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We both thrive best asunder.
Lean. You're a whore.
Bian. Fear nothing, sir.
Lean. An impudent, spiteful strumpet.
Bian. Oh, sir, you give me thanks for your captainship; I thought you had forgot all your good manners.
Lean. And, to spite thee as much, look there; there read,
[Gives her a paper. Vex, gnaw; thou shalt find there I am not love-starv'd. The world was never yet so cold, or pityless, But there was ever still more charity found out, Than at one proud fool's door; and 'twere hard, i'faith, If I could not pass that. Read to thy shame there; A cheerful, and a beauteous benefactor too, As e'er erected the good works of love.
Bian. (aside.) Lady Livia! *
Is't possible? Her worship was my pandress;
Lean. I shall find time
Bian. 'Twas said last week there would be change of weather,
Lean. Why here's sin made, and ne'er a conscience put to't;
One more quotation, and we have done. It is where the Cardinal de Medici reproves his brother, the Duke of Florence, for his misdoings. The scene, though on the whole a little tedious, is impressive. We give a part of it only:
"Enter Lord Cardinal attended.
"Card. Set those lights down:
Duke. (Aside.) There's serious business
Card. The thing I look on seems so;
Duke. You look on me.
Card. What a grief 'tis to a religious feeling,
Card. 'Tis no wonder,
Duke. If you have done, I have; no more, sweet brother.
Card. I know time spent in goodness, is too tedious:
Aet. VIII. — Orlando Furioso di Messer Lodovico Ariosto. Venetia, Fr. de Franceschi. 4to. ] 584.
Critics have long since divided poetry into different kinds or species, to one or other of which they have referred every production of the muse. In making this division, however, they have not been guided by principles deduced from the nature of poetry, abstractedly considered, a circumstance which has frequently led them into erroneous estimates of poetic merit; for having arbitrarily fixed the number of species, and assigned to each particular laws of its own, to which they obliged the poet to conform, they praised or dispraised every production, according to its conformity or non-conformity to the laws of the species to which they referred it. Hence it happened, that when succeeding critics found any poem differing from all the acknowledged species in its general features or conduct, instead of considering it a distinct species in itself, they referred it to one or other of the acknowledged species, and then condemned it for deviating
VOL. VIII. PART I. L
from the laws by which this species was governed. Aristotle led the way for this classification of poetry. It is generally supposed, however, that we have only a fragment of his poetics, as he only treats of poetry in general, of tragedy, and of the epic poem. His view of the latter is confined to the heroic epic; but no argument can be deduced from it to prove, that he considered the epic poem necessarily heroic. From its Greek origin, it obviously applies to narrative poetry in general; but modern critics have limited its acceptation to the recital of heroic achievements, though it is certain, that common actions, and common manners are as capable of being narrated as the exploits of heroes. Should it be even granted, that the epic poem requires, not only a chief hero, but that all the episodic or incidental narratives should arise naturally from the main action, there is still no necessity of selecting this chief hero from kings or princes, unless such a selection arise from the nature of the poem, and the completion of the object which the poet has in view. Admitting, however, this necessity, it cannot apply to Ariosto, as his chief personages and characters are of royal or noble descent.
That the heroic epic requires, not only a chief hero, but a coincidence of all the episodic narratives with the main action of the poem, so long as the poem conforms to the practice of Homer and his successors, cannot be denied; but why the nature of epic poetry should oblige him to conform to these models, why it should debar him from sketching an original design of his own, differing from that species of epic which we denominate heroic, but agreeing with the genus of which the heroic is only a species, we must confess ourselves at a loss to perceive. Homer and Virgil are authorities only to those who tread in their footsteps, but that an epic poet should be obliged to tread in their steps, is a theory founded either on erroneous principles, or at least on principles which we cannot reconcile with our ideas of narrative poetry, which is only another name for epic poetry. The poem, for instance, which has suggested these reflections, is almost entirely narrative, but whoever thinks he can trace in it either unity of action, or discover a chief heto, or at least a hero so chief as to render this unity necessary, will certainly find himself disappointed. Succeeding critics have discovered many species of poetry, with which we should suppose Aristotle unacquainted, if he exhausted what he knew of the subject in his poetics; but it is more reasonable to suppose, that he left the subject unfinished, or that the greater portion of his poetics has been lost to posterity. Be this as it may, neither the authority of Aristotle, nor of any other critic, however highly gifted with the sublimer endowments of mind, can have any weight in subjects which are placed within the range of human intellection, if his authority stand opposed to the clear deductions of reason. Wherever we can consult reason or the light of nature, we are ourselves as well qualified to decide as Aristotle; and to submit implicitly to his authority in such cases, is only to acknowledge, that though reason may enable us to arrive at the truth of which we are in pursuit, the web is still too complicated for us to unravel. This, in other words, is only acknowledging our own ignorance, or our despair of discovering what is capable of being discovered; and arguing from this ignorance and despair the necessity of being guided by an intellect more unclouded and luminous than onr own. If this acknowledgment, and the argument deduced from it, be true, what becomes of our boasted superiority over the ancients? What becomes even of that emulation which should prompt us to rival them? On the other hand, if the subject be equally concealed from the exploring acumen of reason, and the intuitive light of nature, a light which frequently unveils objects, which would have ever remained concealed from the slow progress and tardy deductions of the comparing and analyzing faculty, Aristotle could have as little pretensions to unravel the inexplicable maze, as the less metaphysical critics of the nineteenth century. In either case, therefore, if we cannot venture to judge for ourselves, neither can we trust to the judgement or authority of Aristotle. It is so with regard to all the species or classes into which poetry has been divided and subdivided by his followers. Before we can admit their authority in determining the exact and fixed number of species into which poetry naturally resolves itself, we must first ascertain what poetry is in itself, what distinguishes it from every other species of composition, what common quality unites all the different species, and proves them to belong to the original stock, and in the absence of which no composition can be poetical: in a word, we must ascertain the quality or qualities that constitute its essence, that make it what it is and nothing else, and that equally belongs to all the different species of poetic composition. This the critics have not done, and no doubt some of them imagined that such metaphysical precision belongs not to the nature of poetry. From a poetic mind, we readily admit that nothing can be more abhorrent: reason and metaphysics are the very bane of that enthusiasm, that vivida vis auimi, which, if not poetry, is at least its most prominent and distinguishing characteristic. But the critic, whose business it is, not to clothe his thoughts in the lighter graces of poetic diction, but to describe in the most precise and definite manner the nature of poetry.