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or calmed; the places or repositories to which we may recur, when we want proper matter for any of these purposes. Besides all this, they studied sentiments and manners; what constitutes a work, what, a whole and parts; what, the essence of probable, and even of natural fiction, as contributing to constitute a just dramatic fable.
ADVICE TO A BEGINNER IN THE ART OF
CRITICISM. IF I might advise a beginner in this elegant pursuit, it should be, as far as possible, to recur for principles to the most plain and simple truths, and to extend every theorem, as he advances, to its utmost latitude, so as to make it suit, and include, the greatest number of possible cases.
I would advise him further, to avoid subtle and far-fetched refinement, which as it is for the most part averse to perspicuity and truth, may serve to make an able sophist, but never an able critic.
A word more—I would advise a young critic, in his contemplations, to turn his eye rather to the praise-worthy than the blameable; that is, to investigate the cause of praise, rather than the causes of blame. For though an uninformed beginner may, in a single instance, happen to blame properly, it is more than probable, that in the next he may fail, and incur the censure passed upon the criticising cobler, Ne sutor ultra crepidam.
CRITICISM, AN ALLEGORY. CRITICISM, was the eldest daughter of Labour * and of Truth ; she was, at her birth, committed
to the care of Justice, and brought up by her in the palace of Wisdom. Being soon distinguished by the celestials, for her uncommon qualities, she was appointed the governess of Fancy, and empowered to beat time to the chorus of the Muses, when they sung before the throne of Jupiter,
When the Muses condescended to visit this lower world, they came accompanied by Criticism, to whom, upon her descent from her native regions, Justice gave a sceptre, to be carried aloft in her right hand, one end of which was tinctured with ambrosia, and inwreathed with a golden foliage of amaranths and bays; the other end was encircled with cypress and poppies, and dipped in the waters of oblivion. In her left hand, she bore an unextinguishable torch, manufactured by Labour, and lighted by Truth, of which it was the particular quality immediately to show every thing in its true form, however it might be disguised to common eyes. Whatever Art could complicate, or Folly could confound, was upon the first gleam of the torch of Truth, exhibited in its distinct parts and original simplicity; it darted through the labyrinths of sophistry, and showed at once all the absurdities to which they served for refuge; it pierced through the robes which Rhetoric often sold to Falsehood, and detected the disproportion of parts, which artificial veils had been contrived to cover.
Thus furnished for the execution of her office,
Criticism came down to survey the performances of those who professed themselves the votaries of the Muses. Whatever was brought before her, she beheld by the steady light of the torch of Truth; and when her examination had convinced her, that the laws of just writing had been observed, she touched it with the amaranthine end of the sceptre, and consigned it over to. immor. tality.
But it more frequently happened, that in the works which required her inspection, there was some imposture attempted: that false colours were laboriously laid ; that some secret inequality was found between the words and sentiments, or some dissimilitude of the ideas and the original objects; that incongruities were linked together, or that some parts were of no use but to enlarge the appearance of the whole, without contributing to its beauty, solidity, or usefulness.
Wherever such discoveries were made, and they were made wherever these faults were committed, Criticism refused the torch which con. ferred the sanction of immortality, and when the errours were frequent and gross reversed the sceptre, and let drops of Lethe distil from the poppies and cypress a fatal mildew which immediately began to waste the work away, till it was at last totally destroyed.
There were some compositions brought to the test, in which when the strongest light was thrown upon them, their beauties and faults appeared so equally mingled, that Criticism stood with her sceptre poised in her hand, in doubt whether to shed lethe or ambrosia upon them. These at last increased to so great a number, that she was weary of attending such doubtful claims, and, for fear of using improperly the sceptre of Justice, referred the cause to be considered by Time.
The proceedings of Time, though very dilatory, were, some few caprices excepted, conformable to Justice; and many who thought themselves secure by a short forbearance, have sunk under his scythe as they were posting down with their volumes in triumph to futurity. It was observable that some were destroyed by little and little, and others crushed for ever by a single blow.
Criticism having long kept her eye fixed steadily upon Time, was at last so well satisfied with his conduct, that she withdrew from the earth with her patroness Astrea, and left Prejudice and False Taste to ravage at large as the associates of Fraud and Mischief; contenting herself thenceforth to shed her influence from afar upon some select minds, fitted for its reception by learning and by virtue.
Before her departure she broke her sceptre, of which the shivers that form the ambrosial end, were caught up by Flattery, and those that had been infected with the waters of Lethe were, with 'equal haste, seized by Malevolence. The followers of Flattery, to whom she distributed her part of the sceptre, neither had nor desired light, but touched indiscriminately wbatever Power or Interest happened to exhibit. The companions of Malevolence were supplied by the Furies with a torch, which had this quality peculiar to infer. nal lustre, that its light fell only upon faults.
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd only to discover sights of woe. With these fragments of authority, the slaves of Flattery or Malevolence marched out, at the command of their mistresses, to confer immortality or condemn to oblivion. But the sceptre had now lost its power; and Time passes his sentence at leisure, without any regard to their determinations.
OF THE ORIGIN OF POETRY.
THE Greeks, ever fond of attributing to their own nation the invention of all sciences and arts, have ascribed the origin of poetry to Orpheus, Linus, and Musæus. There were, perhaps, such persons as these, who were the first distinguished bards in the Grecian countries. But long before such names were heard of, and aniong nations where they were never known, poetry existed. It is a great errour to imagine that poetry and music' are arts which belong only to polished nations. They have their foundation in the nature of man, and belong to all nations, and to all ages; though like other arts founded in nature, they have been more cultivated, and from a concurrence of favourable circumstances, carried to greater perfection in some countries than in others. In order to explore the rise of poetry, we must have recourse to the deserts and the wilds; we must go back to the age of hunters and of shepherds; to the highest antiquity, and to the simplest form of manners among mankind.