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by way of criticism. This they bring with them next day, when the part prescribed is read over, and this criticism of theirs examined and corrected. A new portion, as before, is prescribed against next meeting, till, in this manner, they have finished the whole three orations.
In the same manner is poetry studied, which is, indeed, rather the same than audifferent study; poetry being nothing else but the eldest daughter of eloquence. The arrangement of the fable in the one corresponds to the plan and series of the other. Tropes and figures they have in common; and where, in the peculiarity of her dress, and the more frequent use of imagery, &c. poetry affects to differ, the youth are not unacquainted with it; as they have been made to observe it in reading the classic-poets. The rules, together with the nature and design of the several kinds of poetry, are, in the first place, explained; after which, as in the study of rhetoric, the youth privately write a piece of criticism upon each, beginning with the lesser kinds, as the ode, elegy and satire, proceeding to the drama, pastoral and epopzea. All these criticisms are carefully revised and corrected by the professor, which is all the public business of the class. The reading of Aristotle, and the best French and English critics, is allowed, and even recommended, to assist and direct the judgment of youth in this exercise.
Here I interrupted Evander, by telling him, that I thought this study alone, might require half the year. No, replied he. They do not spend above two months in the study of all the kinds of poetry. This . is owing chiefly to the placing the study of poetry afl ter philosophy and rhetoric, which makes it exceeding easy. It is also partly owing to the age of the youth, they being now, at least, in their 18th year, and capable of greater application; partly to the delight they take in the study, and partly to their having read most of the different kinds of poems as classic exercises, which renders the review of them pleasant, in order to apply the rules of criticism. About a fortnight is enough for all the inferior species. The same space of time serves for the drama and pastoral, and, lastly, about a mouth for the epic poem.
The remainder of the year, which is about six months, is spent in composing and delivering orations; and it is no wonder that this exercise is attended with great success, when deferred to this its proper season. Philosophy, rhetoric, and poetry, being sufficiently tasted and admired; the youth cannot but be animated, in their compositions, to imitate those bright models that gave them so much pleasure in the reading. The study of poetry, in particular, elevates their thoughts, warms their imagination, leads them to give lively descriptions, inspires them w ith strength, variety, copiousness, and harmony of style, and diffuses a delicacy over every thing they compose.
In this exercise of composition, they begin first with smaller essays on proper subjects; thence proceed to frame orations according to the precepts, and on the models, of perfect eloquence. These the professor corrects, and carefully points out where the subject would have required more conciseness; where more copiousness; where the figurative style, and graces of speech; where the plain and simple; where they ought to have risen; where fallen; where they have given conceit instead of wit; the forced and farfetched, instead of the easy and natural; bombast and swelling, instead of the sublime and florid. Thus to correct one oration, and to hear another (that has been correcved before) delivered with proper grace and action, is all the business of the class at one meeting or diet. Of this the youth have their turns, so that when the class consists of twenty boys, each of them composes and delivers an oration once in* ten days. And as they must thus all be present at the correcting and delivering two orations each day, they profit as much by the faults or beauties found in the compositions of their school-fellows, as by their own.
In correcting the compositions of youth, however, the professor is sensible, that great judgment and art are required. Always remembering that they are youth, he is greatly careful not to discourage them by too much severity. If ever he seems displeased at any thing, it is when he discovers stiffness, affectation, and signs of coldness and sterility in their pieces; while, on the other hand, redundancy of thought, and sprightly salhes of imagination, share his distinguished indulgence. These he calls the blooming shoots of genius; and, though exuberant, thinks they aie no more to be lopped off at an improper season, or in an unskilful manner, than the luxuriant growth of a thriving young tree. It is dangerous for any hand, but that of time, to reduce these wholly within their proper bounds.
* When we allow but ten days to compose an oration, besides attedtng thff duties of the class, we must suppose their pieces short.
I am persuaded, continued Evander, that you will think it no objection against the study of rhetoric, that it has often been prostituted to the vilest purposes. What is there that may not be abused by bad men? But, in the possession of a good man, eloquence is the most glorious gift of nature. It makes him the sanctuary of the unfortunate, the protector of the weak, the support and praise of the good, and the eternal terror and controul of the bad. In a word, we must often address the passions, in order to reach the heart.
It must be observed, however, that the Miranians do not propose to make orators and poets of all their youth, by these studies. They are sensible, that both the orator and poet must be born, not made. But, say they, those to whom nature has given a genius for composition, either in poetry or prose, will be thus put in the method of improving that genius to the best advantage; and those who have no such genius, will, however, be enabled, by these studies, to write elegantly, or at least correctly, in the epistolary way, and on the common and most important concerns in life.
Unless the taste is thus formed, and youth taught to be sound critics on the beauties of those celebrated pieces that have challenged the admiration of all mankind, and stood the test of time; what is the amount of their learning? Nay, without this* taste, or relish for the pleasures of imagination; how joyless in many instances is life itself? Nature has given the rudiments of it to every man. But if we compare the man who has perfectly cultivated it, with him who has not, they seem almost of a different species. To the latter are entirely lost, the gay, the tender, the easy, the natural, the sublime, the marvellous, and all the nameless graces of a finished piece! Should solitude, should want of business, or misfortunes of any kind, force such a man to seek relief from books, alas! he finds them "but format dulness, tedious friends!" He may read; but he will be as unconscious of the masterly and delicate strokes of what he reads, as the mountain is of the ore lodged in its caverned side. A stupid sort of admiration is the highest pleasure he is capable of receiving; while,
* In support of Evander's sentiments in this paragraph, suffer me to quote the following beautiful verses from Dr. Armstrong's Epistle on Bene volence:
"'Tis chiefly taste, or blunt, or gross or fine,