Imatges de pÓgina

Annominatio, and adds, " that the two "nations were so attached to this verbal "ornament in every high-finished com"position, that nothing was by them "esteemed elegantly delivered, no diction "considered but as rude and rustic, if it were not first amply refined with the "polishing art of this figure."


"Tis perhaps from this national taste of ours, that we derive many proverbial similes, which, if we except the sound, seem to have no other merit-Fine as five-pence —Round as a Robin, &c.

Even Spenser and Shakspeare adopted
the practice, but then it was in a manner
suitable to such geniuses.
Spenser says-

For not to have been dipt in Lethe lake
Could save the son of Thetis from to die;
But that blind bard did him immortal make
With verses dipt in dew of Castilie.

Shakspeare says―

Had my sweet Harry had but half their numbers,
This day might 1, hanging on Hotspur's neck,
Have talked, &c.—Hen. IVth, Part 2d, Act 2d.
Milton followed them.

For eloquence, the soul; song charms the sense.
P.L. II. 556.

And again,

Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheav'd
His vastness-

P.L. VII. 471. From Dryden we select 'one example out of many, for no one appears to have employed this figure more frequently, or, like Virgil, with greater simplicity and strength.

Better to hunt in fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught.
The wise for cure on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend.

Pope sings in his Dunciad

We might quote also Alliterations from prose writers, but those we have alleged we think sufficient. Harris.

§ 183. On the Period.

Nor is elegance only to be found in single words, or in single feet; it may be found when we put them together, in our peculiar mode of putting them. "Tis out of words and feet, thus compounded, that we form sentences, and among sentences none so striking, none so pleasing, as the Period. The reason is, that, while other sentences are indefinite, and (like a geometrical right line) may be produced indefinitely, the Period (like a circular line) is always circumscribed, returns, and terminates at a given point. In other words, while other sentences, by the help of common copulatives, have a sort of boundless effusion; the constituent parts of a Period have a sort of reflex union, in which union the sentence is so far complete, as neither to require, nor even to admit, a farther extension. Readers find a pleasure in this grateful circuit, which leads them so agreeably to an acquisition of knowledge.

The author, if he may be permitted, would refer, by way of illustration, to the beginnings of his Hermes, and his philosophical arrangements, where some attempts have been made in this periodical style. He would refer also, for much more illustrious examples, to the opening of Cicero's Offices; to that of the capital Oration of Demosthenes concerning the Crown, and to that of the celebrated Panegyric, made (if he may be so called) by the father of Periods, Isocrates.

Again-every compound sentence is compounded of other sentences more simple, which, compared to one another, have a certain proportion of length. Now it is DRYD. Fables. in general a good rule, that among these constituent sentences, the last (if possible) should be equal to the first; or if not equal, then rather longer than shorter. The reason is, that without a special cause, abrupt conclusions are offensive, and the reader, like a traveller quietly pursuing his journey, finds an unexpected precipice, where he is disagreeably stopt.

'Twas chatt'ring, grinning, mouthing, jabb'ring

And noise, and Norton; brangling and Brevall;
Dennis, and dissonance-

Which lines, though truly poetical and
humorous, may be suspected by some to
shew their art too conspicuously, and too
nearly to resemble that verse of old En-

O! tite, tute, tati, tibi, tanta, tyranne, tulisti.
Script. ad Herenn. I. iv. s. 18.

Gray begins a sublime Ode,
Ruin seize thee, ruthless king, &c.

$ 184. On Monosyllables.


It has been called a fault in our language, that it abounds in Monosyllables. As these, in too lengthened a suite, disgrace a composition, Lord Shaftsbury, (who studied

purity of style with great attention) limited their number to nine; and was careful, in his Characteristics, to conform to his own law. Even in Latin too many of them were condemned by Quinctilian.

Above all, care should be had, that a sentence end not with a crowd of them, those especially of the vulgar, untunable sort, such as, "to set it up," to " get by and by at it," &c.; for these disgrace a sentence that may be otherwise laudable, and are like the rabble at the close of some pompous cavalcade. Harris.

