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noble, full, and significant; and I know not why he who is master of it may not clothe ordinary things in it as decently as the Latin, if he use the same diligence in his choice of words:
Delectus verborum origo est eloquentiæ. It was the saying of Julius Cæsar, one so curious in his, that none of them can be changed but for a worse. One would think, unlock the door, was a thing as vulgar as could be spoken; and yet Seneca could make it sound high and lofty in his Latin:
Reserate clusos regii postes laris." Set wide the palace gates.
But I turn from this exception, both because it happens not above twice or thrice in any play that those vulgar thoughts are used; and then too, were there no other apology to be made, yet the necessity of them, which is alike in all kind of writing, may excuse them. For if they are little and mean in rhyme, they are of consequence such in blank verse. Besides that the great eagerness and precipitation with which they are spoken, makes us rather mind the substance than the dress; that for which they are spoken, rather than what is spoke. For they are always the effect of some hasty concernment, and something of consequence depends on them.
Thus, Crites, I have endeavoured to answer your objections: it remains only that I should vindicate an argument for verse, which you have gone about to overthrow. It had formerly been said, that the easiness of blank verse renders the poet too luxuriant; but that the labour of rhyme bounds and circumscribes an over-fruitful fancy; the sense there being commonly confined to the couplet, and the words so ordered, that the rhyme naturally follows them, not they the rhyme. To this you answered, that it was
much sport at the time, but were thought worthy of being remitted into a large folio. He was a stanch Cavalier, which might in some degree bribe Anthony's judgment of his poetry. His poetry is very like that which Skelton wrote a century before him. Among other pieces, there are some comical addresses to his subscribers, whom he divides into those who had received and paid their books; those who had done neither; and those who, having received, were unable to pay. To the first class he abounds in gratitude; the second he addresses as between hope and despair; the third he treats civ. illy, as they were defaulters from inability, and had always given him plenty of sack and fair promises: but, as was reason, he reserves the extremity of his displeasure for a fourth class of subscribers, who, having received his books, refused to pay the subscription.
This Sir Robert Howard quoted, in his preface to the "Duke of Lerma," and unluckily translated it, "Shutting the palace gates," for which Dryden severely animadverts on him.
no argument to the question in hand; for the dispute was not, which way a man may write best, but which is most proper for the subject on which he writes.
First, give me leave, sir, to remember you, that the argument against which you raised this objection, was only secondary: it was built on this hypothesis,-that to write in verse was proper for serious plays. Which supposition being granted, (as it was briefly made out in that discourse, by showing how verse might be made natural,) it asserted, that this way of writing was a help to the poet's judgment, by putting bounds to a wild overflowing fancy. I think therefore it will not be hard for me to make good what it was to prove on that supposition. But you add, that were this let pass, yet he who wants judgment in the liberty of his fancy, may as well show the defect of it when he is confined to verse: for he who has judgment will avoid errors, and he who has it not, will commit them in all kinds of writing.
This argument, as you have taken it from a most acute person,* so, I confess, it carries much weight in it: but by using the word judgment here indefinitely, you seem to have put a fallacy upon us. I grant, he who has judgment, that is, so profound, so strong, or rather so infallible a judgment, that he needs no helps to keep it always poised and upright, will commit no faults either in rhyme or out of it. And on the other extreme, he who has a judgment so weak and crazed, that no helps can correct or amend it, shall write scurvily out of rhyme, and worse in it. But the first of these judgments is nowhere to be found, and the latter is not fit to write at all. To speak therefore of judgment as it is in the best poets; they who have the greatest proportion of it, want other helps than from it, within. As for example, you would be loth to say, that he who is endued with a sound judgment, has no need of history, geography, or moral philosophy, to write correctly. Judgment is indeed the master-workman in a play; but he requires many subordinate hands, many tools to his assistance. And verse I affirm to be one of these: it is a rule and line by which he keeps his building compact and even, which otherwise lawless imagination would raise either irregularly or loosely; at least, if the poet commits errors with this help, he would make greater and more without it:-it is, in short, a slow and painful, but the surest kind of working. Ovid, whom you accuse for luxuriancy in verse, had perhaps been farther guilty of it, had he writ in prose. And for your instance of Ben
• Meaning Sir Robert Howard himself.
Jonson, who, you say, writ exactly without the help of rhyme; you are to remember, it is only an aid to a luxuriant fancy, which his was not: as he did not want imagination, so none ever said he had much to spare. Neither was verse then refined so much, to be a help to that age, as it is to ours. Thus then the second thoughts being usually the best, as receiving the maturest digestion from judgment, and the last and most mature product of those thoughts being artful and laboured verse, it may well be inferred, that verse is a great help to a luxuriant fancy; and that is what that argument which you opposed was to evince.
Neander was pursuing this discourse so eagerly, that Eugenius had called to him twice or thrice, ere he took notice that the barge stood still, and that they were at the foot of Somerset stairs,
where they had appointed it to land. The company were all sorry to separate so soon, though a great part of the evening was already spent ; and stood a while looking back on the water, upon which the moonbeams played, and made it appear like floating quicksilver: at last they went up through a crowd of French people,* who were merrily dancing in the open air, and nothing concerned for the noise of guns, which had alarmed the town that afternoon. Walking thence together to the Piazze, they parted there; Eugenius and Lisideius to some pleasant appointment they had made, and Crites and Neander to their several lodgings.
From the conduct of Louis XIV. who gradually retrenched until he altogether abolished the edict of Nantz, there was a constant emigration to England of his Huguenot subjects.
AN ANSWER TO RYMER'S REMARKS, &c.
THOMAS RYMER, distinguished as the editor of the Fadera of England, was in his earlier years ambitious of the fame of a critic. In 1678, he published a small duodecimo, entitled, "The Tragedies of the last Age considered and examined by the practice of the Ancients, and the common Sense of all Ages, in a letter to Fleetwood and Shepherd." The criticisms apply chiefly to the tragedies of the latter part of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I.; out of which he has singled, as the particular subjects of reprehension, those of "Rollo," "The Maid's Tragedy," and "King and no King," In this criticism, there was "much malico mingled with a little wit;" obvious faults and absurdities were censured as disgusting to common sense, on the one hand: on the other, licenses unpractised by the ancients were condemned as barbarous and unclassical.
A severe critic, if able but plausibly to support his remarks by learning and acumen, strikes terror through the whole world of literature. It is in vain to represent to such a person that he only examines the debtor side of the account, and omits to credit the unfortunate author with the merit that he has justly a title to claim. Instead of a fair accounting between the public and the poet, his cause is tried as in a criminal action, where, if he is convicted of a crime, all the merit of his work will not excuse him. There must be something in the mind of man favourable to a system which tends to the levelling of talents in the public estimation, or such critics as Rymer could never have risen into notice. Yet Dryden, in the following projected answer to his Remarks, has treated him with great respect: and Pope, according to Spence, pronounced him "one of the best critics we ever had."
That Dryden should have been desirous to conciliate the favour of an avowed critic, was
natural enough; but that Pope should have so spoken of Rymer, only argues, either that he was prejudiced by the opinions which his youth had sucked in from Walsh, Wycherly, and Trumbull, or that his taste for the drama was far inferior to his powers in every other range of poetry.
If Dryden had arranged and extended the materials of his answer, it is possible that he would have treated Rymer with less deferenco than he showed while collecting them; for in the latter years of Dryden's life they were upon bad terms.
To a reader of the present day, when the cant of criticism has been in some degree abandoned, nothing can be more disgusting than the remarks of Rymer, who creeps over the most beautiful passages of the drama with eyes open only to their defects, or their departure from scholastic precept; who denies the name of poetry to the "Paradise Lost," and compares judging of "Rollo " by "Othello," to adjusting one crooked line by another. But I would be by no means understood to say, that there is not sometimes justice, though never mercy, in his criticism.
Dryden had intended to enter the lists with Rymer in defence of the ancient theatre, and with this view had wrote the following Heads of an Answer to the Remarks. They were jotted down on the blank leaves of a copy of the book presented to Dryden by Rymer. The volume falling into the hands of the publishers of Beaumont and Fletcher's works, in 1711, they prefixed Dryden's observations, as furnishing an apology for their authors. They were again published by Dr. Johnson, into whose hands they were put by Garrick, who had the original in his collection. The arrangement is different in the two copies; that of Dr. Johnson has been adopted, as preferred by Mr. Malone.
HEADS OF AN ANSWER
RYMER'S REMARKS ON THE TRAGEDIES OF THE LAST AGE.
THAT We may the less wonder why pity and terror are not now the only spring on which our tragedies move,* and that Shakspeare may be more excused, Rapin confesses, that the French tragedies now all run on the tendre; and gives the reason, because love is the passion which most predominates in our souls; and that therefore the passions represented become insipid, unless they are conformable to the thoughts of the audience. But it is to be concluded, that this passion works not now amongst the French so strongly, as the other two did amongst the ancients. Amongst us, who have a stronger genius for writing, the operations from the writing are much stronger; for the raising of Shakspeare's passions is more from the excellency of the words and thoughts, than the justness of the occasion; and if he has been able to pick single occasions, he has never founded the whole reasonably; yet, by the genius of poetry in writing, he has succeeded.
Rapin attributes more to the dictio, that is, to the words and discourse of a tragedy, than Aristotle has done, who places them in the last rank of beauties; perhaps, only last in order, because they are the last product of the design, of the disposition or connexion of its parts, of the characters, of the manners of those characters, and of the thoughts proceeding from those manners. Rapin's words are remarkable:-It is not the admirable intrigue, the surprising events, and extraordinary incidents, that make the beauty of a tragedy; it is the discourses, when they are natural and passionate. So are Shakspeare's.
The parts of a poem, tragic or heroic, are, 1. The fable itself.
2. The order or manner of its contrivance
in relation of the parts to the whole.
3. The manners, or decency of the characters, in speaking or acting what is proper for them, and proper to be shown by the poet.
4. The thoughts, which express the manners. 5. The words, which express those thoughts. In the last of these, Homer excels Virgil; Virgil all other ancient poets; and Shakspeare all modern poets.
For the second of these, the order: the meaning is, that a fable ought to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, all just and natural; so that that part, e. g. which is the middle, could not naturally be the beginning or end, and so of the rest; all depend on one another, like the links of a curious chain. If terror and pity are only to be raised, certainly this author follows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles' and Euripides' example; but joy may be raised too, and that doubly, either by seeing a wicked man punished, or a good man at last fortunate; or perhaps indignation, to see wickedness prosperous, and goodness depressed: both these may be profitable to the end of tragedy, reformation of manners; but the last improperly, only as it begets pity in the audience; though Aristotle, I confess, places tragedies of this kind in the second form.
He who undertakes to answer this excellent critique of Mr. Rymer, in behalf of our Engish poets against the Greek, ought to do it in this manner: either by yielding to him the greatest part of what he contends for, which consists in this, that the μúlos, i. e. the design and conduct of it, is more conducing in the Greeks to those ends of tragedy which Aristotle and he propose, namely, to cause terror and pity; yet the granting this does not set the Greeks above the English poets.
But the answerer ought to prove two things. First, That the fable is not the greatest mas
Rymer sets out with the old dogma, that no
source of tragedy was legitimate, except that terpiece of a tragedy, though it be the founda
springing from pity or terror.
tion of it.
Secondly, That other ends, as suitable to the nature of tragedy, may be found in the English, which were not in the Greek.
Aristotle places the fable first; not quoad dignitatem, sed quoad fundamentum: for a fable, never so movingly contrived to those ends of his, pity and terror, will operate nothing on our affections, except the characters, manners, thoughts, and words, are suitable.
So that it remains for Mr. Rymer to prove, that in all those, or the greatest part of them, we are inferior to Sophocles and Euripides; and this he has offered at, in some measure; but, I think, a little partially to the ancients.
For the fable itself: it is in the English more adorned with episodes, and larger than in the Greek poets; consequently more diverting. For if the action be but one, and that plain, without any counter-turn of design or episode, i. e. under-plot, how can it be so pleasing as the English, which have both under plot and a turned design, which keeps the audience in expectation of the catastrophe ? whereas in the Greek poets we see through the whole design at first.
For the characters, they are neither so many nor so various in Sophocles and Euripides, as in Shakspeare and Fletcher; only they are more adapted to those ends of tragedy which Aristotle commends to us, pity and terror.
The manners flow from the characters, and consequently must partake of their advantages and disadvantages.
The thoughts and words, which are the fourth and fifth beauties of tragedy, are certainly more noble and more poetical in the English than in the Greek, which must be proved by comparing them somewhat more equitably than Mr. Rymer has done.
After all, we need not yield, that the English way is less conducing to move pity and terror, because they often show virtue oppressed and vice punished; where they do not both, or either, they are not to be defended.
And if we should grant that the Greeks performed this better, perhaps it may admit of dispute, whether pity and terror are either the prime, or at least the only ends of tragedy.
It is not enough that Aristotle has said so, for Aristotle drew his models of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides; and if he had seen ours, might have changed his mind. And chiefly we have to say, (what I hinted on pity and terror, in the last paragraph save one,) that the punishment of vice and reward of virtue are the most adequate ends of tragedy, because most conducing to good example of life. Now vity is not so easily raised for a criminal, (and
the ancient tragedy always represents its chief person such,) as it is for an innocent man; and the suffering of innocence and punishment of the offender is of the nature of English tragedy: contrarily, in the Greek, innocence is unhappy often, and the offender escapes. Then we are not touched with the sufferings of any sort of men so much as of lovers, and this was almost unknown to the ancients: so that they neither administered poetical justice, of which Mr. Rymer boasts, so well as we, neither knew they the best common-place of pity, which is love.
He therefore unjustly blames us for not building on what the ancients left us; for it seems, upon consideration of the premises, that we have wholly finished what they began.
My judgment on this piece is this: that it is extremely learned, but that the author of it is better read in the Greek than in the English poets; that all writers ought to study this critique, as the best account I have ever seen of the ancients; that the model of tragedy he has here given is excellent, and extremely correct but that it is not the only model of all tragedy, because it is too much circumscribed in plot, characters, &c.; and lastly, that we may be taught here justly to admire and imitate the ancients, without giving them the preference, with this author, in prejudice to our own country.
Want of method in this excellent treatise, makes the thoughts of the author sometimes
His meaning, that pity and terror are to be moved, is, that they are to be moved as the means conducing to the ends of tragedy, which are pleasure and instruction.
And these two ends may be thus distinguished. The chief end of the poet is to please; for his immediate reputation depends on it.
The great end of the poem is to instruct, which is performed by making pleasure the vehicle of that instruction; for poesy is an art, and all arts are made to profit.--Rapin.
The pity which the poet is to labour for, is for the criminal, not for those or him whom he has murdered, or who have been the occasion of the tragedy. The terror is likewise in the punishment of the same criminal, who, if he be represented too great an offender, will not be pitied; if altogether innocent, his punishment will be unjust.
Another obscurity is, where he says, Sophocles perfected tragedy by introducing the third actor; that is, he meant, three kinds of action;
"After much new modelling, many changes, and alterations, Eschylus came with a second actor on the stage, and lessened the business of the cho