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Here we not only find the most scrupulous propriety, and the happiest choice, in comparing the Thracian bard to Philomel the poet of the grove; but also the most beautiful description, containing a fine touch of the pathos, in which last particular indeed Virgil, in our opinion, excels all other poets, whether ancient or modern.
One would imagine that nature had exhausted itself, in order to embellish the poems of Homer, Virgil, and Milton, with similes and metaphors. The first of these very often uses the comparison of the wind, the whirlwind, the hail, the torrent, to express the rapidity of his combatants; but when he comes to describe the velocity of the immortal horses that drew the chariot of Juno, he raises his ideas to the subject, and, as Longinus observes, measures every leap by the whole breadth of the horizon.
Οσσον δ' ηεροειδές ανηρ ίδεν οφθαλμοισιν
For as a watchman from some rock on high
The celerity of this goddess seems to be a favourite idea with the poet; for in another place he compares it to the thought of a traveller revolving in his mind the different places he had seen, and passing through them in imagination more swift than the lightning flies from east to west.
The analogy, it must be confessed, is not very striking; but nevertheless it is not altogether void of propriety. The poet reasons thus: as the south wind, though generally attended with rain, is often known to dispel the clouds, and render the weather serene; so do you, though generally on the rack of thought, remember to relax sometimes, and drown your cares in wine. As the south wind is not al-gil, and almost every succeeding poet, howsoever
ways moist, so you ought not always to be dry.
A few instances of inaccuracy, or mediocrity, can never derogate from the superlative merit of Homer and Virgil, whose poems are the great magazines, replete with every species of beauty and magnificence, particularly abounding with similes, which astonish, delight, and transport the reader.
Every simile ought not only to be well adapted to the subject, but also to include every excellence of description, and to be coloured with the warmest tints of poetry. Nothing can be more happily hit off than the following in the Georgics, to which the poet compares Orpheus lamenting his lost Eurydice.
Qualis populea marens Philomela sub umbrâ
So Philomela, from th' umbrageous wood,
Homer's best similes have been copied by Vir
they may have varied in the manner of expression. In the third book of the Iliad, Menelaus seeing Paris, is compared to a hungry lion espying a hind
or a goat:
Ώστε λέων εχάρη μεγάλη επι σωματι κύρσας
So joys the lion, if a branching deer
The Mantuan bard, in the tenth book of the Eneid, applies the same simile to Mezentius, when he beholds Acron in the battle.
Impastus stabula alta leo ceu sæpe peragrans
Conspexit capream, aut surgentem in cornua cervum;
Then as a hungry lion, who beholds
A gamesome goat who frisks about the folds,
Or beamy stag that grazes on the plain;
He runs, he roars, he shakes his rising mane:
Συν δ' Ευρος τι, Νότος τ' επεσε, Ζέφυρος τε δυσαις,
Incubuere mari, totumque à sedibus imis
We know that such a contention of contrary blasts could not possibly exist in nature; for even in hurricanes the winds blow alternately from different points of the compass. Nevertheless VirThe reader will perceive that Virgil has im-gil adopts the description, and adds to its extravaproved the simile in one particular, and in another fallen short of his original. The description of the lion shaking his mane, opening his hideous jaws distained with the blood of his prey, is great and picturesque; but on the other hand, he has omitted the circumstance of devouring it without being intimidated, or restrained by the dogs and youths turn the whole body of the ocean topsy-turvy. that surround him; a circumstance that adds greatly to our idea of his strength, intrepidity, and importance.
Una Eurusque Notusque ruunt, creberque procellis
Here the winds not only blow together, but they
East, west, and south, engage with furious sweep,
-Stridens aquilone procella
Velum adversa ferit, fluctusque ad sidera tollit.
