Imatges de pÓgina

Euripides was highly efteemed by the anci ents for the moral fentences, with which he has interfperfed the fpeeches in his tragedies; and certainly many general truths are expreffed in them with a sententious brevity. But he rather collects general opinions into maxims, and gives them a form, which is easily retained by memory, than extracts any new observations from the characters in action, which every reader of penetration will find the invariable practice of our author; and when he introduces a general maxim, it seems drawn from him by the occafion. As it arises out of the action, it lofes itself again in it, and remains not, as in other writers, an ambitious ornament glittering alone, but is fo connected as to be an ufeful paffage very naturally united with the story. The examples of this are fo frequent, as to occur almoft in every scene of his best plays. But left I should be misunderstood, I will cite one from the fecond part of Henry IV. where the general maxim is, that


An habitation giddy and unfure
Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.

Let us on:

And publish the occafion of our arms.

The commonwealth is fick of their own choice:

Their over greedy love hath furfeited.

An habitation giddy and unfure

Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar heart.

Oh thou fond many! with what loud applause,
Did'st thou beat heav'n with bleffing Bolingbroke,
Before he was, what thou would'st have him be!
And now, being trim'd up in thine own defires,
Thou, beaftly feeder, art fo full of him,
That thou provok'ft thyfelf to caft him up.
So, fo, thou common dog, didst thou disgorge
Thy glutton bofom of the royal Richard,
And now thou would't eat thy dead vomit up,
And howl'ft to find it. What truft in these times?
They that when Richard liv'd would have him die,
Are now become enamour'd on his
Thou that throwd'ft duft upon his goodly head,
When through proud London he came fighing on

After the admired heels of Bolingbroke,

Cry'st now, O earth, yield us that king again,
And take thou this.



Moral reflections may be more frequent in this kind of Drama, than in the other fpecies of Tragedy, where, if not very short, they teaze the spectator, whofe mind is intent upon, and impatient for the cataftrophe; and unless they arise neceffarily out of the circumftances the perfon is in, they appear unnatural. For in the preffure of extreme distress, men are intent only on themselves and on the prefent exigence. The various interefts and characters in these hiftorical plays, and the mixture of the comic, weaken the operations of pity and terror, but introduce various opportunities of conveying moral instruction, as occafion is given to a variety of reflections and obfervations, more ufeful in common life than thofe drawn from the conditions of kings and heroes, and perfons greatly fuperior to us by nature or fortune.

As there are poets of various talents, and readers of various taftes, one would rather wish that all the fields of Parnaffus might be

be free and open to men of genius, than that a proud and tyrannical spirit of criticism should controul us in the use of any of them. Those which we should have judged most barren, have brought forth noble productions when cultivated by an able hand.

Even fairy land has produced the Sublime; and the wild regions of Romance have sometimes yielded just and genuine fentiments.

To write a perfect tragedy, a Poet must be poffeffed of the Pathetic or the Sublime; or perhaps to attain the utmost excellence, must, by a more uncommon felicity, be able to give the Sublime the finest touches of paffion and tenderness, and to the Pathetic the dignity of the Sublime. The straining a moderate or feeble genius to these arduous tasks, has produced the most abfurd bombast, and the most pitiable nonsense that has ever been uttered. Ariftotle's rules, like Ulyffes' bow, are held forth to all pretenders to Tragedy, who as unfortunate as Penelope's


Penelope's fuitors, only betray their weaknefs by an attempt fuperior to their strength, or ill adapted to their faculties. Why should not Poetry, in all her different forms, claim the fame indulgence as her fifter art? The nicest connoiffeurs in painting have applauded every master, who has justly copied nature. Had Michael Angelo's bold pencil been dedicated to drawing the Graces, or Rembrandt's to trace the foft bewitching fmile of Venus, their works had probably proved very contemptible. Fashion does not so easily impofe on our fenfes, as it misleads our judgment. Truth of Defign, and natural colouring, will always please the eye; we appeal not here to any set of rules: but in an imitative art we require only just imitation, with a certain freedom and energy, which is always neceffary to form a compleat resemblance to the pattern, which is borrowed from nature. I will own, the figures of gods and goddeffes, graceful nymphs, and beautiful Cupids, are finer fubjects for the pencil, than ordinary human forms; yet if the painter imparts to thefe

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