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occasion, suggests that it might probably be copied from Spenser's, Grinning griesly
B. V. c. 12. And there is the more likelihood in this conjecture, as the poet a little before had callid death--the griesly terror-v. 704. But after all, if he had any preceding writer in view, I suspect it might be FLETCHER; who, in his Wife for a Month, has these remarkable lines, The game of Death was never play'd more
nobly, The meagre thief grew wanton in his mis
chiefs, * And his shrunk hollow eyes smil'd on his
The word Ghastly, I would observe, gives the precise idea of shrunk hollow eyes, and looks as if Milton, in admiration of his original, had only looked out for an epithet to Death's smile, as he found it pictured in Fletcher.
Thus MUCH, then, may perhaps serve for an illustration of the first part of this Inquiry. We have found out several marks, and applied them to various passages in the best writers, from which we may reasonably enough be
allowed to infer an Imitation in point of Sentiment. For what respects the other part of Expression, this is an easier task, and will be dispatched in few words.
Only you will indulge me in an observation or two, to prevent your expecting from me more than I undertake to perform.
When I speak of Expression, then I mean to confine myself “ to single words or sen" tences, or at most the structure of a passage.” When Imitation is carried so far as to affect the general cast of language, or what we call a Style, no great sagacity is, perhaps, required to detect it. Thus the Ciceroniani, if they were not ambitious of proclaiming themselves, are discoverable at the first glance. And the later Roman poets, as well as the modern Latin versi fiers, are, to the best of their power, Virgilian. The thing is perhaps still easier in a living language; especially if that language be our own. Milton and Pope, if they have made but few poets, have made many imitators; so many, that we are ready to complain there is hardly an original poet left.
Another point seems of no importance in the present inquiry. I know, it is asked, How
far a writer casually or designedly imitates? that is, whether he copies another from memory only, without recollecting, at the time, the passage from which his expression is drawn, or purposely, and with full knowledge of his original. And this consideration is of much weight, as I have shewn at large, where the question is concerning the credit of the supposed imitator. For this is affected by nothing but direct and intended imitation. But as we are looking at present only for those marks in the expression which shew it not to be original, it is enough that the resemblance is such as cannot well be accounted for but on the supposition of some sort of commerce; whether immediately perceived by the writer himself, is not material. 'Tis true, this observation is applicable to sentiments as well as expression, and I have not pretended to give the preceding articles, as proofs, or even presumptions, in all cases, that the later writer copied intentionally from a former. But there is this difference in the two cases. Sentiments may be strikingly similar, or even identical, without the least thought, or even effect, of a preceding original. But the identity of expression, except in some few cases of no importance, is, in the same language, where the writer speaks entirely from himself, an almost impossible thing. And you will be of this mind, if you reflect on the infinitely varied lights in which the same image or sentiment presents itself to different writers; the infinitely varied purpose they have to serve by it; or where it happens to strike precisely in the same manner, and is directed precisely to the same end, the infinite combinations of words in which it may be expressed. To all which you may add, that the least imaginable variation, either in the terms or the structure of them, not only destroys the identity, but often disfigures the resemblance to that degree that we hardly know it to be a resemblance,
So that you see, the marks of imitated or, if you will, derived expression are much less equivocal, than of sentiment. We may pronounce of the former without hesitation, that it is taken, when corresponding marks in the latter would only authorise us to conclude that it was the same or perhaps similar.
· I need not use more words to convince you, that the distinction of casual and design'd imitation is still of less significancy in this class of imitations, than the other.
And with this preamble, more particular perhaps and circumstantial than was necessary, I now proceed to lay before you some of those signs of derived expression, which I conceive to be unequivocal. If they are so, they will generally appear at first sight; so that I shall have little occasion to trouble you, as I did before, with my comments. It will be sufficient to deliver the rule, and to exemplify it.
I. An identity of expression, especially if carried on through an intire sentence, is the most certain proof of imitation.
Mr. Waller of Sacharissa,
So little care of what is done below
so; Paints her, 'tis true, with the same hand
which spreads Like glorious colours thro' the flow'ry meads; When lavish nature with her best attire Cloaths the gay spring, the season of desire.
Mr. Fenton takes notice that the poet is copying from the Muiopotmos of Spenser, i
To the gay gardens his unstaid desire