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IDEA OF UNIVERSAL POETRY.
· WHEN we speak of poetry, as an art, we mean such a way or method of treating a subject, as is found most pleasing and delightful to us. In all other kinds of literary composition, pleasure is subordinate to use: in poetry only, PLEASURE is the end, to which use itself (however it be, for certain reasons, always pretended) must submit.
This idea of the end of poetry is no novel one, but indeed the very same which our great philosopher entertained of it; who gives it as the essential note of this part of learningTHAT IT SUBMITS THE SHEWS OF THINGS TO THE DESIRES OF THE MIND: WHEREAS REASON DOTH BUCKLE AND BOW THE MIND UNTO THE NATURE OF THINGS. For to gratify the desires of the mind, is to PLEASE; Pleasure then, in the
idea of Lord Bacon, is the ultimate and appropriate end of poetry; for the sake of which it accommodates itself to the desires of the mind, and doth not (as other kinds of writing, which are under the controul of reason) buckle and bow the mind to the nature of things.
But they, who like a principle thé better for seeing it in Greek, may take it in the words of an old philosopher, ERATOSTHENES, who affirmed --- Wolntry wayta soxázeo bot yuxayažias, š Sidao xanías -- of which words, the definition given above, is the translation,
This notion of the end of poetry, if kept steadily in view, will unfold to us all the mysteries of the poetic art. There needs but to evolve the philosopher's idea, and to apply it, as occasion serves. The art of poetry will be, universally, THE ART OF PLEASING ; and all its rules, but so many means, which experience finds most conducive to that end;. SIC ANIMIS natum inventumque poemá JUVANDIS.
Aristotle has delivered and explained these rules, so far as they respect one species of poetry, the dramatic, or, more properly speaking, the tragic: And when such a writer, as he, shall do as much by the other species, then, and not till then, a complete ART OF POETRY will be formed.
I have not the presumption to think myself, in any degree, equal to this arduous task: But from the idea of this art, as given above, an ordinary writer may undertake to deduce some general conclusions, concerning Univer„sal Poetry, which seem preparatory to those nicer disquisitions, concerning its several sorts or species.
I. It follows from that IDEA, that it should neglect no advantage, that fairly offers itself, of appearing in such a dress or mode of language, as is most taking and agreeable to us. We may expect then, in the language or style of poetry, a choice of such words as are most sonorous and expressive, and such an arrangement of them as throws the discourse out of the ordinary and common phrase of conversation. Novelty, and variety are certain sources of pleasure: a construction of words, which is not vulgar, is therefore more suited to the ends of poetry, than one which we are every day accustomed to in familiar discourse. Some „manners of placing them are, also, more agree· able to the ear, than others : Poetry, then is