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ideas of Philosophy is Imitation, is, in the language of Criticism, called Invention.
Again; of the endless variety of these original forms, which the poet's eye is inceffantly traversing, those, which take his attention most, his active mimetic faculty prompts him to convert into fair and living resemblances. This magical operation the divine philosopher (whose fervid fancy, though it sometimes obscures [a] his reasoning, yet never fails to clear and brighten his imagery) excellently illustrates by the fimilitude of a mirror; “which, says “ he, as you turn about and oppose to the sur
rounding world, presents you instantly with " à sun, STARS, and SKIES; with jour
Own, and every OTHÉR living form; with « the EARTH, and its several appendages "OF TREES, PLANTS, and FLOWERS ." Just fo, on whatever fide the poet turns his imagination, the shapes of things immediåtely imprint themselves upon it, and a new corresponding creation reflects the old one.
[a] Menaires Ti, says Dionysius of Halicarnaffus, speaking of his figurative manner, Tò capis my Sóc wobei wapanahonovo [T. ii. p. 204. Ed. Hudson.] 56] Plato De REPUB. lib. x. B 2
This shadowy ideal world, though upsubftantial as the American vision of fouls [c], yet, glows with such apparent life, that it becomes, thenceforth, the object of other mirrors, and is itself original to future reflexions. This secondary or derivative image, is that alone which Criticisin considers under the Idea of IMITATION.
And here the difficulty, we are about to examine, commences. For the poet, in his quick researches through all his stores and materials of beauty, meeting every where, in his progress, these reflected forms; and deriving from them his stock of imagery, as well as from the real sublisting objects of nature, the reader is often at a loss (for the poet himself is not always aware of it) to discern the original from the copy; to know, with certainty, if the sentiment or image, presented to him, be directly taken from the life, or be itself, a lively transcript, only, of some former copy. And this difficulty is the greater, because the original, as well as the copy, is always at hand for the poet to turn to, and we can rarely be certain, since both were equally in his pow[c] Spectator No. 56.
er, which of the two he chose to make the object of his own imitation. For it is not enough to say here, as in the case of reflections, that the latter is always the weaker, and of course betrays itself by the degree of faintness, which, of necessity, attends a copy. This, indeed, hath been said by one, to. whose judgment a peculiar deference is owing. QUICQUID ALTERI SIMILE EST, NECESSE EST MINUS SIT EO, QUOD IMITATUR [d]. But it holds only of strict and scrupulous imitations. And of fuch alone, I think, it was intended; for the explanation follows, ut umbra .corpore, imago facie, & actus histrionum veris affectibus ; that is, where the artist confines himself to the single view of taking a faithful and ex. act transcript. "And even this can be allowed only, when the copyist is of inferior, or at most but of equal, talents. Nay, it is not certainly to be relied upon even then; as may appear from what we are told of an inferior painter's [Andrea del Sarto's] copying a portrait of the divine Raphael. The story is well known. But, as an aphorism, brought to determine the merits of
[d] QUINCTIL. lib. x. c. 11.
imitation, in general, nothing can be falser or more delusive. For, 1. Besides the sup: posed original, the object itself, as was observed, is before the poet, and he may catch from thence, and infuse into his piece the fame glow of real life, which animated the first copy. 2. He may also take in circumstances, omitted or overlooked before in the common object, and fo give new and additional vigour to his imitation. Or, 3: He may possess a stronger, and more plastic genius, and therefore be enabled to touch, with more force of expression, even those particulars, which he profeffedly imitates.
On all these accounts, the difficulty of distinguishing betwixt original, and secondary, imitations is apparent. And it is of importance, that this difficulty be seen in its full light. Because, if the similarity, observed in two or more writers, may, for the most part, and with the highest probability, be accounted for from general principles, it is superfluous at least, if not unfair, to have recourse to the particular charge of imitation.
Now Now to see how far the same common principles of nature will go towards effect. ing the similarity, here spoken of, it is necessary to consider very distinctly
I. THĘ MATTER; and
II. THE MANNER, of all poetical imitation.
I. In all that range of natural objects, over which the restless imagination of the poet expatiates, there is no subject of picture or imitation, that is not reducible to one or other of the three following classes, 1. The material world, or that vast compages of corporeal forms, of which this universe is compounded, 2. The internal workings and movements of his own mind, under which I comprehend the manners, sentiments, and pas Fions. 3. Those internal operations, that are made objective to sense by the cutward signs of gesture, attitude, or action. Besides these I know of no source, whence the artist can derive a single sentiment or image. There needs no new distinction in favour of Homer's gods, Milton's angels, or Shakespear's citches; it being clear, that these are only B 4