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of winter within the Polar Circle, and of a thaw, and concludes the poem with moral reflections on a future ftate.
His reflections on midnight, and the address to the Su. preme Being, are pious and beautiful.
As yet ’tis midnight deep. The weary clouds,
Where now, ye lying vanities of life!
FATHER of light and life! thou GOOD SUPREME!
The description of a deep snow, and of a husbandman loft in it, with the reflections on the wants and miseries of mankind, are seasonable and pathetic.
As thus, the snows arise; and foul, and fierce;
Rush on his nerves, and call their vigour forth
Ah little think the gay licentious proud,
His conclufion glows with a stain of piety worthy of a christian poet and philosopher, and is too perspicuous and forcible to require or admit of any remark.
'Tis done! dread Winter spreads his latest gloom,
Those restless cares? Those busy bustling days ?
retin'd clears up apace.
Imbitter'd all our bliss. Ye good distreft!
HE method of writing Precepts in verse, and em
bellishing them with the graces of poetry, had its rise, we may suppose, from a due consideration of the frailties and perverseness of human nature ; and was intended to engage the affections, in order to improve the mind and amend the heart.
Were it possible to inspect into the minds of men, and fee their inmost thoughts, we should find, I am afraid, that most of the human race are fond of appearing wiser than they are, and though they wish for knowledge are unwilling to confess the want of it, or to seek after science for fear of being thought ignorant. Yet there are others, especially amongst our youth, who are under no apprehenfion of this kind, but fly from knowledge only because the roads to it are rugged, and the approaches difficult of access. To footh therefore the vanity of the one, and to semove the indolence of the other, poetry was called in to the aid of science, which by its peculiar gracefulness and address could foften the appearance of instruction, and render rules that were dull and disagreeable, sprightly and entertaining. The inventor of didactic poetry knew not only the defects of mankind, but likewise the force and power of a genteel and winning address : He confider'd that ignorance and inattention were not the only enemies to science ; but that pride, impatience, and affectation, were likewise to be vanquished ; and therefore adorned and enriched his precepts, that pleasure might allure the one, and keep the other in countenance,
Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
Knowledge that is conveyed thus indirectly, and with out the appearance of a dictator, will be learned with more ease, sink deeper into the underftanding, and fo fix itself in the mind as not to be easily obliterated. And these considerations, we may suppose, induced the priests and bards of old to deliver their laws and religious maxims in verse.
Didactic or Preceptive Poetry, has been usually employed either to illustrate and explain our moral duties ; our philosophical enquiries ; our business and pleasures; or in teaching the art of criticism or poetry itself. It may be adapted, however, to any other subject, and may, in all cases, where instruction is designed, be employed to good purpose. Some subjects, indeed, are more proper than others, as they admit of more poetical ornaments, and give a greater latitude to genius ; but what. ever the subject is, those precepts are to be laid down that are the most useful, and they should follow each other in a natural easy method, and be delivered in the most agreeable engaging manner. What the prose writer tells you ought to be done, the poet often conveys under the form of a narration, or thews the necessity of in a description ; and by representing the action as done, or doing, conceals the precept that should enforce it. The poet, likewise, instead of telling the whole truth, or laying down all the rules that are requisite, selects fuch parts only as are the most pleasing, and communicates the rest indirectly, with out giving us an open view of them; yet takes care that nothing hall escape the reader's notice with which he ought to be acquainted. He discloses just enough to lead the imagination into the parts that are concealed, and the mind, ever gratified with its own discoveries, is compli. mented with exploring and finding them out ; which, tho' done with ease, seems so confiderable as not to be obtained but in consequence of its own adroitness and fagacity:
But this is not sufficient to render didactic poetry always pleasing; for where precepts are laid down one after a: