An Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients
by John Ogilvie
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This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (unicode/utf-8) version of the file. Greek has been transliterated and shown between marks, and the "oe" character has been unpacked into separate letters.

Typographical errors are listed at the end of the text, along with alternative readings for some of the longer quotations.]

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The Augustan Reprint Society




Introduction by WALLACE JACKSON

Publication Number 139 William Andrews Clark Memorial Library University of California, Los Angeles 1970


William E. Conway, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library George Robert Guffey, University of California, Los Angeles Maximillian E. Novak, University of California, Los Angeles


David S. Rodes, University of California, Los Angeles


Richard C. Boys, University of Michigan James L. Clifford, Columbia University Ralph Cohen, University of Virginia Vinton A. Dearing, University of California, Los Angeles Arthur Friedman, University of Chicago Louis A. Landa, Princeton University Earl Miner, University of California, Los Angeles Samuel H. Monk, University of Minnesota Everett T. Moore, University of California, Los Angeles Lawrence Clark Powell, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library James Sutherland, University College, London H. T. Swedenberg, Jr., University of California, Los Angeles Robert Vosper, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Edna C. Davis, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


Roberta Medford, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library


John Ogilvie (1733-1813), Presbyterian divine and author, was one of a group of Scottish literary clergy and a fellow of the Edinburgh Royal Society. Chambers and Thomson print the following generous estimation of his work:

Of all his books, there is not one which, as a whole, can be expected to please the general reader. Noble sentiments, brilliant conceptions, and poetic graces, may be culled in profusion from the mass; but there is no one production in which they so predominate, (if we except some of the minor pieces,) as to induce it to be selected for a happier fate than the rest. Had the same talent which Ogilvie threw away on a number of objects, been concentrated on one, and that one chosen with judgment and taste, he might have rivalled in popularity the most renowned of his contemporaries.[1]

The present letters reproduced here, along with the two volumes of his Philosophical and Critical Observations on Composition (London, 1774), are Ogilvie's major contributions to literary criticism. The remainder of his work, which is extensive, is divided almost equally between poetry and theological inquiry. At least one of his poems, "The Day of Judgment" (1758), was known to Churchill, Boswell, and Johnson, but unfortunately for Ogilvie's reputation Johnson "saw nothing" in it.[2]

I shall attempt no special pleading for Ogilvie here; he is and shall remain a minor neoclassic theorist. At the very least, however, it can be said that his methods are reasonably various and that, while his general critical assumptions are not unique, his control is strong. The fluidity with which he moves from one related position to another indicates a mind well informed by the critical tenets of his own time. If he does not surprise, he is nevertheless an interesting and worthy exemplar of the psychological tradition in later eighteenth-century criticism; and his historicism provides, and is intended to provide, an extensive field for the workings of psychological inquiry.

Thus his initial inquiry, in the first letter, into the Aristotelian principles of imitation and harmony establishes each as "natural" to the mind, and his distinctions between the separate provinces of reason and imagination are for the purpose of assigning to each its separate intellectual capacities. From these orderings follows his idea that poetry is of an earlier date than philosophy, the product of an irregular faculty, less governable than the reason and of swifter development. In turn, these assumptions lead into a form of historical primitivism in which the products of the first poets were "extemporary effusions," rudely imitative of pastoral scenes or celebratory of the divine being. Thus the first generic distinction Ogilvie makes is between pastoral poetry and lyric; the function of the former is to produce pleasure, the latter to raise admiration of the powers presiding over nature. As poetry is more natural to the young mind than philosophy, so is the end of pastoral poetry more easily achieved than that of the lyric. The difference resides essentially in Ogilvie's notion that the pastoral poet contemplates "external objects," while the lyric poet regards that which is not immediately available to the senses and consequently requires a more exuberant invention. What follows upon these reflections is a rather ingenious form of historical progressivism in which the civilizing powers of the poet provide the principal justification for lyric poetry. At work in Ogilvie's thought is a conception of the mythopoeic function of the earliest poets whose names have come down to us. Such poets, however, did not create their mythos, but imbibed it from the earlier Egyptian civilization and formed disguised allegorical poems. Here the instructive function of the first poets is related to the enlarging of the reader's imagination, so that Ogilvie's rather shrewd defense of lyric poetry is based upon the civilizing effects of imaginative appeal.

The infancy of poetry is related to the infancy of civilization, and the analogical possibilities of the one to the other sustain his argument at every point. If his historicism is dubious, his discourse is neatly illustrative of a neoclassic critical method and of the kind of psychological assumptions upon which such arguments could proceed. From the rather copious use of allegory and metaphor, as civilizing instruments, Ogilvie traces the rise of the religious fable as part of the inevitable sequence of imaginative development. To account, therefore, for the irregularity of the ode, for the "enthusiasm, obscurity and exuberance" (p. xxiv) which continue to characterize it, he refers to its anciently established character, a character not susceptible to amelioration by speculative rules. He allows, however, that both the "Epopee" (or epic) and the drama were gradually improved, and the informing principle of his historical progressivism is again patent.

The modifications of the ode are from the fictitious theology of Orpheus and Museus to the elegance and grace of Anacreon, Horace, and Sappho. It is mainly Horace whom Ogilvie has in view as the exemplar of the lyric poet, though "a professed imitator both of Anacreon and Pindar" (p. xxx). We can distinguish, therefore, several different criteria which contribute to Ogilvie's criticism: (1) a unity of sentiment consistent with a variety of emotions; (2) a propriety of the passions in which vivacity is controlled by the circumstances of character; (3) a just relation between language and sentiment; (4) elegant and pointed expression ("sallies and picturesque epithets" [p. xxxi.]) both to heighten the passions expressed and to draw from them their less obvious effects. Such distinctions define Ogilvie's typical insistence upon copying Nature, by which he means that the lyric poet's task is not only to follow the workings of the mind, but to heighten passion in a way that is more consistent with the nature of the passion itself than with its action in any particular mind. His criticism looks to the representation of "the internal movements of the mind warmed by imagination," yet "exposed in the happiest and most agreeable attitudes" (p. xxxv). The relation between the empirical and the ideal is a crux common to Ogilvie and neoclassic theory, not entirely resolved here by the practical and referential method of citing Horace's shorter odes. But it is a subject which comes in for more extended treatment in his second letter, in my judgment a far more critically ambitious letter and one in which his very fair critical abilities are more conspicuously apparent.

The second letter undertakes to explain the rules of lyric poetry, even as the first was concerned with the defects and causes of the poetry. Ogilvie rehearses a characteristic later eighteenth-century view of the imagination and makes again the conventional distinctions between faculties appropriate to philosophy and to poetry. His discussion of the function of judgment is, if anything, more conventional within the boundaries of neoclassic criticism than is his view of the imagination. Its typical role as concerned with the "disposition of materials" has a pedigree extending backward to Hobbes and the critical climate of the early years of Restoration England. Principally, Ogilvie is eager to assert that the poet is as judicious as the philosopher, by which, however, he does not intend to put forth a view of the cognitive function of the poet, but rather the justice with which he paints the passions. Essentially, therefore, Ogilvie's distinction between poet and philosopher is for the sake of distinguishing between the former's greater interest in the passions, the latter's more proper concern with the reason. Once again there is nothing unusual in his treatment of the subject at this time, with the possible exception that Ogilvie's conception of the imagination is not so comprehensive as that being developed by Alexander Gerard, William Duff, and some of the other contemporary associatioassociationistsnlsts. In order, however, to emphasize the importance of imagination, by which he largely means the imagistic liveliness of the poet's mind, he allows that the imagination is secondary only in didactic or ethical poetry. Such forms are perhaps best understood as hybrid, a kind of poetizing of philosophy, a sort of reasoning in verse, and therefore forms in which the imagination is not given full exercise. Given his premises it is not surprising that Ogilvie often emphasizes ornamentation or imagistic display and supports his position by conceiving of the modern lyric as descended from the religiously consecrated ode. The sublime and exuberant imagery of the latter exists reductively as an important virtue of the present lyric.

As Ogilvie develops his argument in the second letter, it is apparent also that the imagination functions as that faculty which best contemplates the sublime and the wonderful. The imagination is thus contemplative and expressive, and both functions are justified through the passions that admiration evokes. In sum, the imagination is evoked by the passions, a proposition which suggests why, for Ogilvie, the characteristic mark of genius is a highly animated sensibility. It is apparent also that Ogilvie's criteria include sympathy, for sympathy is that which compels the transmission of the poet's sentiments to his readers. What is dimly present here is a theory of the poetic occasion, an occasion brought about by the poet's participation in a common cultural condition which inspires the communication of sentiments, both common and important, from one person to another. Corollary to this proposition is the notion that the poetic achievement is measured by the uniqueness of the poet's invention. Thus, it is not merely the poet's choice of a sublime subject that is important, but also the excellence with which he treats an unpromising subject. Ogilvie's criteria demand not merely a celerity of imagining, or a facility for the sublime, but a degree of innovativeness which wins the highest regard.

To follow the argument is to realize that his conception of the imagination includes judgment, celerity, and innovation. All three functions are basic to the imaginative act. It is the last, however, which he most emphasizes; and it is apparent, I think, that one intention of his argument is to refute the assumption that the sublime is the principal object of the poetic imagination. It is clear also that Ogilvie is attentive to the excesses of imagism, even as he makes the variety of a poet's images (along with the boldness of his transitions and the picturesque vivacity of his descriptions) one of the major terms of critical assessment. Especially, he is attentive to that which detracts from the principal object, and thus a kind of concentration of purpose emerges as a tacit poetic value, a concentration to which he refers as a "succession of sentiments which resemble ... the subject of his Poem" (lii). Here again Ogilvie has not so much a unity of structure in view as a unity of the passions, and it is this particular theme which generally guides his discourse; it is the general premise upon which his inquiry depends and on which his major justification of lyric poetry is based. In more modern terms we might here speak of the principle of the correlative, which Ogilvie rehearses in his treatment of the correspondence of subject and metaphor, and even indeed of metaphor as a mode of vision. Poetic discourse, for Ogilvie, does not depend upon metaphor, but without metaphor such discourse would be impossible.

