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nited force, accounts for a fact that may appear surprising; which is, that we are more moved by a fpirited narrative at second hand, than by being fpectators of the event itself, in all its circumItances.
Longinus exemplifies the foregoing rule by a comparison of two passages *. The first, from Ariftæus, is thus translated :
Ye pow'rs, what madness! how on ships so frail
The other, from Homer, I shall give in Pope's translation :
Bursts as a wave that from the cloud impends,
In the latter passage, the most striking circum-
Chap. 8. of the Sublisac.
astonishment. The former is a collection of mihute and low circumstances, which scatter the thought, and make no impression: it is at the fame tinie full of verbal antitheses and low conceit, extremely improper in a scene of distress. But this last observation is made occasionally only, as it belongs not to the present head.
The following description of a battle is remarkably subline, by collecting together in the fewest words, those circumítances which make the greatest figure.
Like Autumn's dark storms pouring from two echoing hills ; toward each other approached the heroes: as two dark streams from high rocks, meet and roar on the plain; loud, rough, and dark in battle, meet Lochlin and Inis. fail. Chief mixes his strokes with chief, and man with man : steel sounds on steel, and helmets are cleft on high: blood bursts and smokes around : strings murmur on the polish'd yew : darts rush along the sky: spears fall like sparks of flame that gild the stormy face of night.
As the noise of the troubled ocean when roll the waves on high, as the last peal of thundering heaven; such is the noise of battle. Though Cormac's hundred bards were there, feeble were the voice of a hundred bards, to fend the deaths to future times; for many were the deaths of the heroes, and wide poured the blood of the valiant.
In the twenty-first book of the Odyssey, there is a passage which deviates widely from the rule above laid down: it concerns that part of the listory of Penelope and her suitors, in which she is made
to declare in favour of him, who should prove the most dexterous in shooting with the bow of Ulysses :
Now gently winding up the fair ascent,
Virgil sometimes errs against this rule: in the following passages, minute circumstances are brought into full view; and what is still worse, they are described with all the pomp of poetical diction, Æneid, L. 1. 1. 214. to 219. L. 6. l. 176. to 182. L. 6. 1. 212. to 231. : and the last, which describes a funeral, is the less excusable, as the man whose funeral it is makes no figure in
The speech of Clytemnestra, descending from her chariot in the Iphigenia of Euripides*, is
* Beginning of act 3.
stuffed with a number of common and trivial circumstances.
But of all writers, Lucan in this article is the most injudicious : the sea-fight between the Ronians and Massilians *, is described so much in detail, without exhibiting any grand or total view, that the reader is fatigued with endless circumstances, without ever feeling any degree of elevation; and yet there are some fine incidents, those for example of the two brothers, and of the old man and his son, which, taken separately, would affect us greatly. But Lucan, once engaged in a description, knows no bounds. See other passages of the same kind, L. 4. l. 292. to 337. L. 4. l. 750. to 765. The episode of the forceress Ericho, end of book 6. is intolerably minute and prolix.
To these I venture to oppose a passage from an old historical ballad :
Go, little page, tell Hardiknute
That lives on hill so high to
And haste to follow me.
Flung by his master's arm.
« And rid your king from harm.” This rule is also applicable to other fine arts. In painting it is established, that the principal fi
* Lib. 3. beginning at line 567.
gure must be
put in the strongest light; that the beauty of attitude consists in placing the nobler parts most in view, and in supprefling the smaller parts as much as possible; that the folds of the drapery must be few and large ; that foreshortenings are bad, because they make the parts appear little; and that the muscles ought to be kept as entire as possible, without being divided into small sections. Every one at present subfcribes to this rule as applied to gardening, in opposition to parterres split into a thousand small parts in the stiffelt regularity of figure. The niost eminent architects have governed themselves by the same rule in all their works.
Another rule chiefly regards the fublime, though it is applicable to every sort of literary performance intended for amusement; and that . is, to avoid as much as possible abftract nd general terms. Such terms, similar to mathematical signs, are contrived to express our thoughts in a concise manner; but images, which are the life of poetry, cannot be raised in any perfection, otherwise than by introducing particular objects. General terms that comprehend a number of individuals, must be excepted from this rule: our kindred, our clan, our country, and words of the like import, though they scarce raise any image, have notwithstanding a wonderful power over our passions: the greatness of the complex object overbalances the obscurity of the image. VOL.I.