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and set the countenances and complexions of men plainly in view. And by this means they not only " taught us to know others; but, what was principal "and of highest virtue in them, they taught us to "know ourselves." Thus far then these models are of unquestioned use to writers of every denomination. I forbear to mention, what this noble author finds occasion frequently to insinuate, and, by his own practice, labours to recommend, the superior excellency of the manner, as well as matter, of these highly-rated originals. Not that I presume to think it unworthy of imitation. But the public taste, as appears, is running full fast that way, insomuch that some may even doubt, if the state of literary composition be more endangered by the neglect, or vicious imitation, of the Platonic manner. Its graces, when sparingly employed by a real genius, for the embellishment of strong sense, have, it must be owned, great beauty. But when this humour of platonizing seizes on some minuter spirit, bent on ennobling a trivial matter, and all over-run with academic delicacy and affectation, nothing, to a just and manly relish, can be more disgusting. One must wink hard not to see frequent examples of this, in the master Platonist himself. But his mimics, of late, have gone much farther. There is no need, in such a croud of instances, to point to particulars. What I would rather observe is, that this folly, offensive as it is, may perhaps admit of some excuse from the present state of our literature, and the character of the great
original himself, whom these writers aspire to imitate. When a language, as ours at this time, hath been much polished and enriched with perfect models of style in almost every way, it is in the order of things, that the next step should be to a vicious affectation. For the simplicity of true taste, under these circumstances, grows insipid. Something better than the best must be aimed at; and the reader's languid appetite raised by the provocatives of an ambitious refinement. And this in sentiment, as well as language. Whence we see how it happened, that even in Greece itself, where composition was studied with a more than common accuracy, Philosophy, when it passed out of the hands of its great masters, degenerated by degrees into the subtilties of sophistry, as did Eloquence, likewise, into the tricks of rhetoric.
But there was something, as I hinted, too, in the character of the writer imitated, of a very ticklish and dangerous nature; and of which our tribe of imitators were not sufficiently aware. very exact critic of antiquity hath told us what it was. It lay in Plato's bringing the tumor of poetic composition into discourses of philosophy, ΟΤΙ ΤΟΝ ΟΓΚΟΝ ΤΗΣ ΠΟΙΗΤΙΚΗΣ ΚΑΤΑΣΚΕΥΗΣ ΕΠΙ ΛΟΓΟΥΣ ΗΓΑΓΕ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΟΥΣ'. And though the experiment, for the most part, succeeded not amiss (as what contradiction is there which superior genius
t DIONYS. HALICARN. EP. AD C. Poмг. p. 205. Edit. Huds
cannot reconcile ?) yet it sometimes failed even in his hands. And as a French writer well expresses it, Le DIVIN Plato, pour avoir voulu s'elever trop au dessus des hommes, est souvent tombe dans un GALIMATIAS pompeux que quelques uns confondent avec le SUBLIME. The PHAEDRUS, though the most remarkable, is not the only example of such mischance in the writings of this great man.
317. VERAS HINC DUCERE VOCES.] Truth, in poetry, means such an expression, as conforms to the general nature of things; falshood, that, which, however, suitable to the particular instance in view, doth yet not correspond to such general nature. To attain to this truth of expression in dramatic poetry two things are prescribed: 1. A diligent .study of the Socratic philosophy; and 2. A masterly knowledge and comprehension of human life. The first, because it is the peculiar distinction of this school ad veritatem vitæ propius accedere, [Cic. de Or. i. 51. And the latter, as rendering the imitation more universally striking. This will be understood by reflecting that truth may be followed too closely in works of imitation, as is evident in two respects. For, 1. the artist, when he would give a Copy of nature, may confine himself too scrupulously to the exhibition of particulars, and so fail of representing the general idea of the kind. Or, 2. in applying himself to give the general idea, he may collect it from an enlarged view of real life, whereas
it were still better taken from the nobler conception of it as subsisting only in the mind. This last is the kind of censure we pass upon the Flemish school of painting, which takes its model from real nature, and not, as the Italian, from the contemplative idea of beauty". The former corresponds to that other fault objected also to the Flemish masters, which consists in their copying from particular odd and grotesque nature in contradistinction to general and graceful nature.
We see then that in deviating from particular and partial, the poet more faithfully imitates universal, truth. And thus an answer occurs to that refined argument, which Plato invented and urged, with much seeming complacency, against poetry. It is, that poetical imitation is at a great distance from truth. "Poetical expression, says the Philosopher, is the copy of the poet's own conceptions; the poet's conception, of things, and things, of the standing archetype, as existing in the divine mind. Thus the poet's expression, is a copy at third hand, from the primary, original truth." [Plat. De rep. 1. x.] Now the diligent study of this rule of the poet obviates this reasoning at once. For, by abstracting from existences all that peculiarly respects and dis
u In conformity with the Antique. Nec enim Phidias, cum faceret Jovis formam aut Minerva, contemplabatur aliquem e quo similitudinem duceret: sed ipsius in mente incidebat species pulchritudinis eximia quædam, quam intuens in eaqué defixus ad illius similitudinem artem et manum dirigebat [Cic. Orát. 2.]
criminates the individual, the poet's conception, as it were neglecting the intermediate particular objects, catches, as far as may be, and reflects the divine archetypal idea, and so becomes itself the copy or image of truth. Hence too we are taught the force of that unusual encomium on poetry by the great critic, that it is something more severe and philosophical than history, φιλοσοφώτερον καὶ σπεδαιότερου woinois isopías ésív. The reason follows, which is now very intelligible; ἡ μὲν γὰρ ποίησις μᾶλλον τὰ καθόλο, ἡ δ ̓ ἱςορία τὰ καθ ̓ ἕκαςον λέγει. [Περ. WoT. x..] And this will further explain an essential difference, as we are told, between the two great rivals of the Greek stage. Sophocles, in return to such as objected a want of truth in his characters, used to plead, that he drew men such as they ought to be, Euripides such as they were. Σοφοκλῆς ἔφη, αὐτὸς μὲν οἵες δεῖ ποιεῖν, Ευριπίδης δὲ οἷοί εἰσι. [Πες. ποιητ. κ. κε.] The meaning of which is, Sophocles, from his more extended commerce with mankind, had enlarged and widened the narrow, partial conception, arising from the contemplation of particular characters, into a complete comprehension of the kind. Whereas the philosophic Euripides, having been mostly conversant in the academy, when he came to look into life, keeping his eye too intent on single, really existing per-. sonages, sunk the kind in the individual; and so painted his characters naturally indeed, and truly, with regard to the objects in view, but sometimes