« VorigeDoorgaan »
beauty, as they may chance to occur in the classics Cicero tells us, that in translating two orations, that are used for his instruction. In reading Cor- which the most celebrated orators of Greece pronelius Nepos, and Plutarch's Lives, even with a nounced against each other, he performed this task, view to grammatical improvement only, he will in- not as servile interpreter, but as an orator, presensibly imbibe, and learn to compare ideas of serving the sentiments, forms, and figures of the greater importance. He will become enamoured original, but adapting the expression to the taste of virtue and patriotism, and acquire a detestation and manners of the Romans: In quibus 1072 terfor vice, cruelty, and corruption. The perusal of bum pro verbo necesse habui reddere, sed gerus the Roman story in the works of Florus, Sallust, omnium verborum vimque serrari; "in which I Livy, and Tacitus, will irresistibly engage his at- did not think it was necessary to translate literally tention, expand his conception, cherish his memo- word for word, but I preserved the natural and full ry, exercise his judgment, and warm him with a scope of the whole.” Of the same opinion was noble spirit of emulation. He will contemplate Horace, who says, in his Art of Poetry, with love and admiration the disinterested can
Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus dour of Aristides, surnamed the Just, whom the
Interpres--guilty cabals of his rival Themistocles exiled from
Nor word for word translate with painful carehis ungrateful country, by a sentence of Ostracism. He will be surprised to learn, that one of his fellow- Nevertheless, in taking the liberty here granted, we citizens, an illiterate artisan, bribed by his enemies, are apt to run into the other extreme, and substichancing to meet him in the street without know. tute equivalent thoughts and phrases, till hardly ing his person, desired he would write Aristides on any features of the original remain. The metahis shell (which was the method those plebeians phors of figures, especially in poetry, ought to be used to vote against delinquents), when the inno- as religiously preserved as the images of painting cent patriot wrote his own name without com- which we ean not alter or exchange without deplaint or expostulation. He will with equal as stroying, or injuring at least, the character and tonishment applaud the inflexible integrity of Fa- style of the original. bricius, who preferred the poverty of innocence to In this manner the preceptor will sow the seeds all the pomp of affluence, with which Pyrrhus of that taste, which will soon germinate, rise, blosendeavoured to seduce him from the arms of his som, and produce perfect fruit by dint of future care country. He will approve with transport the no- and cultivation. In order to restrain the luxuble generosity of his soul in rejecting the proposal riancy of the young imagination, which is apt to of that prince's physician, who offered to take run riot, to enlarge the stock of ideas, exercise the him off by poison; and in sending the caitiff bound reason, and ripen the judgment, the pupil must be to his sovereign, whom he would have so basely engaged in the severer study of science. He must and cruelly betrayed.
learn geometry, which Plato recommends for In reading the ancient authors, even for the pur- strengthening the mind, and enabling it to think poses of school education, the unformed taste will with precision. He must be made acquainted with begin to relish the irresistible energy, greatness, geography and chronology, and trace philosophy and sublimity of Homer; the serene majesty, the through all her branches. Without geography and melody, and pathos of Virgil; the tenderness of chronology, he will not be able to acquire a distinct Sappho and Tibullus ; the elegance and propriety idea of history; nor judge of the propriety of many of Terence; the grace, vivacity, satire, and senti- interesting scenes, and a thousand allusions, that ment of Horace.
