Page images

tertaining the sight every moment with something that is new

We are quickly tired with looking upon hills and vallies, where every thing continues fixed and settled in the same place and posture, butfind our thoughts a little agitated and releaved, at the sight of such objects as are ever in motion and sliding away from beneath the eye of the beholder.

But there is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul, than beauty, which immediately diffuses a secret satisfaction and complacency through the imagination, and gives a finishing to any thing that is great or uncommon. The very first discovery of it strikes the mind with an inward joy and spreads a cheerfulness and delight through all its faculties. There is not, perhaps, any real beauty or deformity more in one piece of matter than another; because we might have been made so, that whatsoever now appears loathsome to us, might have shown itself agreeable ; but we find by experience, that there are several modifications of matter, which the mind, without any previous consideration, pronounces at the first sight, beautiful ur deformed. Thus we see that every different species of sensible creatures has its different notions of beauty, and that each of them is most affected with the beauties of its own kind. This is no where more remarkable than in birds of the same shape and proportion, where we often see the male determined in hiscourtship by the single grain or tincture of a feather, and never discovering any charms but in the color of its species.

There is a second kind of beauty, that we find in the several products of art and nature, which does not work in the imagination with that warmth and violence,as the beauty that appears in our own proper species, but is apt however, to raise in us a secret delight, and a kind of fondness for the places, or objects, in which we discover it. This consists either in the gaiety or variety of colors, in the symmetry and proportion of parts, in the arrangement and disposition of bodies, or in a just mixture and concurrence of all together. Among these seve eral kinds of beauty, the eye takes most delight in colOrs. We no where meet with a more glorious or please

ing show in nature, than what appears in the heavens at. the rising and setting of the sun, which is wholly made up of those different stains of light that show themselves in clouds of a different situation. For this reason we find the poets, who are always addressing themselves to the imagination, borrowing more of their epithets from colors, than from any other topic.

As the fancy delights in every thing that is great, strance or beautiful, and is still more pleased, the more it finds of these perfections in the same object ; so it is capable of receiving a new satisfaction, by the assistance of another sense. Thus any continued sound, as the music of birds, or a fall of water, awakens, every mo- . ment, the mind of the beholder, and makes him more attentive to the several beauties of the place that lie before him. Thus, if there arise a fragrancy of smells, or perfumes,they heighten the pleasures of the imagination, and make even the colors and verdure of the landscape appear more agreeable ; for the ideas of both senses recommend each other, and are pleasanter together, than when they enter the nind separately ; as the different colors of a picture, when they are well disposed, set off : one another, and receive an additional beauty from the advantage of their situation.

X.--Liberty and Slaviry. STERNE. DISGUISE thyself as thou wilt, still, slavery! still thou art a bitter draught ; and though thousands, in all ages, have been made to drink of thee, thou art no less Liter on that account. It is thou, liberty ! thrice sweet and gracious Goddess, whom all, in public or in private worship; whose taste is grateful, and ever will be so till nature herself shall change. No tint of words cani stop thy snowy mantle, or chyunic power turn thy sceptre into iron. With thee, to smile upon him as he eats his crust,the swain is happier than his monarch,from whose court thou art exiled. Gracious heaven! Grant me but health, thou great bestower of it! And give me but this fair goddess as my companion ; and shower down thy mitres, if it seem good unto thy Divine Providence, upo3 those heads which are aching for them.


Pursuing these ideas, I sat down close to my table; and leaned my head upon my hand, I began to figure to myself the miseries of confinement, I was in a right frame for it, and so I gave full scope to my imagination.

I was going to begin with the millions of my fellowcreatures, born to no inheritance but slavery ; but finding however affecting the picture was, that I could not bring it near me, and that the multitude of sad groups in it did but distract me, I took a single captive ;

and having first shut him up in his dungeon, I then looked through the twilight of his grated door, to take his picture.

I beheld his body half wasted away, with long expect tation and confinement ; and felt what kind of sickness of the heart it is which arises from hope deferred. Upon looking nearer, i saw him pale and feverish. in thirty years the western breeze had not once fanned his blood he had seen no sun, no moon, in all that timenor had the voice of friendor kinsman breathed through his lattice. His children but here my heart began 10 bleed and I was forced to go on with another part of the portrait.

