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Grecian, with the addition of an equal fondness for Roman, subjects. The reason in both instances hath been ever the same: that strong and early prejudice, approaching somewhat to adoration, in favour of the illustrious names of those two great states. The account of this matter is very easy; for their writings, as they furnish the business of our younger, and the amusement of our riper, years, and more especially make the study of all those, who devote themselves to poetry and the stage, insensibly infix in us an excessive veneration for all affairs in which they were concerned; insomuch that no other subjects or events seem considerable enough, or rise, in any proportion, to our ideas of the dignity of the tragic scene, but such as time and long admiration have consecrated in the annals of their story. Our Shakespeare was, I think, the first that broke through this bondage of classical superstition. And he owed this felicity, as he did some others, to his want of what is called the advantage of a learned education. Thus uninfluenced by the weight of early prepossession, he struck at once into the road of nature and common sense: and without designing, without knowing it, hath left us in his historical plays, with all their anomalies, an exacter resemblance of the Athenian stage, than is any where to be found in its most professed admirers and copyists.
I will only add, that, for the more successful execution of this rule of celebrating domestic acts,
much will depend on the æra, from whence the subject is taken. Times too remote have almost the same inconveniences, and none of the advan
tages, which attend the ages of Greece and Rome. And, for those of later date, they are too much familiarized to us, and have not as yet acquired that venerable cast and air, which tragedy demands, and age only can give. There is no fixing this point with precision. In the general, that æra is the fittest for the poet's purpose, which, though fresh enough in our minds to warm and interest us in the event of the action, is yet at so great a distance from the present times, as to have lost all those mean and disparaging circumstances, which unavoidably adhere to recent deeds, and, in some measure, sink the noblest modern transactions to the level of ordinary life. '
295. INGENIUM MISERA, &c.] Sæpe audivi poetam bonum neminem (id quod à Democrito et Platone in scriptis relictum esse dicunt) sine inflammatione animorum existere posse et sine quodam afflatu quasi furoris. [Cic. De orat. l. ii. c. xlvi.] And so Petronius, præcipitandus liber spiritus, ut furentis animi vaticinatio appareat. [c. cxviii.] And to the same purpose every good critic, ancient or modern. But who can endure the grimace of those minute genii, who, because the truly inspired, in the ravings of the fit, are touched with the flame and fury of enthusiasm, must, therefore,
with a tame, frigid fancy, be laying claim to the same fervent and fiery raptures? The fate of these aspirants to divinity is that ἐνθεσιᾷν ἑαυτοῖς δοκἕντες, ἐ βακχεύεσιν, ἀλλὰ παίζεσιν [Longin. περ. ὕψ. Tunu. x.] And Quintilian opens the mystery of the whole matter: Quo quisque ingenio minus valet, hoc se magis attollere et dilatare conatur: ut statura breves in digitos eriguntur et plura infirmi minantur. Nam tumidos et corruptos et tinnulos et quocunque alio cacozeliæ genere peccantes, cerFum habeo, non virium, sed infirmitatis vitio laborare: ut corpora non robore, sed valetudine inflantur: et recto itinere lapsi plerumque divertunt. [L. ii. c. 3.]
298. BONA PARS NON UNGUES, &c.] The constant and pitiful affectation of the race before spoken of, who, with the modesty of laying claim to the thing, will be sure not to omit the sign, and so, from fancying an inspiration, they have not come to adopt every foppery, that has ever disgraced it in those who have.
308. QUID DECEAT, QUID NON:] Nihil est difficilius quam, quid deceat, videre. Пgérov appellant hoc Græci: nos dicamus sane Decorum. De quo præclare et multa præcipiuntur, et res est cognitione dignissima. Hujus ignoratione non modo in vitá, sed sæpissime in POEMATIS et in oratione peccatur. [Orator. xxi.]
309. SCRIBENDI RECTE, SAPERE EST ET PRINCI→ | PIUM ET FONS.] The Orator was of the same mind, when he sent his pupil to the academy for instruction. Quis nescit maximam vim existere oratoris in hominum mentibus vel ad iram, aut dolorem incitandis, vel ab hisce iisdem permotionibus ad lenitatem misericordiamque revocandis? quæ, nisi qui naturas hominum, vimque omnem humanitatis, causasque eas quibus mentes aut incitantur aut reflectuntur, penitus perspexerit, dicendo, quod volet, perficere non poterit. Atqui TOTUS HIC LOCUS PHILOSOPHORUM PROPRIUS VIDETUR. [De Orat. 1. i. c. xii.] And he spoke, we know, from his own experience, having acquired his oratorial skill not in the schools of the rhetoricians, but the walks of the academy: fateor me oratorem, si modo sim, aut etiam quicunque sim, non ex rhetorum officinis, sed ex Academice spatiis extitisse. [Orat. p. 622. Elz. ed.] But the reason he gives for this advice, though common to the poet; whose character, as well as the orator's, it is, posse voluntates impellere, quo velis, unde velis, deducere, is yet, not the only one, which respects the poet. For his business is to paint, and that not only, as the orator does, in order to move, but for the sole end of pleasing: solam pecit voluptatem. [Quinct. 1. x. c. i.] The boast of his art is to catch every different aspect of nature, and more especially to exhibit the human character in every varying light and form, under which it presents itself. But this is not to be done without
an exquisite study, and philosophical knowledge of man; to which end, as is remarked in n. on v. 317. the Socratic philosophy is more peculiarly adapted. Add to this, that it is the genius of true poetry, not only to animate, but to personalize every thing, omnia debent esse morata. Hence the indispensable necessity of moral science: all poetry being, in effect, what Mr. Dryden somewhere calls comedy,
THE THEFT OF POETS FROM MANKIND.
310. SOCRATICAE CHARTAE.] An admired writer, in many respects deservedly so, thus comments on these words: "The philosophical writings, to " which our poet refers, were in themselves a kind of poetry, like the mimes, or personated pieces of early "times, before philosophy was in vogue, and when "as yet Dramatical imitation was scarce formed: or "at least, in many parts, not brought to due perfec"tion. They were pieces, which, besides their force "of style, and hidden numbers, carried a sort of "action and imitation, the same as the Epic and "Dramatic kinds. They were either real dialogues, "or recitals of such personated discourses; where the
persons themselves had their characters preserved "throughout; their manners, humours, and distinct "turns of temper and understanding maintained, according to the most exact poetical truth. 'Twas not
enough, that these pieces treated fundamentally of "morals, and, in consequence, pointed out real cha"racters and manners: They exhibited them alive,