present themselves in the works of genius. No Nothing will more conduce to the improvement thing opens the mind so much as the researches of the scholar in his knowledge of the languages, of philosophy; they inspire us with sublime conas well as in taste and morality, than his being ceptions of the Creator, and subject, as it were, all obliged to translate choice parts and passages of nature to our command. These bestow that liberal the most approved classics, both poetry and prose, turn of thinking, and in a great measure contribute especially the latter ; such as the orations of De to that universality, in learning, by which a man mosthenes and Isocrates, the treatise of Longinus of taste ought to be eminently distinguished. But on the Sublime, the Commentaries of Cæsar, the history is the inexhaustible source from which he Epistles of Cicero and the younger Pliny, and the will derive his most useful knowledge respecting two celebrated speeches in the Catilinarian con- the progress of the human mind, the constitution spiracy by Sallust. By this practice he will be- of government, the rise and decline of empires the come more intimate with the beauties of the writ- revolution of arts, the variety of character, and the ing, and the idioms of the language, from which he vicissitudes of fortune. translates; at the same time it will form his style, The knowledge of history enables the poet not and by exercising his talent of expression, make only to paint characters, but also to describe mag. him a more perfect master of his mother tongue. nificent and interesting scenes of battle and adven
ture. Not that the poet or painter ought to be re- ideas of abhorrence and disgust. For example, a strained to the letter of historical truth. History painter would not find his account in exhibiting represents what has really happened in nature; the the resemblance of a dead carcass half consumed other arts exhibit what might have happened, with by vermin, or of swine wallowing in ordure, or of such exaggeration of circumstance and feature as a beggar lousing himself on a dunghill, though inay be deemed an improvement on nature": but these scenes should be painted ever so naturally, this exaggeration must not be carried beyond the and all the world must allow that the scenes were bounds of probability; and these, generally speak- taken from nature, because the merit of the imitaing, the knowledge of history will ascertain. It tion would be greatly overbalanced by the vile would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to choice of the artist. There are nevertheless many find a man actually existing, whose proportions scenes of horror, which please in the representashould answer to those of the Greek statue distin- tion, from a certain interesting greatness, which guished by the name of the Apollo of Belvedere; we shall endeavour to explain, when we come to or to produce a woman similar in proportion of consider the sublime. ' parts to the other celebrated piece called the Venus Were we to judge every production by the rigorde Medicis; therefore it may be truly affirmed, ous rules of nature, we should reject the Iliad of that they are not conformable to the real standard Homer, the Æneid of Virgil, and every celebrated of nature: nevertheless every artist will own, that tragedy of antiquity and the present times, because they are the very archetypes of grace, elegance, there is no such thing in nature as a Hector or and symmetry; and every judging eye must be- Turnus talking in hexameter, or an Othello in hold them with admiration, as improvements on blank verse: we should condemn the Hercules of the lines and lineaments of nature. The truth is, Sophocles, and the Miser of Moliere, because we the sculptor or statuary composed the various pro- never knew a hero so strong as the one, or a wretch portions in nature from a great number of different so sordid as the other. But if we consider poetry subjects, every individual of which he found im- as an elevation of natural dialogue, as a delightful perfect or defective in some one particular, though vehicle for conveying the noblest sentiments of hebeautiful in all the rest; and from these observa- roism and patriot virtue, to regale the sense with tions, corroborated by taste and judgment, he form- the sounds of musical expression, while the fancy an ideal pattern, according to which his idea was is ravished with enchanting images, and the heart modelled, and produced in execution.
warmed to rapture and ecstasy, we must allow that Every body knows the story of Zeuxis, the fa- poetry is a perfection to which nature would gladmous painter of Heraclea, who, according to Pliny, ly aspire; and that though it surpasses, it does not invented the chiaro oscuro, or disposition of light deviate from her, provided the characters are markand shade, among the ancients, and excelled all ed with propriety and sustained by genius. Charachis contemporaries in the chromatique, or art of ters therefore, both in poetry and painting, may be colouring. This great artist being employed to a little overcharged or exaggerated without offerdraw a perfect beauty in the character of Helen, to ing violence to nature ; nay, they must be exagbe placed in the temple of Juno, culled out five of gerated in order to be striking, and to preserve the the most beautiful damsels the city could produce, idea of imitation, whence the reader and spectator and selecting what was excellent in each, com- derive in many instances their chief delight. If bined them in one picture according to the predis- we meet a common acquaintance in the street, we position of his fancy, so that it shone forth an see him without emotion; but should we chance to amazing model of perfection.* In like manner spy his portrait well executed, we are struck with every man of genius, regulated by true taste, en-pleasing admiration. In this case the pleasure tertains in his imagination an ideal beauty, con- arises entirely from the imitation. We every day ceived and cultivated as an improvement upon na-hear unmoved the natives of Ireland and Scotland ture: and this we refer to the article of invention. speaking their own dialects; but should an Eng
It is the business of art to imitate nature, but not lish mimic either, we are apt to burst out into a with a servile pencil; and to choose those attitudes loud laugh of applause, being surprised and tickled and dispositions only, which are beautiful and en- by the imitation alone; though, at the same time, gaging. With this view, we must avoid all dis- we can not but allow that the imitation is imperfect. agreeable prospects of nature which excite the We are more affected by reading Shakspeare's de
scription of Dover Cliff, and Otway's picture of • Præbete igitur mihi queso, inquit, ex istis virginibus the Old Hag, than we should be were we actually formosissimas, dum pingo id, quod pollicitus sum vobis, ut placed on the summit of the one, or met in reality mutum in simulacrum ex animali exemplo veritas transfera. with such a beldame as the other : because in readtur.--Ille autem quinque delegil. --Neque enim putavit om
ing these descriptions we refer to our own experinia, quæ quæreret ad venustatem, uno in corpore se reperire posse ; ideo quod nihil simplici in genere omnibus ex partibus ence, and perceive with surprise the justness of the perfectum natura expolivit.--Cic. lib. ii. de Iny. cap. i. imitations. But if it is so close as to be mistaken
for nature, the pleasure then will cease, because sing, sculpture, music, eloquence, and architecture. the usynors or imitation no longer appears. All these are founded on imitation; and all of tbem
Aristotle says, that all poetry and music is imi- mutually assist and illustrate each other. But as tation, whether epic, tragic, or comic, whether painting, sculpture, music, and architecture, can vocal or instrumental, from the pipe or the lyre. not be perfectly attained without long practice of He observes, that in man there is a propensity to manual operation, we shall distinguish them from imitate even from his infaney; that the first per- poetry and eloquence, which depend entirely on ceptions of the mind are acquired by imitation ; and the faculties of the mind; and on these last, as ea seems to think, that the pleasure derived from imi- the arts which immediately constitute the Belles tation is the gratification of an appetite implanted Lettres, employ our attention in the present inby nature. We should rather think the pleasure quiry : or if it should run to a greater length than it gives arises from the mind's contemplating that we propose, it shall be confined to poetry alone; a excellency of art which thus rivals nature, and subject that comprehends in its full extent the seems to vie with her in creating such a striking province of taste, or what is called polite literature; resemblance of her works. Thus the arts may be and differs essentially from eloquence, both in its justly termed imitative, even in the article of in-end and origin. vention : for in forming a character, contriving an Poetry sprang from ease, and was consecrated incident, and describing a scene, he must still keep to pleasure; whereas eloquence arose from neces nature in view, and refer every particular of his sity, and aims at conviction. When we say poetry invention to her standard; otherwise his produc- sprang from ease, perhaps we ought to except that tion will be destitute of truth and probability, species of it which owed its rise to inspiration and without which the beauties of imitation can not enthusiasm, and properly belonged to the culture subsist. It will be a monster of incongruity, such of religion. In the first ages of mankind, and even as Horace alludes to, in the beginning of his Epistle in the original state of nature, the unlettered mind to the Pisos :
must have been struck with sublime conceptions,
with admiration and awe, by those great phenomeHumano capiti cervicem pictor equinam
na, which, though every day repeated, can never Jungere si velit, et varias inducere pluinas
be viewed without internal emotion. Those Undique collatis membris, ut turpiter atrum
would break forth in exclamations expressive of Desinat in piscem, mulier formosa superne: Spectatum admissi risum teneatis, amici ?