Or all the figures in poetry, that called the hy perbole, is managed with the greatest difficulty. The sail then Boreas rends with hideous cry, The hyperbole is an exaggeration with which the And whirls the madd'ning billows to the sky. muse is indulged for the better illustration of her subject, when she is warmed into enthusiasm. The motion of the sea between Scylla and Quintilian calls it an ornament of the bolder kind. Charybdis is still more magnified; and Ætna is Demetrius Phalereus is still more severe. He says exhibited as throwing out volumes of flame, which the hyperbole is of all forms of speech the most brush the stars. Such expressions as these are frigid; Μαλιστα δὲ ἡ Ὑπερβολη ψυχρ' τατον παντων ; not intended as a real representation of the thing but this must be understood with some grains of specified; they are designed to strike the reader's allowance. Poetry is animated by the passions; imagination; but they generally serve as marks and all the passions exaggerate. Passion itself is of the author's sinking under his own ideas, who, a magnifying medium. There are beautiful in-apprehensive of injuring the greatness of his stances of the hyperbole in the Scripture, which a own conception, is hurried into excess and extrareader of sensibility can not read without being vagance. strongly affected. The difficulty lies in choosing
Quintilian allows the use of hyperbole, when such hyperboles as the subject will admit of; for, words are wanting to express any thing in its just according to the definition of Theophrastus, the strength or due energy: then, he says, it is better frigid in style is that which exceeds the expression to exceed in expression than fall short of the consuitable to the subject. The judgment does not ception; but he likewise observes, that there is no revolt against Homer for representing the horses figure or form of speech so apt to run into fustian. of Ericthonius running over the standing corn Nec alia magis via in xaxıçınıav itur. without breaking off the heads, because the whole If the chaste Virgil has thus trespassed upon is considered as a fable, and the north wind is re-poetical probability, what can we expect from presented as their sire; but the imagination is a Lucan but hyperboles even more ridiculously exlittle startled, when Virgil, in imitation of this travagant? He represents the winds in contest, hyperbole, exhibits Camilla as flying over it with- the sea in suspense, doubting to which it shall give out even touching the tops:
Illa vel intacta segetis per summa volaret
This elegant author, we are afraid, has upon some other occasions degenerated into the frigid, in straining to improve upon his great master.
Homer in the Odyssey, a work which Longinus does not scruple to charge with bearing the marks of old age, describes a storm in which all the four winds were concerned together.
way. He affirms, that its motion would have been so violent as to produce a second deluge, had not Jupiter kept it under by the clouds; and as to the ship during this dreadful uproar, the sails touch the clouds, while the keel strikes the ground.
Speaking of the first, he says,
Tollimur in cœlum curvato gurgite, et iidem
Of the other,
Attollitque globos flammarum, et sidera lambit
Nubila tanguntur velis, et terra carinâ.
The ode and satire admit of the boldest hyThis image of dashing water at the stars, Sir warmth of the one; and in the other have a good perboles, such exaggerations suit the impetuous Richard Blackmore has produced in colours truly effect in exposing folly, and exciting horror against ridiculous. Describing spouting whales in his Prince Arthur, he makes the following comparison: comedy, for moving and managing the powers of vice. They may be likewise successfully used in
Like some prodigious water-engine made
To play on heaven, if fire should heaven invade.
The great fault in all these instances is a deviation from propriety, owing to the erroneous judg ment of the writer, who, endeavouring to captiVERSE is an harmonious arrangement of long vate the admiration with novelty, very often shocks and short syllables, adapted to different kinds of the understanding with extravagance. Of this na- poetry, and owes its origin entirely to the measured ture is the whole description of the Cyclops, both cadence, or music, which was used when the first in the Odyssey of Homer, and in the Æneid of songs or hymns were recited. This music, divided Virgil. It must be owned, however, that the Latin into different parts, required a regular return of the poet, with all his merit, is more apt than his great same measure, and thus every strophe, antistrooriginal to dazzle us with false fire, and practise phe, and stanza, contained the same number of upon the imagination with gay conceits, that will feet. To know what constituted the different kinds not bear the critic's examination. There is not in of rhythmical feet among the ancients, with respect any of Homer's works now subsisting such an to the number and quantity of their syllables, we example of the false sublime, as Virgil's descrip- have nothing to do but to consult those who have tion of the thunderbolts forging under the ham-written on grammar and prosody; it is the busimers of the Cyclops. ness of a schoolmaster, rather than the accomplishment of a man of taste.
Tres imbris torti radios, tres nubis aquosa
Various essays have been made in different countries to compare the characters of ancient and modern versification, and to point out the difference beyond any possibility of mistake. But they have made distinctions, where in fact there was no difDryden.ference, and left the criterion unobserved. They This is altogether a fantastic piece of affecta- have transferred the name of rhyme to a regular tion, of which we can form no sensible image, and serves to chill the fancy, rather than warm the admiration of a judging reader.
Extravagant hyperbole is a weed that grows in great plenty through the works of our admired Shakspeare. In the following description, which hath been much celebrated, one sees he has an eye to Virgil's thunderbolts.
repetition of the same sound at the end of the line, and set up this vile monotony as the characteristic of modern verse, in contradistinction to the feet of the ancients, which they pretend the poetry of modern languages will not admit.
Rhyme, from the Greek word Pubucs, is nothing else but number, which was essential to the ancient, as well as to the modern versification. As to the jingle of similar sounds, though it was never used by the ancients in any regular return in the middle, or at the end of the line, and was by no means deemed essential to the versification, yet they did not reject it as a blemish, where it occurred without the appearance of constraint. We meet with it often in the epithets of Homer: Appolo Biolo Αναξ Ανδρών Αγαμεμνων—almost the whole first ode of Anacreon is what we call rhyme. The following line of Virgil has been admired for the similitude of sound in the first two words.
