Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

Thus Poetry, by its imitative and energetic powers, presents us with a new world, every where representative of the old one, springing out of IMAGINATIOŃ, that sublime inventive faculty which is a compound of Will and Memory, the former exercising a kind of plastic and creative power in the treasures of the latter. Though Imagination can add nothing to the original stock of ideas with which the mind is furnished by the External and Internal Senses, or change any of the materials of the old creation; it affumes an absolute command and authority over them, to join, to combine, to mix, to vary, to compound, and to dispose, them, in every different form and representation of Description, Fiction, Personification, Vision, or Allusion. And, if the wild and inventive genius of our own countryman was not inAtructed in the cold philosophy of Poetry, his warm and mimetic fancy was susceptible of its finest influence : and, from the following animated picture which he has given of his profession, one would suppose, that he

was

was

was not entirely unacquainted with the rationale of the Art. · The Poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling · Doth glance from heav'n to earth, from earth to

heav'n ; And, as IMAGINATION bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shape, and gives to airy nothings A local habitation and a name.'

In the higher departments of the Muse, Poetry feigns Astions and Events succeeding each other in due order, gives them the life and animation of Persons, of the first distinction, with the consistencies of Time and Place, and every other circumstance of probable history, consulting the gratification of the sublimer sentiments and affections of the mind, and finishing the whole plan into the resemblance of a more complete, more beautiful, more engaging, and more instructive, truth.'

• Shakespeare's Midsum. Night's Dream, A&t. i. Sc. 1.

'Ea a fundamento prorsus nobili excitata videtur, quod ad dignitatem humanæ naturæ imprimis spectat. Cum enim mundus sensibilis fit animâ rationali dignitate inferior, videtur poesis hæc humanæ naturæ largiri, quæ historia denegat; atque animo umbris rerum utcunque satisfacere, cum solida haberi non poffint. Siquis enim rem acutius introspiciat, firmum ex poesi fumitur argumentum, magnitudinem serum magis illuftrem, ordinem magis perfectum, et varie

tatem

In the choice and adoption of the Means requisite to the accomplishment of so complete an end, in their poetical execution, and in conducting the whole to the best effect, Judgment has a very delicate and difficule talk. Fancy may be luxuriant, and Genius prolific ; but Reason, however filently and imperceptibly it may work, has to prepare and to correct the natural fertility of the soil, and to assist in nourishing the production, till it ripen to its full maturity. It has to adjust the propriety of the inventions, to rectify the falfities of taste, to arrange the order and succesħon of the parts, and to unite them into one consistent whole: a piece of philosophy which forms a very deep and recondite branch

tatem magis pulchram, animæ humanz complacere, quam in natura ipfa poft lapfum, reperire ullo modo poffit. Qua. propter cum res geftæ et eventus, qui veræ historiæ subjiciuntur, non fint ejus amplitudinis, in qua anima humana fibi fatisfaciat, præsto est poesis, quæ facta magis heroica confingat : Cum historia successus rerum, minime pro meritis virtutum et scelerum, narret ; corrigit eam poesis, et exitus et fortunas, secundum merita et ex lege nemeseos, exbibit: Cum historia vera, obvia rerum fatietate et fimili. tudine, animæ humanæ fastidio sit; reficit eam poesis in, expectata, et varia, et viciffitudinum plena canens. Baco. nus De Augm. Sc. lib. ii. c. 13.

of learning, eminently called Criticism, or the Philosophy of Judgment.

• This part of philosophy did not escape the inquisitive attention of Aristotle, whose strong and comprehensive mind was not only the repository of all the learning of bis age, but the author and improver of many parts. His penetrating eye could not view those admirable models of poetic art, exhibited in the drama of Sophocles, and in the epos of Homer, and contemplate the effects which they produced on the mind and the different affections of pleasure and pain, without inquiring into the causes which confpired, in their exact and admirable combination, to that production. In this arduous investigation he took to pieces the compositions, and reduced them to their împlest parts and principles. By this means he discovered their artifice and machinery, how every part was formed, how one operated upon another, and how they all co-operated together in the formation of a perfect whole. So that the inventive and poetical genius of

Homer

Homer and Sophocles or Euripides pro, duced the most admirable specimens of the art; and the analytical and philosophical genius of Aristotle discovered the logic or rationale of these specimens. ii · In this philosophical analysis, all the parts and connections, all the beauties and propria eties, all the unities and consistencies, which are assembled combined and executed by the exertion of the sublimest and most judicious imagination, are explained in the clearest and most didactic manner, and with so much soundness and discrimination of judgment, that the criticism itself became a model on which to form the plan of the future poet, as well as the standard to direct the decision of the future critic.

But, though many important advantages have been derived both to the works of the poet and to the judgment of the critic, from this incomparable production of Aristotle ; yet, in many instances, the genius of the one has been checked in its native vigor, and the judgment of the other warped and con

U 2

tracted

« FöregåendeFortsätt »