« ZurückWeiter »
To placed as to produce harmony : the long and short, the smooth and rough syllables were variously combined to recommend the sense by the found, and elevation and cadence employed to make the whole more musically expressive.
Hence poetry became the parent of music, and indeed of dancing ;' for the method of measuring the time of their verses, per Arfin et Thesin, and of beat-ing the bars or divisions of music, gave rise, we may suppose, to this art, and taught the feet also to express the transports of the foul * To the truth of these reflections, which are drawn from nature, every one will affent, who considers how he is affected by poetry and music ; for no man can resist the natural impusse he will have to dance, or agitate the body at certain combinations of words and of sounds, unless he be unhappily possessed of one of those gloomy minds described by Shakespeare t. And this will in fome measure account, not only for the great antiquity of dancing, but for its application to religious ceremonies even in the first ages of the world. Poetry, Music, and Dancing, were used by the Ifraelites of old in their worship, and are thus employ'd by many of the eastern nations, and by the Indians of America to this day.
"What we have said of the origin of poetry will account for the necessity there is for that enthusiasm, that fertility of invention, those sallies of imagination, lofty ideas, noble sentiments, bold and figurative expressions, harmony of numbers, and indeed that
* Dacunt Choreas et Carmina dicunt.
+ The man that hath no music in himself,
SHAKESPEARE'S Merchant of Venice,
natural love of the grand, sublime, and marvellous, which are the essential characteristics of a good poet. The poet, not satisfied with exploring all nature for subjects, wantons in the fields of fancy, and creates beings of his own. He raises floating islands, dreary deserts, and inchanted castles, which he peoples, by the magic of his imagination, with satyrs, nymphs, fairics and gnomes; and from imaginary things excites real pleasure, and furnishes the mind with solid instruction. He not only, like Midas, turns every thing he touches into gold, (but what has never yet been fabled) he foars beyond the regions of Æther, and brings gold out of nothing. From there bold and enthusiaitic flights, poets are said to be divinely inspired, since these qualifications are not to be obtained by art, but derive their source from nature, and are the gifts of heaven alone.
But this divine science, originally intended for the worship of God, was in process of time debased; and when men forsook the Lord of Life, apply'd to inferior purposes. It was callid in to the praise of legislators and great men.
This use was made of it not only by the eastern nations, but by the Greeks, Romans, and by the ancient bards in Britain, who, as history tells us, made fongs in praise of their heroes, which they adapted to music, and sung to their harps. Of late indeed Poetry has been adet shamefully prostituted ; but that is no argument. against its excellency. Has not its filter Elequenie shared the fame fate, and been employ'd to unjust purposes, and to obtain the most wicked ends? This therefore it has in common with other sciences, and in consequence of the general depravity of mankind.
But the excellency of Poetry, and the attractive charms of the Mules, may be estimated by the number of votaries they have obtained ; fince there are few me, how cold and phleginatic foever, but have
some time or other paid their court to the ladies
of Parnassus. And this general affection for the art will render any apology needless that might be made for the publication of this volume; in which we have not satisfied ourselves with writing dull receipts how poems may be made *, but have, (together with such rules as are necessary for the conitruction of English verse and of the various fpecies of Poetry) presented the reader with variety of examples from our best and most celebrated English poets.
What is, said on versification is indeed but little, yet it is what was thought abundantly fufficient, In short, no more could be introduced 'that would be useful; and to incumber a young student in any frience with useless rules, is increasing his difficulty, retarding his progress, and like loading a man with arms which may hinder his march, but can afford hia no defence or assistance on the road.
The rules observed by the ancient ports were adapted to the ancient tongues, but will not suit our language, since the quantity, or that space of time, whether long or short, in which any syllable is pronounced, is generally determined by the accents. And the harmony of Milton's numbers will be found not to depend on the rules of quantity, but on other principles. He has not confined hinzself to the lambic, which is the measure adjudged to our English heroics, but compounded his verses with other feet, and so diversified his measures, by judiciously varying the Cæfural Pause, that he has given them a variety of harmony not to be met with in other poets, and avoided a constant tedious uniformity, that would have been ever lifeless, dull, and disagreeable.
I Ahall conclude these reflections in the words of an author of great taste and judgment . Versification, says he, is in Poetry what colouring is in painting,
* Pope's Elay on Criticism.
§ Lord LANSDOWN,
a beautiful ornament. But if the proportions are
ART of POETRY
CHAP. I. Containing a Definition of Poetry, and the Qualifications
of a true Poet.
OETRY is the art of composing poems, or pieces in verse,
in order to please and to infiruct. But a skill in mak
ing verses, or writing in numbers, is one of the least qualifications of a good poet; for a person of an indiffc. rent genius may be taught to compofe verses that will flow smoothly, and sound well to the car, which yet may be of no value for want of strong sense, propriety, and elevation of thought, or purity of diction. A true poet is distinguished by a fruitfulness of invention, a lively imagination tempered by a solid judgment, a nobleness of sentiments and ideas, and a bold, lofty, and figurative manner of expression. He thoroughly understands the nature of his fub. ject ; and, let his poem be never so short, he forms a de. sign or plan, by which every verse is directed to a certain end, and each has a just dependence on the other ; for it is this produces the beauty of order and harmony, and gives satisfaction to a rational mind. The duke of Buckingham, in his Elay on Poetry, very justly observes :
Numbers, and rhymes, and that harmonious found