« 上一頁繼續 »
the constitution, which, in our own case, we find to be so little subject to the will. We consider Wit as a sort of feat or trick of intellectual dexterity, analogous, in some respects, to the extraordinary performances of jugglers and rope-dancers; and, in both cases, the pleasure we receive from the exhibition, is explicable in part, (I, by no means, say entirely) on the same principles.
If these remarks be just, it seems to follow as a consequence, that those men who are most deficient in the power of prompt combination, will be most poignantly affected by it, when exerted at the will of another; and therefore, the charge of jealousy and envy brought against rival Wits, when disposed to look grave at each other's jests, may perhaps be obviated in a way less injurious to their character.
The same remarks suggest a limitation, or rather an explanation, of an assertion of Lord Chesterfield's, that “gen“uine wit never made any man laugh since the creation of “ the world.” The observation, I believe, to be just, if by genuine wit, we mean wit wholly divested of every mixture of humour: and if by laughter we mean, that convulsive and noisy agitation which is excited by the ludicrous.-But there is unquestionably a smile appropriated to the flashes of wit;-a smile of surprise and wonder;-not altogether unlike the effect produced on the mind and the countenance, by a feat of legerdemain when executed with uncommon foul C Cess.
THE pleasure we receive from rhyme, seems also to arise, partly, from our surprise at the command which the Poet must have acquired over the train of his ideas, in order to be able to express himself with elegance, and the appearance of ease, under the restraint which rhyme imposes. In witty or in humorous performances, this surprise serves to enliven that which the wit or the humour produces, and renders its effects more sensible. How flat do the liveliest and most ludicrous thoughts appear in blank verse ! And how wonderfully is the wit of Pope heightened, by the easy and happy rhymes in which it is expressed It must not, however, be imagined, either in the case of wit or of rhyme, that the pleasure arises solely from our surprise at the uncommon habits of association which the author discovers. In the former case, there must be presented to the mind, an unexpected analogy or relation between different ideas: and perhaps other circumstances must concur to render the wit perfect. If the combination has no other merit than that of bringing together two ideas which never met before, we may be surprised at its oddity, but we do not consider it as a proof of wit. On the contrary, the want of any analogy or relation between the combined ideas, leads us to suspect, that the one did not suggest the other, in consequence of any habits of association; but that the two were brought together by study, or by mere accident. All that I affirm is, that when the analogy or relation is pleasing in itself, our pleasure is heightened by our surprise at the author's habits of association when compared with our own. In the case of Rhyme, too, there is undoubtedly a certain degree of pleasure arising from the recurrence of the same sound. We frequently observe children amuse themselves with repeating over single words which rhyme together: and the lower people, who derive little pleasure from poetry, excepting in so far as it affects the ear, are so pleased with the echo of the rhymes, that when they read verses where it is not perfect, they are apt to supply the Poet's defects, by violating the
is heightened by our admiration of the miraculous powers
* In Elegiac poetry, the recurrence of the same sound, and the uniformity in the structure of the versification which this necessarily occasions, are peculiarly suited to the inactivity of the mind, and to the slow and equable succession of its ideas, when under the influence of tender or melancholy passions; and, accordingly, in such cases, even the Latin poets, though the genius of their language be very ill fitted for compositions in rhyme, occasionally indulge themselves in something very nearly apProaching to it. “Memnona si mater, mater ploravit Achillem, “Et tangant magnas tristia fata Deas; “Flebilis indignos Elegeia solve capillos, “Ah nimis ex vero nunc tibi nomen erit.”
Many other instances of the same kind might be produced from the Elegiac verses of Ovid and Tibullus.
which enable him to convey his thoughts with ease and beauty, notwithstanding the narrow limits within which his choice of expression is confined. One proof of this is, that if there appear any mark of constraint, either in the ideas or in the expression, our pleasure is proportionally diminished. The thoughts must seem to suggest each other, and the rhymes to be only an accidental circumstance. The same remark may be made on the measure of the verse. When in its greatest perfection, it does not appear to be the result of labour, but to be dictated by nature, or prompted by inspiration. In Pope's best verses, the idea is expressed with as little inversion of style, and with as much conciseness, precision, and propriety, as the author could have attained, had he been writing prose : without any apparent exertion on his part, the words seem spontaneously to arrange themselves in the most musical numbers.
“While still a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
This facility of versification, it is true, may be, and probably is, in most cases, only apparent : and it is reasonable to think, that in the most perfect poetical productions, not only the choice of words, but the choice of ideas, is influenced by the rhymes.—In a prose composition, the author holds on in a direct course, according to the plan he has previously formed ; but in a poem, the rhymes which occur to him are perpetually diverting him to the right hand or to the left, by suggesting ideas which do not naturally rise out of his subject. This, I presume, is Butler's meaning in the following couplet :
“Rhymes the rudder are of verses
But although this may be the case in fact, the Poet must employ all his art to conceal it : insomuch that, if he finds himself under the necessity to introduce, on account of the rhymes, a superfluous idea, or an awkward expression, he must place it in the first line of the couplet, and not in the second ; for the reader, naturally presuming that the lines were composed in the order in which the author arranges them, is more apt to suspect the second line to be accommodated to the first, than the first to the second. And this slight artifice is, in general, sufficient to impose on that degree of attention with which poetry is read. Who can doubt that, in the following lines, Pope wrote the first for the sake of the second 7
Were the first of these lines, or a line equally unmeaning, placed last, the couplet would have appeared execrable to a person of the most moderate taste. It affords a strong confirmation of the foregoing observations, that the Poets of some nations have delighted in the practice of alliteration, as well as of rhyme, and have even considered it as an essential circumstance in versification. Dr. Beattie observes, that “some ancient English poems “are more distinguished by alliteration, than by any other “poetical contrivance. In the works of Langland, even “when no regard is had to rhyme, and but little to a rude “sort of anapaestic measure, it seems to have been a rule, “that three words, at least, of each line should begin with “the same letter.” A late author informs us, that, in the Icelandic poetry, alliteration is considered as a circumstance no less essential than rhyme.* He mentions also several
* “The Icelandic poetry requires two things; viz. words with the same initial let. ters, and words of the same sound. It was divided into stanzas, each of which consisted of four couplets; and each of these couplets was again composed of two hemis.