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is concerned. The same general appearances Inust be copied by all poets; the same particular circumstances will frequently occur to all. But to give life and colour to the selected circumstance, and imprint it on the imagination with distinctness and vivacity, this is the proper office of true genius. An ordinary writer may, by dint of industry, and a careful study of the best models, sometimes succeed in this work of painting; that is, having stolen a ray of celestial matter, he may now and then direct it so happily, as to animate and enkindle his own earthly lump; but to succeed constantly in this art of description, to be able, on all occasions, to exhibit what the Greek Rhetoricians call ΦΑΝΤΑΣΙΑΝ, which is, as Longinus well expresses it, when “the « poet, from his own vivid and enthusiastic “ conception, seems to have the object, he de“scribes, in actual view, and presents it, al“ most, to the eyes of the readers;" this can be accomplished by nothing less, than the genuine plastic powers of original creation.
; 2. If from this vast theatre of sensible and extraneous beauty, the poet turn his attention
to what passes within, he immediately discovers a new world, invisible indeed and intellectual; but which is equally capable of being represented to the internal sense of others. This arises from that similarity of mind, if I may so speak, which, like that of outward form and make, by the wise provision of nature, runs through the whole species. We are all furnished with the same original properties and affections, as with the same stock of perceptions and ideas ; whence it is, that our intimate consciousness of what we carry about in ourselves, becomes, as it were, the interpreter of the poet's thought; and makes us readily enter into all his descriptions of the human nature. These descriptions are of two kinds ; either l. such as express that tumult and disorder of the mind, which we feel in ourselves from the disturbance of any natural affection: or, 2. that more quiet state, which gives birth to calmer sentiments and reflexions. The former division takes in all the workings of PASSION. The latter, comprehends our MANNERS and SENTIMENTS. Both are equally the objects of poetry; and of poetry only, which triumphs without a rival, in this most sublime and interesting of all the modes of imitation. Painting, we know, can express the material universe ; and, as will be seen
hereafter, can evidence the internal movements of the soul by sensible marks and symbols ; but it is poetry alone, which delineates the mind itself, and opens the recesses of the heart to us.
EFFERT ANIMI MOTUS INTERPRETE LINGUA.
Now the poet, as I said, in addressing himself to this province of his art, hath only to consult with his own conscious reflexion. Whatever be the situation of the persons, whom he would make known to us, let him but take counsel of his own heart, and it will very faithfully suggest the fittest and most natural expressions of their character. No man can describe of others further than he hath felt himself. And what he hath thus known from his own feeling is so consonant to the experience of all others, that his description must needs be true ; that is, be the very same, which a careful attention to such experience must have dictated to every other. So that, instead of asking one's self (as an admired ancient advised to do) on any attempt to excel in composition, “how this or that celebrated author would have written on
b What is here said of poetical fiction, Quinctilian hath applied to oratorial narration; the credibility of which
will depend on the observance of this rule. Credibilis erit · narratio antè omnia, si priùs consuluerimus nostrum ANIMUM,
nequid naturae dicamus adrersum. [L. iv. 2.)
the occasion; the surer way, perhaps, is to inquire of ourselves “ how we have felt of
thought in such a conjuncture, what sensa$ tions or reflexions the like circumstances * have actually excited in us." For the answer to these queries will undoubtedly set us in the direct road of nature and common sense. And, whatever is thus taken from the life, will, we may be sure, affect other minds, in proportion to the vigour of our conception and expression of it. ) In sum,
To catch the manners living, as they rise, I mean, fromi our own internal frame and constitution, is the sole way of writing naturally and justly of human life. And every such description of ourselves (the great exemplar of moral imitation) will be as unavoidably similar to any description copied on the like occasion, by other poets; as pictures of the natural world by different hands, are, and must be, to each other, as being all derived from the archetype of one common original.
1. Let us take some master-piece of a great poet, most famed for his original invention, in
which he has successfully revealed the secret internal workings of any PÅSSION. What does he make known of these mysterious powers, but what he feels ? And whence comes the impression, his description makes on others, but from its agreement to their feelingsi? To instance, in the expression of grief on the murder of children, relations, friends, &c. a passion, which poetry hath ever taken a fond pleasure to paint in all its distresses, and which our common nature obliges all readers to enter into with an exquisite sensibility. What are the tender touches which most affect us on these occasions? Are they not such as these : complaints of untimely death : of unnatural cruelty in the murderer : imprecations of vengeance : weariness' and contempt of life: erpostulations with heaven : fond recollections
i So the great philosopher, ο γαρ σερί ενίας συμβαίνει WÁOQ fughs iszupās, tēto iv adicais index4. The one to have dua pépet, nad rõ päraz. TOAIT. O. Whence our Hobbes seems to have taken his aphorism, which he makes the corner-stone of his philosophy. “ That for the similitude “ of the thoughts and passions of one man to the thoughts “ and passions of another, whosoever looketh into him" self, and considereth what he doth, when he does think, “opine, reason, hope, fear, &c. and upon what grounds; “ he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts " and passions of all other men, upon the like occasions."
LEVIATHAN, Introit. p. 2. fol. London: 1658.