§ 185. Authorities alleged. "Twas by these, and other arts of similar sort, that authors in distant ages have cultivated their style. Looking upon knowledge (if I may be allowed the allusion) to pass into the mansions of the mind through language, they were careful (if I may pursue the metaphor) not to offend in the vestibule. They did not esteem it pardonable to despise the public ear, when they saw the love of numbers so universally diffused.

Nor were they discouraged, as if they thought their labour would be lost. In these more refined but yet popular arts, they knew the amazing difference between the power to execute, and the power to judge that to execute was the joint effort of genius and of habit: a painful acquisition, only attainable by the few ;-to judge, the simple effort of that plain but common sense, imparted by Providence in some degree to every one.



§ 186. Objectors answered. But here methinks an objector demands “And are authors then to compose, and "form their treatises by rule? Are they "to balance periods?-To scan paæans " and cretics?-To affect alliterations?— "To enumerate monosyllables?" &c.

If, in answer to this objector, it should be said, They ought; the permission should at least be tempered with much caution. These arts are to be so blended with a pure but common style, that the reader, as he proceeds, may only fell their latent force. If ever they become glaring, they degenerate into affectation; an extreme more disgusting, because less natural, than even the vulgar language of an unpolished clown. 'Tis in writing, as in acting The best writers are like our late admired Garrick-And how did that able genius employ his art?-Not by a vain ostenta

tion of any one of his powers, but by a latent use of them all in such an exhibition of nature, that while we were present in a theatre, and only beholding an actor, we could not help thinking ourselves in Denmark with Hamlet, or in Bosworth field with Richard. Ibid.

§ 187. When the Habit is once gained, nothing so easy as Practice.

There is another objection still.-These speculations may be called minutiæ; things partaking at best more of the elegant than of the solid; and attended with difficulties beyond the value of the labour.

To answer this, it may be observed, that when habit is once gained, nothing so easy as practice. When the ear is once habituated to these verbal rhythms, it forms them spontaneously, without attention or labour. If we call for instances, what more easy to every smith, to every carpenter, to every common mechanic, than the several energies of their proper arts? How little do even the rigid laws of verse obstruct a genius truly poetic? How little did they cramp a Milton, a Dryden, or a Pope? Cicero writes, that Antipater the Sidonian could pour forth Hexameters extempore, and that whenever he chose to versify, words followed him of course. We may add to Antipater the ancient Rhapsodists of the Greeks, and the modern Improvisatori of the Italians. If this then be practicable in verse, how much more so in prose? In prose, the laws of which so far differ from those of poetry, that we can at any time relax them as we find expedient? Nay more, where to relax them is not onlyexpedient, but even necessary, because, though numerous composition may be a requisite, yet regularly returning rhythm is a thing we should avoid.


$188. In every Whole, the constituent Parts, and the facility of their Coincidence, merit our Regard.

In every whole, whether natural or artificial, the constituent parts well merit our regard, and in nothing more than in the facility of their coincidence. If we view a

landscape, how pleasing the harmony between hills and woods, between rivers and lawns! If we select from this landscape a tree, how well does the trunk correspond with its branches, and the whole of its form with its beautiful verdure! If we take an animal, for example a fine horse, what a union in his colour, his figure, and his mo

tions! If one of human race, what more

pleasingly congenial, than when virtue and genius appear to animate a graceful figure?

--pulchro veniens e corpore virtus?

The charm increases, if to a graceful figure we add a graceful elocution. Elocution too is heightened still, if it convey elegant sentiments; and these again are heightened, if clothed with graceful diction, that is, with words which are pure, precise, and well arranged. Harris. § 189. Verbal Decorations not to be called Minutiz.

We must not call these verbal decorations, minutiæ. They are essential to the beauty, nay, to the completion of the whole. Without them the composition, though its sentiments may be just, is like a picture with good drawing, but with bad and defective colouring.

These we are assured were the sentiments of Cicero, whom we must allow to have been a master in his art, and who has amply and accurately treated verbal decoration and numerous composition, in no less than two capital treatises, (his Orator, and his De Oratore) strengthening withal his own authority with that of Aristotle and Theophrastus; to whom,if more were wanting, we might add the names of Demetrius Phalereus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Dionysius Longinus, and Quinctilian.


