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ALL Poetry, to speak with Aristotle and the Greek critics (if for so plain a point authorities be thought wanting) is, properly, imitation. It is, indeed, the noblest and most extensive of the mimetic arts; having all creation for its object, and ranging the entire circuit of universal being. In this view every wondrous original, which ages have gazed at, as the offspring of creative fancy; and of which poets themselves, to do honour to their inventions, have feigned, as of the immortal panoply of their heroes, that it came down from heaven, is itself but a copy, a transcript from some brighter page of this vast volume of the universe. Thus all is derived; all is unoriginal. And the office of genius is but to select the fairest forms of things, and to present them in due place and circumstance, and in the richest colouring of expression, to the imagination. This primary or original copying, which in the ideas of Philosophy is Imitation, is, in the language of Criticism, called INVENTION.
Again ; of the endless variety of these original forms, which the poet's eye is incessantly traversing, those, which take his attention most, his active mimetic faculty prompts him to convert into fair and living resenıblances. This magical operation the divine philosopher (whose fervid fancy, though it sometimes obscuresa his reasoning, yet never fails to clear and brighten his imagery) excellently illustrates by the similitude of a mirror ; " which, “ says he, as you turn about and oppose to the “surrounding world, presents you instantly " with a sun, stars, and SKIES ; with your “OWN, and every other living form; with “the EARTH, and its several appendages of * TREES, PLANTS, and FLOWERSb.” Just so, on whatever side the poet turns his imagination, the shapes of things immediately imprint themselves upon it, and a new corresponding creation reflects the old one. This shadowy ideal world, though unsubstantial as the American vision of souls, yet glows with such apparent life, that it becomnes, thenceforth, the object of other mirrors, and is itself original
a Mirais tt, says Dionysius of Halicarnassus, speaking of his figurative manner, tò oc@ès xal Jóow woiti waparadooor [T. ii. p. 204. Ed. Hudson.]
b Plato De REPUB. lib. x. • Spectator, No. 56.