What is important, then, is the principle of propriety, a neat accord between the figure and the subject, a kind of apercu. Thus, metaphors properly employed are "generally short, expressive, and fitted to correspond with great accuracy to the point which requires to be illustrated" (pp. liii-liv). Second only to this consideration is that of color, by which he means tone or emphasis, and here again with a view toward the overall unity of the passions. It is perhaps worth noting that both considerations are relevant to Ogilvie's sense of the imagination as a judicious faculty operating independently of the reason, but nevertheless obedient to the laws of logical form, organic relationships, and proper successions, all of which imply an idea of structure.

Much of the time Ogilvie is occupied with quite familiar and conventional critical problems. The relation between regularity and irregularity is one that he particularly stresses, and his resolutions tend to allow a certain wildness as natural to the imagination, even as evidence of the faculty. He is, however, more inclined to permit bold and spirited transitions in the shorter ode than in the longer ode. As usual Ogilvie's critical principles are related to the nature of the work in question, and a greater irregularity is natural to the shorter ode since it presumes the imitation of the passions. But it is important to recognize that Ogilvie stresses not only the imitation of the passions, but the exercise of them as well; and the relation between the one and the other forms at bottom the larger principles on which his second letter is based. We might wish to say that he has in view the education of the passions, not merely by imitating them, but, as it were, by drawing from the reader his own possibilities for sensible response. It does not at all imply pre-romantic values to suggest that Ogilvie's criticism is directed toward a frank exploitation of the reader's emotion. As Maclean makes clear,[3] such interests are hardly unique to romantic criticism. Bishop Lowth, for example, distinguished between the internal source and the external source of poetry, preferring the former because through it the mind is immediately conscious of itself and its own emotions.[4] Ogilvie does not quite make the same statement, but his position easily coincides with it; and if, with John Crowe Ransom,[5] we consider romantic poetry as uniquely directed toward the exploitation of the feelings, we shall be surprised by any number of minor eighteenth-century critics who are unabashedly interested in similar values. Ogilvie's position very much resembles Thomas Twining's view that the "description of passions and emotions by their sensible effects ... [is what] principally deserves the name of imitative."[6]

In accord with the psychological bias informing his essay, Ogilvie tends to reduce the importance of narrative events in favor of vivid and picturesque descriptions, for the latter most immediately communicate themselves to the reader and most expressly realize the translation from thought to feeling. Once again it is the uniqueness of rendering that he has in mind, the innovative cast of the poet's mind which transforms the familiar and by so doing gives it a newly affective power. It is important to recognize that Ogilvie shares with his contemporaries a more limited sense of the varieties of subject-matter than we are likely to grant. But as this is so for him, and as indeed this condition is a function of eighteenth-century historiography, it helps to explain the emphasis he places upon the uniqueness with which the subject is realized. Over and again such an interest shapes his inquiries and becomes both an attribute and a test of a poet's capacity. These remarks need to be qualified only by his inquiry into personification: for here it is the expectation of the mind that must not be disappointed, and that which is iconographically established (the figure of Time, for example) should not be violated.

While Ogilvie is not a major critic a good part of his charm and interest for us stems from a mind that is not in the least doctrinaire. His method is inductive, his appeal is always to the human psychology as that can be known experientially, and his standards are Aristotelian (if by such a reference we mean to signify a procedure based upon the known effects of known works). While there is nothing in these letters that deviates from the psychological tradition in later eighteenth-century criticism, it is also evident that Ogilvie is not really an associationist, and that he is less interested in the creative functioning of the poet's imagination than in the precepts of a psychological humanism which underscore his criteria and give validity to his remarks on the range and appeal of lyric poetry. In sum, his historicism exists as a justification for his defense of lyric poetry and is intended to provide a basis for the psychological bias of his argument.

Duke University


[Footnote 1: Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (Glasgow, 1855), Vol. IV. For a list of Ogilvie's works consult Stephen and Lee, Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 1921-22), Vol. XIV. For an estimation of Ogilvie's relation to the theology of his own day consult James McCosh, The Scottish Philosophy (London, 1875).]

[Footnote 2: Life of Samuel Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill (Oxford, 1887), I., 421, 425.]

[Footnote 3: Norman Maclean, "From Action to Image: Theories of the Lyric in the Eighteenth Century," in Critics and Criticism Ancient and Modern, ed. R. S. Crane (Chicago, 1952), pp. 408-463.]

[Footnote 4: Ibid., p. 439.]

[Footnote 5: John Crowe Ransom, The New Criticism (New York, 1941), p. 15.]

[Footnote 6: An Inquiry into the Fine Arts (London, 1784), p. 6.]


This facsimile of An Essay on the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients (1762) is reproduced from a copy in the Duke University Library.


To Which Is Prefix'd, AN ESSAY on the LYRIC POETRY of the ANCIENTS;

In TWO LETTERS inscribed to The Right Honourable JAMES Lord DESKFOORD.


LONDON: Printed for G. KEITH, at the Bible-and-Crown in Gracechurch-Street.



[Transcriber's Note: Although the facsimile includes this full Table of Contents, only the introductory section— the Essay on Lyric Poetry— was reprinted.]


LETTER I. Page iii LETTER II. xxxix

ODES, &c.



BOOK I. 49 BOOK II. 79


The 148th PSALM paraphrased 107 VERSES to a Lady, with VOLTAIRE'S Temple of Taste 112 A TOWN ECLOGUE 116 JUPITER and the CLOWN. A Fable 120 An Elegy on the DEATH of a LINNET 128 An EVENING PIECE 131 To Miss —— with a Flower 134 SAPPHO's Ode to VENUS translated 136 To the Memory of Mrs. —— 138 To the Memory of Mr. H*** M***. An Elegy 143 To the Memory of the late pious, and ingenious Mr. HERVEY 147 The Third Chapter of HABAKKUK paraphrased 152






It is an observation, no doubt, familiar to your Lordship, that Genius is the offspring of Reason and Imagination properly moderated, and co-operating with united influence to promote the discovery, or the illustration of truth. Though it is certain that a separate province is assigned to each of these faculties, yet it often becomes a matter of the greatest difficulty to prevent them from making mutual encroachments, and from leading to extremes which are the more dangerous, because they are brought on by an imperceptible progression. —Reason in every mind is an uniform power, and its appearance is regular, and invariably permanent. When this Faculty therefore predominates in the sphere of composition, sentiments will follow each other in connected succession, the arguments employed to prove any point will be just and forcible; the stability of a work will be principally considered, and little regard will be payed to its exterior ornament. Such a work however, though it may be valued by a few for its intrinsic excellence, yet can never be productive of general improvement, as attention can only be fixed by entertainment, and entertainment is incompatible with unvaried uniformity[1].

[Footnote 1: Neque ipsa Ratio (says the elegant and sensible Quintilian speaking of Eloquence) tam nos juvaret, nisi quae concepissemus mente, promere etiam loquendo possemus,—ita, ut non modo orare, sed quod Pericli contigit fulgerare, ac tonare videamur. Institut. Orat. Lib. XI. c. 16.]

On the contrary, when Imagination is permitted to bestow the graces of ornament indiscriminately, we either find in the general that sentiments are superficial, and thinly scattered through a work, or we are obliged to search for them beneath a load of superfluous colouring. Such, my Lord, is the appearance of the superior Faculties of the mind when they are disunited from each other, or when either of them seems to be remarkably predominant.

Your Lordship is too well acquainted with this subject not to have observed, that in composition, as in common life, extremes, however pernicious, are not always so distant from each other, as upon superficial inspection we may be apt to conclude. Thus in the latter, an obstinate adherence to particular opinions is contracted by observing the consequences of volatility; indifference ariseth from despising the softer feelings of tenderness; pride takes its origin from the disdain of compliance; and the first step to avarice is the desire of avoiding profusion. Inconveniencies similar to these are the consequences of temerity in canvassing the subjects of speculation. The mind of an Author receives an early bias from prepossession, and the dislike which he conceives to a particular fault precipitates him at once to the opposite extreme. For this reason perhaps it is, that young authors who possess some degree of Genius, affect on all occasions a florid manner[2], and clothe their sentiments in the dress of imagery. To them nothing appears so disgusting as dry and lifeless uniformity; and instead of pursuing a middle course betwixt the extremes of profusion and sterility, they are only solicitous to shun that error of which Prejudice hath shown the most distorted resemblance. It is indeed but seldom, that Nature adjusts the intellectual balance so accurately as not to throw an unequal weight into either of the scales. Such likewise is the situation of man, that in the first stage of life the predominant Faculty engrosseth his attention, as the predominant Passion influenceth his actions. Instead therefore of strengthening the weaker power by assisting its exertions, and by supplying its defects, he is adding force to that which was originally too strong; and the same reflection which discovers his error, shows him likewise the difficulty of correcting it. Even in those minds, in which the distribution was primarily equal, education, habit, or some early bias is ready to break that perfect poise which is necessary to constitute consummate excellence.

[Footnote 2: This is the manner which Quintilian appropriates particularly to young persons. —In juvenibus etiam uberiora paulo & pene periclitantia feruntur. At in iisdem siccum, & contractum dicendi propositum plerunque affectatione ipsa severitatis invisum est: quando etiam morum senilis autoritas immatura in adolescentibus creditur. Lib. II. c. 1.]

From this account of the different manners, in which the faculties of the mind exert themselves in the sphere of competition, your Lordship will immediately observe, that the Poet who attempts to combine distant ideas, to catch remote allusions, to form vivid and agreeable pictures; is more apt from the very nature of his profession to set up a false standard of excellence, than the cool and dispassionate Philosopher who proceeds deliberately from position to argument, and who employs Imagination only as the Handmaid of a superior faculty. Having gone thus far, like persons who have got into a track from which they cannot recede, we may venture to proceed a step farther; and affirm that the Lyric Poet is exposed to this hazard more nearly than any other, and that to prevent him from falling into the extreme we have mentioned, will require the exercise of the closest attention.

That I may illustrate this observation as fully as the nature of the subject will permit, it will be expedient to enquire into the end which Lyric Poetry proposeth to obtain, and to examine the original standards from which the rules of this art are deduced.