$ 190. Advice to Readers. Whoever reads a perfect or finished composition, whatever be the language, whatever the subject, should read it, even if alone, both audibly and distinctly.

In a composition of this character, not only precise words are admitted, but words metaphorical and ornamental. And farther —as every sentence contains a latent harmony, so is that harmony derived from the rhythm of its constituent parts.

A composition then like this, should, (as I said before) be read both distinctly and audibly; with due regard to stops and pauses; with occasional elevations and depressions of the voice, and whatever else constitutes just and accurate pronunciation. He who, despising, or neglecting, or knowing nothing of all this, reads a work of such character as he would read a sessions-paper, will not only miss many beauties of the style, but will probably miss (which is worse) a large proportion of the sense.


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The remaining part of the first book, together with the three books following, to verse the 458th of book the fourth, make the middle, which also has its true character, that of succeeding the beginning, where we expect something farther; and that of preceding the end, where we expect nothing more.

The eight last verses of the poem make the end, which, like the beginning, is short, and which preserves its real character, by satisfying the reader that all is complete, and that nothing is to follow. The performance is even dated. It finishes like an epistle, giving us the place and time of writing; but then giving them in such a manner, as they ought to come from Virgil.

But to open our thoughts into a farther detail.

As the poem, from its very name, respects various matters relative to land, (Georgica) and which are either immediately or mediately connected with it; among the variety of these matters the poem begins from the lowest, and thence advances gradually from higher to higher, till having reached the highest, it there properly stops.

The first book begins from the simple culture of the earth, and from its humblest progeny, corn, legumes, flowers, &c.

It is a nobler species of vegetables which employs the second book, where we are taught the culture of trees, and, among others, of that important pair, the olive and the vine. Yet it must be remembered, that all this is nothing more than the culture of mere vegetable and inanimate nature.

It is in the third book that the poet rises to nature sensitive and animated, when he gives us precepts about cattle, horses, sheep, &c.

At length in the fourth book, when matters draw to a conclusion, then it is he treats his subject in a moral and political way. He no longer pursues the culture of the mere brute nature; he then describes, as he tells us,

-Mores, et studia, et populos, et prælia, &c. for such is the character of his bees, those truly social and political animals. It is here he first mentions arts, and memory, and laws, and families. It is here (their great sagacity considered) he supposes a portion imparted of a sublimer principle. It is here that every thing vegetable or merely brutal seems forgotten, while all appears at least human, and sometimes even divine:

His quidam signis, atque hæc exempla secuti, Esse apibus partem divinæ mentis, et haustus Ætherios dixere; deum namque ire per omnes Terrasque tractusque maris, &c.

Georg. IV. 219.

When the subject will not permit him to proceed farther, he suddenly conveys his reader, by the fable of Aristæus, among nymphs, heroes, demi-gods, and gods, and thus leaves him in company supposed more than mortal.

This is not only a sublime conclusion to the fourth book, but naturally leads to the conclusion of the whole work; for he does no more after this than shortly recapitulate, and elegantly blend his recapitulating with a compliment to Augustus.

But even this is not all.

The dry, didactic character of the Georgics, made it necessary they should be enlivened by episodes and digressions. It has been the art of the poet, that these episodes and digressions should be homogeneous: that is, should so connect

with the subject, as to become, as it were, parts of it. On these principles every book has for its end, what I call an epilogue; for its beginning, an invocation; and for its middle, the several precepts relative to its subject, I mean husbandry. Having a beginning, a middle, and an end, every part itself becomes a smaller whole, though with respect to the general plan, it is nothing more than a part. Thus the human arm, with a view to its elbow, its hands, its fingers, &c. is as clearly a whole, as it is simply but a part with a view to the entire body.

The smaller wholes of this divine poem may merit some attention; by these I mean each particular book.

Each book has an invocation. The first invokes the sun, the moon, the various rural deities, and lastly Augustus; the second invokes Bacchus; the third, Pales and Apollo; the fourth his patron Mæcenas. I do not dwell on these invocations, much less on the parts which follow, for this in fact would be writing a comment upon the poem. But the epilogues, besides their own intrinsic beauty, are too much to our purpose to be passed in silence.

In the arrangement of them the poet seems to have pursued such an order, as that alternate affections should be alternately excited; and this he has done, well knowing the importance of that generally acknowledged truth," the force derived to contraries by their juxta-position or succession." The first book ends with those portents and prodigies, both upon earth and in the heavens, which preceded the death of the dictator Cæsar. To these direful scenes the epilogue of the second book opposes the tranquillity and felicity of the rural life which (as he informs us) faction and civil discord do not usually impair

Non res Romanæ, perituraque regna― In the ending of the third book we read of a pestilence, and of nature in devastation; in the fourth, of nature restored, and, by help of the gods, replenished.

As this concluding epilogue (I mean the fable of Aristaus) occupies the most important place; so is it decorated accordingly with language, events, places, and personages,

No language was ever more polished and harmonious. The descent of Aris

*See before, 178.

tæus to his mother, and of Orpheus to the shades, are events; the watery palace of the Nereides, the cavern of Proteus, and the scene of the infernal regions, are places; Aristæus, Old Proteus, Orpheus, Eurydice, Cyllene, and her nymphs, are personages; all great, all striking, all sublime.

Let us view these epilogues in the poet's order.

I. Civil Horrors.
II. Rural Tranquillity.
III. Nature laid waste.
IV. Nature restored.

Here, as we have said already, different passions are, by the subjects being alternate, alternately excited; and yet withal excited so judiciously, that when the poem concludes, and all is at an end, the reader leaves off with tranquillity and joy.


§ 192. Exemplified again in the Menexenus of PLATO.

From the Georgics of Virgil, we proceed to the Menexenus of Plato; the first being the most finished form of a didactic poem, the latter the most consummate model of a panegyric oration.

The Menexenus is a funeral oration in praise of those brave Athenians who had fallen in battle by generously asserting the cause of their country. Like the Georgics, and every other just composition, this oration has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The beginning is a solemn account of the deceased having received all the legitimate rights of burial, and of the propriety of doing them honour not only by deeds but by words; that is, not only by funeral ceremonies, but by a speech, to perpetuate the memory of their magnanimity, and to recommend it to their posterity, as an object of imitation.

As the deceased were brave and gallant men, we are shewn by what means they came to possess their character, and what noble exploits they performed in


Hence the middle of the oration contains first their origin; next their education and form of government; and last of all, the consequence of such an origin and education; their heroic achievements from the earliest days to the time then pre


The middle part being thus complete, we come to the conclusion, which is

perhaps the most sublime piece of oratory, both for the plan and execution, which is extant, of any age, or in any language.

By an awful prosopopeia, the deceased are called up to address the living; and fathers slain in battle, to exhort their liv ing children; the children slain in battle, to console their living fathers; and this with every idea of manly consolation, with every generous incentive to a contempt of death, and a love of their country, that the powers of nature or of art could suggest.

"Tis here this oration concludes, being (as we have shewn) a perfect whole, executed with all the strength of a sublime language, under the management of a great and a sublime genius.

If these speculations appear too dry, they may be rendered more pleasing, if the reader would peruse the two pieces criticised. His labour, he might be assured, would not be lost, as he would peruse two of the finest pieces which the two finest ages of antiquity produced.


$193. The Theory of Whole and Parts concerns small Works as well as great. We cannot however quit this theory concerning whole and parts, without observing that it regards alike both small works and great; and that it descends even to an essay, to a sonnet, to an ode. These minuter efforts of genius, unless they possess (if I may be pardoned the expression) a certain character of Totality, lose a capital pleasure derived from their union; from a union which, collected in a few penitent ideas, combines them all happily under one amicable form. Without this union the production is no better than a sort of vague effusion, where sentences follow sentences, and stanzas follow stanzas, with no apparent reason why they should be two rather than twenty, or twenty rather than two.

If we want another argument for this minuter Totality, we may refer to nature, which art is said to imitate. Not only this universe is one stupendous whole, but such also is a tree, a shrub, a flower; such those beings which, without the aid of glasses, even escape our perception. And so much for Totality (I venture to familiarize the term) that common and essential character to every legitimate composition.


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