Obrázky na stránke


his enemy, the buffoon Aristophanes, hath said concerning it. Every body knows, that the BATRAXOI of this poet contains a direct satyr, and Burlesque upon Euripides. Some part of it is particularly levelled against his Telephus: whence we may certainly learn the objections, that were made to it. Yet the amount of them is only this, "That he had "drawn the character of Telephus in too many cir"cumstances of distress and humiliation." His fault was, that he had represented him more like a beggar, than an unfortunate prince. Which, in more candid hands, would, I suppose, amount only to this, "That the poet had painted his distress in the most natural, and affecting manner." He had stripped him of his royalty, and, together with it of the pomp and ostentation of the regal language, the very beauty, which Horace applauds and admires in his Telephus.

[ocr errors]


2. Next, I think it as clear from what follows, "That some real tragedy of Telephus, and Peleus, was also glanced at, of a different stamp from the other, and in which the characters were not supported by such propriety of language." Let the reader judge. Having quoted a Telephus and Peleus, as examples to the rule concerning the style of tragedy, and afterwards enlarged [from v. 98 to 103] on the reasons of their excellence, he returns, with an air of insult, to the same names, apostrophizing them in the following manner:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Telephe, vel Peleu, male si mandata loqueris,
Aut dormitabo aut ridebo:

But why this address to characters, which he had before alleged, as examples of true dramatical drawing? Would tolerable writer, after having apany plauded Shakespear's King Lear, as an instance of the kingly character in distress, naturally painted, apostrophize it, with such pointed vehemence, on the contrary supposition? But let this pass. The Poet, as though a notorious violation of the critic's rules was to be thoroughly exposed, goes on, in the seven following lines, to search into the bottom of this affair, laying open the source and ground of his judgment; and concludes upon the whole,

Si dicentis erunt fortunis absona dicta,


Can any thing be plainer, than that this last line points at some well-known instance of a Latin play, which had provoked, upon this account, the contempt and laughter of the best judges? It may further be cbserved, that this way of understanding the passage before us, as it is more conformable to what is here shewn to be the general scope of the epistle, so doth it, in its turn, likewise countenance, or rather clearly shew, the truth and certainty of this method of interpretation.

99. NON SATIŞ EST PULCHRA, etc.] Dr. Bentley objects to pulchra, because this, he says, is a general term, including under it every species of beauty, and therefore that of dulcis or the affecting. But




the great critic did not sufficiently attend to the connexion, which, as F. Robortellus, in his paraphrase on the epistle, well observes, stands thus: "It is "not enough, that tragedies have that kind of beaucr ty, which arises from a pomp and splendor of dic❝tion, they must also be pathetic or affecting." Objiciat se mihi hoc loco aliquis et dicat, si id fiat [i. e. si projiciantur ampullæ] corrumpi omnem vénustatem et gravitatem poëmatis tragici, quod nihil nisi grande et elatum recipit. Huic ego ita respondendum puto, non satis esse, ut poëmata venusta sint et dignitatem suam servent: nam dulcedine quoque et suavitate quadam sunt conspergenda, ut possint auditoris animum inflectere in quamcunque voluerint partem.

But a very ingenious person, who knows how to unite philosophy with criticism; and to all that is elegant in taste, to add what is most just and accurate in science, hath, in the following note, shewn the very foundation of Dr. Bentley's criticism to be


"There are a multitude of words in every language, which are sometimes used in a wider, sometimes in a more restrained sense. Of this kind are xanov of the Greeks, the pulchrum of the Romans, and the words by which they are translated in modern languages. To whatever subjects these epithets are applied, we always intend to signify that they give us pleasure: and we seldom apply them to any subjects, but those which please by means of impres

sions made on the fancy: including under this name the reception of images conveyed directly by the sight itself. As Poetry therefore always addresses itself to the imagination, every species of poetical excellence obtains the name of Beauty: and, among the rest, the power of pleasing us by affecting the passions; an effect which intirely depends on the various images presented to our view.. In this sense of the word beautiful, it cannot be opposed to pathetic. Pulchrum enim quascunque carminis virtutes, etiam ipsam dulcedinem, in se continere meritò videatur.

But nothing, I think, can be plainer, than that this epithet is often used more determinately. Visible forms are not merely occasions of pleasure, in common with other objects, but they produce a pleasure of a singular kind. And the power they have of producing it, is properly denominated by the name of Beauty. Whether Regularity and Variety have been rightly assigned, as the circumstances on which it depends, is a question, which in this place we need not consider. It cannot at least be denied, that we make a distinction among the objects of sight, when the things themselves are remoyed from our view: and that we annex the names of Beauty and Deformity to different objects and different pictures, in consequence of these percep tions. I ask then, what is meant, when the words are thus applied? Is it only that we are pleased or displeased? This surely cannot be said. For the


epithets would then be applied with equal propriety to the objects of different senses: and the fragrance of a flower, for instance, would be a species of beauty; the bitterness of wormwood a species of deformity. -Do we then mean, that we receive pleasure and pain by means of the Imagination? We may indeed mean this: but we certainly mean more than this. For the same names are used and applied, in a manner perfectly similar, by numbers of persons who never once thought of this artificial method of distinguishing their ideas. There is then some kind of perception, common to them and us, which has occasioned this uniformity in our ways of speaking: and whether you will chuse to consider the perceptive faculty as resulting only from habit, or allow it the name of a Sense of Beauty; whether these perceptions can, or cannot, be resolved into some general principle, imagination of private advantage, or sympathy with others, are, in the present case, circumstances wholly indifferent.

If it be admitted that the epithets, of which we are speaking, were originally used in this restrained sense, it is easy to see that they would readily obtain the more extended signification. For the species of pleasure to which they were first confined, was found always to arise from images impressed on the fancy: what then more natural, than to apply the same words to every species of pleasure resulting from the imagination, and to every species of images productive of pleasure? Thus the beauty of a hu

[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »