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Our poetry, (for whatever is written in the English language properly belongs to the Americans who speak it,) is divided into many kinds: the Sacred, Classical, Romantic, Dramatic, &c. Sacred poetry relates to serious subjects, to the scriptures, and to the praise of God. Milton's Paradise Lost, and Watts/Hymns, are sacred poetry, and so are many parts of the Old Testament. Classical poetry is that which has been translated from Greek and Latin. Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad, and Dryden's translation of Virgil, are classical poetry. Romantic poetry, or metrical romance, relates a tale in verse: as, The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott. Dramatic poetry is composed of poems in dialogue, or discourse of persons, which relate a story: Shakspeare's Lear, and the tragedy of Douglas, are of this class.
In order to understand the greater part of poetry, it is necessary to know something of Mythology and Classical Fable. A young reader may get this information from the Classical Dictionary, a book in very common use. Poetry which relates to fictions taken from the north of Europe, alludes often to Scandinavian Mythology, or to the superstitions of the more northern nations of Europe. The writers of Romantic poetry have supptied notes to their works, which make their text very clear.
The Epic Poem, relates a long history of some great -event. It has what is called the beginning, middle, and
end of the action. The beginning is the cause of what follows; the middle relates the progress or carrying-on of the action; the end is its catastrophe, or finishing. Homer's Iliad is an Epic poem—the story related in it is a war between the princes of Greece and those of Troy. The cause of the war was the elopement of Helen, a Grecian princess, with a young Trojan. The war itself consisted of a series of engagements or battles between the Greeks and Trojans, which are described by Homer in many successive books of the Iliad ; and the catastrophe, or end of the poem, is the death of Hector, the Trojan prince,who alone could defend Troy; and the destruction of that city by the Greeks, must be supposed immediately to follow.
When a long tale in verse relates some private history, which includes but a small number of persons in the action, it is Metrical Romance.
The Ode was perhaps originally designed to be sung. It is a poem usually addressed to some real or ideal personage, or it celebrates some distinguished individual. Gray's Ode to Spring, is addressed to the season of Spring, upon the supposition that she is a female, endowed with the capacity of knowing what is addressed to her, and of answering the prayer of the poet. Dryden's Alexander's Feast, is an ode which celebrates the music of the ancients, but it was first written to be recited or sung“ on St. Cecilia's Day. St. Cecilia is a Catholic Saint, the supposed inventress of the harp. A painter has represented her attended by St. Peter and St. Paul, with an angel hovering over them, listening to the music she made, which was to represent, that it was believed she drew angels from Heaven. Mr. Dryden writes thus of her :
"At last divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
Enlarged the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
Șhe drew an angel down.”
skies.” Some centuries after Timotheus lived, it is said that St. Cecilia “ enlarged the bounds” of ancient music, by the invention of the harp-an instrument with more strings, and capable of producing a greater variety of sounds than the ancient lyre.
It was customary among the Greeks for musicians, or poets who excelled all others to receive a wreath, or crown at the public festivals, as a mark of admiration from those who heard them, and as the reward of their excellence. Timotheus might have received such a crown, but Dryden commands him to resign to St. Cecilia, or to divide it with her, because she surpassed him in his art.
If, in prose writing, an author should speak of two persons living at different periods of time, as contemporaries or existing together, it would be called an anachronism, or disregard of time—but poets are sometimes allowed to speak thus, and their liberty to exceed the limits of strict truth, is poetic license.
The Elegy is a melancholy poem, written upon some subject which of itself excites the feeling of sadness. The most popular and most beautiful elegy in our language, is Gray's, upon a country churchyard. It celebrates no distinguished individual, but was composed under a deep feeling that it is appointed to all men, once to die, and, that each “ in his narrow bed for ever laid,” all men are equal, or in the same condition. A tender sorrow for the fate of the dead, and a veneration for those moral and intellectual capacities for excellence and happiness, which God dispenses without respect to fortune or power, seem to have inspired this most exquisite production. The young cannot comprehend all its beauty and truth, but in mature life, it is impossible that he who feels for all that live, should not be affected by this sweet picture of the lot of mortality, and the virtues of humble life.
The Ballad is a narrative song. Ballads are usually composed among a rude people in the early ages of society, and after society becomes more highly civilized, some writers imitate the old ballads ; but in highly polished communities ballads are too simple to please as new and original,—they must, to be interesting, refer to the manners of a past age. The Children in the Wood is a pretty ballad, and very well known.
The Eclogue is a narrative, or a descriptive poem, meant to exhibit the particular manners of some few individuals in a country. The Eclogue is often a conversation. Collins' Fclogues are much read-one of them, Hassan the Camel Driver. will be found in this collection.
Satire is, in its best character, a moral lecture in verse
acensure upon something which is respected without deserving to be so- of some person who is generally approved, or of some prevailing conduct which is allowed without much blame. Satire endeavours to make its subject, whatever it is, contemptible. Satire is sometimes wholesome correction of what is wrong, and sometimes it is mean malignity--the spirit which a writer of talents expresses against some person whom he unworthily hates. Juve. nal's Satires from the Latin are translated into English they describe the corrupt manners of the people in Rome, during the reigns of the emperors Nero, Domitian, and Trajan. Pope's and Young's Satires are, among Eng. lish poetry, of this description—they attack follies and persons, ridiculous in their time. Satire is like a caricature, it diverts when first known, but unless it is very just and happy, it soon ceases to give pleasure.
The Epitaph is designed for a memorial of the dead, and is generally a few verses inscribed upon a tombstone. The following one has been much admired.
“ON THE COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE.
“ Underneath this marble hearse
Death, ere thou hast killed another
Time shall throw a dart at thee.''-Ben Jonson. This epitaph expresses very high praise. Before another so exalted by all merit as this lady was, should die, Death himself would cease to number his victims, for she
surpassed all who should live after her But this is hyperbole, or exaggeration. These lines are pretty, and epigrammatic, that is, the words have a variety of meaning, unexpectedly and happily presented to the mind of the reader-but they are wanting in simplicity. Simplicity is
a single purpose. The epitaph not only praises Lady - Pembroke, it intimates the dignity of her brother, Sir
Philip Sidney, and of her son, the earl of Pembroke, and it disparages the rest of her sex by comparison with her;-still it is,-(as we sometimes apply his word to expressive language,) -very hopry ; it conveys much in a few words. One of Mr. Pope's epitaphs is a very pure and beautiful tribute to a good woman.
“EPITAPH ON MRS. CORBET.
Blest with plain reason, and with sober sense.
The Epigram is a few verses expressing a perspicu. ous and pointed meaning, and it usually conveys a brief satire. Mild William Clarke, grandfather to Dr. Clarke, the traveller, composed an epigram on seeing the inscription which is engraved over the vault, or family tornb, of the Dukes of Richmond.—The inscription is Domus ultima-in English, the last house, and the epigram, the following:
“ Did he who thus inscribed the wall
That house is not a house of Lords ?" The writer here intimates that something which suggests the idea of eternal life, ought to be written over the