He was setting upon the ground, upon a little straw, in the fırthest corner of his dungeon, which was alterDately his chair and bed. A little calendar of small sticks was laid at the head, notched all over with the dismal days and nights he had passed there. He had one of these little sticks in his hand ; and, with a rusty nail, he was etching another day of misery to add to the heap. As I darkened the little light he had, he lifted up a hopeless eye towards the door-then castit down-shook his head--and went on with his work of affliction. I heard his chains upon his legs,as he turned his body to lay his little stick upon the bundle. He gave a deep sighsaw the iron enter into his soul. i burst into tears. I could noi sustain the picture of confinement which my fancy had drawn.

XI.-The Cant of Criticism.-Sterne.

AND how did Garrick speak the soliloquy last night!--Oh, against all rule, my Lord; most ungram.

matically! Betwixt the substantive and adjective(which should agree together, in number, case and gender, he made a breach thus-stopping as if the point wanted settling. And after the nominative case (which your Lordship knows should govern the verb) he suspended his voice, in the epilogue, a dozen times, three seconds and three fifths, by a stop watch, my Lord, each time. Admirable grammarian ! But, in sospending his voice, was the sense suspended likewise? Did no expression of attitude or countenance fill up the chasm ?. Was the eye silent ? Did you narrowly look? I looked only at the stop watch, my Lord. Excellent observer !

And what of this new book, the whole world makes such a rout about ? Oh, 'tis out of all plumb,my Lordam. quite an irregular thing ! Not one of the angles a: the four corners was a right angle. I had my rule and compasses, my Lord in my pocket. Excellent critic !

And for the epic poen, your Lordship bade me look at-upon taking the length,breadth,height, and depth of it, and trying them, at home, upon an exact scale of Bossu's, 'tis out, my Lord, in every one of its dimensions. Admirable connoisseur !

And did you step in, to take a look at the grand pic. ture, in your way back? 'Tis a melancholy daub, my. Lord ; not one principle of the pyramid in any onegroup! And what a price! For there is nothing of the coloring of Titian--the expression of Rubens--the grace of Raphael-he purity of Dominichino-the cor.. regioscity ofCorregiu-the learning of Poussin-the airs. of Guido--the taste of the Carrachis-or the grand con.. tour of Angelo!

Grant me patience ! Of all the cants which are canto ed, in the canting world--though the cant of hypocrisy may be the worst--the cant of criticism is the most tor.. menting I would go fifty miles, on foot, to kiss the: hand of that man, whose generous heart will give up the . reins of his imagination into his author's hands, bes. pleased, he knows not why, and cares not wherefore.

X11.-Parallel between Pope und Dryden.-JOHNSON

IN acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to Dryden, whose education was more scholastic; and who, before he becanie an author, had been allowed more time for study, with better means of information. His mind has a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations from a more exiensive circumference of science. Dryden knew inore of man, in his generat nature ; and Pope, in his local manners, The notions of Dryden were formed by comprehensive speculation ; those of Pope, by minute attention. There is more digo nity in the knowledge of Dryden, and more certainty in that of Pope.

Poetry was not the sole praise of either ; for both ex. celled likewise in prose : But Pope did not borrow his prose from his predecessor. The style of Dryden is ca. pricious and varied ; that of Pope is cautious and uniform: Dryden obeys the motions of his own mind ; Pope constrains his mind to his own rules of composition.Dryclen is sometimes vehement and rapid ; Pope is al: ways smooth, uniform and gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into inequalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abundant vegetation ; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, and levelled by the roller,

Of genius--that power that constitutes a poet ; that quality, without which judgment is cold and knowledge is inert; that energy which collects, combines, amplifies and animales-the superiority must, with some hesitation; be allowed to Dryden. It is not to be inferred, that of this poetical vigor, Pope had only a little, because Dryden had more ; for every other writer,since Milton,must give place to Pope ; and even of D 'yden it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty ; ei. ther excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestic necessity; he composed without consideration, and published without correction. What his mind would supply at call, or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all that he gave. The dilatory cars

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »