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great improver was Æschylus, of whom the same fore the Christian era. Such was the license of critic says,
the muse at this period, that far from lashing vice
in general characters, she boldly exhibited the ex-
folly, or debauchery. She assumed every circumBuilt a low stage; the flowing robe diffused. stance of his external appearance, his very attire, In language more sublime two actors rage, air, manner, and even his name; according to the
And in the graceful buskin tread the stage. observation of Horace, The dialogue which Thespis introduced was
-Poeta called the episode, because it was an addition to
quorum comedia prisca virorum est : the former subject, namely, the praises of Bac- Si quis erat dignus describi, quod malus, aut fur, chus; so that now tragedy consisted of two dis- Quod mæchus foret, aut sicarius, aut alioqui tinct parts, independent of each other; the old re- Famosus, multa cum libertate notabant. citatire, which was the chorus, sung in honour of
The comic poets, in its earliest age, the gods; and the episode, which turned upon the Who formed the manners of the Grecian stageadventures of some hero. This episode being Was there a villain who might justly claim found very agreeable to the people, Æschylus, who
A better right of being damn’d to fame,
Rake, cul-throat, thief, whatever was his crime, lived about half a century after Thespis, still im
They boldly stigmatized the wretch in rhyme. proved the drama, united the chorus to the episode, so as to make them both parts or members of one Eupolis is said to have satirized Alcibiades in this fable, multiplied the actors, contrived the stage, and manner, and to have fallen a sacrifice to the reintroduced the decorations of the theatre; so that sentment of that powerful Athenian; but others Sophocles, who succeeded Æschylus, had but one say he was drowned in the Hellespont, during a step to surmount in order to bring the drama to war against the Lacedemonians; and that in conperfection. Thus tragedy was gradually detached sequence of this accident the Athenians passed a from its original institution, which was entirely decree, that no poet should ever bear arms. religious. The priests of Bacchus loudly com- The comedies of Cratinus are recommended by plained of this innovation by means of the episode, Quintilian for their eloqence; and Plutarch tells us which was foreign to the intention of the chorus ; that even Pericles himself could not escape the and hence arose the proverb of Nihil ad Dyonysi- censure of this poet. um, “Nothing to the purpose.” Plutarch himself Aristophanes, of whom there are eleven comementions the episode as a perversion of tragedy dies still extant, enjoyed such a pre-eminence of from the honour of the gods to the passions of men. reputation, that the Athenians by a public decree But, notwithstanding all opposition, the new tra- honoured him with a crown made of consecrated gedy succeeded to admiration; because it was found olive-tree, which grew in the citadel, for his care the most pleasing vehicle of conveying moral and success in detecting and exposing the vices of truths, of meliorating the heart, and extending the those who governed the commonwealth. Yet this interests of humanity.
poet, whether impelled by mere wantonness of Comedy, according to Aristotle, is the younger genius, or actuated by malice and envy, could not sister of tragedy. As the first originally turned refrain from employing the shafts of his ridicule upon the praises of the gods, the latter dwelt on against Socrates, the most venerable character of the follies and vices of mankind. Such, we mean, Pagan antiquity. In the comedy of the Clouds, was the scope of that species of poetry which ac. this virtuous philosopher was exhibited on the quired the name of comedy, in contradistinction to stage under his own name, in a cloak exactly rethe tragic muse; for in the beginning they were the sembling that which Socrates wore, in a mask mosame. The foundation upon which comedy was delled from his features, disputing publicly on the built, we have already explained to be the practice nature of right and wrong. This was undoubtedof satirical repartee or altercation, in which indi- ly an instance of the most flagrant licentiousness ; viduals exposed the follies and frailties of each and what renders it the more extraordinary, the other on public occasions of worship and festivity. audience received it with great applause, even
The first regular plan of comedy is said to have while Socrates himself sat publicly in the theatre. been the Margites of Homer, exposing the idle-The truth is, the Athenians were so fond of ridiness and folly of a worthless character; but of this cule, that they relished it even when employed performance we have no remains. That division against the gods themselves, some of whose chawhich is termed the ancient comedy, belongs to racters were very roughly handled by Aristophathe labours of Eupolis, Cratinus, and Aristopha- nes and his rivals in reputation. nes, who were contemporaries, and flourished at We might here draw a parallel between the inAthens about four hundred and thirty years be- habitants of Athens and the natives of England;
in point of constitution, genius, and disposition. tion, and enthusiasm. Imitation is indeed the be. Athens was a free state like England, that piqued sis of all the liberal arts; invention and enthusias itself upon the influence of the democracy. Like constitute genius, in whatever manner it may be England, its wealth and strength depended upon displayed. Eloquence of all sorts admits of enthoits maritime power : and it generally acted as um- siasm. Tully says, an orator should be rehemu pire in the disputes that arose among its neigh- ut procella, excitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fata bours. The people of Athens, like those of Eng. men; tonat, fulgurat, et rapidis eloquentiæ fue land, were remarkably ingenious, and made great tibus cuncta proruit et proturbat. “Violent as a progress in the arts and sciences. They excelled tempest, impetuous as a torrent, and glowing isin poetry, history, philosophy, mechanics, and tense like the red bolt of heaven, he thunders manufactures; they were acute, discerning, dis- lightens, overthrows, and bears down all before putatious, fickle, wavering, rash, and combustible, him, by the irresistible tide of eloquence.” This and, above all other nations in Europe, addicted to is the mens divinior atque os magna sonaturum ridicule; a character which the English inherit in of Horace. This is the talent, a very remarkable degree.
-Meum qui pectus inaniter angit, If we may judge from the writings of Aristo.
Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet, phanes, his chief aim was to gratify the spleen and excite the mirth of his audience; of an audience
With passions not my own who fires my heart; too, that would seem to have been uninformed by
Who with unreal terrors fills my breast taste, and altogether ignorant of decorum; for his
As with a magic influence possessid. pieces are replete with the most extravagant absurdities, virulent slander, impiety, impurities, and we are told, that Michael Angelo Buonaroti used low buffoonery. The comic muse, not contented to work at his statues in a fit of enthusiasm, during with being allowed to make free with the gods and which he made the fragments of the stone fly about philosophers, applied her scourge so severely to the him with surprising violence. The celebrated magistrates of the commonwealth, that it was Lully being one day blamed for setting nothing to thought proper to restrain her within bounds by a music but the languid verses of Quinault, was anilaw, enacting, that no person should be stigmatized mated with the reproach, and running in a fit of under his real name; and thus the chorus was si. enthusiasm to his harpsichord, sung in recitative, lenced. In order to elude the penalty of this law, and accompanied four pathetic lines from the Iphiand gratify the taste of the people, the poets began genia of Racine, with such expression as filled the to substitute fictitious names, under which they ex- hearers with astonishment and horror. hibited particular characters in such lively colours, Though versification be one of the criteria that that the resemblance could not possibly be mistaken distinguish poetry from prose, yet it is not the sole or overlooked. This practice gave rise to what is mark of distinction. Were the histories of Polycalled the middle comedy, which was but of short bius and Livy simply turned into verse, they would duration; for the legislature, perceiving that the first not become poems; because they would be destilaw had not removed the grievance against which tute of those -figures, embellishments, and flights it was provided, issued a second ordinance, forbid- of imagination, which display the poet's art and ding, under severe penalties, any real or family oc- invention. On the other hand, we have many procurrences to be represented. This restriction was ductions that justly lay claim to the title of poetry, the immediate cause of improving comedy into a without having the advantage of versification; witgeneral mirror, held forth to reflect the various fol- ness the Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, lies and foibles incident to human nature; a species with many beautiful hymns, descriptions, and of writing called the new comedy, introduced by rhapsodies, to be found in different parts of the Diphilus and Menander, of whose works nothing Old Testament, some of them the immediate probut a few fragments remain.
duction of divine inspiration ; witness the Celtic fragments which have lately appeared in the Eng. lish language, and are certainly replete with poeti
cal merit. But though good versification alone will ESSAY XV.
not constitute poetry, bad versification alone will
certainly degrade and render disgustful the subHaving communicateil our sentiments touching limest sentiments and finest flowers of imagination. the origin of poetry, by tracing tragedy and comedy This humiliating power of bad verse appears in to their common source, we shall now endeavour many translations of the ancient poets; in Ogilby's to point out the criteria by which poetry is distin- Homer, Trapp's Virgil, and frequently in Creech's guished from every other species of writing. In Horace. This last indeed is not wholly devoid common with other arts, such as statuary and paint- of spirit; but it seldom rises above mediocrity, and, ing, it comprehends imitation, invention, composi-'as Horace says,
Mediocribus esse poetis
mend and melt the heart, elevate the mind, and Non homines, non Di, non concessere columnæ.
please the understanding. According to Flaccus : But God and man, and letter'd post denies,
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetą;
Aut simul et jucunda et idonen dicere vitæ.
