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pen; and with regard to compofition and verfification, a good ear is beyond all the rules in the world.
We are now to speak of the laws and rules of the feveral kinds of poetry, as laid down by the best critics, and to give fpecimens of fuch as will fall within the compafs of our defign.
Of the different SPECIES of POETRY.
HE writers on the art of poetry have usually claffed the feveral forts of poems under the following heads, . the Epigram, the Elegy, the Paftoral, the Ode, the Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Epic poem. This dif tribution, however, feems infufficient, and therefore we hope a deviation from the learned in this refpect will not appear arrogant or difagreeable; especially if the alterations we propofe fhould be found to have their bafis in truth and right reafon.
Every thing in nature, that is diftinct and different' from all others, fhould have a name, whereby it may be distinguished without a tedious enumeration of its properties and adjuncts; fince a method of that kind would occafion infinite perplexity and confufion, which is ever to be avoided, and especially in matters of science; and, if on mature examination it be found, that there are poems of confiderable character which are effentially different from those we have already mentioned, and are not to be refolved into any of them, another diftribution may be juftified.
The Epitaph, on account, perhaps, of the epigrammatic point with which thofe little pieces are often clofed, has been ufually claffed with the epigram; but as there are numberless epitaphs whofe excellency does not confift in fhining thoughts and points of wit, (the characteristics of our modern epigrams) we shall take the freedom to affign. them a diftinct place.
Epifles, defcriptive and preceptive poems, tales, fables, and allegorical poetry, deferve the fame diftinction; for as these methods of writing have obtained much of late, they are of too great confequence to be paffed over, and it feems impoffible
to treat of them under any other article without manifeft incongruity. It may be faid, indeed, that many of our epiftles (especially thofe of Horace and Mr. Pope) partake of the fatire; but that is no reason why others that are of a quite different nature fhould be placed under that head. The defcriptive poems of Milton, I mean his L'Allegro and Il Penferofo, as well as Denham's Cooper's Hill, Pope's Windfor Foreft, and others in our language, cannot be claffed under any of the ufual divifions of poetry; nor indeed can the preceptive poems with any degree of accuracy or fhew of reason. Virgil's Georgics, Horace's Art of Poetry, the duke of Buckinghamshire's Effay, Rofcommon on tranflated Verfe, Pope's Efay on Man, and his Efay on Criticism, are fo effentially different and diftinct from any of the usual claffes, that the critics, with all their art, will never be able to discover any real agreement between them, nor will they deny, I fuppofe, but that Virgil's Georgis, and Pope's Efay on Man, deserve as much efteem at least as their pa ftorals, though they have been thus neglected in their divifion of this art. If it be faid, that the other fpecies of poetry often partake of all these different kinds, I answer, that is no objection; for this they occafionally do of each other even the epic poem, with all its dignity, has fometimes the plaintive strain of the elegy, and the farcasm and afperity of fatire.
Tales and fables, indeed, when they are of any value, are in general either didactic or fatirical, and may therefore be refolved into the preceptive poem or the fatire; but as there is something peculiar in their compofition, we shall affign them a diftinct chapter, and deliver what we have farther to say on this art under the following heads, viz. the Epigram, the Epitaph, the Elegy, the Paftoral, the Epiftle, the Defcriptive Poem, the Preceptive Poem, Tales and Fables, the Allegorical Poem, the Ode, the Satire, Comedy, Tragedy, and the Heroic poem, of which the Epic is the moft exalted part, and requires the utmost extent of human genius.
Of the EPIGRAM.
HE Epigram is a little poem, or compofition in verse,
racters are Brevity, Beauty, and Point.
The word Epigram fignifies Infcription; for epigrams de rive their origin from thofe infcriptions placed by the antients on their ftatues, temples, pillars, triumphal arches, and the like; which, at first, were very fhort, being fometimes no more than a fingle word, but afterwards, increafing their length, they made them in verfe, to be the better retained by the memory. This fhort way of writing came at last to be used upon any occafion or subject; and hence the name of Epigram has been given to any little of copy verfes, without regard to the original application of such poems.
Its ufual limits are from trvo to twenty verfes, though fometimes it extends to fifty; but the shorter the better it is, and the more perfect, as it partakes more of the nature and character of this kind of poem: Befides, the epigram, being only a fingle thought, ought to be expressed in a little compass, or elfe it lofes its force and strength.
The Beauty required in an Epigram is an harmony and apt agreement of all its parts, a fweet fimplicity, and polite language.
The Point is a fharp, lively, unexpected turn of wit, with which an epigram ought to be concluded. There are fome critics, indeed, who will not admit the Point in an Epigram, but require the thought to be equally diffused through the whole poem, which is ufually the practice of Catullus, as the former is that of Martial. It is allow'd there is more delicacy in the manner of Catullus, but the Point is more agreeable to the general taste, and seems to be the chief characteristic of the Epigram.
This fort of poem admits of all manner of subjects, provided that Brevity, Beauty, and Point are preferved; but it is generally employed either in Praife or Satire.
Tho' the best Epigrams are faid to be fuch as are comprized in two or four verses, we are not to understand it as if none can be perfect which exceed thofe limits. Neither the antients nor moderns have been fo fcrupulous with respect to the length of their Epigrams; but however, Brevity in general is always to be studied in these compofi
For examples of good Epigrams in the English language, we shall make choice of feveral in the different taftes we have mention'd; fome remarkable for their delicate turn and fimplicity of expreffion, and others for their falt and sharpnefs, their equivocating pun, or pleasant allufion. In the first place, take that of Mr. Pope, faid to be written on a glafs with the earl of Chesterfield's diamond pencil :
Accept a miracle, instead of wit;
See two dull lines by Stanhope's pencil writ.
The Beauty of this Epigram is more eafily feen than defcribed. For my part I am at a lofs to determine whether it does more honour to the poet who wrote it, or to the nobleman for whom the compliment is defigned.-The following Epigram of Mr. Prior is written in the fame tafte, being a fine encomium on the performance of an excellent painter.
On a Flower, painted by VARELST.
Another compliment of this delicate kind he has made Mr. Hovard in the following Epigram.
When CHLOE's picture was to VENUS shown;
"Tis CHLOE's eye, and cheek, and lip, and breaft:
Moft of Mr. Prior's Epigrams are of this delicate caft, and have the thought, like thofe of Catullus, diffused thro? the whole. Of this kind is his address
To CHLOE weeping.
See, whilft thou weep'ft, fair Chloe, fee
The Epigram written on the leaves of a Fan by Dr. At: terbury, late bishop of Rochester, contains a pretty thought, exprefs'd with eafe and concifenefs, and closed in a beautiful manner.
On a FA N.
Flavia the leaft and flightest toy
We fhall now felect fome Epigrams of the biting and fatirical kind, and fuch as turn upon the Pun or Equivoque, as the French call it in which fort the Point is more confpicuous than in thofe of the former character,