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of the lacquies of the palace, but no writor would introduce this into an epic poem.
What I observed in a former letter on the subject of amplification, is more strictly applicable to poetry than to any other kind of composition. The soul of poetry is detail, for it must ever be considered as a picture. The fairest mark indeed of a vigorous imagination is the power of displaying all the nice and discriminating features of the human character and passions. It shews penetration to observe them, fancy in being able to depict them, and judgment in selecting and arranging them. Shakspeare surpasses all mankind in this excellence; and in Milton, though his subject may seem unfavourable to such a display, the most enchanting passages are of this kind. How minute, and yet how interesting is the fol. lowing scene, where Adam finds Eve asleep with unusual discomposure in her looks after her alarming dream
“ Now morn her rosy steps in theastern clime
Advancing, sow'd the earth with orient pearl, " When Adam wak’d, so custom'd, for his sleep “ Was airy light from pure digestion bred, " And temperate vapours bland, which th' only sound
“Of leaves and fuming rills, Aurora's fan,
Leaning half-rais'd, with looks of cordial love
Hung over her enamour'd, and beheld “ Beauty, which whether waking or asleep, “ Shot forth peculiar graces: then with voice
Mild, as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes, “ Her hand soft touching, whisper'd thus : awake
My fairest, my espoused, my latest found, “ Heav'n's last best gift, my ever ne delig “ Awake; the morning shines, and the fresh field “Calls us; we lose the prime to mark how spring ri Our tended plants, how blows the citron grove, “ What drops the myrrh, and what the balmy reed; " How nature paints her colours, how the bee “ Sits on the bloom, extracting liquid sweet. “ Such whisp'ring wak'd her, but with startled eye “ On Adam, whom embracing, thus she spake.
For the thoughts and ornamental part, poetry draws her resources from every quarter. In this view, if two men are equally gifted with the powers of fancy, he that knows most will be the best poet. The great reading of Milton serves constantly to enrich his poem, and keep alive the attention of his reader, by fine and vivid allusions and similies, and by occasional descriptions illustrative of his subject; and Shakspeare's rich mind derives embellishments from every thing in nature and art, by means of the slightest associations. There is a pretty thought in Don Quixote to this effect, wbich I formerly transcribed
“ La poesia, a mi paracer, es como una doncella tierna, y depoca edad, y en todo extremo hermosa, a quien tienen cuidado de enriqueceur, pulir & adornar otras muchas doncellas, que son todas las otras cientias, y ella ha de servir de todas, y todas se han de autorizar con ella."
“ Poetry may be compared to a beautiful young female, attended by several other females, whose care and occupation it is to dress and adorn her; these she regularly employs in her service, while they on their part derive credit and estimation from her.”
To prescribe rules for the production of beau. tiful thoughts in poetry, would subject the empiric who made the attempt to well merited ridicule. Something of this kind was however attempted some years ago in Byshe's Art of Poetry, where a kind of common-place book is
exhibited of poetic ideas suited to a variety of subjects. The writer, however, who proceeded upon such a plan would be a plagiary and not a poet. It is extensive reading and observation that must ireasure up a stock of materials, and it is genius alone that can form those fine, and fanciful, ands triking combinations, that can enchant the reader. Unquestionably the taste, nay perhaps the imagination may be cultivated and improved ; but this can only be done by reading most attentively the best models, discriminating, marking, and dwelling upon their beauties. Seneca, in one of his epistles, strongly recommends the reading over and over a few good books in preference to the busy and cursory perusal of many. To a young poet I am sure this is the soundest advice, that can be given. The really good poets are few, and to these he ought to give such attention as to be master of their style of thinking, of every pe- , culiar form in which they express themselves.
No critical rules can give genius. They are rather calculated to restrain and govern its eccentricities. They may prevent faults, but cannot invent beauties. Perhaps what I have observed on the sublime and pathetic may be
of some use in pointing out the nature of these sources of fine thought; but what is the use of knowing from what country a valuable commodity is procured, unless you have the means of making it your own ?
I shall therefore employ both my own time and yours better in pointing out some of the errors into which young writers are liable to fall, than in attempting to
“ Write dull receipts how poems should be made."
Ist. Every orna vental thought in poetry should flow naturally out of the subject. It should not, in the hacknied phrase, “ smell of the lamp." It should be a volunteer, not pressed into the service. In Virgil himself, whom as a poet I almost idolize, I seem sometimes to have discovered this fault. The beautiful lines, which on a former occasion I quoted from the %d Georgic
“ Optima quæque dies,” &c.
I have always thought misplaced, and much too good for the subject. But in inferior wri. ters you will frequently find thoughts forcibly introduced as from a common place-book,