Page images

tive enemies to a young genius, want and dependence. "I can eafily conceive, fays a "late moralift, that a mind occupied and "overwhelmed with the weight and immenfity of its own conceptions, glancing with

[ocr errors]

astonishing rapidity from heaven to earth, • and from earth to heaven, cannot willingly "fubmit to the dull drudgery, of examining "the juftness and accuracy of a butcher's "bill. To defcend from the wideft and comprehensive views of nature, and weigh "out hops for a brewing, must be invincibly

[ocr errors]

difgufting to a true genius; to be able to "build imaginary palaces of the most exqui"fite architecture, but yet not to pay a car

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

penter's bill, is a cutting mortification and disgrace.” *

ON the other hand, opulence, and high ftation would be equally pernicious and unfavourable to a young genius; as they would almost unavoidably embarrass and immerse him, in the cares, the pleasures, the indo

The Adventurer, No. 50.


lence, and the diffipation, that accompany abundance. And perhaps the fortune most truly defireable, and the fituation most precisely proper for a young poet, are marked out in that celebrated faying of Charles the ninth of France; " equi et poetæ ALENDI funt, non SAGINANDI."

THE ESSAY ON CRITICISM, which occafioned the introduction of these reflections, was firft, I am well informed, written in profe, according to the precept of Vida, and the practice of Racine.

Quinetiam, prius effigiem formare, SOLUTIS,
Totiufque operis fimulacrum fingere, verbis,
Proderit; atque omnes ex ordine nectere partes,
Et feriem rerum, et certos fibi ponere fines,
Per quos tuta-regens veftigia tendere pergas.


When Racine had fixed on a fubject for a play, he wrote down in plain profe, not only the fubject of each of the five acts, but of every scene and every speech; so that he

*Poetic. lib. 1. ver. 75.


could e a view of the whole at once, and fee whether every part cohered, and cooperated to produce the intended event: when his matter was thus regularly difpofed, he was used to say, My Tragedy is finished.”

INow propose to make some observations on, and illustrations of fuch paffages and precepts in this ESSAY, as, on account of their utility, novelty, or elegance, deserve particular attention; and perhaps I may take the freedom to hint at a few imperfections, in this SENSIBLE performance. I fhall cite the paffages in the natural order, in which they fucceffively occur.

1. In poets as true genius is but rare †

It is indeed fo extremely rare, that no country in the fucceflion of many ages has produced above three or four persons that deferve the title. The "man of rhymes" may be easily found; but the genuine poet, of a lively plastic imagination, the true MAKER

+ Ver. 11.


or CREATOR, is fo uncommon a pro y, that one is almost tempted to subscribe to the opinion of Sir William Temple, where he says, "That of all the numbers of mankind, that "live within the compass of a thousand years, "for one man that is born capable of making "a great poet, there may be a thousand born

capable of making as great generals, or "ministers of state, as the most renowned in "story."* There are indeed more causes required to concur to the formation of the former than of the latter, which neceffarily render it's production more difficult.

2. True taste as feldom is the critic's fhare. ‡

La Bruyere fays very fenfibly, I will allow the good writers are scarce enough; but then I ask, where are the people that know how to read?

3. Let fuch teach others who themselves excel, And cenfure freely who have written well. †

*Mifcell. Effay 4. part 2.

‡ v. 12.

+ v. 15.

[ocr errors]

It is fomewhere remarked by Dryden, I think, that none but a poet is qualified to judge of a poet. The maxim is however contradicted by experience. Ariftotle is faid indeed to have written one ode; but nether Boffu nor Hurd, are poets. The penetrating author of the Reflexions on Poetry, Painting, and Music, will for ever be read with delight, and with profit by all ingenious artists; il ne favait pourtant pas la mufique, fays Voltaire, * il n' avoit jamais pu faire de vers, & n' avoit pas un tableau: mais il avoit beaucoup lû, vû, entendû, & reflechi. And Lord Shaftefbury speaks with fome indignation on this subject; if a musician performs his part well in the hardest symphonies, he must neceffarily know the notes, and understand the rules of harmony and mufic. But must a man, therefore, who has an ear, and has ftudied the rules of mufic, of neceffity have a voice or hand? can no one poffibly judge a fiddle, but who is himself a fidler? can no

[blocks in formation]
« EelmineJätka »