Poets would profit or delight mankind, tum et tenacem propositi viruin, chilled and tamed And with th' amusing show th' instructive join'd. by the following translation:
• Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci,
Lectorem delectando, pariterque monendo.
Profit and pleasure mingled thus with art,
To soothe the fancy and improve the heart.
Tropes and figures are likewise liberally used in
rhetoric: and some of the most celebrated orators Shoul nature with convulsions shake,
have owned themselves much indebted to the poets, Struck with the fiery bolts of Jove,
Theophrastus expressly recommends the poets for
this purpose. From their source, the spirit and
energy of the pathetic, the sublime, and the beautiThat long Alexandrine—"Nor to a raging ful, are derived.* But these figures must be more storm, when all the winds are up,” is drawling, sparingly used in rhetoric than in poetry, and even feeble, swoln with a pleonasm or tautology, as well then mingled with argumentation, and a detail of as deficient in the rhyme; and as for the "dread. facts altogether different from poetical narration. ful crack,” in the next stanza, instead of exciting The poet, instead of simply relating the incident, terror, it conveys a low and ludicrous idea. How strikes off a glowing picture of the scene, and exmuch more elegant and energetic is this paraphrase hibits it in the most lively colours to the eye of the of the same ode, inserted in one of the volumes of imagination. “It is reported that Homer was Hume's History of England.
blind,” says Tully in his Tusculan Questions, The man whose mind, on virtue bent,
“yet his poetry is no other than painting. What Pursues some greatly good intent
country, what climate, what ideas, battles, commoWith undiverted aim,
tions, and contests of men, as well as of wild beasts, Serene beholds the angry crowd;
has he not painted in such a manner as to bring Nor can their clamours fierce and loud
before our eyes those very scenes, which he himHis stubborn honour tame.
self could not behold!” | We can not therefore Nor the proud tyrant's fiercest threat,
subscribe to the opinion of some ingenious critics, Nor storms that from their dark retreat
who have blamed Mr. Pope for deviating in some The lawless surges wake;
instances from the simplicity of Homer, in his Nor Jove's dread bolt, that shakes the pole, The firmer purpose of his soul
translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. For example, With all its power can shake.
the Grecian bard says simply, the sun rose; and
his translator gives us a beautiful picture of the sun Should nature's frame in ruins fall,
rising. Homer mentions a person who played And Chaos o'er the sinking ball Resume primeval sway,
upon the lyre; the translator sets him before us His courage chance and fate defies,
warbling to the silver strings. If this be a deviaNor feels the wreck of earth and skies
tion, it is at the same time an improvement. Homer Obstruct its destined way.
himself, as Cicero observes above, is full of this If poetry exists independent of versification, it kind.of painting, and particularly fond of descripwill naturally be asked, how then is it to be dis- tion, even in situations where the action seems to tinguished ? Undoubtedly by its own peculiar require haste. Neptune, observing from Samoexpression; it has a language of its own, which thrace the discomfiture of the Grecians before Troy, speaks so feelingly to the heart, and so pleasingly flies to their assistance, and might have been waitto the imagination, that its meaning can not pos- ed thither in half a line: but the bard describes sibly be misunderstood by any person of delicate him, first, descending the mountain on which he sensations. It is a species of painting with words, sat; secondly, striding towards his palace at Ægæ, in which the figures are happily conceived, ingeni- and yoking his horses; thirdly, he describes him ously arranged, affectingly expressed, and recommended with all the warmth and harmony of Namque ab his (scilicet poetis) et in rebus spiritus, et in colouring : it consists of imagery, description, meta- verbis sublimitas, et in affectibus motus omnis, et in personis
decor petitur.--Quintilian, 1. x. phors, similes, and sentiments, adapted with pro
| Quæ regio, quæ ora, quæ species forme, que pugna, qui priety to the subject, so contrived and executed as motus hominum, qui ferarum, non ita expictus est, ut quæ to soothe the ear, surprise and delight the fancy, ipse non viderit, nos ut videramus, effecerit!
