« EelmineJätka »
place, title, and fame, are implicitly desired. When one is possessed of the end through any one of these means, it is not wholly unphilosophical to covet the remainder? Lord Shaftesbury, in the genteel management of some familiar ideas, seems to have no equal. He discovers an eloigument from vulgar phrases much becoming a person of quality. His sketches should be studied, like those of Raphael. His “Enquiry" is one of the shortest and clearest systems of morality. The question is, whether you distinguish me, because you have better sense than other people ; or whether you seem to have better sense than other people, because you distinguish
Ove feels the same kind of disgust in reading Roman history, which one does in novels, or even epic poetry. We too easily foresee to whom the victory will fall. The hero, the knight-errant, and the Roman, are too seldoni overcome. The elegance and dignity of the Romans is in nothing more conspicuous than in their answers to ambassadors. There is an important omission in most of our graminar-schools, through which what we read, either of fabulous or real history, leaves either faint of confused impressions. I mean the neglect of old geographical maps. Were maps of ancient Greece, Sicily, Italy, &c. in use there, the knowledge we there acquire would not want to be renewed afterwards, as is now generally the case. of a pedantic turn will spend five years in translating and contending for the beauties of a worse poem than he might write in five weeks himself. There seem to be authors who wish to sacrifice their whole character of genius to that of learning. Boileau has endeavoured to prove, in one of his admirable satires, that man has no manner of pretence to prefer his faculties before those of the brute creation. Oldham has translated him: my Lord Rochester has imitated him: and even Mr. Pope declares,
" That, reason rạise o'er instinct how you can,
in this 't is God directs; in that 't is man.” Indeed the “ Essay on Man" abounds with illustra. tions of this axim; and it is amazing to find how inany plausible reasons may be urged to support it. It seems evident that our itch of reasoning and spirit of curiosity, precludes more happiness than it can possibly advance. What numbers of deseases are entirely artificial things, far from the ability of a brute to contrive! We disrelish and deny ourselves cheap and natural gratifications, through speculative presciences and doubts about the future. We canpot discover the designs of our Creator. We should learn then of brutes to be easy under our ignorance, and happy in those objects that seem intended, obviously, for our happiness: not overlook the flowers of the garden, and foolishly perplex ourselves with the intricacies of the labyrinth.
I wish but two editions of all books whatsoever. One of the simple text, published by a society of able hands : another with the various readings and remarks of the ablest commentators. To endeavour, all one's days, to fortify our minds with learning and philosophy, is to spend so much in armour that one has nothing left to defend. If one would think with philosophers, one must converse but little with the vulgar. These, by their very number, will force a person into a fondness for appearance, a love of noney, a desire of power; and other plebeian pas
sions : objects which they admire, because they liave no share in, and have not learning to supply the place of experience. Livy, the most elegant and principal of the Roman historians, was, perhaps, as superstitious as the most unlearned plebean. We see, he never is destitute of appearances, accurately described and solemnly asserted, to support particular events by the interposition of exploded deities. The puerile attentions to chicken-feeding in a morning-and then a piece of gravity: “ Parva sunt hæc, sed parva ista non contemnenda; majores nostri maximam hanc rem fecerunt.”
It appears from the Roman historians, that the Romans had a partic ular veneration for the fortunate. thet, “Felix," seems ever to imply a favourite of the gods. I am mistaking, or modern Rome has generally acted in an opposite manner. Numbers amongst them have been canonized on the single merit of misfortunes. How different appears ancient and modern dialogue, on account of superficial subjects on which we now generally converse! add to this, the ceremonial of modern times, and the number of titles with which some kings clog and encumber conversation.
The celebrated boldness of an eastern metaphor is, I believe, sometimes allowed for the inconsiderable similitude it bears to it's sub, ject. The style of letters, perhaps, should not rise higher than the style of refined conversation. Love-verses, written without real passion, are often the most nauseous of all conceits. Those written from the heart will ever bring to mind that delightful season of youth, and poetry, and love.
Virgil gives one such excessive pleasure in his writings, beyond any other writer, by uniting the most perfect harmony of metre, with the most pleasing ideas or images:
“ Qualem virgineo demessum pollice florem;" And,
" Argentum Pariusve la pis.”— with a thousand better instances. Nothing tends so much to produce drunkenness, or even madness, as the frequent use of parenthesis in conversation. Few greater images of impatience, than a general seeing his brave army over-matched and cut to pieces, and looking out continually to see his ally approach with forces to his assistance. See Shake. speare.
“ When my dear Percy, when my heart's dear Harry,
BOOKS, &c. Similies, drawn from odd circumstances and effects strangely accidental, bear a near relation to false wit. The best instance of the kind is that celebrated line of Waller:
“ He grasped at love, and filled his hand with bays.” Virgil discovers less wit, and more taste, than any writer in the world.-Some instances :
“_longumque bibebat amorem.” What Lucretius says of the “edita doctrinæ sapientum templa”-“the temples of philosophers”-appears in no sense more applicable than to a snug and
“ Dispicere unde queas alios, pas imque videre
errare, atque viam palantes quærere vitæ." i. e. From whence you may look down upon foot-passengers, see them wandering on each side of you, and pick their way through the dirt:
and see plebeian spirits range below.” There is a sort of masonry in poetry, wherein the pause represents the joints of building; which ought in every line and course to have their disposition varied.
The difference betwixt a witty writer and a writer of taste is chiefly this. The former is negligent what ideas he introduces, so he joins them surprisingly.-The latter is principally careful what images he introduces, and studies simplicity rather than surprise in his manner of introduction. It may, in some measure, account for the difference of taste in the reading of books, to consider the difference of our ears for music. One is not pleased without a perfect melody of style, be the sense what it will : another, of no ear for inusic, gives to sense it's full weight without any deduction on account of harshness. Harinony of period and melody of style have greater weight than is generally imagined in the judgment we pass on writing and writers. As a proof of this, let us reflect, what texts of scripture, what lines in poetry, or what periods we most remember and quote, either in verse or prose, and we shall find them to be only musical ones. I wonder the ancient mythology never shews Apollo enamoured of Venus; considering the remarkable deference that wit has paid to beauty in all ages. The Orientals act more conso
nsonantly, when they suppose the nightingale enamoured of the rose ;-the most harmonious bird of the fairest and most delightful flower
Hope is a flatterer; but the