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THE MARKS OF IMITATION.
TO MR. MASON.
AVE said, in the discourse on POETICAL IMIȚATION, “ that coincidencies of a certain “ kind, and in a certain degree, cannot fail to “ convict a writer of Imitationa." You are curious, my friend, to know what these coincidencies are, and have thought that an attempt to point them out would furnish an useful Supplement to what I have written on this subject. But the just execution of this design would require, besides a careful examination of the workings of the human mind, an exact
scrutiny of the most original and most imitative writers. And, with all your partiality for me, can you, in earnest, think me capable of fulfilling the first of these conditions; Or, if I were, do you imagine that, at this time o'day, I can have the leisure to perform the other ? My younger years, indeed, have been spent in turning over those authors which young men are most fond of; and among these I will not dis- : own that the Poets of ancient and modern fame have had their full share in my affection. But you, who love me so well, would not wish me to pass more of my life in these flowery regions; which though you may yet wander in without offence, and the rather as you wander in them with so pure a mind and to so moral a purpose, there seems no decent preténce for me to loiter in them any longer,
Yet in saying this I would not be thought to assume that severe character; which, though sometimes the garb of reason, is oftner, I believe, the mask of dulness, or of something worse. No, I am too sensible to the charms, nay to the uses of your profession, to affect a contempt for it. The great Roman said well, Haec studia adolescentiam alunt ; senectutem oblectant. We make a full meal of them in our youth. And no philosophy requires so
perfect a mortification as that we should wholly abstain from them in our riper years. But should we invert the observation; and take this light food not as the refreshment only, but as the proper nourishment of Age; such a name as Cicero's, I am afraid, would be wanting, and not easily found, to justify the practice.
Let us own then, on a greater authority than His, “That every thing is beautiful in its “ season.” The Spring hath its buds and blossoms : But, as the year runs on, you are not displeased, perhaps, to see them fall off; and would certainly be disappointed not to find them, in due time, succeeded by those mellow hangings, the poet somewhere speaks of.
I could alledge still graver reasons. But I. would only say, in one word, that your friend has had his share in these amusements. I may recollect with pleasure, but must never live over again
Pieriosque dies, et amantes carmina somnos. Yet something, you insist, is to be done; and, if it amount to no more than a specimen or slight sketch, such as my memory, or the few