O, then I see queen Mab hath been with you. She is the fairies' midwife; and she comes In shape no bigger than an agate-stone On the fore-finger of an alderman, Drawn with a team of little atomies Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep; Her wagon-spokes made of long spinner's legs; The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers; The traces, of the smallest spider's web; The collars, of the moonshine's wat'ry beams, etc. Even in describing fantastic beings there is a propriety to be observed; but surely nothing can be more revolting to common sense, than this numbering af the moon-beams among the other imple- Rhythmus, or number, is certainly essential to ments of queen Mab's harness, which, though ex-verse, whether in the dead or living languages; tremely slender and diminutive, are nevertheless and the real difference between the two is this: objects of the touch, and may be conceived capa- the number in ancient verse relates to the feet, and ble of use. in modern poetry to the syllables; for to assert that
Ore Arethusa tuo siculus confunditur undis.
It is generally supposed that the genius of the English language will not admit of Greek or Latin measure; but this, we apprehend, is a mistake owing to the prejudice of education. It is impos
modern poetry has no feet, is a ridiculous ab- of this restraint: but the number in all of these surdity. The feet that principally enter into the depends upon the syllables, and not upon the feet, composition of Greek and Latin verses, are either which are unlimited. of two or three syllables: those of two syllables are either both long, as the spondee; or both short, as the pyrrhic; or one short, and the other long, as the iambic; or one long, and the other short, as the troche. Those of three syllables, are the dactyl,sible that the same measure, composed of the same of one long and two short syllables; the anapest, of two short and one long; the tribachium, of three short; and the molossus of three long.
times, should have a good effect upon the ear in one language, and a bad effect in another. The truth is, we have been accustomed from our infancy From the different combinations of these feet, to the numbers of English poetry, and the very restricted to certain numbers, the ancients formed sound and signification of the words dispose the their different kinds of verses, such as the hexa-ear to receive them in a certain manner; so that meter or heroic distinguished by six feet dactyls its disappointment must be attended with a disaand spondees, the fifth being always a dactyl, and greeable sensation. In imbibing the first rudithe last a spondee; e. g.
ments of education, we acquire, as it were, another ear for the numbers of Greek and Latin poetry, and this being reserved entirely for the sounds and significations of the words that constitute those dead languages, will not easily accommodate itself to the sounds of our vernacular tongue, though conveyed in the same time and measure. In a word, Latin and Greek have annexed to them the ideas of the ancient measure, from which they are not easily disjoined. But we will venture to say, this difficulty might be surmounted by an effort of attention and a little practice; and in that case we should in time be as well pleased with English as with Latin hexameters.
Cùm mala per lon-gas invalu-ere mo-ras. They had likewise the iambic of three sorts, the dimeter, the trimeter, and the tetrameter, and all the different kinds of lyric verse specified in the odes of Sappho, Alcæus, Anacreon and Horace. Each of these was distinguished by the number, as well as by the species of their feet; so that they Sir Philip Sydney is said to have miscarried in were doubly restricted. Now all the feet of the his essays; but his miscarriage was no more than ancient poetry are still found in the versification of that of failing in an attempt to introduce a new living languages; for as cadence was regulated by fashion. The failure was not owing to any defect the ear, it was impossible for a man to write melo- or imperfection in the scheme, but to the want of dious verse, without naturally falling into the use taste, to the irresolution and ignorance of the pubof ancient feet, though perhaps he neither knows lic. Without all doubt the ancient measure, so their measure, nor denomination. Thus Spenser, different from that of modern poetry, must have Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, and all our appeared remarkably uncouth to people in general, poets, abound with dactyls, spondees, trochees, who were ignorant of the classics; and nothing anapests, etc. which they use indiscriminately in but the countenance and perseverance of the learnall kinds of composition, whether tragic, epic, pas-¡ed could reconcile them to the alteration. We toral, or ode, having in this particular, greatly the have seen several late specimens of English hexaadvantage of the ancients, who were restricted to particular kinds of feet in particular kinds of verse. If we then are confined with the fetters of what is called rhyme, they were restricted to particular species of feet; so that the advantages and disadvantages, are pretty equally balanced: but indeed the English are more free in this particular, than any other modern nation. They not only use blank verse in tragedy and the epic, but even in lyric poetry. Milton's translation of Horace's ode to Pyrrha is universally known and generally admired, in our opinion much above its merit. There stood to be an elevation or sinking of the voice in is an ode extant without rhyme addressed to Eve- reciting: the pause is a rest, that divides the verse ning, by the late Mr. Collins, much more beautiful; into two parts, each of them called an hemistich. and Mr. Warton, with some others, has happily The pause and accent in English poetry vary ocsucceeded in divers occasional pieces, that are free casionally, according to the meaning of the words;
meters and sapphics, so happily composed, that by attaching them to the idea of ancient measure, we found them in all respects as melodious and agreeable to the ear as the works of Virgil and Anacreon or Horace.
Though the number of syllables distinguishes the nature of the English verse from that of the Greek and Latin, it constitutes neither harmony, grace, nor expression. These must depend on the choice of words, the seat of the accent, the pause, and the cadence. The accent, or tone, is under
so that the hemistich does not always consist of an | fugues, or often are barely unison. His melodies equal number of syllables: and this variety is also, where no passion is expressed, give equal agreeable, as it prevents a dull repetition of regu-pleasure from this delicate simplicity; and I need lar stops, like those in the French versification, only instance that song in the Serva Padrona, every line of which is divided by a pause exactly in which begins Lo conosco a quegl' occelli, as one the middle. The cadence comprehends that poeti- of the finest instances of excellence in the duo. cal style which animates every line, that propriety The Italian artists in general have followed his which give strength and expression, that numero- manner, yet seem fond of embellishing the delicate sity which renders the verse smooth, flowing, and simplicity of the original. Their style in music harmonious, that significancy which marks the seems somewhat to resemble that of Seneca in passions, and in many cases makes the sound an writing, where there are some beautiful starts of echo to the sense. The Greek and Latin lan-thought; but the whole is filled with studied eleguages, in being copious and ductile, are suscepti-gance and unaffecting affectation.
ble of a vast variety of cadences, which the living languages will not admit; and of these a reader of any ear will judge for himself.
Lully in France first attempted the improvement of their music, which in general resembled that of our old solemn chants in churches. It is worthy of remark, in general, that the music of every country is solemn in proportion as the inhabitants are merry; or in other words, the merriest sprightliest nations are remarked for having the slowest music; and those whose character it is to be melanA SCHOOL in the polite arts properly signifies choly, are pleased with the most brisk and airy that succession of artists, which has learned the movements. Thus in France, Poland, Ireland, principles of the art from some eminent master, and Switzerland, the national music is slow, melaneither by hearing his lessons, or studying his works, choly, and solemn; in Italy, England, Spain, and and consequently who imitate his manner either Germany, it is faster, proportionably as the people through design or from habit. Musicians seem are grave. Lully only changed a bad manner, agreed in making only three principal schools in which he found, for a bad one of his own. music; namely, the school of Pergolese in Italy, of drowsy pieces are played still to the most sprightly Lully in France, and of Handel in England; audience that can be conceived; and even though though some are for making Rameau the founder Rameau, who is at once a musician and philosoof a new shoool, different from those of the for- pher, has shown, both by precept and example, mer, as he is the inventor of beauties peculiarly what improvements French music may still admit his own. of, yet his countrymen seem little convinced by his Without all doubt, Pergolese's music deserves reasonings: and the Pont-Neuf taste, as it is called, the first rank; though excelling neither in variety | still prevails in their best performances. of movements, number of parts, nor unexpected The English school was first planned by Purcel: flights, yet he is universally allowed to be the mu- he attempted to unite the Italian manner, that presical Raphael of Italy. This great master's prin- vailed in his time, with the ancient Celtic carol cipal art consisted in knowing how to excite our and the Scotch ballad, which probably had also its passions by sounds, which seem frequently oppo- origin in Italy; for some of the best Scotch bal... site to the passion they would express: by slow lads, "The Broom of Cowdenknows," for instance, solemn sounds he is sometimes known to throw us are still ascribed to David Rizzio. But be that as into all the rage of battle; and even by faster move-it will, his manner was something peculiar to the ments he excites melancholy in every heart that English; and he might have continued as head of sounds are capable of affecting. This is a talent the English school, had not his merits been enwhich seems born with the artist. We are unable tirely eclipsed by Handel. Handel, though origito tell why such sounds affect us; they seem no nally a German, yet adopted the English manner; way imitative of the passion they would express, he had long laboured to please by Italian composibut operates upon us by an inexpressible sympa- tion, but without success; and though his English thy: the original of which is as inscrutable as the oratorios are accounted inimitable, yet his Italian secret springs of life itself. To this excellence he operas are fallen into oblivion. Pergolese excelled adds another, in which he is superior to every other in passionate simplicity: Lully was remarkable for artist of the profession, the happy transition from creating a new species of music, where all is eleone passion to another. No dramatic poet better gant, but nothing passionate or sublime; Handel's knows to prepare his incidents than he; the audi- true characteristic is sublimity; he has employed ence are pleased in those intervals of passion with all the variety of sounds and parts in all his pieces: the delicate, the simple harmony, if I may so ex- the perfomances of the rest may be pleasing, though press it, in which the parts are all thrown into executed by few performers; his requires the full