« PreviousContinue »
O N T H E
MARKS os IMITATION.
/ ■ • ■ ■ .
Comme en cueillant une Guirlande
Ichanc'd to say in the discourse on Poeticai Imitation, "that coincidencies of a certain *' kindt and in a certain degree, cannot fail ro convict "a writer of Imitation." You are sometimes curious to know what these coincidencies are, and have thought that an attempt to point them out would furnish an useful Supplement to what I have written on this subject. You urge me too to this1 attempt by the promise, it seems, I made of engaging in it. But have you observ'd what I said at the same time, ■** That such a design would require, besides a care*' ful examination of the workings of the human "mind, an exact scrutiny of the most original and *' most imitative writers." a And, with all your par
3 Disc. on Poet. Imit. p. 209. 2d Ed.
A % tiality
■J tiality for me, can you, in earnest, think me capable of fulfilling the first of these conditions; Qr, if I were, do you imagine that, at this time o' day, I can have the leisure to perform the other? My younger years, indeed, have been spent in turning over those authors which young men are most fond of; and amongst these I will not disown that the Poets of antient and modern fame have had their full share in my affection. But You, who love me so well, would not wish me to pass more of my life in these flowery regions; which tho' You may yet wander in without offence, and the rather as you wander in them with so pure a mind and to so moral a purpose, there seems no decent pretence for me to loiter in them any longer.
Yet in faying this I would not be thought to assume that severe character; which, tho' sometimes the garb of reason, is oftener, I believe, the mask of dullness, or of something worse. No, I am too sensible to the charms, nay to the uses of your profession, to affect a contempt for it. The great Roman said well, Haec Jiudia adolescentiam alunt; seneftutem. obleflant. We make a full meal of them in our youth. And no philosophy requires so perfect a mortification as that we should wholly abstain from them in our riper years. But should we reverse the observation; and take this light food not as the refreshment only, but as the proper nourijhment of Age; such a name, as Cicero's, I am afraid, would be wanting, and not easily found, to justify the practice.
Let us own then, on a greater authority than His, "That every thing is beautiful in it's season." The Spring hath it's buds and blossoms: But, as the year runs on, You are not displeas'd, perhaps, to fee them fall off; And would certainly be disappointed not to find them, in due time, succeeded by those mellow hangings, the poet somewhere speaks of.
I could alledge still graver reasons. But I would only fay, in one word, that your friend has had his share in these amusements. I may recollect with pleasure, but must never live over again
Pieriosque dies, et amantes carmina somnos.
Yet something, you insist, is to be done; and, if it amount to no more than a specimen or slight sketch, such as my memory, or the few notes I have by me, would furnish, the design, you think, is not totally to be relinquished.
I understand the danger of gratifying you on these terms. Yet, whatever it be, I have no power to excuse myself from any attempt, by which, you tell me at least, I may be able to gratify you. I will do my beiT, then, to draw together such observations, as I have sometimes thought, in reading the poets, most material for the certain discovery of Imitations. And I address them to You, not only as You are the properest judge of the subject; You, who understand so well in what manner the Poets are us'd to imitate each other, and who yourself so finely imitate the best of them; But as I would give You this small A 3 proof