ePub 版

“particular occasions that gave rise to them : yet the sound, “without any annexed notion, continues to operate as be“ fore.” Notwithstanding, however, these concessions, I cannot admit that it is in this way poetry produces its principal effect. Whence is it that general and abstract expressions are so tame and lifeless, in comparison of those which are particular and figurative 2 Is it not because, the former do not give any exercise to the imagination, like the latter Whence the distinction, acknowledged by all critics, ancient and modern, between that charm of words which evaporates in the process of translation, and those permanent beauties, which presenting to the mind the distinctness of a picture, may impart Pleasure to the most remote regions and ages 2 Is it not, that in the one case, the Poet addresses himself to associations which are local and temporary ; in the other, to those essential principles of human nature, from which Poetry and Painting derive their common attractions : Hence, among the various sources of the sublime, the peculiar stress laid by Longinus on what he calls Visions, (earraria)—ora, 4 xot, or w8walazaw was easov, gasruy doxo, was or coiv Tišno role axevourir.” In treating of abstraction I formerly remarked, that the perfection of the philosophical style is to approach as nearly as possible to that species of language we employ in algebra, and to exclude every expression which has a tendency to divert the attention by exciting the imagination, or to bias the judgment by casual associations. For this purpose the Philosopher ought to be sparing in the employment of figurative words, and to convey his notions by general terms which have been accurately defined. To the Orator, on the other hand, when he wishes to prevent the cool exercise of the understanding, it may, on the same account, be frequently useful to delight or to agitate his hearers, by blending with his reasonings the illusions of poetry, or the magical influence of sounds consecrated by popular feelings. A regard to the different ends thus aimed at in Philosophical and in Rhetorical composition, renders the ornaments which are so becoming in the one, inconsistent with good taste and good sense, when adopted in the other. In poetry, as truth and facts are introduced, not for the purpose of information, but to convey pleasure to the mind, nothing offends more, than those general expressions which form the great instrument of philosophical reasoning. The original pleasures, which it is the aim of poetry to recal to the mind, are all derived from individual objects; and, of consequence, (with a very few exceptions, which it does not belong to my present subject to enumerate,) the more particular, and the more appropriated its language is, the greater will be the charm it possesses. With respect to the description of the course of the Danube already quoted, I shall not dispute the result of the experiment to be as the author represents it. That words may often be applied to their proper purposes, without our annexing any particular notions to them, I have formerly shewn at great length ; and I admit that the meaning of . this description may be so understood. But to be understood, is not the sole object of the poet : his primary object is to please ; and the pleasure which he conveys will, in general, be found to be proportioned to the beauty and liveliness of the images which he suggests. In the case of a poet born blind, the effect of poetry must depend on other causes ; but whatever opinion we may form on this point, it appears to me impossible, that such a poet should receive, even from his own descriptions, the same degree of plea

* De Sublim. xv.–Quas oarraria; Graeci vocant, nos sane Pisimes appella.

mus; per quasimagines rerum absentiumita repraesentantur animo, ut eas cernere oculi,

ac prosentes habere videamur. Quinct. Inst. Orat. vi. 2.

sure, which they may convey to a reader, who is capable of conceiving the scenes which are described. Indeed this instance which Mr. Burke produces in support of his theory, is sufficient of itself to shew, that the theory cannot be true in the extent in which it is stated. By way of contrast to the description of the Danube, I shall quote a stanza from Gray, which affords a very beautiful example of the two different effects of poetical expression. The pleasure conveyed by the two last lines resolves almost entirely into Mr. Burke’s principles; but, great as this pleasure is, how inconsiderable is it in comparison of that arising from the continued and varied exercise which the preceding lines give to the imagination?

“In climes beyond the solar road,
“Where shaggy forms o'er ice-built mountains roam,
“The muse has broke the twilight gloom,
“To cheer the shiv'ring natives' dull abode.
“And ost, beneath the od’rous shade,
“Of Chili's boundless forests laid,
“She deigns to hear the savage youth repeat,
“In loose numbers wildly sweet,
“Their feather-cinctur'd chiefs, and dusky loves.
“Her track where'er the goddess roves,
“Glory pursue, and generous shame,
“Th'unconquerable mind, and freedom's holy flame.”

I cannot help remarking further, the effect of the solemn and uniform flow of the verse in this exquisite stanza, in retarding the pronunciation of the reader; so as to arrest his attention to every successive picture, till it has time to produce its proper impression. More of the charm of poetica rhythm arises from this circumstance, than is commonly imagined.

To those who wish to study the theory of poetical expression, no author in our language affords a richer variety of illustrations than the poet last quoted. His merits, in many other respects, are great; but his skill in this particular is more peculiarly conspicuous. How much he had made the principles of this branch of his art an object of study, appears from his letters published by Mr. Mason. I have sometimes thought, that, in the last line of the following passage, he had in view the two different effects of words already described; the effect of some, in awakening the powers of Conception and Imagination; and that of others, in exciting associated emotions:

“Hark, his hands the lyre explore!
“Bright-ey'd Fancy hovering o'er,
“Scatters from her pictur'd urn,
“Thoughts, that breathe, and words, that burn.”—


Continuation of the same Subject.—Relation of Imagination and of Taste to Genius.

FRoM the remarks made in the foregoing Sections, it is obvious, in what manner a person accustomed to analyze and combine his conceptions, may acquire an idea of beauties superiour to any which he has seen realized. It may also be easily inferred, that a habit of forming such intellectual combinations, and of remarking their effects on our own minds, must contribute to refine and to exalt the Taste, to a degree which it never can attain in those men, who study to improve it by the observation and comparison of external objects only.

A cultivated Taste, combined with a creative Imagination, constitutes Genius in the Fine Arts. Without taste, imagination could produce only a random analysis and combination of our conceptions : and without imagination, taste would be destitute of the faculty of invention. These two ingredients of genius may be mixed together in all possible proportions; and where either is possessed in a degree re

markably exceeding what falls to the ordinary share of mankind, it may compensate in some measure for a deficiency in the other. An uncommonly correct taste, with little imagination, if it does not produce works which excite admiration, produces at least nothing which can offend. An uncommon fertility of imagination, even when it offends, excites our wonder by its creative power; and shews what it could have performed, had its exertions been guided by a more perfect model. In the infancy of the Arts, an union of these two powers in the same mind is necessary for the production of every work of genius. Taste, without imagination, is, in such a situation, impossible; for, as there are no monuments of ancient genius on which it can be formed, it must be the result of experiments, which nothing but the imagination of every individual can enable him to make. Such a taste must necessarily be imperfect, in consequence of the limited experience of which it is the result; but, without imagination, it eould not have been acquired even in this imperfect degree. In the progress of the Arts the case comes to be altered. The productions of genius accumulate to such an extent, that taste may be formed by a careful study of the works of others; and, as formerly imagination had served as a necessary foundation for taste, so taste begins now to invade the province of imagination. The combinations which the latter faculty has been employed in making, during a long succession of ages, approach to infinity; and present such ample materials to a judicious selection, that with a high standard of excellence, continually present to the thoughts, industry, assisted by the most moderate degree of imagination, will, in time, produce performances, not only more free from faults, but incomparably more powerful in their effects, than the most original efforts of untutored genius, which, guided by an uncultivated taste, copies after WOL. r. 54

« 上一頁繼續 »