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composition. Just observations upon men and manners will indeed be esteemed in every age, when taste and literature flourish; and well described characters will always interest readers of judgment and feeling. But it is not the nature of satire to dwell upon general topics, without allusion to existing circumstances, or without reference to particular, and even familiar, examples.
· But it may be asked, if vice and folly would not be exposed with perhaps greater effect, by the delineation of fictitious characters, and by general observations upon manners, than by dwelling upon the absurdity of a temporary fashion, or upon the guilt or weakness of an obscure individual. To this question the satirist may justly reply, that his aim is not only to censure vice, but to punish those who practice it. If example teach at all, it teaches most where it applies best. The principle upon which punishment is justly inflicted, is for the sake of example; and the punishment, which we dread because it may be ours, seems terrible even when it falls upon others. General and abstract reasoning upon virtue and morality, may delight the wise and the good; but it rarely corrects the foolish, or reforms the profligate.
As the moralist treats generally of virtue and of wisdom, of the influence of reason, and of the subordination of the passions; so the satirist remarks and censures those private and indivi. dual deviations from good sense or good conduct, which it does not fall within the province of the moralist to observe. The moralist displays the variety of the human character, as it exists in all ages and nations; the satirist marks its shades and its defects in particular instances.
While, therefore, I fully admit the charge of obscurity, which has been brought against Persius, I cannot allow to it that weight, which it would have in most other cases. Indeed, we may as well complain of the rust on an ancient coin, as of the obscurity of an ancient satire. Nature, it is true, always holds up the same mirror, but prejudice;
habit, and education, are continually changing the appearance of the objects seen in it.
The objections which have been made to my Author in some other respects, are more difficult to answer. His unpolished verses, his coarse comparisons, and his ungraceful transitions from one subject to another, manifest, it is said, either his contempt or his ignorance of elegant composition.
It cannot, indeed, be contended, that Persius displays the politeness of Horace, or that in the composition either of his words, his sentences, or his satires, he shows himself an adept in the callida junctura. His poetry is a strong and rapid torrent, which pours in its infracted course over rocks and precipices, and which occasionally, like the waters of the Rhone, disappears from the view, and loses itself under ground.
Among the defects of this Author in point of style, must be remarked the too evident labour,
with which he wrote, or rather corrected what he had written. In poetry, as well as in painting and in sculpture, the most perfect are generally the most laboured productions. The imagination, however, is seldom pleased with what suggests ideas of difficulty and toil-with what has been produced by an unusual effort, and is continued by a painful and unremitting exertion. In order to be graceful, it is necessary to be easy; and the poet, who aims at elegance, must conceal the pains which it costs him, to write with freedom, and yet with accuracy:
When we read fine verses, which flow easily, of which the sound is harmonious, the sentiments are just, the images natural, and the ideas connected; we can scarcely at first sight persuade ourselves, that they were probably composed with difficulty, and corrected with care. On the contrary, we are almost willing to give credit to the fiction of the poet, and to believe, that he is inspired by Muses, and writes, as they dictate. As the eye frequently wanders over a beautiful gården, without perceiving the skill which has placed the groves, or spread the waters; so the mind does not always remark the art, which in a fine poem has polished the numbers, or adorned the language. Every reader of taste is charmed with the grace, the beauty, the elegance, the har. mony, the majesty of Virgil's poetry ; but the attentive critic alone will know how to appreciate the incessant labour, the unwearied vigilance, the scrupulous accuracy, and the patient industry, which must have been employed in the composition of the Æneis, and of the Georgics, the most sublime productions of the Roman Muse.
It may indeed be considered as a proof of no common excellence in a poet, when his works have all the merits, which are produced by care and attention, without the appearance of stiffness, or pedantry. Who, upon a first perusal of the charming verses of Guarini, would suspect, that they had been extremely laboured? yet the graces of Guarini's style have an air of negligence, which the poet never indulged. It is well