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tation, which we call fiction. The style is, as it were, the body of poetry ; fiction, is its soul. Having, thus, taken the privilege of a poet to create a Muse, we have only now to give her a voice, or more properly to tune it, and then she will be in a condition, as one of her favourites speaks,'TO RAVISH ALL The Gods. For
III. It follows from the same idea of the end, which poetry would accomplish, that not only Rhythm, but NUMBERS, properly so called, is essential to it. For this Art undertaking to gratify all those desires and expectations of pleasure, that can be reasonably entertained by us, and there being a capacity in language, the instrument it works by, of pleasing us very highly, not only by the sense and imagery it conveys, but by the structure of words, and still more by the harmonious arrangement of them in metrical sounds or numbers, and lastly there being no reason in the nature of the thing itself why these pleasures should not be united, it follows that poetry will not be that which it professes to be, that is, will not accomplish its own purpose, unless it delight the ear with numbers, or, in other words, unless it be cloathed in VERSE.
The reader, I dare say, has hitherto gone
in this deduction : but here, I suspect, we shall separate. Yet he will startle the less at this conclusion, if he reflect on the origin and first application of poetry among all nations,
It is every where of the most early growth, preceding every other sort of composition; and being destined for the ear, that is, to be either sung, or at least recited, it adapts itself, even in its first rude essays, to that sense of measure and proportion in sounds, which is so natural to us.
The hearer's attention is the sooner gained by this means, his entertainment quickened, and his admiration of the performer's art excited. Men are ambitious of pleasing, and ingenious in refining upon what they observe will please. So that musical cadences and harmonious sounds, which nature dictated, are farther softened and improved by art, till poetry become as ravishing to the ear, as the images, it presents, are to the imagination. In process of time, what was at first the extemporaneous production of genius or passion, under the conduct of a natural ear, becomes the labour of the closet, and is conducted by artificial rules; yet still, with a secret reference to the sense of hearing, and to that acceptation which melodious sounds meet with in the recital of expressive words.
Even the prose-writer (when the art is énough advanced to produce prose) having been accustomed to have his ear consulted and gratified by the poet, catches insensibly the same harmonious affection, tunes his sentences and periods to some agreement with song, and transfers into his coolest narrative, or gravest instruction, something of that music, with which his ear vibrates from poetie impressions.
In short, he leaves measured and determihate numbers, that is, Merre, to the poet, who is to please up to the height of his faculties, and the nature of his work; and only reserves to himself, whose purpose of giving pleasure is subordinate to another end, the looser inusical measure, or what we call RHYTHMICAL PROSE.
The reason appears, from this deduction, why all poetry aspires to please by melodious numbers. To some species, it is thought more essential, than to others, because those species continue to be sung, that is, are more immediately addressed to the ear; and because they continue to be sung in concert with musical instruments, by which the ear is still more indulged. It happened in antient Greece, that even tragedy retained this accompaniment of musical instruments, through all its stages, and even in its most improved state. Whence Aristotle includes Music, properly so called, as well as Rhythm and Metre, in his idea of the tragic poem.
He did this, because he found the drama of his country, OMNIBUS NUMERIS ABSOLUTUM, I mean in possession of all the advantages which could result from the union of rhythmical, metrical, and musical sounds. “Modern tragedy has relinquished part of these: yet still, if it be true that this poem be more pleasing by the addition of the musical art, and there be nothing in the nature of the composition which forbids the use of it, I know not why Aristotle's idea should not be adopted, and his precept become a standing law of the tragic stage. For this, as every other poem, being calculated and designed properly and ultimately to please, whatever contributes to produce that end most perfectly, all circumstances taken into the account, must be thought of the nature or essence of the kind.
But without carrying matters so far, let us confine our attention to metre, or what we call
This must be essential to every work bearing the name of poem, not, because we are only accustomed to call works written in verse, poems, but because a work, which professes to please us by every possible and proper method, and yet does not give us this pleasure, which it is in its power, and is no way improper for it, to give, must so far fall short of fulfilling its own engagements to us; that is, it has not all those qualities which we have a right to expect in a work of literary art, of which pleasure is the ultimate end.
To explain myself by an obvious instance. History undertakes to INSTRUCT us in the transactions of past times. If it answer this purpose, it does all that is of its nature; and, if it find means to please us, besides, by the harmony of its style, and vivacity of its narration, all this is to be accounted as pure gain : if it instructed ONLY, by the truth of its reports, and the perspicuity of its method, it would fully attain its end. Poetry, on the other hand, undertakes to PLEASE. If it employ all its powers to this purpose, it effects all that is of its nature: if it serve, besides, to inform or instruct us, by the truths it conveys,