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be improved by practice, and grow regular from deified, were found to be still actuated by the most repetition. The sounds and gestures would natu- brutal passions of human nature; and in all proba. rally fall into measured cadence. Thus the song bility their votaries were glad to find such exam and dance will be produced; and, a system of ples, to countenance their own vicious inclinations. worship being formed, the muse would be conse. Thus fornication, incest, rape, and even bestiality, crated to the purposes of religion.
were sanctified by the amours of Jupiter, Pan, Hence those forms of thanksgivings, and lita- Mars, Venus and Apollo. Theft was patronized nies of supplication, with which the religious rites by Mercury; drunkenness by Bacchus; and crnof all nations, even the most barbarous, are at this elty by Diana. The same heroes and legislators, day celebrated in every quarter of the known world. those who delivered their country, founded cities, Indeed this is a circumstance in which all nations established societies, invented useful arts, or con. surprisingly agree, how much svever they may tributed in any eminent degree to the security and differ in every other article of laws, customs, man- happiness of their fellow-creatures were inspired by ners, and religion. The ancient Egyptians cele- the same lusts and appetites which domineered brated the festivals of their god Apis with hymns among the inferior classes of mankind; therefore and dances. The superstition of the Greeks, part- every vice incident to human nature was celebrat ly derived from the Egyptians, abounded with po-ed in the worship of one or other of these divini. etical ceremonies, such as choruses and hymns, ties, and every infirmity consecrated by public sung and danced at their apotheoses, sacrifices, feast and solemn sacrifice. In these institutions games, and divinations. The Romans had their the poet bore a principal share. It was his genius carmen seculare, and Salian priests, who on cer- that contrived the plan, that executed the form of tain festivals sung and danced through the streets worship, and recorded in verse the origin and adof Rome. The Israelites were famous for this kind ventures of their gods and demi-gods. Hence of exultation : “And Miriam the prophetess, the the impurities and borrors of certain rites; the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all groves of Paphos and Baal Peor; the orgies of the women went out aster her, with timbrels and Bacchus; the human sacrifices to Moloch and with dances, and Miriam answered them, Sing ye Diana. Hence the theogony of Hesiod; the to the Lord," etc.—"And David danced before the theology of Homer; and those innumerable makLord with all his mighi.”—The psalms composed ims scattered through the ancient poets, invitby this monarch, the songs of Deborah and Isaiah, ing mankind to gratify their sensual appetites, in are further confirmations of what we have advancel. imitation of the gods, who were certainly the best
From the Phænicians the Greeks borrowed the judges of happiness. It is well known, that Plato cursed Orthyan song, when they sacrificed their expelled Homer from hiscommonwealth on account children to Diana. The poetry of the bards con- of the infamous characters by which he has distinstituted great part of the religious ceremonies among guished his deities, as well as for some depraved the Gauls and Britons, and the carousals of the sentiments which he found diffused through the Goths were religious institutions, celebrated with course of the Iliad and Odyssey. Cicero enters into songs of triumph. The Mahometan Dervise dances the spirit of Plato, and exclaims, in his first book, to the sound of the flute, and whirls himself round “De Natura Deorum:"-Nec multa absurdiora until he grows giddy, and falls into a trarce. The sunt ca, quæ, poetarum rocibus fusa, ipsa suavitate Marabous compose hymns in praise of Allah. The nocuerunt: qui, et ira inflammatos, et libidine fuo Chinese celebrate their grand festivals with pro-rentes, induxerunt Deos, feceruntque ut eorum cessions of idols, songs, and instrumental music. bella, pugnas, prælia, vulnera videremus: odia The Tartars, Samoiedes, Laplanders, Negroes, præterea, dissidia, discordias, ortus, interritus, even the Caffres called Hottentots, solemnize their querelas, lamentationes, effusas in omni intemworship (such as it is) with songs and dancing;!perantii libidines, adulteria, vincula, cum hutilaso that we may venture to say, poetry is the uni. no genere concubitus, mortalesque er immortali versal vehicle in which all nations have expressed procreatos. "Nor are those things much more abtheir most sublime conceptions.
surd, which, flowing from the poet's tongue, have Poetry was, in all appearance, previous to any done mischief, even by the sweetness of his expresconcerted plan of worship, and to every establish- sion. The poets have introduced gods inflamed ed system of legislation. When certain individuals, with anger, and enraged with lust ; and even pru. by dint of superior prowess or understanding, had duced before our eyes their wars, their wrangling acquired the veneration of their fellow-savages, and their duels, and their wounds. They have ex. erected themselvss into divinities on the ignorance posed, besides, their antipathies, animosities, and and superstition of mankind; then mythology took dissensions; their origin and death; their complace, and such a swarm of deities arose as pro- plaints and lamentations; their appetites, indulgen duced a religion replete with the most shocking ab- to all manner of excess, their actulteries, their fet. murlities. Those whom their superior talents had lters, their amorous commerce with the human spe
cies, and from immortal parents derived a mortal disguised like satyrs, who not only recited the praises offspring."
of Bacchus, or soine other deity, but interspersed As the festivals of the gods necessarily produced their hymns with sarcastic jokes and altercation, good cheer, which often carried to riot and de- Of this kind is the Cyclop of Euripides, in which bauchery, mirth of consequence prevailed; and Ulysses is the principal actor. The Romans also this was always attended with buffoonery. Taunts had their Atellanæ or interludes of the same naand jokcs, and raillery and repartee, would neces- ture, so called from the city of Atella, where they sarily ensue; and individuals would contend for were first acted; but these were highly polished the victory in wit and genius. These contests in comparison of the original entertainment, which would in time be reduced to some regulations, for was altogether rude and innocent. Indeed, the the entertainment of the people thus assembled, Cyclop itself, though composed by the accomplishand some prize would be decreed to him who was ed Euripides, abounds with such impurity as ought judged to excel his rivals. The candidates for not to appear on the stage of any civilized nation fame and profit, being thus stimulated, would task It is very remarkable, that the Atellana, which their talents, and naturally recommend these alter- were in effect tragi-comedies, grew into such esteem nate recriminations to the audience, by clothing among the Romans, that the performers in these them with a kind of poetical measure, which pieces enjoyed several privileges which were reshould bear a near resemblance to prose. Thus, fused to the ordinary actors. They were not obliged as the solemn service of the day was composed in to unmask, like the other players, when their acthe most sublime species of poetry, such as the ode tion was disagreeable to the audience. They were or hymn, the subsequent altercation was carried on admitted into the army, and enjoyed the privileges in iambics, and gave rise to satire. We are told of free citizens, without incurring that disgrace by the Stagirite, that the highest species of poetry which was affixed to the characters of other actors. was employed in celebrating great actions, but the The poet Laberius, who was of equestrian order, humbler sort used in this kind of contention ;* being pressed by Julius Cæsar to act a part in his and that in the ages of antiquity there were some own performance, complied with great reluctance, bards that professed heroics, and some that pre- and complained of the dishonour he had incurred tended to iambics only.
in his prologue preserved by Macrobius, which is ·
one of the most elegant morsels of antiquity. Οι μεν ηρoικoν, α δι ιαμβων ποιηται
Tragedy and comedy flowed froin the same To these rude beginnings we not only owe the The same entertainment which under the name
fountain, though their streams were soon divided. birth of satire, but likewise the origin of dramatic
of tragedy, was rudely exhibited by clowns, for poetry. Tragedy herself, which afterwards attained to such dignity as to rival the epic muse, chus, assumed the appellation of comedy when it
the prize of a goat, near some rural altar of Bacwas at first no other than a trial of crambo, or iambics, between two peasants, and a goat was the was transferred into cities, and represented with a prize, as Horace calls it, vile certamen ob hircum, led from street to street, as the name xopedie im
little more decorum in a cart or wagon that strol"a mean contest for a he-goat.” Hence the name
plies, being derived from xwuin a street, and condo a apagadies signifying the goat-song, from 7pagos poem. To this origin Horace alludes in these lines : hircus, and educarmen.
Dicitur et plaustris vexisse poemata Thespis,
Quß canerent agerentque perunci fæcibus or
Thespis, inventor of dramatic art,
Convey'd his vagrant actors in a can: Speciator, sunctusque sacris, et pouus et exlex.
High o'er the crowd the mimic art appear'd,
Horal. And play'd and sung, with loes of wine besmeared The tragic bard, a goat his humble prize,
Thespis is called the inventor of the dramatic Bade satyrs naked and uncouth arise;
, because be raised the subject from clownish His muse severe, secure and undismay'd,
altercation to the character and exploits of some The rustic joke in solemn strain convey'd; l'or novelty alone he knew could charm
hero; he improved the language and versification, A lawless crowd, with wine and feasting warin.
and relieved the chorus by the dialogue of two
actors. This was the first advance towards that Sacire then was originally a clownish dialogue consummation of genius and art which constitutes in loose iambics, so called because the actors were what is now called a perfect tragedy. The next Οι μεν γαρ σεμνοτεροι, τας καλας εμιμουντο πραξις
•Cum artem ludicram, scenamque totam probro ducerent
genus id hominum non modo honore civium reliquorum ca ---ci dI NUTELIO TWO, TOLE TERT DAUN AV, 7fWtor ang ois tor- rere, sed etiam tribu moveri notatione censoria voluerunt-
Cic. apud. S. Aug. de Civil. Dei,
great improver was Æschylus, of whom the same [fore the Christian era. Such was the license of
the muse at this period, that far froin lashing vice
in general characters, she boldly exhibited the ex. Post hunc personæ palleque repertor bonestæ Æschylus, et modicis instravit pulpita lignis; act portrait of every individual who had rendered Et docuit magnumque loqui, nilique cothurno. himself remarkable or notorious by his crimes Then Æschylus a decent vizard used,
folly, or debauchery. She assumed every circumBuilt a low stage; the flowing robe diffused. stance of his external appearance, his very attire, In language more sublime two actors rags, air, manner, and even his name; according to the And in the graceful buskin tread the stage.
observation of Horace, The dialogue which Thespis introduced was
-Poets called the episode, because it was an addition to
-quorum comedia prisca virorum est : the former subject, namely, the praises of Bac- Si quis erat dignus describi, quod malus, aut fur, chus; so that now tragedy consisted of two dis- Quod machus foret, aut sicarius, aut alioqui tinct parts, independent of each other ; the old re- Famosus, multa cum libertate nouabant citative, which was the chorus, sung in honour of
The comic poets, in its earliest age, the gods; and the episode, which turned upon the Who formed the manners of the Grecian stage adventures of some hero. This episode being
Was there a villain who might justly claim found very agrceable to the people, Æschylus, who
A better right of being damn'd to fame, lived about half a century after Thespis, still im
Rake, cut-throal, thief, whatever was his crime,
They boldly stigmatized the wretch in rhyme. proved the drama, united the chorus to the episode, so as to make them both parts or members of one Eupolis is said to have satirized Alcibiades in this fable, multiplied the actors, contrived the stage, and manner, and to have fallen a sacrifice to the ra introduced the decorations of the theatre ; so that sentment of that powerful Athenian; but others Sophocles, who succeeded Æschylus, had but one say he was drowned in the Hellespont, during a step to surmount in order to bring the drama to war against the Lacedemonians; and that in conperfection. Thus tragedy was gradually detached sequence of this accident the Athenians passed a from ils original institution, which was entirely decree, that no poet should ever bear arms. religious. The priests of Bacchus loudly com- The comedies of Cratinus are recommended by plained of this innovation by ineans of the episode, Quintilian for their eloqence ; and Plutarch tells us which was foreign to the intention of the chorus ; that even Pericles himself could not escape the and hence arose the proverb of Nihil ad Dyonysi- censure of this poet. um, “Nothing to the purpose.” Plutarch himself Aristophanes, of whom there are eleven come mentions the episodle as a perversion of tragedy dies still extant, enjoyed such a pre-eminence of from the honour of the gods to the passions of men. reputation, that the Athenians by a public decree But, notwithstanding all opposition, the new tra- honoured him with a crown made of consecrated gedy succeeded to admiration; because it was found olive-tree, which grew in the citadel, for his care the most pleasing vehicle of conveying moral and success in detecting and exposing the vices of truths, of meliorating the heart, and extending the those who governed the commonwealth. Yet this interests of humanity.
, whether impelled by mere wantonness of Comedy, according to Aristotle, is the younger genius, or actuated by malice and envy, could not sister of tragedy. As the first originally turned refrain from employing the shafts of his ridicule upon the praises of the gods, the latter dwelt on against Socrates, the most venerable character of the follies and vices of mankind. Such, we mean, Pagan antiquity. In the comedy of the Clouds, was the scope of that species of poetry which ac. this virtuous philosopher was exhibited on the quired the name of comedy, in contradistinction to stage under his own name, in a cloak exactly rethe tragic muse ; for in the beginning they were the sembling that which Socrates wore, in a mask mo same. The foundation upon which comedy was delled from his features, disputing publicly on the built, we have already explained to be the practice nature of right and wrong. This was undoubtedof satirical repartee or altercation, in which indi. ly an instance of the most flagrant licentiousness ; viduals exposed the follies and frailties of each and what renders it the more extraordinary, the other on public occasions of worship and festivity. audience received it with great applause, even
The first regular plan of comedy is said to have while Socrates himself sat publicly in the theatre. heen the Margites of Homer, exposing the idle. The truth is, the Athenians were so fond of ridiness and folly of a worthless character; but of this cule, that they relished it even when employed perforinance we have no remains. That division against the gods themselves, some of whose chawhich is termesl the ancient comedy, belongs to racters were very roughly handled by Aristophathe lahours of Eupolis, Cratious, and Aristopha- nes and his rivals in reputation. nes, who were contemporaries, and flourished at We might here draw a parallel between the in Athens about lvur hundred and thirty years be- habitants of Athens and the natives of England,
in point of constitution, genius, and disposition. stion, and enthusiasm. Imitation is indeed the be Athens was a free state like England, that piqued sis of all the liberal arts; invention and enthusiasm itself upon the influence of the democracy. Like constitute genius, in whatever mann
inner it may be England, its wealth and strength depended upon displayed. Eloquence of all sorts admits of enthuits maritime power: and it generally acted as um- siasm. Tully says, an orator should be vehemens pire in the disputes that arose among its neigh-ul procella, ercitatus ut torrens, incensus ut fub bours. The people of Athens, like those of Eng-men; tonat, fulgurat, et rapidis eloquentiæ fiuc land, were remarkably ingenious, and made great tibus cuncta proruit et proturbat. “Violent as a progress in the arts and sciences. They excelled tenipest
, impetuous as a torrent, and glowing inin poetry, history, philosophy, mechanics, and tense like the red bolt of heaven, he thunders, manufactures; they were acute, discerning, dis- lightens, overthrows, and bears down all before putatious, fickle, wavering, rash, and combustible, him, by the irresistible tide of eloquence." This and, above all other nations in Europe, addicted to is the mens divinior atque os magna sonaturum ridicule; a character which the English inherit in of Horace. This is the talent, a very remarkable degree. If we may judge from the writings of Aristo
-Meum qui pectus inaniter angit,
Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet, phanes, his chief aim was to gratify the spleen and excite the mirth of his audience; of an audience too, that would seem to have been uninformed by
With passions not my own who fires my heart;
Who with unreal terrors fills my breast taste, and altogether ignorant of decorum; for his
As with a magic influence possess'd. pieces are replete with the most extravagant alı. surdities, virulent slander, impiety, impurities, and we are told, that Michael Angelo Buonaroti used low buffoonery. The cornic muse, not contented to work at his statues in a fit of enthusiasm, during with being allowed to make free with the gods and which he made the fragments of the stone fly about philosophers, applied her scourge so severely to the him with surprising violence. The celebrated magistrates of the commonwealth, that it was Lully being one day blamed for setting nothing to thought proper to restrain her within bounds by a music but the languid verses of Quinault, was ari. law, enacting, that no person should be stigmatized mated with the reproach, and running in a fit of under his real name; and thus the chorus was si- enthusiasm to his harpsichord, sung in recitative, lenced. In order to elude the penalty of this law, and accompanied four pathetic lines from the Iphiand gratify the taste of the people, the poets bevangenia of Racine, with such expression as filled the to substitute fictitious names, under which they ex- hcarers with astonishment and horr.f. hibited particular characters in such lively colours, Though versification be one of the criteria that that the resemblance could not possibly he mistaken distinguish poetry from prose, yet it is not the sole or overlooked. This practice gave rise to what is mark of distinction. Were the histories of Poly. called the middle comedy, which was but of short bius and Livy simply turned into verse, they would duration; for the legislature, perceiving that the first not become poems; because they would be destilaw had not removed the grievance against which tute of those figures, embellishments, and flighos it was provided, issued a second ordinance, forbid- of imagination, which display the poet's art and ding, under severe penalties, anv real or family oc- invention. On the other hand, we have many procurrences to be represented. This restriction was ductions that justly lay claim to the title of poetry, the immediate cause of improving comedy into a without having the advantage of versification; wit. general mirror, held forth to reflect the various fol. ness the Psalms of David, the Song of Solomon, lies and foibles incident to human nature; a species with many beautiful hymns, descriptions, and of writing called the new comedy, introluced by rhapsodlies, to be found in different parts of the Diphilus and Menander, of whose works nothing Ou Testament, some of them the immediate probut a few fragments remain.
duction of divine inspiration; witness the Celtic fragments which have lately appeared in the Eng. lish language, and are certainly replete with poeti.
cal merit. But though good versification alone will ESSAY XV.
not constitute poetry, bad versification alone will
certainly degrade and render disgustful the subHaving communicated our sentiments touching limest sentiments and finest flowers of imagination. the origin of poetry, by tracing tragedy and comedy This humiliating power of bad verse appears in to their common source, we shall now endeavour inany translations of the ancient poets; in Ogilby's to point out the criteria by which poetry is distin- Homer, Trapp's Virgil, and frequently in Creech's guished from every other species of writing. In Horace. This last indeed is not wholly devou! common with other arts, such as statuary and paint- of spirit; but it seldom rises above mediocrity, and, ing, it comprehends imitation, invention, composi-'as Horace says,
--Mediocribus exse poetis
mend and melt the heart, elevate the mind, and Non homines, non Di, non concogere columnæ.
please the understanding. According to Flaccus : But God and man, and letter'd post denies, That poets ever are of middling size.
Aut prodesse volunt, aut delectare poetæ ;
Aut simul et jucunda et idonca dicere vilæ. How is that beautiful ode, beginning with Jus
Poets would profit or delight mankind,
Omne tulit punctum, qui miscuit utile dulci,
Lectorem delectando, pariterque monendo.
Profit and pleasure mingled thus with art,
To soothe the fancy and improve the heart.
Tropes and figures are likewise liberally used in
rhetoric: and some of the most celebrated oratory Should nature with convulsions shake,
have owned themselves much indebted to the poets. Struck with the fiery bolts of Jove,
Theophrastus expressly recommends the poets for
this purpose. From their source, the spirit and
energy of the pathetic, the sublime, and the beautiThat long Alexandrine—"Nor to a raging ful, are derived.* But these figures must be more storm, when all the winds are up,” is drawling, sparingly used in rhetoric than in poetry, and even feeble, swoln with a pleonasm or tautology, as well then mingled with argumentation, and a detail of as deficient in the rhyme; and as for the "dread. facts altogether different from poetical narration. ful crack,” in the next stanza, instead of exciting The poet, instead of simply relating the incident, terror, it conveys à low and ludicrous idea. How strikes off a glowing picture of the scene, and exmuch more elegant and energetic is this paraphrase hibits it in the most lively colours to the eye of the of the same ode, inserted in one of the volumes of imagination. "It is reported that Homer was Hume's History of England.
blind,” says Tully in his Tusculan Questions, The man whose mind, on virtue bent,
“yet his poetry is no other than painting. What Pursues some greatly good intent
country, what climate, what ideas, battles, common With undiverted aim,
tions, and contests of men, as well as of wild beasts, Serene beholds the angry crowd;
has he not painted in such a manner as to bring Nor can their clamours fierce and loud
before our eyes thɔse very scenes, which he bimHis stubborn honour tame.
self could not behold!" + We can not therefore Nor the proud tyrant's fiercest threat,
subscribe to the opinion of some ingenious critics, Nor storms that from their dark retreat
who have blamed Mr. Pope for deviating in some The lawless surges wake;
instances from the simplicity of Homer, in his Nor Jove's dread bolt, that shakes the pole,
translation of the Iliad and Odyssey. For example, The firmer purpose of his soul With all its power can shake.
the Grecian baru says simply, the sun rose; and
his translator gives us a beautiful picture of the sun Should nature's frame in ruins fall,
rising. Homer mentions a person who played And Chaos u'er the sinking bull Resume primeval sway,
upon the lyre; the translator sets him before us His courage chance and fate defies,
warbling to the silver strings. If this be a deviaNor feels the wreck of earth and skies
tion, it is at the same time an improvement. Homer Obstruct its destined way.
, as Cicero observes above, is full of this If poetry exists independent of versification, it kind of painting, and particularly fund of descripwill naturally be asked, how then is it to be dis- tion, even in situations where the action seems to linguished ? Undoubtedly by its own peculiar' require haste. Neptune, observing from Samoexpression; it has a language of its own, which thrace the discomfilure of the Grecians before Troy, speaks so feelingly to the heart, and so pleasingly flies to their assistance, and might have been waft23 the imagination, that its meaning can not puso ed thither in half a line:, but the bard describes sibly be misunderstood by any person of delicate him, first, descending the mountain on which he sensations. It is a species of painting with words, sat; secondly, striding towards his palace at Æge, in which the figures are happily eonerived, ingeni. and yoking his horses; thirdly, he describes him ously arranged, affectingly expressed, and recomqended with all the warmth and harmony of Namque ab his (scilicet poetis) et in rebus spiritus, et in colouring: it consists of imagery, descriștion, meta- verbis sublimius, et in affectibus motus omnis, et in person na
decor petitur. Quintilian, I. x. phore, similes, and sentiments, adapted with pro
| Quæ regio, quæ ora, quæ species formæ, quæ pugna, qui priety to the subject, so contrived and executed as motus hominum, qui ferarum, non ita expictus est
, ut qlise to soothe the ear, surprise and delight the fancy, ipse non videril, nos ut videramus, effecerit!