Puslapio vaizdai

nited force, accounts for a fact that may appear furprising; which is, that we are more moved by a fpirited narrative at fecond hand, than by being fpectators of the event itfelf, in all its circum


Longinus exemplifies the foregoing rule by a comparison of two paffages*. The firft, from Ariftæus, is thus tranflated:

Ye pow'rs, what madnefs! how on fhips fo frail
(Tremendous thought!) can thoughtlefs mortals fail?
For ftormy feas they quit the pleafing plain,
Plant woods in waves, and dwell amidst the main.
Far o'er the deep (a tracklefs path) they go,
And wander oceans in pursuit of wo.

No ease their hearts, no reft their eyes can find,

On heaven their looks, and on the waves their mind.

Sunk are their fpirits, while their arms they rear,
And gods are wearied with their fruitless prayer.

The other, from Homer, I fhall give in Pope's translation :

Bursts as a wave that from the cloud impends,
And fwell'd with tempefts on the fhip defcends.
White are the decks with foam: the winds aloud
Howl o'er the mafts, and fing through every shroud.
Pale, trembling, tir'd, the failors freeze with fears,
And inftant death on every wave appears.

In the latter paffage, the moft ftriking circumftances are selected to fill the mind with terror and

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aftonishment. The former is a collection of mi hute and low circumftances, which fcatter the thought, and make no impreffion: it is at the fame time full of verbal antithefes and low conceit, extremely improper in a scene of diftress. But this last observation is made occasionally only, as it belongs not to the prefent head.

The following defcription of a battle is remarkably fublime, by collecting together in the feweft words, thofe circumstances which make the greateft figure.

Like Autumn's dark ftorms pouring from two echoing hills; toward each other approached the heroes: as two dark streams from high rocks, meet and roar on the plain; loud, rough, and dark in battle, meet Lochlin and Inisfail. Chief mixes his ftrokes with chief, and man with man fteel founds on fteel, and helmets are cleft on high blood bursts and smokes around: ftrings murmur on the polish'd yew: darts rush along the sky: spears fall like fparks of flame that gild the stormy face of night.


As the noife of the troubled ocean when roll the waves on high, as the laft peal of thundering heaven; such is the noife of battle. Though Cormac's hundred bards were there, feeble were the voice of a hundred bards, to fend the deaths to future times; for many were the deaths of the heroes, and wide poured the blood of the valiant. Fingal.

In the twenty-first book of the Odyssey, there is a paffage which deviates widely from the rule above laid down it concerns that part of the history of Penelope and her fuitors, in which she is made


to declare in favour of him, who fhould prove the most dexterous in fhooting with the bow of Ulyffes:

Now gently winding up the fair ascent,

By many an easy step, the matron went :

Then o'er the pavement glides with grace divine,
(With polish'd oak the level pavements fhine);
The folding gates a dazzling light display'd,
With pomp of various architrave o'erlay'd.
The bolt, obedient to the filken string,
Forfakes the staple as fhe pulls the ring;
The wards refpondent to the key turn'd round;
The bars fall back; the flying valves refound.
Loud as a bull makes hill and valley ring;
So roar'd the lock when it releas'd the fpring.
She moves majestic through the wealthy room
Where treafur'd garments caft a rich perfume;
There from the column where aloft it hung,
Reach'd, in its fplendid cafe, the bow unftrung.

Virgil fometimes errs against this rule: in the following paffages, minute circumstances are brought into full view; and what is ftill worse, they are described with all the pomp of poetical diction, Eneid, L. 1. l. 214. to 219. L. 6. l. 176. to 182. L. 6. l. 212. to 231.: and the last, which defcribes a funeral, is the lefs excufable, as the man whose funeral it is makes no figure in the poem.

The fpeech of Clytemneftra, defcending from her chariot in the Iphigenia of Euripides*, is

* Beginning of act 3.


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ftuffed with a number of common and trivial circumstances.

But of all writers, Lucan in this article is the most injudicious: the fea-fight between the Romans and Maffilians, is defcribed fo much in detail, without exhibiting any grand or total view, that the reader is fatigued with endless circumstances, without ever feeling any degree of elevation; and yet there are fome fine incidents, thofe for example of the two brothers, and of the old man and his son, which, taken separately, would affect us greatly. But Lucan, once engaged in a defcription, knows no bounds. See other paffages of the fame kind, L. 4. 1. 292. to 337. L. 4. 1.750. to 765. The episode of the forceress Ericho, end of book 6. is intolerably minute and prolix.

To these I venture to oppofe a paffage from an old historical ballad :

Go, little page, tell Hardiknute

That lives on hill fo high †,

To draw his fword, the dread of faes,

And hafte to follow me.

The little page flew fwift as dart

Flung by his master's arm.

"Come down, come down, Lord Hardiknuté,
"And rid your king from harm.”

This rule is also applicable to other fine arts. In painting it is established, that the principal fi

* Lib. 3. beginning at line 567.

High, in the old Scotch language, is pronounced hee.


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gure must be put in the ftrongest light; that the

beauty of attitude confifts in placing the nobler parts most in view, and in fuppreffing the fmaller parts as much as poffible; that the folds of the drapery must be few and large; that forefhortenings are bad, because they make the parts appear little; and that the mufcles ought to be kept as entire as poffible, without being divided into small fections. Every one at prefent fubfcribes to this rule as applied to gardening, in oppofition to parterres fplit into a thousand finall parts in the ftiffeft regularity of figure. The most eminent architects have governed themselves by the fame rule in all their works.

Another rule chiefly regards the fublime,

though it is applicable to every fort of literary performance intended for amufement; and that is, to avoid as much as poffible abftract nd general terms. Such terms, fimilar to mathemati

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cal figns, are contrived to exprefs our thoughts

in a concise manner; but images, which are the
life of poetry, cannot be raised in any perfection,
otherwife than by introducing particular objects.
General terms that comprehend a number of in-
dividuals, must be excepted from this rule our
kindred, our clan, our country, and words of
the like import, though they fcarce raise any i-
mage, have notwithstanding a wonderful power
over our paffions: the greatness of the complex
object overbalances the obfcurity of the image.


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