Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

ed the depths of virtue and vice, ments to his own glory than theits policy and morality, laws both di- and would he not rather chuse to vine and human, and that he perform himself worthy actions; fhould have a knowledge of every than to confine himself to the praise thing that he introduces, or else he of others ? certainly his merit in will never produce any thing that this case would be quite different; is good. Let us then inquire whe. there is no reason to be affigned ther those who raise poetry to this why having the power to do the point of fublimity, are not them. most, he should do the leaft. But felves imposed upon by the imita. what must we think of him who tive poets*; whether their admi. would teach us, what he could not ration for these immortal works do himself Izarn? and who would not prevent their feeing how diftant laugh to see a group of ideot they are from truth, and being go to admire all the springs of sencible that they are colours with policy, and the human heart out confiftency, mere phantoms brought into play by a rattle twen. and shadows, and that to delineate ty years of age, to whom the most such images, nothing is less necef- senseless of the audience would not sary than the knowledge of truth; trust with the least part of their or if there be indeed any real uri: business? lity in all this, or if the poets in Let us lay aside what relates to effect know that multiplicity of talents and arts. When Homer things, of which the vulgar fancy talks so well of the knowledge of they speak so well.

Machaon, do not call him to acTell me, my friends, if any count for his own about the same one had this choice, to poffefs his matters. Let us not desire to know mistress's picture or the original, the patients he has cured, the which do you think he would pre- pupils he has trained to phyfic; fer ? If an artist could equally pro- his masterpieces of engraving and duce the thing imitated, or its chafing, the work men he has formlikeness, would he chuse the latter, ed, or the monuments of his in. in objects of any price; and would dustry. Let us suffer iim to'teach he content himself with the picture us all this, without knowing whe. of a house, when he could actually ther he himself is instructed in it

. construct himself a real one? If But when he entertains us with then the tragic poet was really wars, government, laws, sciences, acquainted with those things he which require the greatest length pretends to paint, if he had the of study, and which are the moff qualities he describes, if he knew immediately connected with the himself how to do what he makes happiness of man, dare we interthe dramatis personæ perform, rupt him a moment thus to interwould he not exercise their talents rogate him ? oh divine Homer! we would he not practise their virtues? admire your lessons; and shall not would he not sooner, erect mønu. hesitate to follow them, as soon as

It was the common opinion of the ancients, that all the tragic writers were only the copyilts, and the imitators of Homer. Some one said of the tragedies of Euripides, thefe are the fragments of Homer's repast, which are carried home by a guelt.

We fee how you yourself practised not been beloved and honoured by them, if you be really what you all the world ? how could it happen cake so much pains to appear? if that you attracted none but the your imitations do not hold the single Cleophilus? and even here third rank, but the second after you only nourished ingratitude. truth, let us fee in yourself the What! a Protagoras of Abdera, model which you depict in your Prodicee of Chio, without iffuing works; shew us the captain, the from a private fimple life, to conlegislator, the sage, whose portraits vene their contemporaries' around you so boldly display to us. Greece them, to persuade them to learn and all the world celebrate the from them alone the art of governgood actions, of great men who ing their country, their families, poffessed those sublime arts, whose and themselves; and yet such won. precepts cost you so little. Ly. derful men as a Hesiod, and a curgus gave laws to Sparta, Cha- Homer, who knew everything rondis to Sicily and Italy, Minos who could teach every thing to men to Crete, Solon to us. Is the of their time, to be so neglected by object the duties of life, the wise them as to wander and beg through. government of the house, the con. out the universe, chanting their duct of a citizen in every ftation? verses from city to city like vile Thales of Miletta, and the Scy. ballad-fingers! In those barbarous thian Anacharfis furnished at once ages, when the preffure of ignorprecepes and examples. Are these ance began to be felt, when the same duties to be taught to others, want and avidity of knowledge and philosophers and sages to be concurred to render every man a inftituted who practise what they little more enlightened than others, have been taught? this was the useful and respectable; if these task of Zoroafter to the Magii, had been as learned as they ap: Pythagoras to his disciples, Ly- peared to be, if they had poffe fred curgus to his fellow-citizens. But all the qualities which they fo you, Homer, if it be true, that pompoudly blazoned, they would you have excelled in so many parts; have paired for prodigies; they if it be true that you can instruct would have been fought for by men and render them better; if it every one ; all would have eagerly be true that you unite knowledge pathéd forward to have seen them, with imitatior, and learning to to pofless, to keep them, and dif. words ; let us see those works that play their hospitality towards evince your abilities, the Itates them; and thołe who could not that you have instituted, the vir. have fixed their residence with tues which do you honour, the them, would rather have followed battles you have gained, the riches them all over the earth, than to that you have acquired. How have loft so scarce an opportunity comes it that you have not secured to be instructed, and become such erowds of friends, that you have heroes as those they admired*.

Let Plato does not say, that a man who is ftudious of his interest and versed in lucrative matters, cannot, by the sale of poetry, or oher means, obtain a great VOL. X.

N

fortune.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Let us then agree that all.poets, pretty than handsome, who, embel, to begin by Homer, do not repre. lished with nothing but the lower fent us in their pictures the model of youth, lose with it all their of virtuous talents, and the quali. graces, without having loft any of ties of the soul, nor the other their features. objects of the understanding and Not only the imitator or author senses which they have not in of representation is unacquainted themselves, bat the images of all with any thing bun the appearance these objects, drawn from foreign of the thing imitated; but a real objects, and that they do not knowledge of this thing does not approach nearer to truth in this, belong even to him who made it, when they offer us the features of I see in this picture those horses a hero or a captain, than a painter which drew, Hector's car; these who, depicting a geometrician or horses have", harnesses, bits, and a workman, who does not consider reins; the silversmith, the blackthe are, which he is entirely unac- smith, the sadler, produced these quainted with, but only the colours different things, the painter has reand figure. Thus are names and presented them; but neither the words illufive to those, who sen. workman who is acquainted with fible of rhyme and harmony, let them, nor the painter who deli. themselves be charmed by the en. neates them, knows what they chanting art of poetry, and yield. Should be; it is the equerry or ing to seduction by the attraction their leader who determines their of pleasure, infomuch that they form by their use ; it is he alone that take the images of objects that are can judge whether they are good unknown, both by them and their or bad, and is able to correct their authors, for the objects them. faults. Thus, in every poffible in felves, and fearful of being dif- ftrument, there are three practical a'used of the error which facters objects to be considered, namely, them, either by imposing upon the use, the construction, and the their ignorance, or by those agree. imitation. These two latter arts able fenfations with which this evidently depend upon the firkt

, error is accompanied.

and there is nothing imitable in In effect, divest the most bril. nature, to which the fame distincliant of these pictures of the charms tions are not applicable. of verse, and the foreign ornaments If the utility, goodness, and which embellished them; strip beauty of an intrunent, an animal, them of the colouring of poetry or an action, relate to the use that and style, and leave nothing but may be derived from it; ifi the design, and with difficulty you belong only to him who fets it in will remember it, or if it can be motion to give its model, and to recollected, it will no longer please, judge if this model be faithfully resembling those children rather executed; the imitator is so far

[ocr errors]

fortune. But there is a great difterence between enriching oneself and becoming il uttrious by the trade of a poet, and the enriching oneself and being illuftrius by the talents which the poet pretends to teach. It is true, that we might in itinceto Plato the example of Tirteus; but he'acquitted himself with distinction, and was rather considered as an orator than a poet:

from

from being capable of pronounc- arrogates to himself the province ing upon the qualities of the of a judge. In offering us his things that he imitates, that this images, he affirms that they are decifion does not even belong to conformable to truth; he is, there. him who made them. The imita. fore, obliged to be acquainted tor follows the workman whose with it, if his art have any reáli. work he copies, the workman ty; in depicting every thing, he follows the artist who knew how to lays claim to a knowledge of apply the object which he alone every thing. The poet is the can appreciate as well as its imita. painier who displays the image tion. This confirms, that the pic- the philosopher' is the architect tures of poets and painters hold who draws the plan the one dare only the third rank after the first not even approach the object to model, or truth.

delineate it, the other measures it But the poet who has no other before he chalks it. judges than an ignorant people But, that we may not be de. whom he endeavours to please, ceived by analogical errors, let how will he not disfigure the ob., us endeavour more distindly to jeAs he represents to flatter them?' discover with what part, what He will imitate that which ap. faculty of our soul poetical imitapears fine to the multitude; with. tions have any affinity ; and let us out being solicitous whether it is previously consider wheace arises fo in reality. If he dispises valour, the illufion of those of the painter. will he have an Achilles for his The same bodies seen at various judge? If he paints artifice will he distances do not appear of the have an Ulysses to reprehend fame, fizė, nor their figures equalhim? Quite the contrary : Achil. ly sensible, nor their colours les and Ulyffes will be his perfon. glowing with the same vivacity. ages: Therlites and Dolon his When leen in water they change spectators.

their appearance : that which was To this you will object; that ftraight appears to be broken ; the the philofopher is himself equally objeět seems to flow as with the ignorant of many of those arts wave; all the conformity of apon which he speaks, and that parts is altered when seen through he frequently extends his ideas as a spherical or hollow glass; with far as the poet doth his images. I the affiftance of light and shade, a agree: but the philofopher doth plain furface is either rendered not pretend to be acquainted with convex or concave at the will of truth, he is only in search of ir: the painter; his pencil penetrates he examines; he discusses, he ex- as deep as the chisel of the sculptendis our views, he even instructs tor; and in those reliefs which us whilft he deceives himself; he he knows how to delineate upon proposes his doubts as doubts; canvafs, the touch, deceived by his conjectures as conjectures, the fight, leaves us doubtful by and affirms nothing but what he which we are to determine. All knows.

The philofopher who these errors are, doubtless in reasons, submits his realons to our the precipitate judgments of the judgment; the poet, ot imitator, mind. It is the weakness of the

[ocr errors]

human understanding, ever urged and truth. Thus the art of imi. to 1. judge without knowledge, tation, vile in its nature, and that lays us open to all those ma- from the faculty of the soul upon gical deceptions, whereby optics which it actuates, muft necessarily and mechanics abuse our senses, likewise be fo by its productions; 'We conclude solely by appear- at leaft with regard to the mateance from what we know, upon rial sense, which makes us judge what we do not know and our of a painter's pictures. Let us erroneous - v.conclusions are the now consider the same art directly source of infinite illusions. applied by the imitations of the

What means are ihere to obvi. poet to the internal fense, that is, ate these errors disquisition and understanding. analysis, fufpension of judgment, The scene represents men adt. the art of mensuration, weighing; ing voluntary or by force, efteem, calculating, are the aids furnished ing their actions good or bad, acto man to verify the reports of the cording to the advantage or evil senses, that he may not judge of they expect to derive from them, what is great or little, spherical and who are variously' affected" or cubical, rare or compact, dif- through them, with pain or pleatant or near, by what appears so sure. Now, for the reasons which to be, but by what numbers, mea. have been already afligned, it is sure, and weight, ascertain to impoffible that the man thus rebe-fuch, Comparison, judgment, presented should ever be confitent the affinity discovered by these with himself; and as the appear. various operations, incontestably ance and reality of fenfible ob belong to the reasoning faculty, jects excite in him contrary opie and this judgments is often contra. nions, in the fame manner be eltidictory, with what the appearance mates variuully the objects of of things would induce us to con. his actions, as they are diitane or clude. We have already seen that near, conformable or oppofite to the same faculty of the soul can- his paffions, and his judgment

, not adduce contrary conclusions equally mutable as them, incel from the same things, considered fantly renders his defires, his reain the fame, light. Hence it fol- fon, his will, and all the power lows, that it is not the mof noble of his foul, in a fate of contra. of our faculties, namely reason, diction. but a different and inferior faculty, The scene then represents to which judges according to ap- us all men, and even those who pearance, and yields to the charm are given to us as models, orberof imitation. This is what I wife affected than they ought to meant before to express, by say: be, to support themfelves in a fare ing that painting, and in general of moderation that is agreeable ? the imitative aris, exerted their them, Let a wise and courageout influence very diftant from truth, man lose his son, his friend, his and by uniting with a part of mittrels, in a word, the object our soul, deftitute of prudence and the deareft to his heart ; we hall reason, and incapable, of itself, of ror see him give way to exceffive having any knowledge of realities' and extravagant grief; and if hu

« ForrigeFortsett »