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i6g. S*d Habet Comoedia Tanto ?lv$ Oneris, Quanto Veniae Minus.] Tragedy, whose intention is to affeU, may secure what is most essential to its kind, though k fail in some minuter resemblances of nature: Comedy, proposing for its mail end exaeJ representation, is fundamentally defective, if it do not perfectly succeed in it. And this explains the ground of the poet's observation, that Comedy hath veitiat minus; for he is speaking of the draught of the manners only, in which respect a greater indulgence is very deservedly shewn to the tragic than comic writer. But though Tragedy hath thus far the advantage, yet in another respect its laws are more severe than those of Comedy; and that is in the conduct of the fable. It may be aslead then, which of the two dramas is, on the whole, most difficult.. To which the answer is decisive. For Tragedy, whose end is the Pathos, produces it by atlitn, while Comedy produces its end, the Humourous, by Character. Now it is much more difficult to paint manners, than to plan action; because that requires the philosopher's knowledge of human nature, this, only the historian's knowledge of human events.
I77. QuKM TUI.IT AD SCENAM VENTOSQ GLORIA CURRU, EXANIMAT 1ENTOS Specta
. Tor &c. to * 182.] There is an exquisite spirit of pleafantry in these lines, which hath quite evaporated in the hands of the critics. These have gravely supposed them to come from the per/on of the pott,
self, in prepria persona, to employ his idle raillery against either. ..;; > .z.; •;.?';
These interlocutory passages, laying open the sentiments of those, against whom the poet is disputing, are very frequent in the critical and moral writings of Horace, and are well suited to their dramatic genius-and original. , .
210. Ille'per EXTENTtfM FUNEM &C.] The
Romans, who were immoderately addicted to spectacles of every kind, had in particular esteem thefunambuli, or rope-dancers;
[Jta populus Jludio Jlupidus in FUNAMBULO
From the admiration of whose tricks the expression, ire per extentum/unem, came to denote, proverbially, an uncommon degree of excellence and perfection in any thing. The allusion is, here, made with much pleafantry, as the poet had just been rallying their fondness for these extraordinary achievements.
210. TLLE PER EXTENTUM FUNEM &£. to
£214.] It is observable, that Horace, here, makes his own seeling the test of poetical merit. Which is said with a philosophical exactness. For the pathos in tragic, humour in comic, and the fame holds of thfi fublinie m the narrative, and of every other species of excellence in univerfal poetry, is the object not of reason biiisentiment; and can be estimated only from its impressions on the mind, not by any speculative of *' ■ -■ • • . gene
general rules. Rules themselves are indeed nothing else but an appeal to experience; conclusions drawn from wide and general observation of the aptness and essicacy of certain means to produce those impressions. So that seeling or sentiment itself is not only the surest but the sole ultimate arbiter of works of genius.
Yet, though this be true, the invention of general rules is not without its merit, nor the application of them without its use, as may appear from the following considerations. - It may be assirmed, univerfally, of all didactic wri~ ting, that it is employed in referring particular facts to general principles. General principles themselves can often be reserred to others more general; and these again carried still higher, till we come to a single principle, in which all the rest are involved. When this is done, science of every kind hath attained its highest persection.
The account, here given, might be illustrated from various instances. But it will be sussicient to confine ourselves to the single one of criticism; by which I understand that species of didactic writing, which refers to general rules the virtues and faults of compestion. And the persection of this art would consist in an ability to reser every beauty and blemish to a separate class; and every class, by a gradual progression, to some one single principle. But the art is, as yet, far (hort of persection. For many of these beauties and blemishes can be reserred to no general rule at all; and the rules, which have been disco
G 3 vered,