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a poetical genius, which is a rare portion amongst them: yet some, I know, may stand excepted, and such I honour. Virgil is so exact in every word, that none can be changed but for a worse; nor any one removed from its place, but the barmony will be altered. He pretends sometimes to trip; but it is only to make you think him in danger of a fall, when he is most secure. Like a skilful dancer on the ropes (if you will pardon the meanness of the similitude), who slips willingly and makes a seeming stumble, that you may think him in great hazard of breaking his neck, while at the same time he is only giving you a proof of his dex. terity. My late Lord Roscommon was often pleased with this reflection, and with the examples of it in this admirable author.
I have not leisure to run through the whole comparison of lights and shadows with tropes and figures; yet I cannot but take notice of metaphors, which like them, have power to lessen or greaten any thing. Strong and glowing colours are the just resemblances of bold metaphors, but both must be judiciously applied; for there is a difference betwixt daring and fool-hardiness. Lucan and Statius often ventured them too far; our Virgil never. But the great defect of the Pharsalia and the Thebais was in the design; if that had been more perfect, we might have forgiven many of their bold strokes in the colouring, or at least excused them; yet some of them are such as Demosthenes or Cicero could not have defended. Virgil, if he could have seen the first verses of the Sylvæ, would have thought Statius mad in his fustian description of the statue on the brazen horse: but that poet was always in a foam at his setting out, even before the motion of the race had warmed him. The soberness of Virgil, whom he read, it seems, to little purpose, might have shown him the difference betwixt “ Arma virumque cano,” and “ Magnanimum Æcidem, formidatam que tonanti progeniem.” But Virgil knew how to rise by degrees in his expressions: Statius was in his towering heights at the first stretch of his pinions. The description of his running horse, just starting in the funeral games for Archemorus, though the verses are wonderfully fine, are the true image of their author:
Stare adeo nescit, pereunt vestigia mille
Ante fugam ; absentemque ferit gravis ungula campum. Which would cost me an hour, if I had the leisure, to translate them, there is so much of beauty in the original. Virgil, as he better knew his colours, so he knew better how and where to place them. In as much haste as I am, I cannot forbear giving one example: It is said of him, that he read the second, fourth, and sixth books of his Æneis to Augustus Cæsar. In the sixth, (which we are sure he read, because we know Octavia was present, who rewarded him so bountifully for the twenty verses which were made in honour of her deceased son Marcellus); in this sixth book, I say, the poet, speaking of Misenus, the trumpeter, says,
----Quo non præstantior alter, - Ere ciere virosand broke off in the hemistich, or midst of the verse; but in the very reading, seized as it were with a divine fury, he made up the latter part of the hemistich with these following words,
---Martemque accendere cantu. How warm, nay, how glowing a colouring is this! In the beginning of the verse, the word æs, or brass, was taken for a trumpet, because the instrument was made of that metal, which of itself was fine; but in the latter end, which was made extempore, you see three metaphors, Martemque, accendere, cantu. Good Heavens! how the plain sense is raised by the beauty of the other words. But this was happiness, the former might be only judgment. This was the 6 curiosa felicitas” which Petronius attributes to Horace. It is the pencil thrown luckily full upon the horse's mouth, to express the foam, which the painter, with all his skill, could not perform without it. These hits of words a true poet often finds, as I may say, without seeking; hut he knows their value when he finds them, and is infinitely pleased. A bad poet may some
times light on them, but he discerns not a diamond from a Bristol stone; and would have been of the cock's mind in Æsop~-a grain of barley would have pleased him better than the jewel. The lights and shadows which belong to colouring, put me in mind of that verse of Horace,
Hoc amat obscuram, vult hoc sub luce videri. Some parts of a poem require to be amply written, and with all the force and elegance of words : others must be cast into shadows; that is, passed over in silence, or but faintly touched. This belongs wholly to the judgment of the poet and the painter. The most beautiful parts of the picture and the poem must be the most finished : the colours and words most chosen; many things in both, which are not deserving of this care, must be shifted off, content with vulgar expressions; and those very short, and left, as in a shadow, to the imagination of the reader.
We have the proverb, “ Manum de tabula,” from the painters, which signifies to know when to give over, and to lay by the pencil. Both Homer and Virgil practised this precept wonderfully well : but Virgil the better of the two. Homer knew that when Hector was slain, Troy was as good as already taken: therefore he concludes his action there : for what follows in the funeral of Patroclus, and the redemption of Hector's body, is not, properly speaking, a part of the main action. But Virgil concludes with the death of Turnus; for,
after that difficulty was removed, Æneas might marry, and establish the Trojans when he pleased. This rule I had before my eyes in the conclusion of the Spanish Friar, when the discovery was made that the king was living; which was the knot of the play untied: the rest is shut up in the compass of some few lines, because nothing then hindered the happiness of Torismond and Leonora. The faults of that drama are in the kind of it, which is tragi-comedy. But it was given to the people, and I never writ any thing for myself but Antony and Cleopatra.
The remark, I must acknowledge, is not so proper for the colouring as the design ; but it will hold for both. As the words, &c. are evidently shown to be the clothing of the thought, in the same sense as colours are the clothing of the design; so the painter and the poet ought to judge exactly when the colouring and expressions are perfect, and then to think their work is truly finished. Apelles said of Protogenes, that “he “ knew not when to give over.” A work may be over-wrought as well as under-wrought : too much labour often takes away the spirit, by adding to the polishing; so that there remains nothing but a dull correctness, a piece without any considerable faults, but with few beauties : for when the spirits are drawn off, there is nothing but a “caput morluum.” Statius never thought an expression could be bold enough; and if a bolder could be found,