putting on his armour; and lastly, ascending his This indeed is a figure, which has been copied car, and driving along the surface of the sea. Far by Virgil
, and almost all the poets of every agefrom being disgusted by these delays, we are de- oculis micat acribus ignis-ignescunt iræ : auris lighted with the particulars of the description. dolor ossibus ardet. Milton, describing Satan in Nothing can be more sublime than the circum- Hell, says, stance of the mountain's trembling beneath the
With head uplist above the wave, and eye footsteps of an immortal:
That sparkling blazed !-
- He spake: and to confirm his words out flew
Millions of flaming swords, drawn from the thighs Ποσσιν υπ αθανατοισι Ποσειδάωνος ιοντος.
Of mighty cherubim. The sudden blaze
Far round illumined Hell But his passage to the Grecian fleet is altogether transporting.
There are certain words in every language par
ticularly adapted to the poetical expression ; some Βηδ' ελααν επι κυ ματ, etc.
from the image or idea they convey to the imagiHe mounts the car, the golden scourge applies, nation; and some from the effect they have upon He sius superior, and the chariot flies;
The first are truly figuratire ; the others His whirling wheels the glassy surface sweep:
may be called emphatical.–Rollin observes, that Th’ enormous monsters, rolling o'er the deep, Gambol around him on the watery way,
Virgil has upon many occasions poetized (if we And heavy whales in awkward measures play:
may be allowed the expression) a whole sentence The sea subsiding spreads a level plain,
by means of the same word, which is pendere. Exults and crowns the monarch of the main; The parting waves before his coursers fly;
Ite meæ, felix quondam pecus, ite capellæ, The wondering waters leave his axle dry."
Non ego vos posthac, viridi projectus in antro,
Dumosa pendere procul de rupe videbo.
At ease reclined beneath the verdant shade,
No more shall I behold my happy flock this translation. We have no idea of the sea's ex
Aloft hang browsing on the tufted rock. ulting and crowning Neptune, after it had subsided into a level plain. There is no such image Here the word pendere wonderfully improves in the original. Homer says, the whales exulted, the landscape, and renders the whole passage and knew or owned their king; and that the sea beautifully picturesque. The same figurative verb parted with joy: γνθοσυνη δε θαλασσα διάστατο. we meet with in many different parts of the Neither is there a word of the wondering waters: Æneid. we therefore think the lines might be thus altered
Hi summo in fluctu pendeni, his unda dehiscens to advantage :
Terram inter fluctus aperit. They knew and own'd the monarch of the main:
These on the mountain billow hung; to those
The yawning wates thy yellow sand disclose.
In this instance, the words pendent and dehis Besides the metaphors, similes, and allusions of Addison seems to have had this passage in his eye,
cons, hung and yawning, are equally poetical. poetry, there is an infinite variety of tropes, or turns when he wrote his Hymn, which is inserted in of expression, occasionally disseminated through
the Spectator : works of genius, which serve to animate the whole, and distinguish the glowing effusions of real in
-For though in dreadful worlds we hung,
High on the broken wave. spiration from the cold efforts of mere science. These tropes consist of a certain happy choice and
And in another piece of a like nature, in the arrangement of words, by which ideas are artfully same collection: disclosed in a great variety of attitudes, of epithets,
Thy providence my life sustain'd and compound epithets; of sounds collected in
And all my wants redressid, order to echo the sense conveyed; of apostrophes; When in the silent womb I lay, and, above all, the enchanting use of the prosopo
And hung upon the breast. pæia, which is a kind of magic, by which the poet Shakspeare, in his admired description of Dover gives life and motion to every inanimate part of cliff, uses the same expression : nature. Homer, describing the wrath of Agamem
-Half way down non, in the first book of the Iliad, strikes off a
Hangs one that gathers samphire-dreadsul trade! glowing image in two words:
Nothing can be more beautiful than the follow... οσσε δ α πυρι λαμπετουντι είκτην.
ing picture, in which Milton has introduced the -And from his-eyeballs flash'd the living fire. same expressive tint :
-He, on his side,
certain the vast height of Dover cliff ; for the poet Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love
adds, can not be heard so high." The place Hung over her enamour'd.
where Glo'ster stood was so high above the surface We shall give one example more from Virgil, to of the sea, that the q101060s, or dashing,. could show in what a variety of scenes it may appear not be heard ; and therefore an enthusiastic admirwith propriety and effect. In describing the pro- er of Shakspeare might with some plausibility gress of Dido's passion for Æneas, the Poet says, affirm, the poet had chosen an expression in which
that sound is not at all conveyed. Hiacos iterum demens audire labores
In the very same page of Homer's Iliad we Exposcit, pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore.
meet with two other striking instances of the same The woes of Troy once more she begg’d to hear; sort of beauty. A pollo, incensed at the insults his Once more the mournful tale employ'd his tongue, priest had sustained, descends from the top of OlymWhile in fond rapture on his lips she hung.
pus, with his bow and quiver rattling on his shoulThe reader will perceive in all these instances, der as he moved along; that no other word could be substituted with equal energy; indeed no other word could be used with- Εκλαγξαν δ' αριστω επ ωμαν. out degrading the sense, and defacing the image. Here the sound of the Word Exaxyšev admirably exThere are many other verbs of poetical import fetched from nature, and from art, which the poet after this surprisingly imitates the twanging of a
presses the clanking of armour; as the third line uses to advantage, both in a literal and metaphori
bow. cal sense; and these have been always translated for the same purpose from one language to ano- Δεινη δε κλαγγή γενετ αργυρεοιο Βιοιο. ther; such as quasso, concutio, cio, suscito, lenio, sario, mano, fluo, ardeo, mico, aro, to shake, to In shrill-ton'd murmurs sung the twanging bow. wake, to rouse, to soothe, to rage, to flow, to shine or blaze, to plough.-Quassantia tectum limina
Many beauties of the same kind are scattered Æneas, casu, concussus acerbo-Ære ciere riros, through Homer, Pindar, and Theocritus, such as Martenique accendere cantu—Æneas acuit Mar- the Boue bsurd Mentol susurrans apicula ; the tem et se suscitat "ira— Impium lenite clamorem. S toguploud, dulcem susurrum; and the persodeLenibant curas-Ne sævi magna sacerdos-Su-Toll for the sighing of the pine. dor ad imos manabat solos- Šuspensaque diu
The Latin language teems with sounds adapted to lachrymæ fluxere per ora, Jurenali ardebat every situation, and the English is not destitute of amore-Micat æreus ensis — Vullum maris æquor this significant energy. We have the cooing turtle, arandum. It will be unnecessary to insert exam- the sighing reed, the warbling rivulet, the sliding ples of the same nature from the English poets. stream, the whispering breeze, the glance, the
The words we term emphatical, are such as by gleam, the flash, the bickering dame, the dashing their sound express the sense they are intended to wave, the gushing spring, the houling blast, the convey: and with these the Greek abounds, above Tattling storm, the pattering shower, the crimp all other languages, not only from its natural copi- earth, the mouldering tower, the twanging bowousness, flexibility, and significance, but also from string, the clanging arms, the clanking chains, the variety of its dialects, which enables a writer the twinkling stars, the tinkling chords, the trickto vary his terminations occasionally as the nature ling drops, the twittering swallow, the cawing of the subject requires, without offending the most rook, the screeching owl; and a thousand other delicate ear, or incurring the imputation of adopt- words and epithets, wonderfully suited to the sense ing vulgar provincial expressions. Every smat- they imply. terer in Greek can repeat
Among the select passages of poetry which we
shall insert by way of illustration, the reader will Βη δ' ακεαν παρα θινα πολυφλοισβοιο θαλασσης, find instances of all the different tropes and figures
which the best authors have adopted in the variety in which the last two words wonderfully echo to of their poetical works, as well as of the apostrophe, the sense, conveying the idea of the sea dashing on abrupt transition, repetition, and prosopopaia. the shore. How much more significant in sound In the mean time it will be necessary still furthan that beautiful image of Shakspeare-- ther to analyze those principles which constitute The sea that on the unnumber'd pebbles beats.
the essence of poetical merit; to display those de
lightful parterres that teem with the fairest flowers And yet, if we consider the strictness of pro- of imagination ; and distinguish between the gaudy priety, this last expression would seem to have offspring of a cold insipid fancy, and the glowing been selected on purpose to concur with the other progeny, diffusing sweets, produced and invigocrcumstances, which are brought together to as- rated by the sun of genius.