« ForrigeFortsett »
be of my opinion, that neither Virgil nor Horace would have gained so great a reputation in the world, had they not been the friends and admirers of each other. Indeed all the great writers of that age, for whom singly we have so great an esteem, stand up together as vouchers for one another's reputation. But at the same time that Virgil was celebrated by Gallus, Propertius, Horace, Varius, Tucca, and Ovid, we know that Bavius and Mævius were his declared foes and calumniators.
In our own country a man seldom sets up for a poet, without attacking the reputation of all his brothers in the art. The ignorance of the moderns, the scribblers of the age, the decay of poetry, are the topics of detraction, with which he makes his entrance into the world : but how much more noble is the fame that is built on candour and ingenuity, according to those beautiful lines of Sir John Denham, in his poem on Fletcher': works!
But whither am I stray'd ? I need not raise
Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain. I am sorry to find that an author, who is very justly esteemed among the best judges, has admitted some strokes of this naturea into a very fine poem, I mean "The Art of Criticism,' which was
Some strokes of this nature. If, by strokes of this nature, he meant strokes of personal detraction, it is certain that we now perceive no such strokes in the Art of Criticisın. But, I suppose, that some general reflections in that poem were understood, at the time of its publication, to be particular and personal; or, the candour and gentleness of Mr. Addison's temper, might take offence at general satire, when expressed with a certain force.-H.
And yet some of Addison's commentators, and Hurd among them, love to find out personal allusions in many of his own writings; and Steele ex pressly tells us, that he has more than once taken upon himself the blame which would have fallen upon Addison, if all the papers in the Tatler, &c., had been assigned to their real author. V. vol. i. p. 274.-G.
published some months since, and is a master-piece in its kind." The observations follow one another like those in Horace's Art of Poetry, without that methodical regularity which would have been requisite in a prose author. They are some of them uncommon, but such as the reader must assent to, when he sees them explained with that elegance and perspicuity in which they are delivered. As for those which are the most known, and the most received, they are placed in so beautiful a light, and illustrated with such apt allusions, that they have in them all the graces of novelty, and make the reader, who was before acquainted with them, still more convinced of their truth and solidity And here give me leave to mention what Monsieur Boileau has so very well enlarged upon in the preface to his works, that wit and fine writing doth not consist so much in advancing things that are new, as in giving things that are known an agreeable
It is impossible for us, who live in the latter ages of the world, to make observations in criticism, morality, or in any art or science, which have not been touched upon by others. We have little else left us, but to represent the common sense of mankind in more strong, more beautiful, or more uncommon lights. If a reader examines Horace's Art of Poetry, he will find but very few precepts in it, which he may not meet with in Aristotle, and which were not commonly known by all the poets of the Augustan age. His way of expressing and applying them, not his invention of them, is what we are chiefly to admire.
1“I have a further request, which I must press with earnestness. My bookseller is reprinting the 'Essay on Criticism,' to which you have done too much honor in your Spectator of No. 253. The period in that paper where you say, 'I have admitted some strokes of ill-nature into that essay,' is the only one I would wish omitted of all you have written ; but I would not desire it should be so, unless I had the merit of removing your objection. I beg you but to point out those strokes to me, and you may be assured they shall be treated without mercy.”-Pope to Addison), Let xvi., Oct. 10, 1714. V. also Roscoe's Life of Pope, ch. ii.--G.
For this reason I think there is nothing in the world so tiresome as the works of those critics, who write in a positive dogmatic way, without either language, genius, or imagination. If the reader would see how the best of the Latin critics writ, he may find their manner very beautifully described in the characters of Horace, Petronius, Quintilian, and Longinus, as they are drawn in the essay of which I am now speaking.
Since I have mentioned Longinus, who in his reflections has given us the same kind of sublime, which he observes in the several passages that occasioned them; I cannot but take notice, that our English author has after the same manner exemplified several of his precepts in the very precepts themselves. I shall produce two or three instances of this kind. Speaking of the insipid smoothness which some readers are so much in love with, he has the following verses.
These equal syllables alone require,
The gaping of the vowels in the second line, the expletive do in the third, and the ten monosyllables in the fourth, give such a beauty to this passage, as would have been very much admired in an ancient poet. The reader may observe the following lines in the same view.
A needless Alexandrine ends the song,
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
When Ajax strives, some rock's vast weight to throw,
The beautiful Distich upon Ajax in the following lines, puts me in mind of a description in ·Homer's Odyssey. It is where Sisyphus is represented lifting his stone up the hill, which is no sooner carried to the top of it, but it immediately tumbles to the bottom. This double motion of the stone is admirably described in the numbers of these verses; as in the four first it is heaved up by several spondees, intermixed with proper breathing-places and at last trundles down in a continued line of Dactyls.
Και μην Σίσυφον εισείδον, κρατέρ' άλγε' έχοντα,
It would be endless to quote verses out of Virgil which have this particular kind of beauty in the numbers; but I may take an occasion in a future paper to shew several of them which have escaped the observation of others.
I cannot conclude this paper without taking notice, that we have three poems in our tongue, which are of the same naturt, and each of them a master-piece in its kind; the essay on trans lated verse, the essay on the art of poetry, and the essay upon criticism.
1 The original edition read, 'which none of the critics have taken no. tice of, Pope, in the letter quoted above, tells Addison that the same obo
No. 255. SATURDAY, DECEMBER 22.
Laudis amore tumes? sunt certa piacula quæ to
Hor. Ep. i lib. 1, 36
The soul, considered abstractedly from its passions, is of a remiss and sedentary nature, slow in its resolves, and languishing in its executions. The use, therefore of the passions, is to stir it up, and put it upon action, to awaken the understanding, to enforce the will, and to make the whole man more vigorous and attentive in the prosecution of his designs. As this is the end of the passions in general, so it is particularly of ambition, which pushes the soul to such actions as are apt to procure honour and reputation to the actor. But if we carry our reflections higher, we may
discover further ends of Providence in implanting this pas sion in mankind.
It was necessary for the world, that arts should be invented and improved, books written and transmitted to posterity, nations conquered and civilized : now since the proper and genuine motives to these and the like great actions, would only influence virtuous minds, there would be but small improvements in the world, were there not some common principle of action working equally with all men. And such a principle is ambition, or a desire of fame, by which great endowments are not suffered to lie idle and useless to the public, and many vicious men overreached, as it were, and engaged contrary to their natural inclinations in a glorious and laudable course of action.
servation was to be found in Dionysius of Halicarnassus; and Tickell, probably by Addison's direction, dropped the last clause.-G.