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how the plain sense is raised by the beauty of the words ! But this was happiness, the former might be only judgment: this was the curiosa felicitas, which Petronius attributes to Horace; it is the pencil thrown luckily full upon the horse's mouth, to express the foam which 5 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; but he knows their value when he finds them, and is infinitely pleased. A bad poet may sometimes light on them, but he discerns not 10 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 in Horace :
Hoc amat obscurum, vult hoc sub luce viden.
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 judg. do ment 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, 25 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 30 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 funerals 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 5 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, 10 because nothing then hindered the happiness of Torris
mond 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 anything for myself
but Antony and Cleopatra. 15 This 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 29 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. kn
A work may be overwrought, as well as under-wrought; too much labour 25 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 mortuum. Statius never thought 30 an expression could be bold enough; and if a bolder
could be found, he rejected the first. Virgil had judgment enough to know daring was necessary; but he knew the difference betwixt a glowing colour and a
glaring : as when he compared the shocking of the 35 fleets at Actium to the jostling of islands rent from their
foundations, and meeting in the ocean. He knew the comparison was forced beyond nature, and raised too high; he therefore softens the metaphor with a credas: you would almost believe that mountains or islands rushed against each other :
... credas innare revulsas Cycladas, aut montes concurrere montıbus altos. But here I must break off without finishing the discourse. Cynthius aurem vellit, et admonuit, &c. The things which are behind are of too nice a consideration 10 for an essay, begun and ended in twelve mornings; and perhaps the judges of painting and poetry, when I tell them how short a time it cost me, may make me the same answer which my late Lord Rochester made to one, who, to commend a tragedy, said it was written in 15 three weeks: ‘How the devil could he be so long about it ?' For that poem was infamously bad; and I doubt this Parallel is little better; and then the shortness of the time is so far from being a commendation, that it is scarcely an excuse. But if I have really drawn a por- 20 trait to the knees, or an half-length, with a tolerable likeness, then I may plead, with some justice, for myself, that the rest is left to the imagination. Let some better artist provide himself of a deeper canvas, and, taking these hints which I have given, set the figure 25 on its legs, and finish it in the invention, design, and colouring
A. HEROIC POEM, truly such, is undoubtedly the greatest work which the soul of man is capable to per. form. i The design of it is to form the mind to heroic
virtue by example ; 'tis conveyed in verse, that it may 5 delight, while it instructs. The action of it is always
one, entire, and great. The least and most trivial episodes, or under-actions, which are interwoven in it, are parts either necessary or convenient to carry on the
main design ; either so necessary, that, without them, 10 the poem must be imperfect, or so convenient, that no
others can be imagined more suitable to the place in which they are. There is nothing to be left void in a firm building; even the cavities ought not to be filled with rubbish which is of a perishable kind, destructive
to the strength, but with brick or stone, though of less pieces, yet of the same nature, and fitted to the crannies. Even the least portions of them must be of the epic kind: all things must be grave, majestical, and sublime ; nothing of a foreign nature, like the trifling 5 novels, which Ariosto !, and others, have inserted in their poems; by which the reader is misled into another sort of pleasure, opposite to that which is designed in an epic poem. One raises the soul, and hardens it to virtue; the other softens it again, and unbends it into io vice. One conduces to the poet's aim, the completing of his work, which he is driving on, labouring and hastening in every line; the other slackens his pace, diverts him from his way, and locks him up like a knight
, errant in an enchanted castle, when he should be pur- 15 suing his first adventure. Statius, as Bossu has well observed, was ambitious of trying his strength with his master Virgil, as Virgil had before tried his with Homer. The Grecian gave the two Romans an example, in the games which were celebrated at the funerals of 20 Patroclus. Virgil imitated the invention of Homer, but changed the sports. But both the Greek and Latin poet took their occasions from the subject; though, to confess the truth, they were both ornamental, or, at best, convenient parts of it, rather than of necessity arising 25 from it. Statius, who, through his whole poem, is noted for want of conduct and judgment, instead of staying, as he might have done, for the death of Capaneus, Hippomedon, Tydeus, or some other of his seven champions (who are heroes all alike), or more properly :0 for the tragical end of the two brothers, whose exequies the next successor had leisure to perform when the siege was raised, and in the interval betwixt the poet's
1 «The early editions, by an absurd and continued blunder, read Aristotle.' (Scott.)