« PreviousContinue »
si 14. INCEPTIS GRAYIBUS, &c.] These preparatory observations concerning the laws of poetic coinposition at large have been thought to glance more particularly at the epic poetry: Which was not iinproper: For, 1. The drama, which he was about to criticise, had its rife and origin from the spos. Thus we are told by the great critic, that Homer was the first who ina vented dramatic imitations, uóvos----oto fegue no ens opisem uatiraS ÉTTOMOE. And to the same purpose Plato : έoικε μεν των καλών απάνων τέτων των τραγικών πρώτος διδάσκαλος και ηγεμών γενέσθαι. [“Όμηρος.] De Rep. I. x. Hence, as our noble critic obo serves, “ There was no more left for tragedy to “ do after him, than to erect a ftage, and draw * his dialogues and characters into scenes ; “ turning in the fame manner upon one princi" pal'action or event, with regard to place and « time, which was suitable to a real spectacle." FCharacterist. vol. i. p. 198.] 2. The several censures, here pointed at the epic, would bear still more directly against the tragic poem ; it being more glaringly inconsistent with the genius of the drama 'to admit of foreign and digressive ornaments, than of the extended, episodical epon paia. For both these reasons it was altogether pertinent to the poet's purpose, in a criticism on the drama, to expose the vicious practice of the spis models. Though, to preserve the unity of bis picce, and for the reafon before given in note on l. 1. he hath artfully done this under the cover of general criticisin.
19. SED NUNC NON ERAT HIS LOCUS. If one was to apply this observation to our dra: matic writings, I know of none which would afford pleasanter inftances of the absurdity, herg exposed, than the famous ORPHAN of Otway: Which, notwithstanding its real beauties, could hardly have taken fo prodigiously, as it hath done, on our stage, if there were not somewhere a defect of good taste as well as of good morals.
23. DENIQUE SIT QUIDVIS: SIMPLEX DUN, TAXIT ET UNUM.] Is it not frange that he, who delivered this rule in form, and, by his manner of delivering it, appears to have laid the greatest stress upon it, Ihould be thought capable of paying no attention to it himself, in the con, duct of this epistles
25-28. BREVIS ESSE LABORO, OBSCURUR FIO: SECTANTEM LENIA NERVI DEFICIUNT ANIMIQUE : PROFESSUS GRANDIA TURGET SERPIT HUMI TUTUS NIMIUM TIMIDUSQUE PROCELLAE.] If these characters were to be exemplified in our own poets, of reputation, the ford, I suppose, might be juftly applied to Donne ;
the second to Parnell, the third, to Thomson ; and the fourthing to Addifon. As to the two following lines: *. Qui variare cupit rem prodigialiter unam, • Delphinum filvis adpingit, Auftibus aprum: . chey are applicable to fo many of our poets, that, to keep the reft in countenance, I will but juft mention Shakespeare himself; who, to enrich his scene with that variety, which his exu: berant genius so largely supplied, hath deformed his beft plays with thefe prodigious incongruities,
29. QUI VARIARE CUPIT REM PRODI, GIALITER UNAM, &c.] Though I agree with M. Dacier that prodigialiter is here used in a good sense, yet the word is fo happily chofen by our curious speaker, as to carry the mind to that fictitious monster, under which he had before allusively shadowed out the idea of absurd and inconsistent composition, in l. 1. The application, however, differs in this, that, whereas the monster, there painted, was intended to expofe the extravagance of putting together incongruous parts, without any reference to a whole, this pros 'digy is designed to characterize a whole, but deformed by the ill-judged position of its parts.
The former is like a monster, whose several members, as of right belonging to different animals, could, by no disposition, be made to con:
ftituto ftitute one consistent animal. The other, like a landfkip, which hath no objects absolutely irrelative, or irreducible to a whole, but which a wrong position of the parts only renders prodigious. Send the boar to the woods; and the dolphin to the waves; and the painter might shew them both on the same canvass. .
Each is a violation of the law of unity, and a real monster : the one, because it contains an afai femblage of naturally incoherent parts; the other, because its parts, though in themselves coherent, are misplaced, and disjointed.
34. INFELIX OPERIS SUMMA: QUIA PONERE TOTUM NESCIET.] This observation is more peculiarly applicable to dramatic poetry, than to any other, an unity and integrity of action being of its very effence. The poet illuftrates his obfervation very happily in the case of statuary; but it holds of every other art, that hath a whole for its object. Nicias, the painter, used to fay [a], “That the subject was to him, what the “ fable is to the poet.” Which is just the sențiment of Horace, reversed. For by the subject is meant the whole of the painter's plan, the totum, which it will be impossible for those to express, who lay out their pains so sollicitously in finish
[a] See Vi&or. Comm. in Dem. Phaler. P: 73. Florent, 1594. . . :
ing single parts. Thus, to take an obvious ex. ample, the landskip-painter is to draw together, and form into one entire view, certain beautiful, or striking objects. This is his main care. It is not even effential to the inerit of his piece, to labour, with extreme exactness, the principal cone ftituent parts. But for the rest, a forub or flower, a ftraggling goat or feeps these may be touched very negligently. We have a great modern in, stance. Few painters have obliged us with finer scenes, or have pofseffed the art of combining woods, lakes, and rocks, into more agreeable pictures, than G. Poussin: Yet his animals are observed to be scarce worthy an ordinary artist.
The use of these is simply to decorate the scene; and so their beauty depends, not on the truth and correctness of the drawing, but on the ele. gance of their disposition only, For, in a land. skip, the eye carelesly glances over the smaller parts, and regards them only in reference to the surrounding objects. The painter's labour therefore is lost, or rather mifeinployed, to the prejudice of the whole, when it ftrives to finish, so minutely, particular objects. If fome great masters have shewn themselves ambitious of this fame, the objects, they have laboured, have been always such, as are inost considerable in them selves, and have, besides, an effect in illustrating and setting off the entire scenery. It is chiefly