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These hits of words a true Poet often finds, as I may say, without seeking; but he knows their value when he finds them, and is infinitely pleased. A bad Poet may sometimes light on them, but he discerns not a diamond from a Bristol stone ; and would have been of the cock's mind in Æsop, a grain of barley would have pleased him better than the jewel. The lights and shadows which belong to colouring, put me in mind of that verse of Horace,
Hoc amat obscuram, vult hoc sub luce videri. Some parts of a Poem require to be amply written, and with all the force and elegance of words : others must be cast into shadows; that is, passed over in silence, or but faintly touched. This belongs wholly to the judgement of the Poet and the Painter. The most beautiful parts of the Picture and the Poem must be the most finished ; the colours and words most chosen ; many things in both, which are not deserving of this care, must be shifted off, content with vulgar expressions; and those very short, and left, as in a shadow, to the imagination of the reader. We have the proverb,
66 Manum de my eyes
tabulâ,” from the painters, which signifies to know when to give over, and to lay by the pencil. Both Homer and Virgil practised this precept wonderfully well ; but Virgil the better of the two. Homer knew that when Hector was slain, Troy was as good as already taken; therefore he concludes his action there: for what follows in the funerals of Patroclus, and the redemption of Hector's body, is not, properly speaking, a part of the main action.
But Virgil concludes with the death of Turnus ; for, after that difficulty was removed, Æneas might marry, and establish the Trojans when he pleased. This rule I had before
in the conclusion of the Spanish Friar, when the discovery was made that the king was living; which was the knot of the play untied: the rest is shut up in the compass of some few lines, because nothing then hindered the happiness of Torismond and Leonora. The faults of that drama are in the kind of it, which is Tragi-comedy. But it was given to the people, and I never writ any thing for myself but Antony and Cleopatra.
The remark, I must acknowledge, is not so proper for the colouring as the design; but it will hold for both. As the words, &c. are evidently shown to be the cloathing of the thought, in the same sense as colours are the cloathing of the design ; so the Painter and the Poet ought to judge exactly when the colouring and expressions are perfect, and then to think their work is truly finished. Apelles said of Protogenes, that “ he knew not when to give " . A work may be over-wrought well as under-wrought :
too much labour often takes away the spirit, by adding to the polishing ; so that there remains nothing but a dull correctness, a piece without any considerable faults, but with few beauties for when the spirits are drawn off, there is nothing but a caput mortuum.' Statius never thought an expression could be bold enough; and if a bolder could be found, he rejected the first. Virgil had judgement enough to know daring was necessary ; but he knew the difference betwixt a glowing colour and a glaring; as when he compared the shocking
of the fleets at Actium to the justling of islands rent from their foundations and meeting in the ocean. He knew the comparison was forced beyond nature, and raised too high; he therefore softens the metaphor with a credas. You would almost believe that mountains or islands rushed against each other :
-Credas innare revulsas Cycladas ; aut montes concurrere montibus æquos. But here I must break off without finishing the discourse.
Cynthius aurem vellit, et admonuit, &c.'' the things which are behind are of too nice a consideration for an Essay begun and ended in twelve mornings; and perhaps the judges of Painting and Poetry, when I tell them how short a time it cost me, may
make me the same answer which my late Lord Rochester made to one, who, to commend a Tragedy, said, it was written in three weeks: How the Devil could he be so long about it? for that Poem was infamously bad,” and I doubt this parallel is little better ; and then the shortness of the time is so far from being a commendation, that it
is scarcely an excuse. But if I have really drawn a portrait to the knees, or an halflength, with a tolerable likeness, then I may plead with some justice for myself, that the rest is left to the imagination.
Let some better Artist provide himself of a deeper canvas; and taking these hints which I have given, set the figure on its legs, and finish it in the Invention, Design, and Colouring,