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with that of her name
ne-fake in this story, we may find the genius of each Poet discovering itself in the language of the nurse : Virgil's Iris could not have spoken more majestically in her own ihape ; but Juno is so much altered from herself in Ovid, that the goddess is quite lost in the old woman.
P. 160. 1. 9. She can't begin, &c.] If playing .on words be excusable in any Poem, it is in this, where Echo is a speaker ; but it is so mean a kind of wit, that, if it deserves excuse, it can claim no more.
Mr. Locke, in his Efläy of Human Understanding, has given us the best account of wit in short that can any where be met with. “ Wit, says he, lies in “ the aflemblage of ideas, and putting those together “ with quickness and variety, wherein can be found
any resemblance or congruity, thereby to make up “ pleasant pictures and agreeable vifions in the fancy," Thus does true wit, as this incomparable author observes, generally consist in the likeness of ideas, and is more or less wit, as this likeness in ideas is more surprizing and unexpected. But as true wit is nothing else but a similitude in ideas, so is false wit the fimilitude in words, whether it lies in the likeness of letters only, as in Anagram and Acrostic; or of Syl-, lables, as in doggrel rhymes; or whole words, as Puns, Echoes, and the like. Beside these two kinds of false and true wit, there is another of a middle nature, that has something of both in it when in
two ideas that have some resemblance with each other, and are both expresied by the same word, we make use of the ambiguity of the word to speak that of one idea included under it, which is proper to the other. Thus, for example, most languages have hit on the word, which properly signifies fire, to express love by (and therefore we may be sure there is some resemblance in the ideas mankind have of them); from hence the witty Poets of all languages, when they once have called Love a fire, consider it no longer as the passion, but speak of it under the notion of a real fire; and, as the turn of wit requires, make the same word in the same sentence stand for either of the ideas that is annexed to it. When Ovid's Apollo falls in love, he burns with a new flame; when the SeaNymphs languish with this passion, they kindle in the water ; the Greek Epigrammatist fell in love with one that flung a snow-ball at him, and therefore takes occasion to admire how fire could be thus concealed in (now. In short, whenever the Poet feels any thing in this love that resembles something in fire, he carries on this agreement into a kind of allegory; but if, as in the preceding instances, he finds
any circumstance in his love contrary to the nature of fire, he calls his love a fire, and by joining this circumstance to it furprizes his reader with a seeming contradiction. I should not have dwelt so long on this instance, had it not been so frequent in Ovid, who is the greatest admirer of this mixt wit of all the ancients, as Cowley is among the moderns.
Homer, Virgil, Ho.
race, and the greatest Poets, scorned it; as indeed it is only fit for Epigram, and little copies of verses : one would wonder therefore how so sublime a genius as Milton could sometimes fall into it, in such a work as an Epic Poem. But we must attribute it to his humouring the vicious taste of the age he lived in, and the false judgment of our unlearned Englith readers in general, who have few of them a relish of the more masculine and noble beauties of Poetry.
Ovid seems particularly pleased with the fubject of this story, but has notoriously fallen into a fault he is often taxed with, of not knowing when he has said enough, by his endeavouring to excel. How has he turned and twisted that one thought of Narcissus's, being the person beloved, and the lover too ?
"Cunctaque miratur quibus eft mirabilis ipfe, “ –Qui probat, ipse probatur. “ Dumque petit petitur, pariterque incendit et ardet, « Atque oculos idem qui decipit incitat error. “ Perque oculos perit ipse suos-
“ Uror amore mei, flammas moveoque feroque, &c." But we cannot meet with a better instance of the ex. travagance and wantonness of Ovid's fancy, than in that particular circumstance at the end of the story, of Narcissus's gazing on his face after death in the Stygian waters. The design was very bold, of making a boy fall in love with himself here on earth ; but to torture him with the same passion after death, and not to let his ghost rest in quiet, was intolerably cruel and uncharitable.
P. 161. 1. 8. But whilft within, &c.] “ Dumque 66 fitim sedare cupit fitis altera crevit.” We have here a touch of that mixed wit I have before fpoken of; but I think the meafure of pun in it out-weighs the true wit; for if we express the thought in other words the turn is almost loft. This passage of Narcissus probably gave Milton the hint of applying it to Eve, though I think her surprize, at the fight of her own face in the water, far more just and natural than this of Narcisfus. She was a raw unexperienced being, just created, and therefore might easily be subject to the delusion; but Narciffus had been in the world fixteen years, was brother and son to the water-nymphs, and therefore to he supposed conversant with fountains long before this fatal mistake.
P. 162. I. 8. You trees, says he, &c.] Ovid is very justly celebrated for the passionate speeches of his Poem. They have generally abundance of nature in them, but I leave it to better judgments to consider whether they are not often too witty and too tedious. The Poet never cares for smothering a good thought that comes in his way, and never thinks he can draw, tears enough from his reader : by which means our grief is either diverted or spent before we 'come to his conclusion; for we cannot at the fame time be delighted with the wit of the Poet, and concerned for the person that speaks it; and a great Critic has admirably well observed, “ Lainentationes debent efle breves et
r concifæ, nam lacryma subitò excrescit, et difficile
- Outinam nostro secedere corpore possem !
A B VII,
“ Efte, precor, memores, quâ fitis ftirpe creati,