almost excluded every useful subject. But may not excess of negligence discover affectation, as well as it's opposite extreme? There are many degrees of intermediate solidity betwixt a Westphalia bam and a whipt syllabub. I am astonished to remark the defect of ear, which some tolerably harmonious poets discover in their Alexandrines. It seems wondersul that an error so obvious, and so very disgustful to a nice ear, should occur so frequently as the following:

« What seraph e'er could preach

so choice a lecture as his wond'rous virtue's lore?” The pause being after the sixth syllable, it is plain

the whole emphasis of pronunciation is thrown on the particle as. It seems most amazing to me, that this should be so common a blunder.

- Siniplex munditiis” has been esteemed universally to be a phrase at once very expressive, and of very difficult interpretation: at least, not very capable to be explained without circumlocution. What objection can we make to that single word “ elegant,” which excludes the glare and multiplicity of ornaments, on one side, as much as it does dirt and rusticity on the other?

The French use the word "s naïve" in such a sense as to be explained by no English word; unless we will submit to restrain ourselves in the application of the word “ sentimental.” It means the language of passion or the heart, in opposition to the language of reflection and the head.

The most frequent mistake that is made, seems to be that of the means for the end: thus riches for happiness, and thus learning for sense. The former of these is hourly observable: and as to the latter, methioks, this age atfurds frequent and surprising instances. It is with real concern, that I observe many persons of true poetic genius endeavouring to quench their native fire, that they may exhibit learning without a single spark of it. Nor is it uncommon to see an author translate a book, when, with halt the pains, he could write a better : but the translation savours more of learning; and gives room for notes, which exhibit

Learning, like money, may be of so base a coin, as to be utterly void of use; or, if sterling, inay require good management to make it serve the purposes of sense or happiness.

When a nobleman has once conferred any great favour on bis inferior, he ought thenceforth to consider, that


« EelmineJätka »