網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

life to a man's compassion. The adder, however, prepared to sting him, and when he expostulated how unjust it was to retaliate good with evil, I shall do no more (said the adder) than what you men practise every day, whose custom it is to requite benefits with ingratitude. If you can deny this truth, let us refer it to the first we meet. The man consented, and seeing a tree, put the question to it, in what manner a good turn was to be recompensed? If you mean according to the usage of men (replied the tree), by its contrary. I have been standing here these hundred years to protect them from the scorching sun, and in requital, they have cut down my branches, and are going to saw my body into planks. Upon this the adder insulting the man, he appealed to a second evidence, which was granted, and immediately they met

The same demand was made, and much the same answer given, that among men it was certainly so : I know it, said the cow, by woeful experience; for I have served a man this long time with milk, butter, and cheese, and brought him besides a calf every year: but now I am old, he turns me into this pasture, with design to sell me to a butcher, who will shortly make an end of me. The traveller

this stood confounded, but desired of courtesy one trial more, to be finally judged by the next beast they should meet. This happened to be the fox, who, upon hearing the story in all its circumstances, could not be persuaded it was possible for the adder to get into so narrow a bag. The adder, to convince him, went in again ; the fox told the man he had now his enemy in his power, and with that he fastened the bag, and crushed him to pieces.

upon

a cow.

[blocks in formation]

Unde perentur opes; quid alat, formetque poetam.

Hor. Ars Port. v. 306.
I will teach to write,
Tell what the duty of a poet is,
Wherein his wealth and ornament consist,
And how he may be form’d, and how improv'd.

ROSCOMMON.

IT is no small pleasure to me, who am zealous in

the interests of learning, to think I may have the honour of leading the town into a very new and uncommon road of criticism. As that kind of literature is at present carried on, it consists only in a knowledge of mechanic rules, which contribute to the structure of different sorts of poetry; as the receipts of good housewives do to the making puddings of flour, oranges, plums, or any other ingredients. It would, methinks, make these my instructions more easily intelligible to ordinary readers, if I discoursed of these matters in the style in which ladies learned in æconomics dictate to their pupils for the improvement of the kitchen and larder.

I shall begin with Epic poetry, because the critics agree it is the greatest work human nature is capable of. I know the French have already laid down many mechanical rules for compositions of this sort ; but at the same time they cut off almost all undertakers from the possibility of ever performing them: for the first qualification they unanimously require in a poet, is a genius. I shall here endeavour (for the benefit of my countrymen) to make it manifest, that epic poems may be made without a genius,' nay, without learn. ing or much reading. This must necessarily be of great use to all those poets who confess they never read, and of whom the world is convinced they never learn. What Moliere observes of making a dinner, that any man can do it with money, and if a professed cook cannot without, he has his art for nothing; the same may be said of making a poem, it is easily brought about by him that has a genius, but the skill lies in doing it without on .

In pursuance of this end I shall present the reader with a plain and certain recipe, by which even sonneteers and ladies may be qualified for this grand performance.

I know it will be objected, that one of the chief qualifications of an epic poet, is to be knowing in all arts and sciences. But this ought not to discourage those that have no learning, as long as indexes and dictionaries may be had, which are the compendium of all knowledge. Besides, since it is an established rule, that none of the terms of those arts and sciences are to be made use of, one may venture to affirm, our poet cannot impertinently offend in this point. The learning which will be more particularly necessary to him, is the ancient geography of towns, mountains, and rivers : for this let him take Cluverius, value fourpence.

Another quality required is a complete skill in lariguages. To this I answer, that it is notorious persons of no genius have been oftentimes great linguists. To instance in the Greek, of which there are two sorts; the original Greek, and that from which our modern authors translate. I should be unwilling to promise impossibilities; but, modestly speaking, this may

be learned in about an hour's time with ease. I have known one, who became a sudden professor of Greek, immediately upon application of the left-hand page of the Cambridge Homer to his eye. It is, in these days, with authors as with other men, the wellbred are familiarly acquainted with them at first sight; and as it is sufficient for a good general to have surveyed the ground he is to conquer, so it is enough for a good poet to have seen the author he is to be master of. But to proceed to the purpose of this paper.

A RECIPE TO MAKE AN EPIC POEM.

FOR THE FABLE.

Take out of any old poem, history-book, romance, or legend (for instance, Geffry of Monmouth, or Don Belianis of Greece,) those parts of story which afford most scope for long descriptions ; put these pieces together, and throw all the adventures you fancy into one tale. Then take a hero whom you may choose for the sound of his name, and put him into the midst of these adventures : there let him work for twelve books; at the end of which you may take him out, ready prepared to conquer or to marry ; it being necessary that the conclusion of an epic poem be fortunate.

To make an Episode. – Take any remaining adventure of your former collection, in which you

could involve

your hero; or any unfortunate acci. dent that was too good to be thrown away, and it will be of use, applied to

any
other
person,

who

may be lost and evaporate in the course of the work, without the least damage to the composition.

For the Moral and Allegory.- These you may extract out of the fable afterwards at your leisure. Be sure you strain them sufficiently.

no way

FOR THE MANNERS.

For those of the hero, take all the best qualities you can find in all the best celebrated heroes of antiquity; if they will not be reduced to a consistency, lay them all on a heap upon him. But be sure they are qualities which your patron would be thought to have ; and, to prevent any mistake which the world

may be

subject to, select from the alphabet those capital letters that compose his name, and set them at the head of a dedication before your poem. However, do not absolutely observe the exact quantity of these virtues, it not being determined whether or no it be necessary for the hero of a poem to be an honest man. For the under characters, gather them from Homer and Virgil, and change the names as occasion serves.

FOR THE MACHINES.

Take of Deities, male and female, as many as you can use. Separate them into two equal parts, and keep Jupiter in the middle. Let Juno put him in a ferment, and Venus mollify him. Remember, on all occasions, to make use of volatile Mercury. If you have need of devils, draw them out of Milton's Para. dise, and extract your spirits from Tasso. The use of these machines is evident; for since no epic poem can possibly subsist without them, the wisest way is to reserve them for your greatest necessities. When you cannot extricate your hero by any human means, or yourself by your own wits, seek relief from Heaven, and the gods will do your business very readily. This is according to the direct prescription of Horace in his Art of Poetry

Nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus
Inciderit

v. 191.
Never presurne to make a god appeas,
But for a business worthy of a god.

RosCOMMON. That is to say, a poet should never call upon for their assistance, but when he is in great perplexity.

the gods

FOR THE DESCRIPTIONS. For a Tempest. -- Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auster, and Boreas, and cast them together in one verse. Add to these of rain, lightning, and of thunder, (the loudest you can,) quantum sufficit. Mix your clouds

« 上一頁繼續 »