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Si curat cor spectantis tetigisse querela.
Non satis est pulchra esse poëmata; dulcia sunto,
matic poetry, and, by the most delicate transition imaginable, proceeds [from 1. 89 to 323] to deliver a series of rules, interspersed with historical accounts, and enlivened by digressions, for the regulation and improvement of the ROMAN STAGE.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE REGULATION AND IMPROVEMENT
HAVING fixed the distinct limits and provinces of the two species of the drama, the poet enters directly on his subject, and considers, I. [from v. 99 to 119] the properties of the TRAGIC STYLE; which will be different, ▼ 1. [to v. 111] according to the internal state and character of the speaker: thus one sort of expression will become the angry; another, the sorrowful; this, the
Post effert animi motus interprete lingua.
Si quid inexpertum scenae conmittis, et audes 125
gay, that, the severe. And, 2. [from v. 111 to 119] according to the outward circumstances of rank, age, office, or country.
II. Next [to v. 179] he treats of the CHARACTERS, which are of two sorts. 1. Old ones, revived: and 2. Invented, or new ones. In relation to the first [from v. 119 to 125] the precept is, to follow fame; that is, to fashion the character according to the received, standing idea, which tradition and elder times have consecrated; that idea being the sole test, whereby to judge of it. 2. In respect of the latter [from v. 125 to 128] the great
Rectius Iliacum carmen deducis in actus,
requisite is uniformity, or consistency of representation. But the formation of quite new characters is a work of great difficulty and hazard. For here, there is no generally received and fixed archetype to work after, but every one judges, of common right, according to the extent and comprehension of his own idea. Therefore [to v. 136] he advises to labour and refit old characters and subjects; particularly those, made known and authorized by the practice of Homer and the epic writers; and directs, at the same time, by what means to avoid that servility and unoriginal air, so often charged upon such pieces. I said characters and subjects, for his method leading him to guard against servility of imitation in point of characters, the poet chose to dispatch the whole affair of servile imitation at once, and therefore [to v. 136] includes subjects, as well as characters.
Non fumum ex fulgore, sed ex fumo dare lucem
But this very advice, about taking the subjects and characters from the epic poets, might be apt to lead into two faults, arising from the ill conduct of those poets themselves. For, 1. [to v. 146] the dignity and importance of a subject, made sacred by antient fame, had sometimes occasioned a boastful and ostentatious beginning, than which nothing can be more offensive. And, 2. The whole story being composed of great and striking particulars, injudicious writers, for fear of losing any part of it, which might serve to adorn their work, had been led to follow the round of plain historic order, and so had made the disposition of their piece uninteresting and unartful. Now both these improprieties, which appear so shocking in the epic poem, must needs, with still higher reason, deform the tragic. For, taking its rise, not from the flattering views of the poet, but the real situation of the actor, its opening must of necessity, be very simple and unpretending. And being, from its short term of action, unable naturally to prepare and bring about many events, it, of course, confines itself to one; as also for the sake of producing a due distress
Primo ne medium, medio ne discrepet imum.
in the plot; which can never be wrought up to any trying pitch, unless the whole attention be made to fix on one single object. The way to avoid both these faults, will be to observe (for here the imitation cannot be too close) the well-judged practice of Homer.
Having thus considered the affair of imitation, and shewn how old characters, and, to carry it still further, old subjects, may be successfully treated, he resumes the head of characters, and proceeds more fully [from v. 153 to 179] to recommend it as a point of principal concern in the drawing of them, to be well acquainted with the manners, agreeing to the several successive periods and stages of human life. And this with propriety: for, though he had given a hint to this purpose before, Maturusne senex, an adhuc florente juventá Fervidus,
yet, as it is a point of singular importance, and a regard to it, besides other distinctions, must be constantly had: in the draught of every character, it well deserved a separate consideration.
III. These instructions, which, in some degree, respect all kinds of poetry, being dismissed; he now delivers some rules more peculiarly relative to the case of