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under various other names. The pure simple Bombast (if I may be indulged so bold a catachresis) arises from putting figurative expression to an improper use. To give an instance of what I mean. TACITUS writes under one continued resentment at the degeneracy of his times, and speaking of some sumptuary Laws proposed by the Senate, in 2 Ann. c. 33, he says they decreed, Ne Vestis Serica viros FOEDARET. This became the dignity of his historic character and genius. But had his Contemporary, Suetonius, who wrote Chronicles in the spirit of our Srow and HoLINSHED, used the same language, it would have set his readers a laughing.
Not but figurative expression, even when suitable to the character, genius, and general subject of a writer, may still be misplaced. Thus, had Tacitus, speaking of the honours decreed to Tiberius on a certain occasion, said with his translator Gordon-which of these he meant to accept or which to reject, the approaching issue of his days has BURIED in oblivion -the figure, the reader sees, would have been miserably out of place; the conceit of the burial of his intentions, on the mention of his death, being even ridiculous. But the ridicule, we may be sure, falls on the translator only, and not on his great original, who expresses himself on this occasion, not only with propriety, but with the greatest simplicity -quos omiserit receperitve IN INCERTO fuit ob propinquum vitæ finem. Ann. 1. vi. c. 45.
I have brought these instances to shew that figurative expression is not improper even in a fervent animated historian, on a fit subject, and in due place: much less should the tragic poet, when his characters are to be shewn in the conflict of the stronger passions, be debarred the use of it.
The short of the matter is, in one word, this. Society first of all tames us to humanity, as Cicero expresses it; and, in the course of its discipline, brings us down to one dead level. Its effect is to make us all the same pliant, mimic, obsequious things; not unlike, in a word, (if our pride. could overlook the levity of the comparison) what we see of trained Apes. But when the violent passions arise (as in the case of these Apes when the apples were thrown before them) this artificial discipline is all shaken off, and we return again to the free and ferocious state of Nature. And what is the expression of that state? It is (as we understand by experience) a free and fiery expression, all made up of bold metaphors and daring figures of Speech.
The conclusion is, that Poetry, pure Poetry, is the proper language of Passion, whether we chuse to consider it as ennobling, or debasing the human character.
There is, as I have said, an obvious distinction to be made (and to that the poet's rule, as explained in this note, refers) between the soft and tender, and the more vigorous passions. When the former prevail, the mind is in a weak languid state; and though
all allusion and imagery be not improper here, yet as that fire and energy of the soul is wanting, which gives a facility of ranging over our ideas and of seizing such as may be turned to any resemblance of our own condition, it will for that reason be less frequent in this state of the mind than any other. Such imagery, too, will for the same reason be less striking, because the same languid affections lead to, and make us acquiesce in a simpler and plainer expression. But universally in the stronger passions the poetical character prevails, and rises only in proportion to the force and activity of those passions.
To draw the whole then of what has been said on this subject into a standing RULE for the observance of the dramatic Poet.
"MAN is so formed that whether he be in joy, or grief; in confidence or despair; in pleasure or pain; "in prosperity or distress; in security or danger; or "torn and distracted by all the various modifications "of Love, Hate, and Fear: The Imagination is
incessantly presenting to the mind an infinite
variety of images or pictures, conformable to his "Situation: And these Pictures receive their various "coloring from the habits, which his birth and "condition, his education, profession and pursuits "have induced. The representation of these is the "POETRY, and a just representation, in a great measure, the ART, of dramatic writing."
95. ET TRAGICUS PLERUMQUE DOLET SERMONE PEDESTRI.] Dr. Bentley connects this with the following line:
[Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri Telephus aut Peleus
for the sake, as he says, of preserving the opposition. In comœdiá iratus Chremes tumido, in tragœdiâ Telephus pauper humili sermone utitur. This is specious; but, if the reader attends, he will perceive, that the opposition is better preserved without his connection. For it will stand thus: The poet first asserts of comedy at large, that it sometimes raises its voice,
Interdum tamen et vocem comædia tollit.
Next, he confirms this general remark, by appealing to a particular instance,
Iratusque Chremes tumido dilitigat ore.
Exactness of opposition will require the same method to be observed in speaking of tragedy; which accordingly is the case, if we follow the vulgar reading. For, first, it is said of tragedy, that, when grief is to be expressed, it generally condescends to an humbler strain,
Et tragicus plerumque dolet sermone pedestri. And then the general truth, as before, is illustrated by a particular instance,
Telephus aut Peleus, cum pauper et exul uterque, Projicit ampullas, &c.
There is no absurdity, as the Doctor pretends, in taking tragicus for tragœdiarum scriptor. For the poet, by a common figure, is made to do that, which he represents his persons, as doing.
But this is not the whole, that will deserve the reader's regard in this place. A strict attention to the scope and turn of the passage [from v. 96 to 114] will lead him to conclude, 1. "That some real tragedy of Telephus and Peleus was intended in v. "96, in which the characters were duly preserved “and set forth in proper language." This the opposition to the Chremes of Terence absolutely demands. Let us inquire what this might be. Euripides, we know, composed tragedies under these names; but it is unlikely, the poet should contrast the instance of a Greek tragedy to a Latin comedy. Nor need it be supposed. The subject was familiar to the Roman poets. For we find a Telephus ascribed to no less than three of them, Ennius, Accius, and Nævius. One of these then I doubt not, is here intended. But the Roman, in those times, were little more than translations of the Greek plays. Hence it is most likely, that the tragedy of Telephus (and probably of Peleus, though we have not so direct authority for this) was, in fact, the tragedy of Euripides, translated into Latin, and accommodated to the Roman stage, by one of these writers. It remains only to enquire, if the Telephus itself of Euripides answered to this character. Which, I think, it manifestly did, from considering what
b See Robert Stephens's Fragm. Vet. Latinorum.