Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

than those which he has laid together in his first, second, and sixth books. The seventh, which describes the creation of the world, is likewise wonderfully sublime, though not so apt to stir up emotion in the mind of the reader, nor consequently so perfect in the epic way of writing, because it is filled with less action. Let the judicious reader compare what Longinus has observed on several passages in Homer, and he will find parallels for most of them in the Paradise Lost.

From what has been said, we may infer, that as there are two kinds of sentiments, the natura, and the sublime, which are always to be pursued in an heroic poem, there are also two kinds of thoughts which are carefully to be avoided. The first are such as are affected and unnatural; the second such as are mean and vulgar. As for the first kind of thoughts, we meet with little or nothing that is like them in Virgil: he has none of those trifling points and puerilities that are so often to be met with_inOvid, none of the epigrammatic turns of Lucan, none of those swelling sentiments which are so frequent in Statius and Claudian, none of those mixed embellishments of Tasso. Every thing is just and natural. His sentiments show that he had a perfect insight into human nature, and that he knew every thing which was the most proper to affect it.

Mr. Dryden has, in some places, which I may hereafter take notice of, misrepresented Virgil's way of thinking as to this particular, in the translation he has given us of the Æneid. I do not remember thať Homer any were falls into the faults above-mentioned, which were indeed the false refinements of later ages. Milton, it must be confessed, has sometimes erred in this respect, as I shall show more at large in another paper; though, considering how all the poets of the age

in which he writ were infected with this wrong way of thinking, he is rather to be admired that he did not give more into it, than that he did sometimes comply with the vicious taste which still prevails so inuch among modern writers.

But since several thoughts may be natural which are low and grovelling, an epic poet should not only avoid such sentiments as are unnatural or affected, but also such as are mean and vulgar. Homer has opened a great field of raillery to men of more delicacy than greatness of genius by the homeliness of some of his sentiments. But as I have before said, these are rather to be imputed to the simplicity of the age in which he lived, to which I may also add, of that which he described, than to any imperfection in that divine poet. Zoilus, among the ancients, and Monsieur Perrault, among the moderns, pushed their ridicule very

far
upon

him, on account of some such sentiments. There is no blemish to be observed in Virgil under this head, and but a very few in Milton.

1 shall give but one instance of this impropriety of thought in Homer, and at the same time compare it with an instance of the same nature both in Virgil and Milton. Sentiments which raise laughter can very seldom be adınitted with any decency into an heroic

poem, whose business it is to excite passions of a much nobler nature. Homer, however, in his characters of Vulcan and Thersites, in his story of Mars and Venus, in his behaviour of Irus, and in other passages, has been observed to have lapsed into the burlesque character, and to have departed from that serious air which seems essential to the magnificence of an epic poem. I remember but one laugh in the whole Æneid, which rises in the fifth book, upon Monates, where he is represented as thrown overboard, and drying himself upon a rock. But this piece of mirth is so well-timed, that the severest critic can have nothing to say against it; for it is in the book of games and diversions, where the reader's mind may be supposed to be sufficiently relaxed for such an eniertainment. The only piece of pleasantry in Paradise Lost is where the evil spirits are described as rallying the angels upon the success of their new-invented artillery. This passage I look upon to be the most exceptionable in the whole poem, as being nothing else but a string of puns, and those too very

indifferent ones.

-Satan beheld their plight,
And to his mates thus in derision call'd:

“O friends, why come not on those victors proud:
Ere-while they fierce were coming, and when we,
To entertain them fair with open front
And breast, what could we more? propounded terms
Of composition, straight they chang'd their minds,
Flew off, and into strange vagaries fell,
As they would dance: yet for a dance they seem'd
Somewhat extravagant and wild; perhaps
For joy of offer'd peace; but I suppose
If our proposals once again were heard,
We should compel them to a quick result.

"To whom thus Belial in like gamesome mood:

“ Leader, the terms we sent were terms of weight,
Of hard contents, and full of force urg'd home:
Such as we might perceive amus'd them all,
And stumbled many: who receives them right,
Had need from head to foot well understand;
Not understood, this gift they have besides,
They show us when our foes walk not upright.”

Thus they among themselves in pleasant vein
Stood scoffing
ADDISON.

L.

No. 280. MONDAY, JANUARY 21.

Principibus placuisse viris non ultima laus est. Hon. To please the great is not the smallest praise. CREECH.

The desire of pleasing makes a man agreeable or unwelcome to those with whom he converses, according to the motive from which that inclination appears to flow. If your concern for pleasing others arises from an innate benevolence, it never fails of success; if from a vanity to excel, its disappointment is no less certain. What we call an agreeable man, is he who is endowed with the natural bent to do acceptable things, from a delight he takes in them merely as such; and the affectation of that character is what constitutes a fop. Under these leaders one may draw up all those who make any manner of figure, except in dumb show. A rational and select conversation is composed of persons who have the talent of pleasing with delicacy of sentiments, flowing from habitual chastity of thought; but mixed company is frequently made up of pretenders to

mirth, and is usually pestered with constrained, obscene, and painful witticisms. Now and then you meet with a man so exactly formed for pleasing, that it is no matter what he is doing or saying, that is to say, that there need be no manner of importance in it, to make him gain upon every body who hears or beholds him. This felicity is not the gift of nature only, but must be attended with happy circumstances, which add a dignity to the familiar behaviour which distinguishes him whom we call an agreeable man. It is from this that every body loves and esteems Polycarpus. He is in the vigour of his age and the gaiety of life, but has passed through very conspicuous scenes in it; though no soldier, he has shared the danger, and acted with great gallantry and generosity on a decisive day of battle. To have those qualities which only make other men conspicuous in the world as it were supernumerary to him, is a circumstance which gives weight to his most indifferent actions; for as a known credit is ready cash to a trader, so is acknowledged merit immediate distinction, and serves in the place of equipage to a gentleman. This renders Polycarpus graceful in mirth, important in business, and regarded with love, in every ordinary

But not to dwell upon characters which have such particular recommendations to our hearts, let us turn our thoughts rather to the methods of pleasing, which must carry men through the world who can not pretend to such advantages. Falling in with the particular humour or manner of one above you, abstracted from the general rules of good behaviour, is the life of a slave. A parasite differs in nothing from

occurrence.

« PredošláPokračovať »