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INCE Poetry affords young persons an innocent pleasure, a taste for it,
under cerfain limitations, should be indulged. Why should they be forbidden to expatiate, in imagination, over the flowery fields of Arcadia, in Elyfium, in the Isles of the Bleft, and in the Vale of Tempè? The harmless delight which they derive from Poetry, is surely fufficient to recommend an attention to it, at an age when pleasure is the chief pursuit, even if the sweets of it were not blended with utility.
But if pleasure were the ultimate object of Poetry, there are some who, in the rigour of austere wisdom, would maintain that the precious days of youth might be more advantageously employed than in cultivating a taste for it. To obviate their objections, it is necessary to remind them, that Poetry has ever claimed the power of conveying instruction in the most effectual manner, by the vehicle of pleasure.
There is reason to believe that many young persons of natural genius would have given very little attention to learning of any kind, if they had been introduced to it by books appealing only to their reason and judgment, and not to their fancy. Through the pleasant paths of Poetry, they have been gradually led to the heights of science: they have been allured, on first setting out, by the beauty of the scene presented to them into a delightful land, flowing with milk and honey; where, after having been nourished like the infant from the mother's breast, they have gradually acquired strength enough to relish and digest the solidest food of philosophy.
This opinion seems to be confirmed by actual experience; for the greatest men, in every liberal and honourable profeflion, have given their early years to the charms of Poetry : Many of the most illustrious worthies in the church and in the state, were allured to the land of learning by the song of the Musc; and they would perhaps have never entered it, if their preceptors had forbidden them to lend an ear.
Of so much consequence is Poetry to the genera advancement of learning.