the passion produced, whether surprise or grati
tude, terror or exultation. The rising, the apSuppose a painter to a human head
parent course, the setting, and seeming renovaShould join a horse's neck, and wildly spread The various plumage of the feather'd kind
tion of the sun; the revolution of light and darkO'er limbs of different beasts, absurdly join'd; ness; the splendour, change, and circuit of the Or if he gave to view a beauteous maid
moon, and the canopy of heaven bespangled with Above the waist with every charm array'd;
stars, must have produced expressions of wonder Should a foul fish her lower parts unfold,
and adoration. Would you not laugh such pictures to behold?
“O glorious luminary! great
eye of the world! source of that light which guides The magazine of nature supplies all those images my steps! of that heat which 'warms me when which compose the most beautiful imitations. This chilled with cold! of that influence which cheers the artist examines occasionally, as he would con- the face of nature! whither dost thou retire every sult a collection of masterly sketches; and selecting evening with the shades? whence dost thou spring particulars for his purpose, mingles the ideas with every morning with renovated lustre, and never a kind of enthusiasm, or to Juer, which is that gift fading glory? Art not thou the ruler, the creator, of Heaven we call genius, and finally produces the god, of all I behold? I adore thee, as thy child, such a whole as commands admiration and ap- thy slave, thy suppliant! I crave thy protection, plause.
and the continuance of thy goodness! Leave me not to perish with cold, or to wander solitary in utter darkness! Return, return, after thy wonted
absence, drive before thee the gloomy clouds that ESSAY XIV.
would obscure the face of nature. The birds begin The study of polite literature is generally sup.
to warble, and every animal is filled with gladness posed to include all the liberal arts of poetry, paint flowers, seem to rejoice with fresher beauties, and
at thy approach : even the trees, the herbs, and the
send forth a grateful incense to thy power, whence * Εποποιεα δη και η της τραγωδιας ποιησις, ετι οι their origin is derived! A number of individuals κωμαδια και η διθυραμβοποιητικη, και της αυλιτικής και inspired with the same ideas, would join in these
και κιθαριστικης πασαι στoγχανουσιν ουσαι orisons, which would be accompanied with corresμιμης εις το συνολον.
Iponding gesticulations of the body. They would
be improved by practice, and grow regular from deified, were found to be still actuated by the most repetition. The sounds and gestures would natu- brutal passions of human nature ; and in all probarally fall into measured cadence. Thus the song bility their votaries were glad to find such examand dance will be produced ; and, a system of ples, to countenance their own vicious inclinations. worship being formed, the muse would be conse. Thus fornication, incest, rape, and even bestiality, crated to the purposes of religion.
were sanctified by the amours of Jupiter, Pan, Hence those forms of thanksgivings, and lita- Mars, Venus and Apollo. Theft was patronized nies of supplication, with which the religious rites by Mercury; drunkenness by Bacchus; and cruof all nations, even the most barbarous, are at this elty by Diana. The same heroes and legislators, day celebrated in every quarter of the known world. those who delivered their country, founded cities, Indeed this is a circumstance in which all nations established societies, invented useful arts, or consurprisingly agree, how much soever they may tributed in any eminent degree to the security and differ in every other article of laws, customs, man- happiness of their fellow-creatures were inspired by ners, and religion. The ancient Egyptians cele- the same lusts and appetites which domineered brated the festivals of their god Apis with hymns among the inferior classes of mankind; therefore and dances. The superstition of the Greeks, part- every vice incident to human nature was celebrat. ly derived from the Egyptians, abounded with po- ed in the worship of one or other of these divinietical ceremonies, such as choruses and hymns, ties, and every infirmity consecrated by public sung and danced at their apotheoses, sacrifices, feast and solemn sacrifice. In these institutions games, and divinations. The Romans had their the poet bore a principal share. It was his genius carmen seculare, and Salian priests, who on cer- that contrived the plan, that executed the form of tain festivals sung and danced through the streets worship, and recorded in verse the origin and adof Rome. The Israelites were famous for this kind ventures of their gods and demi-gods. Hence of exultation : “And Miriam the prophetess, the the impurities and horrors of certain rites; the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all groves of Paphos and Baal Peor; the orgies of the women went out after her, with timbrels and Bacchus; the human sacrifices to Moloch and with dances, and Miriam answered them, Sing ye Diana. Hence the theogony of Hesiod; the to the Lord," etc.—“And David danced before the theology of Homer; and those innumerable maxLord with all his might.”—The psalmis composed ims scattered through the ancient poets, invitby this monarch, the songs of Deborah and Isaiah, ing mankind to gratify their sensual appetites, in are further confirmations of what we have advanced. imitation of the gods, who were certainly the best
From the Phænicians the Greeks borrowed the judges of happiness. It is well known, that Plato cursed Orthyan song, when they sacrificed their expelled Homer from his commonwealth on account children to Diana. The poetry of the bards con- of the infamous characters by which he has distinstituted great partof the religious ceremonies among guished his deities, as well as for some depraved the Gauis and Britons, and the carousals of the sentiments which he found diffused through the Goths were religious institutions, celebrated with course of the lliad and Odyssey. Cicero enters into songs of triumph. The Mahometan Dervise dances the spirit of Plato, and exclaims, in his first book, to the sound of the flute, and whirls himself round "De Natura Deorum;"—Nec multa absurdiora until he grows giddy, and falls into a trance. The sunt ea, que, poetarum rocibus fusa, ipsa suaritate Marabous compose hymns in praise of Allah. The nocuerunt: qui, et ira inflammatos, et libidine fuChinese celebrate their grand festivals with pro- rentes, indu.rèrunt Deos, feceruntque ut eorum cessions of idols, songs, and instrumental music. bella, pugnas, prælia, vulnera rideremus: odia The Tartars, Samojedes, Laplanders, Negroes, præterea, dissidia, discordias; ortus, interritus, even the Caffres called Ilottentots, solemnize their querelas, lamentationes, effusas in omni intemworship (such as it is) with songs and dancing ;\perantiâ libidines, adulteria, vincula, cum humaso that we may venture to say, poetry is the uni- no genere concubitus, mortalesque ex immortali versal vehicle in which all nations have expressed procreatos. “Nor are those things much more abtheir most sublime conceptions.
surd, which, flowing from the poet's tongue, have Poetry was, in all appearance, previous to any done mischief, even by the sweetness of his expresconcerted plan of worship, and to every establish- sion. The poets have introduced gods inflamed ed system of legislation. When certain individuals, with anger, and enraged with lust ; and even proby dint of superior prowess or understanding, had duced before our eyes their wars, their wranglings, acquired the veneration of their fellow.savages, and their duels, and their wounds. They have exerected themselvss into divinities on the ignorance posed, besides, their antipathies, animosities, and and superstition of mankind; then mythology took dissensions; their origin and death ; their complace, and such a swarm of deities arose as pro- plaints and lamentations; their appetites, indulged duced a religion replete with the most shocking ab- to all manner of excess, their adulteries, their fetsurdities. Those whom their superior talents had ters, their amorous commerce with the human spe
cies, and from immortal parents derived a mortal|disguised like satyrs, who not only recited the praises offspring."