Aristotle, who has treated of poetry at great length, assigns two causes of its origin,—Imitation and Harmony; both of which are natural to the human mind[3]. By Imitation he understands, "whatever employs means to represent any subject in a natural manner, whether it hath a real or imaginary existence[4]." The desire of imitating is originally stamped on the mind, and is a source of perpetual pleasure. "Thus" (says the great Critic) "though the figures of wild beasts, or of dead men, cannot be viewed as they naturally are without horror and reluctance; yet the Imitation of these in painting is highly agreeable, and our pleasure is augmented in proportion to that degree of resemblance which we conceive to subsist betwixt the Original and the Copy[5]." By Harmony he understands not the numbers or measures of poetry only, but that music of language, which when it is justly adapted to variety of sentiment or description, contributes most effectually to unite the pleasing with the instructive[6]. This indeed seems to be the opinion of all the Ancients who have written on this subject. Thus Plato says expressly, that those Authors who employ numbers and images without music have no other merit than that of throwing prose into measure[7].

[Footnote 3: Eoikasi de gennesai men holos ten Poietiken, aitiai duo kai autai phusikai. To mimeisthai sumphuton tois anthropois, &c. Kai Harmonia kai ruthmos ex arches hoi pephukotes pros auta malista kata mikron proagontes egeinesan ten Poiesin; Arist. Poet. c. 4.]

[Footnote 4: The Reader of curiosity may see this subject particularly discussed in Dacier's Remarks on the Poeticks of Aristotle, c. 4.]

[Footnote 5: Ha gar auta luperos horomen, touton tas eikonas tas malista ekribomenas, chairomen theorountes, hoitines thereon te morphas ton agriotaton kai nekron, &c. Poet. c. 4.]

[Footnote 6: Ta gar metra hoti moiron ton ruthmon esti, phaneron. Ub. sup.]

[Footnote 7: Rhuthmon men kai schemata melous choris logous psilous eis metra tithentes. The persons who do this, he compares to Musicians. Melos de au kai ruthmous aneu rema{ton} psile kitharixei te kai aulesei proschromenoi. Plat. de Legib. Lib. XI.]

You will no doubt be of opinion, my Lord, upon reflecting on this subject, that Poetry was originally of an earlier date than Philosophy, and that its different species were brought to a certain pitch of perfection before that Science had been cultivated in an equal degree. Experience informs us on every occasion, that Imagination shoots forward to its full growth, and even becomes wild and luxuriant, when the reasoning Faculty is only beginning to open, and is wholly unfit to connect the series of accurate deduction. The information of the senses (from which Fancy generally borrows her images) always obtains the earliest credit, and makes for that reason the most lasting impressions. The sallies of this irregular Faculty are likewise abrupt and instantaneous, as they are generally the effects of a sudden impulse which reason is not permitted to restrain. As therefore we have already seen, that the desire of imitating is innate to the mind (if your Lordship will permit me to make use of an unphilosophical epithet) and as the first inhabitants of the world were employed in the culture of the field, and in surveying the scenery of external Nature, it is probable that the first rude draughts of Poetry were extemporary effusions, either descriptive of the scenes of pastoral life, or extolling the attributes of the Supreme Being. On this account Plato says that Poetry was originally Entheos Mimesis[8], or an inspired imitation of those objects which produced either pleasure or admiration. To paint those objects which produced pleasure was the business of the pastoral, and to display those which raise admiration was the task consigned to the Lyric Poet. —To excite this passion, no method was so effectual as that of celebrating the perfections of the Powers who were supposed to preside over Nature. The Ode therefore in its first formation was a song in honour of these Powers[9], either sung at solemn festivals or after the days of Amphion who was the inventor of the Lyre, accompanied with the musick of that instrument. Thus Horace tells us,

Musa dedit fidibus Divos, puerosque Divorum[10],

The Muse to nobler subjects tun'd her lyre, Gods, and the sons of Gods her song inspire. FRANCIS.

[Footnote 8: Plat. Io.]

[Footnote 9: Nec prima illa post secula per aetates sane complures alio Lyrici spectarunt, quam ut Deorum laudes ac decora, aut virorum fortium res preclare gestas Hymnis ac Paeanibus, ad templa & aras complecterentur;—ut ad emulationem captos admiratione mortales invitarent. Strad. Prolus. 4 Poet.]

[Footnote 10: Hor. de Art. Poet.]

In this infancy of the arts, when it was the business of the Muse, as the same Poet informs us,

Publica privatis secernere, sacra prophanis; Concubitu prohibere vago, dare jura maritis, Oppida moliri, leges includere ligno[11].

Poetic Wisdom mark'd with happy mean, Public and private, sacred and profane, The wandering joys of lawless love supprest, With equal rites the wedded couple blest, Plann'd future towns, and instituted laws, &c. FRANCIS.

your Lordship will immediately conclude that the species of Poetry which was first cultivated (especially when its end was to excite admiration) must for that reason have been the loosest and the most undetermined. There are indeed particular circumstances, by the concurrence of which one branch of an Art may be rendered perfect, when it is first introduced; and these circumstances were favourable to the Authors of the Eclogue. But whatever some readers may think, your Lordship will not look upon it as a paradox, to affirm that the same causes which produced this advantage to pastoral poetry, contributed in an equal degree to make the first Lyric Poems the most vague, uncertain, and disproportioncd standards.

[Footnote 11: Id. ibid.]

In general it may be observed, that the difficulty of establishing rules is always augmented in proportion to the variety of objects which an Art includes. Pastoral Poetry is defined by an ingenious Author, to be an imitation of what may be supposed to pass among Shepherds[12]. This was accomplished the more easily by the first performers in this art, because they were themselves employed in the occupation which they describe, and the subjects which fell within their sphere must have been confined to a very narrow circle. They contented themfelves with painting in the simplest language the external beauties of nature, and with conveying an image of that age in which men generally lived on the footing of equality, and followed the dictates of an understanding uncultivated by Art. In succeeding ages, when manners became more polished, and the refinements of luxury were substituted in place of the simplicity of Nature, men were still fond of retaining an idea of this happy period (which perhaps originally existed in its full extent, only in the imagination of Poets) and the character of a perfect pastoral was justly drawen from the writings of those Authors who first attempted to excel in it[13].

[Footnote 12: Toute Poesie est une imitation. La Poesie Bucolique a pour but d'imiter ce qui a passe et ce qui ce dit entre les Bergers. Mem. de Lit. V. III. p. 158.]

[Footnote 13: Elle ne doit pas s'en tenir a la simple representation du vrai reel, qui rarement seroit agreable; elle doit s'elever jusqu'au vrai ideal, qui tend' a embellir le vrai, tel qu'il est dans la nature, et qui produit dans la Poesie comme dans la Peinture, le derniere point de perfeftion, &c. Mem. de Lit. ub. sup.]

Though we must acknowledge, that the poetic representations of a golden age are chimerical, and that descriptions of this kind were not always measured by the standard of truth; yet it must be allowed at the same time, that at a period when Manners were uniform and natural, the Eclogue, whose principal excellence lies in exhibiting simple and lively pictures of common objects and common characters, was brought at once to a state of greater perfection by the persons who introduced it, than it could have arrived at in a more improved and enlightned aera.

You will observe, my Lord, that these circumstances were all of them unfavourable to Lyric Poetry. The Poet in this branch of his Art proposed as his principal aim to excite Admiration, and his mind without the assistance of critical skill was left to the unequal task of presenting succeeding ages with the rudiments of Science. He was at liberty indeed to range through the ideal world, and to collect images from every quarter; but in this research he proceeded without a guide, and his imagination like a fiery courser with loose reins was left to pursue that path into which it deviated by accident, or was enticed by temptation. In short, Pastoral Poetry takes in only a few objects, and is characterized by that simplicity, tenderness, and delicacy which were happily and easily united in the work of an ancient Shepherd. He had little use for the rules of criticism, because he was not much exposed to the danger of infringing them. The Lyric Poet on the other hand took a more diversified and extensive range, and his imagination required a strong and steady rein to correct its vehemence, and restrain its rapidity. Though therefore we can conceive without difficulty, that the Shepherd in his poetic effusions might contemplate only the external objects which were presented to him, yet we cannot so readily believe that the mind in framing a Theogony, or in assigning distinct provinces to the Powers who were supposed to preside over Nature, could in its first Essays proceed with so calm and deliberate a pace through the fields of invention, as that its work should be the perfect pattern of just and corrected composition.

From these observations laid together, your Lordship will judge of the state of Lyric Poetry, when it was first introduced, and will perhaps be inclined to assent to a part of the proposition laid down in the beginning, "that as Poets in general are more apt to set up a false standard of excellence than Philosophers are, so the Lyric Poet was exposed to this danger more immediately than any other member of the same profession." Whether or not the preceding Theory can be justly applied to the works of the first Lyric Poets, and how far the Ode continued to be characterised by it in the more improved state of ancient Learning, are questions which can only be answered by taking a short view of both.

It is indeed, my Lord, much to be regretted, that we have no certain guide to lead us through that labyrinth in which we grope for the discovery of Truth, and are so often entangled in the maze of Error when we attempt to explain the origin of Science, or to trace the manners of remote antiquity. I should be at a loss to enter upon this perplexed and intricate subject, if I did not know, that History has already familiarized to your Lordship the principal objects which occur in this research, and that it is the effect of extensive knowledge and superior penetration to invigorate the effort of Diffidence, and to repress the surmises of undistinguishing Censure.

The Inhabitants of Greece who make so eminent a figure in the records of Science, as well as in the History of the progression of Empire, were originally a savage and lawless people, who lived in a state of war with one another, and possessed a desolate country, from which they expected to be driven by the invasion of a foreign enemy[14]. Even after they had begun to emerge from this state of absolute barbarity, and had built a kind of cities to restrain the encroachments of the neighbouring nations, the inland country continued to be laid waste by the depredations of robbers, and the maritime towns were exposed to the incursions of pirates[15]. Ingenious as this people naturally were, the terror and suspence in which they lived for a considerable time, kept them unacquainted with the Arts and Sciences which were flourishing in other countries. When therefore a Genius capable of civilizing them started up, it is no wonder that they held him in the highest estimation, and concluded that he was either descended from, or inspired by some of those Divinities whose praises he was employed in rehearsing.

[Footnote 14: Thucyd. Lib. I.]

[Footnote 15: Id. ibid.]

Such was the situation of Greece, when Linus, Orpheus, and Museus, the first Poets whose names have reached posterity, made their appearance on the theatre of life. These writers undertook the difficult task of reforming their countrymen, and of laying down a theological and philosophical system[16]. —We are informed by Diogenes Laertius, that Linus, the Father of Grecian Poetry, was the son of Mercury and the Muse Urania, and that he sung of the Generation of the world, of the course of the sun and moon, of the origin of animals, and of the principles of vegetation[17]. He taught, says the same Author, that all things were formed at one time, and that they were jumbled together in a Chaos, till the operation of a Mind introduced regularity.

[Footnote 16: Authors are not agreed as to the Persons who introduced into Greece the principles of philosophy. Tatian will have it that the Greek Philosophy came originally from AEgypt. Orat. con. Graec. While Laertius (who certainly might have been better informed) will allow Foreigners to have had no share in it. He ascribes its origin to Linus, and says expressly, Aph' Hellenon erxe philosophia hes kai auto to onoma ten Barbaron apestrapte prosegorian. Laer. in Proem.]

[Footnote 17: This account of the subjects on which Linus wrote, suggests a further prejudice in favour of Laertius's opinion as to the origin of Greek Philosophy. He has preserved the first line of his Poem.

En pote chronos houtos en ho hama pant' epephukei. Id. ibid.]

After all, however, we must acknowledge, that so complex, so diversified, and so ingenious a system as the Greek Theology, was too much for an uninstructed Genius, however exuberant, to have conceived in its full extent. Accordingly we are told, that both Orpheus and Museus travelled into AEgypt, and infused the traditionary learning of a cultivated people into the minds of their own illiterate countrymen[18]. To do this the more effectually, they composed Hymns, or short sonnets, in which their meaning was couched under the veil of beautiful allegory, that their lessons might at once arrest the imagination, and be impressed upon the Memory[19]. This, my Lord, we are informed by the great Critic, was the first dress in which Poetry made its appearance[20].

[Footnote 18: Herod. Lib. I. c. 49.]

[Footnote 19: Univ. Hist. Vol. VI. p. 221.]

[Footnote 20: Hoi men gar semnoteroi tas kalas emimounto praxeis kai tas ton toiouton tuchas; hoi de eutelesteroi tas ton phaulon proton psogous poiountes, hosper heteroi HUMNOUS kai ENKOMIA. Arist. Poet. c. 4.]

Of Orpheus we know little more with certainty, than that the subjects of his poems were the formation of the world, the offspring of Saturn, the birth of the Giants, and the origin of man[21]. These were favourite topics among the first Poets, and the discussion of them tended at once to enlarge the imagination, and to give the reasoning faculty a proper degree of exercise. This Poet however, though he obtained the highest honours from his contemporaries, yet seems to have managed his subjects in so loose a manner, that succeeding Writers will not allow him to have been a Philosopher[22]. At present we are not sufficiently qualified to determine his character, as most of the pieces which pass under his name are ascribed to one Onomacritus, an Athenian who flourished about the time of Pisistratus. That the writings of Orpheus were highly and extensively useful, is a truth confirmed by the most convincing evidence. The extraordinary effects which his Poetry and Music are said to have produced, however absurd and incredible in themselves, are yet unquestioned proofs that he was considered as a superior Genius, and that his countrymen thought themselves highly indebted to him. Horace gives an excellent account of this matter in very few words.

Sylvestres homines, Sacer, Interpresque Deorum Caedibus, & victu foedo deterruit Orpheus, Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres, rabidosque leones.[23]

The wood-born race of men when Orpheus tam'd, From acorns, and from mutual blood reclaim'd. The Priest divine was fabled to assuage The tiger's fierceness, and the lion's rage. FRANCIS.

[Footnote 21: Orph. Argonaut.]

[Footnote 22: Ego de ei ton peri theon exagoreusanta toiauta; chre philosophon kalein ouk oida tina dei prosagoreuin ton to anthropeion pathos apheidounto tois theois prostripsai, kai ta spasios hupo toion anthropon aischrourgoumena, kai to tautes phones organo. Laer. ub. sup.]

[Footnote 23: Hor. de Art. Poet.]

Museus, the Pupil of Orpheus, is as little known to posterity as his Master. His only genuine production which has reached the present times is an Ode to Ceres, a piece indeed full of exuberance and variety[24]. The Ancients in general seem to have entertained a very high opinion of his Genius and writings, as he is said to have been the first person who composed a regular Theogony, and is likewise celebrated as the inventor of the Sphere[25]. His principle was that all things would finally resolve into the same materials of which they were originally compounded[26]. Virgil assigns him a place of distinguishied eminence in the plains of Elysium.

—— sic est affata Sibylla. Musaeum ante omnes, medium nam plurima turba Hunc habet, atque humeris extantem suspicit altis[27].

—— The Sibyl thus address'd Musaeus, rais'd o'er all the circling throng.

[Footnote 24: The beautiful story of Hero and Leander, which was written by a person of his name, is thought to have been the work of a Grammarian who lived about the 5th century: a conjecture supported by very probable evidence. See Kenneth's life of Museus, p. 10.]

[Footnote 25: Diogen. Laert. ub. sup.]

[Footnote 26: Diogen. Laert. ub. sup.]

[Footnote 27: AEneid. Lib. 6.]

It is generally allowed that Amphion, who was a native of Baeotia, brought music into Greece from Lydia, and invented that instrument (the Lyre) from which Lyric Poetry takes its name[28]. Before his time they had no regular knowledge of this divine art, though we must believe that they were acquainted with it in some measure, as dancing is an art in which we are informed that the earliest Poets were considerable proficients[29].

[Footnote 28: It may not be amiss here to give the reader some idea of the structure of the Ancient lyre, whose music is said to have produced such wonderful effects. This instrument was composed of an hollow frame, over which several strings were thrown, probably in some such manner as we see them in an harp, or a dulcimer. They did not so much resemble the viol, as the neck of that instrument gives it peculiar advantages, of which the Ancients seem to have been wholly ignorant. The Musician stood with a short bow in his right hand, and a couple of small thimbles upon the fingers of his left: with these he held one end of the string, from which an acute sound was to be drawn, and then struck it immediately with the bow. In the other parts he swept over every string alternately, and allowed each of them to have its full sound. This practice became unnecessary afterwards, when the instrument was improved by the addition of new strings, to which the sounds corresponded. Horace tells us, that in his time the lyre had seven strings, and that it was much more musical than it had been originally. Addressing himself to Mercury, he says

—— Te docilis magistro. Movit Amphion lapides canendo: Tuque Testudo, resonare septem Callida nervis; Nec loquax olim, neque grata &c. Carm. Lib. III. Od. 11.

For a further account of this instrument, we shall refer the reader to Quintilian's Institutions. Lib. XII. c. 10.]

[Footnote 29: Particularly Orpheus and Museus. Lucian says in the general. Teleten archaian oudemian estin heurein anou orcheseos. Lib. de Salt.]

Such, my Lord, was the character of the first Lyric Poets, and such were the subjects upon which they exercised invention. We have seen, in the course of this short detail, that these Authors attempted to civilize a barbarous people, whose imagination it was necessary to seize by every possible expedient; and upon whom chastised composition would have probably lost its effect, as its beauties are not perceptible to the rude and illiterate. That they employed this method principally to instruct their countrymen is more probable, when we remember that the rudiments of learning were brought from AEgypt, a country in which Fable and Allegory remarkably predominated[30]. By conversing with this people, it is natural to suppose that men of impetuous imaginations would imbibe their manner, and would adopt that species of composition as the most proper, which was at the same time agreeable to their own inclination, and authorised as expedient by the example of others.

From the whole, my Lord, we may conclude with probability, that the Greek Hymn was originally a loose allegorical Poem, in which Imagination was permitted to take its full career, and sentiment was rendered at once obscure and agreeable, by being screened behind a veil of the richest poetic imagery.

[Footnote 30: This allegorical learning was so much in use among the AEgyptians, that the Disciples of a Philosopher were bound by an oath. En hupokruphois tauta echein; kai tois apaideutois kai amnetois me metadedinai. Vid. Seld. de Diis Syr.]

The loose fragments of these early writers which have come down to our times, render this truth as conspicuous as the nature of the subject will permit. A Theogony, or an account of the procession of fabulous Deities, was a theme on which Imagination might display her inventive power in its fullest extent. Accordingly Hesiod introduces his work with recounting the genealogy of the Muses, to whom he assigns "an apartment and attendants, near the summit of snowy Olympus[31]." These Ladies, he tells us, "came to pay him a visit, and complimented him with a scepter and a branch of laurel, when he was feeding his flock on the mountain of Helicon[32]." Some tale of this kind it was usual with the Poets to invent, that the vulgar in those ages of fiction and ignorance might consider their persons as sacred, and that the offspring of their imaginations might be regarded as the children of Truth.

[Footnote 31: —— Hesin aoide Membletai, en stethessin akedea thumon echousais Tutthon ap' akrotates koruphes niphentos Olumpou. Entha sphin liparoi te choroi, kai domata kala. Theog. a lin. 61.]

[Footnote 32: Hos ephasan Eourai Megalou Dios artiepeiai; Kai moi skeptron edon, daphnes eritheleos ozon Drepsasthai theeton; epeneusan de moi auden &c. Theogon. l. 30.]

From the same licentious use of Allegory and Metaphor sprung the Fables of the wars of the Giants, of the birth and education of Jupiter, of the dethroning of Saturn, and of the provinces assigned by the Supreme to the Inferior Deities; all of which are subjects said to have been particularly treated by Orpheus[33]. The love of Fable became indeed so remarkably prevalent in the earliest ages, that it is now impossible in many instances to distinguish real from apparent truth in the History of these times, and to discriminate the persons who were useful members of society, from those who exist only in the works of a Poet, whose aim was professedly to excite Admiration. Thus every event of importance was disfigured by the colouring of poetic narration, and by ascribing to one man the separate actions which perhaps were performed by several persons of one name[34], we are now wholly unable to disentangle truth from a perplexed and complicated detail of real and fictitious incidents.

[Footnote 33: Orph. Hym. in Apollon. Rhod.]

[Footnote 34: Of this, History furnisheth many examples. When one man made an eminent figure in any profession, the actions of other persons who had the same name were ascribed to him; and it was perhaps partly for this reason that we find different cities contending for the honour of giving birth to men of Genius, or eminence. Callimachus in his Hymn to Jupiter makes an artful use of this circumstance.

En doie mala thumos; epei genos ampheriston. Zeu se men I' daioisin en ouresi phasi genesthai Zeu se d' en Arkadie; poteroi Pater epseusanto Kretes aei pseustai; kai gar taphon, ho ana seio Kretes etektenanto; su d' ou thanes; essi gar aiei. Callim. p. 4.]

It appears likewise from these shreds of antiquity, that the subjects of the Hymn were not sufficiently limited, as we sometimes find one of them addressed to several Deities, whose different functions recurring constantly to the mind must have occasioned unavoidable obscurity[35]. The Poet by this means was led into numberless digressions, in which the remote points of connection will be imperceptible to the reader, who cannot place himself in some situation similar to that of the Writer, and attend particularly to the character and manners of the period at which he wrote.

[Footnote 35: Thus Theocritus.

Humneomes Ledas. Te kai aigiocho Dios Huio, Kastora kai phoberon Poludeukea pux erethizen Humneomes kai Dis, kai to Triton.]

Your Lordship, without the testimony of experience, would hardly believe that a species of composition which derived its origin from, and owed its peculiarities to the circumstances we have mentioned, could have been considered in an happier aera as a pattern worthy the imitation of cultivated genius, and the perusal of a polished and civilized people. One is indeed ready to conclude, at the first view, that a mode of writing which was assumed for a particular purpose, and was adopted to the manners of an illiterate age, might at least have undergone considerable alterations in succeeding periods, and might have received improvements proportioned to those which are made in other branches of the same art. But the fact is, that while the other branches of poetry have been gradually modelled by the rules of criticism, the Ode hath only been changed in a few external circumstances, and the enthusiasm, obscurity and exuberance, which characterised it when first introduced, continue to be ranked among its capital and discriminating excellencies.

To account for this phenomenon, my Lord, I need only remind your Lordship of a truth which reflexion has, no doubt, frequently suggested;—that the rules of criticism are originally drawen, not from the speculative idea of perfection in an art, but from the work of that Artist to whom either merit or accident hath appropriated the most established character. From this position it obviously follows, that such an art must arrive at once to its highest perfection, as the attempts of succeeding performers are estimated not by their own intrinsic value or demerit, but by their conformity to a standard which is previously set before them. It hath happened fortunately for the republic of letters, that the two higher species of poetry are exempted from the bad consequences which might have followed an exact observation of this rule. An early and perfect standard was settled to regulate the Epopee, and the Drama was susceptible of gradual improvement, as Luxury augmented the subjects, and decorated the machinery of the theatre. We have already seen that Lyric Poetry was not introduced with the advantages of the former, and reflection must convince us, that it is not calculated to gain the slow and imperceptible accessions of the latter. We may observe however in the general, that as the opinions of the bulk of mankind in speculative matters are commonly the result of accident rather than the consequences of reflection, so it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, in some instances to point out a defect in an established model without incurring the censure of the multitude. Such, my Lord, is the nature of man, and so trifling and capricious are the circumstances upon which his sentiments depend.

Accustomed as your Lordship has been to survey the improved manners of an enlightned age, you will contemplate with pleasure an happier aera in the progression of Science, when the Ode from being confined wholly to fictitious Theology, was transposed to the circle of Elegance and the Graces. Such is its appearance in the writings ot Anacreon, of Horace, and in the two fragments of Sappho.

Anacreon was nearly contemporary with that Onomacritus, whom we have mentioned as the Author of those poems which are ascribed to Orpheus. He flourished between the 60th and the 70th Olympiad. His pieces are the offspring of genius and indolence. His subjects are perfectly suited to his character. The devices which he would have to be carved upon a silver cup are extremely ingenious.

—— Dios gonon Bakchon Euion hemin. Mustin amate Kuprin Humenaiois krotousan. Kai Erotas apoplous Kai charitas gelosas, &c.[36]

—— The race of Jove, Bacchus whose happy smiles approve; The Cyprian Queen, whose gentle hand Is quick to tye the nuptial band; The sporting Loves unarm'd appear, The Graces loose and laughing near.

[Footnote 36: Anac. Carm. p. 35.]

Sweetness and natural elegance characterise the writings of this Poet, as much as carelessness and ease distinguished his manners. In some of his pieces there is exuberance and even wildness of imagination, as in that particularly which is addressed to a young girl, where he wishes alternately to be transformed into a mirror, a coat, a stream, a bracelet, and a pair of shoes, for the different purposes which he recites[37]. This is meer sport and wantonness, and the Poet would probably have excused himself for it, by alledging that he took no greater liberties in his own sphere than his predecessors of the same profession had done in another. His indolence and love of ease is often painted with great simplicity and elegance[38], and his writings abound with those beautiful and unexpected turns which are characteristic of every species of the Ode[39].

[Footnote 37: Anac. p. 87.]

[Footnote 38: This appears remarkably in that piece, where he gives so ingenuous a character of himself.

Hon moi melei Gugou Tou Sardeon Anaktos To semeron melei moi. p. 28.]

[Footnote 39: The reader will find a striking example of this beauty, in the Ode addressed to a swallow, where he runs a comparison betwixt the liberty of that bird and his own bondage.

Su men phile chelidon, &c. p. 60.]

Though we must allow Anacreon to have been an original Genius, yet it is probable, as I formerly observed, that he took Lyric Poetry as he found it; and without attempting to correct imperfections, of which he might have been sensible, made on the contrary the same use of this which a man of address will do of the foibles of his neighbour, by employing them to promote his own particular purposes. We may conclude indeed from the character of this Poet, that he was not fitted to strike out new lights in the field of Science, or to make considerable deviations from the practice of his Predecessors. He was, no doubt, of opinion likewise, that his manner was authorised in some measure by the example of the Mitylenian Poetess, whose pieces are celebrated for softness and delicacy[40], and who possessed above all others the art of selecting the happiest circumstances which she placed likewise in the most striking points of view[41]. Longinus produceth, as a proof of this, her fine Ode inscribed to a favourite attendant, in which the progression of that tumultuous emotion, which deprived her of her senses, is described with peculiar elegance and sensibility[42].

[Footnote 40: Thus Horace represents her

AEoliis fidibus quaerentem Sappho puellis de popularibus. Lib. II. Od. 13.]

[Footnote 41: Theou he Sappho ta sumbainonta tais erotikais maniais pathemata ek ton parepomenon, kai ek tes aletheias, autes hekastote lambanei, &c. De Lub. c. 10.]

[Footnote 42: Longinus speaks with transport of this beautiful fragment of antiquity. Ou thaumazeis hos hup' auto ten psuchen to soma tas akoas ten glossan tas opseis ten chroan, panth' hos allotria dioichomenoi epizetei. Kai kath' hupenantioseis hama psuchetai, kaietai, alogistei, phronei—hina me en ti peri auten pathos phainetai, pathon de SUNODOS. De. Lub. c. 10.]

We are at a loss to judge of the character of Alcaeus, the countryman and rival of Sappho, because scarce any fragment of his writings has reached the present times. He is celebrated by the Ancients as a spirited Author, whose poems abounded with examples of the sublime and vehement. Thus Horace says, when comparing him to Sappho, that he sung so forcibly of wars, disasters, and shipwrecks, that the Ghosts stood still to hear him in silent astonishment[43]. The same Poet informs us, that he likewise sung of Bacchus, Venus, the Muses, and Cupid[44]. From these sketches of his character we may conclude that his pieces were distinguished by those marks of rapid and uncontrolled imagination, which we have found to characterise the works of the first Lyric Poets.

[Footnote 43: Te sonantem plenius aureo Alcaee plectro, dura navis, Dura fugae mala, dura belli. Utrumque sacro digna silentio Mirantur Utmbrae dicere. ——Hor. ub. sup.]

[Footnote 44: Liberum & Musas, Veneremque & illi Semper haerentem puerum canebat, Et Lycum nigris oculis nigroque Crine decorum. Carm. Lib. I. Od. 32.]

Your Lordship needs not be told, that the Roman Poet who had the advantage of improving upon so many originals, takes in a greater variety of subjects than any of his predecessors, and runs into more diffuse and diversified measure. I have said, my Lord, that his subjects are more diversified, because in the character of a Lyric Poet we must consider him as a professed imitator both of Anacreon and of Pindar. In the former point of view he falls under our immediate cognisance; in the latter we shall take a view of him afterwards, when we come to examine the works of that great Original, whose example he follows.

The Reader will observe, that in the shorter Odes of Horace there is commonly one leading thought, which is finely enlivened with the graces of description. A constant Unity of sentiment is therefore preserved in each of them, and the abrupt starts and sallies of passion are so artfully interwoven with the principal subject, that upon a review of the whole piece, we find it to be a perfect imitation of Nature. This Poet (whose judgment appears to have been equal to his imagination) is particularly careful to observe propriety in his most irregular excursions, and the vivacity of his passion is justified by the circumstances in which he is supposed to be placed. The diction of these poems is likewise adapted with great accuracy to the sentiment, as it is generally concise, forcible, and expressive. Brevity of language ought indeed particularly to characterise this species of the Ode, in which the Poet writes from immediate feeling, and is intensely animated by his subject. Delicacy is likewise indispensibly requisite, because the reader is apt to be disgusted with the least appearance of constraint or harshness in a poem, whose principal excellence lies in the happy and elegant turn of a pointed reflection. In short, little sallies and picturesque epithets have a fine effect in pieces of this kind, as by the former the passions are forcibly inflamed, and by the latter their effects are feelingly exposed.

Of all these delicate beauties of composition, the Odes of Horace abound with pregnant and striking examples. Sometimes he discovers the strength of his passion, when he is endeavouring to forget it, by a sudden and lively turn which is wholly unexpected. Thus he tells Lydia,

Non si me satis audias, Speres perpetuum dulcia barbare Laedentem oscula, quae Venus Quinta parte sui nectaris imbuit[45].

[Footnote 45: Carm. Lib. I. Od. 13.]

Sometimes his pictures are heightned with beautiful imagery, and he seizeth the imagination before he appeals to reason. Thus, when he is advising his friend not to mourn any longer for a man who was dead, instead of proposing the subject immediately he says,

Non semper imbres nubibus hispidos Manant in agros, &c.[46] Not always snow, and hail, and rain Defend, and beat the fruitful plain. CREECH.

[Footnote 46: Carm. Lib. II. Od. 9.]

On other occasions he breaks abruptly into a short and spirited transition.

Auditis? an me ludit amabilis Insania? audire et videor pios Errare per lucos, amoenae Quos et aquae subeunt et aurae[47].

Dos't hear? or sporting in my brain, What wildly-sweet deliriums reign! Lo! mid Elysium's balmy groves, Each happy shade transported roves! I see the living scene display'd, Where rills and breathing gales sigh murmuring thro' the shade.

[Footnote 47: Id. Lib. III. Od. 4.]

On some subjects he is led imperceptibly into a soft melancholy, which peculiar elegance of expression renders extremely agreeable in the end of this poem. There is a fine stroke of this kind in his Ode to Septimus, with whom he was going to fight against the Cantabrians. He figures out a poetical recess for his old age, and then says,

Ille te mecum locus, et beatae Postulant arces, ibi tu calentem Debita sparges lachryma favillam Vatis amici[48].

That happy place, that sweet retreat. The charming hills that round it rise, Your latest hours, and mine await; And when your Poet Horace dyes; There the deep sigh thy poet-friend shall mourn, And pious tears bedew his glowing urn. FRANCIS.

[Footnote 48: Carm. Lib. II. Od. 6.]

Upon the whole, my Lord, you will perhaps be of opinion, that though the subjects of this second species of the Ode are wholly different from these of the first; yet the same variety of images, boldness of transition, figured diction, and rich colouring which characterised this branch of poetry on its original introduction, continue to be uniformly and invariably remarkable in the works of succeeding performers. Reflection indeed will induce us to acknowledge, that in this branch of Lyric Poetry the Author may be allowed to take greater liberties than we could permit him to do in that which has formerly been mentioned. It is the natural effect of any passion by which the mind is agitated, to break out into short and abrupt sallies which are expressive of its impetuosity, and of an imagination heated, and starting in the tumult of thought from one object to another. To follow therefore the workings of the mind in such a situation and to paint them happily, is in other words to copy Nature. But your Lordship will observe, that the transitions of the Poet who breaks from his subject to exhibit an historical detail whose connection with it is remote, or who is solicitous to display the fertility of a rich imagination at the expence of perspicuity, when it is not supposed that his passions are inflamed: you will observe, my Lord, that his digressions are by no means so excusable as those of the other, because obscurity in the latter may be an excellence, whereas in the former it is always a blemish.

It is only necessary to observe farther on this head, that the difference of the subjects treated by Anacreon and Horace, from those of Orpheus, Museus, &c. is owing to the different characters of the ages in which they lived. We could not indeed have expected to meet with any thing very serious, at any period, from so indolent and careless a writer as Anacreon. But Luxury even in his time had made considerable progress in the world. The principles of Theology were sufficiently well established. Civil polity had succeeded to a state of confusion, and men were become fond of ease and affluence, of wine and women. Anacreon lived at the court of a voluptuous Monarch[49], and had nothing to divert his mind from the pursuit of happiness in his own way. His Odes therefore are of that kind, in which the gentler Graces peculiarly predominate. Sappho and Horace were employed in the same manner. The Lady had a Gallant, of whom it appears that she was extremely fond, and the Roman Poet lived in a polite court, was patronized by a man of distinguished eminence, and was left at full liberty to pursue that course of life to which he was most powerfully prompted by inclination.

[Footnote 49: Polycrates, Tyrant of Samos.]

The poetic vein in these Writers takes that turn, which a stranger must have expected upon hearing their characters. Their pieces are gay, entertaining, loose, elegant, and ornamented with a rich profusion of the graces of description. The reader of sensibility will receive the highest pleasure from perusing their works, in which the internal movements of the mind warmed by imagination, or agitated by passion, are exposed in the happiest and most agreeable attitudes. This, perhaps, is the principal excellence of the looser branches of poetic composition. The mind of the Poet in these pieces is supposed to be intensely kindled by his subject. His Fancy assumes the rein, and the operation of reason is for a moment suspended. He follows the impulse of enthusiasm, and throws off those simple but lively strokes of Nature and Passion, which can only be felt, and are beyond imitation.

Ut sibi quivis Speret idem, sudet multum, frustraque laboret Ausus idem[50]!

All may hope to imitate with ease: Yet while they drive the same success to gain, Shall find their labour and their hopes are vain. FRANCIS.

[Footnote 50: Hor. de Art. Poet.]

The unequal measures which are used in these shorter Odes, are likewise adapted with great propriety to the subjects of which they treat. Horace says, that this inequality of numbers was originally fixed upon as expressive of the complaints of a lover; but he adds, that they became quickly expressive likewise of his exultation.

Versibus impariter junctis Querimonia primum Post etiam inclusa est voti sententia compos[51].

Unequal measures first were taught to flow, Sadly expressive of the Lover's woe.

[Footnote 51: Id. ibid.]

These looser and shorter measures distinguish this branch of the Ode from the Hymn which was composed in heroic measure[52], and from the Pindaric Ode (as it is commonly called) to which the dithyrambique or more diversified stanza was particularly appropriated. Of the shorter Ode therefore it may be said with propriety,

Son stile impetueux souvent marche au hazarde Chez un beau disordre est un effect de l'art[53].

[Footnote 52: Aristotle expressly mentions this circumstance, when he explains the Origin of the Drama. Paraphaneisas de tes Tragodias kai Komodias, hoi eph' hekateron te poiesen harmontes kata ten oikeian phusin hoi men anti ton Iambon, Komodopoioi egenonto; hoi de anti ton Epon tragodidaskaloi, dia to meizo kai enemotera ta schemata einai tauta ekeinon. Arist. Poet. c. 4.]

[Footnote 53: Boil. Art. Poet.]

Thus, my Lord, we have taken a view of the Lyric poetry of the Ancients, as it appeared originally in the works of the earliest Poets, and as it was afterwards employed to enliven a train of more elegant and delicate sentiment. I have attempted, in the course of this enquiry, to follow the lights which Antiquity throws on this subject as closely as possible, to explain facts by placing them in connection, and to illustrate reasoning by example.

Your Lordship's acquaintance with the principles of civil Government, and your experience of the effects of education have enabled you to observe the character, which the Manners of an age stamp upon the productions of the Authors who live in it. Experience will convince us, that these general revolutions resemble more nearly than we are apt to imagine at first view, the circumstances of an Individual at the different periods of life. In one age he is captivated by the beauties of description, at another he is fond of the deductions of Philosophy; his opinions vary with his years, and his actions, as directed by these, are proportionably diversified. In all these circumstances however, the original bias which he received from Nature remains unalterable, and the peculiarity of his character appears conspicuous, notwithstanding the accidental diversity of fluctuating sentiments. It is to be expected in such a situation, that changes similar to these will usually take place in arts which are susceptible of perpetual mutation; and of this a particular instance is exhibited in the preceding detail. Another branch of this subject remains to be considered, and on this I shall give your Lordship the trouble of perusing a few remarks in a subsequent letter. Permit me only to observe, from what hath already been advanced, that the ingredients of Genius are often bestowed by Nature, when the polish of Art is wanted to mould the original materials into elegant proportion. He who possesseth the former in the highest degree may be a Shakespear or an AEschylus; but both were united in forming the more perfect characters of Demosthenes and Homer.


The view, my Lord, of the Lyric Poetry of the Ancients which has been taken in the preceding part of this Essay, may probably have suggested a Question to your Lordship, to which it is necessary that an answer should be given, before I enter upon that part of the subject which remains to be considered. From the observations formerly made, I am afraid that your Lordship has been looking upon my procedure, as you would have viewed that of the honest Irishman, who pulled an old house about his ears, before he had reflected that it was necessary to substitute a better in its room. In the same manner you will perhaps think, that I have taken a good deal of pains to point out the Defects of Lyric Poetry, and to assign the Causes which originally produced them; without however establishing the rules of this branch of the Art, and without enquiring what proportion of poetic embellishment naturally belongs to it, considered as distinguished from every other species.

Permit me therefore to observe, that my intention in the preceding remarks will be greatly mistaken, if, when I have been endeavouring to expose the abuse of imagination, it should be thought, either that I would wholly repress the excursions of this noble Faculty, or that I would confine its exercise within narrow limits. It must be obvious to every person who reflects on this subject, that Imagination presides over every branch of the Poetic Art, and that a certain infusion of her peculiar beauties is necessary to constitute its real and essential character. The Poet therefore of every denomination may be said with great propriety in an higher sense than the Orator, "to paint to the eyes, and touch the soul, and combat with shining arms[54]." It is from this consideration that Horace says, speaking of Poetry in general,

Descriptas servare vices, operumque colores, Cur ego si nequeo ignoroque, Poeta salutor[55]?

[Footnote 54: Les grands Orateurs n'emploient que des expressions riches capables de faire valoir leurs raisons. Ils tachent d'eblouir les yeux, et l'esprit, et pour ce sujet ils ne combattent qu'avec des armes brillantes. Lam. Rhet. Liv. IV. c. 13.]

[Footnote 55: Hor. de Arte Poet.]

Though the influence of imagination on every species of Poetry is so obvious, as not to stand in need of illustration, yet we must observe at the same time, that this power is exerted in different degrees[56], as the Poet is led by the nature of that subject to which his Genius hath received the most remarkable bias. Thus the simple beauties of the Eclogue would appear in the same light, when transposed to the Epopee, as plants brought to forced vegetation in a Green-house must do to those who have seen them flourishing in their native soil, and ripened by the benignity of an happier climate. In the one case they are considered as unnatural productions, whose beauty is surpassed by the Natives of the soil; in the other they are regarded as just and decent ornaments, whose real excellence is properly estimated. The same remark may be applied indiscriminately to all the other branches of this art. Though they are originally the offspring of one Parent, yet there are certain characteristic marks, by which a general resemblance is fully distinguished from perfect similarity.

[Footnote 56: Una cuique proposita lex, suus decor est. Habet tamen omnis Eloquentia aliquid commune. Quintil. Instit. Lib. X c. II.]

It is necessary to observe in general on this subject, that whatever degree of superiority the reasoning Faculty ought ultimately to possess in the sphere of Composition, we are not to consider this Power as acting the same part in the work of a Poet, which it should always act in that of a Philosopher. In the performance of the latter, an appeal to reason is formally stated, and is carried on by the process of connected argumentation; whereas in that of the former the Judgment is principally employed in the disposition of materials[57]. Thus the Philosopher and the Poet are equally entitled to the character of judicious, when the arguments of the one are just and conclusive, and when the images of the other are apposite and natural.

[Footnote 57: In the Epopee we judge of the Genius of the Poet, by the variety and excellence of those materials with which Imagination enricheth his subject. His Judgment appears in the disposition of particular images, and in the general relation which every subordinate part bears to the principal action of the Poem. Thus it is the business of this Faculty, as an ingenious Critic says, "Considerer comme un corps qui no devoit pas avoir des membres de natures differentes, et independens les uns des autres." Bossu du Poem. Epiq. Liv. II. ch. 2. It is true indeed, that Tragedy is rather an address to the passions than to the imagination of mankind. To the latter however we must refer all those finer strokes of poetic painting, which actuate so forcibly the affections and the heart. We may, in short, easily conceive the importance of a warm imagination to the Dramatic Poet, by reflecting upon the coldness and indifference with which we peruse those pieces, which are not enlivened by the sallies of this Faculty when it is properly corrected. Though we must acknowledge that Passion seldom adopts the images of description, yet it must be owned at the same time, that neither can a person who wants imagination feel with sensibility the impulse of the Passions. A Poet may even merit a great encomium who excels in painting the effects, and in copying the language of Passion, though the Disposition of his work may be otherwise irregular and faulty. Thus Aristotle says of a celebrated dramatic Poet, Kai Ho Euripides ei kai ta alla me eu oikonomei, alla TRAGIKOTATOS ge ton Poieton phainetai. De Poet. c. 13. Upon the whole therefore, Didactic or Ethical Poetry is the only species in which Imagination acts but a secondary part, because it is unquestionably the business of reason to fix upon the most forcible arguments, as well as to throw them into the happiest disposition. We have seen however, in some late performances, what superior advantages this branch of the Art receives from a just and proper infusion of the poetic idioms.]

When your Lordship reflects on the Nature and End of Lyric Poetry, it will appear to be at least as much characterised by the Graces of ornament as any other species whatever. We have already seen that the Ode was early consecrated to the purposes of Religion, and that it was intended to raise Admiration by extolling the attributes of the Supreme Being. On a subject of this nature the Poet probably thought, that sublime and exuberant imagery was necessary to support the grandeur of those sentiments which were naturally suggested to his mind[58]. Even when these original topics were laid aside, and the Lyric Muse acted in another sphere, her strains were still employed, either to commemorate the actions of Deified Heroes, or to record the exploits of persons whom rank and abilities rendered eminently conspicuous.

[Footnote 58: For this reason, says an ingenious and learned Critic, L'Ode monte dans les Cieux, pour y empronter ses images et ses comparaisons du tonnerre, des astres, et des Dieux memes, &c. Reflex. Crit. Vol. I. Sect. 33.]

All these subjects afford a noble field for the play of imagination, and it is a certain truth that the purity of composition is generally defective, in proportion to that degree of sublimity at which the Poet is capable of arriving[59]. Great objects are apt to confound and dazzle the imagination. In proportion as this faculty expands to take them in, its power of conceiving them distinctly becomes less adequate to the subject; and when the mind is overwrought and drained as it were of sentiment, it is no wonder that we find it sometimes attempting to repair this loss, by substituting in the room of true sublimity an affected pomp and exuberance of expression.

[Footnote 59: Ego de oida men hos hai huperbolai megethous phusai hekista katharai. To gar en panta akribes, kindunos smikrotetos; en de tois megethesin hosper en tois agan ploutois, einai te chre kai paraligoroumenon. Me pote ede touto kai anankaiousin, to tas men ta{pein}as kai mesas phuseis dia to medame parakinduneuein mede ephiesthai ton akron, adamartetou hos epi to polu kai asphalesteras diapherein. Longin. de Sublim. Sect. 33.]

That we may conceive more fully the propriety of this observation with regard to Lyric Poetry, I shall now proceed to enquire what part Imagination naturally claims in the composition of the Ode, and what are the errors into which the Poet is most ready to be betrayed.

As to the first, I need not tell your Lordship, that whatever Art proposeth as an ultimate end to excite Admiration, must owe its principal excellence to that Faculty of the mind which delights to contemplate the sublime and the wonderful. This indeed may be called the sphere, in which Imagination peculiarly predominates. When we attempt, even in the course of conversation, to paint any object whose magnificence hath made a strong impression upon the memory, we naturally adopt the boldest and most forcible epithets we can think of, to convey our own idea as compleatly as possible to the mind of another. We are prompted by a powerful propensity to retouch our description again and again, we select the most apposite images to animate our expression; in short, we fall without perceiving it, into the stile and figures of poetry. If then Admiration produceth such an effect upon the mind in the more common occurrences of life, we may conceive the superior influence which it must have upon the imagination of a Poet, when it is wound up to the highest pitch, and is placing a great object in every point of light by which its excellence may most conspicuously appear. It will at least be obvious, that in such a situation the feelings of the heart must be more intensely animated than in any other, not only because Genius is supposed to be the Parent of Sensibility, but as the person who is possessed of this quality exerts the full force of his talents and art to produce one particular effect. He endeavours (as Longinus expresseth it) "not to be seen himself, but to place the idea which he hath formed before the very eye of another[60]."

[Footnote 60: De Sublim. Sect. 32.]

It is a common mistake among people who have not examined this subject, to suppose that a Poet may with greater ease excite Admiration when his theme is sublime, than when it is such as we have been more accustomed to contemplate[61]. This opinion is indeed plausible at the first view, because it may be said that we go half-way to meet that Author, who proposeth to reach an end by means which have an apparent probability to effectuate it; but it will appear upon reflection, that this very circumstance, instead of being serviceable, is in reality detrimental to the Poet.

[Footnote 61: The reader will observe, that Admiration through the whole of this part of the Essay is taken in the largest sense, as including a considerable degree of wonder, which is however a distinct feeling. The former is excited principally by the sublime; the latter by the new and uncommon. These feelings are united, when a subject of moderate dignity is treated in a sublime manner. See the Essay, p. 47, 48.]

Admiration is a passion which can never be excited in any person, unless when there is something great and astonishing, either in the general disposition of a work or in some of the separate members of which it is formed. Thus we admire a whole piece, when we observe that the parts which compose it are placed in a striking and uncommon combination, and we even consider one happy stroke as an indication of genius in the Artist. It frequently happens that the subject of a Poem is of such a nature, as that its most essential members cannot be set in any light distinct from that in which custom and experience has led us to consider them. Thus when the Poet addressed an Hymn to Jupiter, Diana, or Apollo, he could not be ignorant that his readers were well apprised of the general manner, in which it was necessary to treat of these Personages, and that they would have been offended, if he had presumed to differ in any material point from the opinions handed down by traditionary evidence. It was therefore necessary, that the Poet should manage a subject of this kind in the same manner as Rubens and Caypel have painted the Crucifixion, by either varying the attitude of the principal object to make it more sublime and admirable, or by rendering some inferior figure picturesque and animated which had escaped the notice of his Predecessors. When therefore a sublime object is not shown in some great and uncommon point of view, the Poet sinks in our esteem as much as he would have risen in it, if we had found his Genius equal to his Ambition.

As I have already borrowed one illustration from painting, permit me to recall to your Lordship's memory, that noble figure by which the Church of Rome permitted Raphael to represent the Eternal Father, a figure which has always been considered as one of the greatest ornaments of the galleries of the Vatican[62]. Any person may conclude that the difficulty of succeeding in this great attempt, must have bore some proportion to the temerity (shall we call it) of venturing to design it. If this celebrated Artist had failed of throwing into that figure an Air wholly extraordinary, his Design would either have been considered as rash, or his imagination censured as deficient.

[Footnote 62: Raphael is said to have stolen the expression of this figure from Michael Angelo, who was at work on the same subject in another part of the Vatican. We are indebted for this curious anecdote to the ingenious Abbe du Bos. See his Reflex. Crit. sur la Poes. et la Peint. Vol. II.]

On the contrary, the Poet who chuseth a more unpromising subject, and displays an unexpected fertility of invention in his manner of treating it, is admired as an Original Genius, and the perusal of his work excites in our mind the most agreeable mixture of surprize and pleasure.

It must immediately occur to any reader who peruseth the Hymn of Callimachus to Jupiter, that the subject was too great to be properly managed by the correct and elegant genius of that writer. Instead of enlarging (as we should have naturally expected) on any particular perfection of this Supreme Deity, or even of enumerating in a poetical manner the attributes which were commonly ascribed to Him, he entertains us coldly with traditionary stories about His birth and education; and the sublime part of his subject is either wholly omitted, or superficially passed over. Thus speaking of the bird of Jove, he says only,

Thekao d' oionon meg' hupeirochon angeleoten, Son teraon; hat' emoisi philois endexia phainois[63].

Thy bird, celestial messenger, who bears Thy mandate thro' the sky;—O be his flight Propitious to my friends!

[Footnote 63: Callim. Hymn. in Jov. a lin. 68.]

Pindar introduceth this King of the feathered race in a much nobler and more animated manner. He exhibits with true poetic enthusiasm, as an instance of the power of harmony, the following vivid picture.

— — — — — heu- dei ana skapto Dios aietos, o- keian pterug' amphotero- then chalaxeis, Archos aionon; — — — — ho de knosson hugron noton aiorei, teais repaisi kataschomenos[64].

The birds fierce Monarch drops his vengeful ire; Perch'd on the sceptre of the Olympian King, The thrilling darts of harmony he feels, And indolently hangs his rapid wing, While gentle sleep his closing eye-lids seals; And o'er his heaving limbs, in loose array To every balmy gale the ruffling feathers play. WEST.

[Footnote 64: Pind. Pyth. I.]

Homer never touches this sublime subject, without employing the utmost reach of his invention to excite admiration in his reader.

Zeus de Pater idethen eutrochon harma kai hippous Olumpond' edioke, theon d' exeketo thokous. To de kai hippous men luse klutos Ennosigaios Harmata d' ambromoisi tithei, kata lita petassas. Autos de chruseion epi thronon euruopa Zeus Hezeto, to de hupo possi megas pelemizet' Olumpos[65].

—— The Thund'rer meditates his flight From Ida's summits to th' Olympian height. Swifter than thought the wheels instinctive fly, Flame thro' the vast of air, and reach the sky. 'Twas Neptune's charge his coursers to unbrace, And fix the car on its immortal base, &c. He whose all-conscious eyes the world behold, Th' eternal Thunderer, sate thron'd in gold. High heav'n the footstool of his feet He makes, And wide beneath him all Olympus shakes. POPE.

[Footnote 65: Iliad. Lib. VIII.]

I have mentioned these examples, as they shew the light in which a great object will be contemplated by a man of genius; and as the reader will observe that our admiration is not merely excited by the dignity of the theme, but that it results from the great and uncommon circumstances which are happily thrown into the description. Pindar, no doubt, found it a much easier task to raise this passion in favour of Theron, whom he artfully introduceth to the reader's attention, after enquiring of his Muse what God or what distinguished Heroe he should attempt to celebrate[66].

[Footnote 66: This is one of the most artful and best conducted of Pindar's Odes. The introduction is abrupt and spirited, and the Heroe of the Poem is shown to great advantage.

Anaxiphorminges humnoi tina theon, tin' heroa, tina d' andra keladesomen? etoi pisa men Dios; Olumpiada d' esta- sen Eraklees, &c. Therona de tetraorias heneka nekaphorou gegoneteon, ope &c. Pind. Olym. 2da.]

It is however obvious, from what hath been advanced on this subject, that whatever may be the nature of the theme on which the Poet insists, it is the business of Fancy to enliven the whole piece with those natural and animating graces which lead us to survey it with admiration. From the whole therefore it appears, that this Faculty of the mind claims an higher share of merit in the competition of the Ode than in any other species of Poetry; because in the other branches of this art different ends may be obtained, and different expedients may be fallen upon to gain them; but the most perfect kind of Lyric Poetry admits only of that end, to the attainment of which fertility of Imagination is indispensably requisite.

You will recollect, my Lord, a petition laid down in the beginning of this Essay;—that "when Imagination is permitted to bestow the graces of ornament indiscriminately, sentiments are either superficial, and thinly scattered through a work, or we are obliged to search for them beneath a load of superfluous colouring." I shall now endeavour to evince the truth of this reflection, by enquiring more particularly what are the faults into which the Lyric Poet is most ready to be betrayed, by giving a loose rein to that Faculty which colours and enlivens his composition.

It may be observed then in general, that we usually judge of the Genius of a Lyric Poet by the variety of his images, the boldness of his transitions, and the picturesque vivacity of his descriptions. I shall under this head trouble your Lordship with a few reflections on each of these considered separately.

By the Images which are employed in the Ode, I mean those illustrations borrowed from natural and often from familiar objects, by which the Poet either clears up an obscurity, or arrests the attention, and kindles the imagination of his reader. These illustrations have very distinct uses in the different species of poetic composition. The greatest Masters in the Epopee often introduce metaphors, which have only a general relation to the subject; and by pursuing these through a variety of circumstances, they disengage the reader's attention from the principal object. This indeed often becomes necessary in pieces of length, when attention begins to relax by following too closely one particular train of ideas. It requires however great judgment in the Poet to pursue this course with approbation, as he must not only fix upon metaphors which in some points have a striking similarity to the object illustrated, but even the digressive circumstances must be so connected with it, as to exhibit a succession of sentiments which resemble, at least remotely, the subject of his Poem[67]. It must be obvious, at first view, that as the Lyric Poet cannot adopt this plea, his metaphors will always have the happiest effect, when they correspond to the object in such a manner, as to shew its compleat proportions in the fullest point of view, without including foreign and unappropriated epithets. This however is not the course which a Writer of imagination will naturally follow, unless his judgment restrains the excursions of that excentric faculty. He will, on the contrary, catch with eagerness every image which Fancy enlivens with the richest colouring, and he will contemplate the external beauty of his metaphor, rather than consider the propriety with which it is applied as an illustration. It is probably owing to this want of just attention to propriety, that the first Lyric Poets have left such imperfect standards to the imitation of posterity.

[Footnote 67: The reader will meet with many examples of this liberty in the Iliad, some of which Mr. Pope has judiciously selected in the notes of his translation. Milton, in the same spirit, compares Satan lying on the lake of fire, to a Leviathan slumbering on the coast of Norway; and immediately digressing from the strict points of connection, he adds, "that the mariners often mistake him for an island, and cast anchor on his side." Par. Lost, B. II. In this illustration it is obvious, that though the Poet deviates from close imitation, yet he still keeps in view the general end of his subject, which is to exhibit a picture of the fallen Arch angel. See Par. Lost, B. I.]

When we examine the works of later Poets among the Ancients, we find that even those of them who are most exceptionable in other circumstances, have yet in a great measure corrected this mistake of their predecessors. In the lyric Odes of Euripides and Sophocles, the metaphors made use of are generally short, expressive, and fitted to correspond with great accuracy to the point which requires to be illustrated[68]. Pindar is in many instances equally happy in the choice of his images, which are frequently introduced with address, and produce a very striking effect[69].

[Footnote 68: The reader may consider, as an example, of the following verses of the Ode of Sophocles to the Sun.

Polla gar host' akamantos e Notou e Borea tis kumata eurei ponto bant' epionta t' idoi houto de ton kadmogene trephei; to d' auxei biotou poluponon hoste pelagos kretion. Soph. Trachin.]

[Footnote 69: Of this the reader will find a noble instance in Pindar's first Pythian Ode, where he employs from the verse beginning nausiphoretais d' adrasea, &c. to the end of the stanza, one of the happiest and most natural illustrations that is to be met with either in the works of Pindar, or in those of any Poet whatever. The abrupt address to Phoebus, when he applies the metaphor, is peculiarly beautiful.]

It is likewise necessary that the Poet should take care in the higher species of the Ode, to assign to every object that precise degree of colour, as well as that importance in the arrangement of sentiments which it seems peculiarly to demand. The same images which would be considered as capital strokes in some pieces can be admitted only as secondary beauties in others; and we might call in question both the judgment and the imagination of that Poet who attempts to render a faint illustration adequate to the object, by clothing it with profusion of ornament. A defect likewise either in the choice, or in the disposition, of images, is conspicuous in proportion to the importance of the subject, as well as to the nature of those sentiments with which it stands in more immediate connection. It is therefore the business of the Lyric Poet, who would avoid the censure of competing with inequality, to consider the colouring of which particular ideas are naturally susceptible, and to discriminate properly betwixt sentiments, whose native sublimity requires but little assistance from the pencil of art, and a train of thought which (that it may correspond to the former) demands the heightening of poetic painting. The astonishing inequalities which we meet with, even in the productions of unquestioned Genius, are originally to be deduced from the carelessness of the Poet who permitted his imagination to be hurried from one object to another, dwelling with pleasure upon a favourite idea, and passing slightly over intermediate steps, that he may catch that beauty which fluctuates on the gaze of Expectation.

I shall only observe further on this subject, that nothing is more contrary to the end of Lyric Poetry, than that habit of spinning out a metaphor which a Poet sometimes falls into by indulging the sallies of imagination. This will be obvious, when we reflect that every branch of the Ode is characterised by a peculiar degree of vivacity and even vehemence both of sentiment and expression. It is impossible to preserve this distinguishing character, unless the thoughts are diversified, and the diction is concise. When a metaphor is hunted down (if I may use that expression) and a description overwrought, its force and energy are gradually lessened, the object which was originally new becomes familiar, and the mind is satiated instead of being inflamed.

We must not think that this method of extending an illustration discovers always a defect or sterility of the inventive Faculty. It is, in truth, the consequence of that propensity which we naturally feel to consider a favourite idea in every point of light, and to render its excellence as conspicuous to others as it is to ourselves. By this means sentiments become superficial, because the mind is more intent upon their external dress, that their real importance. They are likewise thinly scattered through a work, because each of them receives an higher proportion or ornament than justly belongs to it. We frequently judge of them likewise, in the same manner as a birthday suit is estimated by its purchaser, not by the standard of intrinsic value, but by the opinion of the original proprietor. Thus to superficial readers,

——— verbum emicuit si forte decorum, Si versus paulo concinnior unus aut alter Injuste totum ducit, venditque poema[70].

One simile that solitary shines In the dry desart of a thousand lines, Or lengthen'd thought that gleams thro' many a page, Has sanctified whole poems for an age. POPE.

[Footnote 70: Hor. Epist. Lib. II. Epist. 1.]

Custom, my Lord, that sovereign arbiter, from whose decision in literary as well as in civil causes, there frequently lies no appeal, will lead us to consider boldness of transition as a circumstance which is peculiarly characteristic of the Ode. Lyric Poets have in all ages appropriated to themselves the liberty of indulging imagination in her most irregular excursions; and when a digression is remotely similar to the subject, they are permitted to fall into it at any time by the invariable practice of their Predecessors. Pindar expressly lays claim to this privilege.

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