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great improver was Eschylus, of whom the same |fore the Christian era. critic says,
Such was the license of the muse at this period, that far from lashing vice in general characters, she boldly exhibited the exact portrait of every individual who had rendered himself remarkable or notorious by his.crimes, folly, or debauchery. She assumed every circumstance of his external appearance, his very attire, air, manner, and even his name; according to the observation of Horace,
-quorum comœdia prisca virorum est:
The comic poets, in its earliest age,
The comedies of Cratinus are recommended by Quintilian for their eloqence; and Plutarch tells us that even Pericles himself could not escape the censure of this poet.
Post hunc personæ pallæque repertor honesta Æschylus, et modicis instravit pulpita tignis; Et docuit magnumque loqui, nitique cothurno. Then Eschylus a decent vizard used; Built a low stage; the flowing robe diffused. In language more sublime two actors rage, And in the graceful buskin tread the stage. The dialogue which Thespis introduced was called the episode, because it was an addition to the former subject, namely, the praises of Bacchus; so that now tragedy consisted of two distinct parts, independent of each other; the old recitative, which was the chorus, sung in honour of the gods; and the episode, which turned upon the adventures of some hero. This episode being found very agreeable to the people, Eschylus, who lived about half a century after Thespis, still improved the drama, united the chorus to the episode, so as to make them both parts or members of one fable, multiplied the actors, contrived the stage, and introduced the decorations of the theatre; so that Sophocles, who succeeded Æschylus, had but one step to surmount in order to bring the drama to perfection. Thus tragedy was gradually detached from its original institution, which was entirely religious. The priests of Bacchus loudly complained of this innovation by means of the episode, which was foreign to the intention of the chorus; and hence arose the proverb of Nihil ad Dyonysium, "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 moThe 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 ba Athens was a free state like England, that piqued sis of all the liberal arts; invention and enthusiasm 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 enthuits maritime power: and it generally acted as um-siasm. Tully says, an orator should be vehemen pire in the disputes that arose among its neigh-ut procella, excitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fal bours. The people of Athens, like those of Eng-men; tonat, fulgurat, et rapidis eloquentia five-by 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 inin 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,
With passions not my own who fires my heart;
If we may judge from the writings of Aristophanes, his chief aim was to gratify the spleen and excite the mirth of his audience; of an audience too, that would seem to have been uninformed by taste, and altogether ignorant of decorum; for his pieces are replete with the most extravagant absurdities, virulent slander, impiety, impurities, and low buffoonery. The comic muse, not contented with being allowed to make free with the gods and philosophers, applied her scourge so severely to the magistrates of the commonwealth, that it was thought proper to restrain her within bounds by a law, enacting, that no person should be stigmatized under his real name; and thus the chorus was silenced. In order to elude the penalty of this law, and gratify the taste of the people, the poets began 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 English language, and are certainly replete with poetical merit. But though good versification alone will not constitute poetry, bad versification alone will certainly degrade and render disgustful the subHAVING Communicated 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
Non homines, non Di, non concessere columnæ.
How is that beautiful ode, beginning with Justum et tenacem propositi virum, chilled and tamed by the following translation:
He who by principle is sway'd,
In truth and justice still the same,
Is neither of the crowd afraid,
Though civil broils the state inflame;
Nor to a haughty tyrant's frown will stoop,
Nor to a raging storin, when all the winds are up.
Should nature with convulsions shake,
Struck with the fiery bolts of Jove,
Can not his constant courage move.
mend and melt the heart, elevate the mind, and
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetæ ;
. Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci,
Tropes and figures are likewise liberally used in rhetoric: and some of the most celebrated orators have owned themselves much indebted to the poets. 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.
The man whose mind, on virtue bent,
With undiverted aim,
Nor the proud tyrant's fiercest threat,
Nor Jove's dread bolt, that shakes the pole,
With all its power can shake.
Should nature's frame in ruins fail,
Resume primeval sway,
His courage chance and fate defies,
blind," says Tully in his Tusculan Questions, "yet his poetry is no other than painting. What country, what climate, what ideas, battles, commotions, and contests of men, as well as of wild beasts, has he not painted in such a manner as to bring before our eyes those very scenes, which he himself could not behold!" We can not therefore subscribe to the opinion of some ingenious critics, who have blamed Mr. Pope for deviating in some instances from the simplicity of Homer, in his translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. For example, the Grecian bard says simply, the sun rose; and his translator gives us a beautiful picture of the sun rising. Homer mentions a person who played upon the lyre; the translator sets him before us warbling to the silver strings. If this be a deviation, it is at the same time an improvement. Homer 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 waftto 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 colouring: it consists of imagery, description, metaphors, similes, and sentiments, adapted with proQuæ regio, quæ ora, quæ species formæ, quæ 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!
Obstruct its destined way.
Namque ab his (scilicet poetis) et in rebus spiritus, et in verbis sublimitas, et in affectibus motus omnis, et in personis decor petitur.-Quintilian, 1. x.
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 footsteps of an immortal:
Τρέμε δ' ούρεα μακρά και ύλη
But his passage to the Grecian fleet is altogether transporting.
Βαδ' έλααν επι κι ματ, etc.
He mounts the car, the golden scourge applies,
Exults and crowns the monarch of the main ;
With great veneration for the memory of Mr. Pope, we can not help objecting to some lines of this translation. We have no idea of the sea's exulting and crowning Neptune, after it had subsided into a level plain. There is no such image
With head uplift above the wave, and eye
-He spake : and to confirm his words out flew
There are certain words in every language par-
At ease reclined beneath the verdant shade,
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: γηθοσύνη δε θαλασσα διίστατο. we meet with in many different parts of the Neither is there a word of the wondering waters: Eneid. we therefore think the lines might be thus altered to advantage:
They knew and own'd the monarch of the main:
Hi summo in fluctu pendent, his unda dehiscens
These on the mountain billow hung; to those
In this instance, the words pendent and dehisAddison seems to have had this passage in his eye, ccns, hung and yawning, are equally poetical. when he wrote his Hymn, which is inserted in the Spectator:
-For though in dreadful worlds we hung,
And in another piece of a like nature, in the
Besides the metaphors, similes, and allusions of poetry, there is an infinite variety of tropes, or turns of expression, occasionally disseminated through works of genius, which serve to animate the whole, and distinguish the glowing effusions of real inspiration from the cold efforts of mere science. These tropes consist of a certain happy choice and arrangement of words, by which ideas are artfully same disclosed in a great variety of attitudes, of epithets, and compound epithets; of sounds collected in order to echo the sense conveyed; of apostrophes; and, above all, the enchanting use of the prosopopoia, which is a kind of magic, by which the poet gives life and motion to every inanimate part of nature. Homer, describing the wrath of Agamemnon, in the first book of the Iliad, strikes off a glowing image in two words:
οσσε δ' ο πυρι λαμπετουντί εικτην. -And from his-eyeballs flash'd the living fire.
Thy providence my life sustain'd
And all my wants redress'd,
-Half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire-dreadful trade! Nothing can be more beautiful than the following picture, in which Milton has introduced the same expressive tint:
-He, on his side,
Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love
certain the vast height of Dover cliff; for the poet adds, can not be heard so high." The place where Glo'ster stood was so high above the surface
We shall give one example more from Virgil, to of the sea, that the pace, 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.
Iliacos iterum demens audire labores
The woes of Troy once more she begg'd to hear;
In the very same page of Homer's Iliad we meet with two other striking instances of the same sort of beauty. Apollo, incensed at the insults his priest had sustained, descends from the top of Olympus, with his bow and quiver rattling on his shoulder as he moved along;
Εκλαγξαν δ' αρ εστω επ ωμαν.
Here the sound of the word Exxayav admirably exafter this surprisingly imitates the twanging of a presses the clanking of armour; as the third line
Δεινη δὲ κλαγγή γενετ αργυρέοιο Bio10.
In shrill-ton'd murmurs sung the twanging bow.
The reader will perceive in all these instances, that no other word could be substituted with equal energy; indeed no other word could be used without degrading the sense, and defacing the image. There are many other verbs of poetical import fetched from nature, and from art, which the poet uses to advantage, both in a literal and metaphorical sense; and these have been always translated for the same purpose from one language to another; such as quasso, concutio,cio, suscito, lenio, sario, mano, fluo, ardeo, mico, aro, to shake, to wake, to rouse, to soothe, to rage, to flow, to shine or blaze, to plough.-Quassantia tectum liminaMany beauties of the same kind are scattered Eneas, casu, concussus acerbo-Ere ciere viros, through Homer, Pindar, and Theocritus, such as Martenique accendere cantu-Eneas acuit Mar- the Boμbeura Minista, susurrans apicula; the tem et se suscitat ira-Impium lenite clamorem. adu upoμa, dulcem susurrum; and the periodeLenibant curas-Ne sævi magna sacerdos-Su-Ta, for the sighing of the pine. dor ad imos manabat solos-Suspensæque diu The Latin language teems with sounds adapted to lachrymæ fluxere per ora-Juvenali ardebat every situation, and the English is not destitute of amore-Micat æreus ensis-Nullum 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 flame, the dashing their sound express the sense they are intended to wave, the gushing spring, the howling blast, the convey and with these the Greek abounds, above rattling 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
Βη δ' ακέων παρα θινα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλασσης, in which the last two words wonderfully echo to the sense, conveying the idea of the sea dashing on the shore. How much more significant in sound than that beautiful image of Shakspeare
The sea that on the unnumber'd pebbles beats.
Among the select passages of poetry which we shall insert by way of illustration, the reader will find instances of all the different tropes and figures which the best authors have adopted in the variety of their poetical works, as well as of the apostrophe, abrupt transition, repetition, and prosopoporia.
In the mean time it will be necessary still further to analyze those principles which constitute the essence of poetical merit; to display those delightful 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.