of Bacchus, or some other deity, but interspersed As the festivals of the gods necessarily produced their hymns with sarcastic jokes and altercation good cheer, which often carried to riot and de- of this kind is the Cyclap of Euripides, in which bauchery, mirth of consequence prevailed; and Ulysses is the principal actor. The Romans also this was always attended with buffoonery. Taunts had their Atellanæ or interludes of the same na and jokes, and raillery and repartee, would neces- ture, so called from the city of Atella, where they sarily ensue; and individuals would contend for were first acted; but these were highly polished the victory in wit and genius. These contests in comparison of the original entertainment, which would in time be reduced to some regulations, for was altogether rude and innocent. Indeed, the the entertainment of the people thus assembled, Cyclop itself, though composed by the accomplishand some prize would be decreed to him who was ed Euripides, abounds with such impurity as ought judged to excel his rivals. The candidates for not to appear on the stage of any civilized nation. fame and profit, being thus stimulated, would task It is very remarkable, that the Atellana, which their talents, and naturally recommend these alter- were in effect tragi-comedies, grew into such esteem nate recriminations to the audience, by clothing among the Romans, that the performers in these them with a kind of poetical measure, which pieces enjoyed several privileges which were reshould bear a near resemblance to prose. Thus, fused to the ordinary actors. They were not obliged as the solemn service of the day was composed in to unmask, like the other players, when their acthe most sublime species of poetry, such as the ode tion was disagreeable to the audience. They were or hymn, the subsequent altercation was carried on admitted into the army, and enjoyed the privileges in iambics, and gave rise to satire. We are told of free citizens, without incurring that disgrace by the Stagirite, that the highest species of poetry which was affixed to the characters of other actors.* was employed in celebrating great actions, but the The poet Laberius, who was of equestrian order, humbler sort used in this kind of contention ;* being pressed by Julius Cæsar to act a part in his and that in the ages of antiquity there were some own performance, complied with great reluctance, bards that professed heroics, and some that pre- and complained of the dishonour he had incurred tended to iambics only.
in his prologue preserved by Macrobius, which is
one of the most elegant morsels-of antiquity. Οι μεν ηρoικων, α δε ιαμβων ποιηται.
Tragedy and comedy flowed from the same To these rude beginnings we not only owe the The same entertainment which under the name
fountain, though their streams were soon divided. birth of satire, but likewise the origin of dramatic
of tragedy, was rudely exhibited by clowns, for poetry. Tragedy herself, which afterwards attained to such dignity as to rival the epic muse, chus, assumed the appellation of comedy when it
the prize of a goat, near some rural altar of Bacwas at first no other than a trial of crambo, or iam
was transferred into cities, and represented with a bics, between two peasants, and a goat was the prize, as Horace calls it , vile certamen ob hircum, led from street to street, as the name seadis im
little more decorum in a cart or wagon that strol"a mean contest for a he-goat.” Hence the name
plies, being derived from rwun a street, and adu a Tpodz.codecany signifying the goat-song, from mpegos poem. To this origin Horace alludes in these lines : hircus, and adncarmen.
Dicitur et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis,
Quæ canerent agerentque peruncti fæcibus ora.
Thespis, inventor of dramatic art,
Convey'd his vagrant actors in a cart: Spectator, functusque sacris, et potus et exlex.
High o'er the crowd the mimic art appeared,
And play'd and sung, with læs of wine basuneard. The tragic bard, a goat his humble prize,
Thespis is called the inventor of the dramatic Bade satyrs naked and uncouth arise ; His muse severe, secure and undismay'd,
art, because he raised the subject from clownish The rustic joke in solemn strain convey'd;
altercation to the character and exploits of some For novelty alone he knew could charm
hero; he improved the language and versification, A lawless crowd, with wine and feasting warm. and relieved the chorus by the dialogue of two
actors. This was the first advance towards that Satire then was originally a clownish dialogue consummation of genius and art which constitutes in loose iambics, so called because the actors were what is now called a perfect tragedy. The next Οι μεν γαρ σεμνοτεροι, τας καλας εμιμουντο πραξις
'Cum artem ludicram, scenamque totam probro ducerent
genus id hominum non modo honore civium reliquorum ca. –α δι ευτελιστεροι, τας των φαυλων, πρωτον λογοις τοι- Fere, sed etiam tribu moveri notatione censoria voluerunt
Cic. apud. S. Aug. de Civit. Dei.