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passion and the poetical figures, may be more exactly ascertained, by defining what is properly meant by poetical figures. It is (if I am not mistaken)a comparison, either expressed or understood, between two objects, about one of which the mind is particularly engaged, and which it perceives bear's some affinity to another. The comparison, properly so called, expresses every feature of that resemblance at full length, the allusion points it out in a more slight and general manner, and the metaphor, disdaining that slow deduction of ideas, boldly substitutes to the object of the comparison, that to which it is compared. In the instance Mr. Hurd has taken from Tacitus, “ Ne vestis serica viros fædaret," we may note this difference between the three species of figures. In a comparison he might have said, “ that a silken garment was so disgraceful to a man, that it was like a pollution to his body." Had he said, “ that a silken garment, like a pollution, was to be avoided by a man,” it would have been an allusion: but, dropping every intermediate idea, he reports the law by which no silken garment was to pollute a man. This is a metaphor, and of his own creation; but there are many where spiritual faculties, and operations, are expressed by material images, which, though figurative in their origin, are, by time and use, almost become literal. These are the figures of poetry. I a sensible there are rhetorical ones also, but those, I believe, relate rather to the expression and distribution of the former,
Let us now, from these principles, investigate the workings of passion. It has been often observed, that the highest agitation of the mind is such as no language can describe; since language can only paint ideas, and not that sentimental, silent, almost stupid, excess of rage or grief, which the soul feels with such energy, that it is not master of itself enough to have any distinct perceptions; such passion baffles all description : but when this storm subsides, passion is as fertile in ideas, as it was at first barren: when some striking interest collects all our attention to one object, we consider it under every light it is susceptible of; even that rebel attention, chained down with difficulty to any range of ideas, endeavours as much as possible to enlarge the sphere of them; and as the agitation of our mind crouds them upon us, almost at the same instant, instead of presenting them slowly and singly, we cannot avoid being struck with many comparisons suitable to our situation. The past, the present, the future, our misfortunes, those of other men, our friends, our enemies, our ancestors, our posterity, form within us numberless combinations of ideas, either to assuage or irritate the reigning passion.* But those
* When Marius, proscribed by the party of Sylla, was obliged, after a thousand dangers, to take refuge on the coast of Africa, the prætor of that province sent him an order to leave it immediately: the lictor found him plunged in thought, and sitting on some stones on the beach. When he asked him what answer be should carry back to the prætor, “Tell him, (replied Marius)
of the first species, though they strike us with force, we reject as much as in our power; and therefore the poet who expresses them in words ought rarely to go farther than an allusion, or a metaphor: those indeed are in general the darling figures of passion, as it loves to pass with rapidity from one idea to another. However, in those conjunctions of ideas which feed and irritate the passion, she will sometimes dwell with complacency upon them, and pursue them to the minutest resemblances of a simile. I appeal to the breast of every one for the evidence of these positions; and as to the last, I shall instance the noble speech with which Juno opens the Æneid, and rousing herself to vengeance, from the comparison of her behaviour with that of Pallas, collects every circumstance of it which could stimulate her more strongly to the execution
of it. Vol. i. To return to Mr. Hurd's notes. He employs p. 81-87.
several passages to prove, what I fancy no one would have disputed him; that though the words, pulchrum, beau, beautiful, are often used to express the general conception of beauty, they are sometimes made to signify that particular sort of beauty which pleases the imagination, opposed to that which affects the heart.
that thou hast seen Marius sitting upon the ruins of Carthage." This implied comparison between his fall, and that of a once powerful city, displayed on the same spot, is poetically bold. Yet passion and real misfortune, joined to the coincidency of place, could suggest it to Marius, a rough illiterate soldier. Is not this a striking illustration of Mr. Hurd's theory?
Aristotle Aristotle had blamed the Iphigenia of Euripides, as a character ill-supported; so timid at first, afterwards so determined. The general opinion had extended the same reproach to his Electra. Mr. Hurd undertakes their vindication. If Electra feels so much remorse after the murder of her mother, though the principal author of it, we must consider that she is no where described as devoid of natural tenderness; though the thirst of revenge, supported by the maxims of her times, such as the doctrine of remunerative justice, of fate, and of the heinousness of adultery, had for a time subdued it. Besides, her hatred was chiefly pointed at Ægisthus, and her remorse is greatly exaggerated. As to Iphigenia, her timidity, when acquainted she was to be sacrificed, is easily accounted for; as she was surprised, and, at that time, ignorant of the reasons which required it. Even to the last, her constancy is yet mixed with some regret and repining.
Upon v, 148, Mr. Hurd attempts to account for, and establish one of the most important rules of Epic poetry. A poet may either tell his story in Vol. i. the natural historical order, or, rushing at once into po? the middle of his subject, he may afterwards introduce, by way of episode, the events previous to it. Which method should he observe? Homer, at least in one of his poems, has preferred the last;* and in
* In the Odyssey. As to the Iliad, properly speaking, he has followed neither. The events previous to the subject, the anger of Achilles, he neither relates himself, nor throws into an episode ; but as they were few and simple, he leaves the reader to collect them from occasional hints dispersed through the poem.
that, as well as in most other things, has been followed by his successors; by Virgil, by Milton, by Voltaire, and (in this instance I may call him an epic poet) by Fenelon. But as many things that have stood the test of time, cannot endure that of reason, I shall venture to start some objections to this niethod, and to consider, in a few words, Mr. Hurd's defence of it.
Ist, Supposing the rule founded on reason, it is too vague to reduce to practice. Since the greatest part of the poem is to consist in a recital, where the poet himself speaks, when is that recital to begin? with the principal action? But in those great, though simple subjects, that alone are worthy of the epic muse; such, for example, as the establishment of Eneas in Italy; there are a great number of previous events, which either hasten or retard the catastrophe. Are they part of the subject? They are intimately connected with it, and no critic ever required unity of place in the epopæa. Are they not? How then can the loves of Eneas and Dido be justified? And if they can, why may not Æneas's meeting Andromache in Epirus be as much a part of the principal subject, as his meeting Dido at Carthage? I might in this manner follow the thread of the episodical story, perhaps to the beginning of the second, but certainly to the beginning of the third book of the Æneid, (and were I to take the Odyssey, or any other epic poem, it would be the same,) and ask at every pause, why the bard might not begin his invocation from thence, like Horace himself: