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and the perfection of which is, to communicate from each part the greatest immediate pleasure compatible with the largest sum of pleasure on the whole. This, of course, will vary with the different modes of poetry ;-and that splendour of particular lines, which would be worthy of admiration in an impassioned elegy, or a short indignant satire, would be a blemish and proof of vile taste in a tragedy or an epic poem.
It is remarkable, by the way, that Milton in three incidental words has implied all which for the purposes of more distinct apprehension, which at first must be slow-paced in order to be distinct, I have endeavoured to develope in a precise and strictly adequate definition. Speaking of poetry, he says, as in a parenthesis, “which is simple, sensuous, passionate.” How awful is the power of words !-fearful often in their consequences when merely felt, not understood; but most awful when both felt and understood !--Had these three words only been properly understood by, and present in the minds of, general readers, not only almost a library of false poetry would have been either precluded or still-born, but, what is of more consequence, works truly excellent and capable of enlarging the understanding, warming and purifying the heart, and placing in the centre of the whole being the germs of noble and manlike actions, would have been the common diet of the intellect instead. For the first condition, simplicity,—while, on the one hand, it distinguishes poetry from the arduous processes of science, labouring towards an end not yet arrived at, and supposes a smooth and finished road, on which the reader is to walk onward easily, with streams murmuring by his side, and trees and flowers and human dwellings to make his journey as delightful as the object of it is desirable, instead of having to toil with the pioneers and painfully make the road on which others are to travel, precludes, on the other hand, every affectation and morbid peculiarity ;- the second condition, sensuousness, insures that framework of objectivity, that definiteness and articulation of imagery, and that modification of the images themselves, without which poetry becomes flattened into mere didactics of practice, or evaporated into a hazy, unthoughtful, day-dreaming; and the third condition, passion, provides that neither thought nor imagery shall be simply objective, but that the passio vera of humanity shall warm and animate both.
To return, however, to the previous definition, this most general and distinctive character of a poem originates in the poetic genius itself; and though it comprises whatever can with any propriety be called a poem, (unless that word be a mere lazy synonyme for a composition in metre,) it yet becomes a just, and not merely discriminative, but full and adequate, definition of poetry in its highest and most peculiar sense, only so far as the distinction still results from the poetic genius, which sustains and modifies the emotions, thoughts, and vivid representations of the poem by the energy without effort of the poet's own mind,—by the spontaneous activity of his imagination and fancy, and by whatever else with these reveals itself in the balancing and reconciling of opposite or discordant qualities, sameness with difference, a sense of novelty and freshness with old or customary objects, a more than usual state of emotion with more than usual order, self-possession and judg. ment with enthusiasm and vehement feeling,-and which, while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial, still subordinates art to nature, the manner to the matter, and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the images, passions, characters, and incidents of the poem :
Doubtless, this could not be, but that she turns
• Sir John Davies on the Immortality of the Soul, sect. iv. The words and lines in italics are substituted to apply
GREEK DRAMA. (c)
sophy and religion were but exotic at home, and a mere opposition to the finite in all things, genuine prophet. and anticipator as he was of the Protestant Christian æra,-should have given in his Dialogue of the Banquet, a justification of our Shakspeare. (1) For he relates that, when all the other guests had either dispersed or fallen asleep, Socrates only, together with Aristophanes and Agathon, remained awake, and that, while he continued to drink with them out of a large goblet, he compelled them, though most reluctantly, to admit that it was the business of one and the same genius to excel in tragic and comic poetry, or that the tragic poet ought, at the same time, to contain within himself the powers of comedy.t Now, as
these verses to the poetic genius. The greater part of this latter paragraph may be found adopted, with some alterations, in the Biogruphiu Literariu, vol. ii. c. 14; but I have thought it better in this instance and some others, to run the chance of bringing a few passages twice over to the recollection of the reader, than to weaken the force of the original argument by breaking the connection. Ed.
* The Notes to this Essay, to which the numbers refer, are placed at the end of the volume.
εξεγρόμενος δε ιδείν τους μέν άλλους καθεύδοντας και οίχομένους, 'Αγάθωνα δε και 'Αριστοφάνην και Σωκράτη έτι μόνους εγρηγορέναι, και πίνειν εκ φιάλης μεγάλης επί
this was directly repugnant to the entire theory of the ancient critics, and contrary to all their experience, it is evident that Plato must have fixed the eye of his contemplation on the innermost essentials of the drama, abstracted from the forms of age or country. In another passage he even adds the reason, namely, that opposites illustrate each other's nature, and in their struggle draw forth the strength of the combatants, and display the conqueror as sovereign even on the territories of the
Nothing can more forcibly exemply the separative spirit of the Greek arts than their comedy as opposed to their tragedy. But as the immediate struggle of contraries supposes an arena common to both, so both were alike ideal; that is, the comedy of Aristophanes rose to as great a distance above the ludicrous of real life, as the tragedy of Sophocles above its tragic events and passions, (2) -and it is in this one point, of absolute ideality, that the comedy of Shakspeare and the old comedy of Athens coincide. In this also alone did the
δεξιά. τον ούν Σωκράτη αυτοίς διαλέγεσθαι και τα μεν άλλα ο'Αριστόδημος ούκ έφη μεμνήσθαι τον λόγον (ούτε γάρ εξ αρχής παραγενέσθαι, υπονυστάζειν τε) το μέντοι κεφάλαιον έφη, προσαναγκάζειν τον Σωκράτη ομολογείν αυτούς του αυτού ανδρός είναι κωμωδίαν και τραγωδίαν επίστασθαι ποιείν, και τον τέχνη τραγωδοποιών όντα, και κωμωδοποιός είναι.
Symp. sub fine.